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Road Trip: Kansas State – From the Bird’s Nest

After the Ameristar Airlines fiasco in the trip to Fayetteville in week one, I was interested to see what would happen for the trip to Manhattan, KS.  Upon arriving at Landmark Aviation Friday, Associate Athletic Director John Dugas said we had a new airline for this trip.

Vision Airlines.  Juan Rivera, President and CEO.

Never heard of them. 

Dugas explained the low bidder this year for the Cajuns’ charter travel was actually a broker who then makes the deal with the airline.  I asked if there would be AC on the plane and he said yes.  But he didn’t look happy.  I asked him what the deal was.

“Well, we’re not sure when we’ll get home.”

Okay, now THAT’S not good.

The rest of the travel party got to the FBO.  We had lunch (Olde Tyme) and got on the plane.  The coaches and team got there a bit later.  We all went through security and actually took off pretty much on time.

The Vision Airlines plane was fine.  It was spacious.  My only complaint would be the seats didn’t recline, which was no big deal going over there, but might be going home.

We landed in Manhattan and headed to the Courtyard by Marriott in Junction City.  Steve Peloquin and Gerald Broussard were rooming together.  I was rooming with photographer Brad Kemp.  When I got to the room, Brad was sitting on a fold out couch.  There was a king size bed in the room.

Um, I don’t think it was supposed to be like that.  So I went down to the front desk and explained the situation.  Director of football operations Troy Wingerter was there and was very helpful.  We were moved to another room which had two queen sized beds.  Much better.

We then headed to Athletic Director Scott Farmer’s suite for a little reception.  Coach Hud and his wife Tyla stopped by for a period of time and coach Hud talked about the game against Kansas State.  Tyla, who had given me a Kit Kat last week, had a protein peanut butter cup this time.  Hey…we didn’t win last game….gotta change it up.

I ran into TV3’s Travis Webb who invited me to come and see the room he was sharing with assistant SID Jeff Schneider.  Turns out the hotel made a mistake on their room as well.  They had a suite that was nicer than Scott Farmer’s.  I guess they knew Travis was the host of Ragin’ Cajuns All-Access and figured he was royalty.

My phone rang.  It was SID Brian McCann.

“Hey…did you get your credentials from K-State.”

Um….no I didn’t.

“Well, they said they mailed them.”

Now, after the fiasco the previous week with no credentials and nothing that opened at Razorback Stadium until three hours before kickoff, I was about ready to panic. 

Brian told me later the K State folks said it was no big deal.

Well, THAT was different from last week.

The travel party was going to a barbecue place down the street.  But SID Brian McCann, G, Steve, the Advertiser’s Tim Buckley and I decided on a local bar and grill. 

The place was called Kite’s.  They had a great selection of bottled and draft beer and a nice looking menu.  Everyone ordered some form of burger, except for G, who got a chicken sandwich.

Brian got the peanut butter bacon burger.  And, lived to tell about it.

And, of course there’s Steve.

Who ordered a beer, a Dr. Pepper and a milk shake and drank them all before the food arrived.  I’m not making this up. It took Steve a little over three minutes to drink his shake.  He said he would have finished it earlier, but the straw was defective.   Karis, our waitress, took really good care of us, making sure we got everything we needed.  G had a milkshake for dessert (and used the low calorie intake of the chicken sandwich as justification.)

When we got back to the hotel,  I turned on the television and checked out ESPN’s new show “Olbermann.”  Keith Olbermann was a very popular part of ESPN in the early 90’s.  He was vilified by conservatives for his liberal views on MSNBC.  While I didn’t agree with Olbermann’s politics, I loved his show because he was so funny.  This show was pretty funny, too, with a lot less controversy. 

The next morning I went to the lobby and visited with some fans.  We (those that went to dinner the night before) had decided to do breakfast around 10am.  We went to Cracker Barrel.  Everyone ordered breakfast, but once again, Steve was the topic of conversation.  First he ordered chocolate milk and a Dr. Pepper.  And, for those of you who have been to the restaurant before, you know the Country Boy Breakfast is a pretty hefty meal.  Three eggs (scrambled for Steve), hash brown casserole, a six oz sirloin steak (medium-well for the genius—yuck), grits, fried apples and biscuits.  The waitress brought out the meal and Brian got the stopwatch.

Seven minutes, nine seconds.  And, that was with a brief conversation.  Try it sometime.

Now, in the meantime, John Dugas continued to work on the plan for the flight home.  It seems ol’ Juan and his company had a plane that had to take the Tennessee-Martin football team home from Boise, ID (they had an afternoon game.)  After “dropping them off” in Memphis, the plane would then come to Manhattan to pick up the team for the trip home.  Normally with a 5:30 kickoff, you’d be looking at a departure in the vicinity of 11pm.  In this case, we were hoping for midnight.

Oh, and one more thing.  Ol’ Juan forgot to inform the Lafayette Airport we’d be coming in late.  The airport does some runway maintenance during the night.  Therefore, the runway wouldn’t be available.

Which means we’d be flying…not to Lafayette…but to New Iberia. 

Nice.

I asked Brian about getting the credentials when we got to the stadium.  He told me the SID said to give him a call when we got there and he’d come to the gate to meet us.

What?  Really?  This team won the Big 12 last year and yet their staff was being much more akin to our needs than the folks in Fayetteville, who have won the SEC…um….never.

We got to the stadium at 1pm.  And, I have to say, the outside of Bill Snyder Family Stadium was about as nice as any place I’ve been to.  It almost looked like a castle.  It was part of an 86 million dollar renovation.  And, as promised, SID Kenny Lannou was there with credentials for all of us.

I immediately liked Kenny Lannou.

The renovated press box was pretty impressive.  It was on the sixth level of the new facility.  Four of the levels were suites.  They’re making a few dollars.  They need to in order to pay for that puppy.  Our booth was spacious and everything we needed was accessible.  Now, I’ll nitpick for a second.  The only windows were way up top, which means if you’re going to use a crowd mic, you’ve got to stand on the counter to get it outside.  But, like I said, that’s a little nitpicky. 

Also, the front of the booth was actually an assistant SID office.  That was different…..

And, they had ice cream.

I mean, a whole freezer full.  Twix ice cream, Snickers Ice Cream, Oreo Ice Cream, Klondike bars.  Steve said, as only Steve can, “CAW CAT!!!” 

There was also a cooler with milk.  I’ve never seen milk in a press box.  White Milk, Chocolate Milk, Strawberry Milk.  Milk?

The pregame meal was grilled chicken, a rice pilaf (they called it jambalaya but it had vegetables in it, corn (an attempt at maque choux) and pork and beans with sausage.  Caesar salad as well.  Nice.

Speaking of food, we found out as always, there would be a post game meal provided for the players and travel party.  But, since we were going to be delayed leaving, there was going to be more food at the airport.

Yeah, we didn’t eat enough on this trip.

Once the game was over, sure enough, the meal of chicken strips, mashed potatoes and mac and cheese was delivered while we finished the postgame show and packed up.  There was no hurry in getting to the airport since we wouldn’t be leaving any time soon.  Once we were finished, we headed to the airport where we were screened at the FBO.  There were huge subs with the condiments and lots of pizza available.  I passed on more food.  By now it’s about 10:30.  We waited. 

And waited.

Finally we were told the plane would be there to get us at 1:15.  It actually was there a few minutes before that and we boarded for the 90 minute flight to New Iberia.  We took off around 2am.  The flight was uneventful (although I knew the seats not reclining would be an issue) and we landed in New Iberia.  There were Calco buses waiting for us and we got our luggage and equipment and boarded the buses.  They drove us back to Landmark Aviation where we got our vehicles and headed home.  I went right home, got my stuff and went into the house.  I looked at the time.

It was 4:31am.

But hey….we had air conditioning on the plane which made it okay.

Right???

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