Road Trip: UT Arlington/Texas State – From the Bird’s Nest
For the first time, I had a road trip covering the Cajuns that took me to Arlington and San Marcos, TX. Amazingly I had never covered a game in any sport between Louisiana and UTA or Texas State on the road.
I left Wednesday for Arlington. It was chilly leaving Lafayette. By the time I got to Shreveport, it wasn't chilly. It was COLD. Wind chills were down around twenty degrees when I stopped for lunch.
By the time I got to Arlington at 4:30, temps were in the mid 20's and wind chills were in the teens. Fortunately I had checked the weather forecast and had packed for the occasion. As I arrived near my hotel, I saw a restaurant called the Trail Dust. The sign had the name of the place and some scissors cutting a tie.
I got a flashback. I had eaten there...more than thirty years ago.
Back then, not only did I have hair, it was pretty long. I was at a programmers' convention in Dallas. There were about 100 of us with three days of pretty intense meetings. But at night, a record company took us out to dinner. Atlantic Records took us to that very restaurant.
It's a steak house, decently priced. It had a staircase where kids could walk up and slide down (right across the floor), along with a bandstand. But what shook the memory was the restaurant's reputation of cutting the necktie off of anyone who dared to wear one. The restaurant would then tack the tie up on the wall along with the victim's business card.
I decided that would be dinner. I checked into the hotel (Hilton Garden Inn.) I got to my room and liked what immediately saw. There was a Keurig. If you're a coffee drinker and don't have one, you have no idea what you're missing.
I got unpacked, had some coffee and then went out for dinner.
The menu at the Trail Dust featured a four and a half pound steak. I did not order it.
I want to say when I go on the road, I really like it when my server has a clue. I will frequently ask what they recommend if I'm not sure of my selection. And, I HATE it when they say "well, everything here is really good." C'mon man. Be honest and be succinct. My server, Audrey was great. I wasn't sure about the mashed potatoes, baked potato or fries with my steak. I was leaning toward the mashed potatoes, but she told me she found them to be a little dry. She suggested the hand-cut fries. Good choice. If you eat at a restaurant, especially one you are unfamiliar with, try using your server as a sounding board. It they're as good as Audrey, you've done something right.
Thursday when I got up it was 18 degrees outside with wind chills in the single digits. After breakfast I turned on the television in my room and discovered there was snow on the way. Fortunately it wasn't a big system coming through. Sure enough, about ten minutes later I looked outside and the white stuff was falling. I was doing a split doubleheader with the women's game starting at noon. SID Matt Sullivan and I left around 10:15. It was still snowing. But because there was no ice, it wasn't a really hazardous drive.
We got to the College Park Center. I had heard how nice a facility it was and those who told me weren't lying. The 7,000 seat facility is just a couple of years old and ranks up there with anything the conference has to offer. I thought how great it would be to have one of those in Lafayette with maybe 500 more seats. But it was pretty much the right size. I was impressed.
After the women's game was over, we
had a couple of hours before we had to be back at the arena for the men's game, so it was back to the hotel. We had to drive right by Rangers' Ballpark and could see Jerry World a few blocks away, as well as Six Flags.
Matt and I went back to the arena around 6pm for the 7:30 tipoff. After recording the pre game show with Coach Bob Marlin, I went to my courtside seat and was doing some prep work when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned and a voice said, "I had to come down and tell you hello." Derrick Dean is one of my all-time favorite football players. The former nose tackle wasn't highly recruited and undersized. But he became a mainstay of the Cajuns' defense during his four year career. Seeing Derrick was a treat (he's not as big as he was when he played, but I bet he still likes to eat. Derrick is now working with the Dallas Police Department.
One of the highlights (or lowlights, depending...) is what is being served in the media room. At UTA, it's Rudy's Barbecue, pretty famous in Texas. As pre-game meals go, it's tops in the Sun Belt this year. We enjoyed brisket sandwiches before the women's game and brisket with all the trimmings before the men's game. Nice....
After the game, it was back to the hotel to write the game story for our website. Then it was time for lights out.
I slept in Friday morning. I would be driving from Arlington to San Marcos. But before making the trip, there would be a stop just south of Dallas to have lunch with my brother. I have several relatives in the Metroplex, so trips to Texas are welcomed. My brother Mike is the Police Chief in Ovilla, Texas. We had lunch at an Italian restaurant and visited for about an hour and a half. I told him I'd see him again in April when the Cajuns came for a baseball series.
After we said our goodbyes, it was time to make the drive south to San Marcos. It's located about halfway between Austin and San Antonio. Amazingly, traffic in ATX wasn't too bad. The team was actually staying in New Braunfels, south of San Marcos. But I stopped at the Tanger Outlet complex in San Marcos. Biggest I've ever seen with over 200 stores. I was actually in the market for a suitcase and found one to my liking.
When I got to the Courtyard by Marriott in New Braunfels I was checking in and saw Judge
Mike Hill. Mike and I have become friends over the years. He travels a lot with Cajun baseball and was making this basketball trip as well. We made plans to have dinner and decided we wanted some German food. We asked the young lady at the desk for a recommendation. She said to go to Friesenhaus. We got directions and headed out.
Friesenhaus wasn't fancy. In fact, it was a very comfortable restaurant. They had live entertainment, which featured a man playing accordion. (Don't think about the squeeze boxes you see here in Cajun bands. This was decidedly different).
I ordered schnitzel with two fried eggs on top, along with German potatoes and sauerkraut. And, I ordered a side order of spaetzle (German noodles.) Mike's schnitzel came with red cabbage. We both had a mug of German beer. Dinner was great and so was our waitress.
Mike bought dinner and I told him I'd buy breakfast Saturday morning. We met around 9am and were directed to the Fork and Spoon restaurant, another good recommendation from the folks at the check-in desk.
I did some computer work the rest of the morning and, in the early afternoon, made the drive to San Marcos (about 20 miles) for the game.
Strachan Coliseum is about the same age as the Cajundome, but looks older. The arena is in a "U" shape with a wall on the fourth side. My radio vantage point was at mid court at the top of the first level. It wasn't a bad spot, but it was pretty far away from some of the things that made the broadcast convenient. They did run latest stats up to me at each time out so I was able to give that information out.
After an incredibly exciting win and the post game show, it was time to get on the road. It was around 7:15 as I got ready to leave town. I decided I was going to stop and get a burger for the drive home, rather than have a sit down dinner. I got to a traffic light and BANG........
There was a Five Guys staring me right in the face.
It took longer than it should have to get my order but eventually that got done and I got back on the road.
Here's a word of advice. Do not try to eat a regular (two patty) burger from Five Guys while you are driving. I don't think the stain is going to come out of the khakis and the interior of the car still smelled like onions the next afternoon.
See, you learn something by reading these blogs.
The drive home was pretty uneventful except for the eighteen wheeler that nearly ran me off the road after I got past Houston. Fortunately, the driver heard the blare of my horn in time. I hit town about 1:45 Sunday morning. And what we talk about concerning winning on the road is absolutely true:
The drive home seems much shorter.