Continuing the story (from the last post)…
We got in and parked in lot J and got out to tailgate. And then we made an executive decision: the day’s tailgate was going to be held in a 5×5-foot space called “the inside of an HHR”. There wasn’t a lack of space outside – we parked out at the end of the lot and it was still several hours before the game so there were plenty of empty spots around us. It wasn’t the snow – anyone who uses snow as an excuse not to tailgate needs to reexamine their whole freaking life. And it wasn’t the people around us – when they did show up and fill the parking spots near us they were pretty cool…when they ventured out of their cars.
But we decided that rather than end up making a trip to the emergency room because we’d all gotten frostbite it was a better call to hang out in the car.
Don’t get me wrong – we were dressed for cold. You don’t go up north at the end of November without packing eighteen layers of clothing. We all had thermals, sweatshirts, jackets, coats, jeans and enough pairs of socks to outfit every runner in the New York City marathon. But even the 30-second trip to the port-a-potties made you question the wisdom of making that trip instead of just going all Dumb-and-Dumber (although I will say as owner of said tailgating car I’m happy everybody always opted for the trip – it would have been a really long ride back otherwise).
But it was a different kind of cold. I think technically the temperature was probably in the mid- or upper-20s, but if you don’t buy the whole windchill measurement you’ve clearly never been up in northern Indiana. Even if you’re standing still the wind will find its way into the marrow in your bones, freeze it, and then start laughing like a maniacal villain as it extracts every last ounce of heat out of your body.
And considering we were tailgating-lite (no grill or food) it didn’t make a lot of sense to stand outside and freeze when we could have had the heater going full blast and Pandora playing on the stereo while we were finding creative ways to chill shots of Goldschlager.
That worked well for several hours. When we got too warm we just cracked the windows until teeth started chattering and then we’d turn the heat back on. We made it through “the game” on dozens of songs (as soon as a song comes on you have to name the artist – if it’s not 80s I’m pretty much out of contention) and I managed to lose a bet regarding whether The Who were the artist that did the CSI: Los Angeles theme song (yes, I realize now that there is no theme song to CSI: Los Angeles because there is no show called CSI: Los Angeles…).
Then we had guests.
Let me tell you that I love my Chevy HHR more than any car I’ve ever owned. She’s great in the snow, she can carry a bunch of stuff and still gets me a good 27 miles per gallon in normal driving. I’ve helped people move with her; I’ve gone on road trips with her; I’ve put the back seats down and slept in the back before.
But she was not meant to hold six people, period; much less comfortably.
I had made the trip to the now-popular portable bathrooms and returned to find that the only seat left for me was either outside or in the back. The back that was packed with coolers, beer and assorted other stuff that had made the trip and seemed like it would be good to have for the tailgating. My options were to kick one of the lovely young ladies who had joined the party out or figure out how to bend my 6-foot, 2-inch frame into a space that might have had 6-feet, 3-inches of square footage available.
Clearly I was not kicking anyone out of my car – you just don’t do that. So I popped the trunk, shifted some stuff around and crawled in. My knees were against the window and I had to dislocate my shoulder every time I needed to take a drink of my beer, but it was well worth it – we had a great time.
Pretty soon it was game time, but we had a problem. Somewhere between getting to the parking spot, running around the parking lot and the end of the tailgate one of us had lost a ticket. We scoured the car and came up with nothing (except some random “oh, THAT’S where that is!” stuff that I’d been missing for weeks – including a pair of Crocs). I volunteered to stay behind and look for the ticket; worst case I’d just turn the game on the radio and kick back in my car and appreciate the modern convenience of vehicle heat.
Long story short we sent Paul & Farmer in while Cynthia and I stayed to look for the tickets. When we struck out she and I went down to the gates about 15 minutes into the game and decided to try to sneak in. While I was game for that it didn’t go that far; there was a very understanding gentleman manning the gate and he and his manager bought the story of the lost ticket (partially due to great acting and partially because it was true) and I got to set foot inside a piece of history for the first time: Notre Dame Stadium.
I won’t say that it was like being struck by an electrical jolt or anything but it really was an awe-inspiring experience just walking down the halls and sitting on the bench with our seats. Forget the driving snow, forget the icy wind, forget the biting cold – this was a Notre Dame Fighting Irish football game and I was there.
We found out seats, wiped the snow off them and sat down. Notre Dame went up on BYU and didn’t look back, putting 14 on the board in the first quarter en route to a 23-13 victory. Aside from almost getting kicked out for a completely stupid reason (although most of the security guards were pretty cool there was one who didn’t necessarily appreciate that sometimes you think you have to throw up when in reality it just felt like you needed to) it was awesome.
We ended up leaving at the end of the third quarter(ish) and decided to finish out the game and then watch the Mizzou game down the street at a bar in the comfort of warmth, beer and some bar food where we could thaw out and I could let my socks dry (finding out your boots have a hole in the soul, by the way).
After that we headed to another bar until late and then decided it was time to call it a night.
But before that there was an invite to a party at a house off-campus that we just couldn’t turn down. I never lived in a dorm or frat house in college not was that my kind of scene (I preferred hanging out with a handful of friends) so I really wasn’t prepared for the fact that you can fit about a 200 college kids in a four bedroom house. On top of being packed it was also crazy loud and given the excitement of the day and the fact that I was nearing the point of being absolutely drained, rather than hang out inside I ended up out on the porch swing outside. I got a number of odd looks wondering who I was (I had at least 15 years on just about everybody at the party), but “I’m a friend of Farmer” was enough of an explanation – apparently he’s a legend.
After about 20 minutes or so outside we decided it was probably time to sleep – there wasn’t a ton of it the night before nor the night before that and we knew there was an 11-hour drive back plus the snow hadn’t stopped and although I don’t mind driving in it in my HHR I was in an unfamiliar town with unfamiliar roads. Farmer and Paul decided to stay at the party and grab a taxi back.
One day I’ll use the GPS on my phone appropriately; that night was not going to be the night I was going to start. I’ve always been a fan of trying to find things out via trial and error and I attempted (for the most part) to employ that evening as well. Probably not the greatest idea, honestly, and in hindsight I’d probably have done it differently and followed my navigator’s advice instead of winging it and getting slightly lost. But the bottom line is we made it back to the hotel in one piece with little in the way of adventure and there were no threats of getting out and walking if I didn’t start following directions. We’ll call that success.
The other two made it back to the hotel about an hour or so later and we all crashed and grabbed as much shut-eye as we could given time and circumstances.
The ride home the next day was really rough – there was a trashcan involved – but we stopped at a friend of Farmer’s in Illinois (great hospitality) to watch part of the Chiefs game we were missing, eat some pizza and recover a little more than riding in a moving car allows.
It was an absolutely incredible experience – thanks to my friend for giving me the opportunity to go along. It was an experience I’d do again and again, no doubt.