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Hell traversing the heavens
March 26, 2008, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Travel

The trip

The route from hell.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Traveling for the NCAA tournament is not as fun as it seems.

My day Tuesday started in a snowy Pullman, warm and cozy in my bed, not wanting to get up. But I had to; I was traveling that day to Charlotte, N.C., where the Cougars are playing in the Sweet 16. A good reason.

Easy enough, right? It’s 2,650 miles from Pullman and Charlotte. We’re not talking about transatlantic travel on the Titanic, here. That would be a 4 1/2-hour flight direct — you know, if Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport had a long enough runway for a big enough jet.

Naw. I left my Pullman apartment at 8:30 a.m. PDT. I got into my Charlotte hotel room at 3 a.m. EDT. That’s 17 1/2 hours.

  • My drive from Pullman to Spokane was fine. Just a short stop in Colfax to drop Lisa off at the Whitman County courthouse. (She was covering a trial for the Evergreen, not in trouble herself.)
  • Our flight from Spokane to Seattle was on-time and hassle-free. I read Esquire.
  • We originally had a short layover between flights in Spokane, and I hadn’t yet checked in at United. So we rushed from the D concourse to the N concourse (those of you familiar with Sea-Tac know this requires taking an underground tram), only to find out our flight to Washington D.C. (Dulles) was delayed about 15 minutes. That was good for me, actually, because I had to check in. Done.
  • After a longer delay than expected, we got off the ground at 2 p.m. PDT (originally scheduled for 1:12). A nonstop from Seattle to D.C. is pretty darn long, and United was showing the new “Alvin and the Chipmunk” movie, so it seemed even longer. Plus, I was in seat 34D. Right in the middle of the last row of the 757. I read SportsIllustrated, listened to Death Cab for Cutie on my iPod, and slept.
  • We actually arrived at Dulles about five minutes early (about 9 p.m. EDT), though not for those of us in the back of the plane. But we eventually got off and took a bus (those of you familiar with Dulles airport know these weird-looking buses) to the A gates. We needed to go to A6 to catch our commuter flight from D.C. to Greensboro, scheduled to leave at 10:03 p.m. EDT.
  • We get to the gate, and the United Express flight is pushed back to 11:50 p.m. Two hours! Great, just what we all want is two hours with nothing to do in an airport where all the stores are closed. I read newspapers (The Washington Post, The Spokesman-Review and The Daily Evergreen) and eventually end up staring blankly at CNN. Two things: Anderson Cooper is a disgrace to journalism, and nobody cares whether Britney Spears’ little sister is getting engaged now that she’s pregnant.
  • Our flight to Greensboro (note, we’re not even flying into Charlotte) lifts off at midnight, and I spend 50 minutes in a nice little seat to my own on one side of the flying cigarette we’re riding (two seats on one side of the aisle, one on the other). I read SkyMall.
  • We land in Greensboro at 1 a.m. and quickly proceed to the Hertz car rental counter. Vince is an expert at this, and we’re headed to the rental by the time I get out of the restroom. I get stuck with the passenger seat (John Blanchett and Chris Anderson were smart to get in the back of our Chevy Trailblazer), and hence with the responsibility of being Vince’s navigator. We listen to Bob Seger and AM sports radio.
  • One-hundred miles southwest and 1 1/2 hours later, we arrive in Charlotte, which at least looks nice at night. We find the designated media hotel — Marriott City Center, just like in Denver — and check in. By the time I get up to my room on the 14th floor (really the 13th floor), it’s 3 a.m. and I want to die.
  • About 4 a.m. I finally drifted off to sleep, after a lovely phone call and a nightcap of ibuprofen (back pain — another dumb story) and Death Cab (again).

But we had to work Wednesday, so I only got six hours of sleep. But my first full day in Charlotte is worthy of its own post, so how’s this for a segue?

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[…] if I were to make a list of the top 10 worst days of my life, these past two traveling days (to and from Charlotte, N.C.) would make the […]

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