Sunday, January 08, 2006

New Years/Orange Bowl wrap-up

I landed in Miami around 4pm on Friday. We sat on the tarmac for about 15 minutes while waiting for an open gate to pull into. Tom called and let me know that our hotel room was crap/horrible/a shithole/etc…small, dirty, no carpet, but lovely linoleum and we were the only guests in the building. The room was located in an old, dilapidated hotel behind the hotel that we were supposed to be staying at. Apparently, our hotel, the Avalon Waterfront Inn, had purchased the Craptastic Motor Inn and was in the early stages of remodeling it. They also had decided to open it for reservations a couple of weeks too early.

While I retrieved our rental truck (we needed a big vehicle to truck everyone around and transport tailgate supplies), Tom spent a couple of hours speaking to the hotel front desk and Expedia. The net was that we got a new room (same building, but a room with carpet) and should we need to, an OK from both to move to another hotel. It being New Year’s Eve weekend, the odds of finding a hotel with an open room were not-so good. In the end, we decided to stay were we were and make do. Had we been traveling with significant others, this would not have been an option. The rest of the night included dinner, drinking downtown and upon return to the hotel, a swim in the pool WITH my clothes on. Thanks for the push Tom!!!

In the morning, I noticed most of my clothes hanging from various chairs, table and the refrigerator. My phone worked (it survived the dunking), but my wallet was quite drenched. I got some breakfast and then made a call to Brady and we decided to meet him and his wife in South Beach.

It didn’t take long to discover that South Beach is lacking in parking; though we did find a garage a couple of blocks from Brady’s hotel. We walked around for a bit and then met up with Brady & Dana on the beach…just where he said they would be. After catching up with him for an hour, we went to get a late lunch and then hit the road back to our hotel.

Having had a grand old time the previous night, we opted for an easy-going NYE celebration and went to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood. It was a lot bigger than the casino in Vegas. We had dinner there, watched the Giants game on TV, people watched and then went to the lake to watch the fireworks display. By 12:15pm, we were back in the truck and headed home.

The previous day, I had asked the front desk people if we could be moved to another room (now that the 31st had passed…it should be easier to get a room, right?). Our hopes were answered and they allowed us to move into the Penthouse Suite for the remainder of our stay. Normally, the phrase, “Penthouse Suite” comes with several preconceived expectations: grand, stately, big HD TVs, huge bathroom and plush beds. However, this being where we were, it just meant more rooms: 2 bedrooms, kitchen, dining room, living room and deck. Now we were to have a true frat-boy-on-Spring-Break dream pad…too bad we are roughly 15 years removed from those days.

While waiting for our new room to be cleaned, we hit the beach and there we saw the first wave of Penn State fans (in the end, we would discover that the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area would slowly be dominated with PSU fans) and struck up a conversation with them. They told us of a Penn State bar nearby and we decided to take Adam over there to watch the Steelers game after we picked him up.

After waiting and waiting to move to the new room, we had to wait some more and drove to the airport to fetch Adam. I mixed up his arrival time and we showed up an hour early (whoops), so got to check out the bar in Terminal 4 (only one showing football on TV) before picking Adam up.

After picking him up, we moved into the new suite and then headed to the local Penn State bar and met Chuck the Fuck (a gregarious, self-named, 68 year old alum), who took a liking to Tom. Yeah…a new friend! Later, we met up with another PSU friend, Kristin and her law-school buddy, Dawn. We decided to head back to the hotel, ordered some pizzas, drank some beer and then walked back south to the complex we hit up the first night. At one of the bars there, some old football alumni had rented out a bar, so we entered and celebrated/danced with several of our kind. On the walk back (along the ocean on the beach), we were slowed by the sand and then al the guys decided to jump in the ocean for a swim. That didn’t last too long and then we were back to our hotel, but the pool beckoned. It was VERY warm and I think we were messing around in it for a good hour or so. By 3am, we were all soundly asleep on the various beds and couches.

Monday was our shopping day, so after a pancake breakfast at one of Adam’s favorite haunts, we went to Target, Home Depot, Party Store and Publix to get the supplies for our tailgate (there were 70 RSVPs). We filled the Expedition full of food, beer, water and a grill. This project took us a good 3 or 4 hours. Back at the hotel, we unloaded the frozen items and waited for Brian to arrive.

This was to be an semi-easy night and we headed back to the Penn State bar, met up with another college buddy (Rich) and drank and mingled with Penn Staters. Rich drove us back to the hotel and we got a good night’s sleep before the big day.

Adam’s dad arrived a little before 11am, and we loaded up and headed for the rendezvous point (5 cars were to caravan into the game together to set up the tailgate). While driving into the stadium parking lot, we quickly saw that the PSU/FSU fan ratio was something like 8:1. Man do we have spirit! Yeah…and a lot of pent up bowl demand from not having been to one since 2001. This was our first BCS bowl…and for FSU, their 6th in the last 8 years. We were also #3 in the country and 11-1 and they were #22 and 8-4. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we would outnumber them…but I didn’t think it would be to the degree that it was.

A little after noon, we were parked and everything was set up (chairs, coolers, grill, tables, stand up JoePa and Lion and our flag). Over the next 7 hours, we would drink, eat, explore the other tailgates and have a grand, ol’ time. By 7:30, our tailgate was mostly packed up and all had headed into their respective seats. Tom, Mark and myself headed for our section (241), which, YEAH…is right behind Florida State’s band…deep in the heart of enemy country.

Our section-mates were friendly and ~40% PSU. The three of us decided to lead the cheering in our section and screamed “We are, Penn State” throughout the game. The Seminole Chop never seemed to have much effort in the stadium, mostly because the write-ups the next day said that over 50k of the 77k fans were rooting for PSU.

After 5 hours of back and forth football and 3 OTs, we finally prevailed, 26-23. The game wrapped up at 1am and we returned to the hotel at about 3am. My flight was at 7:15am, so I packed up, cleaned my face, set my alarm and went to sleep.

When I awoke (it was light out), I panicked. Looking at my watch, I saw that it was 7am. I scrambled out of the room, into the truck, gassed it up, dropped it off at Avis and found at 9am, that yes, indeed…I had missed my flight. All flights were booked for the rest of the day; my best bet was to fly standby the following day.

This brought me to the Miami Airport Hilton, but they wouldn’t have a room ready until the afternoon, so I had some breakfast and then found the pool and a couple of blankets and went to sleep on a lounge chair. Once checked in, I found that I had lost my voice, so my work capabilities were limited to short phone calls and catching up on all of my emails. The night ended with watching Texas upset USC in the BCS championship.

I was able to make it to the airport easily the next day and successfully made it onto both of the legs of my flight. My voice came mostly back by Friday.

Can’t wait til the next Bowl Game!!!!

[Update - my camera is back and I now have pics from gameday.]

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