The Bluefield Diaries, Part 1

          We made it! Finally, after scant planning, no packing, last minute reservations, making magazine deadlines by seconds, suffering through wet luggage and a dripping airplane, Jordyn and I have arrived in Bluefield, W. Virginia, to watch Jarret play baseball and get some much-needed family time with our wayward 5th wheel.
          First order of business: Mismanage the calendar! A professional pitcher throws only every six days, so when I booked our flights, I counted one start, six days, and one more start. I neglected to count a day off in the middle of the week and certainly didn't bargain for a rain cancellation today. Therefore, I will not see Jarret throw again during this trip. I will, however, get to spend 2 uninterrupted days together with Jarret, Allie, and Jordyn, so I can live with that.
          So great to see him again! Never thought we'd make it when we were stuck in traffic (due to a flaming RV on the interstate), but after 2 long flights and an extra long car ride, we pulled into the quaint town of Bluefield to sunny skies and smiling faces.  Jarret and Allie were adorable as they ran downstairs to greet us--Allie snapping photos and stopping traffic with her "woo-hoo" scream. 
          Bluefield notes: Everything here moves slowly.  If Bakersfield is the least cosmopolitan of the large cities in California, then we certainly seem like the O.C. compared to Bluefield.  The people here are friendly to a fault, and their accents are thick and twangy and make you feel welcome from the moment they say, "Hiiii...Can I help ewe?"  I feel a certain responsibility to California to make as good an impression on them as Jarret and Allie have, because I can see how the Real Housewives of Orange County may have tainted our entire state.  So I have made a concerted effort to slow down and smile when it takes 20 minutes just to see a waiter in a restaurant.
          As far as observations, the people here seem a little behind the curve when it comes to fashion and hairstyles.  There aren't a lot of places to go where one would dress-up, I guess, so, therefore, they don't dress-up (they did, however, just get their first Aeropostale). On television, I suspect that I'm used to the eye candy-esque news and weather anchors in the West (fashion forward, lots of makeup and/or plastic surgery, think: Jillian Barberie when she did the weather), so I was surprised when an average looking "mom" type was the Saturday anchor in Charlotte--short, functional hair, plump, round face, faint makeup. No one "dresses" here except the players' wives at the games.  More common is to see women in men's t-shirts, wearing bright green sneakers and sporting 80s hair (I should know that hair; I wore it well). I will say this, though: I have seen very few obese people.  And Jordyn pointed out that the young girls (teens, early 20s) are thin and healthy, and while they may have tattoos, they don't show their bra straps when they wear tank tops! Hallelujah!  Bakersfieldians could borrow that bit of fashion sense.
          Starbucks (for those of you who find interest in this): We drove 14 miles today in torrential rain for a Starbucks in the town of Princeton. Princeton, as it turns out, is far more "cosmopolitan" than Bluefield, which boasted a population of just over 5,000 people in the 2000 census.  When I say torrential rain, I'm not exaggerating (imagine your shower on full blast, only you can't step away from it).  I thought it was fun and adorable at first, then when my windshield wipers ceased to be effective, I decided that I lacked the experience to drive without eyesight and briefly contemplated pulling over on a highway.  Jordyn, sensing my panic, told me how great I was doing and that it would be fine. She totally just wanted a Starbucks.
          Baseball.  For those of you interested in minor league baseball, the stadium is beautiful.  It reminds me a lot of Sam Lynn Ballpark without the blinding, searing, setting sun in your face for the first 2 innings of the game.  The backdrop behind the outfield here is a blanket of tall trees, lush shrubbery, and running streams on a mountainside that touches the clouds.  It's clean and everyone knows each other by name (the fans, the players, the staff). The fans are great--but I expected to be overwhelmed with the number of people attending the games.  Not so much.  I think there are as many fans at a Bakersfield Blaze game on a good night, and I also think Bluefield pads their attendance numbers.  In looking around, the stadium appeared to have as many fans as a game back home.  As far as fan-friendly, they do their best to play the participatory games for the kids (musical chairs, tug-of-war, sack races), play the fun songs, and include everyone in the good times.  You'll see Jordyn and I sitting together trying to remember how to do the Macarena. 


          "Southern" observations.  Traffic: On Saturday morning, Jordyn and I arose early in Charlotte, NC, to make the (what should have been) 2-hour drive to Bluefield, W.VA. Along the way, we encountered traffic stopped along the highway and noticed three distinct differences between Virginia traffic and California traffic: 1. There is no smog, so we could see that traffic was stopped (not just slowing down) for miles; 2. People accepted the nearly 2-hour delay in the way one might wait in line for concert tickets -- they got out, walked around, and made friends with strangers in or out of cars who may have information on the problem ahead. Eventually, word of mouth traveled 3 miles back to us that an RV had caught fire up the road and that the right lane was closed ahead.  That brings me to my #3 observation:  Once traffic began moving again, there were no police, no CHP, no cones, and no traffic control whatsoever to merge two lanes into one. The people here did it themselves, drove for miles in one lane without anyone racing up the soon-to-be-closed right lane to try to merge at the last second. And when we passed the charred RV, no one slowed down to look.
          That's it for today.  I'm still on California time, so my clock is telling me it's 10:00 p.m. while the Bluefield clocks are suggesting that it might be 1 a.m.  I don't think I'll need to worry about jet lag while I hang out with these three young people for a week.  They stay up late and sleep in.  "That's just my game."

          
Our beautiful hosts.
          
Our wayward 5th wheel looking like his dad.

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