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Road Trip! ...and Other Unexpected Surprises

I’ve just arrived back home from an incredibly memorable weekend laser tagging back and forth between Kansas and Missouri over the last several days. I’ll have plenty to share very soon about the entire trip and all the sites that I visited, but until I get a chance to write up all my adventures let me just give you a quick overview of some of the highlights and surprises that were part of my most recent round of tag travels.

This trip certainly had a few unexpected turns! I had spent the early part of the week covering the ECT event in Syracuse and talking with the players about why they choose to travel for laser tag tournaments, but on Thursday I was getting ready to begin my own travels to play laser tag out in the midwest. Unfortunately, weather was not on our side and on that particular day none of us were going to be able go anywhere, at least not by plane. I ran into three of the ECT players at the airport as we all navigated around the challenges of our flights being cancelled. We actually were all scheduled to be on the same cancelled flight to Chicago. They were trying to make a connection there to get back home to Sacramento and I was trying to get myself out to Topeka, KS in time to play in the first ever Laser Trooper Valentine’s Day Massacre Tournament, which was set to take place on Friday afternoon. However, a snowstorm in that part of the country prevented any flights from leaving that day. We went our separate ways in the airport after speaking to the airline representative and I hope they were able to get where they needed to go, but as for me, I had a decision to make. It looked highly unlikely that I would be able to get on any flight that would result in my getting to Topeka on time. I could take my chances and wait in hopes of being re-routed the next day, but that would be a bit of a gamble and it looked like chances were slim that I would get there prior to the event. All that was certain was that there was no flight available that would allow me to fly west that same day. So, I took stock of my options and made the decision to rent a car instead and just drive to Topeka…ROAD TRIP!

Of course, Topeka is about halfway across the country and an eighteen-hour road trip in total. I did the calculations and realized that if I didn’t commit to that decision right then and drive all night there was no way I could make it there by the following afternoon. So, I took the plunge, rented a Jeep Cherokee (a very solid vehicle in case I was about to drive right into that snowstorm) and began driving. I drove for a solid twelve hours on Thursday and stopped at a hotel when I got too tired to go any further. Then the next day I was up bright and early making the remainder of the trip. With less than an hour to spare before the start of the tournament I arrived at the Laser Trooper site in the West Ridge Mall in Topeka, KS.

I’ll fill in all the details from that event in a separate post, but that was the beginning of an amazing weekend that included playing at eight more laser tag sites, a nice visit with friends and the chance to play in two fun, local competitive events. The second of these was a charity laser tag tournament in Missouri raising funds for the Whitney Kate Wells Memorial Foundation in honor of a young girl who had recently lost her battle with a rare form of cancer. For those who don’t know, my brother passed on from cancer so this is something I care about deeply and I have been involved with several laser tag fundraiser tournaments that have raised money for similar causes. I commend them for putting on an excellent event and raising around $1000 in support of the Fight for Whitney. I’ll also post in more detail about this event as soon as I have a chance to organize all my thoughts, photos and memories from this weekend.

When all of my adventures were over (almost) I got the very last seat on a plane bound for Charlotte, NC where I was going to have to make a connecting flight back to Syracuse. However, my flight was delayed by about an hour with us just sitting there on the runway. I thought I was sure to miss the connection, but by an absolute miracle the Syracuse flight was delayed by ten minutes. This was EXACTLY enough time for me to exit the first plane and rush across the terminal as they were just finishing boarding the last of the passengers. I got there with absolutely no time to spare, but in just the nick of time I boarded the flight that got me back home. Whew!

As the plane took off, I sat there contemplating how many wonderful experiences I had this weekend. I got to play Laser Trooper at the only current location in the U.S. where this system is used. I experienced some unique arenas ranging from a ninja turtles themed design to one of the most amazing mazes ever (and even a few that gave me a sense of déjà vu). And one of the very best parts of the trip was being able to play Helios with such an enthusiastic group of players that really reminded me of my early days playing laser tag. Let me just say that the highest compliment I can give is that playing at this site with these guys felt a lot like playing Zone at FJ back in the day. It might have been my first time visiting this particular arena, but the experience really brought back some great memories! As I think back on all the tag sites I got to play in between, this was a full and fulfilling journey. I’m so glad that I made the right decision. It was absolutely worth making the long drive at the beginning of the trip in order to be able to experience all that I did along the way. I’ll be posting the complete stories of all these adventures very soon, but for now let me give a big thanks to everyone who was involved with making this such an amazing weekend for me to enjoy so much great laser tag in Kansas and Missouri.

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