Friday, December 21

Looks Like I'm Home Tonight

Odometer: 21,635
Location: Chicago, IL

States Visited: Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois
Total States Visited: 43
Total Pounds Gained: -1.5


I grew up in Chicago. I took drivers ed during the winter. I know how to handle the snow. But I’m not stupid. With blizzard conditions predicted for Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, I opted to take the long way around. A trip along the length of Tennessee meant that I would fittingly pass by Knoxville, the city I’ve encountered more than any other along the way. The early part of the drive was made difficult by powerful blasts of wind. Just keeping the car on the road became a challenge. I feared an incredibly long day and perhaps another stay at Motel 6. But once I got into the Volunteer State, it was smooth sailing.

Tennessee passed without issue, and my time in Kentucky was brief. My first thought after crossing the Ohio River with over five hours remaining on the trip, “Illinois is really long!” A little before I got to Champaign, I encountered the results of the storm I chose to avoid. It was clear I had made the right decision. Illinois had become a hazardous tundra, particularly in the left lane. Once again, I saw cars being towed out of ditches. This was nothing compared to my ordeal in Nebraska and Iowa the previous week, but I was beset with concern nonetheless. I returned to find my city shrouded in relatively fresh snow and in hibernation due to temps in the teens. Of course, after 14.5 hassle free hours behind the wheel, my car got stuck in the snow while entering my garage. So the road trip wasn’t truly over until I shoveled the Corolla free. At least I finally got some exercise.

Somehow I lost 1.5 pounds on this trip. My original plan was to go jogging at every stop along the way, but the wrecked knee changed all that. I’ve eaten more fast food than at any point in my entire life, bracketed by tailgate chow and beer every Saturday. Before you get excited, ladies, the pounds are somehow less, but the presence of a belly shows that I’m clearly not in the kind of shape I was when I hit the road. The only viable conclusion is that I’ve lost a ton of muscle. Or maybe it’s just one of those mysteries that we’ll never fully understand. Knee surgery is set for early January. Hooray!
My trusty steed

I have yet to mention the various ginormous crosses that can be found along America’s interstates. I saw my first one in Tennessee en route to Clemson way back on September 2nd. I encountered at least three others in various parts of the country. The original, I believe, is the one in the Texas Panhandle. Signs in advance of the structure urge motorists to stop at the “Largest Cross in the Western Hemisphere!” The one in southern Illinois has a website. They all appear to have the same dimensions, and I don’t believe any of them has a church at their site. Call it advertising, a beacon of hope, grandstanding, a heartfelt sign of devotion, or whatever you like. I’ll just say the same thing I said about Bipin and Rebel being colleagues at the Harrisonburg Econolodge. Only in America.So now I’m home. For good. That first game in South Bend doesn’t even feel like it was part of this season. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I figured it would be a fun time at the very least. This experience has surpassed every possible expectation. I was able to see so much of this wonderful country, something that everybody should take the time to do at some point.
The first photo

Of course, the football was fantastic, and the uniqueness of each stop was even better. The history and tradition on display at Notre Dame. The southern hospitality (and southern belles) I encountered at Clemson. The all-day party that is LSU football. The devotion to the game of football in Lincoln. The aggressive drinking and fabulous fifth quarter in Madison. The picturesque setting and fanbase craving better football in Seattle. The deep-fried goodness of the Red River Shootout. The small-town appeal of Bridgewater College. The new kid on the block enthusiasm of Rutgers. The old kid on the block appreciation for the finer things at Harvard. The raucous cultural opposition at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The unbridled devotion of Buckeye backers. The charming and endearing Volunteer fans at The Hill. The day I got to be a fan again in Ann Arbor. The radiant animosity on display at the Iron Bowl. The multi-cultural multiplicity in South Central. The greater community at the Stagg Bowl. With all those stops behind me, you’d think I could be cured of my wanderlust, but if anything, I now have a new urge to hit every college campus to see a game. Who’s with me?
New York Cares

The greatest thing about this endeavor, though, is surely the people I met along the way. Better than all the wonderful sights and terrain is the populous of our nation. I talked with more generous and friendly people than I could possibly count. At each of the above stops, I can claim somebody I encountered as a new friend. Many of them are listed above in the “Friends of the Program” section. I urge you to check out their work. They’re far better bloggers than I, and their devotion to their respective teams knows no bounds.
I finish this journey a bit in awe of everywhere I’ve been. I sometimes still can’t believe I did this, and am so incredibly glad I did. In fact, I find myself asking why I didn’t do it sooner. Though I’m staying put in Chicago for the foreseeable future, the season continues, and so will posting in this site, though it may change a bit. Please keep checking back for updates.I’ll close for now with a phrase I saw on a Nike running poster years ago, but is apropos for me today. For all of us, actually. “There are clubs you can’t belong to, neighborhoods you can’t live in, schools you can’t get into, but the roads are always open.” Amen.

3 comments:

SkoalTrain said...

Andrew,

I am not much of a reader nor a blogger. I can truly say that I have read every word on your "Road Games" site. I really enjoyed each and every article. It was a pleasure meeting you at Bridgewater as well at Salem. I'm so glad you got a chance to experience a Stagg Bowl. I think you too have been changed by the experience. Let me say Congratulations on your trip this past year and I can't wait until the book comes out. I'll be one of the first persons in line to get a signed copy.

Anderw, Godspeed and may the Good Lord Bless each and every mile you plan to travel in the future.

SkoalTrain

Kozy said...

Andrew,
This was an amazing trip, with awesome reporting every step of the way. I felt like I was with you in each city and game. Thanks! Kozy

PMaz said...

Lost weight? Wow. That's the most exciting achievement of all, unless you were already 300 pounds.

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