Just when I thought D-League travel couldn't get any worse, three games in four nights in three different cities made the last long road trip of our season one that I will never want to experience again.
As I write this I am on a Southwest Airlines flight back to Erie from Utah. Our last road trip of the year has finally come to a close (technically we play at Maine the last game of the year, but that isn't a long trip, so let's not count it). We completed a sweep, going 3-0, and I might be the happiest man in the world right now to get back home. However, all of this good wouldn't come without a nightmare trip of flight schedules that you will not believe.
Our first game was in Albuquerque, New Mexico and again to get there it took a full day of travel. We left Erie at 10 am and didn't arrive at hotel Elegante (best breakfast buffet EVER! Seriously) until around 11pm. We had a very short 5-hour lay over in Chicago before flying to Albuquerque. But to make matters worse, the last flight had cats (yes the animal) on board and yours truly is SEVERELY allergic - that pretty much was the start of a eventful trip for me.
We played Albuquerque on Friday night. Let me be the one to say it might be the most interesting venue I might have ever played in before. First, we are playing on RODEO grounds, or as they call it, the Tingley Coliseum! When we got to the arena for shoot around earlier in the morning, outside were horses running around us at literally 30 miles per hour it seemed. You know it's a great place when during the game they are giving away MONSTER TRUCK show tickets.
Nothing can compare to the floor we played on in the RODEO. We would have been better suited playing on an ice rink. I think I slipped about ten times during the game on just simple basketball movements (or its probably because I am very clumsy). At the end of the game the bottom of my sneakers were completely covered in dust.
The next morning we flew to Boise, Idaho and this trip would turn out to be a trip for the ages...
One would think from Albuquerque to Boise it'd be a direct/short flight, right? Not in the D-League. Our flights were cancelled about a week before for whatever reason so for this trip we had guys traveling all over the world. Frank Tolbert flew Abq-Denver-Salt Lake City-Boise. Jackie Manuel flew Abq-Phoenix-Boise. I lucked out with five others and flew Abq-Salt Lake City-Boise. But the winner of this trip was none other than Cliff Clinkscales. He flew Abq-San Francisco-Portland, Oregon-Boise!!! Now that is a heck of a day right there. Need I remind you we all left somewhere between 4:45-6:30 am to get to the airport and we had a game at 7 pm that night! We all got to our Boise hotel from 2-4 pm depending on the group you were in, which left enough time to go touch your hotel room wall and head to the game.
Amazingly, we ended up winning in Boise even though late in the 4th quarter Idaho coach Bob MacKinnon got ejected (he has to lead the league in this category) and legend Joel Abelson took over. On a side note, Big Bad John Bryant's girlfriend's father was sitting court side and got tossed midway through the FIRST QUARTER for heckling the Idaho fans, bench, and coaching staff.
We flew direct (not a typo) to Utah the next day and actually got a much needed day of rest. Let me just point out Utah puts the visiting team up in the Best Western hotel and it's in the middle of nowhere. There is a truck stop restaurant and a Flyin J's to eat at across the street and that's about it. If any of you out there are interested in being a driver for the Utah Flash vans don't bother unless you have NASCAR racing experience. The ride from the hotel to the arena before the game felt like sitting shotgun in the car of Jeff Gordon during the Sprint Cup Series. At least the trip wasn't all lost, I did get to chat with Utah Flash assistant coach Mark Madsen for quite a while before our game - and we won.
Just another D-League travel experience. Since it really was that bad we had to win all three games because of the torture we were put through. My roommate Blake Ahearn (or my Rockers tag-team partner according to Scott) agreed the way we travel is borderline unhealthy and humanly impossible to go through. We are in airports all day, eating whatever food we can find, and never getting any sleep. Sometimes in the warm-up lines before the games we wonder how we can get through this?
I'm just thankful we are at home for the next two weeks and the way I feel right now I might sleep the next two straight days just to feel normal again.
Talk to you soon...