The Volley Trolley Tour

What started as Jack and Dave's volleyball Tour in '04 has grown into VolleyTrolley Enterprises. We play beach volleyball and cruise around in a 1983 Airstream RV. It ain't terrible.

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Location: Venice Beach, California, United States

Monday, July 16, 2007

Feeling Almost Elite

Our fourth match of the qualifier -- the one to get in -- was back in town on the Stadium Court. We played a team coached by the Tournament Director. Young, but big: 6'8" and 6'3". The first game we took handily but the second got close. They began using some of our gimmicks like hitting on two. We took it 21-19 and were in the Slovak Elite Tour 16-Team Main Draw. We were borderline professional athletes.

Saturday. Game One. Stadium Court, Piestany, Slovakia. With zero seeding points, we faced the #1 seed team in the country. They crushed us in the first game. We took the second, but fell in the third down the home stretch. We were in the loser's bracket which meant we'd be back in the car to the off-site courts. We didn't, or couldn't have known how much of a treat we were in for.

The Ranc (Ranch) was the site of the prior day's meeting. With three courts and the infrastructure for a restaurant, bar, and concert stage, the place has possibilities. But it's definitely in the middle of nowhere. Abandoned farm lands surrounded us. And for some reason, in this land-locked country, the place had something we hadn't felt in weeks: wind.

It wouldn't be humble to say that we'd have finished better had the whole thing been played out here, but we would have. Three of our next five matches were there, and if there ever was a great situation to be in, playing Slovaks in the wind, for money, with Jack Quinn would be it. We marched through the bracket, making our way back to the stadium in town.

One more win would put us in the final. We had watched our opponants playing earlier in the day with some swirley weather coming in. The 6'7" blocker looked tired and a little awkward. But the air was as still as it wasn't at the Ranch, and the tall guy found his second wind. We lost a close deciding third game to put us in the bronze medal match.

With the sun out, the bleachers full, cameras rolling and clicking from everywhere, the match began. Both teams were tired -- it was our fourth match of the day after playing several the prior two. With tiredness, our style of play became even more different than our Slovak opponants'. Shots, looping serves, lots of digs -- by the crowd's reaction, the match was an interesting one to watch. We won the first game, lost the second, and were down 12-13 in the third when one of our opponants went down with a cramped-up quad. Medical time out and a great buzz going through the crowd.

He recovered and play continued -- for about another thirty minutes. I had a swing for the match after a crazy rally and went for it with foolish gusto -- into the net. They had several match points -- we kept chipping off their big blocker and hitting away from the cramping defender. Alas, the ending didn't go our way. But at least the tournament did. It was perhaps the most exciting match I'd been a part of, as I told the crowd when handed the mike before the gold medal match. Then, with some cajoling from Jack, I led the crowd in singing the Slovak national anthem. I'd learned it in high school, and it seemed appropriate. It also seemed to surprise the crowd -- especially the announcer.

So all in all, the tournament worked out. And the announcer, Juray, put us up in his apartment in Bratislava the next two nights. We had essentially won a free week in Slovakia, the opportunity to demonstrate come California beach volleyball in Eastern Europe, and some fantastic memories. We paid the next day for two hours of Thai massage, but it was absolutely worth it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

An Irish Cell Phone Saga

I'm not wild about amusement park rides. They're usually fine, and sometimes great. I just don't go out of my way to go on them.

Part of the Bray Summer Fest is a collection of pretty good sized carnival rides. Since I was in Ireland, and since I know I normally dodge rides designed for amusement, I decided to try out the Cyclone Twister, or whatever it was called. Picture the Tea Cups. Raise them up about ten feet in the air. When the whole thing is spinning pretty good, have the floor holding all the tea cups start to tilt until it's pretty much sideways. It's a spinny ride.

That night I couldn't find my cell phone -- a really new LG thing that took decent pictures. I mentioned to Jack that it probably shot off while on that ride, and he assured me that the way centrifugul force works, the cell phone wouldn't go anywhere -- only back into it's own seat if anything. I went back to the ride and looked around for it. Nothing other than about 60 Euro cents.

Two days later, much of our group was walking past the ride and decided to get themselves sick. I kept to the sidelines, and mentioned to a couple of the high school Irish kids to be careful about putting their cell phones in their front jeans pockets. I had remembered the flip-down guard rail thing digging into my thighs the whole ride. It must have squirted my phone out like a watermelon seed.

Sure enough, one of the high school boys couldn't find his phone after the ride. We all started looking around -- I could again look for my phone under the pretense I was looking for his... We pretty much gave up and were standing around discussing dinner options when I suddenly felt the urge to duck.

After standing back up and feeling a little silly with the whole group staring at me, I saw what I saw: someone else's cell phone had shot off the ride -- from about 20 yards away -- and had flown right through the space my head had been in pre-duck. I might be without a cell phone, and stay away from the tea cups for a while...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Slovak Elite Tour

We weren't feeling so elite after a couple early losses in the Czech Republic. Such losses can make a team wonder why they're in Europe playing events for six weeks. Aside from one fluke win in Pnov (we were down 14-11 in the third) we were o-for-everything in the meaningful events of the past couple weeks.

Most countries guard their national tours from foreigners. Czech Republic had been a strong exception the past two weeks, and their organizers pulled some strings to get me and Jack into a Slovak Elite Tour event. It had been on our calendar, but without the personal assist, we probably couldn't have found the event, let alone properly signed up for it.

All we knew was that the event took place in Piestany. We took a remarkably inexpensive 2-hour train from Brno and began walking towards town to find a Slovak ATM.

There was a sand volleyball court in the town center alongside a river, but the slight drizzle kept it empty. We dodged the heavy rain in a Chinese restaurant, then set about looking for a tournament. We looked more closely at the court for any signage or players, but found nothing. A block away, Jack noticed some construction and said we were there. Good sized bleachers and a temporary court held together with railroad ties were being put up on a parking lot, AVP-style. The bleachers weren't quite as substantial, but they weren't small. Definitely bigger than we expected.

The tournament director was working and greeted us warmly. We were told to meet there the following morning for a ride to the Qualifier. We didn't have a place to stay yet, but there was plenty of daylight in which to look around. At least we knew we'd get a chance to compete.