March 7, 2013
Aloha Pirate Nation,
Welcome to Honolulu, Hawai'i, and the East Carolina softball team's spring break trip to the Aloha State.
The Island Thoughts blog will give you an inside look at the action off the field over the next seven days. ECU Assistant Director of Athletic Media Relations Joe Prisco, a few selected players and at least one member of the coaching staff will be posting daily updates with news and information on what the Pirates have been doing since their arrival in Hawai'i.
During the team's seven days in the Aloha State, senior Kai Clark, juniors Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin and Kristi Oshiro will all be blogging about the trip to their home state. Classmate Jill Jelnick, freshman Casey Alcorn and assistant coach Leah Kelley will also be adding their thoughts on the team's visit and week's events.
Today was an extremely long day. The alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. so I could get to East Carolina's campus, gather my travel materials and make the bus on time to board the 4:30 a.m. ride to Raleigh-Durham Airport. The morning temperatures were surprisingly mild for that time of the morning with highs approaching the mid-50s. Upon entering the bus for the first time, plus beating the majority of the players and the rest of the coaching staff, I noticed that it was a little warm and instructed the bus driver to turn on the air conditioning to "cool things" off a little, knowing how head coach Beth Keylon-Randolph was a big fan of colder temperatures on the bus from the previous times that we had traveled this season. Turns out it was the first of what I hope will be very few mistakes on this trip. The bus driver did as he was instructed and put the air conditioning on full blast dropping the temperature on the bus from 59 degrees to the bone-chilling 39 degrees by the time we arrived at RDU. It was so cold that I thought icicles were going to start forming on the inside of the bus as a few players began using every layer of clothing they had to keep warm. The cooler temps on the bus did not go unnoticed and in my case blamed on me as the team and all its personnel exited and shivered off the bus at 6:30 a.m. to go through security for our 8:30 a.m. departure to Atlanta.
We arrived at our gate with plenty of time to spare and enough downtime to allow the team to settle in and even grab a few early morning breakfast items.
Our airplane boarded and left on time and arrived in Atlanta a little before 10 a.m. We had a quick turnaround scheduled with our connecting flight to Honolulu planned for 10:50 a.m. Coach Keylon-Randolph made the team aware of the quick turnaround during our early morning departure for RDU and stressed the need to have a plan in mind if the team and its members wanted to grab something to eat at a few of the nearby open restaurants in Atlanta. I myself didn't feel the 30 minutes to get from one side of the airport to another was going to be enough time to partake in eating and just planned to grab a few snacks and potentially a meal on the 10-hour flight. Several of the players had other ideas and were able to do it all by grabbing a quick meal and also making the plane.
We arrived in our seats on time and the plane even left about 10 minutes later than originally scheduled to allow for a few others, that were not in our travel party, to get on board that were connecting in Atlanta from other flights.
When we pushed back, the pilot informed us that the flight would be a nine-hour and 47-minute flight that covered 4.496 miles.
Finding ways to pass the time (and sit relative still) for a flight that long can prove to be a challenge. The Delta 837 flight crew served snacks and refreshments throughout our journey and had meals to purchase to keep us fed and content.
Aside from the expected eating and sleeping, the plane had movies to watch on the television screens that were in front of each seat. I caught up on a few movies that had garnered some Oscar buzz this year in Silver Linings Playbook, Argo and The Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Reading also helped pass the time. I attempted to catch up on some older back issues of Sports Illustrated and picked up a copy of the Chicago Tribune to peruse.
We eventually landed in Honolulu a little before 4 p.m. local time, which was around 9 p.m. on the east coast.
As soon as we found the baggage claim area, we were met by the families of our Hawaiian players. We were all given flower leis to wear and received a very warm island welcome.
We collected our belongings, loaded up the trucks and vehicles of the parents that were nice enough to lend a helping hand with the oversized duffel and equipment bags, and went off in our four minivans to find our temporary residence for the next week, Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel.
Upon arrival at the hotel, Coach Keylon-Randolph and her staff decided to give the players the freedom to go with their parents for meals plus visit local attractions and restaurants in small groups of four or more.
I stuck with the coaching staff as we went on an impromptu tour of the area looking for a place to eat. Names of potential places to eat were shouted out and GPS systems on phones were consulted as we looked for that perfect place to feed. After driving around for about 30 minutes looking for a parking garage near enough to a few interesting places, we settled on either going to The Cheesecake Factory or Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Restaurant. We first went to the Cheesecake Factory, but with a wait that was going to be in excess of two hours, we decided that our hunger couldn't wait that long and went to Margaritaville.
After dinner we just went back to the hotel and went to sleep after the long day.
Tomorrow, the team will have an afternoon practice before heading to a BBQ at the beach.