From the Bird’s Nest: Road Trip–Western Kentucky
It had been almost a month since the last road trip. That FIU jaunt was a distant memory as we prepared to head to Nashville for Saturday's game in Bowling Green against Western Kentucky.
It was a normal road trip at the beginning. We got to Landmark Aviation around 12:15. The Olde Tyme po-boys were waiting for us. We got a chance to visit with some of the folks on this trip, including Greg Bourque, David "Basketball Jones" Fontenot, Carla Gerami, Vance Lanier and Dr. Danny Carroll.
After lunch, it was time to board the plane and wait for the team. We were scheduled for a 2:00 departure and took off just a few minutes late for the one hour and fifteen minute flight to Nashville. It was a pretty uneventful flight. Tyla Hudspeth had a variety of candy for the travel party, but never got to distribute it. So, she waited and had the basket ready as we were deplaning. I love me some Kit Kat.
The team and travel party were headquartered at the Doubletree downtown. We had stayed there two years prior when we played WKU. In fact, we're staying there this weekend as well. Room keys were handed out prior to our getting to the hotel and the staff had the chocolate chip cookies ready for us as well. I love me some chocolate chip cookies from the Doubletree.
As usual, we were all invited to Scott Farmer's suite for drinks. But this time, there was plenty extra. David Edmiston is the new Alumni Director and he got there early. The refrigerator and ice chest were stocked, but he had arranged for lots of food as well. There was enough finger foods (chicken fingers, cold cuts, cheese and crackers and the like) that you could go ahead and have dinner if you wanted to. And, Jones brought cracklin. I love me some cracklin.
David Edmiston gets it. He's going to do a great job in his new position. I watch other schools and their alumni director is always very involved with athletics. That's something that, in my opinion, has been lacking here. David's presence was a breath of fresh air and much appreciated.
Steve and I aren't big spenders on the road. We try to be good stewards of the company's expense account. Besides, if there's a Dairy Queen around, Steve is a really cheap date. But before we left, the boss mentioned a great steakhouse downtown and suggested we have dinner there.
Steve and I walked about five blocks to Merchants, a steakhouse that has been in existence before the turn of the 20th century. The meal was great. Steve still holds a world's record for how quickly he can devour a piece of red meat. His steak was much bigger than mine, but he wound up having to watch me eat.
We payed the bill and headed back to the hotel. Since it was a day game, there would be no nightlife. Besides, Steve had made arrangements with Tyla, Matt Roth and Carleigh Martin to go running in the morning.
Steve actually got up at 5:30. I never heard him leave the room. They wound up running for an hour...about seven miles. I don't love me some running. Not even with Carleigh and Tyla.
Right across the street from the hotel is a great breakfast place called 417 Union. I wound up having breakfast there with Dr. Carroll, Greg, Vance and Jones. Good company, good service and great food. Being superstitious, we may not eat there next Saturday. But sometimes, superstition has to be replaced with good sense.
Afterward, it was up to the room to get ready for our departure. We went downstairs at 11:00 and left for Bowling Green at 11:45.
I've been going to Bowling Green since 1992. And, I have to say, it's one of my favorite cities to travel to. It's a nice city of about 60,000 people. They've got a couple of really good restaurants, but most of all, they've got great people. They're crazy about their basketball there. Football, not so much. Of course, they're very new to the FBS and their wins haven't been plentiful. Winning cures a lot of that.
We got to Houchens' Industries-L. T. Smith Stadium around 1:00. Steven Boudreaux and his crew had gumbo ready for the fans who came in on the bus. I didn't have time to partake. It was WKU's homecoming and they had a Cajun theme "Geaux Toppers." But they didn't have Boo's gumbo.
Before their renovation to the stadium, Smith Stadium was a one-sided facility, with absolutely nothing on the East side. That's where they built the new structure with the suites and chairback seating.
The west side of the stadium is still old. They've done some cosmetic things, but not a lot.
There was an elevator there, but you still have to walk the upper deck to get to the press box. It's not quite like walking the upper deck at Cajun Field, but it's close. Now, understand....I'm old. I'm overweight. I smoke. And, I'm lugging some equipment. By the time I get to the top and into our booth, I'm breathing pretty heavily.
Note: Houchens' Industries-L. T. Smith Stadium was not built for old, fat, smoking broadcasters.
Steve, who ran seven miles that morning and is relatively young, in shape and a non-smoker, set up the equipment while I wondered if I would live until kickoff. But, by the time he was finished, I was starting to breathe fairly normally.
One of the best parts of any trip to Bowling Green is a chance to visit with the WKU Sports Information Staff. Michael Schroeder and Melissa Anderson were there. Michael handles basketball and Melissa is the baseball contact. Melissa will make her first trip to "Tigue" Moore Field this year and she's already hearing the stories about the atmosphere. She's pretty excited about the trip.
Chris Glowacki is the Football and Women's Basketball contact and he's become a dear friend over the years. More often than not, we have an evening where we go to dinner. Chris is a long-suffering Pittsburgh Pirates fan, which probably means he's Heaven-bound. There has to be a reward in the next life for being a Pirates' fan. I texted Glow when we went to PNC Park on the Kent State trip. He too, thinks it's the best ballpark in America. I also got to see Glow's wife, Celya. Celya and Chris met when she was the women's SID at Denver. They fell in love and had a long distance relationship. Now she's a Kentucky girl. Who lived in Denver. Who graduated from Cornell. Who is from Oklahoma. Got that?
Chris and Celya were married at the Makers' Mark distillery. They are REALLY my kind of people.
Celya came by the booth as well. She's now working for Russell Athletics and has worked with Lynn and Lyle Williams since taking over that position. Celya and I have birthdays a day apart. God help us if we're ever in the same city when that happens.
I also got to visit pregame with WKU play-by-play announcer Randy Lee. Randy's in his fifth year on the Hill. His football team has won a couple of games. Randy doesn't quite know how to act. I also got to spend some time with Wes Strader. Wes was the "voice of the Hilltoppers" for 36 years. He's semi-retired now but still does a pre-game show before football and basketball games. Wes is one of my all-time favorites. I call him the Pope. He is somewhat of a deity among broadcasters.
The booth at the stadium is completely open-air. We 'bout froze to death two years ago up there, but this was an absolutely beautiful day. It was 65 degrees at gametime and not a cloud in the sky. It was also a good vantage point to broadcast a game. Although you have to hike to get there, it will never be confused with FIU when it comes to a broadcast facility.
Although we flew into Nashville, we were flying home out of Bowling Green which would cut an hour off the trip. Daryl Cetnar (who is still working football for UL despite the fact he's not officially the SID any longer) Jeff Schneider (who is taking care of day-to-day football duties in the office), Steve and I all rode to the airport together after they filed their stories. By the time we got to the airport, everyone had pretty much boarded. We got on the plane and waited for takeoff. The plane landed around ten pm and I was back home for 10:30.
Pretty quiet ride home.