21 day debate journey from Vermont to Missouri to Serbia to Slovenia and back to Vermont, January, 2003
| Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine | Part Ten |



We gathered at the debate office at about 7:30 AM to pack our two vans for the trip. Packing for such a trip is always important, because there are hundreds of files and thousands of pieces of paper the students need, and there is always the “left behind file” syndrome. Careful packing tends to avoid some of this.
We got into the van in fairly good cheer, but that might have been because some of those in the vans were still celebrating from the night before. But, our drivers were wide-awake and sober, and we pushed off on our great adventure.

The long drive is an interesting experience. The conversations are varied and interesting, people talk about and work on debate, listen to music, tell jokes, sing songs, share stories, and sometimes just sleep. The trip itself is an important bonding event for our team. We could fly to Kansas City, but it would cost more and fewer students could attend, so the students themselves prefer the driving to the flying on this trip.

We traveled south through Vermont, and we were, as usual, impressed by the views of the mountains and the lake in the morning sun. We stopped for some simple breakfast on the way, and then crossed over into New York. After the small roads of New York we get on the first of many interstate major highways and headed south for Albany. At Albany we turn west onto thee New York Thruway. We stopped along the way for a short lunch and then continued on. The secret is to keep moving, stopping only as necessary for gas, food, and smoking-potty breaks.

New York is a large state when you travel through it from East to West, so by the time we reached Buffalo the sun was setting. We proceeded on through a small portion of Pennsylvania and into Ohio. By this time I stopped driving and retreated to a back seat for some sleep as we turned south at Cleveland and headed towards Columbus, Ohio.

Apparently it started to snow a bit at this point but I kept on sleeping. I did notice the commentary about all of the cars and trucks that had slipped off the road and ended up buried in piles of snow but I kept sleeping. The snow continued to increase, and I had to wake up to watch it. We had decided to drive straight through before we encountered the snow. At times we stop outside of Columbus (half way to Kansas City) for some sleep at an inexpensive motel, but this time we had lots of drivers and lots of energy so we decided to push on to our goal without stopping. The vans had separated with the agreement that we would meet in Kansas City.

As the snow got thicker and more difficult to drive in I took the wheel again sometime after 4 AM. The snow got very bad as we crossed Indiana and came into southern Illinois. I almost pulled off the road to wait for the snow to subside, but after a stop at a truck refueling center to check weather details we decided to push on because it did not seem like it would get any better any time soon. Our speed went down as we approached St. Louis and I became fearful that we would encounter the double whammy of serious snow and rush hour as we went through St. Louis. That is exactly what we got.


The sun came up as we approached St. Louis and the traffic and the snow was troublesome, but now withy some sun it was easier to see where we were going. After we got just beyond St. Louis we stopped for breakfast at an American road trip tradition, a Waffle House. There are thousands of these 24-hour small restaurants scattered along the highways of the USA, and they serve quick and fairly inexpensive breakfast food. If you like foods that are white, yellow, or brown this is the restaurant for you, as almost everyone on the menu is one of these colors. After a Waffle House infusion and some coffee we proceeded to drive across Missouri. I called ahead to the hotel to make sure our rooms would be ready, because we would certainly be tired when we arrived. The snow eased up in Missouri and just before we got to Kansas City the snow cover vanished from the ground.

We arrived at our hotel in Liberty, Missouri at about 1 PM. The first tournament would be at William Jewell College in Liberty and the second could be at the University of Missouri Kansas City, not far from Liberty. It just seemed logical to stay at one hotel for both tournaments, and we especially like this one because there are many and diverse eating establishments as well as a liquor store and a Walmart right there. The main tournament hotel was at the Ameristar Hotel and Casino on the Missouri River. Many enjoy staying there because the coaches often go gambling, but not being into losing money at bad odds and desiring a cheaper hotel we passed on that.
I got into my room and took a bath almost immediately. After that I walked across the street to a barbecue meat restaurant (a KC specialty) for a lunch by myself. I needed a little alone time after the intense social experience of the van ride. After lunch I called Gina Lane of William Jewell to touch base with her because I was tabbing the tournament along with Jeff Jarman of Wichita State University. She said that registration began at 7 PM at the Ameristar so I planned to meet she and Jeff there then.

I took a nap and I knew it would be dangerous. I was seriously low on sleep, and a short nap would likely not be sufficient, but I tried it anyway. When I woke up to get ready to go to registration it was extremely difficult, but I was able to manage it. I checked in with the rest of our squad, who had been sleeping, working, eating, and socializing in what seemed like productive ways.

| Registration at William Jewell | Jeff Jarman with judge preference forms |

I got to the Ameristar, registered my own teams and judges, and then turned to the ever-important judge preference sheet. This is a unique feature of American tournaments. Before the tournament starts each team fills out a preference sheet for the judges. Such a sheet will have the names of all judges listed on it, with instructions for each team top mark a certain number off judges as “one” (highly preferred), a certain number as “two” (preferred), a certain number as “three” (acceptable), a certain number as “four” (not as acceptable), some judges as “five” (ineligible for reasons of association or personal conflicts like romance or former working situations), and a certain number of judges as “six” (struck – will not judge you under any circumstances). This is always a difficult and artistic process, based on known competence, fairness, and argumentative style. In the USA there is some division between traditional policy debate approaches (plan, counterplan, disadvantage) and more critical approaches (critique, performance, non-traditional argument like music, narrative, and dance) so often teams will prefer judges that will be receptive to their argumentative approach. Then, during the tournament the pairing and tabulation software will try to maximize the mutual preferences of thee two teams so that they have a judge they have rated the same, or as closely as possible to the same. I called back to our hotel to get input from our coaches and debaters, primarily Helen Morgan and Justin Parmett. I got their input and then completed the form.

As the forms were coming in Jeff Jarman and I started to input that data. This can be a long process, given that it is necessary to input ratings for 70 judges for about 80 teams. This was especially a problem this evening because the software program didn’t seem to have the judges in the same order as the preference sheet, so just reading the ratings down the column was not possible. Jeff and I did manage to get that sorted out, which sped things up quite a bit. Just before midnight we ended the preference sheet input, paired the first two rounds of debate, and we ended the day. I drove back to our hotel and got to sleep around 1 AM. Still tired. I cautioned myself that if I was going to make it through this 21-day trip I was going to have to pace myself.