Unless you’ve been living in an alternate universe, then you know that the majority of the last week has seen much of the country dealing with horrifically high summer temperatures. In the Upper Midwest, we went from a rather balmy 75ºF to 95ºF, and to what Accuweather described as a 105ºF “Real Feel” temperature. The humidity was unbelievable, and despite forecasting violent rainstorms for two days straight (according to Accuweather’s own radar, the nearest cloud to my area was resting comfortably in Montana), the earth remained as dry as could be.
Until yesterday, that is.
Coming out of the west was this line of darkness. You knew it was going to be big, too, because as the clouds slowly made their way eastward, there was a strange stillness in the air. Worse, the temperature began to fall – fast. Based on my car’s thermometer, it went from 95ºF to 72ºF in less than ten minutes. Humidity? What humidity? The air was light and bouncy, and for the first time in nearly a week, I didn’t sweat as I stood still.
The rain was wonderful! It came down – hard and fast – and the accompanying breeze (well, wind, to be honest) was miraculous. The show was short – about 30 minutes –
Of course, not all was glorious coolness. I learned later that a tornado landed further north of me, and that an acquaintance (who was thankfully not harmed) lived near the point where it touched down. I still haven’t heard what all happened over there, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all is okay.
Today has been wonderful, and with the return of cooler temps, I decided to do something that I’d honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to do this year: I visited the Renaissance Faire!
To be fair (no pun intended), I’ve been to the Ren Faire at least a dozen times over the last twenty years – sometimes attending multiple times the same year. It was a rite of summer for me back in those early days, and while there’s a lot that boggles the mind at these faires (one year there were folks dressed as Klingons in kilts), there are also a lot of good things, too – namely watching people of diverse backgrounds and interests gather around and enjoy themselves and have a good time. I stopped going about ten or twelve years ago; the park where the faire is held is a good distance away, the heat and humidity can make walking around in the open almost unbearable, and the fact that so many of the vendors I’d grown to love were no longer participating, all caused me to put the brakes on attending.
So, this morning I got up and ate breakfast, all with an eye towards doing a good amount of traveling to attend the Ren Faire. At the appropriate time, I jumped in my car with a full-tank of gas, twelve dollars in cash, and a pocket full of dreams, and trekked down the River Styx – or the Interstate, as it’s commonly known. I’d planned to stop at a bank along the way, but I neglected to do this – partially because it would have added an additional twenty minutes to the trip and it would have required me to travel so far out of my way that I’d have likely reconsidered the trip entirely.
(An aside: Am I the only one tired of ATMs charging me for access to my own money? I didn’t have a problem when they charged a dollar and claimed it was for “maintenance,” but the last ATM I visited charged over FIVE DOLLARS, and part of me – the common sense part – says, “Nope! Not today, my friend!” Seriously – can banks try just a little harder to demonstrate their irrelevance?)
To save cash, once I arrived at the faire-grounds, I opted to park in the “free parking” area, which is nothing more than an open field. Found a good spot and a place that my aged noggin could remember (there are hundreds of folks here, so it’s easy to get lost), and I joyfully walked to the front gate.
There’s a reason that parking area is free – namely, it’s because it’s about a mile away from the front gate. No trams, no shuttles – you walk the distance. Oh, and most of it is uphill. About half-way along this epic walk, I realized just how much it wouldn’t have hurt me to pay the five dollars for regular parking. Walking is a young man’s game, son, and I’m no young man. Far from it, or so my body was screaming to me.
You’re probably wondering about the Little Woman. Well, she didn’t come for two reasons. First, she’s had some health issues of her own, and as of late, they’ve really limited her mobility. To be blunt, she would have never made it from the parking lot, even if I’d parked closer to the gate. Second, she had a “girl’s day” planned for the bulk of the day, so it wasn’t like I was leaving her to her own devices. I’ll confess – it would have been more fun to have her there with me, but the Renaissance was never her “thing.” Honestly, if there were such a thing as a “Victorian Faire” with permanent buildings and folks dressed as late 19th-century mudlarks, though, she’d be all into that, painful walking or no.
I was on the grounds for about two hours. Some things were new, most were not. Some familiar sites were moved around, while a couple of spots that were once filled with activities were now empty. Was it worth it all? Absolutely – if it weren’t for the driving, I’d honestly go back next week. I found a few items of interest, including a couple of books (I only bought one, but there were a good half-dozen that I wanted), and a few minor things like Renaissance-style playing cards (which I have already, but I don’t feel like hunting for them in my Raiders of the Lost Ark -style warehouse of a basement). But what I was really excited about finding was a leather vendor who sold belt blanks:
The only leather shop in the area – other than Tandy – closed its doors about six years ago. That was the only place that I could find decent belt blanks for the myriad of projects in which I’d been involved. Well, I found two that met with my approval, and a few minutes after locating them, they were mine for good. I have no immediate plans for them, but I mentioned when I started this blog (so many years ago) that I’d always wanted to have a mid-Stuart-era get up, and seeing all of the fantastic costumes at the Faire today kind of re-inspired me to pursue that goal, if only to have said costume for myself. I’m interested in making something totally accurate and I know where to start, but the problem for me – as always – is in finding enough time to pull it off.
The funny thing about Ren Faires is that they tend to bring out people who are dressed for just about anything other than the Renaissance. The number of vikings always baffles me, as do the number of guys in kilts with heavy, black leather boots. Then there are the steampunk aficionados, who are often dressed to the nines, but still leave me scratching my head. Still, it was fun watching folks get into whatever they were doing.
(Another aside: Seriously, folks – walking around with a big, roast turkey leg and a mug of ale? Henry VIII didn’t do that. He never ate turkey because he hadn’t heard of them. That was Charles Laughton’s 1938 movie impression of Henry. We really need to let that image of Henry go . . .)
But the highlight of today’s trek was in finally meeting one of my favorite bloggers – Michelle Novak of Inspired by Venice – in person! She was there promoting her many books, and I have to confess that I was just going to wave and walk on by – I didn’t want to needlessly interrupt her day. But . . . I did stop, and even then I didn’t want to mention who I was because . . . why? Just smile, say “Hello,” and move on, I thought. But . . . then I did tell her who I was and . . .
Let’s just say that I’m glad I did.
Have you ever met someone for the first time and within minutes feel as though you’ve known them forever? That’s what it was like. I had to stop myself from saying, “Oh, you remember . . .” to someone I’d just met, but – wow – the fifteen minutes we spoke were so totally worth the whole trip! I’d been following her blog for years, but I rarely reached out; just a comment here or a “like” on a post there – nothing big. And I’d always wondered how I’d react if I ever met a fellow blogger that I’d been following (or vice versa). Well, now I know.
I’d act like a star-struck teen.
When it was time for me to go, I painfully walked back to the car. I had to have walked a good three-to-five miles today, and given that I haven’t walked a hundred yards since the end of the semester, I don’t know how I did it. I wasn’t feeling well (painful calves not included), and because of the heat, I figured that I was in dire need of something to drink. A quick trip to Walmart later found me with a quart of Gatorade (thanks for the suggestion, Michelle!), and that lasted all of about twenty minutes. I was thirsty!
The Magical Mystery Tour ended nearly six hours after it had begun, with me having put more miles on my car in a single day than I have in the near-year I’ve owned it. I also returned with my twelve dollars intact (!) – but about $90 deeper in credit card debt. The Little Woman returned shortly after I did, and she did so to a warm, waiting dinner, and an equally warm and waiting hug from me.
This has got to be the best day of the whole summer.