Last minute roadtrip to State College, PA? Count me in! Follow that with a surprise appearance by a former President? Sweet!
It only took me 2 years of living on Long Island to figure out that it's possible to make good time on the roads, if you leave at 8 PM. Previously I had spent hours in traffic going towards Washington, D.C. This time, it only took me 2.5 hours to get from my place to downtown Philly, and it was an awesome feeling. For those that haven't put it together yet, I stayed with Jerry and Sara in their wonderful apartment right in the heart of Philadelphia. I wish I lived in such a nice place right in the middle of the city.
We got up very early Saturday morning for the projected 3 hour drive to State College. We should have left earlier than we did, but we were all sleepy. The drive through the mountains along the Pennsylvania Turnpike was really beautiful this time of year. The fall foliage was in full effect, and we even saw a few hot air balloons at such an early hour. I can't remember the last time I saw a sunrise, so that was very cool. Once we got close to State College, traffic started getting heavy. After navigating an accident, crazy merging, twisty mountain roads, and almost getting a speeding ticket, we arrived at Penn State.
These people have gameday parking worked out. All traffic is pre-sorted by parking pass (displayed in your window, and purchased with season tickets) so you get to the right lot quickly. No messing about, and while it looked like it would take forever to get off the highway, we were parked in about 10 minutes.
I quickly negociated a price for a scalped ticket, we had a beer and some chips and packed ourselves full of sandwhiches and snacks and headed toward the stadium. We had to rush, but we made it through the crowd just in time to see pre-game. Who do we spot during pre-game? Kirk, Micah, et al. Initially we tried to sit in the Iowa section, but Sara and Jerry decided to head back to their purchased seats during the first quarter. I lucked out and was squeezed into a row with pretty fun people. By halftime I snuck down and joined the kids from Iowa who made the trip. I'm sure those of you who watched the game on TV were very bored by the whole thing. It was much more exciting in person, I can assure you. The stadium was really really really really really loud. On TV, the We Are...Penn State cheer doesn't come across nearly as well. I'm pretty sure the stereo effect is lost. Too bad really, because it's cool. Especially when all the Iowa fans yell "LOSING!" instead of "Penn State".
The Penn State fans overall were very gracious losers. Not that either side was impressed by the performance of of the teams, but still. You should see the look on people's faces when you inform them that Iowa actually did score all 10 points, yet gave 4 of them to PSU. After the game we went to tailgate with the Iowa kids.
Interesting sidenote: The Iowa kids were the first people in line when the parking lot opened up in the morning, much to the chagrin of the Penn State Blue Band Alumni who were right behind them. Well done, fellas.
After the post-game tailgate, Jerry and Sara and I headed downtown to have a quick bite before driving back to Philly. Downtown reminded me of Iowa City. We grabbed some soup and a little coffee and drove back to Philly, which was traffic-free.
Sunday I was a big tourist, and my guides took me on a great walking tour of the city. We saw the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The national park rangers there really amused me. Both sites are considered national parks, and the rangers all have the same uniforms, from Yellowstone to the Liberty Bell. I had an authentic Philly Cheesesteak, because that's the law.
When we arrived back to the apartment, setup had already begun for the John Kerry rally, and it was quite apparent that if I didn't leave Sunday evening then I shouldn't expect to get out before Monday evening. I couldn't really pass up a chance to miss the rally from such a unique vantage point, so I stayed an extra day. It was quite a spectacle to say the least, and Jerry has posted an excellent recap of the rally. We had a nice lunch in the hotel's restaurant and watched the rally from the balcony and on CNN / MSNBC. I was a tad paranoid that we were being watched/taped/recorded by the secret service. I contemplated sending a paper airplane down towards the rally, but better judgement prevailed.
We had sushi for dinner and then I had another fairly easy drive back to NY. From now on, I'm driving everywhere at night. It's just easier.
And now I'm going to watch Lisa Lisa's video for "Lost in Emotion" on VH1 Classic and hopefully fall asleep. I also posted photos from the weekend.