Hendrix basketball teams stranded on bus for 14 hours on I-30

When Hendrix’s basketball teams played Trinity on Saturday in San Antonio (normally one of the glamor trips in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference), little did they realize they would bus back seemingly right into an episode of “Gilligan’s Island.”

The return trip to Conway took the Hendrix athletes and coaches more than 31 hours. And 14 hours of that was at a standstill on their charter bus on I-30, about 10 miles west of Malvern, among the hundreds of travelers stranded in a massive traffic jam because of snow and ice and jacknifed vehicles.

So, for the men’s and women’s teams, traveling on the same large charter bus, this became an adventure and test of patience that included an impromptu movie night, lots of sleep, a rescue of a motorist and learning to eat MRE’s delivered by the National Guard.

Danny Powell, Hendrix’s director of athletics, says he got a text from men’s coach Thad McCraken at 11:11 p.m. Sunday night saying, “Just waiting. In a couple more hours, we should be moving.”

“Then, I was eating breakfast Monday morning and a text popped up saying, ‘We’re still here; we haven’t moved,’” Powell said. “It was one of those ‘you’ve got to be kidding me moments.’ I expected them to be home. I later got a text that said, ‘We’re moving now. Where to, I don’t know. But we’re moving.’”

The team left San Antonio about 7 a.m. Sunday and ate lunch and the bus filled up with gas in the Dallas area.

“I knew the forecast called from some bad weather, so I told Thad and Emily (Cummins, women’s coach) to be careful and if they had to stop somewhere to do what they had to do,” Powell said.

“When we left San Antonio, it was raining,” McCracken said. “Then, outside of Dallas, we hit sleet. We were moving but moving slowly. Then, it started snowing and the snow got heavier as we moved along. Then, just outside of Malvern, traffic was at a standstill. We stopped and we didn’t move at all for 12 hours. Then, we moved about 20 miles and stopped again for another two hours.”

The Hendrix players and coaches had some advantages in their large charter bus over some motorists who were stranded.

“The bathroom on the bus was a lifesaver,” McCracken said. “We had heat. There were video screens where we could watch movies. We filled up in Dallas so running out of fuel was never an issue. The bus was big enough for people to move around. Mostly, the kids slept.”

“I’ve discovered that college students can sleep anywhere, anytime,” Powell said. “School was not in session so missing class wasn’t an issue.”

The players and coaches spent much of their waking time watching movies.

“We alternated,” McCracken said. “The men’s team would pick out a movie, then the women’s team would pick one.”

The favorites?

“The guys liked the old ‘Rocky’ movies; the girls went for newer movies with Will Ferrell and Tom Cruise,” McCracken said.

The most challenging moments, McCracken said, came when almost everyone woke up about 6 a.m. Monday — with an appetite.

“We had eaten lunch Sunday in Dallas, so we thought we would be home before we needed to eat again,” McCracken said. “We had water and Gatorade on the bus and some of the parents had given us some snacks for the trip back so that got us by Sunday night. But by Monday, we had no food or anything to drink, and everyone was hungry.”

That’s when the National Guard, called out specifically to help stranded motorists along the interstate with water, food and blankets, came to the rescue.

“(Hendrix player) Nick Heathscott’s uncle does PR for the National Guard and we knew they were out trying to help,” McCracken said. “I was on my phone talking to Nick’s dad Monday morning, trying to describe to him our location, when a couple of Humvees came up with the Guardsmen supplying food and water. We all said ‘God bless the National Guard.’”

Meals were MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) used by the military on deployment and missions.

“The guys were OK with them,” McCracken said. “Basically, the guys figured that if those men who serve our country were eating them, then we could eat them, too. The girls were more hesitant, but we figured if they got hungry enough they would eat.”

While the team was on the bus, they saw a woman and her daughter in a suburban vehicle slide off the road onto the median.

“We weren’t doing anything, so I felt we needed to do our good deed for the day,” McCracken said.

He and assistant Drew Gaeng tried to push the stranded motorist back on the road. When they had difficulty, they called for more muscle. Three of the Warriors’ biggest players, Heathscott, Josh Graham and Dayton Sheridan, came out and got the vehicle back on the interstate.

“They told me that was their workout for the day,” McCracken said.

“And the hero of the day was our bus driver (for Mountain Home Charter) who was calm and kept us all with a good attitude,” McCracken said. “And the players were great. We’re trying to teach how you can only control the things you can control and you have to work through adversity in games and life. This was a good lesson.”

The team arrived in Conway slightly after 1 p.m. Monday.

Normally, during the Christmas break, various members of the Hendrix staff and businesses and churches feed the athletes who have to return to campus early to resume their schedule.

Dr. Karla Carney-Hall, vice president for student affairs, was supposed to feed the men’s team when it returned Sunday night. After the delay, she and Powell helped serve a meal on campus Monday night to both the men and women.

“She made it a fun time because she had gone out and bought some gag gifts to commemorate certain aspects of the trip like who liked the MRE’s the best,” Powell said.

“We tried to end this with a positive spin,” McCracken said. “I think it was real bonding time for all of us. When they get together, the players will talk about this for years. And I’m sure the stories will be funnier as the years go by.”

Thursday, the teams board a charter for their longest trip of the conference season — to Centre College in Danville, Ky., and DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.

“The players told us Monday they might as stayed on the bus,” Powell said.

Just more bonding time.

“But they’re used to that kind of thing in the Midwest,” said McCracken, who is from Indiana. “We knew the weather forecast but we thought it would be like usual in Conway with the ground covered and the roads fairly clear. And usually, it doesn’t snow that much in south Arkansas. We didn’t think traffic would be at a standstill from Malvern to Texarkana and the interstate would be closed.”When Hendrix’s basketball teams played Trinity on Saturday in San Antonio (normally one of the glamor trips in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference), little did they realize they would bus back seemingly right into an episode of “Gilligan’s Island.”

The return trip to Conway took the Hendrix athletes and coaches more than 31 hours. And 14 hours of that was at a standstill on their charter bus on I-30, about 10 miles west of Malvern, among the hundreds of travelers stranded in a massive traffic jam because of snow and ice and jacknifed vehicles.

So, for the men’s and women’s teams, traveling on the same large charter bus, this became an adventure and test of patience that included an impromptu movie night, lots of sleep, a rescue of a motorist and learning to eat MRE’s delivered by the National Guard.

Danny Powell, Hendrix’s director of athletics, says he got a text from men’s coach Thad McCraken at 11:11 p.m Sunday night saying, “Just waiting. In a couple more hours, we should be moving.”

“Then, I was eating breakfast Monday morning and a text popped up saying, ‘We’re still here; we haven’t moved,’” Powell said. “It was one of those ‘You’ve got to be kidding me moments.’ I expected them to be home. I later got a text that said, 'We’re moving now. Where to, I don’t know. But we’re moving.’”

The team left San Antonio about 7 a.m Sunday and ate lunch and the bus filled up with gas in the Dallas area.

“I knew the forecast called from some bad weather, so I told Thad and Emily (Cummins, women’s coach) to be careful and if they had to stop somewhere to do what they had to do,” Powell said.

“When we left San Antonio, it was raining,” McCracken said. “Then, outside of Dallas, we hit sleet. We were moving but moving slowly. Then, it started snowing and the snow got heavier as we moved along. Then, just outside of Malvern, traffic was at a standstill. We stopped, and we didn’t move at all for 12 hours. Then, we moved about 20 miles and stopped again for another two hours.”

The Hendrix players and coaches had some advantages in their large charter bus over some motorists who were stranded.

“The bathroom on the bus was a lifesaver,” McCracken said. “We had heat. There were video screens where we could watch movies. We filled up in Dallas so running out of fuel was never an issue. The bus was big enough for people to move around. Mostly, the kids slept.”

“I’ve discovered that college students can sleep anywhere, anytime,” Powell said. “School was not in session, so missing class wasn’t an issue.”

The players and coaches spent much of their waking time watching movies.

“We alternated,” McCracken said. “The men’s team would pick out a movie, then the women’s team would pick one.”

The favorites?

“The guys liked the old ‘Rocky’ movies; the girls went for newer movies with Will Ferrell and Tom Cruise,” McCracken said.

The most challenging moments, McCracken said, came when almost everyone woke up about 6 a.m. Monday — with an appetite.

“We had eaten lunch Sunday in Dallas, so we thought we would be home before we needed to eat again,” McCracken said. “We had water and Gatorade on the bus, and some of the parents had given us some snacks for the trip back, so that got us by Sunday night. But by Monday, we had no food or anything to drink, and everyone was hungry.”

That’s when the National Guard, called out specifically to help stranded motorists along the interstate with water, food and blankets, came to the rescue.

“(Hendrix player) Nick Heathscott’s uncle does PR for the National Guard, and we knew they were out trying to help,” McCracken said. “I was on my phone talking to Nick’s dad Monday morning, trying to describe to him our location, when a couple of Humvees came up with the Guardsmen supplying food and water. We all said ‘God bless the National Guard.’”

Meals were MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) used by the military on deployment and missions.

“The guys were OK with them,” McCracken said. “Basically, the guys figured that if those men who serve our country were eating them, then we could eat them too. The girls were more hesitant, but we figured if they got hungry enough they would eat.”

While the team was on the bus, they saw a woman and her daughter in a suburban vehicle slide off the road onto the median.

“We weren’t doing anything, so I felt we needed to do our good deed for the day,” said McCracken.

He and assistant Drew Gaeng tried to push the stranded motorist back on the road. When they had difficulty, they called for more muscle. Three of the Warriors’ biggest players, Heathscott, Josh Graham and Dayton Sheridan, came out and got the vehicle back on the interstate.

“They told me that was their workout for the day,” McCracken said.

“And the hero of the day was our bus driver (for Mountain Home Charter) who was calm and kept us all with a good attitude,” McCracken said. “And the players were great. We’re trying to teach how you can only control the things you can control and you have to work through adversity in games and life. This was a good lesson.”

The team arrived in Conway slightly after 1 p.m. Monday.

Normally, during the Christmas break, various members of the Hendrix staff and businesses and churches feed the athletes who have to return to campus early to resume their schedule.

Dr. Karla Carney-Hall, vice president for student affairs, was supposed to feed the men’s team when it returned Sunday night. After the delay, she and Powell helped serve a meal on campus Monday night to both the men and women.

“She made it a fun time because she had gone out and bought some gag gifts to commemorate certain aspects of the trip like who liked the MRE’s the best,” Powell said.

“We tried to end this with a positive spin,” McCracken said. “I think it was real bonding time for all of us. When they get together, the players will talk about this for years. And I’m sure the stories will be funnier as the year go by.”

Thursday, the teams board a charter for their longest trip of the conference season — to Centre College in Danville, Ky., and DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.

“The players told us Monday they might as well stayed on the bus,” Powell said.

Just more bonding time.

“But they’re used to that kind of thing in the Midwest,” said McCracken, who is from Indiana. “We knew the weather forecast, but we thought it would be like usual in Conway with the ground covered and the roads fairly clear. And usually, it doesn’t snow that much in south Arkansas. We didn’t think traffic would be at a standstill from Malvern to Texarkana and the interstate would be closed.”

 

 

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