Obligatory introductory remarks

July 20, 2000:

For goodness sake, chump best not flop!

By McChump #1

CHICAGO - 0-stinkin-casinos and 20 racetracks from one end of North America to the other and points in between in 2 months. When the concept of the McChumpalooza 2000 tour was first raised about a week ago, I thought, "Wow, I've been doing this for years and these 2000 plans have been in place since like March, but now I can put a silly name to it!" Well, now that McChumpalooza is at hand - a RentAChumpMobile and I will kick it off sometime tomorrow with a leisurely drive to Shelby - I have to wonder: What would my 2nd-grade teacher Mrs. Schmidt think?

Oh, even with the thought of that dour old puss scowling at me, I'm still excited and looking forward to it. But to be perfectly frank, I also have mild feelings of apprehension and pressure (though I just took something for the latter).

Part of the apprehension stems from the fact that, despite having thrice traveled to Shelby on the way to and from Canada, and having made several trips to other towns on the High Line like Cut Bank, Havre, and Rudyard, I still don't know where the Marias County Fairgrounds is located. And, I'm staring at the prospect of having to stop at a gas station and ask. There's a real good gas station right at the intersection of I-15 and US 2, though.

The other part of the apprehension comes from the fact that, in my entire life, I've never seen any simulcast races from some of these tracks that are on the itinerary. For all practical purposes, they may not even exist!

I've seen some simulcasts from Northlands Park, so I'm pretty sure that's a real track. And, the town of Grande Prairie actually appears on the map of Alberta, so it may follow that Evergreen Park exists as well. But, whether or not Sagebrush Downs will be there when I arrive, or if post time at the NW Montana Fair is really 1:00pm, or whether or not there will actually be racing on the day I'm at the Crow Fair, these are questions for the ages. I think I know more about Quarter Horses than I do about the racing at these tracks.

I know I will feel much more comfortable with the existence of places like Saratoga, and Woodbine, and Emerald Downs - you know, places that are on TV. And Kentucky Downs, which concludes the Tour, well, I've been there before, so I know it exists. I sure hope they're still serving up the ham and redeye gravy at Loretta Lynn's Country Kitchen up the road. The Loretta shrine in the lobby is nice, too.

The point is, I'm not so presumptuous as to think I'm going to walk into all of these racing venues exactly at post time, and according to schedule. Mistakes will be made, and road construction will be encountered.

However, what I can and will do is apply tried and true McChump travel principles to the Tour, and offer any law enforcement official I encounter a doughnut.

Where additional pressure comes in is the betting. Each day of the tour in Canada, I'll have to decide what quantity of Canadian money equals $5 American so that if I accidentally win I'll actually have the proper dollars to donate to the United Pegasus Foundation when all is said and done.

Beyond the obvious implications of currency conversion, I must say I've never been in a position of having to grind out some winners for meal money. This is different. Picking for charity has its own special pressures. It's only one horse, in one race. So, please understand that I'm not selling out by going the conservative route on occasion and betting horses I think have an excellent chance to win rather than my usual gameplan of counting on some longshot exacta during the day to bail me out for the other eight losers.

Oh yes, there is one other aspect of pressure. With this crazy McChumpalooza tour schedule, I sure hope I can get my mom to do my laundry the two times I'll be in Montana.