With the invention of social media, it has allowed us to see places we've never seen before and interact with people we may never meet. But before social media, if you wanted to see the world, you had to drive, fly or hop on a boat. Instead of FaceTiming Aunt Angie, you had to sit in the back seat of mom and dad's Toyota Corolla and watch the clouds pass you by 55mph at a time. Or even better, in my case, if you wanted to see what lied outside your hometown, you had to ride on this yellow monstrocity, or what we like to call, a school bus.
When I mentioned in my first blog post that I had done some serious traveling, in the sport of wrestling, no other kid does more traveling that a kid from Eastern Oregon. Sure you can travel the country to a big tournament every so often, but until you've rode a bus five and a half hours to Burns OR in the winter time, you just don't know what real road tripping really is.
Oregon is a very unique state in which the majority of the roughly 4.2 million people reside down the I-5 corridor, west of the Cascade Mountian range. The I-5 corridor starts in Portland OR and runs from the top of Oregon to the bottom of Oregon. This portion of the state is roughly a quarter of the state and using a rough estimate, holds 3.8 million people.
What us Oregonian's, consider the "eastside" of the state, is anything east of the Cascade Mountains and only roughly around 400,000 of the states population. The east side of the state, is filled with beautiful mountain landscapes, wide open roads and endless amounts of wildlife. Needless to say, I think we got the better part of the state.
The down side of living in such a vast portion of the state with very little population is, when you compete in sports, you're going to spend a good portion of your life on a bus. While in high school, our league consisted of Burns, Nyssa, Ontario, Milton-Freewater, Madras and Baker City. Milton-Freewater(MacHi is what we all call it), was our closest rival at one hour and half hours, one way. Burns was our furthest rival at five and a half hours, one way. Basically, most anywhere we competed, we were gone for majority of the day.
I believe this was when I really got a love for travel. While it was out of necessicity, it was also a time where we got to really get to know our team and coaches, who we would later call our brothers. For those who have never competed in the sport of wrestling or seen a match, we are a very close knit community. We spend a lot of time together training and traveling, and besides competition time, bus rides are where we make a lot of our memories. Whether you were the kid that kept to himself, listening to that latest jam on your walk man or the clown trying to get everyone to laugh, it was something you always looked forward too.
Sometimes, you were one of the lucky ones, and were still trying to make weight. The heater and a few pairs of sweats were your best friend and worst enemy that day. Teammates telling you to bust out some situps and pushups every so often.
With each passing mile, you could watch the landscape change from fields of wheat and potatoes to open fields filled with elk and deer. Some days you catch a few inches of snow and watch it as it covered the mountain hills of the Blues Mountains. The Grande Ronde River, Umatilla River and John Day River were a common sight along the way, as well. Even as the bus hummed, on occasion, you could hear the rivers bussling along their long paths. And, depending on your direction, a pit stop at Deadman's Pass would give you an idea of just how cold it would be that trip. A few quick sprints to keep that sweat going would be a treat. If you were good enough, you wouldn't even slip on the icy parking lot.
Hours later, you arrive at your destination, ready to make weight and see if the scale was light or heavy. Peel off your sweats, dry yourself off and step on, coach would say. Like a herd of cattle, one by one, we'd watch the scale go back and forth for what seemed like an eternity. It would finally settle for me at 121.5lbs, enough to compete today. Get some food and water back in you, then its time to warm up, face off and compete in front of the 47 fans that bothered to make it. "Shake hands.....wrestle" yells the ref. We battle for a bit and my opponent forces the action. I move at a snails pace, waiting for my moment and with a bad shot from my opponent, I capitalize. I throw them to their back for the fall. Back to the sideline for a quick breather and another snack. Fall, fall, fall is on repeat today for our team.
45mins later and its back to the bus with a win under our hats. Coach is happy so McDonald's it is. Time to make that long trek back home. Time to make some more memories. Tiem to enjoy this much deserved cheeseburger. Time to make weight again.