Road Trip: WKU/MTSU – From the Bird’s Nest
Since arriving back in Lafayette last night, I’ve been thinking.
Thinking about a road trip that was, overall, worse than the one that just ended.
Well, after 21 years, the answer is probably yes, there’s been a worse one…but I don’t remember it.
No, this one was about as bad as it gets.
It started Wednesday. Now, you remember the weather was God-awful. And, the women’s team, scheduled to leave Tuesday for their Wednesday night game at Western Kentucky, couldn’t get out of Lafayette. I was scheduled to fly out of Baton Rouge Wednesday. The team, out of Lafayette. We were, however supposed to meet up in Houston and take the same flight to Nashville. In addition, we were on the same flight scheduled for Sunday from Nashville to Houston.
Tuesday night I heard from Coach Marlin, who said he had been told there might be an issue getting out of Lafayette Wednesday and they were prepared to go to New Orleans to fly (which the women’s team wound up doing on Wednesday.)
So with all that as a backdrop….
I got a ride from a very close friend to the airport in Baton Rouge on Wednesday morning. We got on the road a little later than we wanted but we were still going to be at the airport on time. When we arrived, I checked the flight status on my app.
Delay. One hour and seven minutes. And, on top of that, I got a text from Coach Marlin. Their flight to Houston would leave on time.
So what did all of that mean? It meant I was going to miss my connection. It meant I would not be on the same flight as the team into Nashville. It meant I would have to rent a car. So, I downloaded an app that let me reserve a car in Nashville. Because of the late hour, it was going to be expensive, but I had no choice.
Of course there was always the slim possibility the team flight would get delayed and we’d still be on the same flight.
Um…not on this trip.
As my plane landed in Houston I turned on my phone and saw a message from coach Neil Harden saying they were taxiing for takeoff to Nashville. Oh, well.
The (second) flight to Nashville was scheduled for 3:15 and of course, it was delayed as well. Finally we boarded for Music City. By the time we landed and I got my car and got on the road it was after 6:00. I got to the Hilton Garden Inn in Bowling Green just before 7:30.
Oh, and temperatures were going to be in the mid-20’s Wednesday night. And, the wind was blowing. Not hard, but it doesn’t take much wind when the temps are like that.
I had a late dinner with a friend after the game. Being it was late, it was a salad for me. However, I learned of something new in Bowling Green that would be the highlight of the road trip.
Bowling Green has a Five Guys.
If you haven’t experienced Five Guys, you’ve lived a sheltered life. I don’t eat a ton of burgers anymore, but if there’s a Five Guys in the city I’m in…I’m in. Supposedly there’s one coming to Lafayette, but I’m still waiting. I told Brian McCann, our SID about the news I received. He said he would join me for lunch.
That would be my last meal of the day. I passed on anything post game. It was too late for anything heavy and I didn’t want another salad. Plus, Five Guys is pretty filling.
Friday it was another workout and breakfast. Then it was a shower and pack for the trip to Murfreesboro. It’s about 100 miles from Bowling Green. I got to the ‘boro at about 1:00 and went to the Embassy Suites.
And, of course, my room wasn’t ready.
I went and got a cappuccino at Starbucks inside the hotel and sat down to wait. The women were staying at the Embassy as well and coach Garry Broadhead saw me and we visited for a bit. He told me about Wednesday night’s game and we swapped stories of airlines. (The women didn’t get to Bowling Green until game day—Wednesday.)
After about 45 minutes my room was finally ready. I started game prep since I had a doubleheader on Saturday. Dinner was at the Macaroni Grill.
Most folks will tell you the best part about Embassy Suites is their free, cooked to order breakfast. And, it’s hard to argue with that. Afterward it was upstairs for more game prep and by 12:45 it was time to go to the arena.
Most people refer to the arena where Middle Tennessee plays as the Murphy Center. However, the correct name is Monte Hale Arena at the Murphy Center. The arena is named for the late play-by-play man for the Blue Raiders, who passed away at a very young age. I know his son, Monte Jr. pretty well. Being a radio guy, I think it’s a very touching tribute.
Afterward, we stopped at Pei Wei (owned by the same folks as P. F. Chang’s) and picked up some dinner to go. I wrote the game story and packed. It was going to be a short night. The flight was at 8:30 in Nashville. I needed to get gas and return the rental car so my wakeup call was at 5:30.
The team was on the same flight as I was. And, frankly I was more than ready to get home. In addition to all the other garbage, the Cajuns lost by an aggregate 81 points in the three games I broadcast. No bueno. And, I had been cold all weekend and was ready for some warm(er) weather. I got to the airport in plenty of time and checked in for the flight after doing the other things. The team was already there checking in.
We got to the gate and waited for the flight to be called. It got called right on time. We boarded the plane for the 8:30 flight to Houston. I wasn’t sure about the team, but my flight was scheduled to get to Baton Rouge at 12:35. I couldn’t wait to get back.
Yeah, right. Welcome to the final leg of the road trip.
We left the gate and taxied toward the runway. Then the captain came on to tell us what was, or, as he put it, in our case, what wasn’t happening. There was heavy fog in Houston. Nothing was being allowed to land. We were going back to the terminal to deplane and would be updated around 10am.
Well, isn’t THAT special.
So we got off the plane and waited. And waited. And waited.
I checked my United Airlines app. They were saying there might be a 12:30 takeoff. Well, of course, there was no way I was going to make a connecting flight. And, the thought of not being able to get back to Baton Rouge, or anywhere else for that matter, was totally unappealing.
So I went to the counter where two women were taking care of some customers. And, I explained my situation. I told her I would be willing to fly to Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles or Alexandria. United had nothing open to any of those cities. Everything was booked. She asked if I’d consider another airline. Damn right I would. American had a flight from Nashville to DFW and a flight from DFW to Alexandria. However, the connection was too tight. Finally, she was able to get me a flight to Baton Rouge on Delta through Atlanta. It would put me in Baton Rouge at 6:05pm. I took it and thanked the Almighty.
As I walked from one terminal to another, I ran into Coach Marlin and told him what I had found. He said it looked like they wouldn’t be leaving for Houston until almost three o’clock. But while we were talking, he got a text saying they would have a 1:45 departure.
The rest of the trip wasn’t very exciting. I made the flight to Atlanta. The gate I was headed to was in the same terminal and I made it in plenty of time. My plane arrived at 6:05 and the welcoming committee was there, just as planned. Then it was a brief drive over the basin (with a gas stop) back to Lafayette.
So that was the trip. Missed connections. Delays. One hassle after another. Three really bad losses on the radio.
But I was better off than the team.
As I thought, they couldn’t get everyone on a flight from Houston to Lafayette. So, they had to make some calls, get a bus and ride back to the Moncla Indoor Facility.
They got back to town after 11pm.