This past weekend was my first completely free weekend in as long as I can remember (going way back before football season) so I woke up early Saturday morning with options as to how I would spend my day.
The first option, the one with the most peer pressure involved, was to throw on a suit and go out to Keeneland. I had several friends in town and they had a big tailgate planned, so it was tempting. But nah. Not this time. With a trip to Las Vegas coming up in a few days, the last thing I needed to do was waste money on gambling and drinking and gambling and drinking. I'll sit this one out for the greater cause, I thought.
The second option was to book a tee time and enjoy the first gorgeous Saturday of the year at the golf course. But all of my friends were going to Keeneland, so that one was out.
Then I remembered: Hillbilly Days.
Because I'm addicted to leaving Lexington, a long Saturday morning drive to Pikeville seemed like the logical decision. A little over two hours on the Mountain Parkway? I got that. Walking around Hillbilly Days by myself? It'll probably get lonely, but on the positive side, no witnesses to judge me for how many deep fried Oreos I devour. So I hit the road alone.
I planned out my day along the way. First I would stop by Karl Towns' signing at Deskins Motors, then head over to catch Dakari Johnson and Trey Lyles at Appalachian Wireless. After taking some pictures of their appearances, I would head downtown for the parade and all the other sights and sounds and cholesterol of Hillbilly Days. Perfect plan. Flawless. Let's do this...
11:00 am: I arrive at Deskins Motors to watch the madness of Towns' signing and he had opened the doors early to get the massive line moving. Here's a look at Big Blue Eastern Kentucky Nation waiting to see the future No. 1 pick...
11:07 am: Once inside, I realize I have nothing to do but stand there. I don't know what I expected to happen, but there wasn't much for me to do but stay out of the way. I lean up against the glass window, pretending to have a purpose, and offer my help to the guys putting on the event. They tell me to hang out. Okay. Done. Hanging out is one of my skills.
11:10 am: Karl Towns is the nicest human being in the entire world and I'm amazed by how he treats every fan that comes through the line.
11:11 am: Scratch that. Karl Towns is tied for the title of Nicest Human Being in the World. His father, Karl Sr., who is accompanying Karl on his tour, is equally nice. They were genuinely appreciative of the fan support and they were patient with everyone who came through the line, no matter how long they wanted to talk about the shot clock violation or Karlito. There was no rush to get people in and out.
11:20 am: My favorite fan of the day shows up in his Karl Towns jersey:
Why is he my favorite? Because he brought Karl a mini bag of M&Ms as a gift.
And because Karl signed his belly...
11:30 am: A woman walks in and all she wants is a big hug...
Karl obliges. Karl Sr. also gets a hug. At this point, Karl Sr. is getting as much attention as Karl. Fans love to thank him for raising such a kind young man. (And a baller.) He could do his own tour of the state.
11:35 am: Okay, it's time to head over to see Dakari and Trey. But I can't. I'm having too much fun watching Karl and his dad interact with their fans. There's no way Dakari and Trey are having this much fun (no offense, guys) and I've gotten comfortable against my glass window. I decide to ride it out at Deskins for the entire day.
11:45 am: I make the mistake of offering to take a photo for a family so they could all be in it. Karl Sr. had been playing the role of cameraman, but I offered my help so he could stay seated. Big. Mistake.
11:47 am: "DREW! They need a picture."
- Karl Sr.
11:48 am: "DREW! HEY DREW! You're slacking, man. These nice people need a picture."
- Karl Sr.
11:48:30 am: "DREW! Get off your phone. You're killing me. Picture time."
- Karl Sr.
11:49 am: "DREW! Get over here!"
11:49:30 am: "DREW!"
- Karl and Karl Sr.
11:50 am: I am officially the volunteer photographer at the Karl Towns Signing at Deskins Motors. Any chance of leaving early, gone. Any chance of walking away from the table, not happening. They now have my full attention because Karl Sr. is a big man with a deep voice and I'm terrified of what might happen if I don't offer to take a picture for every single fan.
12:05 pm: MaKayla couldn't make it to the signing so Karl holds a "Hey MaKayla, have fun at prom" sign...
12:10 pm: A young fan named Bella brought Karl some fan art:
12:20 pm: I ask Karl if we can go back to the Bahamas this fall. He tells me he'll be busy around that time this year. I ask for floor seats to one of his games next season, preferably with the Knicks, instead. He laughs, like I was kidding. I was not kidding. The Garden, Karl. I want to sit courtside in the Garden.
12:45 pm: I've now taken 500 pictures on 500 different phones.
1:00 pm: Undoubtedly the funniest moment of the day: a sweet lady hands me a phone I've never seen before and asks if I can find the camera. I look at Karl and his dad, clueless; they also have no idea what kind of phone I'm holding, or if it has a camera.
"Is this the 7?" I ask.
A minute or four later, I finally find what I think is the camera. She poses with Karl, I press a button, and the phone makes an explosion sound. I jump back and fumble the phone (or whatever apparatus I'm holding) as Karl and his dad fall over laughing. I tell her the picture looks good (I didn't see a picture) and then take one with my own phone for good measure:
But really. What is this
1:05 pm: Karl and his dad are still laughing at how I handled the situation. She was super nice, though, despite me mocking her phone and. Karl made up for my poor attempt at photography by telling her she looks "stunning."
There's a good chance she doesn't have a photo on that phone. Or a camera.
1:15 pm: They start wrapping things up at the signing so my unexpected part-time photography job is done for the day. I thank Karl and his dad for letting me hang out and, as payment for my services, I ask Karl to sign a photo of us playing one-on-one in the Craft Center.
He wrote, "Easy block!" when I clearly broke his ankles. See for yourself. He's jumping as I'm about to drive left in flip-flops. Photo don't lie, Karl.
It's the first autograph I've gotten in six years covering Kentucky basketball, but when you have a photo with the soon-to-be No. 1 pick, you have to break your own no-autograph rule.
Thanks again, Karl.
Goodbye, glass window.
1:30 pm: I arrive in downtown Pikeville, only to find parking is a nightmare and I don't know anything about anything in Pikeville. It's only my second time in the "City That Moves Mountains" -- I'm from the other side of the state -- and I'm intimidated by the massive Hillbilly Days scene, honestly. Considering I have no one with me to enjoy the action, I decide to drive back to Lexington without spending more than 10 minutes downtown. No deep fried Oreos. No deep fried honey buns. No parade. No risking my life on the rickety carnival rides. I never even got to take off my shirt.
But I'll be back next year and I'm doing it right. No wimping out next time. As for 2015, it was just a long day with the incredibly kind Karl Towns, his equally kind father, and some of BBN's finest from Eastern Kentucky.
And that's how you do a spontaneous Saturday in April in Pikeville.