Family Vacation and Dreams of Football and the Fall

We are right now presently deep in the middle of the Dog Days of Summer. If you live in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, or Michigan and are complaining about the heat, I just don’t want to hear it. But, in the South, it is hot, hot, hot right now.

As we started off our vacation, we swung by Tuscaloosa to see Alabama. All I have to say about that is those guys must be plenty tough to work out in this heat. We didn’t stick around long because we were anxious to find some place that didn’t feel like what we perceive hell to be like.

Clemson was next on the list, and the weather was a lot nicer there. It’s still in the South, but the climate is a little different. We love that campus and we love that school and I think Dabo Sweeney has done a remarkable job there. Clemson will only get better with his recent recruiting. The Tigers are now winning heads up competitions against the mighty SEC in recruiting and it’s starting to show results on the field.

We’ve actually been to Clemson several times and we love Death Valley.

After taking a couple of days off in Greenville, South Carolina to see beloved family members, we headed straight North. In West Virginia, we stopped off to see the Mountaineers. Morgantown was something less than I expected and I will leave it at that.

In Pittsburgh, we had to see the mighty NFL Steelers, but they share a town with the Pitt Panthers. Pittsburgh was impressive and a fun town to visit. The Steelers and the Panthers actually use the same training facility and it’s very impressive. Compared to many other major American cities, Pittsburgh was easy to get around town in rush hour traffic and drivers seemed courteous which I will not say about Atlanta or Houston drivers.

I couldn’t help but see visions of Dan Marino walking around the tough streets of that town. Marino grew up there and played college football for the Pittsburgh Panthers. As for the Steelers, Three Rivers Stadium is a beautiful sight from atop of Mount Washington.mount washington pittsburgh

Future plans of a weekend in Pittsburgh to watch the Panthers and then the Steelers are in the works.

 

As we left Pittsburgh, we drove through Beaver Falls, the home place of legendary Joe Willie Namath. Of course, my thoughts drifted to the other Quarterbacks that came out of that area like Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana and Jim Kelly. Western Pennsylvania is famous for producing talented players and especially at Quarterbacks. That has kind of died off in recent years just like the steel industry, but for a football fan such as myself to drive through an area that has produced so much top talent over the years, it was so very interesting and fascinating.

Cleveland was next. There were no colleges to see there but we wanted to take in the Browns impressive facility right on Lake Erie and we weren’t disappointed at all. We actually found ourselves liking Cleveland which was completely shocking to me.

Heading West, we passed by Fremont, Ohio and I couldn’t help but think about old hero Rob Lytle who passed away just a few years ago. I had always wondered why he chose out of state Michigan over in state Ohio State, but Ann Arbor was much closer to his home in Fremont than Columbus.

Driving across Northern Ohio and Indiana, one does not have a choice but to drive the Toll Roads and by looking at maps, there really are no other options. Not only using all of the gasoline, but paying a Toll of $20 was certainly a surprise. However, no other state I have visited has the road side service areas such as the state of Ohio. Those places are immaculate offering gas, bathrooms, dog walking areas and even food. I haven’t seen better. The bathrooms are mostly spotless and I had my cleanliness expert with me in the car.

Then, it was on to possibly the crown jewel of college football. Notre Dame University lies smack dab in the middle of South Bend, Indiana.

To say that Notre Dame is impressive is the understatement of the decade. The football team was away at the Culver Academy getting ready for the Fall. But, that didn’t stop us from enjoying the Notre Dame campus to it’s fullest.

I believe I actually had a religious experience there. Not only was I captivated, but my wife seemed to love it almost as much as I did. The school and it’s campus are beyond the description of mere words.

After coming down from that natural high, we visited St Joseph, Michigan just for the heck of it. Beautiful little town right on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Then, it was on to Michigan State. Their practice was closed, just like the national trend,  but I managed to get a glimpse of Connor Cook hitting Tight End Josiah Price with a deep ball before my conscience got the better of me and I stopped spying through the crack in the fence.

The campus was incredible and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. The big Spartan on the entrance to the stadium was beautiful and the campus was spread out and easy to get around.

Michigan was the last school we visited. I had never been to Ann Arbor, just like I had never been to East Lansing or South Bend before.

As much as I liked, the University of Notre Dame, South Bend was not quite as appealing. East Lansing and Ann Arbor were a lot nicer. Ann Arbor was much bigger than I expected as was the University of Michigan. The campus was huge and it took a few minutes to locate the Big House. We were unable to get inside the football stadium, just like we were unable to get in any of the other stadiums but it was pretty much as expected on the outside. I have no idea where 110,000 fans would park on game day.

Like Michigan State, we happened to catch some glimpses of a Michigan practice. It was also closed to the public, but with a little ingenuity we were able to glimpse a bit of Michigan football practice. This made a great day for me even greater.

Jim Harbaugh, a lifetime hero for me, was easy to spot with his typical khaki pants. We could not see a lot over the tall fences around the practice, but it appeared that Shane Morris who was last year’s

back up Quarterback was working with the first team.

Highly prized Quarterback recruit Zach Gentry was clearly visible standing around watching the other Quarterbacks run a few plays. Talented Tight End Jake Butt was seen making a nice catch.

I surely wish we could have seen more, but at one point we got a little paranoid about ‘spying’ on their practice and we took off. I will leave it at that. But, if anyone really wants to know, my wife and I were the ones the cops chased away from practice.

We are still on vacation and will stop off in Green Bay, Wisconsin on the way home and then Chicago. We may or may not see Soldier Field before heading back down to the South still doing it’s best to impersonate hell on earth.

All I know for sure is there is no time for writing with all of this travel and I am ready for some real football. Plus, throw me in some cooler weather.

2 thoughts on “Family Vacation and Dreams of Football and the Fall

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