Musings from the Combat Pits

March Madness

Trip, trauma (hopefully a short article) and post-trip cleanup

Northwest fliers Buzz Wilson (left) and Greg Machen confer on the field at the March Madness Combat contest in Phoenix, Ariz. Gene Pape photo.

April 2018

By Buzz Wilson

Initially this series was to cover preparation, trip, trauma (hopefully a short article), and post-trip cleanup with both Gene and myself writing our own perspective. Since the trip is over, Gene has written a separate article on the contest and I am covering the trip and trauma.

I was flying direct from Seattle to Phoenix on Southwest Airlines with Gene leaving from Eugene, Ore., on American Airlines. This was the first time I had flown on Southwest Airlines, your local self-service airline. You have to use one of their kiosks to check in and get your baggage tags. They have pictures of what your luggage looks like. None resembled my box of airplanes that were in a box for golf clubs. I was told to click on suitcase. The agent took my luggage and checked my passport and off I headed to security.

Prior to entering the line at security I put all my possessions that would annoy the TSA agent into my backpack and went to get my passport and boarding pass. I had my boarding pass, but could not find my passport. I hustled back to the ticket counter where they had taken my passport. But failed to give it back to me. They had to go find it. Someone had put it in a back room. They went to get it, but could not locate it. Keep in mind, just five minutes before they had it in their warm little hands.

After some delay they found it; fortunately they did not want ID to give it back to me. Back to the security line. A pet peeve of mine is how TSA puts in all of these line serpentines to make you think you are in a short line and actually moving. After 45 minutes of TSA, it was time to head to the gate. Southwest does not assign seats. If you pay additional money you can board earlier in the sequence. I always try for an aisle seat, but knew this would be a middle seat with two bovine bodies on either side. As I boarded the plane the first aisle had an open aisle seat. Yahtzee! The flight was uneventful. A bad omen

At baggage claim, my airplanes were the first item to come onto the conveyor. Trauma is beginning.

Left: Before the ramp apes. Right: After the ramp apes. Buzz Wilson photos.

My cleverly designed handle had been replaced with two holes. Fortunately I had put in my alternate strap system. The duffel bag arrived intact. When I turned on my phone there was a message from Gene. He was originally going to get in an hour later than me. He had not left Eugene, something about an issue with not being able to close the door on his plane.

About the time Gene’s plane landed, Jeff Rein was calling me to see where we were and I updated him on our progress. He told me where they were going to dinner and we agreed to a time. I told him we had to check into our hotel. I asked him to go tell the front desk that we were running late. About 15 minutes later, Jeff called back to tell me that they did not have a room for us. I had asked Jeff where they were staying and he gave me the name of the motel and a street name. Keep in mind that every room in the area is booked – NASCAR Phoenix, Spring Training and NCAA basketball. No problem: We were staying at a different motel about 20 minutes from where Jeff and most of the others were staying. The saving grace to the trip is the smart phone-driving app that both Gene and I have on our phones.

When we got to the rental car check in, we decided that the standard size car would not hold the planes and luggage and upgraded to a SUV. Off to find the motel.
We were third in line to check in with two groups in front of us each having issues with checking in. Our original plans had been to go to Wal-Mart to get supplies that we did not pack. Since we were running late, we headed off to meet with the dinner group. They were just finishing their meal when we sat down.

After dinner, it was back to the motel to set up equipment for F2D fast. The next morning we headed out to Wal-Mart to get the supplies. The one thing we did not get was a tarp to lay the planes on. Not a problem, Jeff and Don Jensen made some room for us.

When the draw was made for F2D fast, my first match was to be against Mike Rule. Now I had just flown to Phoenix to fly someone that I fly at nearly every Northwest contest and who always beats me. I think I am going to take a stepladder with me to the next contest to counter his height advantage.

Around 3 in the afternoon I got a message on my phone that motion had been detected on one of my security cameras. Panic set in until I saw the prowler. I have a camera hidden in a birdhouse. A chickadee was checking it out and taking selfies.

That evening, many of the contestants went to a pizza restaurant. One of the best pizzas that I have ever had.

On Saturday, the weather turned cool with misting rain. Gene and I were in our element. It was funny to see the other folks bundled up like it was winter. To us it was mid-July.

I will not go into the contest other than to say it was a great learning experience and that I have a lot of work to do before I fly in the next F2D contest.

Gene and I were leaving on Monday and had plenty of time to get to the airport and check in. As we were waiting to finish paying our rental car bill, I realized my backpack was still in the SUV. A mad dash to where I had parked it, and it was still there.

Since Gene and I were flying on different airlines, we headed in different directions in the terminal to check in. When I placed the box with the airplanes on the platform for the agent to move them to baggage and to check my ID, she whipped out a tape measure and began to measure the box. She then said this is oversized you will have to pay $75. I said, What do you mean? I have friends that fly with these boxes all the time and do not pay an oversize fee. The box weighs very little. She was adamant. I requested she get a supervisor to come over. I explained that there was no fee charged in Seattle and asked her to lift the box. She waived the fee. Next I headed over to American where Gene was still standing at the counter with his box of planes.

Before Gene selected his box, he took it out to American Airlines in Eugene, and was told it would cost $25 to check it. That is what he paid to get his planes to Phoenix. He is now standing in Phoenix trying to get his planes back to Eugene and they are telling him it will be $250 to ship them since it is oversize. A supervisor comes over and will not budge from their position. No reasoning would work. Gene is still working the problem.

Gene and I both had a great time. Got to see some flyers that I had not seen in several years from the days they flew in the Bladder Grabber. I am looking forward to the November contest.

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This page was upated April 10, 2018