Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Taking Our Exchange Student to the Shrine of Outdoor America

Outdoor America

Any good outdoors person knows that Cabela’s is a necessary stop on any vacation destination within 200 miles of this famed outdoor shopper’s paradise.  As good outdoors people, my husband and I always squeeze in a shopping expedition on our way to or/and from Wyoming.  We would always wonder what we missed if we drove past that green roofed utopia on I-80.

This year we took a French exchange student used to shopping Paris on our annual pilgrimage to the American outback.  Proud of our country and the beautiful sights within it, we wanted to share Sidney, Nebraska.

As some readers recall, I have shared previously my husband’s ability to morph into a marathon shopper once he crosses a Cabela’s door lintel.  The girls and I tried to prepare Alexandra for this amazing change in her foster father, a man Alexandra had already identified as a non shopper.

Normally a tireless driver, my husband asked me to take the wheel about an hour out of Sidney. This almost always occurs within an hour or so of reaching a Cabela’s store.      
It didn’t take him long to rest up for his upcoming adventure, but I didn’t see any reason to stop and switch drivers again.  The closer we got to Sidney the more animated he grew.  Obviously,  he looked forward to this part of the trip.  However, once we crested the hill overlooking the green roof of Cabela’s, all of us sucked in our breath.

The whole time Alexandra had been in Western Kansas, I don’t think she had ever seen a full parking lot.  She was amazed at the wide open space and the sparse population.  She considered her hometown of 25,000 small, so our little town of 1,800 seemed very small. Anyway, as we topped that hill, we realized we had inadvertently arrived on the last day of Cabela’s annual sidewalk sale.

Having gone through the sidewalk sale from beginning to end a few years earlier, we never would have intentionally arrived at such a time. (This is a grown man’s slumber party, Oklahoma land run, and Macy’s after Christmas sale all thrown together.  Serious shoppers arrive a few days ahead of time to set up camp.  They determinedly hold their spots in line so they will have a head start when the Cabela’s staff opens the gate allowing them to madly dash up and down narrow aisles filled with 8 foot tall shelves jam packed with bargains.)

 Considering that my husband avoids crowded shopping malls like some people avoid grizzly bear encounters, he astounded us when he set up camp and got in line for the early morning rush four years ago.  After returning from his overnight camp out looking battle-scarred and exhausted, he told war stories about his experience.

So upon seeing the giant white tents, the parking lots full of campers, trucks, and cars from every state in the nation and Canada, we knew we faced a challenge, the least of which was finding a parking place.  Every female in the car urgently needed to go to the bathroom, so we nearly cried thinking about how long we might have to wait to find a parking place.

The gods must have been smiling because I made only two passes through the parking lots before finding a space right in front of the store.  As I pulled in, my husband exited.  He leapt out, heading for the nearest tent, as I put the car in park. Not even four women with bursting bladders would beat him that day.

Our challenge had just begun.  Like all crowd situations, the men’s restroom had no line. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the women’s restroom.  We stood for twenty minutes before we got into the bathroom.  Alexandra could not believe that many people came to a sale in a sporting goods store despite our explanations this wasn’t any sporting good store.  This was the ultimate experience in outdoor shopping. 

As I stood in line for the restroom, I had a blast watching the people race from one department to another looking for bargains inside the store.  One couple raced from shelf to shelf, piling their arms full of clothing, fishing gear, and camping supplies.  They could not possibly have had time to comparison shop or check sizes.

One man dashed through the line waiting for the women’s restroom so distracted that he walked into the ladies’ room instead of the mens’.  I can guarantee you he soon knew of his error. The entire crowd of hostile women set him on the path to the door with no line.

Upon finding relief, the girls and I set off on our shopping frenzy.  After all, this was a sale!  Following a sign indicating great bargains were upstairs, I headed toward treasures I could proudly show my other half when we met again. I soon discovered Cabela’s defines sales differently than I.  The first rack I saw was labeled “Outstanding Bargains!”  Imagine my surprise when I realized the outstanding bargain was a measly 20 percent off.  These folks don’t know the meaning of sale.

Disappointed, I comforted myself with a cookie and a coffee and found my girls who had made the same discovery.  Alexandra, our exchange student, could not understand any of this insanity.

Periodically, we saw our husband and dad dash by, and all four of us sighed with relief at the sight of his empty arms. After seeing other shoppers with arms full of merchandise, we wondered how we would fit his bargains into our already crowded vehicle.  Which girl would have to hold what for the rest of our trip?  Imagine our relief when he left the store with a bag small enough to fit under the front seat.

After tucking his treasures safely under the seat, he turned to Alexandra, pounding the steering wheel like a Bible thumping preacher and pointing at the crowded parking lot and store, stating, “Now, this is America! This is where outdoor America shops, Alexandra! ” 

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