Road Trip: Boca Raton – From the Bird’s Nest
During my travels around the Sun Belt Conference and around the country over the last 21 seasons, I've gone to some great places.
Boca Raton, FL is one of them.
Especially in January when it's cold and raining at home.
Wednesday we left the campus from the Moncla Indoor Facility at 7:00 for our flight headed to Fort Lauderdale. (Travel tip: If you're going to South Florida, always think of flying into Fort Lauderdale, even if your travels are taking you closer to Miami. It's just a much easier airport to navigate.). We had a non-stop flight on Southwest Airlines and got to Fort Lauderdale around 2:30, Eastern time. At the airport, we saw Brandi Shambough's parents and her sister. They were on the same flight headed toward South Florida The men were staying in Boca Raton, where normally we're headquartered in the Marriott Boca Center. But, with the BCS Championship game that weekend, rates had skyrocketed, so it was the Springhill Suites (also a Marriott property) this time around.
We got checked into the hotel and I let assistant Coach Sallie Guillory of the women's team know we had arrived. Even though it wasn't on the schedule, I had decided to broadcast the womens' game at FAU Wednesday night. However, they (the women) were going to have to pick up UL SID Brian McCann and myself. Fortunately they were staying virtually across the street at an Embassy Suites. That didn't give us much turnaround time. At 5:15 the bus pulled up and Brian and I boarded, headed to the FAU arena.
Both Brian and I were hungry and after setting up and doing my pregame interview with Coach Broadhead, I went and got a box of popcorn, which was gross and Brian got an overpriced hot dog.
Unfortunately, the second half of the game wasn't very competitive. Coach Broadhead came out and did his postgame interview and I signed off the air.
I really hadn't had a good meal since breakfast and neither had Brian. The nearest restaurant was about 3/10 of a mile away. But the Embassy Suites has a restaurant so we walked over there. Brian ate a salad (Steve would have been sooo upset) and I had a club sandwich. Then it was back to the hotel.
Thursday I was up at a decent hour and after breakfast needed to get some work done. And, there was going to be no better place to do it than poolside at the hotel. There was a gazebo with a lattice-style top with a plug in and that was going to work for me. And, over the next two hours I got a couple of stories on our website and also got all of my prep work done for the game. I looked at the Weather Channel app on my phone and saw the weather in Boca was considerably better than the weather in Lafayette.
I did not feel guilty. At all.
As the time got closer to 2:00 I was ready for lunch. Brian had planned to have pre game meal with the team, but I didn't want to eat heavy. Brian offered to accompany me however and we walked close to a half mile to a strip mall where I had a few choices. I decided on a salad place that had two huge salad bars and some hot stuff to eat as well. One of the proprietors suggested they had "Boca's best meatballs." I decided to build my own salad. Brian decided to try a meat ball. The proprietor warned me however, that they charged by the pound. "If you get 100 pounds of salad, that's a mortgage payment," is what he told me.
One thing I've noticed in Boca Raton. It's not cheap to eat there. Even McDonalds' drive thru costs more in Boca.
After lunch (Brian said the meatball was good, but he couldn't proclaim it the best in Boca since he had nothing to compare it to), we walked back to the hotel where they were laying out the pregame meal for the players.
Pasta. With meatballs. There ya go, Brian.
Meanwhile, athletic director Scott Farmer had arrived in Boca about that time. He had AD meetings scheduled for Monday in Miami and decided to come down a few days early and see some basketball. He went to the game on the team bus with the rest of us.
After the game, Scott and I went out for a bite with Dave Ardoin, who is the brother of UL Vice President Ken Ardoin. We went to a sports bar where I had a Yuengling with dinner. It was my first Yuengling of the New Year.
Next morning I had breakfast with Scott, Dave and Dave's wife Jill. At eleven, Scott and I left for Miami. We had a big day planned.
Oh, by the way, Brian said the meatballs at the hotel were about even with the one he had at the salad place. He said he'd continue the quest to find Boca's best meatball at a later time.