Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cordova Adventure

Cordova from the air

This year the 3A basketball regionals tournament was held in Cordova. It is quite the coordination feat to get the teams there from around the Anchorage area and Kenai Peninsula. As part of the Board of Review, my husband had to go but he took the relatively quick and easy route of flying from Homer to Anchorage, and then from Anchorage to Cordova.  The teams, however, had a much longer journey.

Regionals began on Thursday morning, March 6.  The boys and girls basketball teams, cheerleaders, coaches, team managers and some parents got on the bus after school on Tuesday, fortified with Thai take-out from one of the cheerleader's parents who owns the local Vida's Thai (yum!) From there they drove to Hope, Alaska, about a 3 1/2 hour drive, which would put them within an hour of Whittier, where they had to catch the ferry Wednesday morning.  As a funny side note, because we have spent time in Hope my daughter knew where the Hope School was. The bus driver thought he did, but drove down a long road quite a ways (that would be heading out to the Palmer Creek Mine area). She told him he passed the school (which is only a block or so off the main road in Hope), but he said, "No, no, it's down this road."  Finally he realized he was passed it and turned around.

After spending the night in Hope, the kids got up bright and early Wednesday, at breakfast, loaded onto the bus and headed to Whittier, in order to get to the tunnel when vehicles were being let through. It is a 2-mile tunnel, and vehicles cannot go through at night, and during the day they are only let through every 30 minutes. Besides Houston High School, every team going to regionals was going through the tunnel at that time and getting on that ferry to Cordova.

Once through the tunnel, the kids had to go through TSA-type security and get on the ferry. Loading a ferry is quite a process. Some teams were taking their buses over, while other teams were taking private vehicles to shuttle kids around. Others were renting vehicles in Cordova (which is what my husband did). From what I heard the ferry was loaded TO capacity (maybe even a few extra folks) in order to get all the teams over. I heard they were going to have a second ferry run special for all the fans to get there, since there weren't enough flights to fly them all in.

The ferry ride was uneventful, luckily, but very long. It took off at 9 a.m. and didn't get to Cordova until 4 or 5 p.m. That was the "slow" ferry. On the way back they would take the "fast ferry," a catamaran (which was still a good 6-hour ride).

Once in Cordova the kids walked to their lodging. The girls stayed in a hotel that had kitchenettes, which was perfect so they could cook their own food, since Cordova only has a handful of restaurants open at this time of year. The boys were staying in the elementary school.  Most of the games were being played in the high school.  Pretty much the whole town can be walked in less than 10 minutes from one end to the next, so once the kids were there they wandered about the town and harbor.

Prince William Motel, Cordova

Doug stayed in a 3-story cinder-block motel, Prince William Motel, which he described as having "half-way clean rooms." It did have microwaves, small fridges and TV's in the rooms (I thought it interesting he even mentioned TV's. Don't all motels and hotels provide TV's nowadays?!). The rooms were spacious but there was no view, and the price was about right at $100/night. Apparently the motel complex had an interesting setup. I couldn't quite picture it from the way he was describing it.

Ranked #1 on TripAdvisor for best food in Cordova
The other notable place Doug mentioned from Cordova was the pizza place he at one day, Harborside Pizza, which supposedly is the most popular restaurant in town. It was a single-wide trailer that they took out one end of and installed a wood fireplace that they bake the pizzas in. There is no seating in it and they used to deliver but the volume of deliveries requested was so great they had to stop doing that (maybe not making enough money from it?!). The inside is quite run down and old, but the pizza is good. The owner is looking at trying to save up enough money to get a sit-in restaurant.

The parents of the basketball teams had met and planned all the meals for the kids at regionals since they didn't want the expense and inconvenience of eating out. The boys ended up being right next to a kitchen at the elementary school and so that is where the teams cooked and ate their meals. Apparently a number of entrepreneur-minded folks in Cordova opened up their restaurants or made meals just to handle the huge influx of people on the town for 5 days.

The tournament was disappointing for both the boys and girls teams. The boys were ranked #3 in the state at some points during the season (top 3 from regionals go to state), so they were hopeful to go, but lost their fourth game. One of the top scorers for the girls team got violently ill the second day of the tournament and was out day 3 when we needed to win 2 games to make it to state, which we probably would have done handily had she been playing. But it is still exciting to travel and see all the teams playing. Quite an adventure to just play basketball! Two Homer High girls and one guy made the All-Conference First Team, Aurora and two guys made the All-Conference Second Team, one boy and one girl made the "Good Sports Team" and three cheerleaders were recognized for the all-cheer team. So they made a good showing despite some losses.

Cordova Air Terminal: quite small! It is 12 miles out of town in the middle of nowhere.
On Sunday Doug's flight wasn't scheduled to leave until 6 p.m. or so since the early flight had been booked. He was wandering around Cordova Sunday morning and it was like a ghost town. The ferry had left so there were few people around and none of the stores were open. He'd had to check out of his hotel so he was trying to figure how where the heck he was going to hang out for a whole day. 

On a whim he went to the airport and discovered that there was ONE seat open on the plane with the Houston team at 1:00 p.m.. He nabbed it! His flight to Homer was at 10 p.m. so it was still going to be a long day hanging out in the Anchorage Airport. He texted me to let me know of the flight change. I was in Anchorage just heading into Costco and then home and was like, "I'm in Anchorage. I'll pick you up at the airport in an hour after I shop at Costco."  We could not have planned that more perfectly.

Everything went smoothly on the travels, the weather was good and there was no drama between teams. The travel is always in the back of my mind when the kids are on the road for sports, and many other parents will mention in passing, "Whew! So glad the kids are home! So glad things went smoothly. They are all safe." Especially after the busload of cross-country skiers got in an accident in the pass going into Valdez this winter, we are all a bit edgy. And Aurora was happy because she got to ride on the ferry named Aurora!

1 comment:

Audrey Welborn said...

Fascinating story, what a trip compared to what we do to travel for our grandchildrens' games and tournaments. Thanks for posting.