It's Sean's last road trip report for the year.
Hey now! That's enough cheering ;)
One of my favorite road trips was for the 1991 Oregon State game. Andy and I decided to stay in Eugene, which is about a 45 minute drive south of Corvallis (figuring that'd save us 45 minutes on the day we drove up, and the day we drove back). That trip made me fall in love with the Willamette Valley, and so I've tried to return every time since (the only one I missed was the 1992 game at Oregon).
After leaving a client's site, I drove straight to Oakland Airport, to catch what I thought would be a 6:30pm flight to Portland...this would have given me enough time to have dinner in Portland at the Rock Bottom Brewery (see last year's OSU trip report) and then drive on to Eugene. No such luck...because of the bad weather, my flight was delayed. I decided to eat a light dinner at the airport. This time I did not see any Cal fans waiting for the flight; darn. Instead, I ended up calling my pager and recorded a new message saying that I was out; there was a kid crying in the background, plus the phone keys were sticking; I'm sure that both had to make my phone message different.
When I boarded the flight, all of the front seats were filled, so I made my way towards the rear of the aircraft. When I spotted someone wearing a Cal hat sitting in a window seat, I made a bee-line for the aisle seat next to him. I made the customary "Go Bears" greeting, and when he turned his head, I recognized someone from other road trips--Tony Souza, who was flying up from LA. This made the flight much more enjoyable.
When we landed, we saw that the Portland Airport is currently having construction done on its parking lots. You used to walk downstairs to get to the car rental counters...now you have to take a shuttle bus, or take a longer walk. Since it was wet, we took the bus. Since Tony was renting from Alamo, and I was renting from Hertz, we parted ways.
Despite the car, I made it Eugene safely. I stayed at the Comfort Inn and Suites. It's a very nice hotel. My room had a King size bed, a working heater, a TV that swiveled enough for view from anywhere in the room, a free (meaning "not locked down") remote, and a nice clean bathroom with it's own space heater...and this wasn't even a suite. I slept well...and for the first time in 8 days, I slept in. ;)
The next morning was a slow morning. I started off with breakfast at Deb's Family Restaraunt. Even though I was wearing my Cal clothing, the Duck fans inside were very nice. The breakfast was big and took care of my breakfast and lunch. Afterwards, I went back to the hotel and changed into my game gear. I came prepared for the rain--I wore two or three layers of clohing on different body parts and I brought a pancho. I then walked around the Oregon campus.
Eventually, I decided to walk to the stadium. The walk to the stadium is a nice one; I have to wonder if there is any tradition associated with the walk. The walk takes you from the campus, past an old mill race (when I passed by, a couple was feeding some ducks), to the shore of the Willamette River. You cross the river using a foot/bicycle bridge. That day, the Willamette was rushing, so I got to hear the sounds of water rapids while strolling and looking at the colorful deciduous trees along the shorelines. On the other side is a park, which you walk through to get to the stadium. Your first view of the stadium evokes "That's a stadium?" What you see is a large mound of dirt with a building on top of it...not very impressive.
Eventually, the Cal Band showed up (actually they were *early*). They played a few songs, and then left. Then I heard a voice say "Sean!"-- It was Greg "Scooter" Barnes, who, like me, had once been a reader for Doug Cooper's CS-8 class. We chatted and caught up on what we've been up to, and he reminded me where Tom MacArthur said he was sitting (and I was glad he did). While we were chatting, the yell leaders showed up. I told them that they missed the band; one of 'em lamely said "Uh...some of us were sick." (yeah, right)
After the Oregon band marched by, I decided to enter the stadium. For some reason, the Cal section was divided up into two places... Most of the Cal fans were in the southeast corner of the stadium, while the rest of us were in the northeast corner. The band was in my section, occupying rows 10-12...my seat was in row 13 (now that's getting close to the band...though there were a couple of times when I was a student that I sat in the band ;) The band, feeling a bit cramped, decided to move next to the other Cal section, where there was a nice big open block; I was later told that they weren't supposed to sit there, but the stadium officials backed off their threat to eject them (good for them).
Autzen Stadium, by the way, looks much better from the inside than it does from the outside. It's a small bowl that seats about 45,000 fans. Three sides have buildings (one press box, one club area, and one overhang). The field is a special astroturf and is about ten feet below the "stands". Despite the lowered field, it's very tough to judge the placement of the ball down the field if you're in the lower rows. The fans are pretty good...*all* of the fans make noise (of course, you know that it's a thorn in my side that Cal alumni don't make noise unless prodded). However, there are no organized yells. In fact, other than standing most of the game, the Oregon student body did nothing to impress me.
On the other hand, I did enjoy the Oregon Marching Band. Oregon marches a Corps style. To give you an idea, UCLA *tries* to be a corps band; Oregon, however, *succeeds*. The halftime show was a mix of classical and classic rock tunes. What really impressed me was their playing from the stands. Of all of the other schools' bands I've heard this year, Oregon played far more tunes from the stands...for great defensive plays they played "Iron man", "Phantom of the Opera", and "Night on Bald Mountain", and even "School's Out for Summer" amongst others. Plus they played full length tunes.
Of course, the Cal band did top them in that the Cal band woodwinds played from the stands, while Oregon's woodwinds hid their instruments and clapped.
Well, you know how the game turned out...we unfortunately had a great view of two things--Deltha O'Neals fumble, and the Duck "Superfan". The "Superfan" is this guy who's dressed up in an Oregon football jersey (number 1) and a cape. He had along with him a teddy bear tied to a string. After every Oregon score, he would swing the bear and smash it into the bench in front of his section; The fans around him would count each swing and smash up until he had smashed that poor bear a number of times equal to the current score. By the time Oregon scored its final touchdown, almost the entire stadium was counting along with him.
My only comment after this game: Stanfurd running backs Mike Mitchell and Anthony Bookman must have been salivating while watching the Oregon backs tear up the bear defense.
At the end of the game, after the Cal band left for their hotel, Witt, a friend of his, and myself walked onto the field to listen to the Duck band's postgame. The UofO allows people onto the field after the game...and that's how I know that the turf feels strange--almost like wall-to-wall carpeting that's only been nailed down on the edges. During the postgame, the UofO band shouted something about Shreveport, which could happen...they've been to the Independence Bowl before.
The flight back was fine...the only problem was that I didn't see anything of the 49er game. Oh well. Now it's Big Game week, and it still doesn't quite feel like it.