Dang it...can't sleep. Oh well, that gives me a chance to finish my story about last weekend.
Actually, it all started a few days before Christmas. We had received our Christmas gift from my dad in the mail, which was a generous monetary sum, with the stipulation that we do something enjoyable with it. I was wondering what to do with the money, while I also happened to be cleaning the bathroom and listening to sports radio. They began discussing the upcoming (at the time) college football bowl games. Someone was talking about how many of the bowls were worried about attendance this year, and it was mentioned that even my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers, who probably have the best travelling fans in college football, were having trouble selling all of their tickets. That's when it hit me--would it be possible to make a hasty, crazy, spontaneous decision to travel to Dallas, Texas to attend the Cotton Bowl? I mentioned the thought to Suzanne, and I was suprised by her rather quick and enthusiastic response--we should go for it.
First, I checked the Husker ticket website, and indeed there were tickets available. Then I priced flying vs. driving; driving was the easy winner. Then I remembered that I have a good friend whose parents live in Dallas. One phone call later and we had a free place to stay in Dallas. That call saved us probably $75 to $150 and helped us be a little more certain we were making the right decision. So, in the span of about 1 hour, we went from having no New Year's Eve plans, to having a road trip a week away.
Our most difficult decision was whether to take Gracie or not. The ticket website was very clear that every person, no matter the age, must have a ticket to enter the stadium. I was not going to buy a ticket for her. Suzanne was sure they would let her in if we had her in her baby-sling, but I was skeptical. Then I remembered that our drive home over Thanksgiving took about 2 extra hours each way with the baby in the car, and we almost literally didn't have that kind of time to spare on this trip. In the end, we decided to leave her with our friend Erika. We knew she would be in good hands, and looking back it was definitely the right decision. But it was still weird looking in the backseat sometimes during the drive and not seeing her in her carseat.
The Cotton Bowl with Nebraska vs. Auburn was on Monday, January 1. Since I was being ordained as an elder in church on Sunday, December 31, that wasn't a week we could just skip the service. So, we had to leave on Sunday after church. And we planned to return to St. Louis directly after the game, so we'd spend one night in our friend's parents' house in Dallas. A quick but action-packed trip.
So, we left as soon after church on Sunday as we could, and the first leg of the trip went quite well. We packed some sandwich material so we wouldn't have to spend as much on fast food. We had our CD's (and our favorite radio station, 93.3 f.m., stayed tuned in for over 100 miles outside of town) and an audio collection of Mark Twain's "lesser known" short stories.
But, a road trip with me driving is always an adventure. I inherited a gene from my mom that gives me the potential to get lost or take the wrong road when going anywhere. Once, on a trip from Lincoln, Nebraska to Springfield, Missouri, I took the route that goes through Joplin, Missouri. If you're not familiar with Missouri geography, let's just say that's not an efficient route. Now, for many reasons, I'm not a big fan of Oklahoma. What kind of state has signs along the interstate that say, "Do not drive into smoke"? What are we supposed to do if we encounter smoke? And why is the state potentially covered in smoke in the first place? This trip did nothing to improve my impression of Sooner country. (Why would you give your state a mascot of people who were cheaters and thieves? Why indeed.)
As the interstate took us into Tulsa, my directions from Google maps indicated that I would need to take a series of turnpikes in order to get on the highway south to Dallas. Well, by the time I was halfway through Tulsa, I figured I probably missed them. By the time I was on the far side of the city, I knew I had. So, I stopped at a gas station, asked for directions, and looked at a map. (Of course, I had forgotten to bring my road atlas. As you will see, forgetting will be a theme for this trip.) Some folks at the station gave me directions, and I took them, but we still didn't feel right about it. So, at about 8:00 p.m. on New Year's Eve, we called my wife's parents and asked them to look on a map for us. It turned out that I had found my way back to the right road, but there was a crucial turn up ahead that I had to make in order to avoid taking "the long way."
Do I even need to say whether I made that turn? Of course, I missed it. If my life was a t.v. show, you'd turn it off because the protagonist is so often made out to be unbelievably stupid. Basically, instead of taking the nice, 4 lane, divided highway, with 75 m.p.h. speed limits, we were on the rough, 2 lane, no shoulder, winding through the most desolate parts of Oklahoma, take your life in your hands when you pass an oncoming semi, "highway," with 65 m.p.h. speed limits except when you go through a podunk town where the limit is 25. I was driving white-knuckled pretty much the whole time on that road. But eventually it spit us out onto the highway we were supposed to be on. And we made it to Dallas without further incident, arriving at the house at about 11:56 p.m., just in time for a New Year's smooch. Oh yeah, I should add that we saw a shooting star, which was cool, especially since both Suzanne and I happened to see it.
The next day, or I guess technically, later that day, we got up early and headed out to the Cotton Bowl Stadium. It was colder than we expected it to be in Dallas, but we had just enough clothes to layer up so we wouldn't freeze (and it warmed up a bit later). As we pulled up to the stadium, I realized that I forgot batteries for our camera, which is why I have no visual evidence of this trip for you. I thought I was being very responsible by charging the batteries for our camera the night before we left. But then I left the charger in the wall so it got me nowhere. Then we spent a good 20 minutes walking a circle and a half around the stadium looking for the "will call" window. It turned out that the "will call" window at the Cotton Bowl, unlike every other stadium in the world, is not a window in the stadium itself, but is a small hut set up across from one of the main gates, and it is clearly marked by an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper with "will call" written in about size 16 font.
As we were making our way to our seats, I realized that I also forgot my binoculars. Fortunately, I didn't need them as much as I usually do. Our seats were the best I've ever had at a football game since attending my last high school game. They were on the 25 yard line and although they said "row 14," I counted and we were only 9 rows from the front. It was a totally sweet view. The game was great, and generally well played, but sadly the Huskers lost due largely to only a couple of key errors.
Trying to get out of the Cotton Bowl was a nightmare. First, I took us the wrong way so that instead of turning left and walking about 10% of the stadium circumference, I turned us right and walked 90% of it. Then, as we followed the very large banners that hung on a fence with very large letters that read "exit to all parking" we began to notice that the crowd was bottlenecking. Then we came to a dead stop and there started to be rumors in the crowd that you couldn't get through that way. Almost everyone, including us, thought that couldn't be right. So, we fought our way to the front, only to find out that the only way marked "exit to all parking" was not an exit at all. Eventually we got to our car, where we proceeded to wait another 45 minutes before any other cars started to move. I've been to busy stadiums and concert venues before, but that Cotton Bowl was ridiculous. It was really poorly managed. What is more surprising is how lame the stadium is. Up until about 10 or maybe 15 years ago, the Cotton Bowl was one of the most prestigious bowl games. Even now, it is among the best of the second tier games. But the stadium is very hum-drum.
Okay, the ride home...pretty uneventful. We ate at Chili's on our way out of Dallas. I took all the right roads on the way home. At one point, I made a near-miraculous swerve to avoid hitting a dear head-on at 75 m.p.h. The only thing I might mention is the last 2 hours. If you've made it this far reading this tediously detailed and long, long, long description of our trip, and you're wondering if it will ever end, then you have an idea how we felt. Those last two hours were brutal. We were both exhausted. We would basically spend 24 out of 36 hours in the car. It was very late at night. We weren't getting a good radio signal, we were bored with our CD's, and Mark Twain's "lesser known" short stories are lesser known for a reason.
But, we made it home. We got to see Gracie again that morning. And Suzanne was back at work that afternoon. Actually, so was I, since I was able to get another transcription assignment for the Covenant Worldwide project. Thus, we were ready to get caught back up in our usual routine. It was a very good trip, lots of fun, and we're glad we went. But we were glad to be home too.
Sometimes at the end of these long posts I draw some sort of spiritual lesson from the events, or offer a moral to the story. I think if there is a moral to this story, it is:
spontenaity is good...but don't forget a map and batteries.
boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
free: (adjective) provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment.
"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."