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1999 Ugly American Tour - Journal

Forward to Britain - By Dan Morgan

With the 1999 Ugly American RWC Tour now set to unfold, anticipation and preparation will finally begin the dance with fate to produce the spectrum of detail which will become "our story".

But with so many particulars, now unknown, to be told, the most unique of challenges presents itself.  It is the endeavor of providing a just record, with a befitting end, for the events and their sordid in-between which will befall us in the coming weeks.

For it is not a question of if or when Skip will do something stupid and come desperately close to getting his ass kicked.  We all know that many Limeys, as well as fellow tour members, will have probable cause at some point.  The real question is how to go about writing Skip into the conclusion when all present will know he should have been beaten senseless and left unable to complete the tour.  This is what is meant by a just record. 

Furthermore, we have the responsibility of preserving the myth of the American conqueror.  This means finding a way of portraying each touring bachelor as being capable of completing the score, something entirely impossible when describing the standard of rugby which will be on display.  And of equal importance, all with rings must somehow remain chaste without being too much of a hindrance on the standards of the American playboy.  (I might need some help on this from the married guys.)

These are but a mentioning of the fine balances which must be struck between truth and respectability.  May our journey provide us with enough truth to deliver posterity the most classic of rugby lore, as well as the respectability to face the mirror once these truths create their end.

Day 1 - Friday, October 29, 1999 - by Bots Hulen

Guy Tonkins met us at the airport. Took the tube into London, had a few pints at every pub we passed.  Interestingly, the tube carries 1 million people at once during rush hour.  Visited the tower of London (the bloody tower, crown jewels, etc.)  The jokes from the Beefeaters tour guides about Americans didn't go over as well when the Americans cheered when they were mentioned.  :-)

Day 2 - Saturday, October 30, 1999 - by Bots Hulen

Match versus the Tottonions early, watched the World Cup Semi-final with the Tottonions.  Night out in Southampton at two pubs, the "Walkabout" and "Ikon".  Kept looking for office solutions, but Ikon only offered alcohol solutions, which were graciously accepted.

Day 3 - Sunday, October 31, 1999 by Bots Hulen

Up early, updated the web site.  Boy am I a nerd. Unfortunately, there's only one phone line in this whole country, and it's in our bed & breakfast owner's apartment.  Will update tomorrow.

Went to Rugby World Cup Semifinal Match, France vs. New Zealand All Blacks.  France shocks the world in the biggest upset in RWC history, winning 43-31.   All Blacks lead 24-10 early in the second half, on 2 tries by Jonah Lomu.  In the first, Jonah bowls through 8 French defenders to dive across the line right in front of us.  5 of the 7 tries scored in the match were scored right in front of us. The best 100 pounds I have ever spent.

After the match, took the train back to the bed & breakfast. Watched the movie "From Dusk Till Dawn" which seems to be very popular everywhere in the world but America.

Day 4 - Monday, November 1, 1999 by Bots Hulen

Off to see Windsor Castle, and then on to Cardiff.  Thursday we'll see All Blacks vs. the Springboks in RWC 3rd place match.  Final on Saturday pits the Frenchies vs. the Wallabies.

Windsor castle was very interesting.  There was a nice view of a local rugby pitch from many of the rooms in the castle.  The castle has been restored very well from the fire in 1992. What was most interesting (and surprising) to me was the French influence. It's evidence of the close ties the two lands have had at times over the centuries. There's paintings of French Lords and Ladies, French inscriptions in many places, and many French coats of arms.

Arrived in Cardiff after a visit to Windsor Castle.  Had another night out with Tonks leading the charge. Visited Brannigan's, a local night club. I turned in early, but I've been told "fun was had by all."  Cardiff is a sleepy town with a great deal of history (like everywhere else on this island.)

Day 5 - Tuesday, November 2, 1999 by Bots Hulen

Some went to tour Caerphilly Castle, and were very impressed. I walked into Cardiff to see Millennium Stadium, etc.  From the New Zealand All Blacks, we met Taine Randell (captain), Justin Marshall, Daryl Gibson, Reuben Thorne, and Pita Alatina (see pictures). From the Springboks we met Pieter Roussouw. After walking into the town, we had a look at the Supporters Village, and the had a pint at a local Hockey Bar.  The European Hockey League is rather popular here.

In the evening, we went to Zeus, another loud night club.  All Blacks Robin Brooke, Anton Oliver, and others were having more than their fair share of pints.   Looks like the playoff match featuring the All Blacks and Springboks will be interesting.  Are the All Blacks out partying because they're not taking it seriously, or are the Springboks not partying because their economy back home is so poor they can't afford the beer here? I guess we'll know more when they play on Thursday night.

Day 6 - Wednesday, November 3, 1999 by Bots Hulen

Caught a train to Bath, England for the day.  Bath is the most beautiful city I have ever seen.  The 17th century Georgian architecture is absolutely brilliant. Everything is so large I was unable to get any pictures that properly captured the beauty of the city. We toured the ancient Roman Baths and were amazed.  The grand scale of the Baths, built from 167 AD, is almost unbelievable.   Not only was the water a natural 112 F, but the whole complex had central heating, Roman style.  Tiles were heated in a furnace, and placed in some rooms.  All the floors and walls had ducts built in, and the hot air was drawn through them to heat them.   Slaves maintained them, and at times had to crawl in the ducts and clean them.

Saw more All Blacks this evening out partying.  They're going to get romped.  Some Springboks were out, as well, so it will probably be a pretty sad match.

Day 7 - Thursday, November 4, 1999 by Bots Hulen

13 of our party of 18 went off and played touch 7's in a local park. It was a sad display, but we had fun anyway.  We cleaned up and went to visit the clubhouse of Cardiff RFC.  Cardiff's field sits directly next to the new Millennium stadium.  Cardiff RFC refused to sell their property (they have been there over 125 years) so the stadium had to be redesigned on one side to accommodate the lack of space.   Can you imagine any amateur sport in the US telling a city to build there stadium somewhere else?  Rugby rules over here.  The row between the club and the builders was further exacerbated when the club realized the stadium construction company had tied into the club's power and water supplies to build it.  Quite funny.

Later we saw the All Blacks lose to the Springboks 22-18.  The Springboks scored on a try that should not have been allowed, but it made no difference.   In injury time at the end the All Blacks finally strung more than 2 phases of rugby together, and looked liked they would score.  A knock-on ended that, however.   The All Blacks just looked like they didn't care at all, except for Christian Cullen.  Cullen played courageously and stood out from the rest.  Cullen is my new favorite player.

Day 8 - Friday, November 5, 1999 by Bots Hulen

Went in to town to see the local cyber cafe.  The place was hopping, with all terminals constantly busy.  This is where the latest update was made. Tonight we're off to see Caerphilly play Neath in a Welsh Premier League match. James Walters  (former Fort Worth player) will be here tonight, as well.

The Caerphilly-Neath match was very enjoyable, with Neath playing poorly but still winning 34-17. The Neath open-side flanker is a Wales International, and delivered one of the biggest hits I've seen in years. He absolutely leveled the Caerphilly fly-half. The level of rugby at the premier level in Wales is very good (obviously), and it is nice to see it live. James Walters showed up and we were all glad to see him.   James captained Fort Worth RFC in the 1996-1997 season. He's back with the Aberavon club in the Welsh First Division.

After the match a number of players went to the Parachute club in Cardiff. It had a good reputation, but apparently is popular for the older crowd.  The boys felt out of place when they realized they brought the average age down 10 years when they walked in.

Day 9 - Saturday, November 6, 1999 by Bots Hulen

World Cup Finals day. Australia is to play France for the William Webb Ellis trophy, while in a slightly less popular match Cowtown United will square off against the Cardiff Saracens.

The Cowtown match began at noon.  During the week, most of the locals we spoke with had never heard of the Saracens. The Saracens have been a club since 1964, which is why no one had heard of them.  Many of the clubs around the area are over 125 years old, so a club that's been around 35 years is a relative newcomer.  Cowtown was formed in 1971, so in the year 2096 we'll probably be considered a legitimate club.

We played the match with the Saracens, and had a good time.  Fatty played a full 80 minutes, just like he did against the Tottonions. He had played 160 minutes of rugby in the years 1995-1998 (total), so we were all really proud of him.

We lost the match 22-10, although we all felt it was one we could have won.  Our set pieces were pretty good, but we had difficulty tackling them when they spun the ball wide. Also we made small mistakes when we were close to their goal, and small mistakes cost scores when you're that close.

After the match, we watched the World Cup Final in the Saracens club house.  Australia dominated the French to win 35-12. The French played with heart, and you have to give them credit for making it that far.  Olivier Magne, the French breakaway was outstanding.  If he weren't French he would be a lot more popular around the world as one of the best. Tim Horan for Australia was impressive, as usual.

The Americans were the only team to score a try against Australia in the World Cup, which is probably the only good thing they can take from the competition.   People have asked why we didn't tour to see the US in their pool matches, and we keep responding "because we wanted to come over here and see some good rugby."  Our Wales OTC contact, Steve Brierly has predicted that in four World Cups the US will be the champions.  That would be in the Rugby World Cup of 2015.   I don't think it will be that soon, but I do believe America will discover the beauty of the rugby union game someday. I hope his prediction holds true, for my boys will be nearing the peak of their rugby careers during that time.

The party in the Saracens club house was one of the highlights of the tour.  The Welsh singing prowess is well known, and was on full display. Americans just can't sing like the Welsh.  The typical Welshman probably knows 500 songs completely by heart.

Cardiff in the evening after the final match was a madhouse.   Thousands of people were roaming the streets, singing and dancing.  It was quite a scene.

Day 10 - Sunday, November 7, 1999 by Bots Hulen

Free day in Cardiff. Everyone's getting ready for the trip to Ireland which starts tomorrow. On Thursday we'll be back in the Cardiff Maindy Barracks again.

A number of the boys discovered the magical combination of the game of Skittles and beer drinking. I missed out on this combination, but it sounds like a great deal of fun.  They played this all day until the pub kicked them out.

Day 11 - Monday, November 8, 1999 by Bots Hulen

Up early to get on the train to Liverpool.  Tonight we'll hop on the overnight ferry to Belfast, Northern Ireland.

In Liverpool, Jolene Morton met us and took us on a miniature pub crawl in Liverpool.  Jo is the daughter of Alec Morton, the tour manager from Dromore's 1998 tour to Texas.

The pub crawl ended at the Jacaranda Pub, the first place the Beatles ever played in.

The overnight ferry was gigantic and the Irish Sea was spectacular that night.  Although cold and very windy, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the view of the stars was spectacular.

Day 12 - Tuesday, November 9, 1999 by Bots Hulen

Sleeping on the ship was difficult, and everyone got off in Belfast either seriously fatigued or seriously hung-over (usually both). The minibus picked us up and no one has any memory of seeing anything in Belfast, as we were asleep on the minibus as we drove to the northern shore.

As the sun came up (we left the ship at 5:45 AM), it was instantly obvious that all the stories of the beauty of Ireland are not exaggerated. It is truly the Emerald Isle, and I had to keep resisting asking the driver to stop so I could take a picture of what he probably thought was a pretty boring scene.  When Dromore came to tour Texas, I'm sure they were struck with the exact opposite thought, that there is relatively little natural beauty in the Texas landscape.

On the northern shore we visited the rope bridge to sheep island.   Sheep Island stands as a miniature pasture about 100 feet above the Irish Sea. A rope bridge provides access from the nearby bluffs, but it had been taken down for the winter. Nevertheless, the view from the bluffs was outstanding, as many of the pictures on this web site show.

After Sheep Island, we traveled to the Giant's Causeway, a very interesting rock formation.  The Bluffs had a beautiful view here, as well.

After breakfast we were off to visit the Bushmills Brewery.   Bushmills was the first licensed whiskey brewer in the world, licensed in 1608.   At the end of the tour, there was a pub, where each visitor is invited to have a drink of one of their many spirits.  Can you imagine any tour in the US ending with a shot of whiskey? You have to appreciate the Irish way of thinking, sometimes!

Traveled to the hotel and after a quick nap, we were on to play Dromore.   A fun and light hearted match that at times featured some of Cowtown's best rugby, Dromore were good sports throughout.

The Dromore club house was the best we visited, yet. Dromore open the bar, and the Texans did not once reach into their pockets.

Later that night, a few members of the tour went to the hotel pub. Inside were a number of Irish salespeople having a pint.  After a few sips of a beer, it became obvious they were merely part of a grand multi-level marketing pyramid scheme.   That's one export from the US that we should all be ashamed of.  Multi-level marketing creeps have got to be the most annoying people in the world, no matter what their accent is.

Day 13 - Wednesday, November 10, 1999 by Bots Hulen

Up early and traveled to Dublin, Ireland. We went and toured the Guinness Brewery, which was only a few miles from the hostel we were staying in. The brewery was nice, but did not allow the same close up look that the Bushmills brewery offered.   One similarity was the free beverage (pint of Guinness) at the end of the tour.

Fort the entire tour, and even the weeks preceding it, there was a great deal of discussion of the quality of the Guinness in Ireland as opposed to the US.  The build-up to this single pint was incredible, and the expectations were truly unreachable.   Alas, the pint WAS nice, it WAS the best pint of Guinness I've ever had, yet it wasn't so much better that it required a trip to Ireland for that reason alone, as some had said. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we went to Ireland, and in some ways it's been a highlight of the tour.

After hours the party went to a few famous pubs, and ended the night at a local college's prom reception.  The Texans were definitely not dressed for the occasion, but enjoyed the event, anyway.

Day 14 - Thursday, November 11, 1999 by Bots Hulen

Up early (again) and off to catch the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead.   The ferry was the typical fare, and very efficient.  When it comes to massive government works projects (trains, subways, ferries, buses) you have to give the Brits credit.  They really know what they're doing.

Tour dinner tonight at Charleston's in Cardiff, and back in the Maindy Barracks. Can't wait for the "Mad Cow" special, a 32 oz. garlic steak.

Garlic steak at Charleston's was spectacular.  After dinner Kangaroo Court for the tour was held, with each member getting very severe sentences.  Skip Miles was fined the heaviest, of course.

Day 15 - Friday, November 12, 1999 by Bots Hulen

Another free day in Cardiff.  Tonight is the RWC 99 skittles championship. Skittles title holder Mike "Bull Allen" Keith will defend his title tonight.

Tomorrow we're on the early train to Gatwick, returning to DFW Saturday evening.

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