Thursday, September 13

Baby Dontcha Wanna Go

Odometer: 2632
Location: Chicago, IL
States Visited: Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missoui, Illinois
Mississippi Crossed: Thrice

After a fruitful weekend in Baton Rouge, I was found myself without a definitive plan for Sunday morning. For the first time in this endeavor, I didn’t have a specific place I was supposed to be. Having never been to New Orleans and also having been told of the wonders of the Jazz sandwich at Verdi Mart, I decided I would spend Sunday night in The Big Easy and then slowly make my way north to Nebraksa. But then I started thinking about my finances and realized that I could make it home in one straight shot if I left right away, saving me at least $300 in the process. So that’s what I did.

Highway 55 goes pretty much from Baton Rouge all the way up to Chicago. It’s about 14 hours if you don’t stop anywhere to eat or see the sights. Not that I passed too many tourist attractions along the way. Tempted by the lure of Memphis, I opted to keep on truckin’ and get home as quickly as possible. Towns with names like Ebenezer, Gluckstadt, Braggadocio, Cape Girardeau, and Coffeeville also piqued my curiosity, but they would all have to wait for some return trip. I’m holding up surprisingly well on these long drives, largely due to all the technological doodads I have with me. My I-pod has been on shuffle, and I’m currently at song 334 out of 4418 (“Budo” by Miles Davis in case you’re curious). SIRIUS satellite radio has its flaws, but four straight hours of Howard Stern can scoot you across a state with minimal boredom. A digital voice recorder allows me to take notes while avoiding a choice between pulling over and causing a sure accident. And cruise control is probably the third greatest invention in history (after air conditioning and soap – seriously, imagine how reeky everyone was before soap).

I’m a big map guy. I’ve always been good with maps and was handed navigational responsibility on family trips at a very early age. For my birthday, my brother gave me a Garmin GPS Navigator thingy which has reduced the stress of driving by myself. The thingy was badly in need of a nickname and while talking with a recent Clemson grad, we stumbled across one by accident. “Grandma” (so named because the girl misunderstood my mumbling) pretty much tells me what to do every step of the way. That has made things a bit weird for me, a map guy, in that I never really know where I am. I only know where I’m going. It has been a challenge for me to take it on faith that Grandma knows the way, but with a few minor exceptions, she has been very on point. She often yells at me when I defy her, be it a pit stop or to take a route I think might be better. “Turn right!” You can feel the scorn when I don’t follow her directions. Any deviation from her declared path is always met with a disdainful, “Recalculating!” But Grandma has been an extremely useful companion getting me where I need to go while breaking long drives up into chunks between turns.

A few other items from LSU:

College Gameday (built by the Home Depot!) was in Baton Rouge. It looks like a much bigger deal on TV than it does in person. They have flawless technique in using all the best camera angles to make things look packed even if they aren’t. It was viciously hot because there was not a bit of shade on the field where their set was plunked down. There were only a few hundred people crammed around the stage, but on TV, it looked much greater. I think Gameday is going to be in Lincoln this Saturday (those guys are following me around – I had my schedule set up way before the season started!). For the most part, people are glad to have them in town because it obviously means it’s one of the top games of the week (provided the game airs on ABC or ESPN). But as far as the show itself goes, I don’t think there’s much of an appeal for the fans.

In addition to Tyrus Thomas, Shaq was in town for the game. Here’s a picture of his bus: It’s one of the most ostentatious things I’ve ever seen. Emblazoned with a painting of Shaq lording over famous movie gangsters like Vito Corleone, Tony Montana, and Jimmy Conway, there’s no question who owns the vehicle. Plus, it has the Superman logo Shaq has attempted to adopt as his own. Here's guessing that Shaunie won't be seeking this bus in the divorce settlement. At least the license plate was done in tribute: “WILT C”

All throughout the day, LSU fans told me one of their favorite things about being an LSU fan was Tiger Band. People began lining the road that leads into the stadium hours in advance to witness the band’s entrance. It was like the Gay Pride parade in Chicago. OK, no, it wasn’t like that. But I was impressed by what a showing there was. The band comes right by Mike the tiger’s enclosure and enters via the student gate to wild cheers and applause from the crowd. Obviously they were just getting warmed up for all the screaming set to take place inside the stadium. Perhaps this was a bigger event because it was the first home game of the season, but I was impressed nonetheless.
Off to Lincoln next!

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