by Tracy Lee, combatlifestyle.com
Hilo, HI. Day 1.
The story of my trip to Hilo actually starts a day earlier than the day I got on the plane. I had booked my flight out of the Orange County airport for multiple reasons. One being that truthfully, it was a couple hundred bucks cheaper than flying out of Las Vegas. Another reason was because after my Hawaii trip, I have many other things planned that involve being in LA (including getting my driver's license renewed!! I like my CA status). Third reason is that I like going on adventures and I consider the next few weeks to be a HUGE adventure, as you will see the story soon unfold.
So, Sunday evening, I got on the road to LA. I made a quick stop in Rancho Cucamonga where I met up with Gabriel Ruediger and his girlfriend Kim. They were eating at Olive Garden so I grabbed a salad and some bread sticks.. Yum! I feel like Olive Garden seems to be an unspoken fighter staple as I have been there three times in the last month with fighters; once in Albuquerque, once in Seattle, and now once in SoCal. Gabe had recently had neck surgery and was trying to take it easy in his recovery, but from what I'm hearing- hasn't been doing too good of a job. His inch and a half long scar was horizontally place in the middle of his neck. I was surprised by that but he quickly explained that they can't operate from the back because of the spinal cord. Duh, that makes sense; I felt a little dumb, lol.. He and Kim had their new puppy out in the car. A beautiful blue nose pit that totally fell in love with me (ok, maybe it was the other way around) out in the parking lot that late Sunday Night.
I kept on my way to Huntington Beach where I stayed the night at my friend Ken Pavia's house. I got there sometime after 12 and tried to get some work done as he watched tivo'd episodes of Lost. I think it became real apparent to me that this is why I never watch TV. My ADD kept pulling me away from the work in from of me and to the plasma hanging on the wall. Somewhere around 2:30 am (way earlier than my normal bedtime of 5am) I realized that I had hit a wall and that it was time to call it a night. I had a flight early in the AM and was going to be gone for a week!! Exhausted, I crashed out by 2:30am and set the alarm for 7am.
7:30 am, and I had been hitting the snooze over and over. I realized what I had done and leaped out of bed, ran down the hall to wake ken up, then dragged him out the door. He dropped me at Orange County Airport by 8am. My destination? Hilo, HI to hang with Urijah Faber, Joe Lauzon, and BJ Penn.. All three have upcoming fights; Joe is staying until thursday and Urijah til Monday. Yay! I grabbed some food at the airport and waited patiently (actually impatiently) for my flight. As we were waiting for the flight to take off, I sent out a number of text messages that went something like: "I'm on a flight to Hilo! Whoooo Hooo!!" My Cheshire cat smile was pasted from ear to ear.
Somehow, my seat was assigned on a row between the rows of the 2 rowdiest groups on the plane. The next 6 hours was entertainment as they depleted the vodka supply on the plane. I was on aloha airlines and had never flown them before so was pleasantly suprised by how much service they provided. We had croissant, egg, and cheese sandwiches, drinks served multiple times, and dessert was hot, fresh chocolate chip cookies and milk. Wow! There was a movie on the plane that I didn't care to watch, and tried to get some work done until the battery died on my lap top.. The guy across the aisle from me had a battery that lasted the entire flight. I was jealous! We finally landed in Honolulu at 12:10pm, Hawaii time.
I spent the time in the airport waiting for the final leg of my trip to Hilo charging the battery on my laptop. It wasn't long before I was boarding the small interisland flight that would take me to the tropical home of BJ Penn. I checked the messages on my phone, and returned a message from Joe.. "I'm on the plane! Be there in 45 minutes!"
When we landed, I went to the baggage claim before I called Hoyt Gracie to come pick me up. Hoyt helps BJ run his website and is his personal assistant. I figured that would give me enough time to get out of my mainland kick it clothes and into my island kick it clothes. I threw on some board shorts and a wifebeater as I was waiting for him to arrive. I somehow forgot about Hawaiian time, and realized that I had to get myself in tune with it. It was another 15 minutes till he showed up, and the house was only 5 minutes away. I didn't care though, I just landed in paradise and there was nothing that could upset me at this point!
Hoyt had a guy named Leroy with him and they had an agenda to go check out a piece of property. I happily went along and peered out the window as Hilo rushed by. Hilo is an interesting mix of urban areas with strip malls and traffic cogestion to dirt roads and lush foilage where having a 4x4 is key. We drove up a dirt road and turned into a driveway of black lava rock to a property where a huge, yellow, bulldozer decorated the large parcel of land behind the house. As Leroy spoke to his friend there, I walked over to the fence of the neighbors yard with Hoyt and took pictures of the goat that I affectionately dubbed, Bob. Leroy's friend yelled to us from across the yard about that particular goats tendency to jump the fence and piss on people. Luckily being urinated on by a goat is not a part of my blog from yesterday.
We dropped Leroy off and went to grab some food at a roadside joint called Verna's. I figured I would eat a bit healthy and ordered Korean chicken, rice, and macaroni salad. When my food arrived, I was shocked to see deep fried chicken wings on my plate. At that point I was so hungry, I didn't even care. Hoyt sat down at the table with 2 plates of food; one held a club sandwich and white rice covered in gravy, and the other held a mana burger (a grilled cheese sandwich with teriyaki burger and a fried egg) and french fries. We cleaned the plates; licked them clean, literally. I felt somewhat guilty because the next stop was BJ's gym.
We arrived at the gym within 5 minutes. Everything was so close to everything else here. The upstairs portion of the gym looks like a normal gym treadmills, bikes, and nautilus equipment. We walked in at 5 minutes to 5 and headed downstairs to the mma gym; Just in time to catch the impromptu smoker that was about to start. 3 five minute rounds between two of the guys that train there in the gym. I'm surprised that the fight even made it past the first round. I think everyone just wanted to see it go another round, so the ref didn't step in and everyone just cheered from outside of the cage. The ref finally calmly tapped the fighter that was on top on the shoulder and stopped the fight as the fighter on the bottom had stopped defending himself as soon as his back hit the canvas.
Then training started and the gym was packed with people. All the Penn boys were there; Bj, JD, Jay, and Regan. Their mom was even there as well! Many fighters were getting ready for upcoming fights, including Joe Lauzon who was the main focus of the training in the cage. They were running 5 one minute rounds; alternating stand up and groundwork. Urijah Faber was also running a similar training, but was alternating muay thai into the rounds. BJ was running this section of the training and Jay was running the gi jujitsu class in the other rooom.
After the gym, we went back to BJs house where I got myself settled into the spare bedroom. I wandered around the house shooting photos. We waited for Hoyt to bring some more people back from the airport and turns out that "more people" meant Scotty, Danny, and Leif from On The Mat. We all piled in the truck and headed to Cafe Pesto for dinner. BJ, ate a chicken bowl with rice at his house and stayed in for the evening with his girlfriend.
Cafe Pesto was located minutes away from the house. They served all kinds of vegan and organic dishes. The selection was so big, I had a hard time deciding what to order; I finally settled on the shrimp and scallops meal. We also tried the calamari, the crab cakes, and the ahi salad as appetizers. A couple of the guys, including Joe, chose the Mango Chicken, while a few of the others opted for the Fresh Catch special of the day. Joe has the closest fight date of any of the guys so I was concered about his diet. He said that he is walking right now at 170, so he wasn't dieting hard- just eating clean. With our tummies full, we went back to the house a I quickly passed out to sleep..