Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Road Trip

During a three-week stretch of the summer, one of the members of the staff here at TigerBlog HQ made an 8,000-mile, 27-state, two-province drive with his lady friend for a fairly comprehensive vacation. As for TigerBlog, he prefers a vacation to be a tad more sedentary, perhaps a week at the shore.

The drive brought to 49 the number of states that the driver has now been to, with the lone exception being Alaska (which TB is surprised he didn't figure out a way to include on his trip). MotherBlog passed away long ago also having been to 49 of the 50 states, with the lone exception either North Dakota or South Dakota, something TB cannot remember.

As for TigerBlog, he's basically lived his entire life in a 45-minute radius of where he currently sits. Still, he's managed to get to 35 of the 50 states; east of the Mississippi, he's missing only Maine, Mississippi and Arkansas.

TB figured out that of the 35 states he's been to, he went to 18 of them for no other reason than Princeton was playing there and it was his job to go. This mostly was for men's basketball in-season tournaments, which were mostly played in December. These took him to some not-quite-warm locations, such as Milwaukee, Green Bay, Iowa (twice, once when it was so cold that walking from the arena at Iowa State to the parking lot resulted in frostbite and once when it was so warm it melted all the lakes and caused the densest fog TB has ever seen), Kansas, Illinois and others.

Of course, the 1998 Rainbow Classic in Honolulu made up for all of those weather-related challenges. Princeton, who played there the year after its 27-2 season, left for the tournament on Christmas Day, while TigerBlog and then-radio play-by-play man Tom McCarthy left the next day, at 3 pm, for a flight to San Francisco with a connection to Honolulu.

The first flight was delayed, and we arrived in San Francisco after our flight to Hawaii was scheduled to depart, though we were assured by the flight attendants that the flight was being held for a few people who had to make the connection. We got off the first plane and walked to the next gate, where we immediately got on a 747 that was packed just in time to hear the captain say "we apologize for the delay, but we're waiting for two passengers from Newark." This was followed by a chorus of boos and chants of "leave them." TB and TM were in row 53, so we had to walk down the long length of the plane to our seats; Tom spent the entire time apologizing and shaking hands.

The time in Hawaii consisted of three huge wins as Princeton won the tournament by beating Florida State, Texas and UNC Charlotte, with all three games on ESPN. TB would get up early, go to the University of Hawaii to update his information for the next game, go back to the beach, eat lunch at Duke's (at the hotel where the Brady Bunch stayed) and then go to the game.

Those trips have left TB with endless memories, including:
* walking across the border from El Paso, Texas, to Juarez, Mexico (not recommended today), with TM and Jose Ramirez-Del Toro
* flying back from winning the First Bank Classic in Milwaukee (beating Marquette in the final), and having two huge trophies (championship and Brian Earl's MVP) seat-belted into seats
* arriving in Muncie, Indiana, at around 11 am after taking a very early flight to find a wait at the local Applebees for lunch
* driving from Minneapolis to Ames, Iowa, on an 80-degree December day (the warmest in Iowa history for that month) in ridiculous fog and stopping to see where Richie Valens/Buddy Holly/the Big Bopper's plane crashed on "the day the music died"
* Then-Illinois coach Lou Henson scolding his booster group head after he had asked Henson if Princeton could use Illinois' vans to bus to the airport in Chicago after the Tigers' flight home from Champaign had been cancelled by saying "I don't care how they get out of here; stop bothering me with this stuff"; Henson moments earlier had put his arm around Pete Carril and said to the booster guy "anything Coach wants, he gets"
* Then-manager Miles Clark and Carril as they debated whether Clark had given the baggage handler a big enough tip during check-in; Carril gave Clark an extra $20 to give the guy, and Clark slipped it into his own pocket when Carril looked away

Adding in a trip to Nova Scotia to play Ohio University the day after Thanksgiving one year and the men's lacrosse games in Spain and Ireland, and TB has seen Princeton play sports in eight different time zones.

Obviously TB has had more than four years to do all this, but the ability to travel throughout the country and the world has been the source of great experiences for Princeton athletes in almost every sport.

Most recently, the women's soccer team played games in Utah and Wyoming. TigerBlog always liked going to the obscure places, destinations that he otherwise would never have dreamed of seeing. It's been a great chance to see the country, and the world.

For free, no less.

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