Well another trip is in the books as we are on the return trip home from Columbia, Ky. Again this week I got behind on staying updated here so I will attempt to talk about four days. Columbia is a 15-hour drive for us….we have two more trips to the same area, oh boy. This was an interesting trip because we were off to see a team playing for just the second time in program history and searching for its first win.
Thursday – Travel Day
We decided to begin the trip on Thursday afternoon since it was such a long jaunt. Jason picked me up about 1:30 Thursday afternoon and we were on our way. I opened the laptop and began working on my weekly Mid-South Conference preview. There were eight matchups to sift through, jot down some thoughts and make a prediction. I worked on that and had it completed by the time we got to Kansas City. Just as we did last week, we stopped East of K.C. for fuel and Sonic and I drove so Jason could work. It was on to O’Fallon, IL where we stopped for the night.
Friday – More travel
O’Fallon was about seven hours from Columbia, our destination. We had decided to make a little detour on Friday morning. We were on the road shortly after eight a.m. It was an egg and sausage sandwich for breakfast by the way. That seems to be the easiest thing for hotels to have ready in the morning. I am totally okay with it. It beats cereal and warm milk like some places offer. We hit the road towards Carbondale, IL, the home of Southern Illinois University. Former University of Sioux Falls head coach Kalen DeBoer is not the Offensive Coordinator for the Salukis. They were set to leave that afternoon for Champaign to take on the Fighting Illini.
We got to Carbondale about 10 a.m. and coach DeBoer met us in the lobby of the athletic facility. He showed us through the basketball arena that is still under construction. We literally had to go through a temporary plywood door and duck under caution tape to see it. When it is completed, the Salukis will have a very nice arena. We then went over to the brand new football stadium and up through the press box. It was a stadium that I felt was the perfect size for a school like Southern Illinois, who is ranked No. 5 in the country in the FCS. I still don’t understand why they drop three spots for losing to Illinois. They are supposed to lose that game for goodness sake. Anyway, we got a full tour of the locker room, coaches offices, etc. I had the chance to meet SIU head coach Dale Lennon and others. After an hour it was time to get on our way with about five hours left.
We made it into Columbia mid afternoon and went straight to Blue Raider Stadium. The team was set for a walk through and we decided to scope some things out. We ended up setting up all of the equipment so we had less to deal with on Saturday. After setup and practice were complete, we finally checked into the hotel. Jason and I had our own rooms and two beds in each room…I had no idea whst to do with myself. At 6:30 we met Coach Oliver, his wife, Wendy, and little girl, Samantha at a Mexican restaurant. I had the Super Chimichangas (yes, I googled to make sure I was spelling it right) and they were incredible. However, I did have a big sign flash before me during dinner. The waitress went to refill my drink and I told her I had Pepsi. When it came back and it was diet…..ah man, better start watching the soda intake. I kind of want a Dr. Pepper now. CRAP! But seriously, if you ever find yourself in Columbia, Ky. eat at that place. I know I am not being too helpful by not giving you the name (because I can’t remember), but people will know, just ask. It is seriously one of the few places to sit down and eat at.
After dinner it was back to the hotel and time to continuing prep work for the game. I forgot something I needed in the vehicle and by the time I realized it….the rain was pouring down. And when I say pouring I mean it. You know those rains sometimes when you are walking on a balcony and can’t hear anything….that was it. But I had to buck up and get to the vehicle. I stayed as dry as I could, given the circumstances. With football tuned in on ESPN and a computer open I worked until about 12:30 a.m. before I decided it was time to get some sleep. I was feeling really good about the prep done heading into Saturday.
Saturday – Game Day
We began game day just like the Blue Raiders did….breakfast in the caf. It has been a couple years since I have had to stand in line for breakfast in a cafeteria, but by golly I did it. My plate was filled with pancakes, eggs and something else I don’t even remember…it was that good. I later added toast to the menu and was set for the day. We went to the stadium to tie up any loose ends and finish setup. Back to the hotel one last time to get our stuff and dress for the game. We were finally at the stadium for good by 11:15 a.m., two hours before the start of pregame. Jason interviewed Coach Oliver and I made my way down to take some pictures of the field. I prepped more for the game and then around 12:30 I could smell food in the press box area….yes, I had been waiting for this. It was a great meal for the media and staff, the best I have ever had at an NAIA event. After eating, Jason and I pre-recorded a pregame show and it was just about game time.
The game went pretty smooth. There was rain and lightning that moved into the area, for the second straight week, and lucky for us it was close to halftime so we didn’t have to be delayed. After the game and Lindsey Wilson’s first-ever victory (congrats, again!) We packed everything up, stopped at a fast food chicken food chain that direction (no, not KFC) and we were on our way. Jason drove and I rode as we made it just East of O’Fallon before we needed fuel. It was about 11 p.m. and I drove while Jason did a few things. We decided to stop in Warrenton (West of St. Louis) for the night. We checked into a holiday Inn Express and hit the sack.
Sunday – Travel Day
After a sausage and cheese omelet sandwich at the hotel, we were on our way. I drove so Jason could update the website. We also did our Scoreboard show on the drive as well and Jason was able to get that posted. We stopped for fuel in Platte City and then finished the trip home. We were able to stay caught up with NFL games flipping through Satellite radio. I am big in to fantasy football and had a few people constantly texting on the drive home. One of my good buddies kept asking when I would be home so we could talk football. We co-own a team in a league we won last year and ended up with over $300 from it. It isn’t unusual for him and I to sit on the phone for an hour or two on Sundays discussing how bad our team is (it wasn’t a good week). We made it home about 4:00 and I camped out in front of the tube to watch more football.
It was a fun trip, and this concludes another edition of VSN Travels. This week we head to Des Moines, Iowa.