Part I of the tour covered 6 of my favourite Road Trip destinations in the SEC. There are five more to go, and I’ll get to them; I have individual posts for Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and War Memorial Stadium. First, though, a word about Road Trips themselves.
Fridays and Saturdays during football season find the freeways (and assorted state highways) of the Southeast filled with cars, trucks, and RV’s heading for football games. Inevitably, they are filled to capacity with both people and tailgating supplies.
Going on Road Trips, like winning football games, requires exquisite planning, timing, skill, and execution. As I was writing this post, I was intermittently checking Facebook. On it, two of my favourite sportschix, Dee Bawiec and Biccy Hamilton, were planning this year’s tailgating. (That’s a whole other post, but the SEC is justifiably proud of its women. SEC women are talented beyond belief. They can whip up the most amazing victuals, plan the tailgate party, get the departure going, and discuss in detail the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent’s Offensive and Defensive lines, while sailing along, not a hair out of place, in heels, pearls, and a cloud of Chanel No. 5. They are truly amazing creatures. Now, if they could only read a map….;-).
The appropriate decoration of the GameDay Vehicle is critical, since you will be representing your University (and State if traveling out of state). Window flags? Check. Magnets? Check. “Shakers”? Check. Hint: if a few flags/magnets/shakers are good, a whole LOT of flags/magnets/shakers are a WHOLE LOT BETTER! With magnets, especially, it’s desirable to have several of the “main” mascot/logo, but ALL of the logos MUST be represented or you just haven’t done a very good job.
It is remotely possible, though unlikely, that some SEC fans can get carried away…
At Arkansas, the “running Hog” is the main mascot, but there are a bunch more: “Go Hogs” “On our way…to see the HOGS play!” etc.
Dad and I getting ready to leave for Oxford, Mississippi for the Ole Miss game in November, 1999. I know the exact date pretty well, because this car was 3 months old at the time; the next weekend, on the way to the Tennessee game in Fayetteville (Stoerner’s Revenge), I totaled it.
The tailgate vehicle which replaced the little Monte Carlo; damn, I still love that truck, wish I had it back. It was great, because it could haul MORE STUFF.
And finally, “Big Red”, in which you could haul all your stuff without getting it wet…
Once the vehicle is properly decorated, and you have taken the appropriate care to make certain you’ve got everything necessary for survival in a foreign country (after all, they can’t possibly have Gillette Fusion Shave Gel in Columbia, South Carolina, can they? What’s that, you say? They have WAL-MART???? OUR Wal-Mart???? ---and another aside, no Arkie can travel out-of-state without going to Wal-Mart at least once in the destination city. It’s a rule…), you begin the pre-departure checklist. EZ-UP? Check. Chairs? Check. TV(s)? Check. Satellite apparatus? Check. Golf Clubs? Check. (Oh come on, we’re talking essentials here! I know the damn clubs take up a lot of space! I also know I suck at golf. The South is covered up with superb golf courses!). Appropriate logo sportswear in both summer (shorts/t-shirt) and winter (up to and including parkas) styles (our weather is extremely variable), rain ponchos with mascot logo? Check and check.
An SEC moment---ran into these guys on one of the Robert Trent Jones golf courses (Silver Lakes) in Alabama---two brothers, one Georgia Dawg, one Alabama Tider, and me.
I know the post is about Road Trips; a buddy and I golfed our way from Knoxville to Tuscaloosa one year. The South is truly a place of wonder, mystical in its beauty---but, I digress….(and yes, I did take this picture, right before sending my golf ball for a day at the beach)
Then you get to the important stuff. Ice chest? Check. Bourbon? Check. Scotch? Check. Beer? Check. Bloody Mary supplies? Check. Tasty snax for the road? Check. Ice chest loaded in vehicle in a location so as to be convenient to the driver/passengers, but not overtly obvious to any passing fuzz? Check, check, and check.
Then you get to the REALLY important stuff: the Visual Inspection of the Tickets.
Tickets may be inspected at any time during the weeks leading up to the game (care must be exercised to wipe any incriminating drool off them), but they MUST be visually inspected in the vehicle while everyone is sitting therein, with the keys in the drivers’ hand (not in the ignition). Great care must be taken to ensure that the CORRECT tickets, in the required numbers, are present in the vehicle before the vehicle can be started. Upon cross-check (having someone else in the vehicle visually verify the accuracy of the tickets), the vehicle may be started, with the tickets placed prominently on the dash for continual reassurance while driving. If the vehicle is emptied---say, potty break or restaurant---the tickets must accompany the Custodian of the Tickets upon their person. Once everyone is back in the vehicle, the inspection process must be repeated. Every time.
All of that so you can do THIS—tailgate on a perfect fall day in the South (in this case, at Mississippi State)…
…and this (freeze your butt off having a good time in Baton Rouge)…
…where your friends have done “cochon de lait” in your honor…
And see sights like this…
No tour of the SEC is complete without mentioning the two hubs of the SEC: Atlanta and Memphis. I credit JR Marlow with this section, because he often spoke of it as one of his favourite things. Mine, too.
All roads in the SEC lead through either Atlanta or Memphis or both. If you’re in Fayetteville and you wish to go to Knoxville, you’re going through Memphis. If you’re in Tuscaloosa and you wish to go to Columbia, you’re going through Atlanta. (Old joke: Why do Southerners not go straight to Heaven or Hell when they die? They have to change through Atlanta….).
“Tailgating” in Midtown Atlanta
So, if you have Tennessee playing Auburn “on the plains” the same weekend that Alabama is playing Georgia in Athens, and Arkansas is playing South Carolina in Columbia while Ole Miss is hosting Florida---Interstate 40, Interstate 20, US 78, Interstate 85, the “Perimeter”—Interstate 285 around Atlanta---and I 240 around Memphis (great care must be exercised in choosing whether it’s more advantageous to cross “The River” via the “Old Bridge” or the “New Bridge”) are going to be very interesting, filled with brightly decorated, heavily loaded vehicles, flags flying, going in opposite directions. It’s crazy. It’s fun. It’s wonderful. It’s the SEC.
I don’t know why I thought of this story to close this particular post, but it came to mind thinking about Atlanta. The last Auburn game I was able to attend in Auburn, I was able to work into a business trip to Atlanta. So I had business in Atlanta Friday, drove down Saturday morning for the game (HOGS WIN! HOGS WIN! HOGS WIN!) and drove back to Atlanta late Saturday/early Sunday. I’m Episcopalian. I got up in time and decided to go to Mass at St. Philip’s Cathedral in Buckhead. I hadn’t planned very well, and all I had left (besides the clothes I had to wear to my business meeting Monday) was a fresh Razorback “sidelines” shirt (same shirt the coaches wear on the sidelines; I get a new one every year, so I’ve got several). I decided God wouldn’t mind if I showed up at His place in a Razorback shirt (there had been plenty of praying going on in the stadium the night before…). I walked up (feeling very underdressed) to the imposing main doors; the two ushers on either side of the door were handing out programs in Morning attire---cutaways, cravats, the works. Yikes. And here I was in a freaking Hog sidelines shirt. Great.
One of the ushers, a 30-something gentleman, leaned over to speak privately to me; I was positive he was going to ask me to sit somewhere inconspicuous due to my lack of proper attire. I was mortified. So what did he say? In a South Alabama accent instantly recognizable anywhere, he quietly said:
“Y’all kicked our ASS last night! Damn! That McFadden is SOMETHING! But War Damn Eagle anyway!”
I love the SEC.
tomorrow: Tour continues
LINKS TO ALL 5 CHAPTERS OF THIS SERIES: