|Trip Dates||8/26/2022 – 8/28/2022|
|School||University of Illinois|
|Visiting Team||Wyoming Cowboys
Pre-game Record: 0-0
|Home Team||Illinois Fighting Illini
Pre-game Record: 0-0
|Game Time (ET)||4:00 PM Eastern (3:00 local)|
|Weather||84 & Sunny|
|Attendees||Jarrett, Al, Nate, Mac & Trey|
|Jarrett’s Pick||Illinois Fighting Illini
(38 and 18 record)
|Al’s Pick||Illinois Fighting Illini
(32 and 24 record)
|Length of Game||3:31|
|Seat Location||20 Yard Line, 3rd Row Upper Deck (on the shady side)|
|Photo Album||Click here for the Illinois Photo Album|
The Whole Botta Crew is Along (except for the smart one)
The 2022 College Football Quest travel season gets off to an early start with a Week 0 trip to Champaign, Illinois. When Quest HQ got a look at the college football schedules this year, a Week 0 trip looked juicy and then when it landed on The Director of the Road Less Traveled’s desk, he thought, “my kids might enjoy this and it is before school starts, so why not?” Debra, being of sound mind, said, I will stay home and get blasted, no wait, I mean stay home and enjoy the peace and quiet. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Beth opted to do the same, with much less drinking, and enjoy being a true empty nester. That is until she realized she would be truly alone, with Gator. Beth might be rethinking this no Quest trip thing as talking to oneself out loud is quite different if noone is there to hear you.
Anyway, since the Botta kids (Nate, Mac, & Trey) were along for the ride, we had a Thursday night departure since teenagers and kids do not handle the 4am wake up calls as well as I do. I will admit the Thursday night departures are a lot more relaxed and much less tiresome than the early morning flights, albeit more expensive. But the traffic to LGA or JFK is a lot worse than at 4am. Something to ponder.
Our departure was from the new Delta terminal at LGA, which happens to be quite nice, even though it is still under quite a bit of construction. Our flight was from the old Terminal C building so it has not been redone, but it was not too bad. We all met at the Delta club and enjoyed the fine amenities before heading out to our flight. The plane being utilized from LGA to Indianapolis was a small regional jet that was barely half full, so I think the instruction was, “we are boarding now, welcome aboard”. It was an empty row for everybody. This was the emptiest flight I have seen for years. Good for us, not so good for Delta.
The flight took off on time, which means it landed early. Excellent, especially these days. We exited the plane and made a quick walk to the rental car lot. I am now going to go on a rant about dumb people at Thrifty, so you can skip ahead if you’d like, not you Beth, you get paid by the word.
Thrifty and Dumb People
We got to the Thrifty lot and my name was on the Hertz board (Hertz owns Thrifty and a few others, as there are really only three rental car companies that own multiple brands, but I digress) so we went straight to the car and proceeded to exit the lot. So far so good.
There was only one exit lane open and the line was quite long. So another employee tried to help by opening another lane. I was second in line, so I went over to the new lane and was first to exit this lane. It was then that this employee realized that the exit gate was broken. There was no way that this gate was going to be opened. By this point, a line had formed behind me. Meanwhile, in the other lane, people were being checked out and processed through the exit. Ok, things happen, the employee tried to help and it did not work. Oh well. My problem is what happens next. You do not take people from the back of the line that is broken and check them out in reverse order, which is what they did. You should back people in the broken line up, and weave them back into the line that is open. This is obvious to anyone with a functioning brain. Of course I felt it my obligation to share that with the Thrifty/Hertz staff who could not quite grasp what I was saying and kept telling me that they were doing the best that they could do. Umm, no you were not. You were doing the easiest thing you could do. It took 30 minutes to exit the rental car lot. “Common sense is not so common”. Rant over.
After the Thrifty incident, we head out on the two hour drive to Champaign, Illinois. Beth, you should have been on this drive. Nate and I pondered all of the consequences of time zone changes. Existential questions were answered such as when you cross into the central time zone will it get lighter? Is it better to be in the Western part of the Eastern time zone or the Eastern part of the Central time zone? And most importantly…if your iphone doesn’t change times, are you really in that time zone? Al was very helpful in egging this on. Beth and Nate should really be locked in a room for 30 minutes. Mac and Trey had battery life on their phones so I am not sure they were aware that other people were in the car.
After crossing into Indiana, the lure of McDonald’s was just too much for Trey & Mac. So we stopped at the Danville McDonald’s, perhaps the finest McD’s in the country. So much so that Trey’s birthday party next year will be held there. Get your flights booked now.
After ingesting a low quality dinner that was only mildly repulsive, we were back on the road and made it into Champaign. After checking in, the Thursday night travel ordeal was complete. We all head to bed, and off to sleep to hopefully get ready for a fun weekend at the University of Illinois.
The good thing about arriving on Thursday night is the ability to have a lazy wake up on Friday before spending the day wandering around aimlessly on campus. Of course when you travel with kids, they can take the lazy wake up to extreme levels. So I had a nice leisurely wake up on Friday, had plenty of time to do my hair and walk over to the McDonald’s to grab some coffee before reading the paper on my iPad before there were some rumblings over in the Botta room. But finally there was movement and out the door we went to….McDonald’s for breakfast. What are you going to do?
After that excursion, we headed out to walk around campus. The first stop was the football stadium since it was the first thing that we passed. That was a good thing since it meant that tomorrow, we would have a short walk to the game. The stadium was locked down so there was no getting in, but we were able to walk around and take in the marvelous construction that was cutting edge in the 1850’s.
Next up, the University of Illinois bookstore. Al got on line (we are not going to have the in line versus on line debate) at the bookstore Starbucks while Nate and I headed out for some shopping. I did not find much as the store was experiencing supply chain issues, or so they said. I am beginning to feel like supply chain issues is code for we are incompetent but we can blame it on supply chain issues. Our manager slept in and did not place the order for Nike t-shirts, supply chain issues! We ran out of singles in the register because Nick didn’t go to the bank, supply chain issues! Hell, let’s just put up a sign that says, be nice to our staff, it is not their fault they got drunk last night and are mean to you because they are hung over, it’s supply chain issues! Anyway, I found something I could wear and my usual shot glass so I was good. I also managed to convince Nate that he should buy and wear the overalls that are prevalent at every college game, so he was good. We then found Al, in the same spot of the Starbucks line about 40 people deep, having not moved one inch. Supply chain issues, staffing issues, whatever, he had not moved in 20 minutes. The sign said, from this point your wait is 90 minutes. It was fairly accurate.
Moving slowly along, we continued with our campus tour. I think we managed to hit all of the highlights of the University of Illinois campus including the student union, the quad, the tornado shelter, the math building where we could not get to the top of the bell tower, the indoor practice facility that was locked, and even the preacher who told us we were all going to hell. Should a preacher be making kids cry? Just a thought.
It was an excellent self tour if I say so myself. Al made excellent use of google maps. Kudos to the Illinois athletic staff for not even bothering to return our repeated attempts to touch base and for asking for some pointers on some things to see and do during our visit. I guess you were too busy preparing for the colossal failures of your game day operations that were to come tomorrow. I guess karma is a bitch.
Hall of Fame
After completing the self tour, we headed over to State Farm Arena to purchase our tickets to the game tomorrow. We made the critical decision on the walk over, to purchase tickets on the shady side of the field. This was a wise choice. Again, thank you to the Illinois athletic department for keeping us in the loop on ticket options. Not that we are not capable, but how hard is it to have an admin respond to an email.
Anyway, we bought tickets, and note to those out there, Illinois still uses paper tickets or at least ours were. This goes with the motif of the 1850’s.
State Farm Arena housed the Illinois basketball Hall of Fame. Or it could have been the Illinois sports hall of fame, who knows. So we took a spin through that. They did have quite a few basketball accolades and for those who do not know, Illinois used to be good at basketball and sometimes still is. So there is that.
Dinner was at Black Dog Smoke & Ale House. It was quite good. We started with smoked almonds and frito pie. The smoked almonds were quite excellent. The frito pie could have been a bit better but when you put chili on fritos not much could go wrong. I had a brisket platter with sides of twice baked potato casserole and cornbread. It was excellent brisket. This is a highly recommended stop. But no stop to Black Dog is complete with bowing down to the Iced Tea Annihilator which is what Nate will forever be known as by this particular waitress, in this particular location, of this particular restaurant. All because he had 3 iced teas of the Long Island variety before our food came, or the regular variety, you make up your own mind. This is now the running joke of our trip to Illinois. Mac and Trey were not aware any of this was going on because their phones still had battery life to them.
When traveling with kids, you get to act like a kid guilt free, not that Al and I ever carry guilt regardless, but this was especially the case tonight. So Al looked up and found an ice cream place walking distance from the hotel. So off we went to Oberweis Dairy. Turns out there are quite a few of these and they have burgers etc. as well. But the ice cream was fantastic. I had mint chip and coconut chocolate almond which is now one of my favorites. Absolutely one of my favorite flavors.
In addition, Oberweis Dairy has a chess board on a few of their tables which led to a blood feud match between Nate and Trey. Nate might have been too cocky for his own good, as Trey pulled out the victory.
Just a quick note here that the Holiday Inn in Champaign was in a great location. You could walk to campus, the stadium was a short walk away, and there were a ton of food options within walking distance. I would recommend a stay here if in the area. Plus this was the Wyoming team hotel so that probably says something. Al even got a glimpse of their keys to victory that were left up in one of the meeting rooms. That left him even more confident of his pick the next day as I think the slide was borrowed from Mac’s pop warner team.
Game Day Morning
It was another lazy morning this Saturday as it was a 3pm local time game and we did not have early plans. Plus you know…kids. I grabbed my McDonald’s coffee and had a leisurely morning reading the paper and watching a scaled down version of gameday, which was on an hour earlier since we were in the central time zone but started an hour later because there were only like 6 games today.
In what seemed like a trend during this trip, we got a wait staff that was on its first day and in training as Al ended up with water on himself and my breakfast cocktail never arrived. Which is unfortunate because given the game we were about to watch, I could have used it. Anyway, the food was quite good even if I did misread the menu and ended up with two dishes I was not quite expecting.
Brunch came to an end and we headed over to the stadium for the pregame festivities. I will say that the pregame tailgating was quite festive. The big field in front of the stadium was active and celebratory. Maybe it was the renewed hope that comes with a new season or maybe it was the bright sunny day but it was a good atmosphere.
We entered the stadium and I did the usual walk around taking the usual pics and getting a feel for the overall stadium. There is no question that this is one of the older stadiums around, and it even has seats behind poles that you see in movies from the old days of when Wrigley Field was first built and from the old time baseball stadiums. But the press box and luxury suites do look fairly new and updated, at least from the outside.
We settled into our seats which were in the 3rd row of the upper deck on the 20 yard line. I will emphatically state that the decision to opt for the shady side at all costs was a brilliant decision. We were in the shade the entire game and this could not be overstated.
- We both picked Illinois. I made this pick before I got on the plane. I do not know when Al made his pick, but I am sure the keys to victory and seeing Wyoming do a walk through in a hotel parking lot might have swayed him.
- I wore an Illinois shirt, as I typically wear home team attire (unless it’s Georgia), but I was rooting for Wyoming as they treated us well on our visit there in 2019 while Illinois could not be bothered to respond.
- What the hell was Coach Bohl (Wyoming) thinking at the end of the 1H. Wyoming was not playing well but the game was still within reach at 17-3. Wyoming took over with 40 seconds left before half on their own 33. You have done nothing all game. Take a knee and make some adjustments at the half. Instead, they run 3 plays and have to punt. Illinois should have sent 10 guys after the punt, but they did not. Illinois had time and a chance for more points but did not get them.
- This was not the only highly questionable coaching decision by Coach Bohl. Listen, there was no way Wyoming was winning this game, but Coach Bohl did his team no favors. He has a great track record at ND State and has done some good things at Wyoming, but this was not a great effort. But I am not privy to the internal workings at Wyoming, maybe he was treating this as a preseason game and trying some things out. Who knows?
Postgame dinner was at Baxters American Grille. We had another waiter in training. I am not sure Baxters qualifies as a Chop House & Wine Bar, but it was sufficient for a good meal in the land of chain restaurants especially after Al made our reservation for the location in Bloomington. Most of us had steaks and they were solid. Dessert was also at Baxters as Al put his aching foot down and said we were not walking to Oberweis Dairy again. We were all disappointed that dad said no. Me most of all.
Sunday was a travel day which meant an early rise for the drive back to Indianapolis. The Botta kids got hand delivered McGriddles and we headed out for the drive, which was uneventful. Also uneventful was the car rental return at Thrifty. This was a good thing.
I should note that I love the Indianapolis Airport. There is never traffic, there are rarely people there, and there was nobody at the TSA checkpoints, both the precheck and no precheck lines. I know this is not the case when there are huge events in town, but I find this is the case more times than not. I am a big fan. Al looked it up and we only have one more Quest trip where this airport is an option, Indiana. Oh well.
Anyway, we headed to Harry & Izzy’s as I had been talking up the steak sandwich to Nate ever since we landed. Of course, they took it off the menu. So we had to settle. But Mac opted for a full ribeye steak. Nice job.
The flight back to NY was a bit more crowded than the outbound but was uneventful which is always good.
It should be noted that on this trip we surpassed the 100,000 mile mark on Quest trips and now stand at 101,095 miles traveled. Beth remarks that this is very exciting. I sense some sarcasm here.
The Wyoming Cowboys finished the regular season with a 7-5 record, 5-3 in the Mountain West Mountain Division which was good enough for a three way tie for second place. This earned the Cowboys a spot in the Arizona Bowl against the Ohio Bobcats where the Cowboys fell in overtime 30-27.
The Illinois Fighting Illini finished the regular season with a 8-4 record, 5-4 in the BigTen West which actually put them in a three way tie for second, one game behind division winner Purdue. This earned Illinois a trip to Tampa to play in the ReliaQuest Bowl against the Mississippi State Bulldogs where they fell 19-10.
For our Illinois photo album, Please click here. You can view as a collage or run as a slideshow. There are comments to explain what is in the photo but most are self explanatory. Thanks to Google, I can no longer embed the slide show with comments.