Any good outdoors person knows that Cabela’s is a necessary stop on any vacation destination within 200 miles of this famed outdoor shopper’s paradise. As lovers of nature, my husband and I always squeeze in a shopping expedition on our way to or/and from Wyoming. We would always wonder what we missed if we ever drove past that green roofed utopia on I-80.
One year we took a French exchange student used to shopping Paris on our annual pilgrimage to the American outback. Proud of our country and the beautiful sights within it, we wanted to share Sidney, Nebraska.
As some recall, I shared previously about my husband’s ability to morph into a marathon shopper once he crosses over Cabela’s door lintel. The girls and I tried to prepare Alexandra for this amazing change in her foster father, a man Alexandra had already identified as a non-shopper.
Normally a tireless driver, my husband asked me to take the wheel about an hour out of Sidney. This need for a rest occurs whenever we near a Cabela’s store.It didn’t take him long to reenergize for his upcoming adventure, but I saw no reason to switch drivers again.
The closer we got to Sidney the more animated he grew. Obviously, he looked forward to this adventure. However, once we crested the hill overlooking the green roof of Cabela’s, all of us sucked in our breath.
The whole time Alexandra had been in Western Kansas, I don’t think she had ever seen a full parking lot. She was amazed at the wide open space and the sparse population. She considered her hometown of 25,000 small, so our little town of 1,800 seemed very small. As we topped that hill and saw a full to bursting parking lot, we realized we had inadvertently arrived on the last day of Cabela’s annual sidewalk sale.
Having experienced the sidewalk sale from beginning to end a few years earlier, our family never would have intentionally chosen this time to stop. (This sale is a grown man’s slumber party, Oklahoma land run, and Macy’s after Christmas sale thrown together. Serious shoppers arrive days ahead to set up camp. They determinedly hold their spots in line so they will have a head start when the Cabela’s staff opens the gate, allowing them to madly dash up and down narrow aisles filled with eight-foot-tall shelves packed with bargains.)
Considering that my husband avoids crowded shopping malls like some people avoid grizzly bear encounters, he astounded us when he set up camp and got in line for the early morning rush four years earlier. He returned from this camp out battle scarred and exhausted with war stories about his experience.
Upon seeing the giant white tents, the lot full of campers, trucks, and cars from every state and Canada, we saw we our challenge, the least of which was finding a parking place. Every female in our car urgently needed to go to the bathroom, so we nearly cried thinking how long we might wait to find a parking place.
The gods were smiling because I made only two passes through the parking lot before finding a space directly in front of the store. As I pulled in, my husband leapt out, heading for the nearest tent. Not even four women with bursting bladders would beat him that day.
Our challenge had just begun. Common to other crowd situations I’ve experienced, the men’s restroom had no line. Unfortunately, that wasn’t true of the women’s restroom. We stood for twenty minutes before we got into the bathroom. Alexandra could not believe that many people came to a sporting goods store sale despite our explanations this was the ultimate experience in outdoor shopping.
Standing in line, I enjoyed watching shoppers race from one department to another looking for bargains inside the store. One couple raced from shelf to shelf, piling arms with clothing, fishing gear, and camping supplies. They couldn’t have had time to comparison shop or check sizes.
One man dashed through the line for the women’s restroom so distracted that he walked into the ladies’ room instead of the men’s. I guarantee you he soon knew of his error. A crowd of hostile women set him on the path to the door with no line.
Completing our business, the girls and I set off on our shopping frenzy. After all, this was a sale! Following a sign indicating great bargains were upstairs, I headed toward treasures I could show my other half when we met again. I soon discovered Cabela’s defines sales differently than I. The first rack I saw was labeled “Outstanding Bargains!” Imagine my surprise when I realized the discount amounted to a measly 20 percent. These folks don’t know the meaning of sale.
Disappointed, I comforted myself with a cookie and a coffee and found my girls had made the same discovery I hd. Alexandra, our exchange student, could not understand any of this insanity.
Periodically, we saw our husband and dad dash by, and all four of us sighed with relief at the sight of his empty arms. After seeing other shoppers with arms full of merchandise, we wondered how we would fit his steals into our already-crowded vehicle. Which girl would have to hold what for the rest of our trip? Imagine our relief when he left the store with a bag small enough to fit under the front seat.
After tucking his treasure away, he turned to our exchange student, pounded the steering wheel like a Bible thumping preacher and pointed at the crowd and stated, “Now, this is America! This is where outdoor America shops, Alexandra! ”