Originally posted on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 10/1/12

There is an amazing story to tell about this past weekend, the second leg of my four-week college football roadtrip being sponsored by La Quinta.

But ironically, I can’t tell it.

Besides you already know it: Nebraska beat Wisconsin 30-27 in Lincoln.


Nebraska scored the only three points of the 4th quarter after a stirring 3rd quarter comeback. In all, the Huskers scored 20 unanswered points in the second half.

Unlike last week however, when I enjoyed 50-yard line seats at a historic college football venue, this week was less about the game and being in the stadium. This week was more about the pomp and circumstance – and the endless sea of red – that surrounded it.

And that story, at least some of it, I can tell.

There was an endless stream of red-clad people coming from this overpass towards the stadium. Literally. Over the course of about a half hour, we never saw the marching stream of red end.


And it’s a fun story, because the city of Lincoln is a wonderful city with warm and gregarious people.

Plus, I had a wonderful sidekick accompanying me all weekend.

So … Did I “Fall In Love All Over Again”?

For those of you who read my post previewing the Lincoln trip, you may be wondering if I did indeed ended up falling back in love with sports – specifically college football – this weekend. The short answer: no.

But while I may not have fallen in love again with football itself – how could I, not being there in the stadium? – I did fall back in love with what college football can galvanize on a college campus where it is really important during a homecoming weekend.

And in case you didn’t know, college football is pretty dadgum important to the folks in Lincoln.

I should let you know right now (again, here comes some irony) that if you’re here for a football-heavy post about what went down inside Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium on Saturday night, you’ll likely leave disappointed.

But if tagging along with two great friends outside of the stadium through a series of fun adventures in a happening, football-crazed, tradition-laden city interests you, grab either my hand or Genesis’ hand and come along.

This is a story we’re excited to share.

Day 1, Thursday: Back To Norman…For a Night

Rather than make the entire 10-hour drive to Lincoln on Friday, we decided to leave Thursday night and cut out the first chunk of it. La Quinta kindly obliged, and we ended up staying in the same hotel in Norman, Oklahoma – just a few exits south of Oklahoma City – that Bryce and I stayed in last weekend.

Not surprisingly, as soon as we reached the hotel I was met with a deja vu feeling.

First, because La Quinta once again made me feel like a superstar by having a lovely gift basket awaiting us in our room:

Bananas for me, Rice Krispie treats for her, and the waters came in very handy on Sunday.


And second, because Genesis did exactly what Bryce did upon entering the room: plopped down on her bed and sprawled out in glorious comfort.



And then it was time for laughter about something random that surely wouldn’t make sense if explained here.

There is a 90% chance this exchange had something to do with Breaking Bad or Lost.


Sleep time beckoned soon thereafter, as we wanted to get an early start to Lincoln the next day.

So we watched half an episode of Lost – because we’re behind the times and just now catching up – before falling asleep with visions of endless rows of corn passing through our dreams.

Day 2, Friday: On The Road To Lincoln

We woke up on Friday morning with a spring in our step, excited to get Day 2 of our adventure started and get to Lincoln.

So we put on our MSF shirts and made haste getting into the car and on the road.

Genesis puts the SPORTS FAN in Midwest Sports Fans.


Now, you might think that a 7-hour drive to Lincoln, Nebraska sounds daunting. But you’ve never been in a car with me and Genesis.

Among the myriad reasons why I asked her to join me on this particular trip is that I knew she would somehow make the potentially boring, monotonous drive fun and entertaining. Between interesting conversation, great Spotify DJ’ing, and her random observations, fun and entertaining it was.

For example, to keep with the Lost theme, she spotted what she referred to as the “creepy Lost birds.” Naturally we had to get them on camera. And she was right, they were a little creepy … in a weird Hitchockian way.


Another reason why Genesis was a great choice for a road trip partner is that potentially terrifying scenarios don’t freak her out.

And by “potentially terrifying scenarios” I mean the gas light coming on in middle-of-nowhere Kansas with no exit appearing anywhere on the horizon for miles and miles.

Most people would panic. We, on the other hand, joked about how funny it was going to be seeing her try to push the car to the next exit. And she posted this pic on Facebook, thinking it was just hilarious.



Fortunately, we made a wise split-second decision to exit with no promise of a gas station. At said exit, a friendly toll booth attendant informed us of a Casey’s General Store (love that place, btw) two miles down the road. We coasted in on fumes, averting major disaster.

And it’s a good thing, because not losing any time to a random gas outage gave us time to stop at the Wyldewood Cellars in Peck, Kansas. (Who stops at a winery on a road trip? We do. Don’t worry though. We didn’t sample much.)

Fun note: Genesis googled the winery after we saw the billboard, and the second result was about how the FDA had accused them of making false claims about the health benefits of their elderberry products. This just added to the intrigue. We had to stop!

Once inside, we met a lovely woman named Marge who took us on a delicious tasting tour of some of Wyldewood’s best wines. We choose to take two home: the Elderberry Mead and … another one that I can’t remember the name of because it didn’t make the trip back.

Us with the wonderful Marge and the delicious “Mama Told You So” Wine.


Now you may be wondering why the Elderberry Mead was so special that we already have a special name for it: “Mama Told You So” Wine.

Well let me tell you, as Marge told us.

For 16 years, Marge had asked her son, who ran the winery, to make a sweet wine made with honey. He refused. But finally, for Christmas of 2011, he relented and made 200 barrels of the Elderberry Mead – 75% honey and 25% elderberries. By January he was having to bottle more.

And we can vouch for why. It’s goooood.

In the summer of 2012, they took the wine to a contest in Indianapolis, where they won “double gold.” We saw the medals on display near the cash register.

Mama said it would sell, and she was right. Hence, Genesis coined the name “Mama Told You So” Wine.

After the winery, we got back on the road. And I made a rule that any time the gas gauge dipped below a half a tank, we’d stop at the next gas station we saw. It served us well.

Eventually, after a whole lot of wheat, we entered Nebraska.

Yes, I slammed on my brakes to pull off to the side of the road so Genesis could snap this picture. No, there was not one car within a mile of us that cared.


We immediately noticed that what had been endless wheat fields before now where endless corn fields. So…Kansas does wheat and Nebraska does corn. Got it.

Among the highlights of the drive through Nebraska, in addition to deciding we wanted to play the license plate game, was this meth lab:

“Advanced BioEnergy”? Whatever. We know what’s going on: Gus Fring has returned from the dead and has Walt cooking the blue stuff again.


Okay, so it’s (probably) not really a meth lab. But it was at this point that we realized how much Breaking Bad had warped our minds.

The whole drive from Dallas blew by pretty fast, but it really blew by once we got into Nebraska. We rolled north on Highway 81 then east on Interstate 80, and we were in Lincoln before we knew it.

And there, awaiting us like an old friend with open arms, was our Lincoln La Quinta:


We entered, got settled, and then got freshened up for a night out in Lincoln, not knowing what awaited us.

Our first order of business was to eat the prime rib at Misty’s. We were told that it was “the best in the Midwest” by multiple people, so we knew we had to have our first meal there.

The prime rib, mashed potatoes, and our lobster-crab dip appetizer were awesome. The Misty’s-brewed beer? Not so good. Hence the wine. Overall though, a great dining experience.


In the middle of our meal, we were interrupted by the Nebraska fight song being played to the patrons near the front of the restaurant. I sprinted up to get video:


After dinner, we walked around downtown Lincoln, which surprised us with how pleasant it was and how many bars, restaurants, and other assorted shops there were.

I really liked this red “Lincoln” that was projected onto the side of the Wells Fargo building, especially with the American flag hanging proudly just inside the windows:


Genesis took a special liking to the book statues that stand in front of the Lincoln visitor center. She thought our friend Ashley would especially enjoy them (and that by posting them, she might forgive us for the red meat we just ate…)

So I snuck a picture of Genesis taking a picture of them, which I think turned out well considering the limited lighting.


Then, we decided to call it a night.

After a long day of traveling, and with the delectable feast of Misty’s swirling around in our stomachs, neither of us felt much like having a crazy Friday evening.

Thus, we decided to be giant nerds and see if one of our typical Dallas fun nights would translate to Lincoln and the La Quinta. So we grabbed a bottle of wine and some dessert, and we returned to our La Quinta for a movie and a good night’s sleep to prepare for Saturday’s craziness.

Recognizing the irony of our decision to turn in early – on a college campus, on a Friday night – I think we chose the perfect bottle of wine.


What movie did we watch? Almost Heroes on Netflix. What it lacks in smarts, it makes up for in Chris Farley awesomeness. It was yet another great Genesis suggestion in a weekend filled with them.

After the movie, and before sleep time beckoned, we took a quick walk outside for some fresh air. It was at this point that we made the impromptu decision that our silly, fun road trip theme of “praying” to random things seemed especially appropriate.

At the time, we never imagined this ridiculousness would actually make it into the recap. But upon further review, I’m making the editorial decision that it has to be posted. I mean, La Quinta did pay for this after all. How could we not “pray” to the folks who were sponsoring us to be out there, right?

Genesis took care of that, thanking La Quinta for their comfy beds, roomy rooms, and convenient free WiFi.


Then we slept quite soundly, knowing an intense day of Gameday Lincoln awaited us in the morning.

Day 3, Saturday: Gameday in Lincoln, Nebraska

We awoke on Saturday with a feeling that there was soooo much to do. And there was. We had received so many recommendations from so many people, and we wanted to check out all of them.

The Shark Water Fishbowl at Duffy’s

Naturally, we decided to start out at a place where they serve their drinks in fishbowls. Because we’re awesome.

Purple Drink for breakfast! Actually, it’s called “Shark Water” and came highly recommended.


Also, this place – Duffy’s – has a rather unique way of allowing you to order food.

You walk back to the stage area in the rear of the bar and order from the adjacent restaurant, which is a lovely little Mediterranean food joint. Genesis snapped a pic of me ordering us some chicken kabobs and potato wedges.

The food was outstanding, by the way.


The highlight of the Duffy’s excursion was meeting up with Ryan Nootz, who Genesis and I had befriended on Facebook in the week prior to our Nebraska journey.

Genesis and I with quintessential Nebraska fan and ultimate nice guy Ryan Nootz.


Ryan had seen my post about the trip and was kind enough to offer us some great suggestions about where we should go and what we should do while there.

He also proved to be the quintessential Nebraska fan, which I mean as the ultimate compliment.

Not only was Ryan extremely knowledgeable about football, especially Nebraska (of course), but he was also effortlessly loquacious and friendly. He regaled us with tales of Nebraska’s storied past, and he and I educated Genesis on some of the more, shall we say, hypocritical policies of the NCAA as it relates to “student athletes.”

He was also adamant about Nebraska fans’ commitment to being friendly and respectful hosts to opposing teams. Genesis and I remarked about his comments later when we saw this friendly sign welcoming the Badgers and their fans to Lincoln:


It was a great conversation with Ryan.

Plus, he helped helped me finished the Shark Water Fishbowl, which Genesis wasn’t having any part of.

This led to one of my favorite pics from the weekend, thanks to the appropriately timed sun rays that shone triumphantly through the clouds above:

We did it! You don’t intimidate me fishbowl! Go Big Red indeed.


Walking Around Downtown

After Duffy’s, we decided to walk around a bit and just take in the sights and sounds. Needless to say, we saw a number of rather interestingly dressed people.

My favorite walk-by was when we spotted a guy in a Nebraska shirt wearing a cheesehead next to a guy in a Wisconsin shirt wearing a corn hat. So much irony! I couldn’t get my phone out fast enough to snap a pic, but it was epic.

I was, however, able to snap these folks in their…interesting…gameday attire:

Candy-stripe overalls were seen often. Genesis didn’t like them. I, as an Indiana basketball fan is wont to do, thought they were kind of awesome.

Killer wig dude. (Quick! Three guesses whose shadows are in the bottom of the pic, and the first two don’t count!)

KVB would be proud of these men walking around Lincoln in Nebraska capes.

Ladies, ladies, ladies…not a flattering look, even for gameday.


Eventually, we made our way to the Nebraska student book store, where we wanted to find Genesis something “Nebraskan” to wear for the rest of the day. We didn’t find anything for her there, but we found something much more important:

Corn hats.

So I tried one on … and proceeded to look a-maize-ing in it!

I’m so punny.


No, Genesis did not wear a corn hat. You may direct your scorn to her Twitter page: @GenesisMeranda.

The highlight of the bookstore was meeting up with some friendly Cub Scouts outside who were determined to sell us some popcorn.

We obliged, knowing that we needed a munchy snack for the drive back, but under one condition: they had to take a group picture with us. The kids all agreed to the picture, and the parents began rounding them up behind Genesis and I as we kneeled.

As the picture was about to be taken, I heard a little voice from behind us say “This is so awkward.” I couldn’t help but chuckle, which you can kind of see in the picture below:

Little Awkward McAwkwardson almost made me burst out laughing right as the picture was being taken.


And in case you are wondering who “Awkward McAwkwardson” was, I’m pretty sure it was the young fella pictured below on the right.


Not only does he lord over the other kids with his beige shirt, which I later learned from Cub/Boy scout veteran Pete Gaines, but the young man’s facial expression suggests at least some dissatisfaction with what’s going on.

Kid, if you read this, don’t feel bad. We laughed about it for the rest of the weekend. The truth is, it was kind of awkward.

But the pic turned out great, and the caramel corn was delicious. Plus, our purchase supported a good cause. So everyone wins!

It was at this point that we started to panic a bit.

Our Quest To See The Nebraska Marching Band

We were determined to see the band warm up before they marched to the stadium, because we’d heard that was a must-see gameday experience in Lincoln. So we set out to find out where the library was that we had been told they warm up in front of.

You won’t be surprised to learn that we had some other adventures along the way.

First, we stumbled upon a museum with bikes in the window. Genesis loves bikes, so she walked towards it like a moth flutters towards light. Intrigued, we both decided to step inside, where we saw a strange line of people arranged.

Almost immediately, these people began singing. I recorded them:


After about a minute, not knowing how long they’d go on for, we decided to slowly sneak our way back out the revolving door.

Once outside, we heard the sounds of a band playing. So we walked towards the sound.

This led us to a quasi-tunnel walk (but not the Tunnel Walk), which featured a portion of the band and a cadre of fans lined up to welcome the team to the stadium.


This scene also provided our first glimpse at the following shirt, which made us laugh, and which we’d then see plenty of more of as the afternoon wore on:



Interestingly, the people we were standing next to happened to be from Plano, Texas. They were there to see Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead, who is also from Plano.

We had just learned earlier in the day that Burkhead was part of a special effort on campus called “Team Jack,” which was supporting a young Cornhusker fan who is battling pediatric brain cancer.

This flyer explains the plight of young Jack as well as what the goals of the “Team Jack” initiative.


And here is another flyer than shows Burkhead and young Jack:


It took Genesis all of about 0.3 seconds to decide that we should become a part of #TeamJack.

And so we did, along with thousands of other people walking around Lincoln on Saturday, September 29th.

This picture taken at The Coffee House, where we stopped twice during our visit to Lincoln. Great coffee and delicious breakfast treats.


Eventually, we did actually make it to the place where the marching band warms up. Though we feared being late, we were actually early.

We even had enough time to snap this pic of a flying squirrel:

Okay, so he’s not really flying. But he intrigued me because I’ve never seen a squirrel digging so intently in the grass as this one was. And he did not seem pleased at all that I decided he’d make a good photo subject.


And I also had plenty of time to stare at this scene before me and contemplate running up the conductor’s ladder for a goofy picture:


I didn’t, which I’m sure Genesis appreciated (actually, I know she did because I asked her…), and eventually the band showed up to entertain.

And so did the people. My goodness, so did the people.

I had no clue so many people would show up to see a marching band practice. (I mean, we talkin’ about practice!)

But look at the sea of red:

Many-much Nebraska fans congregating to see the band warm up…

See how far back the people go? So many people, so much red!


Once the band started playing, we realized why so many people made it a point to see them. They were highly entertaining and put a lot of energy into the “practice” session.


Then it was time to walk towards the stadium as kickoff approached. We did so, hand in hand, to ensure we didn’t get lost amongst this ever-flowing and intimidating sea of red.

The Asian lady in the foreground of this pic had one of the best get-ups we saw all day. Not only was she wearing a red wig, and tight, bright red pants, but she also had face paint on and red eye lashes. She was READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!


Finally we reached the stadium, which allowed me to get some fun pictures of its impressive exterior.

Scenes from Memorial Stadium

Nebraska football lords over everything in the entire state, as our friend Ryan and others were quick to tell us, so it was only fitting that Memorial Stadium in Lincoln did the same.

I’ll present the next series of pics, all of the exterior of the stadium, without any text in between and just the captions tying them together.

This regal, clean facade of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium belies the construction taking place on the opposite end.

My favorite part about the construction side, which you can barely see in the upper left corner of the picture, is the American flag and tree rising proudly from the scaffolding.

Tucked away beneath the construction was this epic entrance to the stadium. I love the quote “Through these gates pass the greatest fans in college football,” plus how well-timed this pic is with the two proud, unabashed Nebraska fans sauntering out.

Back at the front of the stadium is this quote, which was too long to fit into one picture. But I loved it, so you can see the start of it in this picture and the rest in the next one.

Full statement: “Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; In the deed the glory.”

As we made our way around the stadium, we came across this Nebraska football statue, which these Wisconsin fans were in the process of disrespecting.

Here is what the statue looks like without visiting Wisconsin fans sitting on top of it and flashing hand-Ws.

Continuing to make our way around the Memorial Stadium exterior, we came across this statue of the legendary Tom Osborne (who announced his retirement as athletic director this past week). Curiously, there is not a similar statue of Bill Callahan anywhere near the stadium.

I loved the quote that provides the backdrop for the Osborne statue, so I took a separate pic.

We never ended up embedding ourselves in the tailgate scene, but it sure smelled good when we walked by on our way away from the stadium.

The Best Wings IN THE WORLD (Seriously)

With no tickets to the game in our pocket, and a recent text from Ari Kaufman informing me that he’d heard of someone spending spending $1,200 per seat to attend the game in the last 24 hours, Genesis and I were left to decide where to watch the game.

One of the most consistent recommendations we had received in the week leading up to our trip was that we go to The Watering Hole for chicken wings.


We were told, by everyone who mentioned The Watering Hole, two things:

  1. The wings – specifically the grilled wings – are delicious.
  2. The service is notoriously bad.

It was explained to us that we should be prepared for a 30-45 minute wait for the wings once we ordered, plus rude and inattentive service in the meantime.

Well, Genesis and I both love us some chicken wings, and we figured we could entertain each other during the wait. So we were determined to go.

We actually went there before we did anything else on Saturday, even before Duffy’s and the fishbowl drink. But this was the scene we were presented with, still many, many hours before gametime:


The restaurants around it were quiet and sparsely populated, but The Watering Hole was packed. There were no seats, there was little to no standing room, and you could barely hear yourself think when you were inside.

We walked around for two minutes before calling Ryan and telling him to meet us at Duffy’s instead.

It was frustrating, because we wanted some damn wings, but it was also intriguing. The wings must be super good, we thought, for this many people to put up with the crowds and crappy service to eat them.

After we had walked around the stadium and made our way back near the O Street area, we decided to give The Watering Hole one more try. Much to our surprise, it was far less packed now. We still couldn’t find an open table, but we found a single guy sitting at a four-top who agreed to to let us join him.

So we sat down, ordered some wings and beer, and then had our minds effing blown.

No, seriously: effing blown.

First of all, the wings and sweet potato fries came out less than five minutes after we ordered them. I was shocked at the speed, half expecting that the first quarter of the game would be over before we ate.

Genesis’ smile sums up how we both felt about The Watering Hole.


Plus, unlike Misty’s and its skunky beer, The Watering Hole had Blue Moon (a Genesis favorite) and something called Father Donkey Ale, which was an amber ale brewed especially for them. I ordered that and loved it.

But back to the wings. My goodness the wings. We ordered the “grilled-hot” wings, and they were just beyond delicious.

Do you need any more proof than Genesis’ face and fingers?

If you want further context for how delicious the wings were, follow along:

  • Take your favorite current chicken wing, the best you’ve ever had…
  • Multiply its deliciousness by a factor of 10…
  • Have it blessed by whatever deity you pray to…
  • And then re-multiply that deliciousness level by a factor of 800,000.

And don’t you dare accuse me of hyperbole. They are legitimately that good.

Additionally, the service was outstanding.

I’d joked to Genesis walking in that I was curious if The Watering Hole could actually upset me with poor service, since I was already going into the experience with such low expectations.

Quite the contrary.

Our server, the delightfully perky and helpful Christin, went above and beyond to provide great service. The wings and fries came out quickly, as did our drinks, and she even indulged us in a picture after our meal without accusing us of it being awkward!

Posing for a picture with the best server in the history of The Watering Hole (and possibly all of mankind).


And she explained to us why we were having such a different experience than so many others.

Apparently, The Watering Hole – because of either new management or refocused management, I don’t remember which – decided it didn’t want to be known for poor service. So in addition to a building remodel, they rid themselves of the entire wait staff and began fresh.

Well, it worked.

All I saw were attentive waitresses hustling and bustling from table to table, delivering delectable wings to hungry football fans from corner to corner of this great establishment.

Day 4, Sunday: Back To Dallas, Back To Reality

Of everything Genesis and I experienced this weekend, The Watering Hole left the most lasting impression. So much so that on the drive back Sunday we discussed the possibility of a future road trip to Lincoln just for wings from The Watering Hole. And it didn’t seem ridiculous at all.

They’re that good.

In fact, our plan was to have them once more before we left town. So we scurried over on our way from the La Quinta to I-80, but we unfortunately were met with this sign:

Genesis’ exact words: “Dude, WTF?”


Told you they’re good – so good that they didn’t have any left at noon on an NFL Sunday.

Disappointed, but ironically entertained by the sign and how well it would fit into the eventual recap post, we bounded over to The Coffee House just down the street for a latte, cappuccino, croissant, and a strawberry-peach muffin that was far better than it had any business being.

And then we got into I-80 and began the drive back towards Dallas.

Final Thoughts

It was a drive that went by too fast.

Who’d think you could say that about a 10-hour drive home that began three states away at noon, but it was true.

We had some fun stops along the way – at our favorite Casey’s General Store, at Ray’s Smokehouse in Norman for the world’s best baked beans, at Dairy Queen for some frozen delight. Plus, we finished our epic license plate game battle, listened to music, laughed, and talked…about subjects serious and whimsical and everything in between.

Most of all, we just enjoyed being friends. Which is what Genesis and I do the best. We enjoy being friends, and we maximize every moment we get to spend together.

And I think that’s why we related so well with the scene we found in Lincoln, Nebraska this past weekend.

My one regret is not that we didn’t go to the game. Or that, quite honestly, we didn’t watch much of it. My regret is that as I looked back through my pictures and videos from the weekend, I didn’t find any that really captured the feelings of camaraderie and togetherness and family that were palpable on campus all weekend.

There were so many moments, especially as we sat for almost an hour watching the crowd gather to see the band practice, of people running up and giving each other hugs and being genuinely happy to see each other. Student to student, alumni to alumni, alumni to student, family member to family member. It was great to see.

And it was all happening because of college football.

All of these connections were either beginning or blossoming or being reconnected because hundreds of thousands of people had decided to descend on Lincoln, Nebraska for this homecoming weekend on a September Saturday. And everyone had two goals: 1) to see the Huskers win, and 2) to enjoy the company of their close friends and family.

Genesis and I may not have cared who won the football game, but we sure enjoyed each other’s company and the company of so many friendly Nebraskans we ran into along the way. That is what made this such an epic, special weekend. It’s why we’ve been talking about it all day today, and why I’ve had so much fun writing this recap.

So to bring it all full circle: did I fall in love for the first time, all over again, this weekend? You bet I did. Lincoln, Nebraska, thank you for reminding me why big time college sports – despite all of the issues and hypocrisies inherent in them, still remain, on the whole, vehicles for such good.

We live in a fragmented world. Anything that can bring people together en masse, and make us cherish the real connections we have with people, is worthwhile.

College football does just that in Lincoln. And it does it in so many other college towns across America too.

Genesis got to see that this weekend, and she and I got to share it. It’s why neither of us stopped smiling the entire trip, and why we haven’t since.

This seems like a perfect time and place to thank La Quinta again for sponsoring me to take an epic three-day road trip my best friend. I’m one very, very fortunate guy. And there are still two more weeks of this road trip!


The post MSF-La Quinta CFB Road Trip Week 2 Photo Diary:
Fun and ‘Falling In Love…All Over Again’ in Lincoln, Nebraska appeared first on Midwest Sports Fans.

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