The forecast? Rain. Rain. Rain.

Before we were returning from Atlanta, Facebook was filled with horror stories that our friends were sharing in which their basements and streets were being flooded. As you can imagine (closing on our house, cramming all of that stuff in a one bedroom apartment, and leaving for Atlanta) that we did not provide all household items a proper placement in the apartment. Needless to say, the place was a mess, including the basement used for storage, with the intention of addressing it when we return.

The last two days in Atlanta were stressful, considering that we saw pictures of the nearby waterway spill over onto the street three blocks up the road from us. We were convinced that we would find the basement waist high with murky water.



The culprit: Where the stream that flows below the street overflowed. Photo Credit: Barb Mitchell


Three blocks down from the overflow. One block down from our new apartment. Photo Credit: Barb Mitchell

When we got home the basement was… bone dry. Exhale a sigh of relief, and then we heard it; that all too familiar sound in which dread sweeps over you, the distant engines of motorcycles which can only mean one thing: Thunder in the Valley.

Of course I say dread in jest. Thunder in the Valley is a HUGE motorcycle rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which started in 1998. It has grown to become a regional event that draws motorcycle enthusiasts and vendors from all over the country. For a city that has lost its steel industry and has had a struggling economy, having 200,000 visitors for an extended weekend is a worthwhile and small price to pay to help boost the economy and spirits of the locals.

Since we have all of those visitors, my Rotary Club (of Richland Township) capitalizes on this opportunity to host our only fundraiser for the year: The Annual Rubber Duck Race! Johnstown is known for floods that happened in 1889, 1936, and 1977 (#FloodCity) I’ll probably write about the floods another day. At any rate, we have a couple of rivers. This is our second year hosting this event and the notoriety has slowly been spreading. We drop the sold ducks (All identical with the ticket number on the underside) at once off of the Hickory Street bridge and they float approximately one mile to the Inclined Plane (The World’s Steepest Vehicular Incline). First place duck wins $2,000, followed by $1,000 and $500.

Here’s how we launch the ducks: Rotary Club of Richland Duck Drop

Remember when I said rain? Well, this year we had too much to safely pull this off.

My dear friend, Ivar Berge, took this video 24 hours before the scheduled release of the ducks. It didn’t get much better the next day, so we opted for “Plan B”: We pulled a ticket out of a squirrel cage. I know this is not as exciting, but we have it printed on the ticket that we reserve the right to do so given unsafe river conditions.

This fundraiser is right up my alley. I have been selling raffle tickets since I was in 7th grade and I’ve developed a knack for approaching strangers at large community events to ask if they would support the cause. We’ve established a great relationship with the Richland Fire Department and we set up a booth at their venue. This year, to kick off their “Bike Bash” they asked if I would rally the troops and ride the mechanical bull. Who am I to disappoint?

Look for me at 0:54

And then imagine a combination of the hat and apron for the complete ensemble for my entire weekend (phew!).

Duck Race

Here I am before a volunteer from the crowd selected this year’s duck winner. Photo Credit: Mary Berge

Duck hat

Camette and I from last year sporting the duck hats. Just visualize this hat on me in the top photo with the apron.

Please imagine that tall drink of water walking up to leather clad, tattoo adorned, chain smoking, hard as nails bikers asking, “Did you hear about the Duck Race?”. Oh yeah, I kill it.

This year went very well and I owe it all to my very supportive club members who pulled together to make it happen.

What did you do for the weekend? Did you visit us at Thunder in the Valley? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment down below.

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