The second week of December we received a request from Left Bank, a chain of 5 restaurants around San Francisco: to deliver 500 sets of petanque boules, as Christmas gifts for their employees. A wonderful idea! Also very heavy: 1050 kg or 2300 lbs.
The challenge: they had to reach a week before Christmas, not on 1,000 lbs factory pallets as we receive them, because they don't have forklifts at their end, and - of course - the transport cost had to be reasonable. For our overseas readers: Greensboro-San Francisco is exactly 3800 km, roughly the same as Paris-Baghdad. We checked with several trucking companies: too slow, too complicated, or too expensive.
That's when we thought of the USPS flat rate Priority Mail boxes. "Whatever the weight, as long as it fits". It just meant we had to repackage them safely into little cartons (a bit bigger than a pizza box) and print lots and lots of labels.
They went out at a rate of 400 lbs per day and most boxes made it in 48 hrs, hand delivered to the various restaurants! Hats off to the US Postal Service. And special thanks to Nolen, our mailman in Greensboro. Also to his colleagues in California who are probably still wondering what on earth was in those cartons.
Talking about fancy buildings: this is the mansion of the French Legation in Austin, built in 1841 to house France's representative to the then Republic of Texas. The walkways around the building double as pétanque courts every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month when members and guests of Austin's Alliance Française get together to play. Space and shade galore. If you live in Austin go and have a look. You are lucky that you can play year-round! French Legation Museum Alliance Francaise Austin Petanque Group
These Sunday pétanque parties have spawned more interest in the area and a group of Austin players has recently organized a more permanent location in Lakeway. We're expecting pictures of their new courts shortly. Lakeway Petanque Players
Our dear friend Bob, one of our regular players in Winston-Salem just returned from Kassel in the heart of Germany - where he played almost daily with friends of the Rumkugler petanque club. Talking about a nice setting! For the record this is not their clubhouse... It's the Orangerie Museum and Planetarium. In front are wide walkways, ideal for pétanque. A very active club with around 60 resolute players who regularly organize regional tournaments. Who wouldn't want to go to to such a nice location! The Rumkugler website has lots of pictures - also check the press section for more.
Of course, in December it looks (and feels) a bit different. From one of Bob's reports: Just got back from playing for two hours IN THE DARK AND 37 DEGREES! It's the first time I've ever quit before everyone else. There were twelve people out there playing, for an hour before I got there, and five of them were playing when I left.
When it gets cold I like to scour the web for petanque clubs with indoor facilities. Earlier on I wrote something about Asten in Holland. Here's another example: Wijnegem Petanque Club, close to Antwerp in Belgium. 12 lit outdoor courts + 6 indoor courts. With an outdoor terrace and - true to Belgian tradition - a cozy bar. Drink and snack sales allow most of these clubs to cover expenses. Plus the possibility to rent the facilities on occasion to outsiders for parties or reunions. Interesting to see the opening hours: Mon, Thu & Sun: 1 to 7 pm Fri: 7 pm to ... Other days and nights when there are competitions. As with any club, it takes a few committed volunteers who take care of opening up (and cleaning up) on the fixed days. They have a nice thing going!
Several petanque players in the US use the term cutter, for your team's boule that - while not holding the point - will likely prevent the leading team from piling up more points. As in damage control. "We need a cutter!" or "This is our cutter". I like the term, it says exactly what it means, and I don't recall ever hearing anything equivalent in other languages. Perhaps it comes from another sport. A friend suggested that it may be a sailing term, as in cutting the wind from your competitor. Does anyone know more about it, and is it used in e.g. the UK or New Zealand as well?
The shipping rush is winding down. We had some very interesting orders, like this one! About which more later.
We had two cases where both husband and wife ordered the same set of boules for their household, of course without telling each other. Until our second box arrived: "Honey, what's this box? .. I got you the same thing!!"
We've received some beautiful drawings for customized wooden boxes. Hopefully the authors will allow us to re-use them in the future.
This has nothing to do with petanque, but it's driving me so crazy I have to get if off my back. "Shared sorrow is half the sorrow"!
Some idiot has been sending out probably millions of emails advertising skin cream while using one of our domain names petanqueamerica.com as a fake "reply to" address. So now we're getting hundreds of emails a day from legitimate mail robots and spam filters returning the garbage. That's our problem -- it's just tiresome to sift through them to avoid deleting our own mail.
Worse is that some folks may actually look up who petanqueamerica.com is and think we are the culprit! If I could get my hands on him I'd use him as a cochonnet to practice my "shooting".
Pétanque is in full swing again in Florida as it gets colder up North. Just like the northern Europeans flock to Spain or the South of France, hundreds of thousands of folks from Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio etc.. drive down every year for the winter months to escape the snow they've been shuffling for years. Maybe that's why shuffleboard was at one time the most popular pastime in Florida in winter. Click on this picture and you'll get a beautiful sight from the 60's, when men still wore ties and trousers notwithstanding the 80°F.
Shuffleboard is waning, pétanque is coming up.
Tanglewood's first tournament of the season, on Dec 9, attracted 88 players, although it's early in the season. $ 5 entry per player, which includes hot dogs and sodas, the balance being returned to the winners, below.
Margaret in Salem, OR would like to find other folks interested in playing pétanque. She says: "I am a beginner". Aren't we all! Contact her at email@example.com We know of a bunch of diehard players in Dallas, OR and will certainly alert them.
Even though it's a busy time of the year, 16 players showed up this afternoon. One drove all the way from Asheboro, highly appreciated. Aaron brought his charming wife Anya, Tom his home brew :-). Michel, another newcomer (originally from Belgium) who lives only blocks away, put to use his new boules with amazing accuracy. Later on joined Annelies and Sean who had never played, but got into it real fast! Some of the diehards kept going past sunset. As usual everyone brought something to eat or drink and a good time was had by all. Especially Terry is our specialist for providing snacks!
Given the mild weather, we are tentatively on again for Sunday December 17 - 1:30pm - same place.
They arrived this morning, just in time for the Holiday Season. Soft pétanque, or "pétanque molle" in French. We quickly opened one of the cartons and tried them out. It's fun! The same exact swing and mannerisms, same arguments, but without the noise or broken tiles.
To our regular readers (we do appreciate your visits!) - apologies for the lack of blogging. Just after Thanksgiving we got another container full of balls in from France, plus almost daily airfreight boxes with special orders for the holiday season. Unloading, unpacking, sorting.. a lot of late nights. We now have balls coming out of our ears, so to speak. There is a clear increase in interest this season: several people have called who discovered pétanque while traveling through Europe this summer. A charming lady from Kansas for instance played along the Rhine river with her tour group and wants to continue right here. Cartons with boules are going out to almost every state, from Vermont to California, from Washington State to Florida. We're very happy to have discovered the flat rate priority mail boxes from the US Postal Service. It helps lower the shipping cost for folks on the West Coast, even more so in Hawaii & Alaska. Last but not least, my 1966 Velosolex arrived as well! Can't wait to try it out... once all the boxes have shipped.