Sunday, September 16, 2012

UGA vs. Mizzou - Welcome to the SEC!

When SEC Commissioner Mike Slive announced that Texas A&M and University of Missouri were joining the SEC there was some trepidation, the "us vs. them" mentality, the "they don't know what they're getting into" and all emotions in between. Since I am a Dawg fan and the Captain is a died in the wool Alabama Tide fan I pushed for us to make the trip to Missouri to be in attendance for the inaugural game of the new conference. It wasn't a hard sell since his daughter and son in-law lived just outside Kansas City and it would be another opportunity to visit. They also attended the game with us so I got to enjoy the exquisite hospitality of Gabby (his daughter) as well as the new experiences of Columbia, MO. Tickets were a little difficult to come by but as everyone in Columbia told us not near as difficult as the pending Alabama game.
Travel arrangements were also a little complicated since we were driving to Missouri but were flying home in different directions (me to the ATL and the Captain to Sacramento, Cal.). On our way to KC we spent the night in Collinsville, Ill, home to the world's largest catsup bottle (Brooks Catsup) made famous by the Geico lizard. Since this is a travel blog we had to make a side trip so we could check it off the "list". On Friday (2nd day) we decided to reconnoiter in Columbia and check things out. We had lunch at Hooter's and although I was dressed in red and black the locals were curious but cordial. The restaurant manager Jason, came to our table and asked were we being treated well (it is a mark of Missouri pride to be a good host) and we said yes. He gave us many good tips for game day and when our waitress, Megan (not pictured) , discovered that we were both retired teachers she quickly shared that she was a senior English education major and was very excited to be attending her first SEC game.
A point of information here - Everyone we talked to said how happy they were to be in the SEC and left the Big 12 behind. Many people couldn't wait to tell us how excited they were to join the best football conference in the country because it would give them better exposure, better recruiting, and finally give them a venue to show how good their team REALLY was. As I said, everyone was very hospitable and cordial but deep down they believed they would not only win the game but would dominate UGA. During the extended tailgate time the Captain would steal away and watch the Florida/Texas A&M game. I was pulling for A&M for the simple reason that I didn't want to be the first team to lose an SEC game to the "new guys". The Mizzou fans were quick to point how much they 'disliked' A&M. When Florida won the game the burden settled on Georgia to maintain the seniority of the SEC East. But I digress. Saturday morning arrived and it had been decided previously that we should make the 3 hour drive early enough to get a good parking/tailgating spot which would require arriving in Columbia no later than 1 pm for a 6:45 pm kickoff. We did arrive before 1 pm and did find a small (but great) lot for tailgating right next to the RV lot about a half mile from Faurot Field. Part of being in the SEC is the size and scope of everything (Vanderbilt not withstanding) from the fan base to the stadium to the hype of each and every game. Mizzou did an outstanding job with all new apparel sporting the SEC logo and the hype leading up to the start of the game. The parking area we found was perfect for tailgating; it relatively small, was bordered by trees for shade, also had a picnic shelter (complete with tables) across a small bridge and allowed us to get to know many of our 'neighbors' (of course in that particular lot it was approximately 40 per cent Georgia fans and felt quite homey).
I would like to take a few sentences to recognize and acknowledge some fans from both Mizzou and UGA that we met while tailgating on an absolutely perfect fall day in Columbia. There was Max and Stacy Clayton (and their son Jim) who had a great setup of food, tent, refreshments and satellite TV where the Florida/Texas AM game was playing. They drove from Virginia and spend most of their fall Saturdays in Athens. Our next door tailgaters from Missouri were Billy and Josh; very informative, friendly and liberal with all refreshments and couldn't believe how far away the stadium was! Our most enterprising tailgaters were a group of Missouri students who at first glance appeared to be a fraternity. They turned out to be a group of students who had pooled their money for all the necessary trappings of a good tailgate party - tent, table, cooler, grill, music and "refreshments". As the afternoon wore on they became very talkative. Caesar was from Wisconsin (Madison actually but said he could not go to school in his home town), John, David and Kaileen were also very friendly and when they learned that 3 of the 4 of us were former teachers they were even more friendly and expressed their admiration of teachers and the military (D, the Captain's son in-law is currently in the Air Force). Again, I can't say enough about the hospitality of the Mizzou fans that day. One of the facts that was shared with us about the respect and power of the SEC was the fact that they usually get only one or two televised games a year and this year they are scheduled for 3 Saturday night games consecutively. Some of their fans and ours had a more difficult time 'pacing' themselves for the duration of the afternoon in order to make it to the night kickoff. Some scenes were humorous and others were a bit sad. One that was sad was a freshman girl (no name) who had clearly consumed more than was good for her. Some of her friends were trying to help her as others were breaking down the tailgate and getting ready for the game. We all began to migrate to the bus pickup area (yes, they have shuttles for that big hill!) Fans in Red and Gold were waiting for the bus when a UM campus policeman came up and asked 3 of the students to exit the line. The girl was clearly drunk but the other 2 were decent friends trying to help her and they all got taken to the station. As a former UGA student and current father of a 24 year old UGA grad I am glad that is one phone call I did not have to make (or answer). A hard lesson to learn is these unforgiving times.
The bus ride to the stadium was a balanced mix of drunk Georgia fans and drunk Missouri fans and the good-natured taunts and songs all the way to the drop off point was loud but fun. We exited just as the marching band and the pride of Missouri "Big MO'" the world's largest bass drum, was making it's way to the stadium. Big Mo' is 9 feet in diameter and requires 4 band freshman to push the rolling carriage into position. They used it during the game to rev up the crowd; as Jimmy Buffett would say "you could feel it in your heart" when those concussive strokes were struck. We continued to meet very friendly people Including David, who sat behind us and was a true fount of information telling us about lighting requirements for the field, the stadium additions than were being planned because of the admission to the SEC, traditions about Columbia and game day, and announced the attendance of the game BEFORE it was listed on the big screen (turns out the max attendance to satisfy the fire marshall is 71,004 although my guess is there were closer to 78,000 inside the gates). I am not a game analyst so I won't spend much time on the game proper except for the fact that UGA played a very slow first half which kept Missouri fired up to win. As soon as the game started the uber-friendly fans turned aggressive; towards the Georgia players (and fans), to their own players and to their coach. At one point during the second half one of those friendly fans was sharing some VERY unfriendly comments about a player hurt of the field and I turned to him and said "Man, that's cold!". After that he calmed down and the other good fans (I consider him one as well) began trying to quell some of the nastier Gold fans to be more considerate (and the vast majority of them were). As we pushed on to the end of the game the cry of "old man football" from Mizzou fans gradually turned into "grown man football" by the more vocal Georgia fans. It was quite the day, but one we will always remember fondly!! WELCOME TO THE SEC!!!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012 Season Promises New Experiences

Welcome back to the 2012 edition of “The Captain and HarryD” SEC travelblog. Our last post was in November 2011 from LSU, with great hospitality and a unique experience. We start this season in Missouri, the newest addition to the SEC (along with Texas A&M). During the interim of 2011 until now things have been changing for both the Captain and me. The Captain and his lovely wife Ann (my sister in-law) have purchased a home in Foley , Alabama and are in the process of moving from Northern California back down south to God’s country, a.k.a. Crimson Tide territory by MANY in the SEC.
I on the other hand have had many opposite experiences including another round of cancer, a visit to M.D. Anderson, visits to many different doctors at my home hospital of Kennestone (in Marietta) to see if they actually figure out what can help cure me (jury still out on that one), a PICC line with 8 weeks of antibiotics along with other more personal family issues. But in the midst of this I have seen so much love, prayer and support from my church (HBF), my family and my community (Cherokee County, Ga.) and, most importantly my wife Susan, that I do feel blessed to be here and am thankful for each and every good day. Those days are coming more and more frequently and I am excited to share good days with my wife (I always look forward to the ‘best time of the day’), kids and grandkids, and (of course) I am excited that it is again time for SEC football. My favorite radio host and legendary UGA quarterback, Buck Belue, writes a very good blog for UGA football and I can tell he is excited about the upcoming season just like the rest of us. The Captain roots for Alabama’s Crimson Tide and they believe they are always in the mix for the National Championship. With many other outstanding teams in the SEC, LSU, Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina and Auburn, we now add Texas A&M and Missouri. I have been reading blogs about Mizzou and know that they are PUMPED for their entrĂ©e into the SEC AND their first conference game against #6 Georgia. Since our focus is more about the travel and traditions of each school, stadium and fans (our trip to Oxford vs. Alabama last year was everything it was touted to be) I have been asking questions of the Mizzou fans about their stadium traditions, and tailgating experiences. I hope we find some hospitable Mizzou fans although it will be hard to top the hospitality we enjoyed at LSU (but we can always hope!). Let the GAMES Begin!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Baton Rouge; Game VS. Tailgate!


The second installment of 2011 SEC stadium tours took us to Baton Rouge and LSU. I drove to Orange Beach on Friday (a regular and rather boring drive down I-85 and I-65 that I have done many times). Dinner was at a favorite of ours, The Shrimp Basket and then on to Baton Rouge for Saturday. The trip to LSU was I-10 all the way (4 and half hours) and we arrived on campus around 3 for a 6 pm kick-off. We found free on-campus parking (unheard of at many SEC schools) within a half mile of Death Valley.



My brother John had made introductions for us to a business associate of his so we headed towards Touchdown Village #2 to meet up with Joe C., owner of several Burger King restaurants, to join his tailgate party. On the way to TV#2 we stopped by a couple of tents, asking questions and handing out business cards about the blog (almost everyone was showing the

UGA/Auburn game on TV). The first person we talked to apologized for the very reserved, quiet atmosphere and kept explaining that it is normally very rowdy and crowded and we had come on an off day (Homecoming vs. Western Kentucky); he was right. I was trying to be self-deprecating by asking him to take it easy on UGA if we make the SEC championship game; he was incensed and acknowledged that the UGA team of Nov. 12 is NOT the team that lost to Boise State and South Carolina (I have to agree with him!).

We arrived at TV#2, found Joe C. and his wife Karen; he introduced us to the people at his party (again, the UGA/Auburn playing on TV) and the Captain and I were deep into questions about the traditions, local information about the campus and in general enjoying ourselves. Our hosts were incredibly gracious and generous; Joe C., his wife Karen and brother David, a friend Tommy L. who owns a concession within Home Depot, and another associate, Larry F., who works for Dr Pepper in BK sales. Joe and Tommy explained that the crowd who travels to most of the games pride themselves on their parties, food and hospitality (they were right on all counts!).

There was a 30 quart pot of gumbo cooking, boudin sausage and a rice dish (that I did not get the name of) in addition to various and sundry regular tailgate fare and a double margarita machine that was never empty (or even low!). We were at Joe's RV for almost 2 hours and there was a constant stream of people coming by to visit, eat and in general enjoy the Clements hospitality.


I was talking to Larry, and when he heard that I was a retired band director he said he had played in the band all the way through college, I asked what instrument and he said trombone (also my chosen instrument). He was from the Dallas area and was an Oklahoma fan (but visits regularly at Joe's tailgate). As we talked we discovered that I knew his college band director, Roland Barrett from OU. The Sequoyah Band had commissioned Roland Barrett to write a composition for us and when we debuted it we brought the composer out to guest conduct the world premier. Larry was amazed at the inter-connectedness of music and band (but I have seen it demonstrated many times).



About 50 minutes 'til kickoff we headed off to the stadium strolling with the rest of the crowd allowing the flow of humanity to carry us along on the current. We passed many tailgating groups (almost all still playing the UGA game) and as we approached Death Valley I have to say it is an awe-inspiring sight; we arrived right at sunset and the banners flying against the western November sunset was beautiful (pix included). We queued up with the crowd and made our entrance into the stadium. There is something about entering a stadium (of any size) right at

dusk; the lights, field, people take on a surreal aspect similar to a Thomas Kincaide painting with all the colors radiating with hues different from their base ones. Not that there was much diversity of color; the stadium seats 92,000 plus and I venture to say there were less than a 1000 dressed in a color other than purple (myself and the Captain were in the minority). The trek up to our seats (they have 2 video scoreboards, and we were seated under the smaller of the 2) included crossing the concessions area and the menu was also vintage Cajun; fried alligator, dirty rice, gumbo, sausage, in addition to regular concessions fare.


We found our seats in the endzone and were assailed (via the sound system) with every song ever recorded that contains Baton Rouge or Louisiana in addition to some I have had never before heard. We had quite the group seated behind us enjoying the atmosphere so we struck up the usual conversation; we write a travel blog, first time to LSU, soaking in the experience, and Jacey and Annette gave us more information than we could absorb about LSU. Unlike Alabama fans, everyone we met seemed less analytical about the game itself and more interested in atmosphere, tailgating and partying. Any time the "Golden Band from Tiger Land" played or songs blaring from from the sound system had people up dancing to the beat. That is a very important aspect to LSU and their fans; being #1 in the polls is important but they want the complete and full experience, not just the serious side of football.

The team carried on the muted feeling of that particular day (remember the apologies) and it took almost the entire first half to settle down and play LSU football with the final score being 42-9. In summary it was a great day and we were treated to some great hospitality and openness by everyone. We have an invitation to additional tailgate opportunities throughout the year and made some wonderful and lasting friendships in Baton Rouge, and I have to agree; we need to go to another game @ LSU!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Destination Baton Rouge via Orange Beach

These entries are a prelude to the Big Weekend!:
Monday, 11/7 - I had posted a calendar countdown for the LSU game (11/12) on my Google home page and it is officially less than a week before the big trip to Bayou Country. THE game last Saturday was all it was predicted to be and incontrovertible evidence was the fact that Alabama only dropped 1 spot in the BCS rankings to #3. The end of the season should be very interesting!

My brother John is a furniture salesman for FCC (restaurant seating) in the Southeast and while we were talking this morning he asked if I knew anyone in Baton Rouge and I said no. I made reference during my last post that I did not know anyone associated with LSU and Baton Rouge so John made an offer (which I couldn't refuse) to link the Captain and I up with some business associates of his (sounds ominous in a way) on game day. That was a kind gesture and hopefully soon we will have an opportunity to gain introductions to LSU Game Day and the inner workings of a true, vintage LSU tailgating party!

In the meantime I am planning my trip to Orange Beach (to meet up with the Captain) on Friday, the Captain and I will travel to and from Baton Rouge on Saturday, and I will make the trek home on Sunday. In addition to my main duties as husband, father, grandfather, music supervisor (for Reinhardt University) I am also a minister of music for Heritage Baptist Fellowship and will miss a second Sunday in 2 months. In my 13 years as minister of music at HBF I have not missed more than 2 Sundays per year but I beg indulgence of the pastor and congregation as we pursue the perfect tailgate experience in the SEC.

Speaking of tailgating in the SEC our tour just got extended with the announcement of 2 additional SEC schools; Missouri (Mizzou) and Texas A&M. We already have a preliminary trip planned to visit Arkansas and Mizzou on back to back weeks when we return to the SEC West. The Captain's daughter and son in-law will be living in Kansas by then and it will be a good base from which to travel for those 2 locations. I encourage comments from our new brothers and sisters from the "Show Me" state and the Great State of Texas about how they tailgate on Game Day. More to come!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Requiem for THE Heavyweights!



So it's Halloween 2011, I missed an anniversary, I miss my wife and grandkids while visiting my parents (which I don't regret but that's an entirely different article!) and the BIG game in the SEC is this weekend in Tuscaloosa; #1 LSU vs. #2 Alabama!

The euphoria has passed from the victory over Florida and although the radio talk shows in Atlanta were reveling in both the UGA and Ga. Tech wins this past Saturday no one can restrain themselves from talking about the game in Tuscaloosa over 5 days away. I don't think I know anyone at LSU but I send shout-outs to former Sequoyah Band members Lee H. and Sofie S. in the Million Dollar Band and to Jason F. (also a Sequoyah Band alumni) who attends UA. I mentioned Lee in my last post as I visited the Crimson Tide pep band in Oxford on Oct. 15. Although I'm not attending 'THE Game" this week (that is an EXPENSIVE ticket) I will watch in anticipation as the entire country debates whether or not 2 teams from the same conference should play in the BCS Championship game but it is still a bit premature; there is the remainder of the season and a 'few' other teams to consider, namely Oklahoma St. and Oklahoma.

The Captain and I will be traveling to LSU on Nov. 12 to visit Baton Rouge in what well might be their only night game this year; I just hope the hangover feeling (win or lose on Nov. 5) doesn't persist too long so we can sample the experience of a true Baton Rouge home game.

While doing background research for the Ole Miss game, I came across several comments referring to the unbridled behavior and reckless abandon of the typical LSU fan versus the refined, elegant demeanor of the Ole Miss elite. It should be interesting to compare the 2 SEC West schools and their diverse traditions at home. Anything in Louisiana is going to be different and I'm excited to see the "other side!"

Friday, October 21, 2011

Part Two - Ole Miss and All Things Southern!







So The Captain and his crew are barreling up I-59 and I am able to leisurely get up, have breakfast with the Gold Wing members and am so filled with anticipation that I can't wait to get on the road, 6 hours before game time. I head out on West Main St. towards Oxford and find myself in need of a car wash and I see a group of young people holding a sign advertising a fund-raising car wash for a boy scout troop (as a band director for 32 years I ALWAYS support young people raising money!). I pulled in and an adult leader guided me to the starting point and immediately noticed that I was from Georgia and asked what brought me to Tupelo. I explained my SEC Travel Blog trip and it was like a dam bursting with questions, where I was from, why Ole Miss? which team did I root for? I got several suggestions from other adults on where to park, how to get in and out of Oxford and, of course, how to get to the Grove! My most surprising moment of that interlude was when an 8th grader named Quan asked me had I really attended UGA (I answered yes, me, my wife, and youngest son) and he then told me they were his favorite team and Isaiah Crowell was his favorite player. Imagine my surprise being in the heart of the deep South in northern Miss. to find another GA. Bulldog fan! He said he wanted to go to UGA and play for the Dawgs; I hope he realizes his dream! On to Oxford.

I followed the crowd of vehicles (predominantly shiny SUV's) mostly sporting 'Roll Tide' car flags with some Ole Miss vehicles mixed in, and rolled into Oxford, going past the baseball stadium and down University Ave. to look for a parking place. I found Oxford University UMC offering game day parking and pulled in to start my adventure for the day. The 3 men at Oxford UMC parking cars for their youth program were tremendously helpful and friendly and aided me in directions and landmarks for downtown Oxford and the University. As I was parking another vehicle pulled in behind me, also with a GA. license plate with 3 guys getting out, and after talking for a few minutes, we established that only one in three was an Alabama fan (my crowd was one in four) and I was talking to David from Birmingham who grew up in Brunswick, GA as a UGA fan, and one of his travel companions was a doctor from Bridge Mill only 20 miles from my home town; it is a small world.

Since I had arrived so early I trekked up town to the square in Oxford (see pix) to experience it all; everywhere in Oxford were red and blue hats, caps, co-eds dressed to the nines, and fraternity guys in 'oxford' button downs, red ties and eventually navy blue blazers. Many groups contained 2 and 3 generations; children in Ole Miss cheerleader outfits, college age young adults and grand parents also dressed to socialize at The Grove.

I toured downtown Oxford and met several people who were very friendly and helpful in explaining the traditions on game day (the Downtown Grill, Oby's, Venice Pizza Co.) the courthouse in the center of the Square was flying the Mississippi state flag with the Stars and Bars (some things change SLOWLY). I was hungry and went in search of a meal before arriving at the stadium and walked around looking at large crowds for pizza and "other traditions" before settling on an intriguing place called "Frank and Marlee's, an Oxford original" Since no one was in the place and the bar tender met me at the door I asked was it open and were they serving food. Since the answer to both questions was "yes" I settled in and carrying on a conversation with Lance, the bar keep. He looked very tired (having closed the place at 4 am) but was cordial and helpful and set me up with a shrimp Po' Boy and Landshark Lager. Four people came in after me and one couple asked could their TV be placed on the Michigan/Michigan State game. After the requisite stares and other odd looks Lance complied and I saw the ugliest football uniform ever, Michigan (and that says something since there is Oregon out there!). The food was OK but I was surprised to find that my place was cleaned off during a trip to the restroom with the subtle message given that I was done; very uncool since I was only one of 5 people in the place but I hoofed it back down University Ave, towards Vaught-Hemingway and the Grove.

Since I was soaking in the atmosphere and in no particular hurry I slowly walked down University Ave. and it led me directly into the Grove and the throbbing heart of all things Old South; tradition, elegance, southern football, manners and family). I had needed no instructions since following the car flags into Oxford and with the continuous flow of excited humanity, both Crimson and White and Red and Blue, I entered into the sanctity known in college football legend as 'The Grove'. A vast sea of Red and Blue Ole Miss tents enveloped the entire 10 acres of 150 year-old oak trees providing respite from an unusually warm day for mid-Oct. and the perfect locale for the best tailgating in the country. Parents, grand parents, co-eds, fraternity brothers, and younger children all socialized, ate, drank, and played in what must be the southern version of James Hilton's Shangri-La; the perfect environment, holding the rest of the world at arm's length. As a longtime fan of UGA tailgating is also celebrated on the Athens campus but is spread out over a vast area and not concentrated like Ole Miss. I walked the Grove Loop and also traversed the paths through the Grove in search of legendary southern heroes like Archie Manning and Shepherd Smith but the crowds were so thick you could hardly squeeze between. I did not see those particular people and by that time I had been walking 3 hours and was giving in to the heat so I went in search of a place to sit, rest, drink some water (for re-hydration) and cool off.

The only place to sit in the shade was across the street from the Grove and it was inhabited mostly by fans from Alabama waiting for the stadium to open its gates. I met a wonderful couple from the "Free State of Winston Co." We discussed Double Springs, AL. and Winston Co. and the joys of being Crimson Tide fans. As we were talking there would come an occasional wave of cheers from The Grove and, while I was puzzled, my friend from Winston Co. knew immediately the cause of the commotion; Miss. State was losing to South Carolina, and although hard fought (the UGA fan in me could not help but cheer for State) the losing effort by MSU was vigorously cheered by Ole Miss fans! By this time the Captain and his crew has hit town and were making their way towards Vaught-Hemingway so I headed in that direction as well.

Our group of four united at Gate 12 and we entered into the stadium and headed to our seats. It is always entertaining to describe to people that 3 out our 4 were not true Bama fans but were there for the entire experience and we met a wonderful, open young man with his 11 year-old son who provided commentary on the long standing rivalry, history of the stadium (including a banner for winning the SEC West without playing in the championship game) and a statistical breakdown of all the starters for UA. Jason4Bama was the perfect host and guide and it was heart-warming to watch him interact with his son teaching him the finer points of Alabama football. One moment that was special to me was when I walked over to the Crimson Tide pep band (I was a HS band director) to visit with a former student, Lee H., playing with the drumline/marching band. The expression on his face was stark unbelief, and he said "you are the last person I would expect to see in Oxford today" but I always support our my former students and was glad to see Lee involved at the college level.

Of course in the end Alabama overcame a short-lived, 7 point deficit and scored 52 unanswered points. By the beginning of the 4th quarter almost all the Ole Miss fans had returned to the Grove and the stadium was left to approx. 20,000 Bama fans.

The atmosphere of the Ole Miss fans was one of almost manic exhilaration prior to the game; they were in their element and ecstatic to be involved with the #2 team in the country but, in the end, the loss was posted and they returned to their tents, white linen table cloths and chandeliers, BBQ and bourbon (in elegant, old south style!).

On to LSU and Baton Rouge in November!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Stadium Tour #3- Vaught-Hemingway, Alabama@OleMiss

After weeks of anticipation and days of planning The day of departure arrived! I drove from Cherokee Co., Ga. through north Alabama and Mississippi and my com-padres (another brother in-law and the Captain's brother) were driving up from the Gulf Coast, Pensacola, Orange Beach and Ocean Springs, MS, all converging on Oxford, MS. I decided to drive over on Friday and enjoy a leisurely trek across the back roads while the Captain and his crew booked up the interstates on game day.

I am from West Georgia originally and much of Alabama that I crossed was vaguely familiar, having traveled those roads 40 years (plus) ago. Leaving Rome and cutting across 411 through Cave Springs towards Centre, Al was a very pretty drive full of wide opens farms with long tree-lined drives to beautiful houses with large, ornate barns. Valleys planted with cotton is a sight I do not see in North Ga. and it definitely brought back memories of my childhood. Mixed in with wide open farms and beautiful countryside was a more subtle sight, although disturbingly real; many closed businesses, stores and gas stations, local repair shops, and closed farm equipment businesses. A very real reminder of the tenuous state of the country's economy and who is taking the worst blows.

Although I had Google Map directions and a Garmin GPS I traveled 250 of the 300 mile trip to Tupelo the old fashioned way; I followed my nose and made decisions as I encountered intersections or new roads. I made it Hamilton, AL before deciding that I needed the GPS to get me to the hotel. An impromptu stop was Double Springs, AL, in Winston County (more on that connection later) where I inadvertently wore my UGA attire (my regular Friday ensemble) into a country store and the locals looked at me as either a 'Guvmn't' agent or an alien; either way I was "uncomfortable" but the store clerk was very nice and helpful and assured me I was on the right track and I was on my way.

I arrived in Tupelo (America's First TVA City according to the sign in town) and at the hotel where I was staying to avoid Oxford crowds and double room rates. Again the hotel clerks were incredibly well-mannered and helpful to me and everyone I encountered in the lobby; a Gold Wing Motorcycle Club in for the weekend, people there to see the birthplace of Elvis (I missed that) and, of course, people going to the games, because there were spectators staying to attend either the Ole Miss game or the Miss. State game (again, more on that later). I settled in for the night and could hardly go to sleep in anticipation of game day at The Grove!

Stadium Tour #3 - Part Two covers the trip to Oxford, game day experiences and, of course, the game and look for Jason4Bama, Quan, David from BIrmingham, DR from BridgeMill,etc.