By Kevin Fitzmaurice
As I lay awake in bed I heard my phone go off. I received an email from one of my professors informing me of a sports writing convention in Nashville, TN in two weeks at Nissan Stadium. Not only would this be my first time traveling anywhere over 170 miles but I was doing it with two other students I really did not know. As I debate if I want to pursue this conference or not I thought to myself, sports are one of my biggest passions and the only thing I want to do everyday for the rest of my life, so I knew this was an important opportunity. I spoke with two other students also interested in the trip, and we got things in motion.
We left at three a.m. on a Thursday and had an estimated eighteen hour ride, driving through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Tennessee.
New York was a disaster as we rolled in just when the sun was rising and everyone was going to work. We sat there for a good hour in bumper to bumper traffic until we hit the George Washington bridge and caught a quick glimpse of the Big Apple from a distance. After we left New York we really did not see anything else except farmland, billboards on people's front yards, giant advertisements, less cars, and more trees. For a while, things the sights just blurred together, as Pennsylvania and Virginia seemed to last forever. After stopping for gas and food a few times we made it to Nashville in about twenty hours.
We finally arrive at the motel which is located behind a liquor store and a Waffle House next to a condemned building on the outskirts of downtown Nashville. When we enter the “lobby” there is a gentleman in all black with his hood up, a nice big scar on his forehead, and carrying a shopping bag with what appears to be clothing and ramen noodles. He pays for the room in cash and mentions how he does not have to sign any paperwork. After we check in and get our room, we open the door to find that it is pretty small and dirty. But that is what you get for fifty dollars a night. We all got into bed fairly quickly, and I noticed my bed was already broken, either from some rough sex with a dirty prostitute or when someone overdosed they might have fallen pretty hard on the boxspring.
I could not sleep at first due to how uncomfortable the bed was, and I did not feel the safest here but the others had fallen asleep very fast.
As I laid awake I decided to look at reviews for the motel we were at and I was in for a treat: “the cleaning lady took money out of my purse when we were gone and the hotel would not do anything” 1 star, “someone kept knocking on my door and trying to get in while me and my daughter slept in the middle of the night” .5 stars; “woman at the room next to me had an overdose on balcony” 1 star, “cab driver downtown refused to give us a ride to Rodeway Inn because he got robbed there a few times” 2 stars.
I eventually fell asleep only to be woken up thirty minutes later because of people burning rubber and partying in the parking lot at two am. Shortly after people were talking right outside our door and I thought I was ready to get robbed.
I finally fell asleep for about four hours. I woke to my alarm with scratches all over my body from all the bed bugs, so I ran into the shower. We got ready for this conference, packed up our stuff, and loaded it all into the car, again. After a short conversation I convinced the other guys we should look for a new hotel after the conference.
We got in the rental car and I said to the others, “Listen guys I am just going to say it, this place is absolute trash and I would not mind spending money out of my own funds to pay for a new place. Either we get shot and killed or die from exhaustion of not sleeping for four days straight.”
One of the other students replied, “I do not think it is that bad, I mean we did only pay fifty dollars a night. What did you really expect?”
The last student was on my side, “why don’t we just look after the conference and see what else is around Nashville to stay at. I would not mind staying somewhere else at all. This place is really sketchy, not gonna lie.”
After the first day at the conference we sat on our phones in the parking lot and looked for nearby hotels, and in a short time we found a place that seemed legit. But first we wanted to drive over and see if the location checked out. It was about twenty minutes outside of downtown Nashville and everything checked out so we checked in. We got to the room and let out a big sigh of relief because this place was significantly better, and by the end even the student who wanted to stay at the other place was glad we switched hotels. We decided to head downtown to grab a drink and a bite to eat before we headed to bed for round two of the conference. I sat at a bar called Acmes and got to know these two pretty girls from the area and a little bit more about the city while I ate my BBQ pulled pork sliders, grilled corn on the cob, and drank my Captain and Coke, all of which were fantastic. The others wandered off and met some attractive female friends of their own. We went our separate ways; I went back to the hotel room with the rental car and they took a cab back later that night.
So after we spent the first night in our new hotel room I felt I was actually able to get a good night sleep after four days of getting a total of ten. But that only lasted about five hours. We woke up in much better moods and all at peace with the new hotel choice and left for day two of the sports writing conference. It came and went far too quickly.
We got back after the last day and decided to do a bit of homework before we all went out. We drove into Nashville and parked our car in a paid parking lot where we were approached by a homeless man trying to rip us off for a cheap spot that expired two days ago. We went to a pizza restaurant then went to a number of different bars. I would like to note that I saw the most beautiful girl I have ever laid eyes on and by the time I noticed her smile at me she vanished into a massive crowd of people on a rooftop party at a bar called The Stage and I never saw her again. We wound up at a karaoke bar where I anticipated a two hour wait to sing Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” (my jam). One of the others ended up wandering off to another bar and a strip club for his own mini adventure and the other was tongue wrestling with some girl he had been dancing with for quite some time. It was two a.m. and I still had yet to get on stage so I decided to leave by myself and head back because the city was going to shut down soon and we had a long ride ahead of us the following day. I stopped for funions and a snapple tea and went back to the hotel to watch “Bob's Burgers” and fall asleep.
I woke up in the morning and only one of the others had made it back. I got a text from the other with an address to come pick him up at some girl’s apartment fifteen minutes away. We finally all got together at around nine a.m., packed up, and set off on our extremely long ride home.
We heard of snow somewhere but thought it was on the coast and near Pennsylvania because of a fifty car pile up on a highway the day before, so we took a different route this time to avoid it: Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and New York. We were driving along making excellent time and it began to flurry; no big deal, we are from New England, this is nothing. We were stuck in traffic for about an hour, at a standstill for a majority of that time. We finally get up to the accident and all that is left is the remains of a burnt Target truck and debris on the road, so we had no idea what happened. Now the problem with this was that snow had started to pick up and accumulate on the roads while we were stuck in traffic. The other problem was we were in northern Kentucky and southern Ohio, where they typically do not get snow.
We continue to drive through this when we realize we took the wrong way and were headed right for a major snow storm in a little compact car with over sixteen hours of driving ahead of us. This is when we encounter Winter Storm Olympia. The snow was coming down quick and you could not see in front of you due to the thickness of the snow and the ice on the windshield. The roads were slick and already had an inch or two of snow and ice. We basically had to crawl for about 250 miles through this snow that only got worse the more we were on the road. We did not encounter one plow truck or any road sand/salt and it turned into complete chaos for the entire storm due to state funding and the fact they are not used to snow. People were sliding off the road and crashing into each other left and right, and using your breaks was out of the question because you would just ski instead of stop. We continued to drive as carefully as we could and after about ten hours we finally made it to dry ground with no snow. It had to have been the longest anxiety attack I have ever had.
We were able to start cruising to make up for the four or five hours we lost between the accident and the snow. It was around eleven a.m. and we hit the final stretch of our trip. A highway lasting about 460 miles long straight through New York in the dead of night in below freezing temperature and we are all exhausted. I will inform you that this road went on forever. We each took turns driving while the other ones slept. Once we hit Massachusetts at about six a.m. and the sun started to rise it was the final home stretch arriving at Fitchburg state around eight a.m.. It was a trip I will never forget, having its ups and downs, but it was an experience of a lifetime. I slept for a good two days afterwards, and I still hate getting in my car to drive even thirty minutes.