Yep, Miggy here again...as you all know, I was selected to represent Villanova as one of 16 alumni participants in this year's Biggest Big East Fan contest...the gracious people at Volvo are sponsoring the competition and putting up a sweet, sweet Volvo S60 to the winner. (And here’s the video to prove it)
So along with the voting that started at mybigeastvolvo.com (cough, VOTE FOR ME, cough), I'll be asked to blog on 6 more challenge topics over the course of the season. Let's add on the fact the contestants will be sent to their alma mater for one weekend using the S60 to attend a game (I'll be heading to Nova Jan 28 vs Marquette, you’ll want to get ready to that weekend, just saying…) Again, I ask, why wouldn't one accept?
Challenge Topic #3: What are your picks for the top three road trips in the Big East?
Background check: To most people, this topic would just be a simple question to ramble off on. They’ll just answer it as a hypothetical situation. However, I felt this challenge as a legitimate reason to plan another EPIC road trip. I’ve had quite a few road journeys so far in my life, ones to Detroit for the Final Four and Chattanooga for the FCS Championship sports-wise. My favorite trip so far was a month-long cross-country expedition with my Nova friends right after graduation (recommended for any college peeps of a way of pulling off a last hurrah with their buddies). We still reminisce about the trip and keep making passing references to plan a new one. I’m finally throwing the gauntlet at myself and the guys: this WILL be our trip. During our last road run, sports was littered throughout the agenda; we went out of our way to even visit the likes of Odessa, TX and Albuquerque, NM just to visit “famous” sports sites (even if it’s one in the morning and the site is closed).
Therefore, a Big East road trip is not just right up our alley, it is expected of us.
Now where to go…: Now to answer the question of my top 3 picks…I mean all these schools are worth making a trip to, or else challenge 2 wouldn’t have been worth answering…but I do know 3 schools I would definitely want to visit in the future, all in the same trip: University of Houston, Southern Methodist University and University of Central Florida. Yes, they are not playing in Big East basketball until 2013, which is why proposing to visit their schools during their INUGURAL season in the Big East, during that 2013 season.
Hey, no one said I would have needed to make this trip tomorrow…but should I start planning this long trip this early, like years early? My response: don’t you think these schools are getting ready themselves???? UCF ALREADY made their scouting report of where to go during their first Big East season. Furthermore, even though all three had their websites plastered with the Big East announcement last week, even up to now SMU is just covered with Big East mania.
I mean isn’t it right for us as Big East veterans to show the newbies how we represent in this league? It is our duty to be ambassadors and extend our hands in welcoming our Big East brothers as the now self-dubbed Wildcat Welcome Wagon. (Yes I think of myself as an ambassador, Villanova wouldn’t have allowed me to be in their commercials if I wasn’t [Bonus cookie- Which two scenes am I in for this commercial?])
The plan: We’re obviously taking the S60: a Big East road tour MUST be taken by the official vehicle of the Big East (how else would these new schools know what to drive now?). Now to put these schools on the map, literally...
Day One: (Go Time) …And with that, the journey starts. Before anything, have to pick up the rest of the crew to fill this Wildcat Welcome Wagon. First stop: a red-eye quick drive to Staten Island from Queens for two of my buddies, Mark and Anthony, who has the pleasure of driving me back and forth throughout our Nova days…and admittedly, including now at times. Then it’s a straight thirteen-hour drive on Interstate 80/90 (the two longest interstate highways in America) to Valparaiso, Indiana for the fourth member of the crew, Shashika. Considering most of our conversations from me here in the States and him at the moment in the Congo are about the Big East (including daily exchanges before about the expansion), it’s stupid to think this trip would be happening without him.
Day two: (Heading South for the Winter) After a long deserved night stay in Valpo, it is time to start our journey south. To make this first leg a bit more interesting, we will start on I-55, to take the path formerly known as Route 66. Spotting old landmarks and scenic glimpses while driving through this historic road is definitely worth getting excited over.
By lunch time we should be at Springfield, IL, so a visit to the Cozy Dog Drive-In, the birthplace of the corn dog, is in order. Some more smooth driving, and we shall arrive at Saint Louis a couple hours later. Of course, how does one not visit the Gateway to the West and not seek out the Gateway Arch (given a bigger meaning considering our Westward expansion as a conference).
Dinner will probably consist of famous St. Louis eats, toasted ravioli and slingers: eggs, hash browns and a hamburger patty topped with chili, cheese and onions. Yep, we’re gonna probably have to call it a night after that…
Day three: (Everything’s Bigger In Texas, Even The Drive) A full-day 10+ hour trip to Dallas is in order. A bonus is we still get to use the path of Route 66, I-44, for at least half of the day. Tulsa is where we split apart from this historic roadway and load up on food.
Side story about Tulsa: Back when I was a Senior at Villanova, I attended a Habitat for Humanity trip in Fort Smith, AR during spring break. On the way back home, we happened to come across Hasheem Thabeet in the Tulsa airport. He was currently with the D-League affiliate of the Grizzlies. One of my fellow volunteers suddenly had the urge to yell “You better get back up there, boy!” at the UConn alum. I don’t blame him for not wanting to sign autographs after that. However, a few weeks later, he was recalled by the Grizzlies. Maybe the outburst was inspiration? (shrug)
Dallas will take the rest of the day to reach. Therefore, upon arriving, probably grabbing a bite from a nearby Whataburger and then grab some zzz’s…
(And now a break to have a word from our sponsors: Social Media + Volvo = an online friend who doesn’t tag embarrassing photos of you…follow Volvo on Facebook and/or follow on Twitter…do it…and now back to the show…)
Day four: The plan is to attend a SMU basketball game by the first Saturday of the trip. The Wildcat Welcome Wagon shall start the day by planting ourselves in Dallas Hall: SMU’s oldest building and the heart of campus.
Our hopes are to witness rally cries such as the Pony Battle Cry and Pony Ears throughout Dallas Hall and the Main Quad (which may or may not be provoked by our Nova Nation chants…). We won’t be disappointed as these fans will show us they are ready to be displayed in the Big East. From there and all throughout The Boulevard, we will explore the tailgating festivities throughout the campus. Yes, I know their tailgating traditions are supposed to be during football season, but now they are in the Big East, how are they not going to extend the ritual into basketball season now? Eventually after meeting the fan base we will head to Moody Coliseum for the game.
After the game, it’s off to the Urban Taco right off campus for, you guessed it, tacos. However, we will take ourselves to explore greater Dallas, as we will use the Volvo S60 to drive us to the Sixth Floor Museum. The Sixth Floor Museum, located in the Texas School Book Depository, is the said assassination spot of President John F. Kennedy. Inside is a collection of exhibits to tribute both the life and death of our 35th President.
Lastly, how we would spend an entire day in Dallas without eating some BBQ is beyond me. We will fix that with a trip to any one of Dallas’ main eateries: Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse.
Days Five/Six/Seven?: (With This Weather, We’ll Take Our Time) The Wildcat Welcome Wagon in our Volvo S60 shall wake up to a four-hour stroll down I-45 to Houston. Depending on when the next U of H home game is would determine exactly how many days we get to explore
Another place worth dropping by is Houston’s Galleria, the fourth biggest shopping mall in America (granted we at Villanova are used to King of Prussia Mall, the second biggest mall, just a half-hour drive from campus). Two hotels (think about that for a second) are inside the Galleria along with the first ice skating rink to be built inside a mall.
Day Eight: (At Least We’re Gonna Assume That) So this will be the weekday with a U of H basketball game. Again, the WWW and the Volvo S60 shall head to Hofheinz Pavilion, the original home of the Houston Rockets, and the current home of the Cougars. We are expecting on our trip to campus to witness fan traditions such as: making the Cougar Paw hand gesture, singing the Cougar Fight Song, watching the UH Frontiersmen bear the flags, hearing The Blaze: an oil field siren sounded off during/after sporting events, and rubbing the paws of the Cougar statues on campus.
Day Nine: (Wait, This Isn’t a Spring Break Trip?) The next drive is a six-hour journey from
Day Ten: (Grasping the Gulf) The WWW is going to enjoy the drive from
Days Eleven/Twelve/Umm… Depending on the UCF basketball schedule, we are either spending a day or two in Orlando, or we are spending five to six days…decisions, decisions…do we head to Disney World or Universal Studios? (In our cross-country run, we did both establishments in one day each, jumping from park to park and taking in close to twenty rides both days…not to mention that Harry Potter theme park just opened a couple days before our arrival…) My guess is that we’re probably going to hit both…because we’re not going to fight between these two, we’re here anyway...
Day Whenever Next UCF Home Game: (because we lost count of days) The Wildcat Welcome Wagon is going to yet again explore campus to see what the University of Central Florida is about. Although we will miss out on what is probably one of the most awesome homecoming traditions, the Spirit Splash (shown below), the reflection pond is still worth making a trip to. Another interesting tradition for UCF students is avoiding the Pegasus Seal in the main floor of the Student Union. Every student is told if they ever step on the emblem in the center of the floor, they will be “doomed to fail out of college”. But as we head to UCF arena, we hope this fan section, known as the “Knightmare”, will not avoid being their passionate selves when rooting for the Black and Gold.
Day…I mean later that night…this welcome committee will have accomplished its goal. Straight after the game will be a seventeen, yes, seventeen-hour drive up the I-95 all the way back to Villanova (we did it last time, we are gonna do it again). Why the stop at Villanova? You always have to come home at some point; it just would not feel right to make our epic voyage without visiting the place where are bonds of brotherhood under the Blue and White started. [Not to mention some of the other bloggers, such as USF’s Matt aka @TheBullRush (Edit: shoutout to all the other bloggers: DePaul's @MarianneAurelio, Rutgers' @ZlataThoughts, Cuse's @nicolehering, and even an almost-shoutout to Pitt's @ChasRich27, haha...and probably others who I'm missing) will probably be in the area from picking Villanova and Philly as one of their three road trip towns (so what I’m convinced is that my last post at least persuaded someone to drop by…)] Also, might as well grab another cheese steak while we’re there..
End of Days: (ok, of the trip, let’s not get apocalyptic here) A leisurely, two-hour drive back to
So the itinerary is set, let’s look at some other details that will show how crazy we are for this:
Time of year: January-February
Days: 14-20 (mostly depending on game schedules)
Time Driving: ~3 days
Experienced temperature range: 30-80° Fahrenheit
States Passed Though: 19
Some items packed: Sweater, swimming trucks, Nova Nation shirt, Volvo Big East Cap, DVDs, Pepto Bismol (it’s a long trip…just in case)
Photos taken: ~800-1100
Facebook/twitter updates: More than there should be since this is a vacation
Some artists we won’t admit listening to while we’re on the trip, but know are going to: Michael Buble, Katy Perry, Backstreet Boys, A Goofy Movie Soundtrack…(yeah, that’s enough confession time)
So that’s my list…as usual, feel free to make your own contributions...as long as you just spread the word like wildfire...comment, like it, re-tweet it, just support the cause, thanks.
Follow me on twitter @miggyflavored, and GO NOVA! (V for Villanova, V for Victory, V for Volvo)
(As always, many thanks to Volvo & the agency setting up the competition for giving me opportunity to represent, and Eamon O'Meara for the best blog in the world to work with)