Road Trip: Arkansas – From the Bird’s Nest
Traveling with the Ragin’ Cajuns is always interesting. And despite the attempts to be regimented, no two trips are exactly alike. Last Friday the Cajuns were ready to take their first trip of the season , having finished their preparations for the game against the University of Arkansas.
The team and travel party leave from Landmark Aviation, just a stone’s throw from the Lafayette Regional Airport. There’s a bag lunch (Olde Tyme) for everyone who is going to be on the flight. The travel party gets there first, and the idea is for them to go through security and get on the plane. When all are settled, the buses pull up and the team and coaching staff then goes through the same procedure. The whole thing takes a little over an hour, which is no problem.
Unless the air conditioning on the plane isn’t working.
The school is using the airline “Ameristar” this year, after using Allegiant for a few seasons and Sun Country last year. If you’ve flown a reasonable amount of times, you’ve probably been on a flight where you don’t get any cool air until you’re airborne. That was going to be the case on this flight. The travel party was on board and it was warm. Really warm. Gerald Broussard was sitting next to me. Gerald is a big guy. With great sweat glands. Everyone on the plane was uncomfortable. I looked out the window. The buses were nowhere in sight. Finally they arrived. Between the players, coaches, trainers and other support staff, another 100 or so needed to go through the hand-wanding process before they could board. By the time that was done, those of us who boarded first were totally miserable. But hey, I needed to lose five pounds.
The flight to Fayetteville was uneventful…and cold. Thank goodness. And, there was plenty of water and Gatorade on board. Thank goodness for that, too.
Upon landing, we deplaned and headed to the buses waiting to take us to the hotel. I was greeted at the bottom of the stairs by Coach Mark Hudspeth’s wife Tyla. She had a Kit-Kat for me. Which is kind of a road trip tradition.
The buses pulled up at the Doubletree Suites in Bentonville. Every room a suite. Works for me. As always, Athletics Director Scott Farmer had a reception for the fans who made the trip. I did two more radio interviews with Arkansas radio stations.
Then it was time for dinner.
Normally, G, Steve and I eat at a moderately priced restaurant. But the boss doesn’t mind us treating ourselves occasionally. Friday night we ate at the River Grille Steak House. G and Steve had the New York Strip. I had the bone in ribeye. Sports Information Director Brian McCann, since we were at a good steakhouse, had the…….risotto? G had the chocolate peanut butter cheesecake for dessert (someone told me it might be 67 points if you do weight watchers.) I had the carrot cake. They brought out about half the cake.
Saturday morning breakfast was at Denny’s. Steve was in heaven. Tim Buckley of the Advertiser joined us. Steve had the lumberjack slam. Check it out: Two eggs, two slices of bacon, two sausage links, a slice of ham, an order of hash browns and pancakes. Brian took out the stopwatch.
Six minutes and 50 seconds. Try it sometime.
Then it was time to go to the stadium. The rest of the trip was not much fun.
Media parking was closer than most SEC stadiums, but still a pretty good walk. We had to walk all the way around the stadium to get to the media gate.
It was locked.
Now, I should tell you we get to the stadium four hours before kickoff. Two hours are spent setting up equipment, troubleshooting any problems, testing microphones, setting up charts, etc. The other two hours are the pre-game show.
The security person explained it would be another hour before the media gate opened. We explained our dilemma and he suggested we go down two gates and see if we could get in. I asked about will call which is where our credentials would be. They wouldn’t be available for another hour.
Okay…let me get this straight. We have to see if someone will let us in the other gate. And, we don’t have credentials and won’t have them for another hour. Yeah…piece of cake.
We went to Gate A. Brian did have his credential and placed his bag on the table to be checked. I did the same on the other table. All five of us got in and no one asked for the credential. Now, as it turned out, Brian had credentials for someone else that he could have used to get us in if need be. But it was touchy for a few minutes.
We started to get ready for the broadcast. Brian came up and gave us a couple of lineup changes and told us we’d have to go downstairs to will call to get credentials. There was an issue about getting Steve on the field because of the request that was made, but Steve got it all worked out.
When the game ended, the buses left after the players were showered and dressed. There were bag lunches for everyone. Usually, once the buses get to the airport, Brian is notified and we try to time it to where we get there at the time the final people are getting on the plane. That enables Brian and Tim Buckley a chance to write and send their stories. When the time came, we loaded the van (Brian’s assistant, Jeff Schneider was with us) and we started for the airport.
We wound up running a couple of minutes late. Again, the plane was sweltering. Fortunately, the folks who were already at the airport stayed on the tarmac instead of having to board right away. But they were on the plane by the time we arrived. It was like walking into a sauna. Thank you, Ameristar. A broker was the low bidder this year and they set up the airline. ) And, it was another 20-30 minutes before we finally took off and got some cool into the plane.
The original itinerary said we’d land at 10pm.
It was 10:03.