I think the best place to start this story would be on Wednesday afternoon back in Omaha. Since I work for a company that has meteorologists on staff, you would think that I would get some inside info on the weather. So during my show, I asked our News Director Bill Jensen, to ask our boys at Action 3 News if they could let me know about the storm. I wanted to know if I needed to leave on Wednesday to get out of Omaha in time for the Tourney. The answer - Nope, 3 to 6 inches maybe a bit more but the morning should be clear to fly......Riiiiight. Nice work boys - I appreciate it.
Thursday March 1 - The Start of the Madness
5:30 am - Got up...three S's...if you don't know them - not going to start to explain now....too much tell to stop....in the car and to the airport.
6:25 am - Got to the airport, parked and made me way to security for my 7:20 Southwest direct flight to St. Louis. It was snowing pretty good on the way. My car (Mazda RX-8) is NOT meant for snow storms. It does ok with snow on the ground, but not driving in it. I got behind a couple of snow plows which led me right to Eppley. I got lucky in that the respect that I didn't have to drive through snow drifts. Would be a foreshadow for the rest of the day.
7:20 am - A Las Vegas flight on Southwest that was suppose to leave at 6:45 am gets stuck trying to pull out of the gate. They had to push the thing back to the gate to get the people off the plane. Not a good sign for my flight. A guy comes on the P.A. and says that they aren't going to board us until they know we are going to take off. In the meantime, a United flight boards, takes off and another one lands and deplanes.....hmmm - I guess I should fly United more in snow storms - except to Chicago. I hate O'Hare.
8:20 - We are 1 hour behind and no sign of leaving any time soon. There are now tornados touching down in St. Louis....Great....a Blizzard to tornados.....good weather day! My phone is blowing up from my girlfriend who is telling me not to fly. She's nervous..I'm not. I don't think we are going anywhere.
9:30 - 2 hours late now...Travis calls me to talk about what is going on on his show. He's in St. Louis. His boss - my former boss - let him leave on Wednesday. His boss was smart. I, on the other hand, was told that I would be "fine". Right, if "fine" means snowed in and stuck in Omaha! I start to notice the number of Bluejay fans that are around and on my flight. Not good for St. Louis crowd.
10 am - Las Vegas flight that got pushed back gets cancelled. Not a good sign. Line at the counter is 30 people deep.
10:10 - Noon St. Louis flight gets cancelled. About this time, a group of 3 older Jays fans are talking to a guy that I noticed as I sat down to wait for my flight. I'm not going to tell you how I noticed him because he asked me to keep our road trip quiet. So I am going to respect his wishes. But we start to talk a bit. He needs to get to St. Louis too. He tells me he has rented a car but I-29 is closed. I ask him what kinda car. He says an SUV with 4 wheel drive.....Hmmmm Could we make it?
10:15- It's official. I'm F'd!! Flight Cancelled. Line goes from 30 deep to 60 deep in about 3 minutes. What the hell am I going to do? I've got a show to do and pre/post game to do for the Jays on Friday. I'm not going to be happy about being in Omaha...especially cause Trav said it was 50 and sunny in St. Louis.
10:30 - I walk out of security talking to Southwest. They basically tell me what I already know - I'm F'd! Then (We will call him Mr. My New Best Friend) walks by. "Wanna try to drive?"
10:40 - AVIS confirms his reservation for an SUV and we call every police outlet we can to find out about I-29. Closed. Don't go on it. No tow trucks - Search and Rescue only. Search and Rescue!! What? People are dying out there? Uh Oh. But seriously - it's a snow storm....if you have water - you should live. I think "just bring water and we could make it :)"
11:oo - Mr. New Best Friend and I go back to my apartment downtown to wait and see about I-29 and continue to call everyone we possibly can to find out if it is worth the risk of driving to St. Louis. No way I'm doing my show today so Brian, the producer puts together a best of show. But I've got to decide what to do.
12 noon - After a phone call to Bill Jensen and the question of - "Should we go?" He says, you get to Nebraska City - and you are fine. We say - Let's go!
12:15 pm- After a stop at a store for supplies (water, red bull etc) where a old woman who just got fired for not going to work and was telling the world about it, told me - no lie - "You are idiot for trying to drive to St. Louis. I hope you make it but I think you are being VERY stupid" - we go. Snow has stopped but the wind is blowing snow everywhere.
12:20 - No Cops on the on ramp! But no other cars really either!
12:25 - Holy Sh$t the road is packed with snow...but its a good pack...its like an extra inch of pavement! The 4 wheel drive is kicking in..40 mph...My New Best Friend is holding it down like a Champion Sled Dog driver and we are moving....really moving. We both sit silent. We are both a bit freaked out. Strangers to each other, in a car, in a blizzard, on a closed highway. I try to crack a few jokes about if we make it will be all worth it but it doesn't break the tension.
1 pm - Still snowing...wind blowing every which way. Getting white'd out at some points but nobody is around. No cops, no cars, no tow trucks. MNBF phone is starting to ring.
1:15 pm - We see a flipped over truck with nobody around it. Not a good thing to see when you know you are being stupid. 3 more calls to MNBF.
1:30 - Nebraska City....getting better...no more snow...but lots of wind. Still going 40.
1:45 - Past Nebraska City....wet pavement!!!! My New Best Friend floors it....90 mph. He needs to get to the St. Louis as bad as I do. Phone calls still rolling in....meanwhile I'm texting my girlfriend trying to keep her calm.
3 pm - Kansas City!! and what is this? - The SUN!!! MNBF and I are having some really interesting conversations. I'm learning a lot from this guy. I think I was meant to be in this car today. MNBF has easily spent 2 of the 3 hours on the phone.
7 pm - After a 6 and half hour drive, awesome conversation, about a 134 times of saying I can't believe we (add your fav line about getting through the snow).....AMAZING time to get to St. Louis...we arrive!
7:30 - I'm checked into my hotel and I go right to the first game of Arch Madness Drake vs. Evansville. I find Travis Justice and Peteymac in the arena and tell my crazy story. They both are amazed at the time (so am I. I am prouder of getting to St. Louis in 6 and half hours out of Omaha than I was about the White Out for Wichita). I see that Drake has shaved their heads for team unity. Klayton Korver's hair is gone!! His hair is the Korver thing! The shaggy dog look is what makes a Korver! But it didn't hurt his shooting obviously. I wonder if Drake could beat SIU...hmmm.
8:00 - Evansville's Matt Webster has 2 Ft's to win the game for the Aces. The dude has taken more Ft's than anyone in the Valley - of course he's misses both! Korver buries a huge 3! Double OT! What a first game for the tourney.....Drake wins it 101-96. Evansville really F'd up that one. With 5 seniors....how the hell is Steve Murfeld going to keep his job? That team could have been good with a good coach.
8:45 - Game 2 starts. Indiana St. vs. Illinois St. This one matters cause the Jays play the winner and a loss could end the coaching career Royce Waltman at Indy St. Another crazy game but watch out for the Redbirds next year. They are SO athletic and so quick. Eldridge is the best player I've seen in the Valley for overall skill. I'd take him over Nate right now. So smooth...still raw in his decision making but makes up for it in many ways.
9:30 - Ill. St. up by 12....Jays vs. them again...Uh oh. Indiana St. doesn't scare me. The Redbirds do. They could easily knock out the Jays if they shoot well.
10 pm - the Collapse begins. I don't really know what happened to the Birds. They just stopped playing. Indiana St. just hung around and hung around...and then BAM! 3 by Stinson....and they stole the game right from them. Sycamores win it 68-65. Wow.
11 pm - Sleep. A bed has never felt so good but I have to admit...How lucky was I? I got a ride through a blizzard. Made it St. Louis in 6 and half hours....got there to see a double OT game and then saw a major upset in the first round. The only bad thing - the closed down the media buffet before I got there...had to eat some chicken wings from the media suite before I passed out. I think I'll live.....Can't wait for Day 2.
Check back tonight or tomorrow for it. There is no wireless at the Scott Trade Center for some stupid reason so I have to write here at the hotel. Off to UNI vs. Bradley.....
Jays play at 6:05 vs. Indiana St.