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Vicars Recap - The 1993 Deep South Tour

Date: May 22, 2011

Author: Jim Norris


 

 

As we moved through the first half of the 1990's, the Vicars continued to grow and solidify our presence as a permanent club within the Over 40s umbrella. We had players from all three major Okanagan centres, fulfilling the promise of the three rings on the sleeves of our original jerseys. We also benefited from the presence of a strong contingent of committed players from the Salmon Arm area, and kept in good contact with the players tied to the Trail Colonials. The USA Tour in 1990 had been a success, although we didn't know if we could do something similar again. Maybe it was a one shot wonder.

We believed that the 1990 trip worked in-part because we went somewhere warm for seven or eight days and had a per-player budget of about $1000 to $1200.  We stuck to these criteria in our planning for a 1993 trip but tried to think of unusual, slightly exotic locations. Our errant thinking brought us to a road trip to New Orleans and the beaches of Florida. Fantasies about the trip went out of control, and we filled the seats quickly.

In New Orleans we stayed in the French Quarter in a historic inn on Decatur Street.  The Cafe du Monde was just down the block, along with the St Louis Cathedral and the French Market.  The Mississippi flowed across the street.  The hotel had the classic interior courtyard, with world's biggest hot tub and the longest running Happy Hour.

The New Orleans RFC were great hosts, although as usual the expected “guest players” appeared in the second half, as a result of our half time lead.  At the same time they were great hosts, as is tradition in the US South. The details and memories, including the music and the food, stay with us even today.

But the weather turned very windy and bitterly cold! There were hints of snow in the air on Saturday night on Bourbon Street, and the bad weather followed us along the road to Fort Walton Beach in Florida. The town centre which seemed to consist solely of stores selling beer and bikinis was deserted, as was our hotel. We were the only guests. We had to use the room towels and body wraps to venture outside.

Our Okaloosa RFC contact appeared briefly, told us where the game was to be played and instantly disappeared. Small alarms began to ring!  At the game field on Elgin Air Force base (an unforgettable sight) we were greeted by a group of highly muscled young men with crew cuts and thousand yard stares. They thought we were a 1st Division rep team from BC, the rugby hot bed of Canada. The mention of the name of our contact brought about derision and jeers from them. Then it started to snow.

We played them anyway. The general memory is that they scored four tries against us. However we played one of the best games the Vicars have ever played on tour. Our forwards tore them apart in the scrums, lineouts, rucks and mauls. The endless on-field comments of Tony Stobie as their forwards stumbled under the pressure had us all chuckling.  We felt great, despite the defeat.  They blamed the snow.

However they were once again great hosts as the thousand yard stares were replaced by the typical friendliness we have always seen. Unfortunately some of them couldn't attend the after game festivities because the 21 year drinking age ruled them out.


Then we were on the road again back to Mobile, Alabama and the Battleship Old Boys (BOB), one of the best organized Old Boys Clubs we've ever met. Truth be told that although we kept it close we didn't play very well, probably a combination of the huge effort at Okaloosa and the effects of a week of excessive and immature behaviour.

As always the hospitality was great with plenty of beer and genuine southern barbecue and genuine friendship. We remember the battleship and submarine from WW II, and another real southern city. And of course as we started the trip home, the weather improved. Despite the unexpected twists we had a great time. We were fairly sure by now that regular touring would be part of the experiences that the Vicars RFC would offer to our members and supporters. But only time would tell.

 
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