Tuesday, January 6, 2009

An Epic Journey

Today, somehow, I made it to work. Normally, that's not at all a remarkable feat, but after taking a four-day, 2,3000-plus mile road trip out to Minnesota for the Eagles-Vikings wild card game Sunday, the fact that I'm still alive is a minor miracle in and of itself … literally.

On the way home, we almost nailed a deer on Route 80 in Ohio that just decided to run out in the middle of the highway.

But lucky for you, the few readers that actually make it to this little site, I'm here to recount one of the longest, most insane road trips of my life.

It all started on Friday night. After returning from work, I headed to upper Bucks County to meet Toonces and silver fox at Toonces' dad's house to embark on our trip. The three of us unloaded the ungodly amount of shit that silver fox inexplicably had in his car, loaded up our supplies—which consisted essentially of clothes, a container of peanuts, a bag of soft pretzels, cds and some other stuff to play with. We were in a for a long, long ride.

Leaving some time around 8 p.m., the 1,153-mile quest through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and ultimately into Minnesota began. We headed up 476, with silver fox at the wheel, Toonces as navigator and myself in the back. We were ready to go and all sorts of pumped about it. Moral was high and our mission was clear: Get to Minny in one piece.

As we got to route 80, it didn't take long for us to hit our first setback. Unbeknownst to me, silver fox had been going quite fast as we approached a rest stop somewhere in the eastern half of Pennsylvania. But silver fox saw the dreaded site of flashing lights in his mirror, and minutes later, we were stopped on the side of the road as an officer issued a ticket to silver for going 92 in a 65.

Now, there's two ways to look at it, the negative view and the positive view. The negative view is that this trip was off to a rough start and doomed from the beginning. The positive view was we got the ticket out of the way nice and early, and things could only go up. We chose to look at it in that light, meaning spirits were still quite high and our quest was still on full board.

The rest of PA was kind of a blur. I was supposed to be sleeping in the back so I'd be ready to drive when it was my turn. You see, we had a nice system of one person driving, the passenger staying awake to keep the driver company and conscious, and the person in the back getting some shut-eye to be well-rested for his turn to drive. However, things didn't always go according to play, especially at the beginning. I was too amped to sleep, however, sleep would come eventually.

The trip out PA was unspectacular but efficient. I went to Penn State, so there were no great sights to behold or new things to encounter for us. It was the same old same old. But once we hit our first rest stop in Ohio, our excitement built yet again.

We stopped to fill up, re-energize and switch drivers … and once we pulled in, we saw a white van filled to the brim with Eagles fans. They, too, were heading out on ground, and this pumped us up even more. The feeling was that there would be a ton of Eagles fans out there, what with the non-sellout and cheap tickets. Essentially, our thought that we would not be alone was confirmed early in the trip, and we couldn't wait to get to Minnesota.

I've driven through Ohio and a portion of Indiana a couple times before in my life to catch some Notre Dame games with my cousin. Having done that, I know that driving through Ohio sucks a big, fat donkey dick. Luckily for me, I slept quite a bit of the way through that awful, awful drive.

At some point in Indiana, it was my turn to take the wheel, which made me very happy, seeing as the speed limit is 70 in the Hoosier state. At this point, we were many hours into the trip and delirium had set in a bit. The entire way, we could not get the Ting Tings song "That's Not My Name," out of our heads, even though we didn't hear it once on the radio and none of us had the cd. Don't judge us. That's a catchy tune and you all know it. Anyway, we were flying through Indiana, seeing Eagles fans occasionally in other cars, giving waves, fist-pumps and beeps, keeping morale high.

The three of us were snapping odd photos, talking nonsense and singing along to the music like it was our job.

We made it through Indiana when it happened: Illinois. Ugh. Let me be the first to say that route 80/90 or whatever the hell it is in Illinois is in the worst shape going west of any road I have ever been on in my life. For nearly the entire stretch, the right lane is filled with potholes the size of craters in long, car-tearing stretches. It's like driving through an obstacle course. Pretty disgraceful actually, and certainly not safe—especially when you consider that it is a fucking toll road.

I was blown away by just how horrible of a condition this road was in. It made 76 and 309 look like the Mona Lisa of roads. Horrible. And another thing … Illinois' toll system is out of control. You know how in PA and Ohio and Indiana and Jersey and New York and every other freaking state in the world you stop at the first toll booth to get a ticket and then pay at your exit? Well, in Illinois, there are no ticket booths. None. You're just driving along the highway when out of nowhere, a toll booth pops up. It's not a booth to get a ticket. It's a booth where you pay a sum that is a complete surprise, since you have no ticket telling you of the price. It's outrageous. And they are all over. After paying an 80 cent toll, minutes later, you're paying another. Then another. Then another. And they just pop up out of the blue. It's pretty fucking stupid if you ask me.

At one, so distraught by the condition of the road, I mentioned the potholes to the toll taker. He laughed and responded, "Yeah, it's like …" and made his impression of a bumpy road. This made me laugh. He seemed like a good guy.

Anyway, driving through Chicago was quite an odd experience. Having never been west of South Bend in my entire life, it was a completely new experience for me. Chicago is incredibly spread out across this highway, and I was blown away by the amount of Spanish radio stations. There are Hispanics in the Midwest? I had no idea. Chicago was pretty cool-looking, but I was glad when we finally got through and out of Illinois.

Besides the scenery of the Windy City, the trip through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois was boring as hell, with nothing but flat landscapes all around.

Next up was the state most notorious for its cheese, Wisconsin.

What I noticed most about Wisconsin was a seemingly lack of any attractive women on the ride. It was more of the same in terms of flatness most of the way, but there were some cool landmarks and odd rocks to keep us interested. Also, there seemed to be much more trees, which is a plus.

Then we stopped at a gas station in Wisconsin to refuel. When we walked in, we were mesmerized by the endless supply of liquor and beer right next to the sodas and energy drinks. Like the rest of the Midwest, you can purchase alcohol at any local convenience store. This is awesome and once again reaffirms, Pennsylvania has the gayest liquor laws in the entire country, if not the world.

Seeing as we were on a mission, we restrained ourselves from loading up on alcohol. We did get a nice laugh when we heard the cashier speak. She sounded exactly like every character in "Fargo." Those people out there talk funny as shit.

Finally, we made it through Wisconsin and some time in the early afternoon entered Minnesota. About 20 miles or so from Minneapolis, we set up shop, got a hotel room and waited for Sunday to come. Naturally, we did this by eating and getting drunk.

We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express that was right in the middle of some shopping centers and eateries. For lunch, we headed to a place called Ray J.'s, a bar and grill. Now, let me tell you something, these people can eat and it's no wonder why. The temperatures in Minnesota did not leave single digits while we were there, and I can honestly say, it was the coldest place I've ever been in my life. Eating and drinking is probably the only way to stay warm.

We ordered some burgers and silver fox had some chili while Toonces and I ordered a thing called beer cheese soup. It is exactly what it sounds like: melted cheese in stew form with some beer in it.

Amazing. After filling up on food, we picked up a case of beer and settled into our hotel room. Immediately, we began drinking, playing drinking games and watching the Cardinals manhandle the Falcons on our hotel television. It was getting pretty rowdy and we were getting steadily drunker when we decided to head back to Ray J.'s, take some shots and watch some football.

Well, that turned into a shitshow and a half. It was snowing outside, we were drunk and we were about to get drunker. Not only do these people eat like champs, they drink like champs. We ordered a round of beers and shots of bourbon. The beers were bigger than a souvenir cup at any sporting event, and the shot was more like a shot and a half or two. As we downed some beers, we became louder and louder, urging silver fox to hit on the waitress and calling a pink-shirt wearing Minnesotan names at louder and louder volumes. No altercation ensued, seeing as Minnesotans are honestly the nicest people I've ever met in my life, but we, nonetheless, were acting like our typical Philadelphia selves. These people must have thought we were nuts.

After extending our stay at Ray J.'s a little too long, we went back to the room, drank some more and played poker as we watched the Chargers edge out the Colts. We were rowdy and drunk, leaving a warpath of a mess in our wake, and immediately after Darren Sproles ended the game, our drained bodies collapsed. When we awoke on Sunday morning, the temperature outside was -1 degrees. We ate our continental breakfast, with silver fox wearing a Phillies hat and Toonces in his Donovan jersey, and a kind Minnesotan asked about being Eagles fans. He was amused and stunned that we had driven some 18 hours to go to the game. He wasn't the last.

After showering and recovering, we checked out and took off for Minneapolis. I had the unlucky fortune of being the driver the short distance to the Metrodome. The reason it was unlucky was because silver fox's windshield wipers weren't working correctly, leaving me with limited vision through the salt, dirt and precipitation from the road. However, we made it one piece with the intention of walking around. Then we got outside the car and felt like our faces were going to fall off. Minnesota is ridiculously cold. They have a dome there for a reason. It hurts to be outside it is so cold.

So, we set up shop at Hubert's Bar & Grill right across the street from the Metrodome.

Once we entered, the bar had a strong contingent of Vikings fans, but the place was also packed with Eagles fans. It was a thing of beauty. Here we were, 1,100-plus miles away from Philadelphia, and it looked like we were in downtown Philly scanning areas of the bar. Eagles jerseys were everywhere, and when I was on the phone with a friend, "Fly Eagles Fly" engulfed the bar, along with a rowdy Eagles chant. It was glorious.

However, despite a few boos when the song and chant was going on, the Minnesotans in the bar were nothing but generous. Never a bad word, never a derogatory statement. Nothing. They were nice and talkative and endearing. It was strange to say the least.

We watched the Dolphins get taken apart by the Ravens and chatted it up with some Birds fans. The thing that was odd to me was the number of Eagles fans I met that were not from Philadelphia. There was a guy from Canada, originally from Arizona, who rooted for the Eagles. Then there was a group from Illinois donned in green. I was a little taken aback that there were people out there that supported Philadelphia even though they had never lived in or near the city. I just assumed everyone hated us. Apparently not.

After a few hours at the bar and a mountain of fried food in our stomaches, we entered the Metrodome and found our seats.

Now, I have to say, it's easy to see that the Metrodome is an older facility. The corridors were not all that wide, the screens weren't playing the early game at all, and the replay screens in the stadium were tiny—nothing like the behemoths at the Linc. Also, there seemed to be no energy in the pregame from the Vikings fans. It was like walking around at a funeral, not a playoff football game.

We were there nice and early, talking to some people who were stunned we'd travel so far to support our team. Minnesotans don't seem to live and die with their teams quite like us Philadelphians. Eventually, we met up with a couple of friends who flew out and watched warm-ups.

There were Eagles fans littered throughout the entire stadium. An entire section right where the Eagles entered the field was loaded with Eagles fans. It was a sight to behold. David Akers was killing the ball, nailing a 62-yarder with ease, and things were really beginning to take shape as the stadium filled. A kind Vikings fan, with a Corona in hand, politely asked us if we'd trade Andy Reid for Brad Childress. Apparently, Minnesotans don't care of Childress all that much. Later, I'd see why.

Literally all over there were patches of Eagles fans. Finally, it was time to begin the game. I have to say, the Vikings do a good job in providing a solid atmosphere. The guy who looks like a Viking and is one of their mascots was tremendous. He drove out of the Viking ship tunnel on a Harley to amp up the fans and does a hilarious job of dancing in one end zone between quarters as the cheerleaders dance in the other. Thumbs up to that guy.

Thumbs down to that annoying horn they blow though. That thing is pretty cool, but the Vikings played it every time a player walked out for warm-ups. It got old pretty quick. But come game time, none of that mattered. The Eagles fans were pumped as hell, and after hearing a horrible rendition of the National Anthem by Taylor Hicks, it was time for kickoff.

I have to say, being in a dome is ridiculously loud. I couldn't hear myself think at times. If there was one in Philadelphia, you'd honestly have to wear ear plugs to the games or else your eardrums would explode. It's that loud.

However, what I noticed is that Vikings fans only get amped for the first three plays the opposition has the ball on each series. After that, they're quiet as a mouse. And the enthusiasm from the Minnesotans is nothing compared to Philadelphians. Not once did I hear a Vikings fan curse, freak out or yell scathing remarks to any other player or fan. In fact, the worse thing anyone said to us wasn't even bad. We were sitting on the end of a row, seats 1, 2 and 3, and a guy came up to us and said, "I used to like Philadelphia until a guy up there said he was going to stab me in neck." Sounds about right.

Now, you all know what happened in the game. It was a tense battle between two defenses that were playing great and two offenses that were streaky at best. I'd just like to point to some things in the game.

First off, all three of us, and every Eagles fan, were going nuts at that game. It had the atmosphere of a home a game at times. And when Asante returned that interception for a touchdown, it was pandemonium for us Eagles fans.

But when Adrian Peterson busted that third-and-one play for a touchdown, things looked grim for us. The Eagles were moving at will and controlling the ball, yet the Vikings had a lead. And to make matters worse, one Vikings fan from across the row came over and stuck a high five in our face. He didn't mean to be menacing it seems, but we were pissed. When Asante returned the pick, we went right back at him in an aggressive manner, all three of us sticking our hands in his face. Had we done that in New York, we would have been beaten. Same thing if a Vikings fan had tried that in Philadelphia. In Minnesota, nothing. We weren't even yelled at by anyone. Stunning.

The game was physically draining for me. Throughout, it was close and almost too much to handle. Minnesota's run defense was everything it's cracked up to be. Those guys on the front four are beasts. The Eagles really got nothing going on the ground, but I gotta give Andy credit, he stuck with the run to stay balanced.

On the flip side, the Eagles defense was outstanding, especially in the second half. The only player who had a bad game in my eyes was Sheldon, who had a pass interference penalty on third down that extended the drive in which Peterson scored, missed the tackle on Bernard Berrian that led to another Vikings touchdown on a play that he not only interfered with Berrian, but also missed the tackle, allowing him to get a huge gain, and then missed an interception that would have iced game even though it was thrown right to him.

At that point, I lost my mind, yelling, "Catch the fucking ball, Sheldon!" and chased off a couple fans in front of me. Literally, they left. Whatever.

Offensively, Jason Avant and Brent Celek really impressed me. The two got open, ran great routes and came up with huge catches. The offensive line played great on passing downs, and McNabb, despite holding onto the ball too long occasionally, played solid football. His interception was essentially a punt, and the fumble could have been avoided, but Jared Allen did beat Tra pretty easily on the play.

Of course, Brian Westbrook was the star, catching that screen when Nick Cole almost knocked him over, then setting up his blockers and taking it to the house.

Also, Akers was amazing, and Rocca did a great job punting. Kickers sure do love them some domes. It was a tremendous team effort. The Eagles, save for that one run, shut down Adrian Peterson, and after giving up some nice runs to Chester Taylor early, took him away too. That forced Tavaris Jackson to beat them, and that game made it abundantly clear that Tavaris Jackson sucks. He could be the worst quarterback of a playoff team I've ever seen. He honestly threw some of the worst, most off-target passes I've seen in my life.

When the game was finally completely iced on the fumble by Jackson/Matt Birk, the celebration began. Vikings fans left in a mass exitus as Eagles fans stayed and celebrated. "Fly Eagles Fly" was heard all over, Eagles chants echoed in the dome and finally, it all culminated in a Giants Suck chant. It was glorious.

On our walk out, the Vikings fan couldn't have been nicer. They all wished us luck in the rest of the playoffs, and kindly welcomed us into their home state. It was weird. No one seemed pissed. Disappointed, yes. But pissed, no. In fact, the only guy who seemed angry at all was the old security guard who told us all to leave after a few fans started chanting Vikings Suck during the Giants Suck chant. Other than that, the people were incredibly nice.

I really don't have one bad thing to say about Minnesota and its people other than the fact it is pathetic they couldn't sell out a home playoff game. But they were generally nice people. I felt completely out of my element. But it was a pleasant experience all around.

What was not pleasant, however, was the return trip to Philadelphia. What a bitch that thing was.

We started out by stopping at Taco Bell to get some food. Bad idea. Silver fox's car is going to smell like stale farts and cigarettes for months. I mean, we destroyed that car with nuclear farts, and his incessant smoking only added to the aroma. We also stopped at a Target to pick up some CDs, which of course included the Ting Tings so we could play that song out on the trip, which we did.

Honestly, don't judge us. It was a long fucking trip, all right? We also picked up an air freshener, which proved useless, and some other CDs. The best was certainly the Nick Swardson comedy album. That guy is funny as hell.

The return trip was not nearly as fun as the ride out. I did get first shift of sleeping yet again, but the thing was just painful. I don't remember any part of the trip being fun, and numerous times, all three of us struggled to stay awake. We had to stop many more times to get coffee/fuel/air. It was horrendous.

Then, in Ohio, we almost crushed some deer, which would have been deadly. It was the trip that just never seemed to end. We left Minnesota somewhere around 9 p.m. Sunday and I got to my parents' house in Bucks County a little before 4 p.m. Monday before finally heading home a little after 7 and returning to my house around 7:55. I hated every second of it, but it was well worth the trip. To take in that game in a foreign stadium was a ton of fun, especially with all the Eagles fans out there. It was one hell of road trip, and we have some nice photos of our shenanigans, like me hitting silver fox in the head with a chair and Toonces pulling the covers out from under him, and it's an experience of a lifetime.

Having said that, I don't want to get inside a car for a long, long time. And fuck the Giants. For real.


BallHype: hype it up!


  1. i'm glad you enjoyed going to that game cause you won't be able to get any cheap $30 seats up in the jersey swamp for the giants game. And i pass along condolences no the Penn State i watched it with Gina and that was painful they self destructed in the 2nd quarter taking a bunch a penalties which ended up killing them. If you take away that quarter they win the game. And if the Eagles don't beat the Giants this week i will probably have to shit all over them. I wanna see Eli leave the game in a hurst.

  2. All I have to say is that it seriously would have sucked had the Eagles lost the game after that. And don't even try the whole "It still would have a nice experience." thing because I get annoyed when I drive an hour and 1/2 to Philly to watch the Flyers lose a regular season game, let alone your situation.

    But Go Eagles, (:

  3. I would have killed myself if they lost that game. Or fled to Canada never to return.

  4. EPIC. Sorry if this comment reapeats, but EPIC.