High Hopes

I had such high hopes of meeting Tommy this morning with a whole passel of videos from the Historic Huntsville tour we did this weekend. Well, pride and falls and even pratfalls did me in.

As always, those 2 am worryings woke me. How to make videos? Surely, I could get some good ones in a tour that lasted a full four hours, starting at 1 pm that afternoon. Videos are easy to do. Just point and shoot. It wasn’t as if I had a huge camera to worry about. Just my cell phone.  

Thanks to the suggestions of my beloved elderly Sunday School class members, I have a holder for my phone mounted on my dashboard. The original purpose was so that I could use the Google maps program to avoid getting lost. On the Nacogdoches trip, I had tried three different routes home and gotten lost all three times. That time, one of my guests saved me with her phone app. I bought the mount and have used it successfully since.

So, why not clip the phone into the holder and just push the video button? It might be high enough above the steering wheel to capture my face as I lectured. Yes, I tell stories as I drive. The only possible problem might be avoiding pictures of the fuzzy pink wheel cover, a gift from my husband. Then I could unclip the phone and take videos of the guests as we got on and off the bus and toured the wonderful places we were going. Lots of possibilities floated around in my fevered mind as I finally drifted back to sleep.    

I leapt up at 6 am, late, to prepare for the tour. I had not finished printing out the 51-slide power-point. I finished adding slides and hit print. You know how teachers are. We have to have a class handout. I had included every date I could think of going back to the arrival of Cabeza de Vaca in Texas in the 1530s. There were chronologies of Huntsville, of Sam Houston, of Henderson Yoakum, pictures of town, old photos of famous people and places, stories and explanations. Better than a textbook, yes, but ten color copies, even 6 slides to a page, take forever to print.

By this time, running even later, I jumped into the Joye Mobile. I checked to make sure I had everything I needed. Keys, clipboard, list of guests, map, phone, oh, yes, phone. Vaguely I remembered I had to do something with the phone. Oh, yes, videos. Right, I would get to that.

I stopped for ice for the on-board cooler. At least, thank goodness, I had bought the bottles of water the day before. I had also bought handfuls of good-for-you snacks. One more stop at Office Depot for ten bright orange folders to hold the ten-page handout and map of Huntsville.

Unlike my one-day tours where I use the elegant, simple ,personal #Quietvox earphones and my own headphone mic, I did not have a method to lecture to my guests. I stopped by #ChipLooney who runs a music store here in town. Of course, by then it was nearly noon. I had promised to meet Chip at 10 am. By now, he had gone to lunch.

Chip’s assistant helped me buy a small Peavey amplifier. He tried to find a lavalier mic. When he tried to plug it into the amp, I heard a yelp. The plug had given him a healthy shock. No lavalier mic for me. I would have to use the big, bulky Peavey microphone.

How to drive and hold the microphone? Perhaps stuff it down my front? Bras do have their uses. But in order to be heard, I needed to hold t right against my mouth. One-handed driving then? But where to place the amplifier? It is about 18 inches square and needed to be plugged into the inverter for power.

The inverter is under the passenger seat, and the amplifier needed to be at head height. By good fortune, there was a square opening covered by a screen above the passenger’s seat. The power cord was just barely long enough if I turned the amplifier upside down. I removed the screen. At the bottom of the opening, a heavy piece of bent sheet metal prevented the amp from sliding in.  

By this time, I had moved over to the University Hotel to pick up the guests. Two of the intended targets, Joyce McCauley and Lee Miller, are can-do kind of women. They immediately leaped to help. We pushed and shoved, even twisted the metal with heavy pliers but no good. Finally, Joyce’s husband produced a bungee cord and we strapped the amplifier into the hole at an angle. The amplifier and microphone worked, for part of the trip at least.

We set out, with me holding the microphone, trying to remember the route, and lecturing. Each time I have done the tour, I have done it differently depending on who the guests are. I guess I really need to fix on one route and one line of patter because I was getting confused. Thanks to the power point handouts, I got back on track.

Sometimes fellow tourists cause problems. When I got onto the Sam Houston Museum grounds, there were other cars parked along the fence line. I had almost no space to turn around. Easing the bus onto Peter’s precious grass, I started my turn. The immense branch of one of the old oaks was within inches of the top side of the bus. From the back, a quavering voice, “You’re going to hit the tree!”

I could see it in the side view mirrors. Blessing the rear-view camera mounted in the bus, I eased my way out while my guests sat gripping the edges of their seats, their hearts in their mouths. We made it with one inch to spare. The story of Sam Houston’s life had to wait until we got back out on the road.

The tour continued successfully until we got out on Highway 75. The Gibbs Ranch has a very narrow entrance with deep ditches on each side of the entry road. I overshot the entrance by a foot or two but to continue meant the possibility of going in the ditch. There was nothing for it but to back up onto the heavily traveled highway. Two cars scuttled past as I put the van in reverse. The rest of the traffic stopped. A kindly eighteen-wheeler, seeing my predicament, blocked for me while I backed up and made the turn.

Perhaps not surprisingly, when I got up to the entry gate, I started to jump out, leaving the van in gear. Shouts from the passengers “You’re moving! You’re moving!” I jumped back in and slammed it into park. Thank goodness that I could drop the mic and hand over the lecturing to Dennis Stepp, the Ranch manager.

By the time we got back out on the highway, the microphone had quit working. Lee tried her best to get it going but no use. Fortunately, I was able to hand over the lecturing to managers at the next two stops who sat in the back with the guests while I drove.

Since we were nearly done, I spent the last fifteen minutes shouting back over my shoulder. Not a great way to end the tour but we had made it. We were all in one piece and the bus was unharmed. I am not certain, however, that the guests will ever dare get back on the bus again.  

I breathed a sigh of relief when everyone debussed. That was one for the record books.  

Oh, wait! No video! The phone was still sitting innocently and unused on the console. I didn’t curse, but crying was not out of the question.

Think what a great YouTube video that trip would have made!

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