So, this is what it's like on the other side, where it's warm in the north, cool in the south and the ocean to the east is the Pacific. That was before, when I just about had to stand on my head to get here.
The trip to Australia was everything I suspected it would be: cramped, complicated, uncomfortable and mostly long. Way long. It was a glassy-eyed procession of airports, airline food and stale, pressurized air, a daylong sacrifice of personal space.
I'm already counting it as the first event of these Olympics, a marathon that started early on a Friday morning and didn't end until late on a Saturday night.
"Let me tell you, that's a long way,'' my father-in-law said when he heard I would be coming to Australia for the 2000 Summer Games. "When you get to huh-why-a, you're halfway there.''
What he didn't say was that by the time you pass over Hawaii, time just doesn't matter anymore.
You've been flying for half a day and know there's another half to go. You're brain is still working in Georgia hours, but the day is being governed by Sydney time, a mere 15-hour discrepancy. And, if you leave during the day, as I did, it is light out for so long, you start to think you're circling the sun, not the earth.
Put it this way, this is not a Conde Nast weekender. Unless that's what you consider something that takes almost a weekend to do.
It seems I can barely remember the alarm and stumbling to the shower Friday morning in Savannah. But that happened at 4:45 a.m. as in absolute madness.
And so began a day of staring at the back of strangers' heads, 24 hours of climbing in and out of giant metal tubes and crossing 12,000 miles in a seat that, by FAA regulations, must be three inches narrower than your hips.
Talk about your Olympic trials.
The coffee places weren't even open when I got to the airport at 5:30, a time when even owls have had the good sense to close their eyes, and I had to wait for the flight crew to show up for work before my 6:30 flight left, naturally, at 6:52.
Next was Dallas, where I rushed to wait, quick-stepping to catch final boarding for a 9:09 flight (10:09 Savannah time) that left, naturally, at 9:23.
During my next stopover, in Los Angeles, I met with better timing but no better logic, waiting in line 30 minutes to check in for a flight that had been booked three months ago. That'll cheer you up.
But at least the plane I then took to Sydney was a little more substantial than the others, not one of those school buses with wings that I had flown on the first two legs of a three-legged race forward in time. Once on board, I sunk into seat 62H for a long stay, the luck of getting an aisle negated by the only two children on the flight to one side and a sickeningly affectionate couple to the other. And that's where I waited for my 1:00 flight out of L.A. (4:00 Savannah time) to leave, naturally, at 1:42.
I'd been traveling for 10 hours, and my trip was only starting.
The next 14 hours were spent off the ground, being flung restlessly through air and time, out of one day and one land and into another, all the while seeming as if we standing still in the sky.
The only diversions I really remember were looking at the location indicator and thinking that the little airplane icon was spending way too much time on a flat blue screen marked Pacific Ocean, being woken up for "dinner'' at what to me was 3 a.m. and the latest, most bizarre sunset I've ever seen. We were still a couple thousand miles from Australia when the night of the day I never saw finally fell on our flight, a gash of red separating the darkening horizon and oatmeal-colored sky like some cosmic red velvet cake in reverse.
If that seems weird, try this: When we finally landed, it was 5:53 Saturday morning according to my watch and 8:53 Saturday night according to the announcement welcoming us to Sydney. Jim Donnan should have tried the same trick and have Saturday afternoon never happen.
It was only then that the trip stalled, the abysmal ground transportation that defines the Olympics trumping aerospace technology. Because, I had just flown halfway around the world in slightly under 24 hours, but the 30-mile drive from the airport to town took more than four hours. After accreditation, customs, baggage claim and two clueless shuttle bus drivers, I walked into my room in the media village at 1:15 a.m. Sunday, which was 10:15 a.m. Saturday in Savannah, which was 29 hours after I left home. Whew.
Still, it wasn't too bad. I've had trips take less time and be more frustrating.
Like once when it took me 15 hours to fly from Newark to Savannah the day after Christmas, with three stops and the last leg in the back of a cargo van from Charleston. It was a mocking coincidence that I walked in the door just in time for the kickoff of a Monday Night Football game I was supposed to be covering in Jacksonville.
Or the time it took me three hours to drive 28 miles from Long Island to Staten Island in the middle of New York's commuter weekend. I almost bit through the steering wheel that day.
But, for a trip like this, you have to prepare yourself, which I did.
I read two Morning Newses (Savannah and Dallas), two Timeses (Los Angeles and New York) and one Today (USA). I put dents in Sport Illustrated, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, skimmed through two Australia travel books and got 50 pages into a Vince Lombardi biography.
Hey, it was Sept. 8 International Literacy Day. Is it just me or this year did it seem as international as it was literal?
Morning News sports columnist Tim Guidera can be reached at 652-0352.
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