I have written and rewritten this column a few times, and have yet to come up with a version that I’ve been happy with. I’ve been thinking back to the potential “Trips from Hell” I’ve been on over the past five years, but I have come to a few realizations. First of all, my memory pretty much sucks, as recounting specifics related to trips that happened more than two years ago was more or less a bust. And second, a lot of the stories I’d considered using in the column, for one reason or another, haven’t quite worked out.
I tried to write this column about a variety of airport delays; being stuck in Chicago O’Hare for 12 hours due to an overbooked flight, or being stuck at the airport in Monterrey, Mexico for 14 hours after my flight was cancelled. Truthfully, though, the stories weren’t that interesting. I mean, anyone who has traveled has dealt with similar issues, and no matter how frustrated I may have been, how much can you really write about 12 hours in an airport?
My next attempt was to recount some of the more unpleasant drives I’ve been on. I considered writing about a 12-hour, overnight drive from northern Arkansas to San Antonio, Texas, which featured, among other things, a colourful array of 5 a.m. exhaustion-triggered hallucinations, and stopping to shower at a pay-by-the hour motel in Texarkana. As I read the column back, though, I started to realize that the drive didn’t really sound that bad. Like most wrestlers, I had been on far longer and more disastrous drives, so really, could I claim that this drive in particular was among the worst, or was it just fresher in my mind than others?
Then I started to consider some trips that included events that were somewhat out of the ordinary — or, at least, more out of the ordinary than the average wrestling trip. There was the car accident, which was really not that entertaining. Then there was the incident of throwing up several rounds of vodka shots at a Knoxville Waffle House, which is not necessarily a story I care to recount. And there was the time I spent my drive home using a Popsicle stick to pry my front teeth back in to their proper position, which I did not write about because, well, that’s pretty much the entire extent of the story.
So, after debating for quite some time, I called my former traveling buddy, Zack Storm, and asked him which story he thought deserved to be ranked in the second spot in the “Trips from Hell” rankings. Zack and I have been friends for years, so I figured I knew which stories he would consider, and actually thought I knew which one he would ultimately pick, but he ended up surprising me with his choice.
July 11, 2008, was the second anniversary show of Association de Lutte Feminine in Montreal. While you would think that a “Trip from Hell” contender would be hours and hours from my home, or maybe even overseas, the ALF venue is only about two and a half hours from my house. I have been wrestling for ALF regularly since 2006, and yet still get lost almost every time I go there. In my defense, there are a lot of one-way streets involved.
Due to my navigational challenges, I generally try to coax someone in to making the drive up to Montreal with me, and on this occasion, Zack Storm and fellow Ontario wrestler, Sabrina Kyle, both made the trip. Zack had just bought his very first car, and he insisted we take it up to Montreal, which I was not going to argue with given the amount of abuse my car has endured.
Zack drove up to the show, wanting to give his new car a try on the highway, and everything was going great. I was first match, as I had arranged to leave during intermission, having to be up for 4 a.m. for another trip the next day. We wound up leaving the show around 10 p.m., and I was happy to think that I would likely see three hours of sleep that night, more than I had expected.
Zack was tired, so I was going to drive us home. I had never driven Zack’s car before, and when pulling out of our parking spot, I immediately told him that his car’s alignment was terrible, which he vehemently denied. It’s only about a minute or two from the show to the highway — all of which was under major construction at the time — and we spent those couple of minutes bickering about how much I thought his car’s handling sucked.
As I merged on to the highway, I was happy that I was about to be free of the torn-up roads we had just been on. I had just reached about 125 km/h, in the middle lane of the three-lane highway, when all of a sudden just staying in my lane was a massive struggle — and one we were going to lose sooner or later. I looked over to see if my passengers were wearing their seatbelts, and realized quickly that the highway was barricaded on both sides with no shoulder, a detail you really don’t notice until you’re looking for a place to pull over.
I managed to get us in to the right-hand lane, and thankfully, about 60 seconds later there was a bump-out on the highway, likely for situations exactly like this one. I turned to Zack and declared to him that “My driving is awesome,” proud that I managed not to crash, before we all got out to survey the damage. Upon seeing that the two right tires were completely blown out, we came to the conclusion that the construction had likely damaged them.
The stingy wrestler that I am, I initially refused to call a tow truck, instead trying to get ahold of everyone I had ever met in Montreal — including people who weren’t even at the show that night. No one was answering their phone, as the show was still going on, but I eventually got through to Misty Haven and Michael Von Payton, who had left the show shortly after we had.
Misty and MVP were heading in the opposite direction as we were, so I doubted they could be of much help, but hoped they may be able to put me in contact with someone who could help. When Misty answered the phone, she answered it with, “You heard what happened?” — which caught me off-guard. She then informed me that they had left the show to find their back windshield smashed in. I walked the few feet back over to the car, took a closer look at the tires, and found that the valves had been skillfully jimmied to allow air to silently seep out. I would have admired the vandal’s originality had it not risked killing me a few minutes prior.
I spent the next few minutes cursing whoever was responsible, but finally relented and called for a tow truck, having to accept that we were unlikely to find a garage open at this time of night. The tow truck arrived and dropped the car off at a Canadian Tire, and the driver offered to take us to a motel, which he insisted was “pretty nice.” Now, I’ve stayed in bad motels — the kinds in which the bed tips over if you roll too far to one side — as well as many other motels ranging from “decent” to “super fancy.” My standards for a “decent” motel are not high, and pretty much only require that I don’t feel at risk of dying, either from a lack of safety or a lack of cleanliness. Sadly, this particular motel did not meet either of those standards.
After paying a shocking $80 for this motel room, and noting that I missed the $20 rooms of Valdosta, Georgia, we settled in and ordered a pizza, as we hadn’t eaten since before the show. We were greeted by some random guy walking in to our room at roughly 2 a.m., as our “pretty nice” motel failed to have even a functioning lock on the door.
The next day, we made it back to the garage, and after busting out some of my rarely-used French skills, got some new tires and made it back home. I wound up missing my trip that day, not arriving home until late in the afternoon. My parents reminded me that I was lucky to have avoided serious injury, but that did very little to alleviate my anger — or Zack’s, whose brand new car was the biggest victim of all in the whole situation.