Volume 2, Issue 20, The 72nd Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
Here it goes. My annual "travel season" starts within a few weeks. I'm ready to make the trek to Reno for Mixed Doubles, Albuquerque for ABC, and back to Reno with the WIBC. The way the year works out, I hit three tournaments roughly back to back in six months, and then I have six months to recuperate and start dreaming of the next year. Luckily this year, I have the options to fly or take the scenic route to all three tournaments, and I'll probably enjoy the long drive this time. I won't get that option again for many years.
Traveling as a bowler is a bit different from say packing light for a weekend getaway. We have equipment people don't understand. Counter people make jokes about how heavy our bags are, and when we pass through security, we get asked if we're carrying explosives because of the X-rays of the core. It sounds really funny, until you realize those security guards are serious. Never mind that golf clubs can be used as lethal weapons, someone at Ebonite (who must never travel by air) actually put the world B.O.M.B. to mark the weight block on their balls. I prefer my trips through airports to be detention free. In that regard, here are my suggestions for stress-free travel.
Before you buy the tickets, find out the airlines' baggage policy. If you can only have a total of three pieces, do your math. If you have seven bowling balls, something has to stay home. If you want to change clothes at some point during the trip, that's going to have to factor into the equation as well. Some airlines are real sticklers about bowling equipment and weights. And they can refuse heavy things or force you to pay a surcharge. That four-ball carrier seems like a good idea until they say no. And keep in mind just because you got to your destination with no hassle, doesn't mean the return trip will be that smooth, so make sure you know the rules, and abide by them going and coming. Friends from your area can tell you what airlines are better than others. Some names pop up over and over again, but things change over time, and from airport to airport. So ask around.
If it's just a fun tournament, or you're not quite Team USA calibur, think of bringing just a few pieces of equipment. Something that hooks, something that doesn't. If it's an important tournament, and you need a large arsenal, considering shipping a few via UPS ahead of time, and have the hotel store them for you. Your pro shop can help you with boxes. This will be no doubt a cheaper alternative than paying the excess. Or consider bringing a nonbowling significant other with you, and mooch some of their baggage allowance.
When you're packing:
Carry on your shoes. While you can always buy a new ball, shoes cannot be broken in during one set, especially not on foreign approaches. Stick your bowling shoes in a purse, a back pack or the inside pockets of your jacket, but don't think they'll be "just fine" in the suitcase. Murphy's Law says that is the bag the airlines will lose.
Please think of fellow passengers, and unless you're going to put your bowling bag on the floor in front of you, do NOT carry on the balls. I've bowled within a couple of hours of arriving in Reno, so I know that checking is not always possible. And knowing people who bowl with equipment that is no longer in production, I realize there are times you MUST carry on your equipment. But a 35-pound bag is really heavy to be overhead, especially one that will not only shift, it has the capacity to roll. Shove the bag under the seat, and rest your legs on it.
To be on the safe side, bring a copy of your ball specs. You may get a voucher from the airline to pay for the ball, but ball drilling is an art as well as a science. You're not going to get that "fits like a glove" feel if you're asking someone who's never seen you bowl to drill your ball.
Give yourself plenty of time ahead of time. I know, this isn't always possible, but the alternative is to be bowling in a tournament without your "go to" ball.
When all else fails, and it happens on occasion, don't get upset. Relax as much as you can, do the best you can, and get over it. Dwelling on the negative is not going to help you bowl better. Even if you go in to win, you have to know there's a bigger chance you won't. So if you don't do well, don't sweat it, there's always next trip.