A Bowl of Sun

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December 29th 2017
Published: December 30th 2017
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Three college football bowl games in three days. Or actually, in less than 48 hours. It has been a whirlwind, but the fast pace has kept us on track for our ultimate destination in Pasadena next Monday.

Of all the bowl games I bought tickets for, the Sun Bowl was the least important for several reasons. Firstly, the tickets were only $11 each; for some, this might not seem like a paltry sum, as in it could be better spent elsewhere. This is true, but for football bowl games (or for any decent game in general), this is a good price. Compare that to the 3-figure price for Rose Bowl tickets. Secondly, the game was pretty early in the day; the previous two games we attended were at 8 PM local time, which normally means that the game is important or expected to be entertaining. Earlier games do not have such connotations. Thirdly, we would’ve needed to leave by 7 AM to get to the game at the start, and we didn’t get to our hotel after the Alamo Bowl until 1 AM. This is not meant to be an exhausting trip, despite the necessity for SOME exhaustion on a trip of this distance. And lastly, we had no dog in this fight—that is to say, there was no compelling reason for me to support either team playing in the Sun Bowl. I’ve got an NC State friend, so I ultimately chose to pull for them (shout out to you, Logan). And they were the victors, so I guess I should feel happy about that.

The drive from Kerrville (an hour west of San Antonio) to El Paso seemed interminable. This was probably because there was not a lot of stuff to see, either natural or manmade. I was grateful for the audiobooks that we brought with us. I didn’t mention yesterday, but we listened to the BBC radio drama adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, and it was pretty well done. It was, however, only about 2.5 hours, though that was perfect for the short amount of driving yesterday. Today, though, was a 7-hour haul through west Texas. And when we told the lady at the Days Inn where we were heading, her face showed that she would not have been doing that. Nevertheless, our audiobook for the day was Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut. It was reportedly a 7-hour book, but we did not finish. Perhaps I was speeding a little.

There were a couple of stops along our way: first was a “rest area” that was basically a pavilion with restrooms and then a picnic table off to the side. It served its purpose, I suppose. The restrooms were warm, and there was a map out front just to show you how in-the-middle-of-nowhere you actually were. It was a hopping place, for being nowhere. But I guess you catch a break when you can. This was about two hours into the trip. The second stop was a Love’s truck stop about 90 minutes later. It was the first sign of “civilization” to be found since we left the hotel. And the gasoline prices were commensurate with the locale—the highest seen on this trip so far. But since you don’t know when the next fill-up will be, you take what you can get. And they know it. After that, our next stop was El Paso.

The speed limit for most of the trip was 80 mph, so I was going about 88 for most of it. The problem was that the interstate, I-10, only has two lanes on each side. So whenever a slow truck comes along, everybody tries to pass it, whether they’re going 88 or 68. Why do people go that slow in an 80 zone? Ugh. But long story short: the ETA from our Love’s stop said 1:59 PM. We pulled up to the stadium at 1:41. Thank you.

Since all of the parking for the Sun Bowl near the stadium was reserved for big donors or whatever, we had to park almost a mile away, downhill from the stadium. This is not normally a problem for me, but with dad, it could be. And it was certainly an uphill battle at some stretches, literally and figuratively. But we did get to see some of the UTEP campus, which was hosting the Sun Bowl. Lots of Southwest colonial-inspired architecture. And it was warm. At least, it was warmer than we had become accustomed to while in Texas. It was probably nearly 70 F. We were both wearing light jackets, and once we got to the stadium, dad took his off.

We were there to see the NC State Wolfpack take on the Arizone State Sun Devils. Unintentionally, dad was wearing some maroon clothing—his jacket and even his shirt, so he fit it well with the people around us. We were sitting on the Arizona State side, since that’s where the tickets were. We were supposedly in row 50, but after the uphill climb to the stadium, I thought we would do well to sit closer to the bottom. So we found a few rows that looked empty and had a seat. We arrive just as the first quarter was ending, so we figured that most of the people were probably already there and wouldn’t be like us. We were right. No one ever came to sit anywhere near us, and I’ll just assume it wasn’t because of the smell.

The game was pretty uneventful for most of the day. When we arrived, NC State was up 7-0, which is about what I was expecting. But I also expected that there would be more people from Arizona State, since it was MUCH closer to the event than North Carolina. There appeared to be more people from Arizona, but the crowd from North Carolina wasn’t sparse, either. At halftime, the score was 28-10 in favor or NC State, and to me that was pretty much the ball game. There was a point earlier when the score was 21-3, and I couldn’t help but flash back to last night’s Alamo Bowl, when TCU was down by a similar score in the 2nd quarter. But Arizona State was no TCU, though they did make a decent performance in the 4th quarter. The final 20 minutes of the game were the most exciting, when both teams scored 3 touchdowns apiece. The final score was 52-31 in favor of NC State, but most people probably had left before the game became fun. We ourselves had decided to leave at the end of the 3rd quarter, when the score was 31-10. We wanted to see about getting a souvenir or two, but that didn’t go too well. A bathroom break did, however. And we ended up watching from the concourse of the end zone for much of the remainder of the game. Once NC State got up to 45-24, we decided that was about it. So we left. It wasn’t too long when we were out of the stadium before the fireworks exploded again, which meant that somebody had scored. It was Arizona State, making the game 45-31 but with only 3 or so minutes left. Apparently, NC State got another touchdown, but we didn’t hear any more explosions on our trek back downhill to the car.

This bowl game was by far the least impressive, in terms of facilities and swag. True, we didn’t get there until after it had started, but I saw no fans with bags full of free junk from their teams. The swag shops on around the concourse were pretty decent, but they were nothing spectacular. And to top it all off, the “souvenir” type cups were anything but: they were Styrofoam, and they don’t indicate the teams playing in the game. Alas. The stadium itself was pretty cool, though. It’s built right into the surrounding rocks, so it’s a natural “bowl” in the mountain. I’m sure the views are pretty cool in the evening; you can see Mexico in the open end of the stadium. At least you can see the Mexican hills in the distance, with all the houses VERY close together at the base of the hills.

The rest of our evening was uneventful. We got back to the hotel at a reasonable hour for a change. And instead of dragging dad somewhere across town, we decided to walk next door to the Cracker Barrel for dinner. It was surprisingly good, and the wait time was next to nothing. We came back to the hotel and watched some more college football before heading off to sleep. We’re in the Mountain Time Zone now, so we’ve gained another hour. But with all the travelling, our bodies haven’t quite adjusted to that. But it’ll be nice to be able to get a later start than previously in the morning. Our plan is to make it all the way through New Mexico and Arizona before stopping at basically the first town in California on I-10. We’ll make a couple more stops for college football stadiums, but no games for the first day in a while. Just driving. Eight hours of driving. Then Cali.

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