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SEC Road Trip! A Southern Football Crash Course

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It's time to make a really, really stupid road trip and get to know The South.

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 26:  Fans show support of the game between the Clemson Tigers and South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 26: Fans show support of the game between the Clemson Tigers and South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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I dread Sunday. The drive home is always worse than the drive to your chosen destination, and we have, basically, intentionally backloaded the trip. The 90-minute drives turn into three-hour drives, and after Lexington, there is a vast swath of nothingness.

Typically, when you are a _____ Nerd, you aren't really a nerd for just your topic of choice. If you have serious nerd tendencies in one area, you usually have them in ALL areas. You aren't a _____ Nerd, in other words -- you're just a nerd. And I am, for all intents and purposes, just that. Before becoming a Football Numbers Nerd, I was a Football Nerd, a Mizzou Nerd, a Concerts Nerd, and perhaps most importantly at this exact moment, a Road Trips Nerd.

I didn't just leave town on the weekend, I went to stupid places, and I dragged my friends along. Fayetteville in 1997 for a girlfriend's cross country meet. Lubbock in 1998 for a football game. Oklahoma City, 1997 to present, for any number of reasons (football games, other football games, visiting friends/family, Flaming Lips concerts). Ann Arbor in 1999 so a friend could connect with a girl he met on the Internet. Boulder in 1999 and 2001 for football games. Charlottesville in 2000 for a concert (and when it ended, I drove back to Columbia just in time to go to work for five hours). Clemson in 2000 for a football game. Charlottesville again in 2001. Albuquerque in 2002 for a basketball game. Muncie in 2003 for a football game. Chicago about 100 times for concerts. And for most of these trips, we wrote trip diaries to either entertain our friends or peer-pressure our friends into pretending to be entertained.

Some combination of maturity, meeting the girl that would become Mrs. Bill C, and holding a real job began to bring the road trips to a halt. Now, with a kid and a job that, to say the least, keeps me pretty busy, the thought of missing a few days of both for a road trip basically stresses me out. But for the next four days and change, I am sucking it up and heading out once again, and I'm bringing a friend of mine (he of multiple Boulder trips, multiple Chicago trips, the Clemson trip, an accosting by a Georgia militia member during a stop for gas, and a near-arrest on the on-ramp to I-40 in Yukon, Oklahoma) with me. To make stupid trips, you need stupid accomplices, and (I mean in this the best possible way) my buddy Walsh drove up from Dallas to Missouri yesterday just to accompany me this weekend.

So where are we going? Columbia, South Carolina, eventually. The original idea for this trip was simply this: Let's make a drive from Columbia to Columbia for Mizzou's first official SEC road game, and let's write an old-school trip diary for it. But since this is the first (and only) of these trips for quite a long time, and since I've had a couple of months to plan this, the trip has gotten out of control. Now, this isn't JUST a visit to The Other Columbia. It is a visit to The South, a crash course about life in the SEC, a chance to learn the ins and outs about not only Mizzou's new home, but college football's home, a test of endurance, a quest to find a really good place to eat breakfast in Tuscaloosa and Athens.

The itinerary sets up as follows:

  • Thursday: Drive from Columbia (MO) to Memphis, Oxford and Starkville.
  • Friday: Drive from Starkville to Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Auburn and Alabama (with a likely stop in Bessemer, Alabama, Bo Jackson's home town).
  • Saturday: Breakfast in Athens, game in Columbia (SC), stay in Greenville, SC.
  • Sunday: Drive from Greenville to Knoxville, Nashville and Lexington (in some order).
  • Monday: Drive home to Columbia (MO).
  • (Tuesday: For Walsh, drive another eight to 10 hours back to Dallas. He really is insane for joining me on this trip.)

I cannot guarantee that the itinerary will remain as planned in real time. We might subtract stops (Lexington, you're first up on the cut list, I already know that), we might add stops (Clemson is only half an hour from Greenville, after all, and there is a pretty big game going on there Saturday night). But this is the rough plan, and the rough plan features 10 SEC cities, including the newest one (and my place of residence).

With this number of stops and this many unique locations, this trip should result in a pretty entertaining trip diary even if nothing noteworthy happens. This is a chance to immerse ourselves in both football culture and lots -- lots -- of Southern food. I have been both excited by, and terrified of, this trip for a couple of months now.

The diary will go up when the trip is done, but we plan on having some fun in real time as well. Follow the action (or lack thereof) on Twitter either by following Walsh and me, or by tracking the hashtag #SECcrashcourse. Send us your suggested stops/restaurants, tell us how dumb we are, invite us to a tailgate, et cetera. Let's have some fun.

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