When the first game of the year is on the road, it means there’s one less day in the office to tie up loose ends before the road trip.  That made for some pretty late nights last week.  We had re-formatted the broadcast with a two hour on-site pre-game show with Gerald Broussard and Steve Peloquin and that meant a new on-site team as former Cajuns WR Richie Falgout and KATC-TV3’s Travis Webb would now be a part of the game broadcast.

Originally we had planned to get to Lexington, drop off bags and head to Cincinnati to see Jonathan Lucroy’s Brewers take on the Reds.  Unfortunately, we found out we weren’t leaving Lafayette until 3:00 and that meant we probably wouldn’t get to Cincinnati until about the fifth inning.

Nowadays on charter flights, not everyone has to go through screening.  They “randomly select” those who have to go through the process.  They started that process a little early because there was some weather on the way.  I was visiting with Jake Delhomme, who was making his first road trip with the Cajuns as a fan.  We got up to the line and Jake was selected for screening.  As was I.  But it took no time and we were on the plane….with an Olde Tyme Po-Boy (Ham and Swiss for me, please).  They almost got the first wave of folks onto the plane before the storm hit and just a few got wet.  There was a pretty hefty delay waiting for the weather to slow down enough to get the team and coaches (and Tyla and Major) on the plane. 

I actually had a seat near the front of the plane, right behind AD Scott Farmer, Associate AD Rob Stewart and new RCAF Executive Director Jim Harris.  It was actually my first chance to meet Jim, although he had done my radio show when he was first hired.  Riding behind those guys enabled me to make sure they were comfortable before takeoff.  Coach Mark Hudspeth, wife Tyla and son Major were across the aisle and I’m sure when Hud saw me he was really happy I had a window seat.  Tyla, of course, had a candy bar for me.  The 2015 season started with an Almond Joy.

 

Despite the delay, we were running only about ten minutes late once we were airborne.  The flight was a little less than two hours and it was just after 6pm, Eastern Time when the plane landed at the airport.  After the buses were loaded up and we made the trip to the hotel and got to our rooms, it was nearly seven.  As we pulled up to the hotel, we saw there was a Denny’s next door.  I immediately thought of Steve.  In fact I sent him a message telling him there was a Denny’s next door…followed by a phrase I can’t print in this story.

The Marriott we stayed at was really nice (I don’t think I’ve seen a Marriott that I would call a dump.)  But this one was especially good.

As always, there is a reception for about an hour or so for the travel party in Scott Farmer’s suite.   It was a Farmer family affair.  Now that son Kyle is in school, Scott’s wife Jackie was there, as was Scott’s mom and sister (no, they weren’t on the plane.)  And, of course, Scott’s daughter Kaitlin was there…she is a graduating senior at UK.

We had a few cold ones and got a chance to introduce Richie to some of the folks

Richie Falgout doing game prep the night before the game

on the trip.  Richie hasn’t met a stranger, ever, so that was pretty easy for him and those he met. 

Then it was time for dinner.  The travel party was going to a fancy steakhouse and we nearly went there as well, but we saw a place next door called Drake’s that was open.  They specialized in, get this, burgers and sushi.  It had plenty of televisions with football showing.  Sports Information Director Matt Sullivan, his assistant Jeff Schneider, photographer Brad Kemp and the two State Policemen that drove up (in record time, I might add), along with Richie and me.

surf and turf sushi at Drake's in Lexington

I was the only one who ordered sushi.  Now I have to say right off the bat, I’m not a big sushi guy.  But I really wasn’t in the mood for anything fried so I tried it.  They had a pretty extensive sushi menu and Courtney, our waitress, made an excellent suggestion.  The food didn’t take long to make an appearance.  Jeffrey Mitchell’s burger was gigantic.  Everyone enjoyed their meal.  Courtney was a great server and we each gave her a good tip…because that’s what you do when you have a great server.

It was back to the hotel afterward and I got a little bit of work done before we both crashed.

Of course, the next morning we had to make the pilgrimage to Denny’s.  Now, we give Steve a lot of grief about his obsession with Denny’s (and his free trip to Las Vegas courtesy of the Denny’s folks because they heard Steve loved it so much.) but the truth is, Denny’s is a pretty neat place for breakfast.

Unless you’re in Lexington, Kentucky.  Next door to a Marriott.  Then, not so much.

We walked in and asked if the counter was open seating and we were told yes.  We had a seat and about five minutes later a smiling woman came out and handed us our menu’s and said our server would be with us shortly.

She lied.

The woman who was supposed to be our server was seating people, and then running the register.  Then seating people.  Then running the register.  Fifteen minutes went by and now I’m less than happy.  The next time she went to the register I walked over and waited for her to finish and I was going to simply remind her how long we had been waiting.  But before I could say anything she (without making eye contact) said “I’ll be with you as soon as I can.”  And, honestly, it wasn’t a friendly delivery.

Steve can eat this Lumberjack Slam in six minutes. It takes me considerably longer.

I went back and sat down.  Five more minutes, I said to Richie.  Then we would be leaving, but only after I spoke with the manager. 

Two minutes later a different server appeared.  Her name was Heidi.  She asked if everything was ok.  Now, I don’t shoot the messenger so I just politely replied we had been waiting nearly twenty minutes.  Although it obviously wasn’t her station she apologized, took our drink orders, and took our breakfast order.  We overheard her tell our original server how long we had been waiting.  “Well, I was BUSY,” was her reply.

Thanks to Heidi we had our food pretty quickly.  And since she did her job, we tipped her accordingly.  But if it had been the other one, I wouldn’t have given her a dime.

My guess is, after writing this, I won’t be getting a trip to Vegas to eat at Denny’s.

After breakfast, Richie went and met his sister and her family.  They live in Knoxville.  Rachel and her husband Brad are about to have her second child (it’s a boy) in about two weeks.  Daughter Leah is two, beautiful and talkative.  While he was gone I did a little studying, did an on air interview (with hosts who made it fun) and got packed and ready to leave. 

We went downstairs at 3:45.  Matt, Jeff, Tim Buckley of the Advertiser, Travis, Richie and I were all riding together.  We were all in the van, equipment packed when Travis showed up (trust me, Travis will always be last to show up.) And, as soon as he got to the van, he realized he forgot something.  He went running into the hotel and a few minutes later was running out.  The side doors to the van were open and he jumped…

…and landed on the running board.  CRACK.

It took a couple of minutes but it snapped back into place and we were on our way to the stadium.  We were directed to our parking area and unloaded.  We did not park in the media lot, which was a good thing considering it was a good 1/3 of a mile away.  Instead we had to go just halfway around the stadium to the media entrance.  We were directed to our booth when we got upstairs and started the equipment setup.  (We bring a lot of equipment with us and it’s pretty heavy…and bulky.  I’m glad Richie is young and strong.)

After we got it all set up, Travis walked the field with the sideline mic to make sure we could hear him all over Commonwealth Stadium.  After that checked out, we went and got our pregame meal of chicken and pasta.  We went over a couple of things surrounding the broadcast.  Then it was back to the booth.  But not until we raided the ice cream freezer.  Klondike Bar for me, thank you.

Our accommodations were what you would expect from an SEC school that had just sunk $120 million into improvements.  That includes the event staff who was all friendly and helpful.  We had plenty of room, a working stat monitor and a great view.  Richie, who was watching a game from a press box for the first time ever, was really impressed with the vantage point, something I take for granted.

The team was warming up and I got my first look at the new uniforms.  I immediately fell in love.  I’m not against the black trim that’s been worn for decades, but the return to the no trim look gave the uniforms a clean look.  The numbers were easier to read.  And, I had already decided I was in love with the oversized fleur de lis on the white helmet.  Very nice, indeed.

We went on the air at 5:40 and, to my surprise, Richie wasn’t in the corner breathing into a paper bag.  He admitted he was nervous, which I expected but he didn’t hyperventilate.  That was a good thing.

The broadcast went without a hitch, with exception of a bit of interference in the sideline mic at halftime which lasted just a few seconds.  For the maiden voyage, I was pretty happy.  Richie seemed right at ease right away and did a great job in analysis.  Travis was on top of injury reports and other things on the sideline. 

We packed up afterward and made our way back to the airport and were there in plenty of time.  Yep, I had to get screened again, but that was no big deal.  The flight home was uneventful and quiet.  I read, but also napped a little.  When the plane landed we waited for our bags and equipment to get unloaded and headed home.  I got to bed around 3am.