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From the Bird’s Nest: Road Trip–Middle Tennessee

courtesy mark fontenot

Another week, another road trip.

After a tough loss the week before to Western Kentucky, this was going to be a big game for Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns.  Middle Tennessee had the league’s best rushing and passing offense and the Cajuns were going to have to play a lot better in this one than they had the week before.

Because of the Sertoma Air Show, it was imperative the plane leave on time.  So we all got to Landmark Aviation a little earlier than usual.

I pulled up in the parking lot and next to me were former Governor Kathleen Blanco and her husband Raymond, the former VP at the University.  As many of you know, Governor Blanco is battling a rare form of eye cancer.  But she looked great and said she felt great.  They were just coming in from a vacation in New York and were actually repacking in the back of their daughter’s SUV.  They were going to the game, but also going to see Raymond’s brother, who has Alzheimer’s.

Raymond and Kathleen are a trip to watch.  They got packed and Raymond clapped her on the shoulder.  Kathleen reared back and whacked him on the back.

They both laughed like crazy.

True love at its finest.

I walked into the terminal and was surprised as I could be.

No Olde Tyme.

For the first road trip in at least three or four years, there was no ham.  No turkey.

However, there were pulled pork sandwiches from 2-Paul’s.  And they were very good.  But everyone who arrived wanted to know where the Olde Tyme was.

Hey the food was great.  And it was free.  We adjusted.

And, once again, Tyla Hudspeth had some candy for us.  Reeses’ Peanut Butter cups were my choice.

We got on the plane early and the team arrived a little early.  And, therefore, we departed in plenty of time for the flight to Nashville.

The temperatures were cool when we got there.  It was going to be pretty chilly for the weekend.  We stayed at the Doubletree, downtown Nashville, for the second straight week.  They were ready for us when we arrived.  Room keys?  Check.  Chocolate chip cookies?  Check.

Steve Peloquin and I checked into our room and I did a quick thing on our website before heading up to Scott Farmer’s suite.  This was going to be a celebration as well as a reception after Scott had been officially named the school’s Athletic Director.  Paul Schneider, who was making his first road trip with the team along with his dad Vic and brother David, brought Scott a bottle of bubbly.  Very nice gesture.

The week prior, David Edmiston, the new UL Alumni Director had come to Nashville early and had a great spread for the guests in Scott’s suite.  David was not on this trip.  After all, we had lost the week before.  We joked that he was banned until further notice.

After a couple of hours visiting, it was time for dinner.  Game seven of the World Series was on and originally Steve and I planned to watch it in our room.  But instead, we decided to accompany friends to the River City Tavern, a sports bar with good food where we had gone on a previous trip.  Scott did a great job of navigating and we got there in no time.  Besides the three of us, David Fontenot and his son Mark, Greg Bourque, Jim Radcliffe (a great friend of Scott’s who is responsible for putting together “Geaux” magazine on gameday) and RCAF chairman John Bordelon were all present and accounted for.

We ordered drinks and dinner.  We didn’t have a great view of the game but were able to keep up with what was happening.

Now, normally I don’t really include personal information in these blogs.  After all, it’s personal and most of you who read this wouldn’t care much anyway.  But sometimes it’s part of the story.  And, in this case, it was.

I had just finished eating.  It was about 8:15 when I got a text from my brother Mike.

Dad with my grand-niece Avery

My dad, a World War II veteran and father of seven, had passed away, two weeks shy of his 88th birthday.

Now, I knew this was coming.  In fact, I had told Scott and Steve it might happen during the road trip.  Dad’s quality of life the last three years had not been good and we all knew he was fading pretty quickly.  Dad was in a nursing home in Cedar Hill, TX, south of Dallas.

I was sitting next to Steve and showed him the text.  Scott, across the table, saw my expression change and he caught my eye.  “Dad?” he mouthed.  I nodded and excused myself to go outside and call my wife and four adult children to inform them.  I had prepared them all before I left on the trip.

By the time I got back inside, the rest of the table knew what had happened.  Since this was a micro-brewery, a couple of people had ordered a sampler, which gave us enough small glasses for us to toast a member of the “greatest generation.”  We settled up the bill and went outside.

While we were outside, John Bordelon asked me a few questions about my father.  He hugged me and said “We’re going to go and drink to your dad.”

And we did.

Several times.

With Yuengleng.

We went to Legends and glasses were raised and the words “To John” were said.

Several times

With Yuengleng.

We made it a festive occasion.  Just as Dad would have wanted.  There were twins working behind the

courtesy mark fontenot

bar.  They (as you can see) were getting plenty of attention.

Finally it was time to head back to the hotel and we made the walk back.  A nightcap wasn’t going to be necessary.  We all make plans to meet for breakfast at 8:30.

We missed game seven.

I woke up at seven the next morning and after freshening up, went downstairs.  I was still really tired and maybe could have slept longer.  But I was upright and went outside.  Coach Blanco came outside and invited me for coffee in the restaurant.  We chatted for awhile while waiting for the rest of the crew.  Coach, Anthony Daniel, who runs the student union, University VP Ken Ardoin and his brother David all wound up joining the crew from last night for breakfast.

Breakfast was great.  And, so was the company.  But I was really looking forward to getting back to the hotel and doing a bit of work.  There was also a nap in my future since the game wasn’t until 6:30.

Not happening.

We got a text message from John Dugas, Assistant AD for internal affairs that we had to be out of our rooms by noon.  Everyone was invited to Scott’s suite.

So much for the nap.

We got back to the room, did some work and showered.  I went downstairs and checked out of the room.

I really needed to do some more work on a blog concerning Scott’s appointment.  (You’ll find that later today on our website.)  I wrote until about three and sent Scott the story to make sure of accuracy.  (A shorter version will appear in “Geaux” magazine this weekend.)  Gerald “T-Boy” Hebert and his wife Martha came by and told me they were going to make a contribution to the basketball program in my dad’s memory.  I was very touched by their kindness.

At 3:20 we loaded the buses and made the trip to Murfreesboro.

At the stadium, we got set up and had something to eat.  After so many trips to MT, we’ve gotten to know quite a few folks there.  I visited with Dick Palmer and Chip Walters, the Middle Tennessee broadcasters, along with SID Mark Owens and his staff.  Celya Glowacki, who I had seen the week before at WKU was there working on the TV crew and we got a chance to visit.

courtesy ginger corley freeman

And, I saw Ginger Freeman, the head of the MT Alumni Association.  Ginger and her husband JoJo are very good friends. JoJo used to be on the SID staff, but is how the head SID at Cumberland College.  Ginger and JoJo had spent a few days with my wife and I at my late father-in-laws farm a few years ago.  Not long after that visit, Ginger and JoJo welcomed triplets.  They just turned four and I got a chance to hear some stories.  I had spent New Years’ Day with them in 2010 when the triplets, Micah, Patrick and Kathleen, were just two years old.  I’ll be seeing them again in January when we go for basketball.

It was disappointing to see the MT crowd, or lack thereof.  One of their staff said before the game that their atendance usually dropped once the weather got colder, and the folks weren’t really very happy in Murfreesboro right now.  That kind of took me by surprise, since MT had gone to bowl games the last two years and were just two years removed from a ten-win season.

The crowd wasn’t more than 5,000 although they announced 13,500.  And, they were booing before the first quarter ended.  That was very disappointing to me.  I hate it when fans boo.

After the game, Jeff Schneider, who handled the SID duties for the game, brought up pizza and we all ate before heading to the airport.  When we arrived at the FBO, we went through the light security provided by Allegiant Air and boarded the plane.  As the plane started to taxi I looked at the time.  Amazingly, it looked as though this itinerary was going to be accurate and we’d be landing just after 1 am.

Yeah, right.

The plane stopped.  And the pilot announced there was an issue.  But they had a mechanic on board and would have it fixed in no time.

Two hours later we taxied back to the FBO.

The next thing I knew, Coach Mark Hudspeth, John Dugas, Scott Farmer and Troy Wingerter were taking bags off the bus.  The pilot told us we’d be deplaning and going back to the FBO.  Buses would be coming in to take us to a hotel.

Wonderful.

We all got our bags and went into the FBO and waited.  Two shuttle buses showed up about 45 minutes later.  They would have to make two trips to get everyone to the Best Western/Music City where we would spend the night.  Amazingly, they had 70 rooms available.

We got to the hotel.  John Dugas and Troy Wingerter were making sure the players that were there were getting a room key.  Then, they called my name.  I got a key and Steve and I went to our room.

It was a Best Western.  But it was clean, the heat worked and so did the hot water.  The bed was clean.  But I couldn’t go to bed yet.  I still had to turn in my Harris Poll vote.  So, while Steve got into bed, I went to work.

And, finally got to bed around 5:00am.

Up at 8:00am.  At the time, we had no idea what time we’d be leaving.  At about 9:30 we got a text from John Dugas telling us we’d leave somewhere around 10:30.  We finally left a little before eleven.  The plan was to take the team to Golden Corral, since they hadn’t eaten since just after the game.  Then, once the plane was at the airport, we’d head home.

But on the way to the restaurant, Chris Hilliard, who works as one of Darren Walker’s videographers, suffered a seizure.  That meant a pit stop at the emergency room.  Fortunately, there was one not far away.  Scott Farmer and Dr. Cestia stayed with Chris while we headed to the restaurant.  The good news:  Chris was cleared to go home and we picked them up after lunch.  I checked with Darren Walker today and Chris is doing well.

Turn loose about 100 football players, coaches and support staff on a buffet.  It’s quite a sight.  Then add the

courtesy mark fontenot

guests and, well, let’s just say the staff was busy.  But they did a great job.  Afterwards we hung out in the parking lot since it wasn’t time to head to the airport just yet.

Finally, it was time to go.

We got to the airport and realized that Allegiant Air wouldn’t be screening us.  Instead, it was a full TSA crew.  And, because it was outside, that meant a full-body patdown.

For over 100 people.  This was gonna take awhile.

even former governors were not exempt from the molestation...er...screening

And, it would be, for most folks, the first time they had been subjected to this kind of screening.

It was, for many, kind of funny.  The expressions on some of the players faces as the patdown took place was really kind of funny.  They did the screening one bus at a time.  Finally, it was our turn.

I have to say, the folks were really nice.  But I, too, had never experience that kind of intrusion.  Thank goodness the dude didn’t kiss me.  He did just about everything else.

Finally, the screening process was complete and we loaded the plane.  We all applauded when the plane took off, and did the same when it landed.  Lafayette had never looked so good.

It was Sunday afternoon at 4:30pm.

We were home.

With win #7.

Babes

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