Thursday, October 25, 2012

Road Trip: Knoxville

The third Saturday in October.

To any football fan around these parts, that phrase means one thing: Alabama versus Tennessee.

To any non-football fan around these parts, it means you do not schedule your wedding on this day if you have any family or friends and would like for them to attend.  Actually, in some parts of Alabama, especially near my house, that last rule applies to any Saturday between the months of August and December.  But I suppose that's neither here nor yonder.  Also, no one was getting married Saturday.  I just threw that in as a helpful tip.

Axl and I decided to make the drive up to Knoxville to watch our beloved Crimson Tide (hopefully) roll over the Volunteers this past weekend.  Now, for those not familiar with Axl, here's everything you need to know: He self-tans, sings in a community chorus, and once lost the heel off his boot as we were leaving a Bama basketball game in some sort of real-life Mentos commercial gone horribly wrong.

(Hmm, I wonder if I should check with him before revealing the self-tanning thing?  Oh well, no time.)

He also has near-constant road rage.  So naturally, he drove.

Now I was a bit nervous about the trip, not because of Axl.  Well, not entirely because of Axl.  But because this was my first true trip into enemy territory.  I'd been to a couple of games at Vanderbilt, but that doesn't really count.  Football at Vanderbilt is kinda like going to a t-ball game.  It's fun.  You chat with your friends in the stands.  It's cute to see the kids out there missing the ball and falling down.  But no one really expects much.

But Tennessee?  That's a whole different story.  It's the definition of a rivalry.  It's Roll Tide versus Rocky Top.  The Bear versus General Neyland.  A vibrant, gorgeous sea of crimson clashing against that hideous, nausea-inducing orange.  We may have been on the same side in the Civil War.  But not since.

However, I must say all the Tennessee fans I encountered were as friendly as could be expected.  A couple of them were so nice, in fact, it makes me almost feel bad about the nausea comment.  Almost.

It also helped that the crowd was probably 40 to 45% Bama fans.  (Yes, I can guesstimate within five percent.  It's one of my many useless talents.)  I had a crimson-clad compadre sitting next to me and two more directly behind me.  Every time I would start to high-five the blonde sitting behind me, she'd full-frontal hug me instead.  And far be it from me to infringe on other fans' rights to celebrate touchdowns however they so choose.

The football stadium sits on the bank of the Tennessee River.  And while the stadium itself is a bit of a rathole and looks like it may not have been renovated since the Nixon administration, the area around it is quite scenic.  The World's Fair Park is a pretty area right near the stadium, as well. The World's Fair was held in Knoxville in 1982.

(FYI, it's taken every ounce of what little self-restraint I have not to refer to it as Knox-vegas this entire post.  You're welcome.)

Something else you need to be warned of should you ever attend a Tennessee Vol game:  You will hear "Rocky Top" roughly 127 times.  Before the game, during the game, after the game.  Even when there are 30 seconds left in the game and your team is annihilating Tennessee 44 to 13, the band will strike it up.  They have ruined what truly was one of the most venerable bluegrass songs of all-time.  Some sporadic eardrum bleeding is normal.

As the final few minutes wound down in the game, most of the Tennessee fans had long since passed through the exits, leaving the stands covered in crimson.  Such a sweet sight.

There's always a kinship one experiences when one encounters other Bama fans.  I would guess that is true for fans of most sports teams.  But when you're in enemy territory, that bond feels ten times stronger.  It was neat to experience that for the first time.

The drive home was magnificent.  Fall had come to Chattanooga.  I've always thought it a picturesque city anyway, such immediate and drastic contrast between the bluffs and rock faces of Lookout Mountain and the river meandering through the city below. The colors just amplified its, uh, picturesque-ness.

At one point on the trip, Axl and I found ourselves singing along in our best falsettos to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."  Which may seem odd to some.  Or, most.  I've forgotten my point.  Oh yes, I remember now.  It was good to have a testosterone-filled guys weekend away.

I suppose there are more stories I could share from Road Trip: Knoxville.  There was the Tennessee fan in front of us who I dubbed "Eighty Proof," because he was openly drinking his Crown from the bottle.  (Alcohol is "not allowed" in SEC stadiums.)  There was Axl and I arguing like an old married couple over the thermostat in our hotel room.  He sleeps with it on 50!  Fif. Tee!  And there was the waitress at the Waffle House who seemed to have no qualms showing us her chest tattoo -- both halves. 

But you know what they say: What happens in Knox-veg... Well, you know.

"Give me an 80-proof bottle of tear-stopper / And I'll start feeling I forgot her / Get a little loose and lose her memory..."

16 comments:

  1. Sounds like the perfect reality tour...complete with muffin pizza bagels. ;o)

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  2. My favorite part of this was the "so naturally he drove." Cracked. Me. Up.

    Based on previous Axl stories, it sounds like he was ... Well behaved? I'm disappointed.

    I'm also jealous of the drive. I love road trips at all times, but especially in the fall.

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  3. This sounds like a wonderful trip, despite going into enemy territory...I can only imagine the colorful scenery you saw (and I refer to the fall foliage, not the Waffle House chest tattoo...lol). So glad your team won, Bone - that must've been the icing on the cake! :)

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  4. I'm jealous of the drive too. I'm jealous of people who get to see real Fall. I'm jealous of road trips. I guess I'm just jealous!!!!!!!

    I might watch one football game on TV this year that's not the Super Bowl. Maybe.

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  5. Renee - Fortunately, we didn't have to haul any stumps to the local repository. Although with Axl, I wouldn't have been surprised at anything.

    TC - Yep, there were no boots this time, and only one hat (that I saw), so I was pretty happy with that. Of course, at one point on the drive we were going the wrong way down an on-ramp. Did I forget to mention that?

    Sherri B - Oh no. The victory was the cake and the icing :) Everything else was, uh, just candles I guess.

    Pia - This has been the longest fall I can remember. Nearly a month. Unfortunately, it ends tonight. I think winter is on the doorstep.

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  6. Some great lines, glad you had fun and got to see your team win... You know, I attended the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville.

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  7. Um, YES, I believe you skipped telling us about that....

    I'm amazed (glad) that you're here to tell us about your adventures with Axl. The price you pay for blog fodder, huh?

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  8. TC: I have to wonder if his stories are really his own.

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  9. So, wait. They don't serve beer at college football games in SEC territory? That's all kinds of wrong.

    Glad your team won. My team was not so lucky this week.

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  10. Just seeing the name "Axl" in print kind of makes me smile.


    I had to look up "Rocky Top" as I've never heard it.

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  11. No marriage proposal?!?

    Roll tide

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  12. You know what makes any football story better for a non-footballer like me?

    The presence of Axl.

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  13. Don't you just love football season? It's wonderful!!!

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  14. Sorry to hear they've killed Rocky Top! And for once--or maybe twice--I don't know your theme song. I admire you for your Gloria Gaynor confession, I really do. And glad someone is having good weather this fall...great post, as usual.

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  15. I had the pleasure making it to this game again this year. My brother who lives and works in Nashville (new home town soon) and his boss their wives and the fiancé provided our tickets this year. all of them except three of us were HUGE vol fans. Although I went to the last game we played in Knoxvegas, this was my first game arriving as part of the VOL Navy. We got on the bosses boat in a town called Maryville and drove the Tennessee river for about four hours before pulling up to the stadium in a dang boat!! I have never done or considered doing anything like that. However I am extremely glad and humble that I had the opportunity to do so. I highly encourage anyone to attend a college football Saturday like this. I hate everything about the volunteers, but I love that tradition. It was so pretty around that area, The only way it could've been better is if my best friend was there. All I can say is my boat will join me every trip I make in the future. Thanks bone, great post, brings back good memories!!

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  16. Sage - Really? I have a friend who used to live in Knoxville and says he went to the World's Fair every day.

    TC - Yes, it's definitely a trade-off. But I'm always willing to go the extra mile. OK, maybe not always, but occasionally.... rarely?

    Renee - You think Axl might have purchased his stories from some gangly hipster doofus? It's possible.

    Xinh - Nope. But apparently the screening process for checking if people are sneaking alcohol into the stadium is not very rigorous.

    Cooper - Not sure if I should apologize or say "You're welcome." Please advise.

    Cami - Nope. I did not receive a single proposal! :)

    Jocelyn - I won't tell him you said that. It'd go straight to his head.

    OKChick - Eh, it's alright :)

    Actonbell - Thank you. Oh, my lyric? That was an old George Strait country song. Fairly obscure, I would think.

    B - Sounds like a pretty cool tradition for sure. There was definitely a little more camaraderie between Bama fans and Vol fans in the stadium that one might think, at least in our section. I look forward to venturing to some more away games in the future.

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