"The Trip That Almost Wasn't"

Recently, I had the opportunity to throw in the most prestigious Open Dart tournament in the world, the Nalley Golden Harvest Tournament, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. This tournament boasts the largest payout for an Open Tournament in the world. The total purse of $402,500 CDN (about $252,000 US), the Ladies' winner receiving $25,000 CDN ($15,600 US), the Men's winner receiving $50,000 CDN ($31,200 US), and points from the Professional Darts Corporation. Because of this, most of the professional darters from around the world were in attendance as well as some of the top shooters in Canada and the United States. As you can see, this was not a chump change tournament.

As I was waiting in the terminal for my flight to board, I mentally figured out what time I would be settled in the hotel room. My flight to Saskatoon was scheduled to arrive at 12:46 Mountain Time, 1 hour behind Central Time where Montgomery, Alabama is located. I estimated about 15 minutes to get off the plane, 15 minutes to pick up my luggage, 15 minutes to clear customs, 30 minutes to get to the hotel, and 15 minutes to check in the hotel and register for the tournament, which I must do before 6:00pm. That would put the time at 2:00pm. I believed that I would have enough time to unpack, take a nap, shower, and grab a bite to eat before I got ready for the tournament at 7:00pm. There I go thinking again...

6:10am - Central Time - My flight leaves from Montgomery and heads towards Memphis, Tennessee.

7:30am - My flight arrives in Memphis. No problems so far.

8:40am - The flight leaves for Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota on time.

11:00am - The flight arrives in Minneapolis/St. Paul about 10 minutes late. My flight to Saskatoon is scheduled to leave at 11:25am and the gate is at the other end of the airport. Time to hustle.

11:20am - I arrive at the gate, out of breath. When I get there, all of us passengers were informed that there was a mechanical problem with the plane and the flight would be delayed until 12:30pm. I quickly recalculated the arrival time. I still have plenty of time to do everything that I had planned on.

12:20pm - We start boarding the plane for Saskatoon.

12:40pm - After 20 minutes of wondering if the plane would ever take off, an announcement from the Captain made my doubt grow. He informed us that there was a problem with the battery cable and it must be replaced. That procedure, he stated, would take 40 minutes. Again with the time table calculations. Forget the nap, I can sleep on the plane

1:00pm - The cable has been replaced and we are now getting ready to taxi down the runway. I say a short prayer hoping the mechanics did a good job.

2:40pm - Mountain Time - The plane lands in Saskatoon. After a few minutes, we are at the gate, grabbing our carry on luggage and leaving the plane.

2:55pm - We form two lines in Immigrations. In the line I was in, the three dart players, including myself, were asked to wait in the Immigrations office. Great, I thought, another delay I wasn't planning on. When I got to the office, the Immigrations officer was conducting an interview with the first person. He was out in a couple of minutes. However, the second guy was in there for about 20 minutes. From the sound of the conversation, it was not going well for him at all.

3:20pm - The guy being interviewed was escorted by a couple of airport security officers. That was not a good sign. I was called in. I was asked some basic questions, was I ever convicted of a felony, where I lived since I was 18, etc. After a couple of minutes on the computer, the officer said I was cleared to enter the country and go pick up my luggage. Another hurdle cleared.

3:25pm - I was the last person to pick up my luggage, but there was one problem. There was no more to claim. That's right, my suitcase, with my darts and my clothes, is missing. It was about at that time that I was almost in a full stage of panic. One of the airport workers asked what was wrong. I told her my luggage is missing. I spent 15 minutes filling out a missing claim form, not knowing the address or the telephone number of the hotel I was staying at (that information was in the missing luggage). At about that time, an employee came walking into the luggage room with my suitcase. What happened was someone thought it was their bag and went to Customs with it. When they realized it wasn't theirs, they just dropped it where they stood. Moron.

3:45pm - I take my luggage and head to Customs. I thought that since I didn't have anything to declare, I would be done fairly quickly. I should have learned by now that I should not do any thinking. There were two Customs Agents there. One of them was arguing with someone about the duty on the six packs of chewing tobacco that he is bringing into the country. The other one was in deep debate with an individual about the $50 registration fee for the shotgun that he brought with him to a hunting tournament. At this point, I sat down, put my head in my hands, wondering if this entire hassle was going to be worth it.

4:00pm - It's my turn at the Customs counter. Both agents are not in a good mood at this moment in time. I give one of them my passport and my customs form and both of them proceed to open my luggage and unpack, going so far as to empty the contents of my dart case. After completely unpacking my luggage, the agents said that I indeed have nothing to declare, stamped my customs form, and said I was good to go. As they left the room, with the contents of my luggage strewn all over the counter, one of them says, 'Have a nice day'. Yeah...right.

4:20pm - I finally get all my stuff back in my luggage. I can forget about eating and I might have time for a quick shower. I follow the labyrinth towards the exit, wondering what else is in store for me. As I rounded the last corner, I saw a sight I thought I would never see, the terminal lobby with the exit outside. Ah, yes...freedom.

4:25pm - I hail a cab and head towards the hotel trying to relax on the way.

4:50pm - I arrive at the hotel. I enter and check in. I ask where the registration for the tournament was being held. They told me that they left at 4:00 and I would need to register there. The shuttle bus schedule was posted near the counter. The shuttle left on the hour and the half-hour and it took 20 minutes to get to the venue. There was no way I was going to make the 5:00pm shuttle, so the 5:30 shuttle was the best I could do. I hope nothing else goes wrong.

5:28pm - I make it downstairs to the shuttle stop after changing clothes, washing up a bit, and finding my darts and supplies. The bus leaves on time. This is the last leg of the trip. I'm worried right now because with all of the events that have happened already, it wouldn't surprise me if I didn't make it on time.

5:48pm - After the longest 20 minutes of my life, the shuttle bus arrives at the Prairie Exhibition Center, which is the venue for the tournament. After following the gaggle of people into the venue, I saw row after row of dartboards. This must be the place. I find the registration counter.

5:52pm - I get my name checked off the list. I am officially registered for the tournament. Finally, I get to the business at hand in throwing in the blind draw that starts at 7:00pm.

6:10pm - At this time, I've had a double Jack Daniels and about half of the beer. After looking back on the events of the day, I just had to let loose a nice long laugh. Of course, the people sitting around my table thought that I had a couple of screws loose. But if they knew what I just went through...

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