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Published: October 18th 2015
Well, now that I've attended the 2nd of 2 TCU road games in a row, the ostensible reason for my Great Plains road trip is at an end. But that doesn't mean I intend to go directly back to Athens, GA (a.k.a. home). I'm planning on taking a circuitous route of sorts, so while I won't be in the Great Plains anymore, the road trip will continue a few more days.
I saw the first familiar face in about 10 days this morning - Beth, a friend from my days of working summers at Camp Westminster, and who also attended McAfee School of Theology with me. She had seen my blog a few days back and asked whether we could work out to meet up since I would be coming to Iowa. I was happy to do that, since I always like meeting up with people on my trips. It turns out, she and her husband Chris are always happy to connect with people from their home state, too, since they don't get too many of us coming up this way. So it was therapeutic for all involved. They live in Forest City, IA, which is just inside the state,
near Minnesota. So it only took me an hour to get there from my hotel last night. It's a cute little town, and we had breakfast right in the heart of the downtown area at a place called Sally's. If you ever make it to Forest City, I highly recommend eating there. Over breakfast, we caught up on recent events - it had probably been 10 years since our last meeting - and enjoyed some really good food. Beth and Chris told me about their new lives in Iowa, and it sounded pretty good. It's the kind of life people who are trying to get away from a big city (we had all lived in Atlanta for various amounts of time), or who just don't want to live in all the hustle and bustle to begin with, would enjoy. Of course, there are trade-offs, like the distance from family and friends, but from the sound of things, they're fitting into and becoming part of the community there.
After we finished breakfast, they took me on a ride through some of the fields that were being or had already been harvested, as winter is approaching. It was pretty fascinating, and
much more interesting than the drive back to the interstate that I would've taken myself.
I had planned to meet up with someone in Ames, but that fell through at the last minute, so I was stuck going to a place called Hickory Park by myself. A friend at UGA, who also happened to be an Iowa State alumna, said it was one of the places I had to go if I was in Ames. It's an eatery, and that's quite an understatement. It was huge, and I guess it had to be, as much business as they were doing. When I approached the hostess to get my name on the list, I realized that I was pretty much the only person in purple there - the colors of TCU, the visiting team for the day. No matter. It was going to be a 20-25 minute wait. So I took my card and waited. In the meantime, I went to the bathroom to wash up, and when I came out, there was another guy, mid 20s, wearing purple. I gave him the bro nod, and then went to find a place to stand and wait. While there, a retired
couple wearing purple came in and were delighted to see me, wearing purple. I guess "birds of a feather" applied, and the 4 of us all ended up conversing while we waited. Since I was the first of us there, mine was the first number to be called. When they took me back, I didn't really want to sit at a table for 4 all by myself, so I asked the server if I could invite some people to sit with me. I went back out and asked the other 3 if they would like to join me, and they all agreed. So we were a table of purple in a sea of red and yellow. It was genuinely a good time - the food was excellent, the conversation wasn't awkward at all, and the people around us either didn't bother us or sincerely welcomed us to Ames. The retired couple's names were Carol Ann and Malcolm, and the younger fellow was Devin. When it was all over, Malcolm paid for the whole table, so I guess my instinct of inviting other people paid off!
We parted ways after the meal and each made our way to the stadium.
I think Devin had wanted us to stick together - he talked a couple of times about how doing the road trips alone was not really how he liked to do it. We ended up getting separated but found each other again at the stadium - not hard to do this week, unlike last week, since we were the few in purple. I did have a few people say things like "Congrats on your win today" before the game, and while I'm grateful that they respect my team, I never want to assume anything. We ran into Gary Patterson's (the coach for TCU) brother, and he was a hoot. It wasn't as warm as last week before or during the game, so I think my skin may have survived as unscathed as possible this time. I picked up my ticket at Will Call, and we got to go in around 4:30.
The stadium wasn't all that big - I was told it held 60,000 people, but I had a hard time believing that. I do know that there was not a full stadium for the game, so maybe that had something to do with it. It really was one
of the least loud stadiums I've ever been at - when the speakers told the audience to get loud, it was rather underwhelming. My seat was very close to the field, and once again, they had packed the visiting fans into a corner of the end zone; standard practice, I guess. But it was good to be basically in the center of the purple-clad people. There couldn't have been more than 200 of us there. It turns out that Malcolm and Carol Ann were sitting right behind me, so it made the evening even that more enjoyable. I recognized a few others from the game last week, and it made me realize how faithful some of these fans are. I wouldn't say that the fans "travel well," having been a UGA fan for the past decade or so and going to all those games; Georgia always brings a large contingent. But the ones who do go to TCU away games are certainly faithful. And it felt like many of them knew each other, too.
The game didn't start off so well for us, giving up 21 points in the 1st quarter. But by halftime, we were up by 3,
which was immeasurably better than last week at halftime. And after halftime, it was all us. In fact, the home team didn't score any points after the 1st quarter, whereas we just kept piling it on. We ended up winning 45-21, and that "covered the spread," since we were favored to win by 20 or 21 points, I think. It was a quality win, and I got to spend it with some good people. It got colder as the game went on, but we were enjoying ourselves too much to notice, for the most part.
After the game, I drove to Des Moines, where my hotel for the evening is. The Econo Lodge - and I won't complain at all, since it was only 30 minutes from the stadium, and there was really minimal traffic after the game. Much better than last week. Now, it's time to start my trek back East, but I'm going to take my time and hopefully see a few other friends I haven't seen in a while.
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