My journey to Cedar Rapids began at the close of the Madison show, the day before. I got absolutely soaked from a downpour while loading out of the Madison show. While sitting in my car sopping wet, I plugged in the address of the Avid Hotel in Cedar Rapids where I was planning to bunk for the night.
The GPS took me through some back roads and through some towns that I have never been to like Verona and Mineral Point. Those town were beautiful along with the scenery along the road with limestone hills and beautiful sprawling farms.
While the hills were nice, the sky was ugly during the drive and I had hoped that I was through the worst of the storm. Once I made it into Iowa, the sky turned yellow and angry clouds roared above. The rain started light then eventually came down in a gusher. Luckily I was on a back road and it was easy to pull over and wait out the rain. It was raining much too hard to see out my windshield and I felt it was too dangerous to drive.
After about 15 minutes, I was able to see the road, even though it was still raining but not as hard. I crept along slowly, waiting for the next downpour. About a half hour later it hit and I pulled over once again. Once back on the road, the rain remained much lighter and I was able to drive straight to Cedar Rapids without a hitch. However, the sky looked nasty the whole way and I was concerned that I would get caught in a tornado -- which got me wondering, what are you supposed to do if you see a tornado while driving? Drive the other way?
At one point, I thought I saw a funnel cloud but could not focus on it as a pick-up truck was bearing down on my behind. Once at the Avid Hotel, I could barely open my car door because the wind was whipping so hard. I sort of blew into the hotel.
I have never stayed at an Avid Hotel before. I found it on Priceline. My search began with a Motel 6 but the reviews of the hotel were horrible. I read reviews on six or seven hotels before I settled on the Avid. The reviews on the other hotels discussed bugs, filth and sketchy characters. The Avid reviews had stupid complaints like not enough towels in the bathroom. I can deal with lack of towels but I like to avoid bugs, filth and sketchy characters.
The Avid is a real nice hotel. Looks brand new. The room was small but clean and there were plenty of towels. One thing that the Avid and most other hotels fail to have is a freezer portion in their mini-fridge. I carry insulin with me in a freezer pack and need to refreeze the pack at night. The insulin is less effective if it warms up.
Once settled in, I needed some grub and braved the wind to get back into my car and drive around a bit. Well, I learned that I picked a hotel located on the far western end of Cedar Rapids and there was pretty much nothing nearby. I ended up at an Arby's which I brought back to the hotel, took my insulin and ate then watched TV until I fell asleep.
The Cedar Rapids show did not open until 10 a.m. I received a text from Jesse, the promoter, that load in would begin at 8:30 a.m. through the doors on the south side of the hotel.
I woke up around 7 a.m., showered, then went to the lobby for some breakfast. Unfortunately, it was that typical free hotel breakfast which is just gross. I battled through a large family to grab an egg-white omelet wrapped in paper. Upon unwrapping the paper and viewing the omelet, I realized it looked like a pile of rubber puke then tossed it straight into the garbage. I grabbed some coffee and checked out of the hotel.
The wind seemed worse in the morning than it was at night. I had trouble opening my car door because of the force of the wind and ended up spilling my coffee. I plugged the address for the Ramada into the GPS and saw first hand that I had stayed quite far from civilization. From the highway, inner city Cedar Rapids looks like an industrial town.
Siri directed me to pull off into an area with a dozen or so hotels along with many restaurants. I guess this is where I probably should have gone for dinner the previous night. While heading to the Ramada, I eyed a Perkins and pulled into the parking lot. Man, it was cold out and I only had on a light jacket.
Once inside Perkins, I was greeted by two very pretty ladies. One directed me to my table while the other served as my waitress. I ate some eggs, bacon and sausage that were a huge improvement on the hotel breakfast.
Anyway, I ate with my head down and as quickly as I could because I was being stared at the whole time by this weird couple.
Before I left the restaurant, I pulled out my phone and opened up the compass app. I could see the Ramada from the Perkins and was trying to figure out which side of the Ramada was south. Just then Jesse texted me again, stating load in was moved to the west side of the building. My trusty compass app directed me to the west side of the Ramada.
Problem was that the south side parking lot was well kept while the west side parking lot was one big pothole. I almost fell a few times trying to load my bins of cards onto my cart. I watched other dealers stumble as well.
There was a battered cement ramp leading up into the hotel. It looked like trouble. I watched a couple dealers spill their carts on the ramp. I tried my best but spilled my cart as well. That sucked.
Once inside the hotel ballroom, I observed that each table had a name plate. I looked for my name. I went through the room two or three times before I realized my name was not on any of the tables. I prepaid for the space, so I should have had a table. Plus, Jesse had just texted me!
I found Jesse who is a bearded young man, looks about 28 to 30 years old. I asked where he placed me then watched him look at all the name plates and realize he forgot to give me some tables. He then rearranged some tables to make some space then went into a back room and grabbed more tables. I patiently waited until my tables were ready. Can't say I have never done the same thing. You try to be thorough as a promoter but it doesn't always work out.
Set up was easy, although there were a few guys trying to check out my stuff before I could get it all out. I tried to block them from the table so I could continue to lay everything out. Once set up, I walked around the lobby trying to find some coffee. While taking in the environment, I observed that I was in a place straight out of Austin Powers. This hotel must have been built in the early 1960's. It was clean but you could see the age and the groovy 1960's layout and decor.
No coffee. I was directed to a pop machine near the pool. Some diet Mountain Due did the trick along with a pack of M&Ms.
Back at my tables, I lost my ability to think as my brain waves were drowned out by some very loud, off-key, singing in a foreign language coming from the neighboring ball room. My PTSD was triggered and suddenly I was back at the old Fred Copp show in Schaumburg that regularly had a very loud church band in the ballroom next door.
This particular church service went on for hours and gave me a huge headache. Interestingly, though, members of the church walked through the show later and I learned they were from Togo in West Africa and spoke French. How funky is that?! How did these people end up in BumbleF&^% Iowa?
So with a background of off-key singing, some drumming, a little piano and later some bass guitar, drinking diet Mountain due and munching on M&Ms, I began the show by scanning the room from behind my tables. I suddenly became aware that I was in a sea of University of Iowa T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies. A few guys had some Kansas City Chiefs gear on. I also saw a bit of Cubs and Twins gear.
"Hello Tony," I heard while checking out all the team sports wear in the room.
People freakin' know me wherever I go!
It was Adam, who I met several months ago at the Madison show. He also drove up from Iowa to my Oak Creek show. Adam was decked out in Kansas City Royals gear which prompted me to look at Google Maps to see how far away Kansas City was from Cedar Rapids. It is not close. Why so many Kansas City fans?
Anyway, it was nice to see Adam, who is a real friendly guy.
I was then approached by a couple of middle-aged guys who started to flip through my binders.
"You're not from Iowa," one of them said to me.
"No, I am not," I responded.
"We don't see this kind of stuff in Iowa," he said.
Well, that isn't true because I know many excellent Iowa vintage dealers. Maybe those vintage dealers do not regularly attend shows in Cedar Rapids. There was another show occurring at the same time in Des Moines that I knew had quite a few vintage dealers. There was also a mall show going on in Ames.
"Your're from Chicago, aren't you?" he said.
How did he know? I wasn't wearing any team gear. After the show I told this story to my wife and asked her how this random guy knew I was from Chicago.
"You look like Chicago," said my wife, who is from a small town in Massachusetts.
Really? How does one look like Chicago?
I know I have a Chicago accent but it is not as pronounced as other members of my family.
I think I told this next story before about the time I first learned I had an accent. I was on vacation with my family in Aspen, Colorado, in the late 1970's. It was summer time and there was a park with a bunch of baseball fields in the center of town. I was 12 years old and, of course, brought my baseball glove on the trip.
To my delight, there was a steady round of pick-up baseball games at the park. I jumped in and played my heart out. After a few games, I walked over to a nearby store to get something to drink. The girl working the cash register must have been about 16 years old. She flipped out when I asked for a pop.
"Where are you from?" she asked in shock.
"Chicago," I said then asked why she wanted to know.
"Your accent!" she screamed.
"My accent? I don't have an accent!" I responded, then later realized I do, indeed, have an accent.
Anyway, I am getting off topic. I still find it weird that the guy pegged me as being from Chicago.
The same guy asked me if I buy cards. I said, "Of course, what do you got?"
He had eight 1948 Leaf baseball commons. I wanted the cards but he gave me a crazy price. When I took a pass, he dropped his price by half. With each pass, the price dropped further. I probably should have continued to pass on the cards until he gave them to me for free. I ended up overpaying for the cards as I learned by looking up recent eBay sales. I drove all the way to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, only to get hustled. Oh well. Se la vie.
The Leafs were my only purchase at the show. I did see some potential purchases at one dealer's table across the room who had a bevvy of pre-War cards. He wasn't cheap but the cards were cool! He later came over and purchased a pile of 1959 Topps baseball.
I had some other customers purchase cards as well. One customer, who told me he is a Minnesota Vikings fan, spent quite a while at my table. He purchased a 1964 Philadelphia Fran Tarkenton then went through my football binders and pulled all of the Vikings.
Another customer was working on some baseball sets. He pulled some 1954 Bowmans then complained about my prices. I knocked off a few bucks but I am well aware that my prices are fair.
I had one guy, who looked like Chipper Jones, stop by my tables four or five times but did not purchase anything. A couple of other guys bought some cards and my day was done. Sales suffered a huge drop when compared to the Madison show.
However, I did like the Cedar Rapids show. The room was filled with dealers. All were very friendly. There was a nice crowd but most seemed to be looking for Ja Morant, not the Hank Aarons on my tables.
Promoter Jesse seems like a real good guy. I overheard him say something that really struck me. He only recently began promoting card shows and said this was the first time that he ever received a compliment in his life. People at the shows tell him that he is doing a nice job. He said nobody has ever told him that he is doing a nice job prior to the card shows. Wow. People suck. We all gotta be much nicer and much more supportive!!
I would do Jesse's show again. I would need to pair it up with something else on a Saturday nearby. I can't drive out to Cedar Rapids for just this show. It worked being in Madison on Saturday then doing Cedar Rapids on Sunday. It was a fun and interesting weekend.
I've got more of the same this weekend with my Oak Creek show on Saturday, May 7. I just learned the signing times for the autograph guests: Levens 11-12:00, Newsome 12:30-1:30, Clavelle 2:00-3:00.
Hope to see you Saturday!
Here are some photos from Cedar Rapids....