Road Trip: North Texas – From the Bird’s Nest
As I headed to the airport on Monday, it felt a little strange I would be flying to a game for the first time all season and it was mid-October. But I've been doing it for so long it was pretty much second nature as far as the drill was concerned.
I got to Landmark Aviation early. In fact, other then assistant AD John Dugas, I was the only one there. Shortly after, the Olde Tyme po-boys arrived. I have to say I've lost 27 lbs since Christmas and 13 pounds in the last month or so and for the first time in my life, I couldn't finish a whole po-boy. Stop the presses.
We're using a different airline this year from the one we've used the last several years and I've got to say I was pretty impressed. It was a big plane that actually had a first class section (those dozen or so seats were reserved for some of the bigger guys on the team) and it was pretty spacious inside. Going through security was easier than before (I'm still not sure why we have to do that when we know everyone on the plane, but hey, it's the rule) and we were ready to go on time.
The flight was smooth and we stayed at an Omni Hotel near the intersection of I-35E and 635. Really nice hotel. REALLY nice. Gerald Broussard was going to meet us at the hotel. He had decided to drive to Dallas since he had business in Texas the day after the game. Steve has roomed with Gerald in the games so far. I've roomed with Sports Information Director Brian McCann.
At 5:00 the guests and support group all met in AD Scott Farmer's suite for a hospitality hour (or two). I really haven't had an opportunity to visit with Scott much in the last month or so and we had a bit of a chance to play catch up. Scott's wife Jackie was on the trip and so was their son Kyle. There were adult beverages but I chose to sip a Diet Coke. Someone asked me why and the answer was simple. I stopped smoking about six weeks ago and was afraid a beer or two would make me succumb to temptation. If you've ever been a smoker, you know that when you drink, you tend to smoke more. So I passed.
Coach Hud and Tyla stopped by and said hello to the group that was gathered. It was the first time I had a chance to have a conversation with Mrs. Hudspeth. We talked about diet and exercise, two things she's very familiar with....and two things that have always been four letter words to me, but words I have to take more seriously now.
I went back to the room around 6:00 or so. Brian was getting ready to visit with a good friend in Denton. Steve and I were waiting for G to arrive and he got to the hotel not long after. There weren't any restaurants within walking distance of the hotel so we decided to get in the truck and see what we could find. Tim Buckley of The Advertiser joined us.
I looked on Urbanspoon (that's an app for those of you who don't do the android or iphone) for a restaurant close by. Only problem was, we couldn't find it, even with a GPS. What should have been a five minute drive turned into twenty. Tim said he thought he saw a Five Guys. It turned out to be something else, but it got everyone in a Five Guys mood. There was one about three minutes from where we were and we found it with no problem.
So much for diet. That would mean more exercise.
Now, let me digress.
Gerald and I have known each other since he was a junior in high school. That's a long time. So we have an idea of what the other guy is about. G and Steve, on the other hand, are really getting to know each other now. G thinks Steve is nuts. G is correct.
I know I've mentioned this before, but no one on the face of God's green earth consumes food faster than Steve Peloquin. Anyone who has ever been with Steve at a meal knows this and he's amazed more than one person with that ability. Now, he won't win a hot dog eating contest because he can't eat that many hot dogs, but he eats fast. Really fast. And, he has, shall we say, interesting eating habits. He won't eat anything green, doesn't eat ketchup and doesn't eat syrup on pancakes....among other things.
We got our food. Gerald got up and got two containers of ketchup for the two of us. He came back to the table and just stared at Steve, who had one bite of a double burger left. G just looked at me and shook his head. By the time I was a third of the way through my burger, Steve had cleaned out the fries.
After dinner it was back to the hotel, where I flipped back and forth between Monday Night Football and the Giants/Cardinals. Sometimes my timing is good, and I went to football just in time to see Brandon Stokley catch a touchdown pass from Peyton Manning. Good stuff.
The next morning, I went down to the fitness center after waking. Trust me when I say, of all the years of traveling, I can count the number of times I've done that on one hand...maybe one finger. But I did a little treadmill and stationary bike (not a whole lot, you understand) and then met Steve and G for breakfast.
Steve was done first. Just thought you'd like to know.
We decided to leave for the stadium early. Really early. Gerald had a reservation at a hotel in Denton for Tuesday night and he wanted to get checked in. While he was doing that, I phoned Hank Dickenson, who is the color commentator for the UNT Mean Green Network. He also is the Deputy AD and he said if we got there early to call him and he'd make sure we could get into the press box. We phoned and when we arrived, two golf carts showed up to load our equipment and ourselves and take us to the stadium entrance.
Hank rode up in the elevator with us. Now, we were going to have lots of time after we set up equipment and Hank said someone would take us an a tour of the new Apogee Stadium. We thanked him and got our stuff set up and I took the opportunity to do a little website stuff. Assistant SID's Stephen Howard and Steven Bartolotta came by and said hello. It was Stephen Howard that wound up taking us on the grand tour of a very nice new stadium. The press floor had three radio booths, a working press area, two dining rooms, a TV booth, a replay booth, two coaches booths and the main press area. They really thought of everything.
Except windows that open in the broadcast booth.
I've never understood that. And, I never will.
I investigated and found that Athletic Director Rick Villarreal made that decision and no one, including broadcasters, could sway him. Crowd noise was fed to our mixer via a jack. The windows could not be opened at all.
It was the only bummer in a beautiful facility.
Note to Scott Farmer. When we do Cajun Field, make sure there are windows and make sure they open. And, not the little tiny windows way at the top where old guys like me have to climb on stuff to open them. OK? Thanks.
On the level below the press area were 13 large suites. Each had at least 16 theater style seats to watch the game. Big screen TV, nice furniture, several tables, you get the idea. The patrons paid upwards of 30,000 per year each in order to enjoy that. One more floor down was the club level, a large room for 750 folks who pay 3,000 a year to watch the game indoors or out, with food and drink available.
Very nicely done.
Pregame meal was furnished by Outback.
Also very nicely done.
I'll blog about the game itself later.
After the postgame show, we got packed up. By that time the buses had left for the airport. Brian McCann, Steve, Tim Buckley, Assistant SID Jeff Schneider, Senior Associate AD Ken Winstead and yours truly all loaded into the van to head to the private aviation company next to the DFW airport. Getting there was pretty complicated and there was a little construction to deal with. Jeff had to turn around a couple of times and had us saying a prayer in the back seat on one occasion (Buckley looked at me and made the Sign of the Cross..twice) but we made it there safely.
Screening was faster than ever and before long we were on the plane. When we landed in Lafayette we had to wait for bags to be unloaded and then I made the walk to my car. I put bags, equipment and my computer bag in the car and looked at the clock.
It was 3:40 am. I was in bed by four.