SCOOP'S ECONOMIC RECOVERY PLAN:   Camping for Fun and Profit!

Scoop's "Nest Egg": Just add water for instant dough!


            Times are tough, but if you’re reading this the odds are you are camping, and right there you’re saving money! You’re having Quality Time at a fraction of the cost, versus taking the family to The Dells or something just as expensive, and you’re in the great outdoors, even more so if you’re a golfer and snuck out of work Friday to enjoy $5 Friday’s at Oak Ridge, which means you lost a day’s pay to get there by noon, which sort of negates your Financial Planning for the week, but so what? My Economic Recovery Plan is going to make you some Big Bucks! Follow my advice and you can sneak out of work every Friday…if in fact you are indeed still working after this is all over.

            First I must regress back in time to this past winter, when Mrs. Scoop’s sister Cissy, and brother-in-law Jimmy came up from Georgia and stayed at the Newville Inn. Here’s some background on Jimmy: He is a true southern boy who annually partakes in a Confederate War re-enactment. They have to pay people to be Union Soldiers, but not much, because in these battles the Northerners are quickly defeated, and they get paid by the minute. I think it’s the same battle every year, just different damn Yankees. Also, it snowed when Jimmy was here, as it usually does in December, and Jimmy and Cissy were amazed by the snow. It wasn’t good packing, but they made a feeble snowman and took pictures for the kids. Jimmy said the last time he had seen snow was back in 1982 when it snowed one-half inch in Chattanooga. And when I got out my snowblower, Jimmy stared at it. “I saw one of those in a commercial once,” he stated, “but never in person.”

            Did I have a point here? Let me think…yes, I did! See, Jimmy hunts and fishes and can make a meal out of almost anything. But while waiting for me to pick him up one morning at the hotel, he saw a semi-truck laden with live-wells, which are normally used to transport live fish (versus those stinky ‘dead fish’ wells). The driver was checking out as Jimmy was getting a cup of coffee. Jimmy asked him what was in the live-wells. Here is the conversation:

            Driver: “I’m hauling Rock River Salmon to New York.”

            Jimmy: “What the heck is Rock River Salmon?”

            Driver: “Carp they caught yonder in that river.”

            Jimmy: “For what? I wouldn’t give carp to a starving homeless guy. Carp ain’t even really good for bait.”

            Driver (chuckling): “Tell that to the rich folks in New York. They pay big bucks for this in fancy restaurants there. They don’t know it’s carp. To them, it’s salmon, and it’s…imported!”

            Do you see it now, Folks? Do you see the money-making possibilities? Yes! You are rich! And there more of these ‘money-critters’ ideas just waiting out there! You will become semi-wealthy while having Quality Time with your kids, just by fishing with them and doing other neat activities. And by doing this you will also build up big bonus points with your Honey-Bunny, which hopefully can be redeemed for early-morning beers and a full day on the couch during football season, but I doubt it.

            Now that we have built up a starter company with carp as a base, let’s branch out. For inspiration, I had several tasty beverages and then searched the Internet. What I found astonished and excited me. Then Mrs. Scoop came in the room and I quickly narrowed my search to Exotic ‘Food’. This too excited me, in that I saw dollar bills floating before my eyes. However, this also was a result of Mrs. Scoop, in that she was going shopping and my ‘Fun Money’ was flying out of my wallet for goofy stuff like, well, groceries. So I realized I really had to get to work quickly on my Economic Recovery Program. Here’s what I came up with for you to make lots-o-dough with handy animals and/or animal parts you and your kids can find right by your campsite, all designed for an exciting day or night of ‘Family Fun’:

Toad-Squeezing: What a fun way to spend the day with the kids! While toad-licking and -smoking are illegal (supposedly hallucinogenic…didn’t those darn kids learn anything from their banana-smoking parents?!), toad secretion, while sometimes poisonous, can add dollars to your wallet! Toad venom, known as ‘Chan su’ in Asia, is highly regarded for its medicinal purposes. In China, for example, the toad skin is applied directly to the skin for infected wounds and rashes. This is known as ‘toad grease’. Another high-volume money-maker is fashionable apparel items made from skinned toads. The ‘Toad Change Purse’ (complete with zipper, with eyes and legs intact) goes for $20. Key chains are only $6.50, but a full-leather toad-skin hat is $275.00, available with one or two heads. This may seem exorbitant, but really now, do you know anyone else in your neighborhood, or even at a fancy New York restaurant, wearing or carrying such elegant items? I thought not. For now they are only available at, but soon we, the hoi-polloi, can be just as elegant and wealthy as the rich just by getting our kids out there catching toads! Just remember, kids, don’t lick your fingers or stick them up your nose. Unless you really have to…

Snail-Snatching: Snails are highly prized for use in vegetable gardens, but even more so as escargot. The highest-priced snails are those that slime their way through fancy vineyards, apparently sucking up grape juice. Then they (the grapes) ferment, and women in frilly dresses stomp on them as they (the women) sing lusty songs. Maybe the sucked-up grape juice also ferments in the snails, but I think it’s just the fact they slithered over the grapes. Well, we can certainly get in on this! And you don’t have to sing lusty songs or even wear a dress, unless you want to. Here is a real big-bucks potential: Beer-Snail Escargot! All you have to do is spill some beer around your campsite, probably not a problem around midnight or so, and in the morning you have money-making snails! Note: If no snails have shown up, you may have to go and buy some at a pet store, but remember—you are a businessperson, and this is certainly tax-deductible. Now, since the snails slithered on Wisconsin or Illinois beer, you send the snails to New York, labeled as ‘Imported Exotic Ale Snails’. You may have to actually peel the slimy things from their protective shells in order to follow FDA guidelines, but think of it as another fun ‘craft’ for the kids. And if this doesn’t work, we’ll ship them to our friend Susan in Oakbrook IL, who is a gardening ‘nut’ and buys anything from a catalog that involves wine and/or snails.

Bird’s Nest Scavenger Hunt: Bird’s Nest Soup is a delicacy, highly prized in China, going anywhere from $30 to…huh...$10,000! Hold on…I’m keeping this one for myself, pal! Stick to the other stuff, OK? Kids, don’t touch a nest—there are tiny little eggs in there, and Momma Bird will poop on you if you go near! Beware! Stay Away!  

Worm-Slicing: They’re not just for bait anymore! Another double-dipper: Worms are great for lizard food and for composting. First though, the ultimate: ‘Wisconsin Thin-Sliced Sushi’. What thrill could be greater than, as you flip your manly burger on the grill, imagining some snotty high-fallutin’ New York stockbroker, who probably lost all your 401K dough, ordering for himself and his mistress as they sit at a swank leather booth and sip Cosmopolitans. He orders for her, of course:

“I will have…let’s see…ah hah, you have the Wisconsin sushi and the Blue Ribbon escargot. That will be our appetizer, James. For the main course, we will have the Rock River Salmon.”

Lady Escort, grabbing her Wisconsin raccoon coat and her hat with two little heads: “Look, you toad, I’m not eating this roadkill. I thought you people out East here had some brains.”

Fancy Dude: “Brains? Why didn’t I think of that? Waiter—some fresh cow’s brains and a bowl of hog-snout soup!”

And then the stockbroker dies of Mad Cow Disease. Immediately. That would be my personal daydream. Now, back to the point:

Yes, you can indeed get those last two delicacies, but maybe you shouldn’t include them in your recovery plan, as I know some of the farmers around here, and you most likely would get shot for trespassing and wind up as pig slop. Luckily, I have done more tasty research, so here goes (all available from

Goat Excrement Beauty Oil (Argan Oil): $120 per liter, not including S&H. Used in cosmetic creams to enrich the skin. Scoop says: a potentially big $$-maker, but fooling the kids in to rinsing goat poop to get to the fruits and nuts and then mushing them up might be tricky, and again, there’s the farmer issue. I’d pass on this one.

Maggot Cheese (Casu Frazigu): $100 per pound. Scoop says: says this can only be safely eaten for a few weeks in July and August. This is prime camping time, but carrying your garbage back and forth from home in the hot trunk for a month to spawn the main ingredients might not be wise from a marital standpoint. Skip it.

Ant Caviar (Escamoles): $40 per pound. Scoop says: says the larvae of black ants tastes just like corn and is often served in tacos. A brilliant cost-effective scheme, but unfortunately some of the fast-food places beat us to it. 

Scorpion Vodka: 18 pounds sterling GBP for 25CL bottle. Let’s see, 1 pound sterling = 100 pence times 18, divide by…never mind…as of today at it’s $24.84. You’re on your own for however much 25CL is. says 1) be careful of the sharp stinger and 2) “makes a dramatic scorpion martini with scorpion in the glass, good alternative to an olive!” Scoop says: go for it! Except it will be ‘Crawfish Vodka’, and harmless and safe to share with your significant other, or on a first date (Tip: you kiss and then come apart with a pincer in each mouth and crunch in unison…hot!) So get off the beer, buy cheap vodka, and start swigging enough from each bottle to allow for whatever size crawfish your kids catch. Amounts may vary as night progresses. In the morning stuff one crawfish into each opened bottle and used a remaining full bottle (if any) to fill to level, allowing some vodka to ease pain of angry crawfish attacking you as they fight to the death. Put aside any regrets…they will die with a smile on their beady little crustacean faces, happily slurping their way to a warm fuzzy feeling. Better than boiling, right, little guys?

Well, there much more, such as Giant Hornet’s Honey (Scoop: probably will require more anti-sting vodka in the morning) or Weasel Coffee (Scoop: same poop-problem as those goats) so let’s just start with carp, toads, worms, and crawfish, all family fun-orientated money-making schemes. But remember this: My lawyer says I am not responsible for any injuries. However, out of sympathy, I will say that if hurt by crawfish or actual scorpions, squeeze a toad and apply grease generously to affected area, ingesting vodka as needed. If it’s 2am and you’re still listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd and singing ‘Free Bird’, go ahead and lick the toad.

Disclaimer: Consumption of uncooked worms may bring illness or a general feeling of inkiness, or in extreme cases cause you to momentarily turn into a flaming metrosexual sushi-sucking Yuppie. Licking or smoking toads is illegal in most states. Follow all FDA regulations in transporting maggots and ants. Under no circumstances try to put a live angry crawfish in your drunken mouth. None of these animals were actually eaten during the writing of this column--do I look stupid? (Don’t answer that!).

See more Scoop at Be a NewsHound! Send your tales to ! Next column: ‘Pork For Breakfast: How swine-flu masks can affect your Bloody Mary…positioning the straw, eating the pickle, and other things’.










When you just can’t wait to get there…


And a little bathroom humor…

Campers seem to be the friendliest people. Maybe it’s just getting away from the stress of your normal life. Whenever you can, you sneak out of work early on Friday, even giving up Dr. Phil and Oprah so you can get to the campsite and set up ahead of everyone else. You turn on the water, ice down the beer, and stock up the reefer. You are ready to kick back. (Note to you former Hippies: Don’t get excited. ’Reefer’ is RV talk for a refrigerator. And stop fantasizing about that ideal job you heard tales of…you know, driving a reefer truck!)

Anyway, relaxation awaits. You’re ready to go fishing! But then you happen to glance over and see that your neighbor hasn’t mowed his grass in three weeks. This bothers you. You wonder, has Billy Bob been ill? Did he break a leg? And look! Some young teenage rascals must have thrown all those empty beer cans in his yard just for fun, those scallywags. So you set down the fishing pole and bring over your own mower and tend to his lawn and pick up the debris, including some humongous dog poop-piles. But no thanks are needed, because you are a Happy Camper.

(Insert sound of loud laughter). Yeah, right. As Dr. Phil would say: "I’m a steak-and-potatoes man, so don’t hand me that baloney sandwich." By the way, guys, wouldn’t you really just like to put Dr. Phil’s egomaniacal over-ripe head in a remote-controlled pneumatic vise and squeeeeeze at will? Make him confess to something? Have a beer while you’re doing it?

Sorry. We must remain happy. So, Billy Bob, mow your lawn. Unless it’s under water, in which case you can ask your good neighbor to join you in fishing off your deck.

So, as we can see, there are things that peeve even the best of us. This includes the hard-working people who run and maintain your fun, attractive campground. They put in a lot of hours under any and all weather conditions, usually trying to catch up on the final details just as you’re opening your first beer or wine cooler. They’ve just finished making things look as good as they can, and now they’ll spend the rest of the weekend trying to maintain your expected level of happiness and tranquility. They wouldn’t say it to your face (well, maybe some would), but there are some things that just make them shake their respective head and mutter, "Hey Knucklehead, did you just flush your brains down the holding tank along with the toilet paper? And by the way, you did use RV toilet paper, right?"

My original plan was to interview about fifteen people at about five campgrounds. Once again, I failed. Yes, I got lazy. So most of these are my own peeves…but not all. And just to peeve you off, I’m not telling what’s not mine. Ha! So here we go: What really PO’s (Peeves Off) the people making you happy:

  • The Dump Snake: it’s about 95 degrees out, the flies and mosquitoes have feasted on you relentlessly, and you’ve planned your route to get the maximum dumps done so maybe you can finally go home and get a shower. And then The Dump Snake strikes! You saw him lurking; now he casually slithers over and says: "Hey, since you’re right here, want to get my trailer too?" NO WE DON’T! Get on the list! Maybe now you get dumped automatically, but this one really got me PO’d.
  • The Stinker: he takes 30 minutes to flush out his holding tank while the Honey Wagon dude or dudette loses another pint of blood to the bugs. Look, if your holding tank reeks that bad, you need to change your diet or get a fiber supplement. The only exceptions to this are the day after the Corn Roast or Chili-Fest.
  • The Procrastinator: needs an emergency dump late Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. Got company or a lot of kids? Plan ahead and at least put in for a dump in the morning. Or maybe tell your teenage girls to take their twenty-minute showers at the public bathrooms.
  • My #1 PO irk: "My holding tank is full! You have to dump it right now!" And when the Wagon arrives, usually on a Saturday night, a measly two gallons dribbles out. You were deceived by the liquid distortion effect. Look—if you don’t have a float or flag alarm, get a yardstick or tree branch and mark the depth of your tank next time it’s empty. Keep the dirty stick handy for measuring next time you fear flooding. And make sure you keep the stinky-stick in your reefer to ensure proper readings. Note: I’m kidding. Unless you really have some reefer in your reefer. In which case, you can honestly say: This is some really major ****, Dude!"
  • Here’s a minor Dumping Hall of Fame moment: young Brian Jambretz was on the Wagon, waiting for a camper to finish rinsing the holding tank. Brian was hungry, so he started eating the O’Henry candy bar he had stashed. The camper came out, saw Brian chewing on this long, brown, lumpy shape, and let out a shriek that shook the neighborhood. Brian smiled, licked his lips, and moved on. This was a real Caddyshack/Bill Murray moment.
  • Here’s another favorite: a man who shall remain nameless accidentally dropped his dentures into the toilet as he was shaving. This was a true emergency dump, and a diligent owner went the extra mile, dumping the holding tank gallon by gallon into a bucket so that ‘BG’ could sift through each one before ‘TW’ would suck the bucketful up with the hose. The dentures were found, and ‘BG’ spent the next two hours cleaning them. However, afterwards, friends would claim ‘BG’ always had this ‘****-eating’ grin on his face.
  • Putting your garbage out just as the garbage truck pulls away. Is this some sort of Pavlov’s dog syndrome: you see the truck and remember your bag is full? Do you chase the garbage truck down the street at home? Or toss the bag out after the truck is gone and hope Streets & Sanitation whimsically decides to take another run past your house? Geez, get a Post-It note—it’s usually the same time each day, right?
  • Running up to the campground store just as the workers are locking up. If it closed at 9, you were there at 8:59. Ten—you were there at 9:59. Please, just come at three and get what you need: ice, beer, smokes, BBQ sauce.
  • Complaining at the campground store about prices. "Cigarettes were a quarter cheaper in town" was a common one. So was the price of beer. So why didn’t you stop there? It was usually so your wife wouldn’t know you were buying them.
  • Putting every conceivable RV, patio, and shed light on when the temperature is almost 100 degrees and everybody’s A/C is running on overkill. Then you pop a breaker down the line and want immediate action.
  • Putting your garbage out in paper bags or boxes when it’s ready to or already raining. Hey—you try picking it up when the bottom falls out and stuff rolls down the street, huh?!
  • So let’s review: things happen, and are expected. But a little bit of thinking could save everyone some stress. So at least try. Thanks for letting me and some others vent. As one of us once said, "Every week we clean the place up and get ready for a party we can’t go to."



    You all hope for great neighbors. You wish you could interrogate them first, see if they’ll fit in. So when the site behind Craig Greiner opened up, he was determined to have it his way. Prospective seasonal campers Patrick and Gina were looking at sites and came upon the one behind Craig. Craig was relaxing on the deck of Devious Dan Ross (see last issue: ‘Cougar’), spotted the invaders, and with cunning instincts, leaped into action. Crafty Craig immediately went to his shed and began flinging empty beer cans out behind him into the yard, hurling curses with every aluminum carcass. When interviewed, Craig said: "I wanted it to look real bad, like not an area you want to camp in, but that’s all that was in my recycling trash can that I felt safe in tossing. It’s blacktop out there, and I didn’t want the Crown Royal or Jack Daniel’s bottles breaking. I’m a considerate type of guy."

    However, Craig’s plan backfired, but in a good way. Craig and Dan eventually called Pat and Gina down and explained that they sometimes got ‘a little loud’ and were worried about new neighbors who ‘might call Security’. Dan and Craig then suggested a different site they knew was available. This turned out to be the site next to Karin ‘Cougar Lady’ Buntic, but Karin assured Pat and Gina she was guaranteed not to be in a Scoop story the rest of the year, and that’s where the new neighbors wound up. And the next thing Pat and Gina did was go back to thank Craig. Says Pat: "We knew what he was doing, as crafty as he was. But more importantly, we got to know our neighbors. Right after Crafty Craig and Devious Dan told us the real reasons for trying to get us to pick a different site, I told my wife: ‘This is the campground for us!’"

    So now they are good friends, and according to Devious Dan and Crafty Craig, Pat and Gina fit right in. Often they are the cause for the call to Security.

    I made that up. I haven’t even met them yet. But we should probably start thinking of a nickname for them, eh?


    I stated out wanting to do this as a Memorial Day tribute to some people I’ve met who made a difference, people who kept our country safe. I wanted to hear their wartime stories. Slacker that I am, I kept missing the mark. So I aimed for this 4th of July column. But as I talked to Norm Piper several times, I realized I wanted to also hear about other things from times past, so this quickly became a chance for me to learn history as it happened, a quick glimpse at how it was. I intend to do more of these stories, because there are so many people right around you who can make history come alive. These are not funny tales, just people who are true Americans and who have made a difference and lived a very interesting life. They are people you camp with.

    Norm Piper DOB 11/16/1919: "I grew up in Austin IL, by Oak Park. My first job was delivering the ‘Oak Leaves’, which was a sort of magazine and local newspaper combined. I made 15 cents a week. We then moved to Oak Park, which is where a lot of the gangsters lived. Rocco DiGrazio was there, and Machine Gun Jack McGurn. They were all good neighbors, and believe me, there was no crime in our neighborhood. Except for the time some idiot robbed Tony Accardo’s house close by in River Forest. The idiot didn’t last long—of course they soon found him dead.

    "One time one of Jack McGurn’s molls couldn’t start her car. Her friend tried to push it with her car to get it going, and the bumpers locked. I came out and pushed down on the moll’s car to free it up. I remember, she was wearing a red dress. These gangster’s women were all beautiful women, like showgirls. (McGurn is believed to be responsible for The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago in1929. He was not arrested because of his ‘blonde alibi’—the girlfriend who claimed Jack was with her all day).

    "My grandfather raised cattle on a ranch in New Mexico. He figured my dad, Walter Francis Piper, wasn’t cut out to be a cowboy after he let that one cow wrap her rein around a post and strangle herself to death. So my dad sort of ‘left’ the ranch and started hopping freight trains to all over the country, saw a lot of the USA. He was then what I would politely describe as an ‘itinerant laborer’. He then became a machinist and met Elmer Beardsley in Oregon. They became partners in a foundry business. At that time the foundry industry was dangerous: you were dealing with molten metal, sand molds, and unsafe working conditions, especially in making the molds. Elmer and my dad developed safer machinery to make the molds, and were pioneers in that industry. Later on, when I went to college, I wound up studying my dad in the textbooks (see "The Beardsley and Piper Profile" at

    "Beardsley and my dad got interested in flying and learned in a Curtis Jenny. He and my dad were in a serious flying accident, and because of that my mom wouldn’t let me fly until I was nine. Beardsley and Piper (the Company) later bought a Lockheed Vega, and my dad put an extra 40-gallon gas tank in the passenger compartment so he could fly longer distances. One time he and I and my brother flew to Alaska—not non-stop, but fewer stops than most planes. The airport at Nome was very small, just a grassy farm field. My dad had met Wiley Post in LA, and again in Alaska, and they became casual friends because Post also had a Lockheed. At that time Lockheed was a small operation and you were happy to meet another guy you could talk shop with. Wiley Post got to be friends with Will Rogers; they both died in 1935 in a crash at Point Barrow, Alaska. (Wiley Post was the first man to fly solo around the world).

    "By WWII, my eyesight was one notch under perfect. At that time, the Air Force was The Army Air Corp, and I was in that for a year, until one day we were at attention, staring into the sun for hours, and then they did an eye check. They failed me, but told me I could be a gunner. I thought, they won’t let me fly the plane, but I’m expected to shoot down something coming at me 300 miles an hour?

    "I became a Flight Engineer, mainly dealing with Troop Transport aircraft. I was based in Texas, and when the new jets started coming in, I knew it was the end of an era for the old B-29s. The jets meant long range, and that meant Japan.

    "I did inspections of the aircraft and was the guy to go to when there was a problem. I wanted to go overseas, but they had me looking at Executive Beech Craft twin engines as part of another secret plan, I guess. I had no orders, no official papers, I was told to just hang around. In effect, I wasn’t supposed to really be there. A top Sergeant finally got suspicious and hauled me in to the CO. I figured I’d be in the brig within twenty minutes. The CO looked at my papers and said: ‘Are you from Oak Park?’ It turned out that my mother and his mother played cards together. The CO sent me home for Christmas; that Sergeant’s ears were steaming when he had to let me go!

    "A Colonel was in charge when I was at the Air Force Base in Biloxi. He acted like he was Patton, always followed by a contingent of officers, carrying a swagger stick, medals all over his uniform. We’d heard that he was in command at Pearl Harbor, and got sent here because Pearl Harbor should never have happened. Something went wrong there…I think it was the radar. Somebody should have known…

    "General Eisenhower came by. Now, we have this arrogant Colonel swaggering around, and Eisenhower shows up with a regular brown shirt with five tiny stars on each collar. He talks to all of us, asks how the food is, things like that. He was a regular guy, a real leader.

    "I want to say that I am blessed to live in the USA. The war in Iraq—in WWII, when one ship went down, that was more lives lost than over there right now. We had gas rationing, sugar and food rationing—we didn’t complain, we just went and did it.

    "One time I was over in Britain. I was young, my Dad had sent me over with his partner. Hitler was in Germany, Mussolini was in Italy. Americans weren’t highly regarded then, especially by the Brits. We were still ‘amateurs’. An English woman said to me: ‘You Yanks really don’t know anything about history.’ I said to her: ‘Lady, we Americans don’t study history—we make it."

    Norm Piper is at Blackhawk Campground Resort. Stop by and talk to him anytime you feel like it. By the way, he likes Beefeater’s martinis, and that’s why any mistakes in this story are my fault. It seemed a shame not to accept his offer…twice.


    Last issue I wrote about the plight of Sue Lovelace, who along with husband Ron Jr. owns The Beverage Mart Liquor Store in Milton. Susie is being forced to watch a dinky analog TV as she slaves away behind the register, even though Ron promised to put in a high-def flat screen. Taking the matter into my own hands, I put a plastic beer cup by the register for donations of 5 cents towards the new TV. Well, the money has been flowing in, and the amount raised now stands at a whopping $17.35, plus two Happy Hour drink chips. The largest contribution by far came from Ben Simes of Milton. After reading the article, he sent girlfriend Melissa McCabe back with $3 in quarters. "I would have gone back myself," said Ben, "but the race was on, and I just couldn’t bear to have to watch any part of it at the store on such a puny TV."

    Well, with prices at around $750 for a 32", it seems we have a ways to go. So let’s keep those nickels rolling in!

    See more ‘Scoop’ at I would like to hear about your own Walking Talking History stories—email Workers: give me your gripes! And please pick up your dog poop, you hound.


    Will Rogers, Walter Piper, Wiley Post, and some guy in an argyle sweater--photo courtesy of Walter Piper










    21 BIKE SALUTE: A SURPRISE PARADE FOR A SOLDIER HOME ON LEAVE  Plus Gritty Golf Carts...'The Golf Cart Guy' returns with an exciting adventure! Exciting photos await!




    Brian Bates was coming home from Iraq for a one month leave. He knew there would probably be a ‘small’ party at the campground where parents Corey and Deb Stevens have a seasonal site. But PFC/ 82nd Airborne Brian Bates got more than he expected, thanks to some Top Secret planning.

                Surreptitious cell phone calls were made to and from Corey’s truck after he left O’Hare Airport at 1PM with Brian safely stowed aboard. Some scrambling ensued as the arrival time approached and certain members of the elite STRIKE Initial Reception Committee (STrategic Rendezvous Intelligence for Keeping things Exciting) had to be reminded to finish their tasty beverages in order to arrive at the appointed rendezvous by deadline. But by tracking Brian’s ETA from O’Hare through Belvidere and Rockford, twenty-one bikers, with American flags proudly waving from their Harley’s, were lined up at the M&I Bank parking lot in plenty of time.

                The M&I lot is at the intersection of Junction Y and Hwy 26, en-route to the campground, so Brian didn’t suspect a thing until Corey swung in. I didn’t catch Brian’s first reaction, but after he hugged Mom and all well-wishers, he still had a sort of dazed, unbelieving grin on his face. Then the STRIKE procession began, with two flag holders leading the rest of the bikes and Corey and Brian and more cars with friends and family following.

                Brian was greeted at Blackhawk Campgrounds by throngs of people lining the way. People had even come off the nearby beach to join in welcoming a local hero. When Mrs. Scoop and I arrived a tad later, the party in the Pavilion was well under way. The food was delicious, the beer cold, and Brian was starting his leave in spectacular fashion. When I stopped out the next morning, Deb Stevens was up and about, but father and son were snoring soundly. “All I know is, he didn’t have to buy a single beer,” laughed Deb. She looked over at the golf cart. “In fact, there’re still four full cans left over. That’s rare for either one of them, so you know they had a great time.”

                A lot of people put a lot of effort into making this a special day for Brian. I apologize for anybody I left out, but here’s a good start: Debra Messer gave the Welcome Home speech at the Pavilion, something she also does at the Lincoln Memorial in Springfield IL every year for Vets, Deceased Vets, POWs, and MIAs. Debra also had a collection box for donated cell phones for soldiers, a good way for you to help our Forces call home. (Batteries or chargers not needed: ).

                Mary Atella organized the reception, and also paid for over two hundred American flags for the greeters at the front gate of Blackhawk Campground Resort and inside the reception Pavilion. Katie Webb, food coordinator extraordinaire, made sure there was enough variety in the dishes people were bringing to share (In Katie’s immortal words: “We sure didn’t want to wind up with twenty Taco Dips!”).  

                The biker’s IRC was organized by Prez Bryan Tourdot, with VP Dean Vehrs in charge of “yelling at everybody to get lined up straight”. Everybody agreed that Bryan and Dean made sure that from beginning to end things went safely and smoothly.

                Brian has spent over 13 months in Talil, Iraq, spending two birthdays away from homeland USA, and will be going back to Ft. Bragg after leave and then to Afghanistan.

                We all wish our members of the Armed Forces well, but sometimes it’s pretty neat to hug one in person. And buy him or her a beer…

                So go ahead and do that next time.


    Brian at the party. Mom Deb is to Brian's left.



                  Brian (C), Corey (R)              Brian is all smiles after his hugs    The 21 Bike Parade awaits

    All above photos and intro photo by Ken and Mary Atella



    Gorno, his Z06, and Prowler at the London Dragway. Photo by Gorno

                Are you the campground golf cart driver who plods along at the prescribed speed limit, as you should? Or are like certain other ‘specialists’ who can’t wait until dark to test the limits of their toys? (Note: I am talking about golf carts here, folks—Scoop).

                Gorno--Steve Gorniack aka The Golf Cart Guy, who happily answered your cart questions in this column a while back, and probably still will--recently took a dream weekend to the 2008 Buggy Bonanza at the London Dragway in KY on 7/25-26. Sponsored by Buggies Unlimited, this is serious competition for those of you who treat your golf cart like a ’57 Chevy or a Big Daddy Roth RatMobile. This was the ultimate for The Golf Cart Guy. Was it better than sex? I asked.

                “Are you nuts?” he replied. “But it was still pretty darn good!”

                Gorno’s field report goes like this: “Prowler (aka Kevin Possedi, another notorious cart fiend) and I trailered my Z06 and made it to London about 1:30AM local time. There was only one obvious cart party going on in the hotel, and Kevin and I felt a little out of place there, since we have all our teeth. So we had a few cocktails in our room and crashed.

                “After four hours of sleep and breakfast, we got to the dragstrip at 8:15 and registered my cart. The Show and Shine Event was already underway, and when I saw the other carts displayed there I felt like just leaving mine on the trailer. Carts with Hummer bodies, Dodge ram bodies, airbrushed flame jobs, subwoofers in the stereo system, and chrome. Lots and lots of chrome. I didn’t enter that event. SCOOP NOTE: Gorno is being modest. Check out the Scoop web column ‘Meet The Golf Cart Guy’ for a Gorno cart pic and some specs).

                “Off we went to the first physical competition, the Hill Climb. Once again, my low-slung Corvette tribute cart was ill-prepared for this event, as it is more suited to the lifted carts with big tires and such, but while watching the others compete I got a bug up my butt and figured WTH, I drove all this way, so I entered. When my turn came I lined up the freshly-charged electric Z06 and hit the gas (so to speak). She jumped to life, spitting grass out the back and headed for the incline. It was plenty steep (45 degrees or more), and about 2/3rds of the way up there was a large diagonal rut that I hit and caught a bit of air. She landed and dug right back in, chucking dirt out the back end all the way up. It was a slow ascent compared to the other guys who were running snowmobile or motorcycle engines in their lifted gassers, but I was determined to finish the course. I made it to the top (two of the more powerful gas carts actually flipped over!) and was rewarded by a round of applause and cheers.

                “The remainder of the day was spent running back and forth from the cooler to the other events, which included 1/8 mile drag race qualifying, the Jimmy B Memorial 500, drag race finals, and the fan-favorite Mud Pit! To qualify for the drag race you needed to run the 1/8 mile under a certain time limit. My cart goes 22mph on flat ground; these other guys are going 35mph or higher. To give you an idea of the kind of power we are dealing with here, I saw an electric powered EZ-Go cart run 77mph in the finals. He would have gone even faster but one of his 14 AGM 12v batteries exploded during the run and held his speed down! These guys are SERIOUS.

                “The Jimmy B Memorial 500 is a one-lap event over an open field set up as an obstacle course. Again, the lifted carts with big power were the winners here. The Mud Pit was next, and again I didn’t enter (are you crazy—no way!). Let’s just say some carts made it through the Pit, and some are still there.

                “We had a great day at the track, met a lot of new friends, and learned a few things along the way, mainly that electric carts clean house in these competitions. If you want to beat these guys, it’s gonna cost some major coin. That’s why Prowler and I are currently looking for a suitable donor cart to build into a Bonanza Buster for next year’s competition. All sponsors are welcome!”

                Gorno was awarded 3 points for his Hill Climb effort, and his was the only non-lifted electric cart to complete the climb. Gorno, thanks again for your first-hand report!   


    Folks, have a great Fall, a short Winter, and we’ll see you here again in the Spring. Thanks Everybody! And remember, visit here often for new stuff. Ideally, you should read this after a few tasty beverages, so...get that Internet hooked up in the bathroom of the RV!

     Got questions for The Golf Cart Guy? Email and I’ll pass them along—check for any and all questions. NOTE: Neither Gorno nor I are responsible for any foolish things you do to your cart or your body.

                FINAL TV UPDATE: Due to my error, some important info was left out of the last column. Thanks to your fun nickel donations at The Beverage Mart, $43.77 was given to the Flood Relief Program set up by The Bank of Milton. Ron and Sue Lovelace of TBM want to thank all of you for your support and help!



    And now, let's see The Golf Cart Guy's Photo Album!

               072708055.jpg image by gornoman   072708049.jpg image by gornoman  072708045.jpg image by gornoman  

                                                                                   All photos by Gorno

                                 072708044.jpg image by gornoman    072708020.jpg image by gornoman  072708007.jpg image by gornoman


     072708004.jpg image by gornoman

         A happy Gorno leaves the field.

    Thank you, Gorno! Folks, remember to check out The Golf Cart Guy at!