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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

1840 Miles to Hockey

Grand Rapids, MI--- It is Tuesday at about 2:30 AM in New Market, ON. The 400 runs a few feet from the motel with a car every few minutes headed either to Barrie or Toronto. I'm under the weather from some ailment, perhaps flue and the next game is at noon, today, hundreds of miles to the west.

All the google maps and trip tiks are saying I could leave here at 7 AM and just make the game. But there is that flue to contend with and also the Blue Water Bridge to cross.

I pack and leave.

The road through Toronto is quiet, almost like the ETR-407. The road to London is filled with giant trucks. I'm playing the PPPShow on the MP3 and counting the number of tires on the trucks as I pass them: 34? I count the next truck.

And so I pass the miles. I take a single stop, outside of Sarnia, in case the bridge is full and the line long to enter Michigan, I'll be able to relax and not be looking for bushes. But, while the truck line is several kilometers, I'm able to drive up to the gate for passenger cars without incident and with only one car in front.

"Nationality?" US Citizen.

"What are you doing?" I just want to go home.

"Where's that?" Chicago

"Are you bringing anything in?" No

"What were you doing in Canada?" Visiting friends, watching some hockey.

"How long were you there?" About 24 hours.

"Have a nice day."

The car is on fumes when I pull off of the interstate to stop at the Speedway at the foot of the bridge. Gas in Canada is $1.01 a liter, compared to about $3.15 a gallon in the US. I've been trying to do the math in my head, but the best I can do is figure that it is still cheaper in the US.

I've burned through three or four bottles of water, two bottles of Starbucks Vanilla Frapacinno, half a bag of cheese cubes, a half a bag of bagel crisps, an unknown quantity of prezels and a banana since leaving New Market. I'm still sick and now I'm hungry too.

It is 7 AM.

It appears that I'm about three hours from Grand Rapids. I'm still sick too and use the Big Boy near Flint to recharge for the final drive. The Big Boy was a staple for me when I got out of college. I haven't seen one since moving from Colorado, outside of the south and Michigan. But I repeat myself.

It is Tuesday and that means if I can move out of Grand Rapids and on to Chicago, I'll finish this trip with an evening of HNIC.

I don't pick anything fancy. My stomach is delicate, but not sensitive. Some bacon, it's bad for me, but I love it. Some scrambled eggs and some potatoes. Some coffee.

A fellow rolls into the restaurant and sits across the aisle. I can smell him from my seat. He is ripe. He is sitting with about half a dozen local women, who have all squeezed to the end of their long table, giving him all of his end.

I'm fotunate, I can leave him and his stench behind. I wonder how many gifts of soap he'll receive for the holiday? He won't take the hint.

The drive continues, hour six, seven, eight. Now, I'm about thirty miles east of Grand Rapids. I now am desperate to rest at the game. I'll sleep in the car after the game, right in the lot. That hour or so will refresh me enough to make it home tonight.

But, I get lost in downtown Grand Rapids, following a school bus to a building that I at first think is the Van An. I begin moving again, but need to find my way. Finally, finding a street that sweeps me behind the Van Am. But now, I'm discovering that because most of the lots here are used during the day for business parking, they are full.

Why am I doing this? Oh yeah. I want to rest before pushing on to Chicago and a noon hockey game is rather unusual.

It is in fact education day for the Griffins. 5400 school children are in the upper bowl of the Van Am. A school teacher offers me tickets for $10, but I point out that I'd like to be able to hear at the end of the game.

And, it is loud. And the pitch is higher than normal. But they aren't the only ones taking the day off. Around me I hear business being discussed. The guys sitting next to me admit they are playing hookey too.

On the ice, a perfect recrods goes against a weak record in a game which is likely to be ugly. The Griffins are perfect, 0-5 at home. And their opponents, the former Western Division regular season champions, the Quad Cities Flames, have among the worst records in the league. Who will win? I'm one of the fortunate few here tonight, with nothing invested in this game.

There is less of using the game as an education experience than I expected. There are no explanations of the calls. There are no interviews with the players about line changes or the game. This could be more than it is. But as the weak explanation goes, it is what it is.

The second period sees the two teams finally begin to score, with the game winner put up by the effort of Ian Croft. Croft, the referee, fails to call a tripping immediately in front of the Grand Rapids goal and seconds later, the go-ahead goal is scored by Adam Pardy.

2025 Miles-- Chicago-- I'm exhausted. Home after a final leg that I can hardley remember. The bags are everywhere and I head to bed. Lulled to sleep by HNIC's telecast of a game between the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens.

The road trip ends here for me. The Wolves, home for a few days, though, continue to Des Moines on Friday for a game against the Iowa Stars.

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