2016 May 18
Today’s the kind of day I could easily forget when I get home and talk about my trip. It was mainly a long bus ride on an interstate type highway. We drove through mountain tunnels, we passed open areas, we saw squalor and we saw progress. For me, it was a constant battle between reading, looking out the window, and taking a nap. Each won their segment of time, but I felt I would be missing something every time I stopped looking out the window.
The rest stop was not unlike the New Jersey Turnpike. Busses, trucks, individual cars lined up and the inhabitants rushing in for what people rush in for. They rush until team walks off the bus. I am not the shortest, but I am pretty close to it. Even in the United States we would draw looks, but the fact we are Americans and also very tall makes people stop in their tracks. And just like the United States, several of the guys take the chance to get ice cream or snacks to enjoy while we ride. I miss the days of unbridled consumption, but these guys can really consume.
We know we are getting close when the high rise buildings don’t stop. The bus driver skillfully slinks through the city streets. At one point, I swear we are going the wrong way on a one-way street, but neither he nor the drivers coming at us seem too worried about it. We pull into the hotel and it is located right in the heart of downtown. There is a river flowing past it with shopping on both sides of the river and the hotel stands watch over the whole thing.
Checking in is a process. We are a block of 15 rooms. The front desk rarely looks prepared for our arrival, and the chatter between the promoter or Robert and the hotel staff always seems tense. My key is handed to me first. Then I am given 5 room keys for the players. Each new hotel requires us to surrender our passports. I am carrying those. I am not sure this is the most secure way to do it, but the first couple check-ins were delayed due to players’ inability to locate theirs. Also, the president and the vice-president don’t fly in the same plane; what if something happened to my bag? The whole squad would be SOL. While it is easy, it may not be best. I create a log of who is in each room, hand the payers the keys and hand a copy of the log to the promoter (yes, I am sure he has a name which I have not been told, he prefers bossman. I understand the concept as I am comfortable with being called coach, but I just haven’t warmed to the name). At this point, everyone scatters.
Before I leave the front desk area, Byron Wesley (Gonzaga Univ.) is already back from his room with a situation. There is a Russian man in his room. Not just in there, this guy in entrenched. Clearly the hotel double booked that room and we were second to arrive. I make the room list carefully as to have good neighbors. Byron and Derrek White (Campbell Univ.) have been great neighbors: no loud music, no late night slamming doors, zero shenanigans. I like that. Now they would be moving down the hallway and my trust circle is gone. Am I happy about that? Nyet.
Dinner has the same offerings, but with a gourmet presentation. There are several stations with chefs in long white hats preparing individual servings. It is a far cry from the last place where the best they had to offer for breakfast was toast with jelly, not even butter. And no coffee. But I digress. I am looking forward to eating here for two days to say the least.
My room here has an incredible view looking down the river and all its activities on display. The mountains at the end create a visual backdrop that makes me want to walk out onto the private balcony and sit for hours. It would be a great spot for a sunset happy hour. I am looking forward to watching the sun rise.
Tonight, I walked a few blocks to a mall. I am not much of a mall person, but it wasn’t that big a mall, and it was nice to get some exercise. There was a super market, lots of clothing stores, jewelry, food places, the usual list of retail places. Not being a shopper, I am not sure what a bargain is. The jewelry looked shiny and nice, but who knows about quality. The clothing looked like hipster paradise with sizes designed to look tight. The sales people were all very nice and patient as I tried to ask questions in Chinese. The best part of a smart phone is the ability to translate language and convert money. What a blessing.
The night ended sitting in the lobby chit chatting with Robert and Aly along with Ana (the Cheer Squad coach) and Carmen (Ana’s mom). We split a bottle of red wine and enjoyed stories from China, Egypt, Bolivia (Carmen is Bolivian) and of course, the USA.