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My 3-hour tour

It had been about 12 years, I figured. Twelve years since I last rode in a yellow submarine. The last time I rode in a school bus was in 1996 for a basketball game in Alexandria, Minn.

Well, all that changed Saturday. I had the privilege of riding with the Solon Springs Eagles baseball team to their game against the Northwood Evergreens at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

I thought it might be fun to take some notes about my first school bus ride in 12 years.

11:45 a.m. -- I arrive at the Solon Springs School, go inside to find head coach Nate Ahlberg and am surprised to see a choir and band competition is going on.

12:17 p.m. -- We board the bus, 13 players, two coaches and a few extra fans that tagged along. I climbed up the steps and didn't get through my first before being reminded that I can't stand up straight on a school bus. So after what could have been a small concussion, I find my seat behind Coach Ahlberg.

12:21 p.m. -- We leave the school.

12:36 p.m. -- We pass Northwood School.

12:56 p.m. -- Somewhere between Minong and Danbury, I realize that in 12 years, there have been no major breakthroughs in bus shocks. I'm starting to not feel so good.

2:24 p.m. -- Much to my dismay, I discover the king-size Snickers bar in my jacket pocket has completely melted. I open it to find a gooey mess that isn't even in bar form. I eat it anyway. A stocking cap in my camera bag is substituted for napkins.

3:01 p.m. -- The Metrodome comes into view. We're a little early so we hit a nearby gas station to grab a snack and waste a little time. I got a two piece chicken meal with mashed potatoes -- from a gas station. Bad choice.

3:51 p.m. -- We get into the Minnesota Vikings locker room. By the way, I snuck in with the team. They've got only a couple minutes to change and get on the field. On our way to the locker room, we walk past Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau in the underbelly of the Dome. Following instructions given to us by a worker upstairs, the Solon guy's eyes light up, but no one talks to the Twins players.

4:03 p.m. -- The Eagles hit the field for warm ups. I enter the dugout to look around. The Twins had played Kansas City, and we were in what only a little while earlier was the Royals' dugout. I walk to a back area and come across a big garbage can, so I look in it. Much to my delight, I find a broken bat from Royals second baseman Alberto Callaspo, who, by the way, got a hit, RBI and scored a run in the game earlier that day. I rescue the bat from the garbage and put it in a bag.

4:22 p.m. -- I notice there are tons of bags of sunflower seed all over the dugout, all of them open but hardly any seeds gone. I join the team putting a handful of spits in my mouth.

4:38 p.m. -- Coach Ahlberg meets with the umpires and Northwood head coach Brian Olson for pregame instruction.

4:41 p.m. Play ball!

5:23 p.m. Northwood gets on the scoreboard first with a walk and a two-run single, going up 3-0.

5:34 p.m. -- Solon Springs gets on the board trailing 6-1.

6:11 p.m. -- Game over. Northwood wins 15-2. But no one leaves, since they have the field reserved until 7:30 p.m. The coaches decide to play some extra baseball, giving the guys that didn't play a chance to play in the Dome.

7:29 p.m. -- Teams shake hands. Games are over. Kids start collecting equipment and head toward the locker room. As I walked with coach Ahlberg and Northwood Assistant Coach Paul Vaara, a worker from the Dome informed them it would be an extra $50 if anyone wanted to use the showers. The coaches kind of chuckled and Coach Ahlberg said none of his guys would be showering. The coaches then discussed if the worker was serious or not.

7:36 p.m. -- The coaches get into the locker room and discover several Northwood players are already in the showers. "Showers are on us," Coach Vaara shouted out to the Solon Springs players.

Both teams shared the Vikings locker room and since the Evergreen players were already showering up, it was too late to stop them. All the coaches shared a good laugh about it.

7:46 p.m. -- We leave the Metrodome. With the 35W bridge out of commission, the path for our return trip is still up for debate.

8:58 p.m. -- After some confusion (a trip past Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport), we stop in Forest Lake to eat some dinner, just as the bus from Northwood, which left the Dome after us, was just leaving after eating. I walked with Ahlberg to Arby's, while others ran to McDonald's and others to Taco Bell.

10:12 p.m. -- We turn off Interstate 35 toward Grantsburg and I realize what I had originally thought was lightning was actually the flasher on the top of our bus.

11:43 p.m. -- We return to Solon Springs. My inner thighs burn when I stand up due to my more than three-hour-long low-intensity groin stretch. In order for me to face forward in a school bus I have to spread my legs far apart. Bus seats were not set up for 6-foot-5 man.

2:45 a.m. -- After bringing the equipment into the school and a long talk with Ahlberg in the Solon Springs parking lot, I finally make it back to my apartment in Superior and lay down.

Although it was a great trip to the Metrodome, I don't see myself riding in a school bus anytime soon. Cars, vans, or even coach buses will be fine for me in the foreseeable future. I need time for the bump on my head to go down.

Jed Carlson is the Daily Telegram photographer. Call him at (715) 395-5024 or e-mail jcarlson@superiortelegram.com.

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