I need to write in here more frequently, I'm becoming blog delinquent!
Well last night about 11pm I finally arrived home from my third trip to Alabama in the last 6 years for the NCAA Division II Football National Championship. Unfortunatly, my Lakers had a second half comeback fall short en-route to a 30-23 loss to the Bearcats from Northwest Missouri State University. Despite the loss, and occassional crummy weather the trip was enjoyed by almost everyone!
A little background before I give you the play-by-play.
I had taken Friday, December 11 off from work weeks in advance just in case, and sure enough we made the title game for the first time since 2006. It would be my first time back since 2005, and I was geeked to the max.
The plan was to leave my friend Eric's in Allendale at 3am Friday morning. I didn't get a lot of sleep that night, simply because another friend (who was going with our group) of mine was picking me up at my place at 1am on his way out there.
To preface, the weather in West Michigan was horrible, literally blizzard conditions with lake effect snow. Luckily we had his 4X4 Jeep and got through it slowly, but easily enough. Once arriving at around 1:30 Am and getting ripped on for once again being early, we started to get things around for a final check.
At exactly 3:15 am Friday morning we were on the road 'Bama bound. A quick stop downtown to pick up a passenger, and we were East-bound on I-96, then South on I-69. We stopped and grabbed our last passenger in Coldwater, Michigan. From there we began to escape the terrifying blizzard-ridden roads in Michigan and crossed the Indiana state line! By Fort Wayne the weather was gone and the roads clear and dry. Dawn was breaking as the Eastern sky began to grow lighter. We realized we'd have the sun Gods on our side today!
On the South side of Indianapolis we stopped at McD's for a fast-food breakfast. Despite the weather in MI, we were making awsome time. We joined I-465 to circle the outskirts of Indy and jumped on our main route I-65 after breakfast. Just two sun-drenched hours later we saw the skyline of Louisville, KY appear on the horizon...it was still mid-morning! One of my favorite views of the view of Louisville from the Ohio river. We plowed through Louisville traffic and flew past the University of Louisville and entered the hills.
By Bowling Green, KY we needed a fuel stop. By now, it was about noon and we were only 35 or so miles from Nashville. Bathroom breaks and taken, petrol pumped, gas pedal STOMPED. We realized this was the earliest we'd ever make it to Florence, Alabama when we crossed the Tennessee state line. We cruised through the Country Music Capital of the World and an hour later the exit for the Jack Daniel's distillery flew past. Next up: Sweet Home Alabama.
By 1:30-2pm CST we had hit the border of Alabama, making dust. Our exit at Athens, Ala appeared soon after and we curled off to cruise Westward for another 45 minutes. Winding through small-town Alabama is certainly nice, and soon enough we were greeted by the gates of Florence!! SWEET HOME ALABAMA!! We always stay at the Days Inn in Muscle Shoals, right across the Tennessee River. Through downtown Florence, and across the gorgous steel bridge spanning the Tennessee River Valley. We arrived at just after 3pm CST.
After relaxing for a while and having a couple beers, we headed out to hit our usual spots. Dinner at Outback was followed by a stop by the official GVSU Alumni party at The FIZZ inside the local Holiday Inn. Good times and lots of Lakers Alumni reunions later we decided to see if our old stomping grounds Cajun's had been taken over by NWMS fans. Indeed, we were sorely outnumbered. We split that awkward scene and rolled across town to Sidelines sports bar to meet some other GV and DII people. After a while, we decided it was time to call it a night. We had a noon kickoff Saturday, and an early wake-up call. I was in bed at 10pm.
We awoke at 7am, cleaned up and grabbed some continental breakfast in the hotel "lobby". We got to Braly Municipal Stadium by 8:30 am. Party-time. Loads of fun, free food and plenty of beverages of choice were followed by a rousing arrival of the team busses with police escort. My God how I missed this!
A furious second half come-back fell short and so did the Lakers, 30-23. NWMS brokethrough and won their first title in their 5th trip in a row this decade, addiing to their two from the 1990's. Luckily, the rain held off until 10:00 to go in the 4th quarter.
Post game was the season celebration at the Armory. Tons of free BBQ, sides, pie and pop (HA! Take THAT Southerners!!) and speeches from the coach, seniors on the team and the athletic director and GVSU president. By now it was only 5pm, so we stopped back at the hotel briefly before hitting Sidelines again. No one wanted to go anywhere after Sidelines except back to the hotel to have some beers.
7AM Wake-up. We departed at about 8:30, and made our way to Cracker Barrel in Florence for breakfast. After stuffing ourselves, the long, ardious journey home began. We followed the same route home, and encountered little resistance to progress. However, our 10am CST departure meant a late arrival home in the Eastern time zone. We stopped for gas in Southern Tennessee, in Louisville for Eric to "go" and didn't stop for food until Southern Indiana. After Burger King, it started to get dark. After what seemed like an eternity, we crossed into Michigan. We hit Lansing by 10pm, and I was home by 11pm.
I was in bed by 11:15. Work was early the next morning. I was happy to be out of that van depite the fun trip.
I count my blessings as a college football fan every day. Even though I am not financially blessed, I am blessed in so many other ways. I have a wonderful and supportive family and girlfriend whom I don't know where I'd be without them. I have great friends, and very successful sports teams to follow. In my eight years of being a Laker fan/alum, my team has gone to 5 title games, not counting the one before I was a student in 2001.
The whole GVSU athletic department is amazing. They do so much more with so much less money than any other school I can think of.
God Bless all of you, and in the un-dying spirit of kick-ass roadie's; GO LAKERS!!