Living on an island has its pitfalls. When the weather is sketchy, it makes traveling a headache.
Kodiak’s trip to Anchorage for the 2017 Special Olympics Alaska State Bowling Tournament was filled with travel delays and one dicey plane ride.
The 16 bowlers — myself included — persevered to collect 28 medals — 16 gold, eight silver and four bronze — despite missing three of the nine games.
The trip started with a dreaded 7-10 split when Friday’s flight to Anchorage was canceled due to high winds in Kodiak. Upset athletes trekked home and waited for the wind to calm down. I spent the evening on a couch with Gizmo catching up on recorded television shows — we are big fans of the Chicago-based shows on NBC.
The weather cleared just enough on Saturday for planes to take to the sky and deliver us safely to frigid Anchorage.
We missed out on the singles competition, but hit the lanes in our pumpkin-colored jerseys for the doubles and team portions of the three-day tournament at Eagle River Bowl in Eagle River.
Kodiak was one of six communities from around the state represented at the alley. Anchorage, with its 56 athletes, easily won the team trophy over Homer, Juneau, Mat-Su and Tanana Valley. A total of 150 — half of last year’s entrants — athletes and partners competed.
If a travel trophy was a thing, Kodiak would have won it.
This was my third time competing as a partner at the state bowling tournament and the first time that weather had an impact on the trip.
The fun started after the tournament concluded on Sunday. We were lucky enough to board our RAVN flight back to Kodiak, but were unlucky that we never made it home. About 20 minutes away from landing in Kodiak, the pilots turned the plane around because of inclement weather at the Kodiak Benny Benson State Airport.
Some athletes were happy, while others shed tears. I got an extra cookie, so life was good.
The turnaround delayed our trip home by 24 hours. With time to kill on Monday, we wandered around the 5th Avenue Mall for roughly four hours. When asked what the best part of the trip was, most athletes responded “shopping.”
There was bowling involved — afterall, it was what we spent every Sunday since August training to do.
Everybody on Kodiak’s traveling team won a medal, while some were also relegated to a ribbon, which Scott Snider dubbed the “Butt Wiper Award.” I’m pretty sure that is just a reference used only by Kodiak athletes and partners.
Even with Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan in the house on Sunday, Kodiak’s Mark Payopay stole the show.
The 25-year-old grabbed a microphone and led the entire alley in a “Go Kodiak” cheer. Payopay was clearly the hit of the weekend, serenading his teammates with Elvis Presley’s “Blue Moon” on one of the bus rides from Eagle River to the Clarion Suites in Anchorage.
First-year coach James Glenn wasn’t to be outdone, as he belted a tune while standing on a chair during Sunday’s dinner at the hotel. Sorry to say, but both would not get chairs to turn on “The Voice.”
Monday evening’s return trip to Kodiak was questionable as all flights were canceled before ours.
We boarded the plane after an hour delay. On the approach into Kodiak, the pilots told us that the winds had picked up and there could be a chance we would be returning to Anchorage. Moans from the cabin followed.
However, with the wind pushing the plane every which way, the pilots went for it and landed the eagle.
Upon landing, Payopay let out a big “hello, Kodiak.”
Janet Baker — Gold, silver; Sonny Basuel — Gold; Derrick Blondin — Gold; Amy Canavan, Gold, silver; Derek Clarkston — Silver, bronze; Keely Good — Gold, silver; Morgan Griffin — Gold, silver; Colin McEwen — Bronze. Hannah Moody — Gold, gold; Hans Moody — Gold, gold; Kathryn Moody — Gold, silver; Kyra Parker — Gold, gold; Stacy Parker — Gold, silver; Mrak Payopay — Silver, bronze; Scott Snider — Gold, gold; Ferdinand Valdez — Bronze.