Nothing beats an SEC road trip. Pack your weekend duffel bag, put the team flags on the car, hop in and hit the road to your favorite college town in the Southeast. Take in the spirit, pageantry, cuisine and revelry that is SEC football.
Or, in my case this past Saturday, secure the all-important hall pass from the wife, head to the Atlanta airport before sun-up, and embark on a 29-hour marathon for the LSU-South Carolina game in Baton Rouge. The following chronicles one heck of an SEC road trip.
6:50 a.m. Saturday: With a fingernail moon hanging high in the Atlanta sky, I kiss my wife and the Prevost girls goodbye and leave for the world’s busiest airport. What fantastic people watching at the Atlanta airport, particularly on an SEC football Saturday. A melting pot of college football fans, colors, and personalities flying across the South to take in the country’s finest football.
8:50 a.m.: AirTran upgraded me to first-class! As CBS play-by-play man Verne Lundquist would say, yes sir! It’s a short flight down to New Orleans, but I’ll take seat 3A with free beverages over 41D with $7 beers. Not that I’d consume alcohol this early in the morning.
10:30 a.m.: The first touchdown of the day is wheels down in the Crescent City. Hop in a cab, destination a drive-thru daiquiri shop. That’s right. They serve frozen concoctions to you in your car (I got a Crawgator; no clue what was in it). The cab driver, thankfully, did not honcho a daiquiri.
11:30 a.m. Arrive in Mid-City New Orleans for an early lunch at legendary neighborhood restaurant, Mandina’s. Cup of turtle soup, shrimp remoulade, and a catfish poboy. We’re talking slap-ya-mamma good.
1:00 p.m.: Board a bus bound for the bayou, aka Baton Rouge, aka Death Valley.
2:30 p.m.: Arrive in the capital city of the great state of Looziana. The fever pitch is palpable with more than five hours of tailgating until kickoff.
It’s an interesting dynamic between LSU and Gamecock fans. They engage in friendly SEC banter but it’s from a safe, friendly distance. These teams’ lack of history means less hostility and vitriol among the fans.
South Carolina fans make a solid showing and are obviously confident; LSU fans welcome the visitors with open arms but seem to have something up their sleeves. As in night game in Tiger Stadium.
8:00 p.m to 11:15 p.m.: Classic SEC football. A slugfest between highly talented teams that comes down to the game’s final drive. South Carolina entered the contest poised to join the nation’s elite teams. But the Gamecocks’ road woes continued as LSU, seemingly written off after a poor performance at Florida the prior week, played like the Tigers of 2011 and extended their home-game winning streak to 22.
11:45 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. Sunday: Exhausted bus ride back to N’awlins and catch a few hours of sleep.
9:00 a.m. Sunday: No AirTran upgrade this time. Plenty of sunglasses and slow-movers on this flight. Looks like folks forgot their cares in the city that care forgot.
11:50 a.m. Sunday: Back in Atlanta where I’m welcomed home by my lovely wife and girls in their Sunday best (sorry, I missed church). I was wrong in the first sentence of this column. Coming home beats an SEC road trip.
Quick picks for Saturday: Bama over Tennessee; Vanderbilt over Auburn (ouch!); LSU over A&M; Georgia over Kentucky (real tough call there); and in an upset special, I’ll take South Carolina over Florida in the Swamp.
Enjoy Saturday’s games and, for those of you headed out on SEC road trips, be sure to engage in some SEC banter!
Ben Prevost is a contributing columnist for the Forsyth County News. Follow him on Twitter @SECbanter or contact him at SECbanter@hotmail.com.