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What a weekend - WhiteFox

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July 6th, 2011


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11:54 pm - What a weekend
800 miles of ridding in the cab of a truck, around 5 miles walking, and 3,500lbs of fireworks fired off in a total of 50 minutes.

I want to start by saying that we had two fantastic crews this weekend. I can’t begin to tell you how big a difference it makes to be able to have 100% confidence in the people you’re working with.

Friday - Travel to Waterford Wi
At around 9am Jen and I went to the parking lot of a hotel near 694 and County Rd E, where I was to meet the lead for the fireworks displays we did. We were supposed to meet up at 10am, but we got there very early because I under estimated the distance. On top of that he was a bit late. From there I road with him until we were just across the border of Wi, where we did the first truck weigh in at a truck stop before the actual official DOT weight station. Since we were traveling with hazardous material (around 1.5 tons of fireworks), it’s not just a fine if your truck is over weight. Good thing we stopped, we were almost 1,500lbs over weight. We spent the next hour transferring several of the racks to the pickup of one of the other crew members, and then once we were under weight we got back on the road.

We stopped for food at around 12:30 (subway sandwich #1), then got back on the road. Getting near our destination of Waterford Wi we hit some construction and ended up on a detour that took us miles out of our way, adding about 30 minutes travel time. We finally arrived at around 7pm, took a look at the barge we’d be shooting off of, got some grub at a local bar and grill, then headed off to the hotel. By this time my back was killing me from the rather uncomfortable seat in the cab of the truck. So I spent a good part of the next hour in the hotel hot tub before going to bed.

Saturday – Setup and shoot at Waterford
Burt (the crew lead) had us up bright and early at 6:30am. Setup went much slower than anticipated, mostly because of the heat. We got lunch at around 2pm at a supposedly air-conditioned diner that’s indoor temperature was just above 80. We finally fished setup and got a complete continuity check at around 7:00pm. One interesting aspect of our setup site was a complete lack of a bathroom. We kept having to make trips to the local gas station. At 7pm Bert sent us back to the hotel to clean up, eat, and cool off with instructions to be back on site by 9pm, with a shoot time of 9:30 – 10pm. I was so hot by then that I had no real appetite.

It may seem silly to take a shower and change cloths when you know you are just going to get covered in dirt and sweat during the tear-down/clean-up after the show, but we all leapt at the opportunity to spend some time in a cold shower and get the sweat, soot and grime off of us. After using luke-warm water too actually clean up I switched the water to almost pure cold and just let it run over my back for quite a while. I can’t begin to say how good it felt to cool off a bit.

The shoot went off at 9:30 and was very good. I have some video of it, but I want to edit it a bit before I post it because it’s really shaky due to me trying to swat mosquitoes while recording video with my phone. Tear down and cleanup went quick, and we were back in our hotel rooms by 1am.

Sunday – Travel and setup at Boscobel
Bert let us sleep in a bit, meaning we didn’t have to be ready to leave until around 8:15am. The drive from Waterford to Boscobel wasn’t that long at all. Just before arriving we stopped and got lunch (subway sandwich #2). Once in Boscobel we went to the hotel and got settled in to our rooms before going out to the site and getting to work setting up, loading, and water-proofing all the mortar racks. We finished that job just as the sun was sliding down behind the hills. This was by far the easiest day of setup. Although humid, it was over cast and was the coolest day of the weekend.

For dinner we ate at an A&W Root Beer. Then headed back to the hotel where I spent the next 45 minutes either in the hot tub or pool before
finally going to bed at around 11:30. Unfortunately I woke up at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Total suckage.

Monday – More setup and shoot at Boscobel
The day dawned hot and humid. We ate the complimentary breakfast at the hotel, and were back on the site setting up by 8:00. Without the over-cast it was much hotter, and although we’d setup all the mortar racks the day before, there was still a ton of wiring to do, not to mention setting out our entire front line. Our front line was 200 feet wide, and I can’t begin to guess how many times I walked the length of it in the process of helping get it all set up. We got lunch at around 2:30pm (subway sandwich #3), then went back to the site.

One quirk of Bert’s is that he likes to “think over” the best way to run the cables for the shoot sites. He was supposedly going to “mull it over” and run the cables while we were at lunch. We got back to fund the cable tote hadn’t been opened yet. So I grabbed up a field diagram and started running the cables. We ran into a few small issues, but the cables were all out and connected 30 minutes later. Then came the all-important continuity check. The first check was a dismal failure with 3 whole boxes not showing up, and several things wired wrong. 50 minutes and 5 checks later we had the problems figured out and got 100% continuity. At that point I convinced Burt to send me and the rest of the crew (most of which were sitting in the scant couple feet of shade along the length of truck) back to the hotel to clean up and cool off).

It was only about 5pm, so we actually had a good deal of time before we had to be back on site at 9pm. After taking a shower and spending about an hour in the hotel pool I got into appropriate shoot cloths (100% cotton everything and heavy jeans). Then spent the next hour and a half sitting with the crew just outside the doors to the hotel lobby trading stories and smoking cigars. At one point Ellie and I went to the liquor store next door to buy something to celebrate with after the shoot. While in the liquor store used the standard (and way over used) joke of asking her if she’d like some Hot-Sex. Unfortunately the joke didn’t go over very well because she’d never heard of the drink before… Oops.

At 9pm we were all back on site donning our long-sleeved cotton shirts, gloves and hard-hats. We had our pre-shoot safety briefing and assigned people to watch the shoot site for idiots trying to get too close a look. My position ended up being at the shoot table so Bert would have someone to sacrifice take care of trouble if any minor incidents happened without having to stop the show and take care of it himself. The shoot it’s self went VERY well. We had one shell break low, and we had a wheel commit suicide. But all of the shells fired, the timing to the music was pretty much perfect, and the crowed loved it.

During tear down we had the first real injury of the weekend (not counting the sun-burns all of us got). I was working in the back of the truck and someone slid a rack up to me and slammed it into the front of my foot breaking my toe-nail all the way back to the nail bed. Then I managed to role over the same toe (and several others) with a hand-cart full of rebar while getting it positioned in the truck. As a result I spent most of the rest of the night limping . I’m kind of amazed I didn’t break a toe. I think my steel toed shoes will become a new addition to my shoot bag.

After the shot we once again congregated outside the doors to the hotel lobby where we enjoyed a few drinks and cigars and spent the time congratulating each other on a wonderful shoot. I ended up going to bed at around 2:30, and slept well for the first time all weekend.

Tuesday – Travel back home
Unfortunately Bert (who I was sharing a hotel room with) needed to get up as early as possible to go check the field for the possibility of dud shells. So I was up again at 6:30am. At around 8am we all got together and went to a local café for breakfast. Although the waitress complemented us on the show, we didn’t get the standing ovation we’ve gotten in past years. Likely because it was a Tuesday morning.
After breakfast we all headed out and got back to Minneapolis at around 3pm.

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