Road Trip

"Road Trip." It's tough to say those words without conjuring images of Otter, Boon, Flounder and Pinto hitting the asphalt in Animal House, but fortunately in this case you don't have to. Road trips to football game always produce zany moments, and while we didn't make it to the Dexter Lake Club, we still had enough oddities and wisecracks to file a dispatch on our trip to East Carolina.

Before we begin, it should be noted that road trips are a much anticipated part of football season for the gang here at Much as we love tailgating and covering the Mountaineers at home, road trips are a nice getaway – unless you ride with Greg Hunter, who often returns home after the game to get a head start on preparing the week's print edition. That, as we all can attest, results in an overnight drive home, with an early morning arrival in Morgantown. While this certainly attests to Greg's diligence and dedication in getting the print edition of the Blue & Gold News out on time, it also throws the rest of us off our sleep patterns for the next few days.

Thus, Matt Keller and I opted to drive our own vehicle to Greenville and email all of our coverage to Greg after the game, with the result that all of our articles and columns for the paper would be waiting in Greg's inbox in Morgantown when he returned home, while we, having gotten some sleep, would cruise home on Sunday.

Our third man in the car was Andy Richardson, father of Blue and Gold News staffer Chris Richardson. Andy is, naturally, a big Mountaineer fan, so we didn't foresee any problems having him along. Until he started defending Marshall – but that's a story for a bit later. One thing Andy did learn quickly was that you have to have a thick skin on BGN road trips. The barbs fly fast and furiously – and a few of them are actually printable.

As we depart, Matt informs me that his only prior road trips to take in WVU games against ECU have resulted in losses. I consider ejecting him from the car immediately, but decide against it, on the grounds that we shouldn't change up our staff attendance during a winning streak.

That settled, we hit the road from Charleston to Greenville. On the West Virginia Turnpike, we're treated to a couple of different sights. The first, as we pass an old SUV, is a pair of camouflage hunting boots dangling from the rear wiper. We figure that the driver knows they are there, because they appear to be securely tied to the wiper arm. We can only guess as to how bad they must smell to be banished to such a location.

Continuing on down the road, we're cut off by a county sheriff. Close inspection of the license plate reveals the county in question is in Wisconsin, but we still don't feel secure enough to flip off the driver. However, I'm sorely tempted to do so, when, a few minutes later, he does it again at a tollbooth. As I had already established position and had an open lane in front of me, I wasn't very pleased. But, I managed to restrain myself (a difficult task, as both Matt and Andy can attest).

Topics of conversation cover a wide range of areas. In addition to the requisite WVU discussion, there are talks on the merits of barbecue preparation (Matt states a preference for dry rub), why we shouldn't hate Marshall (Andy posits that position and is soundly ridiculed by both Matt and myself), the finer points of deck staining (use a brush to work the stain into the wood grain), and a 100-mile ongoing battle over the way ECU wide receiver Aundrae Allison's first name should be pronounced. To protect the demented, I won't reveal which occupant believes it should be ‘Un-dray', instead of ‘On-dray'. O.K., Matt?

At one early point during the trip, Andy fields a business call, and begins to drone on about TPAs and other things that have no place at all on a football weekend. Matt and I begin have "Office Space" flashbacks, and intersperse comments about TPS reports and Lundberg into the conversation. Someone needs a refresher on road trip rules – the first of which is – NO BUSINESS! (Unless, of course, it's Blue & Gold News staffers working on their coverage.) Andy, being a consummate professional, manages to ignore most of our jibes.

We pass a car with two bumper stickers that are kind of dated. The first reads, ‘Mondale-Ferraro'. The second? ‘Johnson-Humphrey'. Strangely enough, the car is not old enough to have been on the road during the latter of those presidential campaigns, much less the first. That means someone liked those candidates enough to either save a bunch of stickers and put them on each new car they bought, or to peel the sticker off their old car and put it on the replacement. Wow.

At least that car was rolling, however. US64 and 264, which take us from Raleigh to Greenville, is littered with stalled and abandoned vehicles. It looks like a scene from "The Day After". I think the road should be renamed "Abandoned Vehicle Highway". Matt and Andy refuse to appreciate my brilliance.

As we approach Raleigh, Matt holds his 431st cell phone conversation with his wife. That number, which mushrooms to well over 1,000 by the end of the trip, is dwarfed only by the number of comments made about his unnatural attachment to hearing his wife's voice. Even if he is still a newlywed.

North Carolina also boasts the Country Doctor Museum. Located near Zebulon, N.C., this sounds like a can't miss attraction. Unfortunately, we do, because we have a more important stop to make – B's Barbecue.

Located on the outskirts of Greenville, this local eatery is touted as THE place for vinegar-based barbecue in the area. Having been told that only a limited amount is made each day, we are determined to get our share. So we stop on the way into town and order about sixteen sandwiches. And no, they aren't all for us. We're also stocking up for Greg, Chris and Cam Huffman, who are still en route.

Inside, the owners and workers are friendly, but of course, when they see our West Virginia gear, they start yelling, "We're out", and "None for you!" These aren't the southern versions of the Soup Nazi, however, and they are soon dishing up some of the most tender and succulent barbecue you can imagine. They even load up an extra side of sauce for us, and we can attest that it is some of the finest in the land.

Outside, a local talks to us in a friendly manner. However, his southern accent is so thick that we (considered Yankees by the locals, no doubt) can't make out a word of it. We don't want to be snobby, though, and smile, say a few mumbled words of greeting, and proceed to the hotel.

Upon arriving at our hotel, the sandwiches are quickly devoured. So quickly, in fact, that one of Greg's is dispatched by one of our crew. Again, to protect the guilty, I won't ID the perpetrator. (Still doing o.k., Matt?)

There's much more that I could describe, because we've only covered part of the first day of this trip. And, of course, there are some things that we can't talk about publicly. (What happens on a road trip, stays on a road trip.) However, whether it was Cam singing some Bette Midler show tunes, Matt waxing rhapsodic about the pickles in the press box (part of a substandard spread, in my opinion), my agonies about another gag job by the U.S. Ryder Cup team, or following up the afternoon barbecue with a trip to a Japanese restaurant for dinner, there are always moments that make road trips entertaining.

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