As the unofficial Travel Agent for Team WestEnders, I've certainly done my share of arranging excursions, both big and small. Road trips, foreign countries, a cruise--none of which quite rivaled the complexity of Riley's season-ending soccer tournament this past weekend.
On paper, it sounded relatively simple: 4 games, spaced over 2 days, in Greensboro, NC--which lies approximately an hour west of where we live. Upon closer inspection, however, things got a bit... murkier...in the Logistics column. You see, Saturday's matches for U13 Arsenal were scheduled for 10:30 a.m. (hey, no complaints so far...'cuz that even leaves time to pick up the all-important java-to-go on the way out)...and 7:15 p.m. I'm sorry, whaaaat? Exactly how would you suggest we pass 6 hours in between contests, pray tell? (She pretended to query the tournament organizers...who remained shockingly silent and unhelpful in response to her imaginary plea. Oh, maybe I should have actually asked someone out loud? Riiiiight...)
Okay, if that weren't enough to try to figure out, let me just go ahead and toss in the REST of the factors. Ready? Yeah, me neither. Here we go anyway: they'd be finishing up around 8:30 in the evening, having played through their normal dinner time. This means we'd have a squad full of ravenous adolescents needing to be fed immediately. Then they (and their chauffeurs--um, "parents") would potentially face the hour return trip to their houses and beds, where they'd fall into slumber by about, say, 10:30 or so...only to rise the next day and hightail it back for Day 2 of the competition.
The options for handling this were numerous, but not particularly appealing. We could drive all the way home, spend a few hours there, then turn around and make the commute all the way back again. We could hop from place to place around Greensboro, nomadically exploring our surroundings throughout the afternoon and early evening. Or we could reserve a hotel room for the night, giving us a place to crash for a while during the day, and a local sleepover option to eliminate 2 hours of driving around in circles on I-40. Ding ding ding, I think we have a winner! (Or, you know, "the lesser of...all the evils"...or what have you...)
The next step involved deciding exactly where to plant ourselves for the night. It turns out that the soccer action was taking place not at 1 venue (oh, don't be ridiculous--that would be far too sensible and easy!) but rather 3 different parks...as much as a half-hour apart from each other...2 of which incidentally weren't even technically in Greensboro at all. Oy. I was beginning to develop quite the Planning Headache. In the end I decided to book a room very close to where Riley's team would be finishing up their day's work. I figured that way we could minimize our travel--and maximize our sleep--when the soccer wrapped up. (As you'll see, it was a pretty good idea...at least in theory.)
Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the fact that, should both parents wish to watch their beloved son compete in his final soccer matches of the year, it would amount to the entire family conceding the entire weekend to the cause. Thus, with all of the information accounted for, the Final Agenda looked like this: I would attend Saturday's events with Riley, and stay in the area overnight. Then on Sunday, Husband would come out to meet us at the field, relieving me and taking his turn supervising the Sunday activities. Alrighty, then, let's set this thing in motion!
Saturday dawned cold but stunningly gorgeous as Riley and I headed westward. After a minor GPS snafu (which would become an underlying theme of our day, unfortunately) we located the sports complex, united with his fellow footballers (as their coach--adorably--refers to them) and engaged in a chilly Game 1...in which Arsenal played well, but suffered a tough 2-1 defeat. Afterwards, their spirits apparently undaunted by the unfavorable result, the rowdy boys declared, "We're going to Moe's!" (A local Tex-Mex fast food chain, for the uninitiated.)
We were given some vague instructions along the lines of "It's near the mall...over there somewhere." This was accompanied by equally non-specific hand waving, which did absolutely nothing to clarify the situation. As it turned out even our phone's Google Maps was utterly unable to identify just where the heck, on God's green Earth, "Moe" actually happened to be. (We later were told it was IN the mall...but not listed on the Directory that we checked.) Riley and I finally gave up, procured our own lunch, then headed to the hotel to initiate the Relax Phase of our long day.
Yeah...about that Internet deal I scored for a verrry inexpensive room at a budget national chain...let's just say I got a crash course reminder of the time-honored truism: "You get what you pay for." I'd have to guess it was the smallest room I've ever rented--no space for a closet (armoire instead), and no tub in the bathroom (just a stand-up shower). This in-and-of-itself would have been perfectly fine, because there were 2 beds, and that's really all we needed. BUT (yes, it's a biiiig "but") although the establishment advertises itself as "100% non-smoking", it was clear that our particular domicile had at some point allowed people to light up inside. How could I tell? Only by the fact it smelled like--this is the best analogy I can make as a vehement lifelong anti-smoker--an ashtray, piled to overflowing with 20-years worth of stale butts, the stench of which pounded you right in the nostrils the second you opened the door. It was, in a word, revolting.
Had this been a vacation scenario, where this was going to be our "home base" for several days, we would have been out of there faster than the door could hit us in the patootie. (Well, this is useless speculation anyway, as I never would have selected such a place for a "real" Summer getaway.) Since it was so temporary, I reluctantly decided just to suck it up. Sigh. On to better things...the second contest was held under the lights at a soccer park near our stinky hotel. The temperature had dropped when the sun went down, of course, so we shivered through a tense, evenly-matched...eventual 2-1 victory for Arsenal.
And then...the insatiable beasts began crying out for food once more. (Jeez, does it never end with these guys? Oh yeah...they're growing boys, so no, it really doesn't...) This time there was a more coordinated effort, to meet up at Panera in Greensboro. (20 minutes back on I-40...again...) I turned to Riley--normally my impervious part-polar-bear child, who was clutching his hands together, trying to restore some warmth to them--and said excitedly, "Hey, you know what they have at Panera?" His eyes lit up and he enthusiastically crowed, "Sooooouuuup!" Our dreams for toasty mugs of brothy goodness were dashed, though, when we arrived expectantly at the door...only to be told that they were closing. That's right, you heard me...at 9 p.m...on a Saturday night....on a major retail cross street in the middle of the city...in the midst of a teeming mass of shoppers still clearly out-and-about. What. The. HECK?
Undeterred, one of the hungry players yelled, "Moe's!" (Again with that guy? Well, it WAS right across the parking lot, pretty much.) So we trooped over there...to be met with the same end. Fortunately, Noodles & Company--another few steps away--remained open, and allowed our somewhat sweaty, slightly grassy, cleat-wearing, near-mutinous-by-this-point goofballs to breach the front door. And they gave us a delicious meal, too! After this little interlude in continued team bonding, Riley and I repaired to our sleeping quarters, and called it a night.
In the morning, after a peaceful sleep and free breakfast, we tackled the next challenge: a 30-mile trek to yet another group of soccer fields, which ended up being in the middle of N-O-W-H-E-R-E-sville, with one-lane roads leading in and out, flooded with traffic as everyone attempted to arrive for their matches. Luckily for me, my work was almost done. I fought my way in, created a parking spot on an unoccupied patch of the surrounding lawn, handed Riley off to his father, conveyed my "goodbye and good luck" message, and got the heck out of Dodge (or, um..."Browns Summit", for what it's worth).
Throughout the rest of the day, I got updates from Husband and son about their progress. From Husband: "Won first game 3-0." (Whoo hoo!) "Lunch at Panera." (Aw, man! They're having my sooooouuuuup!) "Going bowling between games." (Oh boy...with a bunch o' rambunctious pre-teens, that oughta be good!) And finally, from the player himself: "Won second game 2-1, came in 2nd in tournament, we all got medals!" (Yeah, it's all about the hardware...) Even disregarding that finale (which is, of course, awesome) he had a fabulous time and enjoyed himself to the hilt. So despite all of the....nonsense...involved with this weekend's...extravaganza of soccer mayhem (that's what the tournament should totally be called, by the way)...I'd have to conclude that it was well worth it in the end.
And now...we try to recover for Monday. Ay yi yi...goodnight!