Recently Cal State Bakersfield men’s basketball played at Dartmouth, an Ivy League school located in Hanover, N.H. This game was the farthest we have ever been from home to play hoops, a record 2,966 miles from Bakersfield. Getting there was long and arduous; getting back was even more of an adventure. I’m going to take you on that trip so you too can experience some of the highs and lows of working on the other side of the country.
It’s 4 a.m. and I’m knocking an inch of snow off my car; the day that lies ahead of me includes a two-hour drive to LAX, a five-hour flight in coach to Boston and then a two-hour drive north to some place called Lebanon, N.H. Ironically, I almost visited the country of Lebanon during a summer trip while in college, but that never came to fruition, so I guess this Lebanon will have to do.
CSUB is traveling to take on Dartmouth, the Big Green out of the Ivy League and I’m along for the ride once again. Yes, it is New Year’s Day, another holiday spent working, the second this season after Thanksgiving and now the new year. Maybe one day I’ll get to spend holidays at home with family like God intended, but then again, God must have a different plan for me.
It’s time to tempt fate on the local roadways after the overnight snowstorm. Luckily the folks from the CHP and Caltrans have done their due diligence, along with the festive crowd from New Year’s Eve, so there is plenty of traction on the roadways as I ease out of town. Stopping to fuel up before I head out onto the highway, the overnight shift gentleman at the truck stop asks, “Where you headed, boss?”
“LAX,” I said. Along with the stunned look on his face, he says, “Good luck, drive safe.” Fortunately, luck is on my side.
It’s a quarter-to-five somewhere outside of Mojave when Toby Keith’s “I Should Have Been a Cowboy” comes on the radio. Not a bad idea, Toby, but I’m average at best on horseback and I’ve been thrown off more times than I would like to count. I guess some of us are just called to certain professions.
I pass through Mojave. Even this early, the signs are lit, clamoring for my business on this once crucial artery that is amid a slow-tragic demise. These days they take what they can get. My snow-covered sedan starts to draw attention as chunks of white fly off on Highway 14 heading to airport. I pass Sunset Boulevard before sunrise and am soon parking my car and getting on this transcontinental flight to a part of the country I’ve never been to before. Few of those places remain, so I guess I’ll get to check a few more off that shrinking list.
We land in Boston and have dinner just a block or two away from the site of the Boston Marathon bombing. The air is cold but the neighborhood bright and vibrant. We come to an agreement that we all can add Boston to our cities visited list. Rules on our bus state that if you sleep or break bread in a city it counts; simple airport layovers do not. Add Boston to my list, then.
We make the long-isolated drive into New Hampshire. It won’t be until the return trip that I can actually appreciate the countryside with its stereotypical northeast-looking homes and water formations literally frozen out of the rock-faces that run the length of the highway.
It’s an uneventful few days in New Hampshire. We win the basketball game; thankfully, the 2,966-mile return trip home will be a little easier. The next day I learn nothing is easy about a 15-plus-hour travel day. Two hours to the airport in Boston, seven on the plane back to Los Angeles and of course Southern California traffic caused by the mysterious watery substance falling out of the sky.
I finalize my trek and hit the outskirts of Tehachapi just shy of 16 hours from when I left the New Hampshire countryside. I could have flown to Australia in that time, but at least home is in sight of my windshield. Just as Springsteen sings about driving through the misty-rain, the windshield wipers kick on as I do just that. One more poetic connection on this strange journey.
There are a lot of positives to the work I do. However, these grueling, long trips are not one of them. It’s mandatory suffering in order to reap the rewards. The good news is I’m off the road for a while as I go on baby watch for the little one’s arrival. I’m sure all perspectives will change after that day.
This was just a little taste of what I do, and more importantly, how I get there. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows; sometimes it’s long flights and 405 traffic. Thanks for coming along.
Corey Costelloe, a Tehachapi High graduate, is assistant athletics director for communications for California State University, Bakersfield.