Well I’ll tell you. In just a bit. But first….
When you yell “O-H!” at the top of your lungs like a screaming banshee in the horseshoe, the home of the Buckeyes, guess what happens? Everybody around you, regardless of their age, gender, or ethnicity, screams right back at you “I-O!” The pilot on the airplane did it. An 8-year-old did it. A 70-year-old lady did it. It’s infectious. And I caught it as I watched the Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Penn State Nittney Lions during Dark Night in the Shoe last Saturday night. It was a blackout event, which was a publicity stunt, but it did look pretty cool to see the sea of fans decked out in their dark colors supporting the team. Usually the stadium is awash in scarlet and gray. But not Saturday night. I donned my black and fit right in.
I’m a Terp, but I attended this game with two Buckeyes – my husband Damian and my cousin Megan – and my cousin’s SO, Mick. I married into the Buckeye crazy, but I’ve earned my stripes as a Buckeye fan, as I’ve watched almost every football game for more than a decade. My three companions and I made a weekend out the event. Starting with an 8 AM flight on Friday morning, even though the game itself didn’t happen until 8 PM on Saturday night. Go big or go home, people! Or, if you’re Megan & Mick, make every effort to miss the plane. Those two rolled into the airport at 7:15 for our 8 AM flight and squeaked onto the flight at the last minute. I give them props for cutting it close and making it, though, because that’s how they roll. Unlike Damian and myself – super nerds who were in line at security by 6:30 AM and strolling around with our bagels by 7, periodically checking our pocket protectors to make sure our pens weren’t leaking.
Given that we got to Columbus eons before game time, we had a full day Friday to enjoy the area, and we spent the time well. We began with some fabulous coffee from a French bakery followed by a wonderful lunch at a small quaint restaurant called The Whitney House
. We were the first to arrive – literally every table was empty – and the host asked us with a deadly serious face if we had a reservation. I almost asked him to repeat the question. Then I considered telling him that we would each like our own individual table, because we do like to spread out, and clearly they had enough open tables to accommodate us. I need my space! But I wisely kept it zipped, although I’m pretty sure my eyebrow shot up of its own accord, and we were seated without further ado in a lovely window table. The food was great and very reasonable. We enjoyed various salads, burgers, and crispy french fries while we chatted and looked around at the adorable decor.
From there we hit Wolf Ridge Craft Brewery
, and that was a blast! The tap room sports rustic decor, with beautiful woodwork and hanging light bulbs from the ceiling (hey Megan – spell “ceiling”). We tried some beer flights, and all the flavors were intricate, the pours were nice, and overall it was a really fun experience.
Friday night we went to J. Alexander’s
, mostly because it was right next to our hotel, but also because it sports good reviews. We loved it. We started with double appetizers, because, like Corey used to say when he was little, “Be at vacation!” That’s right, son! When on vacation, just eat it, drink it, swing a sledgehammer at it – whatever. Just do it. More on that sledgehammer thing later. We ate deviled eggs and roasted artichokes, which were delicious. Damian and I split two entrees – a tender filet cooked to perfection with a side of rich Bearnaise and scallops over lemony orzo made for the perfect pairing. The house special wine was a red blend for $28, but it tasted like a much more expensive bottle of wine. Everyone shared a bite of their dessert with me at the end, so really, I win! Key lime pie, not too sweet, chocolate cake, beautifully moist, sundae with multiple toppings and a glass of port. My companions had to roll me back to the hotel.
Saturday it was on! Game day, baby! And game day on campus is no joke. It’s all football all the time. We hit the fraternity and sorority houses to see Megan’s old stomping grounds at Kappa Delta – what a beautiful house they have! Here’s a shot of Megan and me outside her house:
From there we met some Delta Chi Fraternity members who were ratcheting up the pre-game wildness, but for a good cause – cancer. A donated car – I’m not sure this thing ever ran it was such a hunk of junk – painted in Penn State colors was being offered up for whacks with a sledgehammer. For $5 a swing, you too can get your cave man on. Mick took a video of one the boys standing on the car swinging at it, asking the kid, “Hey, my friend Jim is a Penn State fan. Tell Jim what you think of Penn State.” In the same voice that Leonard McCoy said, “He’s dead, Jim,” on Star Trek, this kid picked up the sledgehammer, raised it over his head, and said, “Penn State sucks, Jim.” And then he let the car have it. I laughed hard enough to send myself into a coughing fit, and now Damian and I will just randomly look at each other and say, “Penn State sucks, Jim.” We’re very mature. Very.
We walked around campus some more, shopped, and then hit Eddie George’s
where we saw the man himself! And, we got a photo with him! I think Damian can die happy now.
That experience was definitely a major party flavor – we waited in the bar for an hour for a table for lunch, despite the fact that there were literally at least 5 empty tables. But during that time we watched some football, some people, and even experienced a troop of marines that blew by in just shorts and backpacks despite the 40-degree weather. Yes, they are bigger badasses than we are. No question. And they were sporting a blowup doll on a stick. This was a stunt to raise awareness for suicide prevention. What a giant used-looking blowup doll has to do with suicide prevention is beyond me, but you know, I’d say the stunt was effective, because it got the attention of everybody in the bar. I’m trying to figure out how I can work a blowup doll into my next attempt to raise awareness for CHD. I’m taking ideas if anybody has one.
We (finally!) ate, it was great, and then we cleaned up and got ready for the main event. But first we had to party like we were students tailgating by hitting the Varsity Club
. I couldn’t get the name right and called it the Victory Garden all weekend. So we bussed our way onto campus and then smashed ourselves between the walls of people at the Victory Garden (my name is better!), where we saw some shenanigans, probably the funniest of which was a woman in her 50s dancing with a college kid to “Back that Thang Up.” And I’m here to tell you, she backed it up. I hope I’m having half that much fun in my next decade.
After a brat on the street we smashed our way into the stadium, found our killer seats (thank you Mick!) on the club level in the end zone, and made it just in time for kick off. The atmosphere in the shoe was electric. Energy pulsating through the stands that you could feel, sound slamming through the chairs loud enough to vibrate your buns – if you were sitting down, like me – it’s a high octane experience, to be sure. I love watching the game on tv, but you just can’t feel the crowd unless you’re there.
It was butt cold, though. High 30s, low 40s, hat/gloves/boots/3-pairs-of-socks cold. Except for those marines, because, you know, clothes are just overrated. I think my nose got frostbite. The game started out as a nail biter, because Penn State looked good in the beginning. Like the rest of the season this year, the Buckeyes just don’t have their stuff together in the first half. Magic apparently happens in the locker room at half time – possibly a result of head coach Urban Meyer whipping them into shape, I don’t know – because the team invariably looks better in the second half. And this game was no exception. Penn State kept it interesting, despite the fact that they suck, Jim, but in the end the Buckeyes pulled out a sweet victory at 38 to 10.
The bus ride home took an agonizing hour. Gah. Enough about that.
The next morning Damian and I rose at 7:30, checked out at 8, and had our first Uber experience driving to the airport where we picked up our rental car for the (long, long) drive back to Maryland. Megan and Mick chose a 9 PM flight, because it was the only flight that wasn’t outrageously expensive, but that was too late for us on a school night with the boys. Unfortunately, Enterprise didn’t open until 9 AM, even though the location was an airport, so we had to wait around for a bit. Then their printer didn’t work. More waiting. Luckily our guy opted for plan B, wrote our information in, and handed us the keys to a Dodge Charger that might have been on the road in the 1980s. This thing was ready to hit the junkyard. The climate control was busted, and we alternated between arctic freeze and hatching baby chickens. This was extra fun in the mountains of West Virginia where it was snowing. In October. Let me say that again. It was snowing in October! Can you feel the flakes hitting the windshield? And my face, since I had to leave the window open to avoid passing out from the blast-furnace heat.
We eventually found a tiny mom & pop restaurant in the middle of nowhere on the edge of PA and WV which was FABULOUS. Dr. McCarthy’s Kitchen
– it’s an old house, converted to a restaurant, and there was only one option on the menu – the brunch buffet. But it rocked. For $20, you got all-you-can-eat buffet, which included such fine items as salmon and pulled pork, in addition to roasted pumpkin soup, fruit, coffee and juices, and made-to-order omelets and pancakes. I had an egg white omelet stuffed with mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, and onions, and Damian had a crispy chocolate chip pancake with butter and syrup. Our table sat on aged wood floors beside an old rustic stone fireplace. I wish we lived closer so that we could go again.
We made it home by 5 after one fabulous trip! Cheers to Megan and Mick for making it one fantastic weekend of fun.