Big Person, Small World
Kevin’s road tripping in Europe with Kalev.
by Kevin Owens
So we have already established how little I enjoy traveling in cramped spaces. Airplanes, buses, cars…all much more comfortable when my knees are not pressed against my face. Unfortunately the powers that be are probably not going to make planes and buses bigger just for me. That makes for some very uncomfortable road trips.
The one constant throughout each season of my career has been long road trips. And this season is no different. This past week we traveled to Latvia to play two games in the Baltic Basketball League (BBL). It was my second trip to Latvia and my third long trip in just over a month. As much as I love traveling around Europe for free, the bus rides do take their toll.
Since I arrived in the middle of the season, I needed to find a seat on the bus. Being that my first road trip was on my second day here, I didn’t really know my teammates that well. I felt like Forrest Gump, roaming up and down the aisles with a goofy grin on my face hoping someone would offer me a spot to sit. Everyone had their assigned seats which were chosen in the beginning of the season. Finally, I saw an unused row and planted my tall ass there.
Fortunately for me I’ve had tons of experience with long bus trips. My years in the NBA D-League were filled with trips up and down the southeastern United States. There I learned how to get eight hours of sleep contorted awkwardly across a row of seats. I also figured out how to eat a “well-balanced” meal at a Waffle House at 3 a.m.
Back to Estonia…During the past few road trips we have stopped at the border every time. In America we have truck stops. Usually they have several fast food restaurants as well as some odd stores containing items a trucker may find useful…I.e. caffeine pills, NASCAR memorabilia, or a t-shirt that reads “Truckers Do It in the Hammer Lane.”
In Estonia, however, the truck stops are unique. They are basically set up like a school cafeteria. You grab a tray and select any item you wish along the walk to the cash register. There you decide on your main course, which is promptly cooked up by the lunch ladies in the back. You then grab a seat in an odd chair that is both small and uncomfortable. On a positive note, the food they serve is much healthier than any fast food alternatives. Must be the reason all the chairs are so small…they don’t have to worry about large truck drivers.
After our long drive we checked into our hotel and walked to our rooms. That is when I laid eyes on the “sleeping arrangements.” Back in high school, on our senior class trip, a mysterious “classmate” named Miwah called each room asking, “What are the sleeping arrangements?” He asked because there were four people in each room sharing two beds. After seeing our room, I was expecting Miwah’s call.
My roommate and I shared a very small room consisting of two beds, two nightstands, a TV and a refrigerator. Our small beds were separated by no more than six inches of space. In hopes of showing off how funny I can be, I told my roommate we should just push them together, that way no one falls through the crack while we “spoon.” He looked at me in horror, gave me an awkward laugh and put his headphones back on. Estonia: 1 Gay Jokes: 0.
After calmly explaining to my roommate that I am married to my beautiful wife and was making a joke with the spooning comment, he finally turned the light off so we can get some sleep. The following morning I experienced a Latvian hotel breakfast. This consisted of fruit, yogurt, toast and jam. Usually I prefer a heartier breakfast containing eggs, bacon and some form of potato. But you know how the old saying goes…”When in Ventspils, do as the Ventspilians do.”
Our latest road trip, unfortunately, was an unsuccessful one. We lost both games in Latvia and were eliminated from the playoffs in the Baltic Basketball League. Now our focus has turned toward the Estonian League. The one benefit I have always found from road trips is team unity. I think when you are around the team all the time it builds chemistry that translates onto the court. Now we must turn that chemistry into wins as we head into the Estonian playoffs.
Kevin Owens is a veteran of overseas professional basketball who currently plays for Kalev/Cramo in Tallinn, Estonia. Owens also writes for Waiting For Godunk and Hugging Harold Reynolds. You can also catch him on Twitter @Waiting4Godunk.