Trek to Wells-Fargo worth it - again


I woke up Saturday morning about 30 minutes late. On my phone alarm, you have to set the damn day when you set the time and I forgot to do that. I jumped out of bed as quickly as a man my age can do and realized I did it too fast.
My knees reminded me that some plyo in the morning is a really good thing. Along with this crazy rice and lemon tea I’ve been drinking, the morning routine must be followed. So I stretched a little and did some things that are supposed to keep the lower back cartilage healthier. It has to do with a wall and some hip thrusts and that’s all I’m gonna write about that.
But coffee started flowing in the hotel room I was staying at in Des Moines. That always produces a deep exhale. I don’t drink the “dessert” coffee. Just black, decaffeinated. I know, I know, what’s the point? The point is I was in an ICU twice with atrial fib, and the doc put the kibosh on the caffeine. It’s the smell that does it for me. I smell it brewing and it’s go time.
A quick shower and regular morning maintenance, I down the coffee, and throw the white poofie sheet/comforter thing back up at the top of the bed. Housekeeping can get the pillows, and it helps me make sure I’m not leaving anything behind. I pack the much-too nice brown leather overnight bag my daughter bought me for Christmas with real metal gold zippers, and throw Skole in on top. His head sticks out of the bag so he can breathe, but I put a jacket over the top of him so no one can see him.
Out the door. I don’t check out, I just leave.
And the wind whipping in from the north across I-80 through the wide open hotel parking lot literally took my breath away. A quick inhale and I quickened my pace. I tend to park a little further out so I can get some steps in.
I crossed the all-to-deep hotel drive-up lane to the main parking lot with my head down and my ears starting to burn. This is Iowa. 50s one day, -3 with the windchill the next. I was just to the truck about 100 yards from the entry way and realized the Duluth vest I used to cover Skole’s head was AWOL. I said some words I’m not supposed to write and turned around. There it was sitting in the middle of the road in front of the hotel, like a piece of discarded cloth that fell off a pickup on the Interstate. I thought about putting my stuff in the truck while I was so close and then driving back to get it.
But then someone could run over it. Now it’s Duluth, so it’s bad-ass, but I just couldn’t take the chance of permanent zipper damage. I like real zippers, they don’t break like this plastic crap all the time. Zippers are important and ingenious. If a backpack or bag doesn’t have real zippers in today’s world, I don’t buy it. Don’t do it. Buy for price, you buy twice.
Anyway, I turned around in this sunny deep-freeze (talk about your oxymorons) to get my vest and had to walk back about 85 of the 100 yards. Mumbling and grumbling, I got to the vest and someone in a large, white SUV was starting to head toward me. I just kept walking. If they hit me, I would just shatter in frozen pieces and lay there in colored ice chunks. I waved and smiled gently as not to split a lip and then realized I was going to have to bend over and pick it up. You know what I’m talking about, that moment when you have to curl down and all the cold denim or lycra or whatever you're wearing crinkles into your creases and makes the cold even worse, sending it deep into your bones.
I looked twice at the vest and then at the nice lady smiling at me as she waited for me to pick it up. I looked down and then back up trying to summon the bravery to bend over. When I looked back up, she was not smiling. Now, I’m the class clown and I don’t care if you know me or not, I’m just that guy. I looked down again and then told myself, “Yep, that’s worth it". And I bent over to pick up the rust-orange-and-black vest. At this point, the driver of the SUV may have thought I was stealing the damn thing, but I curled back up, straightened, slung it over my bag, waved, and headed back across the parking lot. A parking lot I might add, that I had clearly underestimated - this was at least 400 yards.
Wait, I have remote start! I fumbled to get my keys out of the jacket I was actually wearing and hit the combination to start the vehicle. At least it would be a little quicker to warm up when I got there.
Thirty-five minutes later I made it across the full 650 yards of frozen concrete with Jack Frost burning the tip of my nose and my ears. I threw my bag in the back and jumped in the front. Just being out of the wind made me feel like I was on Madeira Beach in St. Pete.
I drove the nine miles back to Wells-Fargo to watch Nolan Riddle beat up on what appearred to be his twin in the consolation semifinals at 157 lbs. This is a first for me, but I get to write 'it was a donnybrook with a doppelganger'. If it wasn’t for the singlets, I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to tell the two apart.
Riddle dominated and got to wrestle to be the third-best wrestler in Class 3A at 157 lbs., arguably the 3rd best in any class at that weight.
I brave the ficticiously-wicked Iowa winters to follow these kids, who work all year round at staying fit and becoming tacticians on rubber mats, as well as their coaches who have to work just a little harder to roll around with them.
The freezing cold, the sleepless hotel nights, the junk food you profess to hate, but give yourself a pass on while you’re working, all are worth it to chronicle that road taken.
Fort Madison Head Coach Ryan Smith coached his last state tournament this weekend. It had to be bittersweet for him but he didn't show it. The same even-handed approach we've seen for close to 30 years. Full of emotion and unspent adrenaline doing what he loves, and has loved, and will continue to love.
Skole and I can deal with the cold. We wouldn’t be anywhere else – But that’s Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

Wells-Fargo Arena, Des Moines, state wrestling, cold, hotels, opinion, commentary, Chuck Vandenberg, Beside the Point, Ryan Smith, Teague Smith, Nolan Riddle, Sunday,


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