I had a friend who reminded me last night at a birthday party that I had promised to recount the Notre Dame experience from late last year and had – to date – failed to fulfill that promise.
Not one to continue to perpetuate a failure of that sort I decided today was a spectacular time to beg for forgiveness and rectify the situation.
It started the night before we left. No trip to South Bend would be complete without watching Rudy – and watch Rudy we did. Although I passed out on the couch before the movie was done the second time it continued to play. And when everybody got up in the morning what did we do? We watched Rudy, of course. Did that mean we hit the road late? Yes. Did that matter? No. It was Rudy.
We opted to use my car for the roadtrip so around 10am or so we piled the back full of our suitcases (and I mean full; there was barely any space to see out the back window) and Farmer, Cynthia, Paul and I headed out. We made a quick stop at QuikTrip first for snacks and water and not too long after that we were headed east on I-435.
The first excitement came not five minutes into the trip. As we were nearing the Grandview Triangle there was an accident or stalled car up ahead in the left lane, right before 435 East turns into 435 North. Nothing big, except a car up a length or two and to the left of us in the stop-and-go traffic (we’d get up to 40mph then have to stop, then start again only to stop) at one pointed decided not to address the whole “stop” part of that equation and plowed into the back drivers’ side of the car ahead of it. They were going probably 30 miles per hour so it wasn’t just a small fender-bender; there was metal flying and rubber burning from having a fender smashed into a moving tire.
And there was a car with a crumpled front-end slowly coasting to the right … right into our lane. Luckily it stopped before it crossed over, but it wasn’t five feet from the side of my beloved HHR and my passengers. An ominous start to a promising trip.
For the next ten hours or so, luckily, things were relatively calm. Aside from a detour designed by either a drunk city planner, a team of coked-up orangutans or the producers of Punk’d it was fairly uneventful.
Except for White Castle.
But it really wasn’t White Castle’s fault, except for the fact that when they abandoned the Kansas City market years ago they left a gaping void in my soul that causes me to become somewhat irrational when presented with the opportunity to down a bag full of steam-cooked singles and some cheese-covered fries. My brother and his wife will attest to this from our trip to Chicago for my dad’s inauguration two years ago; so will Lauren, Gabe & Cynthia based on our impromptu Indy roadtrip last weekend. Only in those two situations I wasn’t driving – but I was behind the wheel here.
And to be fair to myself I didn’t actually kill anyone, cause a wreck or do anything worse than put my friends in moderate fear for their lives for a brief moment. And we did get White Castle, so I say all’s well that ends well. If you ask them they may add some additional color to the story and suggest that I drove in the median (I kinda did), made an illegal turn (maybe that happened, too) and almost ran over a herd of cute little baby fur seals crossing the street (I don’t recall that happening, but let’s not lose sight of the fact it was for White Castle, after all, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility…), but the bottom line is this – we survived and we all enjoyed White Castle goodness, some of them for the first time ever.
When we got to South Bend it was cold. But it was Notre Dame so the cold was part of the ambience. We hit the bookstore first because I didn’t have any Irish gear (I do now!) and you can’t not go by the bookstore. As we were driving on to the campus we had to stop at the guard station and I was just waiting for him to ask me where I was going so I could respond “I’m here to play football for the Irish!” Unfortunately he asked if I was here to drop one of my passengers off at school, so that kind of took the wind out of my sails.
We dropped our purchases off in the car and walked around the campus, finally settling in to watch the drum circle after a quiet stop at the Grotto for a few minutes. The drum circle was spectacular – even in the biting cold they were out jamming on the drums and doing an awesome job of it. Glowing drumsticks, a great routine and getting the crowd into it – it’s something you should absolutely not miss if you happen to find yourself in South Bend on a Friday night before a home football game.
After the drum circle we walked around to the library and got a good look at Touchdown Jesus. Then we decided we needed to head to the hotel and get checked in – we had a big day ahead of us the next day.
We woke up on Saturday morning and I needed to get some coffee – sleeping on the floor (which is comprised of about 1/3 of the time tossing and turning since the floor isn’t nearly as forgiving as a bed is) and the fact that it was morning required a dose of caffeine to prevent me from curling up in the fetal position and rocking back and forth. So I tossed on my shoes, grabbed my keys and headed outside.
WTH? I didn’t recall snow being in the forecast at any point (which could have been caused by the fact I didn’t actually check the forecast at any point), but sure enough – there was white fluffy stuff falling from the sky and covering everything. That was going to be fun – while we all brought warm clothes (it was northern Indiana in late November, after all) we weren’t exactly expecting to be contending with snow. But c’est la vie – it’s what we got.
I ran down to Wal-Mart to grab some bottles of water and some Advil and then over to Chick-fil-a for a cup of steaming hot coffee. After we all woke up and got ready it was time to head to the stadium and start the tailgating right after we stopped by Target to get some tailgating necessities (water, beer and liquor).
We drove around a little trying to find the best way to get in. Even though the Irish were only playing BYU it’s like the Chiefs – we could be playing the Texans and we’d still pack Arrowhead to the gills. Luckily this is not an abnormal occurrence for Notre Dame so things worked just fine – it just took some time.