Of course, the best part of all this is the exclusive access we'll have at the US Army All-American Bowl, thanks to Scout.com's sponsorship. That's why we're trekking over 850 miles so we can take advantage of this and bring you our usual outstanding coverage that we're known for in collegiate circles. There will be over 400 juniors and seniors participating. Over 20 of them plan on announcing their commitments during the Bowl as well. We highly suspect the Florida Gators will garner at least one commitment and we'll be there to bring you the news.
We'll be here for the full week of events that the US Army has planned, so we should have something for you on a daily basis while we're here. Make sure you keep an eye on our Special Features section which is on our front page - we'll be posting the latest news and tidbits there.
We also figured you'd be interested in some personal aspects of our trip and experiences so we'll be posting a brief daily journal here and we may as well get started on it right now…
Today's (Saturday, January 8th) the day that we all pile into our rental Trailblazer and begin the journey to San Antonio, "or bust!." Our plan for today is to drive a little more than halfway, stopping in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for the night (over Franz's strenuous objections, because he wanted us to stop in Biloxi "and why not gamble a little bit while we're there???").
Partaking of the initial journey are: Franz, Bob, and myself. Eric will be joining us mid-week since he can't miss too many classes (such a diligent student, isn't he?). This motley crew didn't exactly get off to a great start - Bob, of course, was running very late and Franz started pacing on back and forth while constantly looking at his watch and muttering to himself under his breath. Me, I just took advantage of the extra time to run in and out of the house to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything (true to my nature, I ended up forgetting my jacket and sweaters and it's now in the mid 40's where we're at).
Bob finally arrived one hour later and it was off to the races after a brief pit-stop to grab some munchies (that was a bit problematic in itself because Franz wanted all spicy items and I protested, whining about my weak tolerance for hot items while Bob just laughed at both of us in a nutsy sorta way) and drinks.
Of course, no journey is without its pitfalls and we certainly got off to an early start hitting our first one - I was driving on I-75 and completely missed the exit to get onto I-10. Momentarily, I entertained thoughts of whipping the Trailblazer around, using its God given "off-roading" abilities by careening through the median separating the northbound and southbound lanes of I-75, but Bob must have sensed that fleeting thought and immediately vetoed it by flapping his hands in the air while shouting "No, no, no!" Sigh. I guess Bob's not the adventurous sort, so we ended up wasting about twenty minutes trying to get back onto I-10.
From there on out, it was just a whole lotta high speed cruising, trying to make up for lost time, thanks to the Bobster setting us back an hour (Bob's gotten really good at rolling his eyes these days).
Or so, we thought…
About fifty miles east of Ft. Walton Beach in the middle of nowhere, one of our front tires suddenly blew out, forcing us off onto the tongue of an isolated exit in deep darkness. Uh oh.
We all jumped out of the car and checked the damage and the verdict was a thoroughly shredded tire accompanied by the occasional sounds of howling animals in the darkness surrounding us. We hurriedly unloaded the back of the car to pull out the spare tire, only to find it missing. Oh wait, it's under the car! Ugh. It's wet and filthy and we had absolutely no light to be able to even attempt something akin to changing a tire, so Bob started ringing our rental agency on the phone and we reluctantly prepared to spend at least a couple hours waiting for some assistance in such an isolated location.
Somehow, some of us must lead a rather charmed life, however. No less than fifteen minutes had passed when a "Dunn-Rite" road rescue fellow and his wife happened to see us, lit up their flashing roof-top amber lights, and literally came to our rescue. With the mastery of a skilled surgeon, the fellow quickly changed tires and set us on our way within minutes. It certainly was a job "Dunn Rite!"
Thank God for Mr. "Dunn-Rite!"
Not all was lost at this "blown" opportunity - we used this incident as an excuse to stop by the Pensacola office of our rental agency and managed to swap our SUV for a luxury Cadillac DeVille so we could make the rest of our journey in luxurious comfort and style… That's how we made something good out of bad!
From that point on, we made serious haste to try to get to Baton Rouge before we became tired zombies staggering into the night on the interstate. Several hours later, we finally reached our goal for the day - a hotel to sleep in that had high speed internet so we could post our stories for the night on Gator Country. Alas, the night wasn't complete until the fire alarm went off at 4am in the morning, further delaying us from getting the stories out and finally sinking into our beds for a much deserved rest.
And now I'm about to submit this story and turn in for the night for a few hours sleep before we hit the road again to continue our quest to reach San Antonio… or bust! As long as we're relatively "incident" free, future journals will be pleasurably brief and we'll have more photos when we're not so exhausted already.
See you "tomorrow" folks, and we look forward to bringing you coverage all week long from San Antonio. Enjoy!