For my first trip for USA Volleyball, I went to California to visit the training facilities in Hermosa Beach and Anaheim, met some beach players and staff, the two national teams, coaches and staff for indoor, and attended Media Day and a Red vs. Blue scrimmage. I also watched a U14 tournament, featuring the one-and-only Rasa Barzdukas, daughter of Audrius.
It was a great trip; everyone was very nice and welcoming.
Here’s how my life is different with USA Volleyball: Holly McPeak follows me on Twitter and actually retweeted one of my posts. That was cool. She’s a three-time Olympian and winner of 72 beach titles. An all-time great.
And as I was getting on the plane to leave, Karch Kiraly sent me an email. He earned gold in 1984 and 1988 with the indoor team and in 1996 on the beach. He was named “Player of the Century.” So he’s good too.
But while I was in California, I did a lot of driving.
California is a state of stark contrasts. There are many areas of overwhelming opulence and beauty and then there are the highways that look like something out of World War Z or one of those “After Man” science fiction shows. On my way from LAX to Anaheim I relied on the map app on my iPhone. To save your battery, it closes down the phone every few seconds. So here I am driving down the 405 and its 17 lanes — all of it seemingly under construction, when none of it, in fact, is — and I have to refer to my phone.
The IT guys at volleyball have added a passcode function to my phone, so now every time my phone shuts down, I have to open it and then enter a passcode. So I’m doing that on the highway, looking down, looking up, looking down, trying to type my code in accurately. But then I need to read the directions, because the map app on my phone, to save battery, doesn’t talk to me.
Now here’s the problem with that … I can barely see as it is … the prescriptions in my sunglasses are a couple prescriptions old because we couldn’t afford to update both pairs of glasses. So I’m now squinting over my sunglasses at my phone driving on the apocalyptic landscape of the Californian highway system trying to figure out my next turn.
I’m lucky to be alive.
So the next morning I drive from Anaheim to Manhattan Beach and watch Casey Jennings and Stafford Slick work out. Stafford is from Minnesota. I also saw the U23 and U26 teams practice, had lunch at Silvio’s, a Brazilian BBQ place; chatted with the beach staff, then head back to Anaheim where the indoor national teams train.
Later in the trip I start using Google Maps, which features a very helpful woman who speaks to you and tells you where to go.
But she is a bit of a battery hog.
So on my last night I go to Irvine to watch the women’s national team play a scrimmage. They are currently ranked number one in the world. After the match I go to the Irvine Spectrum, a show palace of an outdoor mall. I have a late dinner with some marketing guys and then I have to drive back to the hotel. It’s about 20 minutes away and my battery is halfway to dead. It’s 11 p.m.
The ride home becomes a race against time. If my battery dies before I get back, I’m screwed. I’m passing people on the road like they were standing still, taking full advantage of the 17-lane options. If my battery dies, I can’t call anyone. I’ll probably have to sleep in my car.
One of the many dumb things is that 90 percent of the drive back is just north on the 5, but since I became so dependent on the app to get me anywhere, I never learned any of the roads to anything anywhere on my trip.
Beep, beep … battery is less than 20 percent full.
Beep, beep … battery is less than 10 percent full.
Step on the gas, screech around the corner and there’s the hotel … oh my goodness … thank you Google Maps Lady for sticking with me.
Just for the fun of it, I used Google Maps to get home from work yesterday, just to hear her reassuring voice.
“Stay left at the fork.”
I love you too, Google Maps Lady.
So now I’m in Vancouver. I get off the plane and my phone says, “You are in a foreign country, so I’m not going to work now.” I think, come on phone, I’m barely in a different country. But now it’s midnight, I’m alone. It’s dark out. I’m wearing sunglasses and I have to find my way to Langley in the Canadian outback.
The car rental guy in Canada was the nicest car rental guy I’ve ever come across. He spends a half hour trying to show me where to go using a map, if you can believe that. For whatever reason, I’ve written down all the driving instructions from the airport to the hotel whilst still in Colorado, planning for the inevitable worse case scenario. I’m still trying to get the Google Maps Lady up and running, when the counter man says, “I could give you a GPS device.”
I’m like, yeah, let’s do that. So I get in the car and on the road.
Canadian GPS Lady says, “Turn left in a 100-meters.”
WHAT? How far is that? Speaka-the-English, por favor.
Each turn, each direction I would hear the command twice, “Turn left” … “Turn left.” I had the GPS sitting on my thigh and it wasn’t too long before I figured out that the second command was emanating from my front pants pocket.
It was Google Maps Lady, struggling to assist me in the Great Northland. I pulled out my phone; Google Maps was on the screen, but something was very wrong. The signal was scrambled. The software kept recalculating the route. But she was there, by my side, trying to guide me in the darkness.
Finally, I got to the fork in the road. Canadian GPS Lady is telling me to take the northern route. Google Maps Lady says continue south. I was torn. The Google Maps Lady has always been there for me. I had to make the toughest decision of my life. I turned off Google Maps. “I’m sorry Google Maps Lady; I’m in Canada. I gotta go with Canadian GPS Lady.
Last global positioning system story … Rose and I have hopped in our rental car at Sea-Tac, the Seattle Airport. We’re about to visit Carli and I’m looking forward to the reassuring tones of the Google Maps Lady telling me where to go. But Rose is quicker on the phone and she’s called up her phone’s map app.
A voice comes out of her phone, but it’s not the Google Maps Lady … it’s a Google Maps Dude!
What are you doing!?!? I was exasperated. I’m not listening to some dude telling me directions all the way to Tacoma. Come on! You are a married woman!