DAY 15

We are now in the charge of Bob Chandler of United States Curling Association, and will catch up again with Russ Brown at the end of the Tour. These gentlemen do a huge amount to prepare for and deliver so many services essential to the Tour: need your specs repaired, find a pharmacist, replace my lost room card – the list is probably endless.
Today we had two sessions at Four Seasons Curling Club with a break for lunch. The Welcome Letter given to each of us started “Dear Friends from Afar: we at Four Seasons CC are very pleased to host you for this day of merry brotherhood.” in our blessed and favorite game.” We were every bit as pleased to be their guests.
John Benton, Director of Curling, is a former US National Champion and played in the Olympics in 2010. The Fogerty Arena is a pairing of an all-year round curling rink and an ice hockey area which share the catering and other rooms.
Stacking of brooms, an intriguing performance for some US curlers, involves a toast and drink of whisky and cinnamon. Let’s say we Scots were also intrigued!
Every curling club we have visited has had one or more ‘names’ – some have lots. Ice man at Four Season is Todd Birr, a 2007 Worlds Bronze Medallist.
One of the events held here is the annual Naked Knees Bonspiel. It is the training rink for the US national team and has had Chinese teams for several days of practice.
Four Seasons founder member Mark Lee spoke of our visit as being a wonderful opportunity for his club and we Tourists to learn how every curler contributes to our sport. At dinner, John Good gave the closing thanks and presented Four Seasons with the RCCC pennant and a model curling stone signed by all Scots Tourists.

DAY 14

Shortly after setting out we stopped to see the ‘statues’ of Paul Bunyon and his ox Babe, legendary figure of the hardworking spirit that went into the founding of the State of Minnesota. Ian Young, busy as ever, took a group photo in -9 degree C so he had to be quick.
During the journey we crossed and re-crossed the Mississippi which steadily increased in size on its 2000+ miles to the sea.
Topographical variation is scarcely a feature of the landscape: for that read ‘flat’. Some people were ice-fishing on a lake.
At St Paul Curling Club we were welcomed by Tim McMahon, President who gave us insights into the long history of his Club. The clubhouse is within the city, and is substantial and very comfortable. In the lounge there are several old curling stones, one weighing 120 lbs. All in all, the welcome here enhanced the feeling that US curlers are excellent hosts.
In the evening Dick and Nancy Nicholson hosted us and perhaps forty St Paul curlers to dinner in the ballroom of their most remarkable, historical home.For more information on this feature of St Paul go to saintpaulhistorical.com and look for Louis Hill house. On each table there was a large curling trophy, some dating back to the early 1900s. These were filled by our hosts and passed around for us to share: it took some practice to do that without spilling any which would have been a shame to say the least. Everything about the house and dinner was classic in the best sense: lets say the experience can’t easily be expressed in words. Our delightful hostess Nancy introduced Chris Coleman who was clearly in favour of developing exchanges of ideas and information across the world such as is being done through our Tour.
Malcolm MacAskill sang Scots Wha Hae to the delight of our hosts. Alan Roe ‘did’ his own poem “Why the Skip in The Head is always Shouting at Me”: it hit the spot with the diners. Alan gave host Dick Nicholson a copy of the History of the Herries Maxwell Trophy.
On Tour, no one day is the same as the one before – or the next, except that they seems to get longer as the Tour goes on. Some brave Tourists re-joined St Paul CC curlers back at their clubhouse after dinner, but can’t be faulted for that as they were on the coach in the next morning.

DAY 13

After an early breakfast in the Gentlemen’s Club at Hibbing we were set for Bemidji, two hours away.
As usual Judge David used his authority to fine fellow-tourists for real and imaginary misdemeanours. Alan Arnot was kept busy collecting fines. This process gives us a good laugh every day and gets our minds going. It’s all part of the plan to survive Tour!
Our bags are getting stressed with the wealth of gifts and mementoes we have received from so many generous people and clubs. Courier Russ Brown, on behalf of the United States Curling Association is preparing to freight some items direct to the UK for us. What a great guy he is, and what a lot he does to make things happen for us and our host Clubs.
We arrived at six-sheet Bemidji at 10 am after a smooth journey through, once again,flat countryside. Welcoming us was President Teresa Trepanier, herself one of the Hope Schmitt team which played in the Worlds many times. Bemidji is home to more successful curlers than we have space to name here. It was a great privilege for us to play against Eric and Riley Fenson,for example,Scott Baird
and not least Mark Haluptzok. For us to finish the afternoon session at evens on the day was no small achievement for us Scots.
The dinner included a sirloin steak which was a triumph for the beef producers and the caterers.
Ian Young’s thanks to Bemidji reflected the privilege we had had as representatives of Scotland and presented our pennant to record our visit.

DAY 12

The hotel was near the curling rink, so not too early a start. Regular readers of this blog know that the results are on another page. In the morning many of the Scots seemed to be on another planet: we did not do well. Callum Harvey’s Vote of Thanks cheered us all up a bit by telling us that someone who’d seen him on TV wearing his beanie had texted suggesting that he take a break from curling and try modelling as a garden gnome. Good timing Callum, we needed to be cheered up.
Then off by coach to Hibbing where the big industry is iron ore mining. After WW2 the Iron Range area produced a big percentage of the raw material which we in the UK needed to re-build our industries.
Hibbing is a seven-lane rink with a row of pillars between each sheet plus quite an echo – yet more variables for us to get used to. Captain Clive played a Hibbing team which had Jerry Scott, winner of the Silver Broom in 1976 against Bill Muirhead, and Tim Muller coach of the US team at Sochi in 2014. David McIntyre thanked Hibbing for the games and congratulated the Club on having bred so many outstanding curlers over a long period.
Tom Scott, Hibbing CC President welcomed us to the dinner in our honour at the Gentlemen’ Club, and led his colleagues in their own curling song. One of Paul Pustover’s curling jerseys was won in a draw by Albert Middler who is totally made up to have this from a man who played in eight Worlds.
Thanking our most generous hosts for their game, meals, refreshments and
generous gifts, William Paterson told a story using several imaginary and real props, one of which certainly would not be on the list of clothing for a Scots Men’s Tour.

Day 11

Duluth in the morning. We agreed the ice was good and some hardened competition kept us focused on the games.
John Shuster, fresh off a plane, turned up to see the game. It was an honour for us that he was there, and important for us that Sandy, our mascot got his photo taken with this three-times Olympian. Joe Polo, bronze at Sochi 2014, also came to support his countrymen: that’s quite a line-up of big names and an honour to us Scots.
Ninety minutes by coach and we were in Curl Mesabi which serves the quad-cities of Evelith, Gilbert, Mountain Iron and Virginia. Dennis Jorgensen, his family and a battalion of volunteers had everything in place for us including sprigs of white heather on the tables. Moose milk was the tot at stacking-of-brooms: what else would you expect up here!
At each session we were led on to the ice by a pair of the oldest active playing members, the oldest being 93. President Phil Drobnick made the formal welcome at dinner and recalled successful visits by Eve Muirhead, Tom Brewster and other Scots.
Our choir was, frankly, not up to even its recent standard. To counter that we had musical entertainment from two female singers well into the evening. Albert Middler was seen dancing while carefully calculating the number of rotations he’d need to finish where he thought he should.
Continuing the light-hearted theme, Dennis Jorgensen presented a heifer to our mascot Sandy, the Highland bull in the hope that from now on he would be more likely to stay at ‘home’.
This was just one in a succession of great days for our Tour for which we owe so much to our hosts.

Day 10

DAY 10
Despite the weather (not your fault of course, Wausau) or maybe it was then prospect of getting some sunshine by going four hours north-west, we were on the coach by 7.30 am on Sunday. The on-board kick-start known on Tour a Morning Class, was provided and keeps Bill Arnot one of most popular chums on Tour!
Heading for Duluth, Driver Dave warned us to prepare for a sudden stop if a deer or wolf or wolf crossed the road.
Our mascot “Sandy” arrived in Duluth in the safe hands of Callum Harvey. This proved to be a good omen for his team – and it was as he finished with 15 shots to 2. Good Stuff.
The eight-sheeter, high ceilinged hall is hung with rows of pennants proudly recording the many successes of Duluth Players. Hospitality at the rink was as generous as it was appreciated. Any Scot likely to order a bloody mary before lunch at Duluth should get some practice in at home first! Did you know that at Duluth a skip can order drinks by signalling from the ice sheet with a green card.
We were piped on to the ice and led by four girls who will go to the Minnesota State U-18 playdowns. President of Duluth CC is Linda Christensen who recently toured Scotland with the US Ladies. Linda smiles broadly when she thinks about her tour, which many Scots ladies will remember. Linda hosted all of us to a pizza party at which we met more people who value their Club and our sport.
At the Christensen home John Hodge took the floor to thank our hostess. His speaking notes consisted first of the text he had sent to Janet, his wife, to tell her to look out for him on TV from Duluth -exciting news. Janet replied “I watched your game up to the point you stood the brooms up in a silly carousel. After that I switched back to the serial”. Poor John, after all the good shots you played after that.

Day 9

John Muir, the Scots-born explorer and environmentalist has schools named in his honour in this part of the world. The badge of one school is the bunneted head of a ‘typical’ Scot.
The welcome at Wausau was as big as the eight-sheeter building with fifty members, brooms aloft and giving us high-fives. Wow! The funding of this entirely new rink, which replaces a cowshed nearby, was a big project for the community of Wausau. As well as raising US$6.3m in cash the Club got some good land deals, one for an area surplus to the needs of the owners of the local cemetery. Clearly there are lots of good-living folks in Wausau.
The clergyman who was to bless the match said if he’d known so many people there he’d have brought a tray for a collection! Steve O’Keefe, Board member, formally welcomed us to the Wausau rink. Membership costs US$380 per year including ice, beer and wine. The 200-seater clubroom with bar lies along the length of the sheet and at the same level, with the spectator gallery ay one end behind glass but still audible when spectators see a good shot.
Our results at Wausau might/could/should have been better but we’re still learning how to adjust twice a day to different rinks and sheets.
The Wausau Daily Herald carried pictures of some of our star players (they know who they are).
After lunch Alan Roe gave our thanks, in rhyme, to Wausau and had the eyes and ears of everyone: well done Alan.
The afternoon session saw us Scots reduce a bit of the deficit of the morning. Ian Young stood between the US and Scottish flags to assure our hosts how much we’d enjoyed the ice and the games. Ian handed a tour banner to Wausau on behalf of Tour Captain Clive and all of us.
The full steak dinner was as generous as the friendship and good company around us. Clarke Perry, standing on the hearth in front of a big fire [significant or symbolic??] told us an elaborate ‘story’ in which he had us believe that his mistakes were funnier than the story itself. Is he a younger version of Ronnie Corbett – or is he just Clarke?
The Scots choir sang three songs and this time we got an encore: maybe, just maybe, it’s down to all the training we’re doing…….hmmmm…..

DAY 8

DAY 8
The Grey, damp weather made us think of home but it didn’t take long for us to realise how lucky we are to be on this Scottish Men’s Tour of USA.
Centerville, Wisconsin was ahead of us and clad in three inches of old snow. The rivers are frozen, although overall this is an unusually mid winter period.
The Centerville rink is a four-sheeter and its club is very proud of the successes of its members in national competitions. The Thomson, Harvey , Dixon and Young played in the 10 am session: team Rutherford had a time-out. Alan Arnot was interviewed by the Lacrosse Tribune and a 7 o’clock the next morning we read the article alongside a good action photo. Trempealeau TV had a team on site and will do a 45 minute program of our visit including an interview with Gary Rutherford.
The suite of spacious rooms at Centerville are used throughout the year by other organisations. Thom Kieffer chaired the committee, with a great team including wife Robyn, Ice Man Dan Lilla and a dozen or more volunteers who fed and watered (?) us most generously at lunch, dinner and whenever necessary. Centreville membership typically takes in three generations, and all three played against us.
Malcom MacAskill corralled all twenty of us, allegedly adults, in the clubroom to provide a bit of musical entertainment. All went well until Highland Cathedral when it a took three attempts to start. On the third attempt we finally got it right. Most of thought it was the acoustics, but maybe new just need more practice.
John Good, who had limited himself to what he thought was the right amount of hospitality including porter, whisky and one glass of locally-made ‘Apple Pie’ gave Chairman Thom and everyone at Centerville a big Thank You for good ice, good company and the complete package that “bring us a’ thegither”
Robert Burns put his appreciation of such good hospitality:
“Ye whom social pleasure warms Whose Heart the tide of kindness charms”.
The day finished with more fun time back at our hotel, courtesy of a gift from the Ale Asylum earlier in the week.

DAY 7

Proof reading had been restricted so far due to several factors, so please accept apologies for the need for a further ‘correction’.

The Report on Day 5 should be amended by deleting the paragraphs starting “The Alex Dickson team finished….” And “Then on to Milwaukee ..” should be deleted.

We were delivered by our home hosts – these wonderful people – to Madison Curling Club to travel to Arlington and Poynette. The thirty- minute journey was relieved by the Morning Class service by Bill A and John H.

At 10 am teams Thomson, Rutherford and Young took the ice at Arlington, and teams Dickson and Young were at the two-sheeter at Poynete where they were welcomed by a sixteen-piece high school band. Even at this early stage all the Scots have been impressed and better by the enthusiasm of everyone at every rink we’ve visited: the welcome at the door, the stacking-of-brooms drinks of amazing ingenuity and effect, the food. Altogether there is a ‘brightness’  even a sparkle in every rink.

As the coach approached Portage, Russ Brown, our tireless US courier took up the microphone to report that there was a police car behind which had signalled to our driver to pull over. The officers came into the coach and ‘cuffed’ Ross on the grounds that he had attempted to conceal evidence of carrying amphetamines. Russ denied this straight away and demanded to see any primary evidence. This the officer duly presented: it was ‘Sandy’ a Highland Bull – standing about six inches high at the shoulder – which someone on the US side had pinched back in Chicago. We had our mascot back to much cheering from the Scots and a chorus of an animal noises from a bunch of US players who’d come along for the ride. It would be hard to beat this scam for ingenuity and effect: well done -grudgingly! – to the US guys who masterminded it.

The morning Votes of Thanks were called for by Alan Arnot and Alex Dickson, and in the afternoon by Clarke Perry, each with a humour that was distinctive and just right for the moment.

After another couple of zip-of-a-trip journeys to and  from our home hosts we arrived at Traill’s Lounge in Portage to another fine dinner, great company and a powerpoint presentation of mascot Sandy and the friends he made while on holiday. Once again a duo of delightfully musical ladies upstaged our choir, but…..we got our first encore. Maybe this means we’ve got out ladder in place and can now start climbing to chart success. Mmmmm?

Bill Byers, in his typically laidback way hit the right spots and key people – and there were many -in thanking the good folks who had made us feel so much part of the wider curling world. Then back to our home hosts, with some more curling stories going both ways, and nightcap or two.

Note

CORRECTIONS: The writer apologises for earlier errors and expects our Judge and his acolytes will duly present them as evidence.

 

  1. The leader of our music school is Malcolm MacAskill. It’s the job of all other nineteen to smile when Malcolm stands up in front of us with his songbook. He says our smiles are a good start and wishes we’d make our singing a bit more entertaining.
  2. The team sit-out on Day 4 were – morning, Ian Young; and afternoon Alex Dickson.

Thanks to everyone who reported these facts.

‘twynholm’

 

 

DAY FIVE

On the coach we had the usual Morning Class arranged by Bill Arnot and John Hodge. They may not be the first images we want to see first thing in the morning but they make up for that by the refreshment they bring up the coach.

Milwaukie Curling Club, founded in 1845 makes it the oldest in the US. They combined with Wauwatosa CC to play all five Scots Teams. Watching play was Marjorie Knitter who was on the 2006 US ladies team visiting Scotland, and later a courier for the Scottish Ladies in US.

The Alex Dickson team finished four up with 9 shots, having been an impressive 9:1 ahead at one point.

Gary Rutherford gave the Vote of Thanks to our host club and its players, ice many and the many volunteers who had fed and watered us.

Fifty more minutes by coach, seeing scarcely a living soul, we arrived in Kettle Moraine to find that everyone in the neighbourhood was at the rink to greet us. The Welcome Party at Kettle Moraine was a platoon of eight pipes and drums, with a Honour Guard of twenty or more holding brookms aloft – and beyond that even more handshakes.

The Alex Dickson team finished four up with a total of four up, having been an impressive 9:1 up at one point. Gary Rutherford gave the Vote of Thanks to Barret Straub and his management and many volunteers wo had fed and watered us.

Then on to Milwaukee Curling Club: their teams combined with Wauwatosa to play all five Tourist teams. At Madison the ice was good but slower than for the previous two matches, and some us struggled to match length with draw – which was there with exact weight. Kenny Spence thanked our hosts.

 

The Dinner was at the Delafield Brewhaus was yet another ‘occasion’ in excellent company. This venue is well known to Robert Flemming who, among many other US players we have met, is a true curler in every respect. A choir sang several songs with intricate harmonies. There was several speakers invited and MC’d by Bob Dixon, USA. David Sillito entertained the 100 or so guests with stories which by this time we were prepared to believe might be true – but didn’t need to as they were off-beat and entertaining : that’ s David!

Home hosting after that was yet another time to sit and chat about curling.

A long and busy day with more to come.

 

 

DAY SIX

We were onto the coach by 8.30 and started to Madison, a journey of about an hour. Weather disappointing to everyone before all five Scots teams played Madison. Lunch then a further game with Madison. In between we lunched well having had our palates improved (?) by generous drinks from generous hosts. Votes of thanks were given by John Hodge and Malcolm MacAskill. The variation in speed and draw between the rinks we play on in the US is very much par for the course: we got to grips with each -eventually.

The evening meal was at the Ale Asylum, hosted by Madison CC.  This, as the name suggests, is a brewery where the speciality, reserved just for us was draft Sticky McDougall. That may give some idea of the ingenuity of Americans when it comes to doing things differently. The buffet dinner was generous and we got to speak to even more Madison Curlers. Clive was presented with a cheese hat ( polystyrene)  by the cheesemakers of Wisconsin. David McIntyre gave the Vote of Thanks to our hosts for yet another successful gathering and entertainment which included a duo of a girl and a young man whose tunefulness may have exceeded that of our group on this occasion.

Then off to another night with home hosts to all of whom we are hugely grateful for the warmth of their welcome and the generosity all round.