Saturday, January 05, 2008

Anatomy of a Bowl Trip – Day 2

Tuesday, January 1, 2008
The alarm rang, loudly, at 5:00 a.m. I stumbled out of bed, went to the window and looked outside. The snow had stopped. The motel’s parking lot had a lane plowed down the middle, and the cars looked like piles of marshmallows on either side of the lane. It looked cold outside and I could see from the trees that the wind was still blowing. I wondered if we would make it on our journey or if we would have to turn back and go home defeated. I was glad I had brought my winter coat, but concerned about the others, N particularly, with just a hoody for warmth against the brutal winds causing the wind chill to dip below zero according to the radio. I woke the others, we dressed and headed out to start the long trek to the Rose Bowl.

We made it a priority to keep W and N as warm as possible given their lack of proper outer wear. I went out and started the car, scraped the windows and headlights, and pulled around to the motel entrance so they only had to walk a few feet between the motel and the car. The night before, we had stopped for gas, and W got an Illinois map so we could plan our route to O’Hare. Even though we’ve both been to O’Hare a plethora of times, neither of us had ever driven to O’Hare. We plotted our course and began the drive. The interstate was still somewhat slick with ice and packed snow but not nearly as bad as the night before. It was still dark outside and not the best driving conditions, but most of the time I could drive 50-55 mph. That made our progress much easier. We just plugged along down the road while N slept in the back seat. Part of our journey included a trek on one of Chicago’s fine toll roads. We were unprepared as we had little coinage with us (W always empties his pockets of coins before flying just to make it through security easier). We scrambled to assemble the right change for the basket and had to wake N and ask him for some of his coins that we knew he had in his pocket.

Finally, we arrived at the O’Hare exit around 8:00 a.m. I dropped W and N at the terminal and headed off to find long term parking. I had visions of them making it to the flight while I missed it parking and getting back to the terminal. After a couple of wrong turns I finally got to the parking lot. I was lucky enough to find an open spot not terribly far from the building where the train to the terminals stops. I hurried up to the building and to the boarding platform. A few minutes later the train arrived and headed to the terminals. By 8:30 a.m. I was standing in line waiting to go through security. It was a long line but moved quickly and my hopes were finally renewed that I just might actually make it to the Rose Bowl after all. Instead of going to the gate as I had instructed them, W and N were waiting for me just on the other side of security. I asked W if he’d gotten anything for them for breakfast, and he said no. I tried really, really hard not to roll my eyes, but I don’t think I succeeded. We headed towards our gate. N and I needed to use the restroom, but W was already so far ahead of us that we couldn’t tell him our intentions so we lost him. I knew he was headed for the gate so I wasn’t worried about getting separated, but I did wonder whether he was now planning on getting us something for breakfast since I had mentioned it. As we passed a food court, including a Dunkin’ Donuts I decided to take the chance, since N was begging for a doughnut, and get us all a little breakfast. I bought two doughnuts for each of us and chocolate milk for N. We met W at the gate. Naturally he had done nothing to get breakfast for us so it was good I got the doughnuts. It was now just before 9:00 a.m. We had arrived a good 10 minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin. Whew! So far so good. We boarded the plane only to find out after having been seated that our flight was delayed by about 20 minutes as they were waiting for passengers transferring from other delayed flights. Criminy! We had places to go, a bowl game to see! Eventually the straggling passengers arrived, and we were on our way. Once in the air, I finally believed really and truly that I would see the Rose Bowl in person even if we didn’t make it for the first half.

The flight was uneventful, a pleasant change from events leading up to it, and we got to watch not one, but two, movies -- The Ultimate Gift and Ratatouille -- and I enjoyed both. We landed at LAX around 12:30 p.m. My cousin met us and whisked us away to the Rose Bowl. The weather was awesome, in the high 60’s/low 70’s. For those unfamiliar with the LA area, it is huge and crowded so I really didn’t know how much of the game we might miss. We were fortunate that traffic wasn’t bad, and we arrived at the parking area about 1:30 p.m. with some hopes of still making opening kickoff. By the time we parked and rode the shuttle up to the Rose Bowl we were darned close to kickoff and still had to walk around to Gate N. After that hike we had to wait to get in through Tunnel 12 into the stadium, but we had a pleasant enough conversation with a rather inebriated USC fan while we waited. It turned out his ticket was for Tunnel 6 so he had wasted his time in the Tunnel 12 line. I’m guessing a beer or two less and he might have realized his error more quickly, but that’s just a guess.

The game was already underway, but not by much, when we arrived inside the stadium. Shortly after we arrived USC made their first touchdown, and the game went downhill from there. It was a disaster, an unmitigated debacle for the Illini. Sometimes it’s tough to be an Illini fan, but we Cubs fans have practice at that. N mentioned sometime during the second quarter that he had not had anything but doughnuts, chocolate milk and soda so far that day, and that he was hungry. Seeing as it was after 3:00 p.m. PST (5:00 p.m. CST) it seemed a reasonable enough request to get something to eat. We left W to watch the game while the rest of us went out and got food. N chose to get a chicken and rice plate which I thought was a great and healthy choice for him to make. The $10 price was a bit much, but you can’t expect bargains at the Rose Bowl. I got nachos and took W a hot dog that he requested. We got back to our seats just a few minutes before the second half started. We stayed until the bitter end (true fans don’t leave until the final second ticks off the clock even if it is a blowout). By the time we waited in line for the shuttle, made our way to my cousin’s car, rode down to our hotel through post-Rose Bowl traffic (some 94,000 people all trying to leave the same place at the same time), went through the drive-thru at Arby’s for more fast food, checked in and settled into our room it was 9:00 p.m. PST. N was exhausted and sound asleep on top of the bed in his clothes. His roast beef sandwich went uneaten, and I put it in the fridge in the room. My cousin said his goodbyes and left. W and I ate our food (no, a vegetarian can’t get much at Arby’s so the mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce served as dinner for me), and while I got ready for bed he called the Super Shuttle to make reservations for the next morning. We were told that we would have to meet the Super Shuttle in front of the hotel at 5:10 a.m. the next morning. It was little comfort that it would feel to us like 7:10 a.m. I set the alarm clock for 4:15 a.m. and fell asleep before W ever got to bed.

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