I’ve just returned from covering the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, and my mind is still reeling from the excitement, passion, and spectacle of the amazing events that took place over the week-long swim meet.
Old Olympians fell, new Olympians were made, dreams where crushed, and soon-to-be American heroes rose from the ashes.
Ryan Lochte before swimming at Olympic Trials. Photo: Michael Lyn
Hold on, hold on… I’m getting ahead of the story, because our journey to the Olympic Trials actually started well before the meet did.
As you know, we’ve been covering swimmers in Florida for five years now, and we’ve got so much pride in the teams and coaches from our state that we really wanted to showcase them. So, we first put together the Olympic Trials Media Guide letting everyone know just how many swimmers we had going to the Trials.
We then wanted to go to the Trials with the goal of taking a photo or getting an interview with every single swimmer we had there…over 140 of them! So, this meant cameras, video, and lots of people to make it happen.
Next we had to figure out how to actually get to Omaha with all of our camera gear and broadcast equipment. We could have rented a trailer or paid an arm and leg to ship it all, but instead Ford Motor Company and the Southern Ford Dealers came to our rescue by loaning us a Ford Explorer.
Now this wasn’t just any Explorer, but it was a Platinum Edition, and at first I didn’t fully realize just what an advantage that would be on the longest road trip of my life. (More about that later.)
The Coach’s Spa
The Explorer has some crazy cool features, like air conditioned seats. Yep, cool air is actually blown up through the seats chilling your bum! Every car sold in Florida should have this feature!
It also has built-in massage chairs for both the driver and front seat passenger, so we figured what better way to pamper a coach after a hot day of coaching than with a cooling massage!
So, as we left for Omaha, we visited a few swim teams and gave their coaches the first class spa treatment!
Take a look below at our trip:
The Long Road Home
It wasn’t until our way home from Omaha that I realized how truly lucky we were to be in the Ford Explorer. Hoping to be home for the 4th of July, we left Omaha on July 2nd at 8:30 pm and planned to drive straight through, all 20 hours, with no stops except for gas.
As we drove through the dark cornfields of Nebraska and then Missouri, we encountered a storm that had harder rain than I had ever driven through.
Lane Keeping System
The Explorer has a really awesome feature that actually helps you stay in your lane, so you don’t drift either due to bad weather or just being tired (we did drive all night, remember).
The car seems to sense the lane lines and if you drift, it will actually steer the car back on the path for you. In fact, if you didn’t turn on your signal that you wanted to change lanes, the car would actually fight you to keep you from crossing the lane lines!
Check out the lane lines below and how it senses the car trying to drift across the left lane (in yellow).
Adaptive Cruise Control
The Ford Explorer also has what is called adaptive cruise control, which means it automatically senses if a car in front of you slows down, and in response the Explorer will slow, too, to keep a safe distance. I set the cruise control in Orlando, and then never had to change it (nor put my foot on the brake or gas) for the remainder of the trip. It was like the car had a mind of its own and it was smarter than me!
On the way home, we ran into heavy traffic in Atlanta where the adaptive cruise control really made an impression. We were in the HOV lane cruising along when suddenly the cars in front of me slammed on brakes, and fortunately the Explorer came to the rescue and slowed me down before I could even react. This collision warning and brake assistance was the difference between us having an accident in Atlanta and instead arriving home in Orlando safely.
Having both of these technologies not only made me feel more secure driving for 20 hours straight, but if every car had the technology of the Ford Explorer, I could see a world where accidents never happen!
So, there’s the story about Florida Swim Network on the open road… stay tuned for my thoughts on the actual competition once we were in Omaha!