We drove all night Friday night. The kiddo blissfully slept through the entire trip.
Its easy to look back on those miles now. Even more so considering Coach Dooley's comments of the days press conference. But experiencing them was a 72 hour nonstop marathon that had us ready to drop in our tracks by the time it was over.
When your crossing the mountains and start drifting in to town early in the morning you know deep down that some up there is a Volunteer fan. That orange sunset that spreads across the whole city to the horizon didn't come from someone who roots for LSU.
We checked in to our hotel and my wife looked at me with a mistrustful look
"You mean we can't sleep yet?"
I looked at her in shock and repeated the famous words of Captain Lloyd Williams, United States Marine Corp upon arriving at the Battle of Belleau Wood in World War I.
"Retreat? Hell we just got here!"
After much coaching and prodding I got the whole Fam Damily (intentional) changes and out the door less than a hour after reaching town. I wanted to make sure that they got to experience everything
And we did.
Children are funny. When they start an adventure they will either A: Be hellbent to crash through it at 100 miles per hour and then collapse in a heap at the end or B: Tentatively check the waters, look around to see if anyone is watching, and then slowly creep in before going full throttle.
Critter, my daughter, chose B. You'll see the transition yourself.
First things first. No visit to a home game at Tennessee will ever be complete for child or adult alike without a photo opportunity of them with Smokey
My mom, Critter and of course Smokey
From meandering around Vols Village and letting her act like a kid in the various "bouncy houses" we made our way over to the Vol Walk.
Critter figures Daddies are meant to be horses. Can't say I disagree.
It was here we met another traveling Volunteer fan. This one from Colorado. While waiting for the Walk to start we chatted, ironically about bringing ones family to Tennessee. He mentioned that he couldn't wait to bring his wife. I mentioned that upon occasion I write here. He mentioned he reads once in a while. When the walk started, folks rushed to the barrier to see the players, and he graciously allowed me to step forward so my daughter could get a look over other folks heads.As he called his wife to tell her he loved her and wished she was there, the players and Coach Dooley started our way.
His mention here,is my repayment. I thanked you then and I do so again. Thank you sir. You proved my point to my wife that Tennessee fans are the best in the SEC.
Thanks to a generous Vol fan from Colorado my daughter and I were witness to Coach Dooley leading off the walk
We made our way back through the Vol Village again, past the Eternal Flame where my daughter asked repeatedly how it could just burn forever.
We toured the stadium extensively, checked out the statue of the General, and made our way to the Stadium Store where I proceeded to enact my own stimulus plan upon the local economy.
Finally, have a good 45 minutes until kick off we opted for some "Hint of Orange" tea and our seats.
50 Yard Line, Behind the Buffalo Sideline, 2nd Row Courtesy of the RTT Ticket system
We watched the warm ups with both teams ....
and with the speakers right on front of us blasting various forms of music and announcements prior to the gam, Critter decided it was time to get her ear muffs on while wolfing down her pizza.
The clouds covered the sun much of the warm up....
and the winds came through the Stadium were cold. I had watched The Weather Channel drop the temperature steadily, from 72 a week ago, to the current high of supposedly 54. It felt more like 40. We bundled in our coats...when finally...
Even the teams celebrated the warmth...
Looked like it was going to be a good game. It was for me anyway, with 3 generations of my family with me, My mom, wife and daughter. My wife is easy to spot. Just play the ol game of "Which one of these is not like the other"
The Loudest Stadium in South East Conference...on any day but today unfortunately
The ear muffs were preparation. A better safe than sorry measure, especially as student tickets had dropped to below $20 bucks by the time we had arrived on Saturday. Sort of irritated me a little as I had paid a good bit more than that in advance, but no matter. I didn't let it bother me. Why quibble over little things?
With just over 85,000 in attendance the noise level was not what I had feared. Further, once the players started getting pumped up in front of us....
It didn't take long for the muffs to come off. Combined with sunshine finally, and the sweaters and coats were gone and the jersey's brought out
She even made it on the Jumbo-Tron in the second half. Sadly I couldn't grab a picture of it.
Our seats afforded us some great views, such as the late hit by a ineligible player on Devrin Young on the Buffalo sideline by UatB number 12.. I was maybe 20 feet from that event and even my wife booed the act. I was a little surprise there was no flag as the line judge was right in front of me and watching. Their QB, #7 Anderson was examined when he came off the field immediately in front of us and he seemed to be in a fair amount of pain.
The Vols won, as we all know. The game not really a surprise to anyone I think, but Buffalo made a good showing against overpowering opponent. Hopefully they can take what they learned against us and it gives them some lessons learned for the rest of their season.
We also accomplished what set out too. We made a great, marathon like journey, on little sleep.My daughter kept talking about the the fun and the game. My wife talked about the kindness of the fans, and the campus.
It's over 14 hours one way from our house to Knoxville. I drove most of it on the way up and on the way home.
When I finally handed off the driving to my wife, Critter and I spent four hours of tossing a spongy UT football back and forth in the backseat of my SUV while she pretended to be a Running Back heading for the Checkerboard end zone. Complete with Daddy firework sound affects and family singing for the Touchdown. It was a good weekend.
On Monday morning, I thought the weekend over. Imagine my surprise as we prepared for our days, my daughter for school, myself for work.
My daughter got dressed in her school uniform and grabbed her backpack. Then she wore her Tennessee Volunteers coat against the chilly winds as she headed with her mom to school in Razorback country.
Another Vol fan has been born.
Enjoy the rest of the pics!
Halftime show featured Kingsport, TN Fire & Rescue in a 9/11 Tribute