Traveling with the Rockets: Day one

August 9, 2011 | Features, UToday
By Brian DeBenedictis

The Toledo women’s basketball team and guests (40 people total, 27 affiliated with UT) departed from Lot 5 near Savage Arena at about 3:40 p.m. Sunday afternoon. There were approximately 30 family and friends in front of the Sullivan Athletic Complex to send the Rockets off on their trip to the Middle East.

The Rockets posed for a photo on their trip to the Middle East.

The Rockets posed for a photo on their trip to the Middle East.

Following the hour drive to the Detroit Metro Airport, the Rockets were greeted warmly by members of a Delta group check-in team. The check-in process went smooth (which is always a plus when traveling with such a large group), and after going through security, the group made its way to the gate.

The flight to Atlanta departed a little behind schedule, but it was less than a two-hour flight, which left the group plenty of time to catch something to eat before getting on the plane for Tel Aviv. Did you know that Tel Aviv’s founders named the city after something old and something new. “Tel” means an archeological mound, while “Aviv” is Hebrew for spring —just food for thought!

The group jumped on a tram to switch gates in Atlanta and proceeded to go through another security check-in before boarding the huge 777 (nine seats across and at least 60 rows).

The flight to the Middle East was not full (very clutch) and allowed us to spread out a little more for the almost 12-hour trip. Each seat on the plane had its own monitor and access to free movies, HBO, TV, music and games, which definitely helped pass the time.

With a dark cabin after takeoff, most people watched TV or slept (some better than others). It was a fairly comfortable ride! The flight crew served dinner around 1:30 a.m. (choices were pasta or baked chicken), a light snack at 4:30 a.m. (granola bar, turkey sandwich and banana) and breakfast at 8:30 a.m. (eggs, danish, fresh fruit and yogurt). As you can tell by my thorough description of all the food served on the flight, I was not one of the people that slept very well on the flight.

We finally touched down at approximately 5:28 p.m. at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport. Just to let you know, Israel is seven hours ahead of Toledo. Tel Aviv also is referred to as Israel’s commercial capital.

We then made our way to baggage claim and received all but one piece. Not to fear though, we were able to hunt down Athletic Trainer Sara Meserth’s equipment kit, which made everybody breathe a little easier. I guess on the trip over, a pair of scissors got loose and that raised a little bit of red flag with customs.

After corralling the final piece of luggage, the group was reunited with Naama Shafir, along with her mother, father and five younger siblings. The group then boarded the charter bus and headed to the Dan Panorama Hotel in downtown Tel Aviv; it overlooks the Mediterranean Sea.
We wrapped up the first day and a half with a nice buffet dinner in the hotel restaurant. It was a great spread that included four or five salads, fried chicken, baked chicken, fresh perch, red-skinned potatoes, rice, roasted vegetables and about 15 different desserts — love the desserts!

Following dinner, the group scattered and people went their own way following a long first day. Some went for a walk on the beach, some hung out in the hotel lobby, while others called it an early night.

That about wraps the first day of our trip. Tomorrow we leave bright and early for Jaffa to tour its historic landmarks, winding lanes, beautiful gardens, as well as tour Independence Hall and the Nachalat Binyamin Outdoor Mall.

Assistant Sports Information Director Brian DeBenedictis is chronicling the women’s basketball team’s trip to Israel.

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