Road Trip: Atlanta – From the Bird’s Nest
I was looking forward to this road trip.
The Cajuns had won six in a row. No one is going to catch Georgia State for the league title. The Panthers were undefeated at home.
And it was a road trip to Atlanta.
I like Atlanta. Don't think I'd want to live there, but it's a big city with plenty of eating options and places to go. It wasn't going to be a very long visit but I was more than ready.
As I've said before, I fly out of Baton Rouge more than I do Lafayette. Nothing against the local airport. But frequently, I find cheaper flights and/or a better flying schedule. In this case, I could have gotten a comparable flight cost....if I wanted to leave at 5:30 in the morning.,
I did not want to leave at 5:30 in the morning.
So instead, I left at 8:15 for a 10:40 flight.
When I was on the basin bridge my phone rang. It was an 800 number. I didn't answer it. (I never answer my phone if I don't recognize the number. Leave a message. I'll call you right back if I want to talk to you.) I listened to the message: "Hi this is Delta."
They weren't calling to tell me to have a good day. My flight was going to be delayed by about 45 minutes. Not the end of the world by any means, but it would mean an extended visit to the airport.
I had checked in previously and printed my boarding pass so all I had to do was check my bag. (If you're flying, always check in early if you can. It's just so much more convenient.) Screening has become pretty easy for me since I'm on the TSA pre-screen list. That means I don't have to take off my light jacket, don't have to remove my shoes and in most airports, don't have to remove my laptop. (Baton Rouge is not one of these airports). Larger airports also have a separate line for pre-checked fliers. And, you go through the old screener, not the new full body screener. It's made flying so much more bearable.
I had time for breakfast and then headed to my gate.
Now my flight had been delayed again. Departure time was set for 1:30. OK...that's not a good thing. But, give me an iPad and wifi and I can kill plenty of time. And, I did...in this case, watching a couple of episodes of Breaking Bad. (I didn't see the show when it was on AMC. I've finished three seasons on Netflix).
As it turned out, we actually got up in the air before 1:30. The flight was uneventful. I spent the time reading. We landed around 3:15 EST. And, by the time I got from my terminal to baggage claim to the rental car facility and on the road, it was just after four.
Which meant I was having the privilege of navigating rush hour traffic.
It took nearly an hour to get to our hotel, which was in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. I was surprised we weren't staying downtown since that's where the Georgia State campus is located. The women were staying at the Hilton downtown. But, the Marriott in Buckhead was very nice and there were plenty of places to eat and drink in the area.
After unpacking and exploring for a bit, I went back to the hotel and met up with Assistant SID Matt Sullivan. I had heard earlier in the day about the resignation of Brian McCann and we chatted about that for a bit. The school is incredibly fortunate to have Sully. He was the head guy at Southeastern before being let go in a budget cut. It took Brian and Scott Farmer almost 3.5 seconds to offer him an assistant's job, which was open at the time. Sully works his butt off. The department will be in good hands, although that will increase everyone's work load for the time being.
The restaurant at the Marriott was Shula's 347. Relatively high priced steaks, but worth every penny. And, we were in Georgia, so that meant Yuengling was available. Sully joined me. After dinner I went up to my room and wrote the game story on UL baseball's win over Southern Mississippi for our website and then went to bed.
When I woke up the next morning, I saw the hotel bill under my door. I thought it strange in that if the bill is under your door, that means you're checking out. I had no plans to check out of the hotel and neither did the team. I went downstairs to Starbucks to grab coffee and a bagel for breakfast and while I was down in the lobby I went and asked the young lady behind the reservation desk why I had gotten a bill. She checked my reservation (made by the team) and said I was checking out that day.
Um...no I wasn't. I said checking out wasn't in my plans and asked about the rest of the team. She said they, too, were checking out of the hotel. We all had a late checkout time of 5pm.
This was not a good thing. I called Mike Murphy, the director of basketball operations and told him what the young lady had said to me. He said he'd look into it.
I went back upstairs and wrote a game preview story for our website, checked a couple of other things and began game prep.
Sully and I walked down the street to a sandwich shop for lunch. Lunch was really good. I made a mental note of the place. I'll probably eat there again. While we were at lunch I got in touch with Murph and asked him if the situation had been resolved with the hotel. He said "I'm working on it."
Later in the afternoon Murph called. We were, in fact, having to vacate the hotel. Originally the game with Georgia State had been scheduled for the afternoon and the team had planned to fly home after the game. But then it was decided it would be a television game and moved to an 8:30 EST tipoff. The call was made to change the reservation and somehow the ball got dropped. So, (and as it turned out, this was even better) the Marriott booked the team at the Renaissance right at the airport. That was going to make departure in the morning much easier.
Sully and I got to the arena about an hour and a half before women's play began. I did more game prep for the men's game. I visited briefly with Coach Broadhead and associate head coach Sallie Guillory. Then the game began and I watched while continuing to get ready for the broadcast of mens' action. The women were playing very well after falling behind early in the game.
At halftime I decided I was hungry. I went to the concession stand and ordered two hot dogs (Hebrew National) and a soft drink. "Three dollars," the girl working the concessions said. "No, I said, I ordered two hot dogs and a soft drink," I said. "Yes, sir...three dollars." I don't know what that would cost at the 'Dome but it wouldn't have been three dollars.
Then I looked down the corridor and saw some young girls selling Girl Scout cookies.
I am a sucker for Girl Scout cookies. I walked down and a little girl (couldn't have been more than seven or so) asked if I'd like to buy some. They had tagalongs. (That's the chocolate/peanut butter cookies.) I bought a box. Sully and I wiped out the whole box before the women's game ended. The women got a hard fought win, their third in a row.
The broadcast went smoothly with no issues. I was going to hang out and wait while Sully did his game story. That gave a me a chance to visit with Dave Cohen. Dave has been doing Georgia State sports for a long time. I met him a few years earlier when the Cajuns and Panthers played four games in two years when Robert Lee was the Cajuns' coach. Dave remarked even though the two teams had only played a handful of times, that this was already looking like a rivalry. We talked about how the two teams had gotten after each other in the game just completed. We also talked some about baseball. They don't broadcast a lot of baseball at GSU. He said he'd be doing about twenty games or so. We chatted until Sully was ready to go and then headed out.
We got to the hotel and checked in. The Renaissance is a great hotel. The room was spacious and had some amenities. Unfortunately, I'd only be there about seven hours. I got to the room and wrote the game story for our website and headed to bed. It was after 1am.
I got up the next morning, gassed up the car and returned it and dropped my bags at the Delta counter. I was headed toward security when I saw the Atlanta airport had an iHop. I had time for breakfast. That was a great start to the day.
Again, the TSA pre-check saved me some time. They had a special check in area just for those who had the pre-check boarding passes. I was through in no time. I got on the train for Concourse D. And, as you might expect, my gate was the last one. That was quite a walk.
When I got into the gate I saw Lyn Rollins. Lyn had done the women's game for CST. We were on the same flight to Baton Rouge. He had a women's game at LSU at 1pm against Arkansas and was doing some prep. Lyn has been a friend for many years. He's my age but looks fifteen years younger. Therefore, there's a part of me that hates him. Not really. But he must be related to Ponce de Leon.
I boarded the plane and sat down. Guess who had the seat next to me? Yep. Lyn sat down and we chatted. He asked about the men's game (which was done by a different crew for CST.) Then a lady who was sitting a couple of rows back approached. She told Lyn he looked familiar. Then she asked if he was a pastor. Good thing I wasn't drinking anything at the time because it would have come out of my nose. Lyn politely told her no. She went back to her seat. I looked at him and said "That's going to be in the blog." Lyn and I chatted a lot about different things. Lyn does television but he's a radio guy from way back and we talked about sports on the radio.
The plane landed and Pastor Lyn was off to do a game and I was headed to bag claim. The same woman asked who he was. I said his name was Chapman and he was a television star.
It was raining pretty hard but I navigated my way back to Lafayette. I'll be seeing Pastor Lyn at the LSU/UL baseball game Tuesday night. I hope he has a blessing for me.