Thursday, April 19: One of life’s many mysteries is how often our individual stories eventually come full circle. In my case this trip to Biloxi, Mississippi to “work the keys” for the ShoBox doubleheader featuring Jermain Taylor-Caleb Truax and Erislandy Lara-Ronald Hearns represented such an event. That was because the first plane rides of my life occurred in July 2005 when I worked an ESPN2 Friday Night Fights card at the Isle of Capri Casino in Lula, Mississippi – at least I thought it was in Lula.
Before I wised up and bought a GPS, I relied on Mapquest to guide me through these unfamiliar roads. I learned the hard way that Mapquest, more often than not, led me to the “bridge to nowhere” rather than my intended destination. After following its instructions to the letter, I ended up not at the Isle of Capri but an abandoned unlit gravel-covered dead-end road.
Joy to the world.
I tried calling the hotel number printed on the itinerary, only to hear “this number is no longer in service.” Just my luck: I later learned that the number given to me was a misprint, for it was one digit off. Thanks to a friendly local who led me back to the interstate (before driving away much too quickly for me to fully follow him) and a couple of well-placed road signs I arrived at my final destination – which ended up being closer to Helena, Arkansas than Lula.
To assuage my feelings of foolishness, I filed that episode in the “live and learn” file.
Since then that file would overflow with unanticipated events that required seat-of-the-pants thinking, produced equally surprising resolutions and subsequent behavioral changes. The most vivid example took place several years ago in New York City when I made the mistake of entering a major thoroughfare into my GPS when trying to find one of the major airports. I mistakenly believed that once I arrived at the thoroughfare the road signs would have guided me the rest of the way. Instead, I drove miles in the wrong direction, crossed bridges and paid extra tolls to right myself and was ensnared in the city’s legendary slow-moving morning “rush hour,” all while the clock ticked on my plane’s departure. Although I had spent nearly 20 years dealing with newspaper deadlines, I had seldom felt more stressed.
The issue resolved itself when I pulled into a “safety triangle” next to an on-ramp. A very helpful local informed me that said ramp was the one I needed to take in order to reach LaGuardia and this person even blocked oncoming traffic as I looped onto it. From that day forward, I vowed two things: One, never again drive in “The Big Apple” unless absolutely necessary, and two, if I did need to drive to LaGuardia, enter “Ditmars Boulevard” instead of “8th Avenue.”
It has been written that “experience is the best teacher” and I’ve found it to be true. My travel troubles are fewer and further between these days, but I remain respectful enough not to tempt fate.
For this trip to Biloxi, no GPS units were necessary. That’s because the ShoBox crew was staying at the fight’s venue – the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino – and our only transportation was cabs to and from the airport. For Travelin’ Men like me simplicity is bliss.