In here we have a running archive of the day to day blogging.  Check out the News Blog in the side panel for the daily posts……

Day 25

Monday in US: a much-needed, relaxing day started with Morning Class at 8.45 am followed by breakfast – altogether spot on!
Couriers Bob Chandler and Russ Brown took us on a coach tour of Boston, with intervals on foot to keep us awake. Bloggy reckons the Scots new to this historic yet modern city were delighted to be in the sunshine and also found the 360 deg view from the viewing gallery of the Prudential building fascinating.
After lunch in an historic inn it was off to thee airport where, unusually, it took us two goes to find the correct terminal but we all actually got on to the plane home. Charges and denials failed to find who had put some non-conforming items into John Hodge’s carry-on bag but this kept up the good humour which has been a constant feature of our tour.
To all curlers in Scotland we say: all twenty of us are very proud to have been Team Scotland 2017 in the USA; we appreciate so very, very much everything that was done for us in the USA; and we’d encourage others to try go on a tour some time in their life.
To our nearest, dearest and loved ones: if any of us doesn’t keep a promise made when you you so readily accepted our decisions to go on this Tour don’t hesitate to ……oh dear this battery’s just about dead……..but we’re safely HOME!

Day 24

Today we curled at Broomstones Curling Club, with president Brian McCafferty presiding.
Getting out of our coach in a wooded area to be met by the Lincoln minutemen and Bedford minutemen company in full historic costume. They stood with muskets aloft – then fired 3 volleys which was truly novel and unique. The minute men represent the soldiers sent to fight against the British in 1775. The parade on to the ice was led by fifes and drums in uniform.
As is so often the case Broomstones Club has members who have toured Scotland including Sam Williams in 2001 and Shelley Dropkin in 2016. They and any others not identified today send there best regards to those who hosted then on there tours of Scotland.
David Sillitoe joined Paul Badgero at the mic for the live streaming of our games here, something Broomstones has been doing since 2003. The member in charge is, like others who serve food bar etc etc, a volunteer.
Broomstones is home club of Bob Chandler our US courier for the second half of our tour. Mimi his wife made an excellent brownie for lunch. Both are real assets to there club and to Curling more widely.
Then on to The Country Club in Brookline Massachusetts. The facilities for many sports including golf, tennis, shooting, combined with a superb clubhouse are really impressive. Being there as guests reminds us of the strength of the relationship formed within curling. Anne Robertson, the ‘matriarch of US curling’, her husband Phil who led the proceedings at the final banquet for our tour and perhaps another half dozen curlers who had toured Scotland were present. Tributes were exchanged between the national teams, the Scots having accepted they were no more than 101 shots short of being able to take the Herries Maxwell Trophy home. But we do have enough memories of wonderfully happy times playing in 11 US States to earn us a few dinner invites. We are proud to be team Scotland.
An unexpected bonus was being invited to the bar at TCC right at the climax of the Super Bowl final, it went into overtime in which New England Patriots, Tom Brady threw the pass that won the Patriots the Vince Lombardy Trophy. The jubilation of the Patriots fans around us was enormous as this world stars home sits on the 3rd hole of this magnificant club.

Day 23

Last night we reached Cape Cod Curling Club at 09.00pm. It was dark but the evening was lit up for us by the 40-strong honour parade who met us with brooms aloft and big smiles. Cape Cod CC is in a semi-rural setting, with three sheets.
The members had prepared a pizza supper, which was perfect after a long coach journey. Russ Lemcke who had toured Scotland in 2012 gave the formal welcome before we were taken to the homes of our overnight hosts. Home hosting is a key feature of Tour, and the good folk of Cape Cod did us proud. Imagine having a hostess who did many years as a stunt flyer, still keeps a plane in her garage along side the family car and who has direct access to the runway of the local flying club! No doubt there will be more stories of similar surprises as we tourists share our memories.
Anne Dewees told us how the club had been conceived and built. The watch words for this were commitment and dedication: the result is a great venue, sustained by its members who voluntarily work hard on and off the ice. Cape Cod recently staged the NCC Men’s senior championship. Its season ends in spring but they open up in July for their five weekend Summerspiel, the oldest and largest in North America.
The lunch provided, prepared and served by volunteers was a triumph by any standard.
Amount the notables who played against us were Pete Mitchell, 1992 tourer and CEO of the 2006 world men’s curling championships in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Club member Cathy Offinger took us all on a wonderful tour of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute: see http://www.whoi.ed.
Alongside all of the above we were entertained by a 5 man group, singing in close harmony. Our choirmaster introduced us by promising we too might sing in 5 parts but not always harmoniously!
My Lord Judge MacIntyre convened a court for Cape Cod members and tourists. The last act was a broom stacker session in which the ladies probably came out with less spill than some tourists. They won’t be reminded of that often – not much.
How to sum up our Cape Cod experience? Being so open hearted, and enjoying fun as much as we do, you made this an exciting and memorable experience which we hope some of us will re-live by coming to your summer bonspiel.

Day 22

In the first hour on the coach we saw quite a bit of the New York skyline. At Plainfield New Jersey the Harvey and Dickson teams were dropped off to play. The Plainfield Curling club was organised in 1963 and funded primarily by Canadian ex-patriots. The three remaining teams carried on North for another 75 minutes to Ardsley, New York State. Ardsley is a three sheet club founded in 1932 and at one time was home to the St Andrews Curling club. Rob Astorino, County Executive for Westchester gave us a Proclamation “February 3, 2017 to be 2017 Royal Caledonian Curling Club Scots Tour Team recognition day in Westchester County”.
At lunch in the magnificenct Bronxville Field Club three lucky teams were honoured and appreciative guests of George Austin who toured Scotland in 2001 and was the US Courier when Scotland toured in 2007. He greatly values his Scottish connection and sends warmest regards to the many Scots he has met over the years. George’s distinguished personal guests at lunch included Kay Sugahara, a member of the US and World Curling Halls of Fame.
This blogger has so far stayed away from comment on a game, but it can be reported that today Gary Rutherford was complimented on having ‘slayed the dragon’ by beating the Ardsley team skipped by multiple champion Martin Sather with Ardsley Club President Joe Shaloub as third.
At 4.30pm we reluctantly left the Bronx to travel on to Cape Cod. Another 5 hour coach journey. Ugh!!!

Day 21

Sunshine. Sunshine!
On our foot tour of Philadelphia, with guide we saw and heard the story of many recent and old features of the city including the Liberty Bell and sites of significance dating back to the 18th century.
Then on to Bucks County Curling Club in the area between metropolitan Philadelphia and its suburbs. In 2010 its members acquired sole use of the building and provide curling for 11 months of the year. Bucks County now has 150 active and enthusiastic members. Quite a few go to bonspiels as far away as San Francisco. We found the ice, made and maintained by a team of members, good after the first few stones.
One of the features of the building is the hecklers bench. Bill Arnot, John Hodge, Jim Ramsay and Ian Young had a bye and were highly focal at the side of the rink. Could that catch on in Scotland?
The welcome we got at Bucks County was open-hearted and that feeling stayed with us all the time we were there. On our way into the dinner we lost our sense of direction and reputation when we walked past the bar to derision of the US curlers. Within seconds the bar was spotted and had another excellent meal and entertainment.
Our singing for Bucks County and friends including Herb Kupchik, was good and we think we merited the applause. Malcolm MacAskill has since said it was a “partial standing ovation” something he may care to describe in more detail…. or maybe not.
Day 21 was interesting and most enjoyable in many ways: the tour of Philadelphia, the enthusiasm at Bucks County, the company at dinner-and the sunshine. Well done everyone.

Day 20

We had to be back at the Utica rink by 03.00am. This meant we had little time to spend at home with our overnight hosts before they drove us on new snow roads back to the coach. Back at the club our sincere thanks go to each Utica member who provided transport, coffee and donuts for us at that time of day.
We flew from Syracuse to Washington DC and then on by coach to Potomac, arriving at 08.45am. The 2007 Scottish men’s tour were here and Potomac is very proud of the connection.
Experience had taught us that the clubs we visited would have a fair number of players to be reckoned with. At Potomac one of these was Eric Clawson, father of two sons in the US nationals competition. Bill Byers met with Bruce Black whose son Dan attended Aberdeen Uni, and played in the team with Bill’s son Rory. This is one of the coincidences that make the Curling world a smaller, friendlier place.
Bob Pelletier, chair of the Potomac tour committee and Linda Murphy, Potomac President, gave the formal introduction and recognised the importance of its big family of volunteers.
After lunch the coach took us a tour of Washington DC with an excellent guide. The mix of walking and bus time kept us awake despite sleep deprivation. Early to bed was an essential for most of us…….
Alan Roe has helped a lot with getting recent blogs on to our site while the blogger’s notepad failed on several occasions.

Day 19

It is that time again: 06.45am. We’re already rolling out of Mayfield towards Utica, upper New York State, a journey of around six hours. Some snow on the road but progress ok.
D-S- and B-A- had a snowball fight after lunch: you can take the boys out of Scotland but you can’t take Scotland out of the boys.
At Utica curling club there are six sheets managed and prepared by a team of trained member volunteers. The quality and condition of the ice was good with good finish for light weights.
The greeting Utica gave us was very friendly. Organising chair Jim Rishel later said he and his members had “anxiously awaited” our tour: be assured Jim and all Utica members that you made us relax with our new curling friends. The Declaration by the local Authority Executive with innumerable “Whereas-es” that 31 January would hereafter and in all time coming be known in Utica as Scottish Men’s Curling Tour day was impressive.
Utica teams were made up of men who had often competed against each other but had seldom or never curled together as a team. We had seen this earlier in the tour too, and while it sometimes gives rise to vocal exchanges between head and hack, it gives local players a different experience and we got to play against a lot of high grade opponents.
Tourists and hosts enjoyed the excellent dinner, time to swap stories and generally “talk curling”. Our choir was in fine voice, so good in fact we sang an extra song.
Utica members who this blogger knows have curled in Scotland are Bill Rotton (1992), Bob Hurd, Arthur Cobb Snr, Tom Garber, Carl Thomas, the every busy Jacqueline R Schmidt and a’body’s friend Peggy Rotton.

Day 18

The start time of our journey was brought forward to 06.45am because the roads were likely to be affected by snow. En-route eastward the amount of lying snow increased: 3 hours later it was 8-10 deep at the road side but traffic still moved carefully. Three sheets Mayfield curling club is in a suburban area beside 2 golf courses. Just inside the clubhouse door is a set of 10″ square tiles each engraved with the names of each player in the Scots and US teams who played in the Herries Maxwell competition in 2007. Mayfield has presented Burns Suppers to Scots tourists three times-1997,2007 and now 2017.
Bob Bellamy, chairman for our visit had written that it was his club’s intention to make our stay ‘exceptional and full of pleasant memories’. Bob: that promise was kept and we most certainly will take home and hold lots of great memories.
We had 3 teams on for the first session then two for the following one at 2.30pm.
Mayfield produced a very smart 12-page brochure covering several aspects of the tour and its history. Burns evening started in a high ceilinged Baronial style hall with the 16 piece, 87th Cleveland Pipe Band. The repertoire, skills with their instruments, their appearance – the whole performance – had a big impact on us Scots in particular. The haggis was piped in and then addressed very confidently by Mayfield man Ryan MacRaild. John Hodge gave the ‘Selkirk grace’, Albert Middler explained with humour the life, activities and character of every haggis before it finally becomes our ‘meat’ Malcolm MacAskill sang several songs to much appreciation from the audience. John Good introduced and recited “Tae a Moose”. Ian Young spoke for all us tourists in assuring our most generous hosts that we were greatly privileged to have been invited to join Mayfield CC in celebrating Burns Night with them.
This is neither the time nor the place to consider all the circumstances which led some tourists to take diversions before arriving back at our hotel. Suffice to say that Judge McIntyre held that certain parties had failed properly to protect the cohesion of our tour and that these parties would be fined. It could have been worse.

Day 17

We are on the bus and it’s ‘wheels up’- an odd combination of images partly contributed by our US courier Bob Chandler but we know what he means. Every time, before we set off, there is a roll call using a number allocated to us. A few voices are a but croaky early in the morning, but it’s always good to know all our tour friends are aboard.
A, 3.45 am start saw us set out for Fargo to fly first to Chicago then on to Detroit. Some light snow there: planes taking off were throwing up clouds of snow mist. Paul Badgero of USCA met us and led us to our coach. New driver Jason remembers David Rutherford from the last Scots Men’s Tour but was the soul of discretion as why that was the case so, David, you relax!
The enthusiastic welcome at Detroit Curling Club honour guard was just what we needed after our journey. This Club was founded in 1885. On a wall there is the original, large certificate from the Royal Club “conveying to the Detroit Curling Club the grateful acknowledgement and hearty thanks…..for kind attention and hospitality to the Scottish Team on their Tour through Canada and the United States…..in 1902-03”. Henry Ford, so much associated with Detroit is reported as having said that history is bunk. Our Team thinks that the 1902-03 certificate and our visit in 2017 prove that then and now curlers appreciate the importance of continuing good traditions. Ours is the tenth tour to visit Detroit CC, making it probably the most visited club in the USA. Continuing a long tradition, the club had held a Burns Breakfast in the morning before we arrived.Joe Livermore,twice past president of the club, and in whose honour the curling hall was named chatted to us. In the hall there is a life-sized model of a pink pig (a hog) bedside one wall, and on it there is horn with rubber bulb: anyone hogging a stone has to sound the horn and pay a fine to the club.
Jim Morris who chairs the Board made the formal welcome to us – and was immediately barracked by his fellow members in song and with good humour.Clarke Perry gave our thanks to the club and its players for the match and hospitality.
At the evening banquet, Paul Badgero himself a former Tourist to Scotland,
presided. The meal and company were both excellent. Grace was given by Dave Turner, born a Scot, and who still has a guid Scots tongue in his heid. As well as Paul other former Tourists were present including David Nelson, Bob Chandler, Dawn Branninger, Mary Anne Wessels and Mary Glowaki. Jim Ramsay, on behalf of the Scots thanked Detroit CC for the tremendous warmth and tremendous hospitality throughout the whole memorable day.

Day 16

We had another stirring and enthusiastic welcome by US curlers at Fargo with a big honour guard, all wearing black and red curling jackets.
John Mielke, one of the calm, collected, key figures in curling in this area welcomed us. John is a past Director of the USCA and is recorded in US curling’s Hall of Fame.
In the foyer we were entertained by two indigenous Americans, descendants of the Sioux tribe: one a storyteller who spoke and sang in the Lakota language, and and elaborately costumed colleague who danced. The theme centred on the relationship between man and the buffalo. The buffalo was “Walmart to us”, providing food, clothing and shelter said the storyteller.
Each North Dakota rink was made up of curlers from around the State who had often played against each other but not together – something they much appreciated when playing against us. Some US players ha travelled over 400 miles by road from as far away as Crosby on the border with Canada to play one game for the Herries Maxwell Trophy.
We went into dinner in our blazers to applause from our hosts, among them Kevin Kakela, and Dave Jensen who coaches the US junior girls for USCA events.
Chris Sjue who chaired the dinner vividly remembers playing in Scotland in 2012. Bison steak was the big item on the menu, a new experience for us Scots and much enjoyed. The North Dakota players and their ladies were delightful company at table, and many cards and compliments were exchanged.
The mascot saga continues. Sandy, our original mascot, and recent companion Flopsy, were joined by The Dakota Kid who, our hosts thought would give Sandy a rest and bring some sparkle back onto Flopsy’s life! Bill Arnot was allowed one call back to UK to book quarantine and, later, a float for our livestock.
Many-talented Bob Labonte, who played in the 1972 Silver Broom entertained us all after dinner with curling stories, anecdotes, throw-away lines – and sang to his own accompaniment.

* * * * * * * *
Readers of this blog from Aberdeen Scotland and from Aberdeen South Dakota will be glad to know that curlers from both locales met on the ice earlier in the week and enjoyed each other’s company – of course.

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.

The continuing tale of the Coo

Since Sandy came back to us he has become a bit of a prima-donna, demanding stuff.  As with any celebrity on tour, he has a whole list of things.  img_1778-sandy-beerWe cannot have a beer but he wants one.  img_1780-sandy-pizzaHe needs his own pizza and when there are important people around he has to get in on the photos.img_1791-sandy-shuster

img_1799-sandy-floppsy

 

 

As if that wasn’t enough, Denis Jorgensen of Curl Mesabi decides to mix things up for us by introducing a heifer to the tour bus.

 

 

Thought I heard someone said her name was Floppsy.  I sure hope they weren’t talking about Sandy’s performance.  Gonna be some noisy nights I think for the ‘Keeper of the coos’.

 

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

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

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.

The return o’ the Coo.

Well we were heading for Portage and having a grand time when the bus was pulled over by Portage’s finest.  The bus driver was all a quiver as we drew to a stop and they came on  board.  Information is a wonderful thing in this day and age and they knew.  They immediately  called on our courier,  to step forward. img_03123056 A quick search of his jacket revealed the missing  mascot. With Russ screamin’ its a fit-up, they headed downtown to the jailhouse to get things sorted out.  Turns out Sandy had been off having a grand time, cavorting with other cuddly toys on the conveyor belt img_03103058of life.   The wee bugger had had such a great time he wasn’t so sure he wanted to be back on the bus but anyway he’s been kept in the cattle crush of Kenny’s arms since then and is going nowhere else soon.  Loads of fun with  that and some grateful appreciation to the  Portage Police department for making it all seem so real.  Superb.

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.

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 6

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.

Day 5

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 4

Weather: very wet. A big change from the previous three days. We breakfasted again at Chicago Curling Club. Quite how they manage to do such good catering is a mystery to us.

We had four teams out against Chicago CC at 9.15 am More on Results above. After an early lunch we moved by coach a few miles to Exmoor Country Club where a four sheeter pad is surrounded by a major golf course and sports complex. Ian Young’s team sat out this match, and maybe the felt they were the lucky ones as the opposition was mighty strong. For the Scots the ice needed the most delicate touch for a good finish. That combined with very determined opposition on home ice produced a big lead for team USA. All credit to Gary Rutherford’s team who worked their socks and just about everything else off to finish only one shot behind. Bill Byers thanks Exmoor members for hosting us at their Club.

After that it was a  relief and delight to be taken to the homes of our US hosts for a moment or two before we all returned to Exmoor CC for the Opening Banquet. We had been told by the 2012 Scots tourists that this would be a major event, and it was. There are no too many membership owned venues in Scotland that offer what Exmoor does. Speakers included Rich Lepping, Chairman of the board of USA Curling, Gus Noble, Illinois Saint Andrew Society,and Mark Swanbdby, 2017 Tour Convener and Captain of the 2012 Tour. Our own Clive Thomson replied on behalf of the Scots.

To close this memorable evening, the Scots sang songs from our Song and everyone around the room sang, proving that Scottish heritage is still very much alive in Chicago.

Gone AWOL

Member No. 22 of the squad has gone missing, presumed abducted.  img_19623052-sandyWee Sandy was introduced to the team as we gathered for departure.  Regrettably he was only able to make it through to Sunday before ‘The Keeper of the Coo’ reported he was missing.  Hopefully we will be reunited soon.

Day 3

Weather here at Chicago has been fine and dry – till late Sunday.

On Sunday we played against members of the last two US teams who visited Scotland. To all the Scots who met them then, they send a BIG HI!

The Chicago CC rink houses the American Museum of curling which has a big number of badges, many of them of Scottish Clubs and competition tours.

We were taken on a tour of the city, along with several of the 2001 and 2012 US tourists. Our guide Sylvia, a lady curler herself, was a fount of information on just about everything about Chicago – its administration, geography, major international companies including those in the grain trade, universities and colleges. We lunched on double cheeseburger – well it seemed to be the time and place to do that – in Billy Goat Tavern which was a ‘real Chicago’ experience. Along the shore of lake Michigan we saw the Queen’s Landing where HM Queen  Elizabeth arrived on HMS Brittania on her visit to the Great Lakes. We had a team photograph taken on the shores on the same spot as the last tour.

After a very short snooze and re-boot we played again, and began to find our ice feet. The Club has four sheets, and much of the social side, including the catering is done by volunteers – including the full steak dinner when all plates were well cleared by us Scots and the hosts alike. Purely in the interest of research, beers to suit most palates are readily available and very popular. They had the Herries Maxwell Trophy on  display which was something of a challenge to us! After dinner Callum Harvey did a Vote of Thanks to our hosts which we responded to enthusiastically.

Tomorrow the Tour starts in earnest with a game against Chicago then on to Exmoor, just a short car ride away. More of on that next time.

Day 2

Only 24 hours into the Tour and one of us has aged already. Thankfully it wasn’t a casualty but a birthday for Jim Ramsay. Captain Clive presented Jim with a cake (how good was that?) and we all sang Happy Birthday to Jim.

We’ve had lots of messages of good wishes from former Scots Tourists going back 20 Years. Thanks all. It’s good to know that the trail ahead of us has already been blazed by you.

The Dublin Chicago flight was just over 8 hours and 3672 miles: someone somewhere will want to know that. We arrived in good shape to a full-on welcome form ten or so US Curling Association men including Russ Brown who is to be our courier this week. Malcolm MacAllister gave a full version of Highland Cathedral on the coach on the journey to the hotel to the delight of all. Later a short walk took us to the social gathering at Chicago Curling Club for pizza and drinks. Wilson Gotthchild gave us the warmest of welcomes “to the Scots who have been coming here since 1952” to cheers from the big audience. Everyone we spoke to knew we were coming, and many had personal or family connections with Scots an curling in Scotland.

A long day, and a good one.  No doubt much of the same is ahead of us. We’re up for that.

Day 1

For months it’s been getting

READY………..STEADY….

and at 7.30 pm on Friday evening at the Holiday Inn Glasgow The 2017 Scotland Team Tour to USA officially got the GO.

As far as we know, we all had brought every one of the 50-odd items of clothing, gifts and sets of badges for our hosts-to-be in the US – although there was bit of surreptitious sharing of the Tour Song Book.

After a bit of socialising, and a bit more socialising we sat down to dinner. Captain Clive aka Royal Club President Clive Thomson, quietly kept the proceedings in good order. Judge David McIntyre, in wig and gown plus mean-looking gavel extracted penalties from most of us for misdemeanours – whether actually or potentially done. His imagination was exceeded only by the hilarity round the table when excuses or even the slightest protest was offered. Yes, we really were beginning to settle down as a Tour.

That was a hard act to follow but Malcolm MacAskill brought us back onto order to get ready to practise the Tour Song Book – even getting us to do vocal and upper-body exercises. It seemed to work, and Malcolm has promised he’ll keep on making us improve – good luck, Malcolm. All round, the evening was a great way to start our time together on Tour, and with a 6.15 am photoshoot most of us didn’t hang around too long after….whatever time it may have been!

All credit to us (hmmm) the photoshoot started on time proving that at least on one occasion we could respond to our alarms. Having cleared procedures at Glasgow Airport we arrived in Dublin at 10 am, and cleared the US Immigration process without a hitch.

In Dublin IanThePhoto, aka Ian Young, got photos of each team in playing order – and still smiling.

We’ve just had the first call for our Chicago flight so, from us all to you all at home in Scotland ….We’re ready, holding Steady and we’ll GO and do Scotland proud.

Web Launch 

Today’s the day we go public. We have just held our last pre-tour meeting and practice session, this time at Murrayfield.  The purpose of this get-together was to disperse the tour kit, catch up on outstanding arrangements and iron out some last kinks in our game.  It all looks as though it is coming together.  We’ve held meetings and practice sessions over the last six months at Kinross, Stirling, Braeheads and Murrayfield and the keen of eye will be able to sort out the particular ice rinks in the photos in the side bar. The photos of the fine looking fellows in the blue blazers are from our weekend with the successful 2007 tourists mentioned in the earlier post.

Remember to save the website to your favourites.

Meeting the 2007 Tour

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So this is what its all about.  Good company, a fine meal, more than a good few laughs and a marginal win for the outgoing tourists.  Heh Hey!  Well I suspect they might have been massaging the scoreboard to make it seem so.  Its all about confidence building, they said AND enjoying yourselves when you are out there.  It was 4th November with about 71 days to go so we set-to getting started on both of those.

Many, many thanks to the chaps from the 2007 tour for turning out at Stirling giving us a great match and sharing their stories of their time in 2007 when they succeeded in bringing back the trophy.  It was much appreciated and fired us up a bit to try our damnest to replicate their feat.

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