Tempe put on best New Year’s Day party
Guilt is a powerful motivator. It will make you do things you wouldn’t normally do.
While the Oregon State Beavers were in the throes of 27 straight losing football seasons I made a promise to college friends and family that if the Beavs ever qualified for a bowl game, I wouldn’t miss it, even if it was Poulan Weedeater Bowl in a distant Southern city.
Well, the world came to end last season and the Beavers ended their infamous losing streak and qualified for the Oahu Bowl in Hawaii. However, a lush vacation in the Pacific wasn’t in the budget and the Beavers made their first bowl appearance in 36 years without this OSU alum.
Life, however, is full of second chances, and the Beavers took their program to even higher level in 2000 by qualifying for a Bowl Championship Series game. As luck would have it, the Beavers were paired with the most-storied program in college football history – Notre Dame – only 13 hours away New Year’s Day at the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.
A morning flight to Phoenix on New Year’s Day and a return flight to Reno early the next morning made the trip look like a snap. Besides, the thought of my two boys bickering over who is the strongest Pokemon character and asking “How much farther, Dad?” every two miles made Southwest Airlines a very appealing option.
But half the fun of going to a college football game is the road trip. A mild Sierra winter made the 700-mile trip to the Grand Canyon State possible and more economical.
Instead of making the long haul a complete desert route, the family opted for the Sierra route through spectacular Mono Lake and sleeping volcano Mammoth Mountain before passing over the Eastern slopes of the Sierra into the periphery of Death Valley. If you’ve ever taken Highway 168-266 from Big Pine, Calif., to Nevada State Route 95, you can get an exact car count for 90 miles. When you travel for two hours and only see 10 vehicles, you realize quickly that you’re at the mercy of your automobile.
Believe it or not, there are some rare sights – if not any fast-food joints – along Nevada State Route 95 from Goldfield to Beatty. Brothels such as Angel’s Ladies and the Cottontail Club stand out in the sagebrush, but they pale in audacity of the Shady Lady advertising its brothel 22 miles away.
The X-rated scenery becomes G-rated outside of Las Vegas as you pass through 70-year-old Hoover Dam, a tourist trap that an earthquake would render a death trap. That dam must have been built by trapeze artists or a Southern Californian fed up with his utility bills.
You learn quickly why Arizona is called the Grand Canyon State. No matter where you are in Arizona, you feel as if you’re in the Grand Canyon. The pyramid-shaped hills, Joshua trees and large cactuses make Nevada’s tumbleweeds look rather dull.
To go from an environment laden with cactuses instead of pine trees is an exceedingly long way to go see a silly football game. That was what we thought until we got to our $75 standing room “seats” atop Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe and met a family of Notre Dame fans. They drove all the way from Gainesville, Fla., and didn’t look the least bit road weary. Why didn’t they go see the Florida Gators at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans or stay home and watch the Gator Bowl?
They were the nicest Notre Dame fans we met. Several Irish tailgaters taunted my boys, who were decked out in Ken Simonton jerseys. They felt their Irish were going to win another for the “Gipper,” and there was no way their storied program was going to lose its first meeting with a university that actually had a beaver for a mascot.
Even though the couch in the living room back home was 10 times the seats we had, there was something special about being present while the Beavers seized the day in the national spotlight. Surely Whittell High basketball coach Steve Maltase, an OSU alum, and STHS coach Tim Jaureguito, an ardent Notre Dame football supporter, couldn’t see Tempe and Phoenix from their seats and didn’t have the same perspective of the fireworks that were set off on an adjacent hill outside the stadium each time a team scored.
But what really made the trip worth it was the company and the final score: Beavers 41, Irish 9.
Only a trip to Pasadena would have been better. But we’re saving that one for next year.
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