10-19-2007, 09:00 AM
By the way, here is a transcript of the blog I kept while on the trip. Sorry Ohioans, but it was probably the least impressive of all the states we saw :(
Thursday, October 4th: 6:45 a.m. Oklahoma City, OK.
Before we begin this journey, a little background may help:
Two guys are going on this trip...
My name is Ed. I just turned 30. I own a small business in the OKC area. I am married to a wonderful girl that has supported me in the planning and execution of this journey. As long as she didn't have to go, I think she was cool with it. Of course, I am a die-hard Redskins fan-- making my first trip to FedEx Field, and my first trip to Green Bay. This trip was a wild idea that I never that would come together. I never thought I'd find a "road partner" to join me on the adventure.......
Enter Adam. Adam is my future-brother-in-law. He just popped the question last week. Timing is everything-- Adam spent 7 years as a Captain in the United States Air Force-- he just left active duty last week and finds himself with an abundance of time on his hands. This trip is almost like a celebration of the end of his Air Force life and the beginning of his new life-- whatever that may be. Adam is NOT a Redskins fan. On the contrary, he is a Giants fan. More importantly, he is a Mets fan. Over the past several weeks, I have teased him relentlessly about the Mets' collapse. In return, he purchased a Lions jersey this week and vows to be the loudest Lions fan in DC this weekend. Should be interesting.
He is set to pick me up in about 10 minutes. I feel a mild twinge of guilt waiting for him as my wife gets ready to go to work. But...it's just a twinge.
Today will be a long day of driving--probably 12-13 hours in the car. If things go well, we should wind up in New Castle, Indiana-- near the Ohio border.
My bags are packed (thanks to my wife), I have tickets in hand, and I am ready to roll. Hurricane Ed is headed towards DC, and he packs a mighty punch!!
Friday, October 5th: 11:08 p.m: Greenbelt, Maryland
First of all, apologies for the delay in the blog. Apparantly, the internet hasn't quite found New Castle, Indiana quite yet.
Our first day of driving was pretty smooth, albeit incredibly long. We made it from OKC, up through Tulsa, all the way through Missouri and Illinois, got past Indianapolis and finally landed in New Castle (893 total miles).
Here's how I picture a long-ago conversation between God and the state of Missouri:
God: "I am going to give you Kansas City on one side and St. Louis on the other side. But that's it."
Missouri: "Ok, but can't we have SOMETHING in the middle?"
God: "Well, OK, we do seem to have an abundance of unclaimed Adult Superstores-- you can just go ahead and have them all."
In summary-- if you are "loney"--- head to Missouri, you will have ample opportunity to cure what ails you.
Adam and I are also playing a very intense version of the "license plate game." First one to spot 26 different plates wins--- once a plate has been spotted it is "off the board." If no one has 26 plates by next week, then the person with the most wins (dinner from the other). The competition has been an intense, back-and-forth battle. Currently, we have spotted 38 plates, with Adam holding a 3 plate lead-- thanks to a late surge and some potentially questionable tactics.
In the midst of our intensity, we did miss an exit in Illinois and cost ourselves an entire hour yesterday.
I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or make judgements based on quick drive-by's, but let me just lay out a scene for you:
In West Virginia, a pick-up truck pulled up next to us. The truck was very beat up-- including missing most of the windows, which had been replaced with what looked like plastic wrap. The driver was an eldery man, who appeared to be in as bad of shape as his truck. In the back of the truck was a shirtless, bearded man, lying down. He had a pillow and was resting peacefully.
That's all I have to say about West Virginia.
Stopped and ate dinner at a sportsbar in Fredrick, Maryland and watched the Yankess lose to the Indians. Why did Joe Torre yank Rivera in that situation? Dumb.
After dinner, we found our hotel after a few spins around the Beltway-- quite possibly the most maddening stretch of road in the nation. The hotel is nice and it is HOPPING. There are all kinds of reunions, parties, etc... taking place. It's 11:30 and the joint is ROCKING.
Gonna head upstairs and get some rest. After two days or driving, we're ready to actually DO something tomorrow.
Sunday, October 7th: 12:43 a.m. Greenbelt, Maryland
Yeah, it's late. It's been a long day-- but a pretty good one.
We both slept in and then lugged our butts to College Park for the Maryland-Georgia Tech game. Byrd Stadium is nice. But that's it. Nice. Coming from seeing 80,000 people in the stands at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, it makes a place like Byrd seem quaint. The stands were mostly packed, but the atmosphere was hardly intimidating for the road team. It was a nice time, the folks around us were kind and friendly, and the game wound up being entertaining (Maryland won 28-26). However, at no point did it feel like we were watching "big time" college football.
As for the scenery, the University of Maryland is extremely pretty. But what Adam and I really took notice of was the other "scenery" a college campus offers. Lots and lots of scenery.
After the game, we made our way to a nice little bar on campus called "Cornerstone." We got some food, had some drinks, and watched OU outlast Texas. I may have been the only person in Maryland sporting a "Boomer Sooner" shirt, but at least I was able to wear it proudly. Funny, but even in the northeast, I still hate Texas.
After relaxing at the hotel for awhile, we got some dinner and watched the rest of the football and baseball action taking place. Now, it's late and I'm tired. But I am already feeling some nervous energy in anticipation of the game tomorrow.
All I can keep thinking about is how awful Adam will make the next week on the road if the Redskins lose this game.
Please guys, do it for me. Can't wait.
Sunday, October 7th: 10:34 a.m: Greenbelt, Maryland:
Grown men wearing jerseys is really quite stupid. Juvenile even. But here I sit, trying to control my nervous energy as we wait for our cab to take us to the game-- all the while, donning my Rocky McIntosh home Redskins jersey that my wife got me for my birthday. It's almost gametime and I'm 13 years old again! This rocks!
Sunday, October 7th: 9:42 p.m: Greenbelt, Maryland:
Wow, what a day.
First of all, when you travel to the northeast part of the country from Oklahoma, you assume that you might be getting a break from the heat and humidity. But for the second day in a row, the DC area was SCORCHING with almost no wind. Not what you'd hope for this time of year. Luckily, we weren't directly in the sun like we were yesterday. But enough whining...on to the game....
Going to an NFL game is total sensory overload. The sights, smells, and sounds are unlike anything you see anywhere else. Redskins fans know how to tailgate. I've never seen so many nice vehicles turned into traveling Redkin fan circuses. It was awesome: Hummers with Redskins decals, Lexus's painted burgandy and gold. People throwing untold amounts of money into supporting their team anyway they can. Beautiful.
I feel no need to recap the game itself. It was pretty clear what happened. The Redskins dominated Detroit from start to finish in every way possible. It was never a contest. Total and complete domination. The defense was stifling, the offense was effecient, and the Lions were helpless. That's about all there is to say.
Prior to kickoff, Adam and I made our way close to field level. I saw Fred Smoot warming up, and called out his name. He gave me a nice little wave. For that moment, I was 10 years old again. Smoot waved at me!
Adam actually lied to me about getting a Lions jersey, but he did wear his Eli Manning jersey, which may have been a bigger mistake on his part. He was called "She-li" by more than a few fans.
After watching the warm-ups from up close, we took our seats with the rest of the peasants in the upper deck. The view of the field from that angle is great, but I do think the intelligence level of the fans dips the higher up you go. Sad to say, a few of my fellow fans were pretty stupid out there. Drunk beyond belief, barely watching the game, cussing up a storm, trying to start something with anyone not wearing Redskins colors. Most of the fans were just fine, but a few of the bad apples were really embarrassing.
I almost felt compelled to stand up for Adam when some of them starting picking on him. Almost.
Like I said, the game was a massacre, so I never came close to having to deal with nerves or worrying about having the coming week tainted by a bad loss. I sat in my seat, watched my boys dominate, sang "Hail to Redskins" several times, and enjoyed my experience to the fullest.
FedEx Field is gigantic, and the Redskins fans showed themselves quite well (aside from the few jerks).
After the game, the realities of being a major metropolitan area came crashing down on us. A two mile walk to the metro station, followed by trying to figure out how to get on the train itself, followed by the thirty minute ride itself. Not fun. But it would have been AWFUL had we lost.
We finally made it downtown, where we met one of Adam's friends from the Air Force and watched the late games. After that, we strolled around the Mall, and got to see the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument at night-- quite a sight. By the time we were done "strolling," I felt as if I'd played in two football games in two days, not just watched them.
I am limited to 15 minutes of internet time here at the hotel and I've got a guy looking over my shoulder and checking his watch, so I'm going to go ahead and cut this short. We're heading to New York City tomorrow, and I'll try to post anything I left out next time I post.
All I can say right now is HAIL TO THE REDSKINS.....on to Green Bay!!!
Monday, October 8th: 9:16 a.m: Greenbelt, Maryland:
I can't believe I forgot to post this last night-- I told you it was a long day.
After the game, Adam and I were making our way towards the Metro, when we noticed a large throng of fans gathering around a tunnel leading out of the stadium. We quickly put it together that this is where the players would be exiting and heading to their cars. We decided to stick around and see if we could catch a glimpse of a few of them.
Slowly, a few players made their way out (Mark Brunell, Atwaan Randle El). Also, quite a few cheerleaders came through the tunnel, which was kind of coll as well
Anyway, all of a sudden the security guards start to get real aggressive and insist that everyone clear the way and step back. Just then, a large group of men came walking out-- what I assumed were players. The fans all started chanting what sounded like "Khandi, Khandi, Khandi..."
I consider myself a pretty big fan, but for the life of me, I could not figure out who "Khandi" could possibly be. I kept looking at this group of men, but just couldn't place any of them-- still wondering why my fellow fans were so excited.
Just then, Adam turns to me and says, "it's Condoleeza Rice!"
Sure enough, there is the Secretary of State being escorted out of the tunnel. We were probably 15 feet away from her. Pretty cool. Even if it took me awhile to put it all together.
Anyway, we're heading for NYC in about 30 minutes-- looking forward to traffic.
Monday, October 8th: 7:19 p.m. Manhattan
Got really lucky with traffic-- totally forgot it was Columbus Day.
I grew up mostly in Oklahoma, but my family is from this area, and I was actually born in Cherryhill, New Jersey. Unfortunately, my birth state proves it has earned it's less than stellar reputation. We pulled over in south NJ, not far at all from Philly-- and it truly felt like we were in the armpit of America. Depressing.
Got to drive through Delaware--- two and a half minutes later, we had seen it all. Wilmington suprisingly had a fairly impressive skyline though.
We are staying in Manhattan on the Upper West side with Adam's sister and brother-in-law. NYC is simply a different universe compared to the rest of the country. Their apartment is wonderful, and situated within easy walking distance of Central Park. We all took a stroll to the park, threw around the frisbee, and then stopped and had a few drinks. Weather is still unseasonably warm, but it certainly made for a nice day.
Got to see a bearded man in a dress, dancing around with a live bird on his shoulder--- won't see that very often in OKC.
Getting ready to head out to dinner and then find somewhere to watch the Yankees game and hopefully watch the Bills pull off a major upset against the Cowboys tonight.
Tuesday, October 9th: 5:54 p.m: Manhattan
First of all, how did the Cowboys pull that off? Sickening. Could have been a major blow for Dallas, instead, they are 5-0 and riding a serious wave of momentum. When it comes to rooting interests, Adam and I don't have much in common, but last night we both watched in agony as the Cowboys rallied. Got to hand it to Romo and the Boys-- they found a way. Ugh.
We woke up, did some laundry (it was desperately needed) and then Adam took me to this Burger joint he's been telling me about for months. It's actually called The Burger Joint. It is located inside a nice hotel and probably only seats 15-20 at a time. All they serve are burgers, fries, and shakes. Much like the "Soup Nazi" character on Seinfeld, you better know how you want it cooked when you step up to the counter. I was nervous, but managed to pull it off without being chastised.
The walls of the joint are adorned with signatures of some very famous people. Athletes, politicians, actors, the names were everywhere. Apparantly, we just missed Jessica Beil, which is a crying shame.
The food was good. I'd give the burger a 7, the fries a 9, and the shake a well deserved 10. Like most places with that kind of rep, part of the appeal is the rep itself, but I would certainly suggest that anyone visiting NYC should check it out.
After we ate, we simply started walking. And we kept walking, and walking, and walking. We saw everything from downtown to the Financial District to Times Square to Greenwhich Village and Soho.
We did stop by Ground Zero, and I was surprised to see that there was no longer the "crater" we've seen on TV for so long. The rebuilding process has already begun and judging from the sketches that were posted, the new site will be phenomenal. The new building looks to be as big, if not bigger than the original towers-- a sort of middle finger to those who reveled in the attacks that day. It was quite a site, and truly hard to imagine what took place there. I'll look forward to coming back someday and seeing the completed project.
After all that walking (Adam says about 5 miles-- I say more like 25), we decided to take the subway back. Ugh. Just ugh. Everyone on that thing looks like they are having the most miserable day of their lives. It's hot, stuffy, and it smells. It is an absolute necessity in a city like this, but I did not enjoy it one bit. If I go to hell, they will either send me to Texas Stadium during a game where the Cowboys are killing the Redskins, or they will send me to ride to the NYC subway for eternity.
My impression of NYC is pretty simple: amazing place, unique from the entire rest of the world. It's a place where you can do anyting at anytime. It's really cool. However, it's not QUITE as cool as some of the folks walking the streets make it out to be. Just strolling around the city, you can sense the elitism--especially in the more "trendy" areas.
But all in all, it was a fun day, filled with sights and sounds you can't experience anywhere else.
When we got home, the apartment was filled with the aroma of spaghetti and meatballs-- Adam's sister is cooking for us tonight-- a homemade meal couldn't sound better right now.
Wednesday, October 10th: 8:23 a.m.: Manhattan
Blogging now, because I'm not sure I'll get the chance later. We're getting ready to drive to Pittsburgh (Adam graduated from Pitt). We are attending the Pitt-Navy game tonight and we're also going to try and cram in some other things during our short stay.
Fall has finally arrived. After the first part of trip being hot, humid, and disgusting, it is now gloomy, cool, and drizzling in NYC. I couldn't be happier.
Thursday, October 11th: 12:58 a.m: Pittsburgh, PA.
Pittsburgh rocks. First time here, and I'm already a big fan.
Of course, I got what I wished for-- the weather turned and it became cold and drizzly as we arrived in town. Fairly miserable actually, but still a tad better than melting in the heat.
Adam graduated from Pitt and he was very excited to show me around campus. Of course, we ate at the famous Parmanti Brothers. It was cool, but I'd have to say that the actual sandwhiches are a tad overrrated. It's defiintely neat to eat a sandwhich with the fries stuffed inside, but overall, I think the experience matters more than the fare itself.
After that, we walked across the street and ate the equally famous "O Fries" from "The O." Nothing overrated about those. By far, these were the best french fries I've ever had in my entire life. Not exactly sure why, but they were just delicious. I could eat them as a meal. The "O" itself is pretty rough, but it's well worth it.
Pitt is a city campus, but it does still seem to have it's own "life." Lots of energy around these parts, and it's cool that it sits so close to downtown. I'm always partial to OU and Norman in general, but Pitt seems to offer a pretty unique melting pot of campus and city life.
We hit Heinz Field for the Pitt-Navy game about 20 minutes prior to kickoff.
The Redskins really dropped the ball with FedEx folks-- Heinz blows it away as a stadium. The experience with the Redskins fans is still great, but the actual structure of Heinz Field is 100 times better than what they built in Landover. It's much more scenic, convinient, has better sight lines, and has much more reasonable concession prices (I asked and they told me prices don't go up when the Steelers play). It's just a great Stadium, top to bottom.
A little background on Adam: He is a sports fan, but not a "fanatic" fan in the sense that I am a fanatic fan. He's much more grounded and reasonable. A loss hardly ruins his day, let alone his week. In other words, he's pretty normal. Please keep this in mind while you read the rest....
Pitt has fallen on hard times under Dave Wandstedt, and tonights game is not going to help.
It was pretty entertaining...back and forth. It was the worst defensive performance I've seen in years. Navy ran three plays-- but Pitt never came close to slowing them down. It was truly pathetic. It was painful to watch such an archaic offense slice through a defense like that.
In the end, Navy won in double overtime, 48-45, sending the fans (about half the stadium was empty in the first place) home unhappy....again.
Right as the game ended, Adam just lost it. I saw a side of him I've never seen before. He went on a two minute screaming tirade about Wandstedt, saying things like "You are KILLING my school Wandstedt!" All of the folks around us seemed a tad unnerved by his incessant hollering. I even had to stare at the ground for a bit. He just blew his lid. No cussing or anything like that, just a manic tirade about how Wandstedt was killing Pitt.
It was awesome.
What's more awesome?
We made a bet before the game....If Navy won, Adam had to kneel and bow before the bust of Joe Gibbs when we visit the Hall of Fame tomorrow. I will be sure to have the camera ready.
It's really late and we have another day of driving ahead of us tomorrow as we make our way towards Green Bay.
Although it was a short stay, my impression of Pittsburgh is certainly a good one. Even if their coach is killing the school and my future brother-in-law.
Friday, October 12th: 1:57 a.m.: Chelsea, MI
Wow, what a day. First of all, as you can see from the time stamp, it's REALLY late. This coming on the heels of 5 hours of sleep in Pittsburgh last night.
Anyway, Adam woke up seemingly "over" his Pitt meltdown from the night before. He must have just left it all on the field, which is more than I can say for the Pitt defense.
If you ever want to see the heart of America up-close and personal, take a ride on I-30 from Pittsburgh to Canton. You won't see much. But what you do see will all be scenes from Norman Rockwell paintings. Very scenic drive on a tiny little two-lane highway that takes you through Ohio towns like Lisbon. Quaint, apple pie kind of places. Couldn't live there, but they were nice to see.
Made it to Canton and was surprised to see just how unimposing the actual Hall of Fame is. It's tiny...at least tiny for what you'd expect from the NFL. Inside was pretty cool, and I took photos of many of the Redskin displays, including a picture with myself and the bust of Joe Gibbs. Speaking of busts, the room where they keep all of the sculptures is magnificent. It's truly amazing how many men have taken part in pro football, and how few actually make it into that room. Really puts it into perspective.
Redskins fan should know, that while Art Monk isn't technically in the HOF yet, there was one very nice display of his record-breaking career.
The HOF is something every fan should see. But now that I've seen it, I can wait another 30 years before coming back. Worth the trip...but it's good for two hours and then that's it. When you leave the HOF, get out of town ASAP-- not much happening in the Canton area.
Drove through Toledo...yikes!
Drove almost all the way across far northern Ohio heading west---- it could have just as easily been Kansas or Nebraska-- NOTHING but flat, empty space, mixed with a few forests here and there.
As we crossed the Michigan border, I suddenly became sad:
Michigan was our "finish line" for the license plate game. Adam beat me by 1 measly plate. South Dakota, Hawaii, Alaska, Wyoming, Colorado, and Louisiana were the only plates we never saw (we counted D.C.). I did spot Alaska and Colorado, but both of those cars were parked-- and parked cars were not in play. My luck. So, I owed Adam dinner.
But then, I won it back.
At a rest stop, Adam bet me $25 that I wouldn't stand at the urinal and sing a line from a song into the face of the man going next to me. I did it. I won. Back to even.
It seemed as soon as we crossed into Michigan that everything got colder and darker. This state is pitch black for some reason.
Neither of us had ever been to Ann Arbor or the University of Michigan, so we wandered around campus, ate dinner, and then hung out at a college bar. We told people we were from MTV's "The Real World" and we were scouting Ann Arbor for talent. Some of the kids really ate it up. We had to come up with something.....because at midnight, Adam turned 30. That meant two 30 year olds were chilling in a college bar on a Thursday night-- we needed an excuse.
Thursday nights on campus are much like I remember....but I'm just too dang old now.
Ann Arbor is cool. Very impressed. People were friendly, and there is lots to do all around campus. Didn't see much of the Big House in the dark, but we saw enough to say we were there.
Michigan is WAY up here--- you don't just "happen to be" in Michigan-- it takes effort. I probably would have never come this way had it not been for this trip, so I'm glad we made it a point to stop here.
Better get to bed now....Chicago awaits!
Friday, October 12th: 6:40 p.m.: Rosemont, IL
When you drive across the country, you figure out pretty fast that aside from the major cities, the United States is still pretty much just wide open. Made our way all the way across southern Michigan, and I'm not 100% sure we ever saw an actual human being.
Again, today is Adam's 30th Birthday, so I think he may have been a tad "down" this morning-- I kept reminding him that he would NEVER, EVER again experience life in his 20's. I turned 30 less than a month ago, so it was nice to see someone else go through it. By noon, he seemed fine-- I guess he came to grips with it pretty quick.
By the way, I forgot to mention yesterday that Adam did indeed, bow to a Redskins display at the HOF. I have a picture to prove it-- I plan on posting all of my pics when I return.
I must admit that I am really missing my wife right now (my dog too) as well as some of the comforts of home. I talk to her/text message her everyday, but it has been WAY too long to not actually see her. Already looking forward to getting back on Monday.
But before that, we still have some business to attend to.
Drove around downtown Chicago and I was VERY impressed. Much cleaner and much less congested than NYC, while still offering a ton of interesting sights and sounds.
We add a third ring to this traveling circus this evening. Adam's longtime friend, Slava, is flying in from New York to join us on the last leg of this little journey. He used to live here in Chicago, so he will have a good idea of where to take Adam to "celebrate" tonight. Not exactly sure where the night will take us, but I'm sure it will be interesting.
Saturday, October 13th: 2:42 a.m.: Rosemont, IL
Yeah, check the time-- second night in a row--this is wearing me out!
Chicago is a cool, cool town. If you asked me to choose if I was a "New York Guy" or a "Chicago Guy," I'd definitely have to pick Chicago. Tons and tons of stuff to do, yet not nearly as clastrophobic.
We hit a couple of bars and just when the night was winding down, Slava insisted that we stop by the "Weiner's Circle." This place is a Chicago landmark, and now I know why.
It's a tiny little place, that basically only serves hot dogs and cheese fries and a few other things of that nature. It's open late, sits in the heart of a bustling district, and serves some good dogs. But the main reason it's so popular is because of the "banter."
Apparantly, you can say anything to the staff and the staff can say anything right back to you. The place is a riot. NO words, no matter how vile, are off limits.
It is customary for a patron to say, "Hey you %%^#$ make me a %$&^% hot dog now!"
It is even more customary for the girls behind the counter to use some choice words in return. I even got a picture of one of the girls flipping me off. The cussing and blabbering spills into the outdoor seating area, where the three of us had a good back and forth going with some girls from Arkansas.
Once again, reserved Adam came out of nowhere with the "zinger" of the night. I simply cannot type what he said in this blog-- the filters will never let it get through. Suffice to say, he really got his money's worth.
Adam's language was on-point, but he did disappoint me today.
Before the trip, we decided to grow "road trip beards." The rule was that once the trip started, we couldn't shave at all until we got home. Keep in mind, Adam has been in the Air Force for the past seven years, so facial hair is a new thing for him.
As we were getting ready this evening, he caved. He shaved it all off. Now I'm the only Grizzly Adams on this trip.
Well, Grizzly better try and get some sleep. We're going to the Minnesota-Northwestern game tomorrow and then it's off to Milwaukee!
Saturday, October 13th: 10:24 a.m.: Rosemont, IL
Three dudes, one hotel room, two beds, one bathroom.
When you're 20, that is no big deal.
When you're 30-- not so cool.
Gotta admit that I'm flat worn out at this point. I do think I'll get a bit re-energized when we hit the Green Bay area later this evening. For now, we're off to see a little Big 10 football.
Sunday, October 14th: 7:10 a.m.: Appleton, WI
Wisconsin is quite possibly my new favorite place in the world. More on that later...
First, a quick recap of yesterday in the Chicago area...
--I totally messed up-- thought the Northwestern-Minnesota game started at noon when it actually started at 11:00. So, we were VERY Late. Then, we couldn't find a place to park, so we had to settle for two hour metered parking. This of course meant we wouldn't even be able to stay for the entire game.
But we did get to go in.
Lots of people in this country are concerned that Universities place too much emphasis on athletics--- no need to for that concern in Evanston. Ryan Field is 1000 years old and is basically falling apart. It's really a glorified high school stadium. The fans are super, super quiet. It's as if everyone there knows they have bigger fish to fry and that football is just a pleasant Saturday afternoon diversion. That's probably how we all should feel, but I prefer the irrational, delusion, life and death approach of the folks from Oklahoma.
Having said that, the Evanston area and the stadium itself are worth seeing. Very pretty, and the fans were quite friendly. Like I said, we didn't stay long, but we saw about two quarters of action. Minnesota is terrible. NW wound up winning in double overtime.
But by then, we were on our way to the my new favorite place....
Wisconsin is just wonderful. It is so much prettier and cleaner than most of its' midwestern contemporaries.
And no joke, the people here are the most friendly and "sunny" people I've ever met in my life. Everywhere we've gone, the folks have been incredibly kind and helpful.
We are staying in Appleton, because no one can get close to Green Bay on gameday weekends. We're about 30 miles away, but our hotel is PACKED (no pun intended) with fans. I saw Packers gear everywhere last night, as well as several Redskins fans. 30 miles away and the town is crawling with fans-- awesome.
We decided to extend Adam's birthday celebration last night. We ate some tasty bar-b-que and then had some drinks at Hooters-- very cliche'. But like I said, EVERYONE here is incredibly friendly, and Hooters was no different. Great time. After that, we headed out to a club and we were again welcomed with open arms. This place is just unreal. Like Pleasantville or something.
Got home late....again.....woke up early.....again.
Now, we're getting ready to hit the tailgate. Lots open at 8:00 and we should be there right around then.
Today is going to be amazing. All three of us are totally stoked, but I'm probably the most excited. I've got my Redskins hat, my Portis jersey, and my vocal chords ready to rock. Not sure when I'll get another chance to blog....I just hope I make it through the day alive.
Hail to the Redskins!!!
Sunday, October 14th: 10:52 p.m: Springfield, IL
And so it ends.....
All along, I've chosen to make this blog less about football and more about the experience, and I am not going to change form at this point.
However, I seeing this is a Redskins site, I would be remiss not to mention a few things about the game itself:
The Redskins just aren't that great. Through five weeks, we look very much like an average football team. Today, the defense was superb and Jason Campbell was very good, yet we found ways to lose by making key errors and failing to make clutch plays. Both the players the coaches are to blame for those failures. This was a game we had in hand, but we simply weren't good enough to put it away.
Right now, the Redskins simply look really average. I don't think any team in the NFL takes us lightly OR fears us. They shouldn't on either count. The good news is that at 3-2, we are still clearly in a good position to contend for a playoff spot. I can live with that--especially with Campbell playing so well.
That is all I am going to say about the actual game. I am quite sure others around here have covered the specifics and ramifications quite well.
If you have never been to Lambeau Field, you MUST make a point to do so. You MUST. When you exit off the highway into Green Bay, it is shocking to suddenly see this historic site smack dab in the middle of a tiny, residential neighborhood. There is literally a KMART directly across ths street. Some people could throw a football from their porch and hit the gates of the stadium. It's like entering a time warp back to 1955.
The smells are incredible. The air is filled with all of those wonderful tailgating aromas. The weather was ugly (cold and drizzly all day) yet not one person seemed to care. It slowed down no one.
We purchased a parking pass in a grass lot and got there around 8:30. Of course, there were some jeers when they saw my Redskins gear, but I can honestly say that I have never been surrounded by a more warm and friendly group of people in my entire life.
During the tailgate, I spoke to one man who has been a Packers season ticket holder for 39 years (always tailgating in the same spot). I told him about our trip, and the entire notion seemed to light him up. We talked for several minutes and I left the conversation with a huge smile on my face. This general pattern continued througout the tailgate.
I headed inside the stadium earlier than my traveling party-- I wanted to soak up the essence of Lambeau as much as possible. The place is dripping with tradition and history. I was awed as I walked around and took photos.
Once in my seat, I was steadily surrounded by Packer fans of course. There were one or two rude jerks, but 99.9% of the people were engaging, friendly, and entertaining. The man next to me was from Minnesota and he and his wife drove in for the game. Turns out he went to school in Oklahoma. We chatted throughout the game, and at one point he even asked me if I needed anything from the concession stand. That blew my mind.
The people behind us were a set of married couples. They teased me throughout the game, but always with a smile. The ladies even kept grabbing my shoulders during tense moments in the game and then apologized for getting so excited. When the game ended, they went out of their way to tell us they enjoyed having us and wished us safe travels. This kind of interaction was consistent through the stadium, throughout the day, and throughout the state.
After the game, we needed to leave ASAP so Slava could make his flight in Chicago. The parking lot was still stacked at this point and I had to ask a few people to move their tailgates so we could get moving.
I apologized to one man for making him move his grill and said something that will remain with me forever. He said:
"Hey, this is Wisconsin, not a problem at all."
Kind of summed up the entire experience.
People with funny accents that live in cold places and love fried food, beer, and football are often viewed as "simple" and perhaps not as cultured or diverse as the rest of the country.
But the rest of the country can learn a lesson from these folks. Each person we met was well spoken, kind, warm, and inviting. Most importantly, they all seemed HAPPY. And when you create that kind of atmosphere, it really filters on down.
There is a difference between "polite" and "warm." Most people are fairly polite, but very few go OUT OF THEIR WAY to make you feel welcome. I can't tell you how many people walked up to me today and simply said, "Hey Redskin fan, where are you from?" That simple question ignited some very fun conversations.
It may sound cheesy (no pun intended) but I will cherish the memories of this day forever. I was with my brother-in-law and a new good friend, and had the time of my life.
There is no rule that people in the Green Bay area have to be nice. They simply make it that way.
For the first time in my Redskins rooting experience, I didn't feel too badly walking out a "loser." It was simply too hard not to focus on the greatness of the day.
I'm a freak fan. I get frustrated. Losses ruin my day, and sometimes my week. I occasionally break things. But nothing was going to spoil this experience for me. This was truly a "stop and smell the roses" moment.
If you are ever feeling depressed, sad, or angry-- take a trip across the Wisconsin border and make your way to Green Bay on gameday. Along the way, your mood will change, and once you get there, you won't be able to erase the smile off your face.
End of the Road
We dropped Slava in Chicago and made our way to Springfield before we decided to call it a night. We still have a 10 hour drive ahead of us tomorrow, but we will be home by dinner---finally. I am 100% ready to be home with my family.
Having said that, reflecting on this journey, I do feel a bit sad. This was a unique and potentially once-in-a-lifetime type of experience.
The stories I recounted in this blog represent only a tiny fraction of my great memories from this trip.
We saw tiny farms in Pennsylvania and we saw the Washington Monument.
We saw a man sleeping in the back of a truck in West Virginia and we saw the Secretary of State.
We saw the quaint town of Lisbon, Ohio, and we saw the Naked Cowboy in Times Square.
We drank a beer in Ann Arbor with college kids and shared a laugh in Wisconsin with some old timers.
We ate giant sandwhiches in Pittsburgh and stopped at a Denny's in New Castle, Indiana.
We had a nice dinner in New York City and ate at a rest stop in Michigan.
Most importantly, we met an incredibly wide ranging array of people.
The games were great (5 in total), but the experience of it all is what I will take away forever.
I feel truly lucky to have been able to go on this trip. Blessed really.
If you ever get the chance... find a close friend(s), relative, etc... hop in your car and make your way across this country. I think you will come away with a new perspective on a lot of things. I certainly did.
I am going to end this blog now... I will update it with photos when I finally figure out how to do it. Thanks to OM and the mods who allowed me to maintain this blog throughout the trip and thanks to all of you for taking the time to read it-- I hope you enjoyed it as much I enjoyed telling you about it.
Time to go home now, back to family, work, and the normal routines. I am looking forward to that comfort and normalcy. But I'll never forget the kind people who let me take a peek intoheir lives for a bit. And I'll never forget that Adam (my future brother-in-law) made the decision to go with me on this trip when it looked like it was a dead idea. It says something that no only did we not bicker or fight on this journey, but that I think we actually came away liking each other MORE than when we left. We're family now-- and not everybody can say that about their in-laws.
We started 11 days ago. We crossed into 13 states, drove well over 3,000 miles, saw five football games, ate more fried food than any human should eat in a year, had an absurd amount of good laughs, got to spend in the day in what very well may be heaven on earth, and had the time of our lives.
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