Sunday, November 4

The Old Gray Mare

Odometer: 12,944
Location: Columbus, OH
States Visited: Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio

From Jacksonville, I made my way north through Georgia. The stretch of I-75 through this section is jammed with billboards as far as the eye can see. The signs quickly become part of the scenery you don’t even notice, thus losing their effectiveness, much like pop-up ads. But there’s room for more – add to the visual pollution! I made my return trip to Erik and Chrissy’s dander palace, where I stayed for four fun-filled nights. The lone lament was that I never found the time to make it to downtown Atlanta. My wonderful hosts kept insisting on showing me the city, but I was busy playing catchup on all kinds of work. Regretfully, we have to leave the Hotlanta tour until next time. Still, it was another great visit highlighted by my cheapest Halloween costume ever - $1.49 hockey mask from CVS. If you like rock music, and I know you do, check out Erik’s band, Life At Sea. They’re excellent, and currently working on a new release.

After successfully evading the many radar guns on The Perimeter, the ten hour drive to Columbus passed without major issue. Ohio State purported to be perhaps my most challenging stop along the way. Growing up, I always viewed Ohio as my second-state. My cousins lived in Cincinnati and my family made two road trips per year to the Queen City. But four years at the University of Michigan shifted my second-state designation and of course altered my attitude towards The Birthplace of Aviation. In the interest of this ongoing project as well as the objectivity required to write my tailgate column for, I resolved to create a game plan that would best serve my needs in Columbus. My initial thought was to lie. I was going to tell people that I graduated from Northern Illinois University, a team they blew out last season, and assume that no one would ask me too many detailed questions. This lie would be told in the interest of ultimate truth. Ironic though that may be, I wanted the people I met to treat me naturally and without any “school up north” prejudice. But after further rumination, I decided it was best to be honest and let the chips fall where they may. I would not wear a blue t-shirt, and I would not go about singing The Victors. But if it came up, so be it. My policy would be “ask and I’ll tell.”

I arrived to the west campus parking lot by around 7:45 in the morning. It was easily the coldest morning I’ve experienced since this trip began. So cold, in fact, that I had to use my window scraper before I could leave the hotel parking lot. Frost covered the nearby fields until the late-arriving sun could do its work. Layers of clothing kept my core warm, but lacking gloves, my fingers quickly went numb. It’s no fun taking notes down with fingers that don’t obey your commands. There are many striking things about Buckeye fans. The most notable is their adoration for Jim Tressel. If he were to walk across the Olentangy, it would come as a surprise to no one in Columbus. Perhaps it was because the John Cooper era was so frustrating that they appreciate him all the more. At any rate, the guy is everyone’s personal hero. Many people referenced the marching band, which surprised me even though I knew it was a point of pride. I’d seen them perform on the road before, but it had been many years, and I don’t remember them leaving much of an impression. They put on quite a show. Because I was up in the press box, I couldn’t hear whether they were actually playing their instruments well or not, but their formations were beyond impressive. At one point they formed a bow and arrow which then shot the arrow through a gigantic W (for Wisconsin, natch). They deserve a lot of credit, even if they are dressed like Lynndie England at a court date. Early in the day, I came across some students who are part of the Block O organization which is basically Ohio State’s pep club. They were totally excited about all things Ohio State. I have to give a special thanks to Courtney, Kathleen, Kyle, and Matt for taking me on a guided walking tour of the campus once the game ended. Nobody has offered that anywhere else I’ve been. You kids were awesome, even if Courtney broke her momma’s heart by choosing Ohio State over Michigan. Speaking of Michigan and my “ask and I’ll tell” policy... It never came up. The only person that asked me about my affiliations was an Arizona fan who married into Buckeye nation. Judge for yourself what that means about Buckeyes – just know that 80% of the people I’ve met this season have asked me, “What’s your team?” I’m proud to say, I did my journalistic best and grinned through the invective gleefully levied upon my beloved alma mater. I didn’t get my ass kicked and didn’t start any trouble. I surely must return for a Michigan game here when I am free to fly my true colors. Lastly, the greatest thing about this weekend was that my friends Scott and Tracy were married. Upon hearing they would be having a fall wedding, I told them that there was pretty much no way I could attend since I would be working every Saturday with my itinerary already mapped out. In an absolutely fantastic stroke of dumb, blind luck, they chose this weekend and this location to tie the knot. All the better I managed to avoid a pummeling by riled up, nutty Buckeyes. Mazal Tov!

1 comment:

CMal said...

My mom told me to tell you that I didn't break her heart too badly. She's more heartbroken that Ohio State keeps beating Michigan and I have bragging rights!

Good luck on the rest of your trip! You were kinda cool--for a michigan alum!


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