Sportscasters covering small college or minor league teams all have one thing in common: lots of time spent on busses. Living in geographically isolated Aberdeen, South Dakota ,I’ve been on bus rides of more than 8 hours to Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Iowa, and Utah — just to name a few (I wrote about one of them here ). These trips have allowed me to develop a certain expertise on how to survive long rides on less-than-luxurious vehicles, which I thought would be fun to share with you!
1.) Get to the bus early and find a seat up front. Immediately cover the inside seat with a bag of gear. Usually, in my experience the coaches, announcers, and trainers are offered their own two-seat section to stretch out in. However, when you’re travelling on a mens’/womens’ double-header and the coaches bring the family or the redshirts, things can fill up quickly. If the seat next to you is full of gear, usually those looking to double up will continue searching for easier prey. Bonus points if you can find a seat away from the big emergency exit window, which usually allows cold air in far more than the other windows.
2.) Secure your wallet and keys in a pocket of your bag. If your keys fall out of your pocket as you get situated, they can slide away or get stuck between seats without you noticing. When this happens they can be nearly impossible to find. Pretend like you’re 6 drinks deep at the bar and put your keys away!
3.) Invest in a memory foam pillow. These are expensive but totally worth it. I used a normal pillow for years and tried to find the perfect way to mold the pillow into the angle between the back support and the wall/window. The reality is that there is no perfect way but memory foam does a much better job of curving around the contour of your back.
4.) Football and basketball are in the fall and winter. In South Dakota, it gets cold, really cold. Our bus is old and unreliable. Moral of the story? Bring a blanket! You may feel like Linus from Charlie Brown , but you can still be warm and toasty on the road when it gets below zero. My personal recommendation is a fleece blanket (mine has little basketballs all over it). It’s warm and light enough to compress into small spaces without hassle.
5.) Headphones are obvious, but noise-cancelling headphones are even better. Most old busses make a lot of noise. The one I ride in has a door that doesn’t seal tightly when shut, leading to a loud squeal when the wheels are in motion. The noise the bus makes is annoying, but it’s secondary! What I’m really trying to tune out is the idle chatter of students discussing who they’ve slept with, how drunk they got, and what they’re going to do when they get home. We have a great group of kids, but they are still in college and the less I know about their “recreational activity,” the better. Good noise cancelling headphones drown out everything and lead to maximum relaxation in an uncomfortable situation.
6.) Bring snacks. In most situations, the team is required to feed the announcer. The reality is that teams usually don’t play as well on the road. When teams don’t play well, coaches get mad. When coaches get mad sometimes they punish the team by making them wait several hours to get dinner. When this happens it’s usually Burger King or Taco Bell, which makes me feel like crap the rest of the ride. It’s always better to have a granola bar or two stowed away for these occasions.
7.) Sleep aid. Our trips frequently involve driving overnight and getting home well after 2 a.m. Busses are loud, generally don’t absorb shock well, and Tempur Pedic did not design the seats. Sometimes, an artificial sleep aid can be helpful. Ny-Quil/ Z-Quil is my go to. However, the best sleep aid I ever had was when I had a bit of codeine cough syrup left over from when I had a nasty cold. A little bit goes a long way but if you have 5-6+ hours to go on a bumpy bus it can be awfully nice to just zonk out.
8.) Entertainment. I usually bring my phone and our station’s unlimited data hot spot and listen to Pandora or Spotify. I also bring a book or two. I’ve seen others bring lap tops for DVD’s, but I prefer to use the time to catch up on a bit of reading. Spotify and Pandora chew up your battery quickly, so make sure to have a fully charged phone on departure and a fully charged portable charger ready as back up.
If anyone else has ideas that I left out, let us know in the comment section.