Road Trip: Florida – From the Bird’s Nest
OK, after the heartbreak of Saturday, time to add a little levity to the situation.
Under Mark Hudspeth, and thanks to the work of Troy Wingerter and John Dugas along with an airline that makes us a priority, our routine has been pretty much the same on all road trips. We get to the FBO (Landmark Aviation) around 12:15, grab an Ole Tyme po-boy (I opt for the turkey now) eat it and go to the plane. There, we're hand-wanded for security and then we're ready to board.
The team gets there after the rest of us have boarded, so we're on the plane for about an hour before we actually take off. During that time I did some more preliminary work on Florida and, since the overlap is here, preliminary work on Oakland as well, with hoops season opening up Sunday.
Then after takeoff, I finished reading Stolen Glory by Mike Brewster and Taps Gallagher. It's the story of the 1972 Olympic Basketball team that lost to the Soviet Union in the gold medal game. Actually, they had it stolen from them. It's an amazing read, and I learned things I didn't know about the team, the individuals and the Olympics. It also talks about the Israeli massacre from the players' point of view. It's an amazing book and I heartily recommend it. You can thank me later.
After arriving in Gainesville, we bused to Ocala, not quite an hour south and checked into a very nice Hilton. We were invited, as always to a reception in the suite of athletics director Scott Farmer.
Now, normally Scott has what I would call a "typical" suite. A large living room, separate bedroom and a bathroom accessible from both.
Not this time.
The bed was in the right hand side of the room, the living room was in the middle and to the left was a bathroom bigger than the bedroom. Actually it was more of a sitting room with two large sinks and a jacuzzi tub. The actual facilities were just off that room. There was also a large chaise in that room that was, ahem, big enough for two. They called it the Presidential Suite, but I couldn't figure out which President...Clinton or Kennedy.
After a couple of cold ones (yes, I actually had two), it was time for dinner. Now, the travel party was going to a fine dining steak house. I would have been okay with that (the boss would have been also) but we're all guys who usually eat well for less and that's what we decided to do. The dinner party consisted of Steve, Gerald, SID Brian McCann and TV3's Travis Webb.
We decided on Cody's, a barbecue and steak place where you can feed three people for what would have paid for one person at the other place. And, here's where the fun started.
The first thing Steve saw was they had milk shakes on the menu.
The first thing the rest of us saw was Yuengling on tap.
Gerald had never had Yuengling and was looking forward to trying it. Our waitress came over. Steve ordered a Dr. Pepper and a chocolate shake. The rest of us ordered Yuengling on tap.
"Large or small" the waitress asked.
"Large," we all said.
The milk shake came first and Steve got busy. And, before the beers arrived, the milkshake was gone. We didn't know it, but Brian had timed the whole thing.
How the guy doesn't get brain freeze is beyond me.
Then the beer arrived. We all though large would be about 22 ounces. We didn't know it would be a small pitcher.
Brian then decided an order of onion rings for the table would be a good idea. It wasn't quite what we expected.........
The rest of dinner was pretty uneventful, except, shortly after we got our food, our waitress came back to check on us and Steve was almost done with his steak.
"Wow," was all she could say.
After dinner it was back to the hotel. Brian and I had more discussion about downing a milkshake in 84 seconds before we called it a night.
Because of the 12:21 kickoff, we set a departure time at 7:45 from the hotel. We were on the air at 10:30 (all times Eastern) so we figured getting there by nine am would be plenty of time ot set up. On our way out of town, we stopped at McDonald's to pick up breakfast. I got the oatmeal. Steve did not order a milk shake.
Once there, we were directed to our booth and saw it was open air. And, evidently, open
season on the booth by pigeons. Now, that wasn't as bad as wasps in Monroe, unless of course, the pigeons did their thing DURING the game. We got some paper towels and wiped away the dried poop from the table and chairs before setting up equipment.
In the press dining area, you had a choice between breakfast and lunch. There was a breakfast casserole which Steve didn't eat because there was broccoli in it. Bacon, sausage, waffles and pancakes were also available. So was syrup. Steve does not put syrup on pancakes and waffles. There was also ham, and roast beef rolled up and stuffed with ricotta cheese. Good eats.
We did have one pigeon visit for just a second during the broadcast. I didn't even see it, but G did. Fortunately we were not a bank and it did not make a deposit.
After the game, we were pretty somber as we packed up. The buses left before we did (there were seven of us in a van with bags and equipment as assistant SID Jeff Schneider and beat writer Tim Buckley joined the aforementioned five of us.) We got to the airport and went into the main terminal and went through normal TSA security. Then it was a walk on the tarmac to the plane.
Most of the travel party, including the team, was already on the plane. I stopped long enough to fist bump Coach Hud. I didn't say anything. I didn't need to. He said thanks.
It's lonely when you're at the top.