There’s only one thing that could connect the dots between an impounded car in Chicago, a week in Hawaii, a 1,000-mile drive to Oklahoma City, a 24-hour Greyhound trip to Omaha and a journey to Alaska.

It’s a hypothetical line labeled, “Michigan Daily Sports Road Trips.”

But those trips are much more than just stories told around the newsroom from time to time. When former Daily writers look back on them, they remember how it felt to drive back to Ann Arbor on a random interstate at some ungodly hour, wondering if the road would ever end. But they also recall the thought they had immediately following that: how hundreds of Daily writers have been on that same interstate throughout the past 125 years.

One of those writers, Liz Vukelich, covered the Michigan hockey team’s most recent NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012. The lesson she learned on the drive to Green Bay was rather unfortunate.

Vukelich and her fellow beat writers— Everett Cook, Zach Helfand and Matt Slovin — stopped in Chicago for dinner en route to the tournament. Due to the traffic in the city, the group resorted to parking in a Walgreens across the street from their restaurant of choice. An hour later, after dinner, the hockey beat returned to the Walgreens only to discover their car was missing.

“We were kind of freaking out, like, ‘Oh my God, did the car get stolen?’ ” Vukelich said. “Then we realized there was this big sign saying, ‘Parking for Walgreens customers only.’ We thought we were in the clear because we had gone in (the store) to buy a stick of gum.”

According to Vukelich, they were visibly distressed in the parking lot when a cab driver came to their rescue. The driver explained that he saw the car get towed, and offered them a free ride to the car impound, where they found Slovin’s car. Though the debacle set the four reporters back a few hours and a few hundred dollars, they arrived in Green Bay in time to cover the game.

“It’s funny, because I live in Chicago now, and I walk by that Walgreens all the time,” Vukelich said. “It’s weird that one of the most memorable road trip experiences I have is almost part of my daily life here. Every time I walk by it, I always have to Snapchat a picture of it to my friends that were on the beat with me that year.”

While Vukelich had an unpleasant experience on the road, Sharat Raju’s time as a 1998 Michigan football beat writer was entirely different.

The Daily paid for Raju, along with fellow beat writers Mark Snyder and Jim Rose, to spend a week in Hawaii to cover the final regular-season football game against the Rainbow Warriors as well as the Maui Invitational, in which the men’s basketball team was competing. 

Given that the trip happened over Thanksgiving Break, the paper was rarely printed, essentially giving Raju and the beat writers a Hawaiian vacation with a side of sports writing.

“It was almost all down time,” Raju said. “It was over Thanksgiving, so we didn’t have that many stories during the week. I think Jim Rose wrote a column the day before classes let out. It was something to the effect of, ‘The light in the hotel bathroom in Maui isn’t working. And that is the only bad thing that has happened so far.’ ”

Raju, Snyder and Rose stayed at the media hotel, which happened to be on the beach, and celebrated Thanksgiving together at the hotel buffet.

As if that wasn’t enough, the trio went kayaking and took a scooter tour around Honolulu — led by a high-school friend of Raju’s, who was serving in the Army and stationed in Hawaii at the time.

As he recalls, the group’s free trip to Hawaii warranted some jealousy from veteran reporters.

“I remember the Free Press or the (Detroit) News reporter said, ‘Oh, good. Answering the age-old question: How many Daily reporters does it take to cover a football game in Hawaii?’ ” Raju said.

While Raju was part of the Daily’s most enjoyable warm-weather trip, writers have faced a fair share of cold climates in order to provide sports coverage as well — none more notable than Geoffrey Gagnon’s history-making trip to Alaska.

On October 22, 1999, Gagnon took part in the Daily’s first trip to Alaska to cover the Michigan hockey team’s exhibition against Alaska-Fairbanks in Anchorage.

“(This) represents the latest renewal in the Daily’s efforts to spare no burden and avoid no distance in providing comprehensive coverage,” Gagnon wrote in his column upon arrival. “As we settle in on the Kenai Peninsula near the Turnagain Arm we embrace a chance to make a bit of Daily history of our own.”

Yet not even a nine-hour flight to Anchorage can beat the voyages Greg Garno and Jamie Turner took to cover College World Series in Oklahoma City and Omaha, respectively. 

In 1978, Turner stayed in Ann Arbor to take summer classes, and three staff members were rotating on coverage of the Michigan baseball team.

When the Wolverines punched their ticket to the College World Series in Omaha, Turner was the only writer available to cover it.  However, the Daily could only pay for a hotel, leaving the other expenses to fall on Turner’s shoulders.  

Turner’s solution for making the trip more affordable was to take a 24-hour-long Greyhound bus ride to Omaha, which warranted surprise and sympathy from some of his fellow passengers.

“You (would) have some conversations with people who inevitably will say, ‘I’m going from Chicago to Rockford. Where are you going?’ ” Turner said. “I’d say Omaha and they’d just say, ‘Oh my god.’ ”

Despite the exhausting bus ride, Turner did receive a small reward when he arrived at his hotel in Omaha.

While he was waiting in the lobby of the hotel, Turner ran into Tom Hemingway, the radio voice of Michigan athletics at the time. Since Turner didn’t have a credit card, ATMs didn’t exist and the hotel wouldn’t accept an out-of-state check, he struck up a conversation with Hemingway to ask him to cash a check for him.

The conversation evolved to the point where Turner told Hemingway how he occasionally broadcasted games for the student section, at which point Turner got a job offer.

If the Wolverines defeated Baylor on Thursday, they would play again Friday, the same day as Hemingway’s daughter’s high school graduation. After Michigan shut out the Bears, 4-0, Turner broadcasted the following game against then-No. 1 Southern California.

Though the eventual national champions walloped the Wolverines, 10-3, Turner was still left with a lasting memory and memento.

“My parents recorded (my broadcast) on a cassette,” Turner said. “It’s buried somewhere in my mother’s belongings. I’m sure she’s the only person who ever heard the whole thing, because it was terrible.”

Thirty-five years later, with almost no one available during the Daily’s summer production, Garno was forced to take his 1999 GMC Jimmy, which had already accumulated 110,000 miles, on a trek to the Women’s College World Series with photographer Nick Williams.

He was awake until midnight on Wednesday producing the Daily’s summer edition, and left immediately from the Stanford Lipsey Student Publications Building that night to begin his drive. As he traveled to Oklahoma, he realized there were rainstorms moving toward the same destination. Garno said he was pushing the speed limit to race by storms that would have become tornadoes, but arrived safely to cover the event that day.

Friday, however, his luck ran out. Garno recalled how at one moment it was extremely sunny, before the sky turned dark almost instantaneously — a sign that a tornado was about to touch down in Oklahoma City.

“Eventually, (while) I’m running on six hours of sleep, there was a tornado warning in a mall, where I’m (hiding) in an unfinished basement area,” Garno said. “The entire time I don’t really know what’s going on because my phone doesn’t have any service. Eventually, the tornadoes passed and we were okay. My car was intact, and we celebrated with Chick-fil-A.”

The Wolverines were knocked out of the tournament on Sunday, and Garno immediately started the drive back to Ann Arbor because he had class Monday afternoon.

Garno’s trip — along with those of the writers who came before him — are the most concrete representation of the lengths the Daily sports staff has gone to in order to provide Michigan sports coverage for 125 years. If there’s a story to be found, there are few length Daily sports writers won’t go in order to find it.

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