The final leg of my recent WNY odyssey started off on Wednesday morning (Aug. 8) with sad goodbyes (for now) with our dear friends Tammy & Ted Boglione. It was raining on and off as I hopped on the Thruway and headed back to Buffalo.
Living where the biggest traffic jams are caused by cattle drives, I was a bit unsure about driving on the Thruway at rush hour, so I waited until about 9 a.m. to depart. The Thruway these days reminds me a lot of I-80 going through the southern part of Wyoming.
I-80 is a major truck route going East-West through the heart of the U.S. It’s far busier than I-90 going through the same region, where I can easily drive 100 miles during the off season (no tourists or hunters) and pass less then 10 vehicles the entire way.
Everything was going smoothly until about half-way to Buffalo when a cloudburst literally opened up. It seemed like the entire contents of Lake Ontario was being emptied out of the sky all at once. Despite windshield wipers working furiously to clear the rain out of my field of vision, I couldn’t even see the hood of my car.
With cars and truckers speeding along about 65 mph, I found myself literally driving blind right alongside them. Highly motivated not to die on the Thruway in NYS, I attempted to maneuver my vehicle to the side of the road until the cloudburst passed. Easier said than done.
There went the fourth of my ‘nine lives’.
All I could think of is my husband reminding me about how he knew the Buffalo Bills would somehow be the death of me.
The storm passed but my blood pressure didn’t return to normal until later that day. The first place I headed when I got to Buffalo was @26shirts corporate office for a pow-wow and lunch meeting with two most awesome gentlemen; Anthony Bialy and Del Reid.
Spending time with them was the definition of sublime. Anthony is a treasure and lives my best life as a writer and recluse in Buffalo. I had to find out more about the mind that exists behind the keyboard that cranks out some of the funniest takes on all things Buffalo Bills, and occasionally Sabres – every Wednesday like clockwork. Getting to meet Anthony was one of the highlights of my trip – and you’re not allowed to respond to this with some wise crack on Twitter, Anthony!
My second meeting with Del Reid just added another layer in my mind about our BillsMafia leader and ‘brother-in-crime’. If there is a more pure-hearted person on the planet at this time, I haven’t met them. Del is a perfect example of a person who carries the responsibility of being a role model for so many of us to a tee – pun definitely intended. BillsMafia is really blessed to be surrounded by people of high personal integrity who willingly share their vitality and wisdom with us on a regular basis.
Having filled “ma belly” with one of the best Greek salads I ever tasted, the inevitable parasympathetic system kicked into overdrive. All I wanted to do was lay down after leaving at least 20% of my life force on the NYS Thruway earlier in the day. But I had one more person to meet and I wasn’t going to miss out on meeting @ChristineLSloc at local coffee spot Remedy House for a ‘spot of tea’.
After reading the writings and tweets from Chris over the last few years, I was determined to connect with her while in Buffalo. Chris works in the field of homelessness alleviation and has one of the brightest minds I’ve ever encountered. She’s a highly skilled and creative social scientist out there in the real world making a difference every single day.
Two hours of babbling with this incredible woman flew by and it was definitely time to crash.
Back to the home of @celestealbone and @MikeClineJr and beautiful Zooey.
Celeste and Mike created a sports cave extraordinaire in their new home. Her Twitter account is private so I can’t share any pictures of their elaborate set-up, but suffice it to convey it’s a sports fan’s dream come true cave.
As my venerable body went into complete shutdown mode from earlier events, I collapsed into a coma while Celeste & Mike went off to the Erie County Fair. It was a tempting offer to go, but my battery was already flashing “nearly in need of life support” zone.
Thursday, Aug. 9th was finally upon us. The Bills’ first preseason matchup against the Carolina Panthers began on a warm humid evening at New Era Field. Our seats on on the first row in the end zone and you can’t miss Celeste because she’s a rock star who’s often featured on television when cameras pan the fans in the stadium.
But most of all, Celeste is the ‘Queen of Signs’. Each week she makes special signs that can’t be missed from her seat in the end zone. I did suggest she could easily become a vital part of the overall team strategy by creating subliminal messages each week against the opponent of the day :)
We barely got settled in our seats when I heard a voice I recognized even though it was the first time I laid ears on it… the man who makes my timeline roar with laughter on a regular basis… none other than @DownGoesCrown (Gregg Bergen) and son Ted.
It was a pleasure to meet these two partners-in-crime in person. Now our group chats during Sabres games will have a lot more meaning after finally meeting up in person.
As far as how the game itself went, it was a typical preseason opener between teams with significant overlap of players, coach and general manager. I was fixated on Josh Allen’s feet and was impressed with the progress he’s made with overall mechanics and footwork, so that was crossed off my list of things to watch.
As is often the case with me, on our way out of the stadium, Celeste pointed out that we were standing right next to Josh Allen’s parents – LaVonne and Joel Allen. And of course I have no pictures because I was so overwhelmed when it happened I forgot to get one.
A momentary spontaneous meeting can be rich with what one can absorb in a quick meeting. Josh’s mother LaVonne gave me a big hug when I told her I came from Wyoming to watch Josh play. She’s the one Josh takes after in terms of his tender heart, readily seen with children he’s interacted with at training camp.
Joel is a fascinating parent as well. We exchanged a couple of pleasantries and when I mentioned how great it was to see Josh play so well in his first NFL preseason game, Joel was quick to note Josh’s great play also showed that he has some work to do.
It’s easy to see why Josh displays some very early signs the NFL game isn’t “too big” for him. He plays with a passion straight out of his mother mixed with some wisdom and a very measured temperament from his father.
What a terrific way to wrap up a trip of a lifetime to WNY. The BillsMafia village came through in the most unexpected but greatly appreciated ways.
And as if the karma-fairy decided to take pity out on me, some urgent matters required my immediate return to Wyoming the next day. Thanks to the fairy godmother of travel karma – change in flight spared me another lost night at an airport – this time Denver. The late flight out of Buffalo I was scheduled to take on Saturday, Aug. 11 was delayed and I would have been stuck overnight at an airport again.
Needless to mention I look forward to NOT getting on another airplane anytime soon.
Editor’s babble: I can’t thank all of you who guided me through this fun trip to training camp and the Bills’ first preseason game. I’m grateful beyond words. You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO. Go Bills! #BillsMafia