Tuesday, January 16, 2018

EuroBall Adventure XII Kicks Off at Last

Mon.-Tues., 15-16 January, 2018

Finally, after months of waiting and planning, it was time to begin our newest adventure coaching American football in Europe with Italy's Varese Skorpions.

This would be my tenth tour of duty on the Continent with previous stops in Sweden (three times), Italy (two times), Spain (twice), Switzerland and France.

Add in our two Europe Warriors all-star games in Mexico this past August and December and it makes an even dozen extensions of my coaching career thanks to EuroBall and a whole bunch of friends that I have met overseas in these first ten years of quiet, sedate retired life.

As always, Laurie has been a rock during the preparation and I already am counting the days until she too arrives in Italy's Lombardy region later this Spring.

So let's start our look at what would be a long day.

Some final packing and re-arranging of gear filled the morning followed by one last Mexican cuisine lunch at Camarillo's landmark El Tecolote Restaurant.

Laurie drove me to LAX on a traffic light Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday evening.

Check in with Polish Airlines
was smooth and efficient

I was flying economy class as usual.

We had to do one final juggling act once we weighed my check-in bag (23 kilos max), carry-on bag (8 kilos max) and backpack (just an eyeball check by the attendant) before actually approaching the Polish Airlines ticket counter.

It is a good thing that the Skorpions' Barbara (part Medici/part Borgia in her powers) got me a work visa before I flew out!

For the first time ever for me at LAX, the tone of the questions at check-in left me no doubt that if I had not had the official Italian work visa in my passport, I would not have been allowed to start my five month journey.

Remember, you can only stay in the European Union countries for 90 days as a tourist without a special visa. After that you need the proper papers.

And I had them!

Grazie a lei, Barbara!

A kiss goodbye with Laurie and we sadly parted. It is funny how much you miss the ones you love as soon as you know that you will be apart for an extended time.

The TSA security check was a bit more hectic but not a problem really.

 Of course, LAX's Tom Bradley Center
has a Caviar and Champagne Bar

Due to the ease going through the initial hoops at LAX, I arrived at my gate about 2 1/2 hours before takeoff.

Time to start reading a new book.

A funny thing happened while I waited, an obvious prisoner with two armed guards loaded onto our flight about 30 minutes before the rest of us. One guard came back out and the other one stayed on board to accompany the prisoner to Warsaw. In Warsaw, the prisoner would exit last and there was another armed guard waiting on the jet ramp to escort him on whatever the next leg of his journey might be.

Or maybe he was one of Mr. Trump's DACA movements.

First Leg LAX to Warsaw, Poland
took off at 10:05 p.m. Monday

We started our 11 hour and 35 minute flight on time on a delightful, new Boeing 787 aircraft. 

The flight was only half full and I had all three seats in my section to myself to stretch out. I think that I have never slept so comfortably ever on one of these overseas flights. I had lots of leg room for once too.

I met Tim Morovick, a player for Poland's DI Wroclaw Panthers who is from Hemet, California on the flight also about to start a new season of EuroBall, his second with the Panthers and third overall.

Nice young man.

 Arrival at Warsaw's
Frédéric Chopin Airport

We arrived in Warsaw a little earlier than advertised and I had an hour and 30 minute layover before catching my last flight of the day.

I did have to go through a passport check and have myself and my carry-on luggage scanned again but the lines were quite short and efficient.

Milan passengers to the left,
traveling to Gdansk, go to the right

This final leg of my journey left on time from the gate at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday Warsaw time.

After de-icing the wings, it was -5° C, about 20°F, outside with a light dusting of snow on the ground, we were parked on the runway for about 30 minutes awaiting final clearance to take off on our two hour and ten minute flight to Milan.

 Finally, I was in my new home Italy
at Milan's Malpensa Airport

It was about 10:40 p.m. Milan time.

Would there be any Skorpions
at Malpensa to meet me?

Why yes indeed!

Coaches Giorgio and Pietro on the left and team President Enzo Petrillo with his wife and their children on the right.

I've got a new sweatshirt!

We drove about 25 minutes north to our team's practice facility in Varese. The Skorpions finished the evening's practice at 10:30 p.m. but some of the players stayed afterwards to dine and meet the new coach.

 Some of the Skorpions

 Great old school Skorpions logo

I came away from meeting the coaches and players with but one impression . . . HIGH ENERGY!

I have a feeling that we are going to do good things here with people who seem highly motivated to achieve greatness.

On to my new digs, the Villa Skorpion . . .

I am being housed in a two-story home that includes two bathrooms, a washing machine, two kitchens, a dining room and, count them . . .

 Not one . . .

 . . . not two . . .

. . . but THREE bedrooms!

This last one is the one that I will be using.

More importantly for when Laurie gets here . . .

. . . she has her always wanted
and this time HUGE bathtub

There were gifts when I arrived

After a short coaches meeting at Villa Skorpion, I got a much needed good night's rest .

Let the good times roll!

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