Wednesday, February 9, 2011



What a week this has been!

We drove to St. Louis to attend the 40th Anniversary of the Passenger Vessel Association, spending one extra day in Brookfield, WI shoveling snow from a massive midwest storm.

Our convention coincided with Super Bowl Sunday, and we knew there would be a great deal of excitement surrounding the Packers / Steelers game, including a bit of jousting with friends from Pittsburgh who operate the Gateway Clipper fleet.  Nothing brought more immediate excitement, however, than spotting the Packer Mobile parked alongside the snowbank as we rounded the corner to our St. Louis hotel Thursday afternoon.

The two die-hard Packer fans shown above, Dieter "The Snowman" Sturm, and Mark "The Iceman" Madson had stopped to warm up, with the Arch as their backdrop.   Without knowing a great deal about their car or their trip, we just assumed they were enroute to the Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas.  We had driven through -6 F temperatures near Rockford earlier that day, and temperatures had warmed only slightly by the time we crossed the Mississippi River and drove into St. Louis.  Given the weather forecast then for southern states, we knew these two would not find the going any easier in their convertible as they neared the Cowboys stadium.

But then the traffic light turned green, and with cars lined up behind us we drove around the corner to the Hyatt Hotel.  Later, I kicked myself for not stopping and wishing them well and taking a photo.  Later, in the hotel, we looked them up online and watched several videos they had already posted about their trip on their website...       ...and we learned more about these two fanatics and their road trip from Lambeau Stadium to the Super Bowl.

A Second Chance-Encounter

Fast forward five days, following many meetings in hotel conference rooms and the Championship Super Bowl win by the Green Bay Packers Sunday evening celebrated in the hotel sports bar.  We began our drive back to Wisconsin at noon Tuesday, Feb. 8.   Less than one hour  from St. Louis on I-55, Mary Jo spotted the Packer Mobile as it exited the off-ramp near the town of Staunton.   Not wanting to miss this second opportunity, we followed close behind, driving several miles west of the interstate to downtown Staunton, where the Packer Mobile stopped opposite the Subway restaurant.

Although the Packer Mobile's occupants had been riding almost continuously in their 1978 Eldorado convertible for over a week, covering the 1300-mile route to Dallas with the aid of warm clothes and flexible heater hoses shoved up their jacket fronts to keep them and their faces from freezing, The Snowman and The Iceman graciously posed with us and talked about their trip.

The Packers organization has a strong fan base, but there aren't more dedicated fans than these two men.  Neither had a ticket for the big game or expected to get one.  They had met only recently at the Chicago Bears / Packers Conference Championship game and they decided to share their similar Packer passions in a way different than most by rallying others around their car and their crazy goal.   It was the thrill and enthusiasm of participating in this momentous sporting spectacle that drove them along through some of the Midwest's most miserable winter weather.   [You will want to follow along by viewing their many video blogs posted along the way.]

As we headed north toward Rockford, IL, late that afternoon, the outside temperature dropped to +4 F, then to +1 F.   Due to an overturned semi carrying ammonia blocking the interstate, we were routed along with hundreds of other vehicles on a long detour through the countryside.   We thought back on our second chance-encounter with the Packer Mobile and wondered if our friends, too, were snagged by this detour?

The Iceman and The Snowman could handle it, we knew, as we inched along between the rural snowbanks and lines of rerouted traffic, slowed by at least 90 minutes over the expected driving time.  It would take more than a back road detour to slow down those two Packer fans.  

  - Dick Purinton

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