Who among us fails to remember the finger-like bodies of water called the “Great Lakes” way up high on the U.S. map?
I have always conjured lake-like thoughts about them, not knowing until now how wrong I’ve been.
As of March 21, I can provide first-hand experience suggesting that “Lake Michigan” should be called “Ocean Michigan.”…
More than 300 miles long and 100+ miles wide, it accommodates sea-faring craft. It could host hundreds of whale conventions simultaneously with room to spare.
Put aside imagined small craft puttering about and breezes causing small ripples on the sparking water.
Think instead of its mightiness, and how the “lake” brought a party of eight to our knees. And all of this because we wanted to be some place….
“Some place,” in this case, was Holland, MI, site of the 2008 NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Bargain-shopper that I am, I set to work to find a travel deal. Alas, they are few when reservations are made at the peak of spring break, with basketball play-offs and Easter travelers in the mix.
Still, I found an attractive fare on Midwest Airlines. The schedule called for a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to Milwaukee, then a 30-minute commuter plane across the lake to Grand Rapids. Piece of cake, thought I….
We acted like going was mandatory. Our Howard Payne University’s Lady Jackets were odds-on favorites to win it all.
Never have we gone far in play-offs involving sports using a ball.
At some football games, we get excited when we win the toss….
Departure to Milwaukee was routine.At the scheduled landing time, however, the pilot announced that we’d circle the snowbound airport “for awhile.”
Later, he indicated that fuel was not yet an issue, and that our plane was “among five” expected to be cleared to land.
During that hour of circling, the plane’s eastern arc was within a handful of miles of the gymnasium where we so wanted to be….
Then came the dreaded announcement: “Milwaukee’s snowed in, so we’re going to fly on up to Green Bay.”
A few minutes later, we landed at a snow-spared airport. A bus awaited, ready to take passengers on a 2-3 hour trip back to Milwaukee.
“Why would we want to ride a bus back to an airport that’s closed?” someone asked….
It made sense to me. We got rental cars, opting to avoid the shorter southern route because of foot-deep snow. (The ferry would have been nice, but it is still hibernating.)
No, we had to drive north, then across the peninsula before heading south again.
We missed the semi-final game, taking turns listening to radio reports over cell phones. Our team won, and it was only a 530-mile jaunt up, around and down the “lake” to Holland. Shucks, we made it in a dozen hours, checking into our hotel at midnight. The championship game was 17 hours away, and maybe we’d already joined the record books. I mean the short-listed one naming people who’ve driven about half of the almost 1,100 highway miles around “Ocean Michigan” on the same day…..
Oh, you want to know about the trip home? It was uneventful. The plane left on time and we luxuriated in the wide leather coach seats. Reflecting on our team’s championship, we administered self-pinches for reminders that ours is the nation’s only team at any collegiate level, men or women, undefeated for the season. And that our Meia Daniels and Chris Kielsmeier were voted “player and coach of the year,” respectively.
On that “cloud with a ‘nine’ on it,” we hardly needed a plane.
My mind wandered back a half-century to another airplane story….
The year was 1960. It was a gentler time when airplanes were as likely to wait on passengers as vice versa.
The late J. H. (Cap) Shelton was nearing the end of his 49-year career as HPU track coach. His teams won numerous championships and were best known for distance races. The two-mile relay team was invited to run in the Coliseum Relays at Los Angeles where 30,000 fans would attend. It was “heady stuff” when he and the four guys readied to board Trans-Texas Airlines’ DC-3 at Brownwood Airport. Bands played, speakers spoke and cameras flashed, delaying take-off by a good half-hour.
A rumpled passenger, perhaps weary of a half-dozen stops en route to Dallas Love Field, asked the young men about their sport. “I hope you can run faster than you can get on an airplane,” he gruffed….