Monday January 21st
Left home in Doncaster (UK) at 0730 heading for London Heathrow, flight to Washington on time & mercifully only half full in the paupers section at the back = 2 seats to myself, space to stretch out. Cleared immigration at Washington within 60 minutes and checked into airport hotel nearby.
Tuesday January 22nd
Rudely woken by dipshit room cleaner who failed to read the "do not disturb, I'm sleeping" sign at 0900. Loitered in hotel until 1300 awaiting arrival of road trip partner en route by road from Ottawa. He arrives around 1330 slightly delayed due to snowy roads and proceeds to park his own car for free at the hotel on the back of my two reservations (I was also booked in here 26th Jan). Off to airport again to collect a hire car (paid for on a 50-50 basis). Due to worsening road conditions we decided to head straight for the arena and parked up in a covered lot nearby for $26 ( a matter of minutes before game day parking of $35 kicked in!). Few beers and food in an adjacent bar before an excellent 2-0 win. No Ovechkin (luckily I've seen him play before so wasnt too bothered). Remembered nothing of the arena or area surrounding as its been 15 years since my last visit here (Caps 5 Flames 2). Was informed by Sens media staff of the Carolina re-arrangment, cue panic (game day / time had not at that point been confirmed). Abiding memories of the game being Da Costa getting dumped on the ice numerous times, Cody Ceci making some excellent defensive plays in the 2nd (right in front of me) and why did they leave Spezza all on his own on the PP to simply walk in and wire one to effectively kill the game? Out of the rink c2230 for a pre planned 2hr drive south to a hotel which took nearer 3 hours due to some atrocious road conditions.
Wednesday January 23rd
Woke to a beautifully cold but clear morning, confirmation of the re-arranged Carolina game now received and we proceeded to drive 8 hours to Hilton head Island for another pre-arranged hotel stop. It was here that things took a turn for the worse. My road trip partner decided that he couldn't stop on for the Carolina game and instead chose to return to Washington as planned for 1200 Saturday as he wanted to attend the Denis Hamel HoF induction in Binghamton (which to be fair he was planning to do anyway). This left us with a logistical problem, How does he get to Washington if I keep the car, or how do I get from Raleigh to Washington if he takes the car?
Thursday January 24th
I drive the 6 hours to Tampa, arriving c1545, temperature around 70 deg......nice! Parked on the street for $10 right next to a $25 event parking lot, result! Quick wander round and time for food / beer in Hooters near the arena. My 3rd visit for a Sens game here, result ended up the same as the first...3-4 SO loss. Lovely arena, my favorite after Canadian Tire Center without a doubt, so much space inside..Tampa were very good and we did well to hang on here, Tampa will be a real force when Stamkos comes back. What a pass from St Louis for Tampa's 3rd goal. I had to applaud. Game finished & straight to the car for a brutal 6hr drive back tot he same hotel (hindsight......big mistake), landing in bed at 0500! Decision taken during the driver that my road trip partner would drop me in Raleigh the following afternoon, then return the hire car to Washington and the rental company fully fuelled. I would be droped at Raleigh airport where I would hire a second car at my expense to return to Washington.
Friday January 25th
5 hour drive to Raleigh, where I get dropped off at 1700, farewell & handshakes etc and off I go to collect my second hire car of the trip. Time for some shopping (wife & daughter had sent me their wish lists already), then an early night.
Saturday January 26th
Woke up to find an email stating that the original and "MY" (since when?) hire car had been left at my hotel for that night c2300 Friday as the hotel shuttle bus wasnt' running and he couldn't get back from the hire car drop off to the hotel (never heard of a taxi obviously). Doesn't sound much of a problem but the rental expired at 1300, right in the middle of the Sens game. Instead of returning the car on Saturday morning, he'd jut driven straight to Binghamton, approx 4 hours ahead of original intended schedule. Thanks mate! Quick phone call from the parking lot of the PNC arena to Avis reveals at $64+tax extension fee for 24hrs (cheapest option), no choice but to take this as I was not due in Washington until c2030 after driving myself from Raleigh. Off to the game, vague recollections of arena from previous visit 14 years ago, not a favorite I have to say, built for Basketball. Noticed pre-game that the Sens stick rack had two Jim O'Brien labelled sticks on it.............? I don't like to rag on players individually but Lehner wasn't good today, few soft goals and we are toast. I honestly thought I was finally about to see the Sens shut out for the first time in my 36th game. Thank god for Kyle Turris! Game over and 5 hour drive back to Washington to find original hire car with only 1/8 of a tank of gas.......guess I'm filling the fucker up then, $41 thanks "mate"! Time to hit the hotel bar & hard.
Sunday January 27th
Returned both hire cars within a few hours much to the bemusement of the attendant. managed to convince him to waive the extended rental fee of the first car as the windsreen wiper washers kept freezing (not good with all the snow & salt on the roads) and the cigarette lighter socket not working in the front (hinders sat nav, phone, Ipod charging). So I'm only out of pocket $150 for the secon rental & $41 to top up the 1st rental. More shopping (further requests / instructions from home) then to the airport and a packed flight home.
Monday January 28th
Landed at London Heathrow at 0605, immigration cleared in 5 minutes, tube to Kings Cross, 2 hr journey to Doncaster, back in the office at work by 1100.
Things I learnt on this trip:
Da Costa gets up off the ice really quickly (he gets enough practice)
I95 is boring as hell
South Carlina police officers are very nice
Lehner is not the answer.......yet
Cody Ceci will be a damn fine NHL defenceman real soon
Sens are too lightweight up front (IMHO)
Sometimes you can't even trust your friends (still no contact since receiving that email).
Things I already knew before this trip:
I95 is boring as hell
Until next time / next season!