(LEXINGTON, Ky.) – The Kentucky Basketball team’s performance during the first half of this regular season reads like the proverbial roller coaster. The Wildcats started off with an early season stumble to perennial powerhouse Kansas. Then John Calipari’s squad ran off a string of less-than-spectacular victories over a bevy of Popcorn States. A hard-fought victory at Rupp over a solid Virginia Tech team suddenly sent the team trending upward. Then a pre-Christmas trip to New Orleans and a disappointing loss to UCLA brought everything crashing back down to earth. A surprising 29-point blowout win over a Pitino-less Louisville team sent spirits skyrocketing again. Now a couple of muddled efforts into the conference portion of the schedule and everyone is wondering where indeed this team is headed. With Kentucky’s performance being all over the map, I’ve decided to spice things up and do a little traveling of my own.
I’ve heard it said that with modern commercial aviation, you’re now only two consecutive airline flights away from anywhere in the world. Whoever made up that saying has obviously never been to Southeast Asia. Because that’s where I’m headed–to Thailand specifically–and I’m totally convinced that no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t get there from Lexington, Kentucky.
You see, I’ve made this trip several times before. In the past, I’ve flown east over Europe, west over the Pacific, and even supposedly the shortest route over Alaska and Siberia. Every single time, the trip has been INTERMINABLE. There’s nothing like the deflation of traveling for sixteen hours to Narita Airport in Tokyo, only to realize that a seven-hour flight to Bangkok still awaits your already dehydrated and jet-lagged body. Remember also that this isn’t Coach Cal sacked out on a Sleep Outfitters mattress in his private Lear jet. This is John Huang flying basic economy on some low budget airline out of Korea.
So why am I doing this you ask—especially smack dab in the middle of basketball season? The answer is simple. My wife is from Thailand and this is a long-overdue trip for her to visit her family back home. Those of you who have been following along on my blog know that Kanisa has dealt with some serious health problems for the past several years. She also lost her mom recently, so this is a trip full of recovery, redemption, and closure for her. Sure, I’ll miss some games in Rupp Arena but the trade-off is that I get my beloved bride of 32 years back again. Plus, I’ll still be covering the Wildcats—only now it’ll probably be from some back-alley dive bar in Bangkok. I guarantee it’ll provide a totally different perspective from the standard write-ups you’ll see from your scribes sitting courtside.
The route for this trip includes the short hop from Lexington to Detroit in the standard puddle jumper before the transcontinental flight to Seoul. I consider myself a pretty seasoned flyer, having made numerous trips to China, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand in years past. I won’t think twice about flying out to California to meet my daughter for lunch and I’ve racked up enough frequent flyer miles to go to Mars and back. Still, I get a bit nervous when sitting in those metal tubes, especially on long international flights. The thought of a crying baby, the threat of deep vein thrombosis, or a wayward Kim Jong-Un missile is always a bit unsettling. But throw in a little turbulence, some bad airline food, and the seatmate with B.O. and you can certainly understand my edginess.
I should be 40,000 feet over Siberia when Kentucky tips off against Texas A&M next Tuesday night. I’m wondering if I’ll be able to dial up ESPN on my tablet, or if WI-FI will even be working and available on my flight. If not, I guess I’ll just have to wait to check my Twitter feed during my five-hour layover in Seoul before the final leg of my journey to nowhere. Should I happen to drop off the grid temporarily—no worries– just keep checking back and I’ll eventually resurface.
Trust me, I’m not abandoning the Wildcats. With the rejuvenated SEC, it’ll be one of the more challenging conference gauntlets in recent history. I hope you’ll stay tuned for my perspective from the other side of the globe—just a mere 8,853 miles from my usual seat on press row. Like I said, this should be interesting.
John Huang is a retired orthodontist and avid Kentucky Wildcat fan. He works as a columnist for Nolan Group Media and Bluegrass Sports Nation. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs for the latest in his travel adventures.