I got to go to the Penn State game against Minnesota on Oct. 1. Now that it’s been over two weeks since the event, I thought I’d better get to writing about it, since I had such a great time. Things didn’t get started too smoothly, but everything worked out in the end.
Thursday morning, my mom woke up with trouble breathing, and the symptoms of high blood pressure. She went to the emergency room right away, and after several tests and hours of waiting, and a cocktail of blood pressure medications, she was stable that evening and improving all day Friday. The rapid improvement of mom’s condition, while very much appreciated, made arrangements for going on a four hour drive to a football game challenging. The good news was that the doctors wanted mom to continue her adjusted dialysis regimen at the hospital for another day, and would be able to come home on Sunday.
After confirmation of this plan by 9 am Saturday, dad and I were on the road by 10 am. We stopped at Country Fair for coffee and breakfast sandwiches, then took the non-Interstate, old school highway route to State College. I mentioned the fact the when I think of highways, I think of the Interstate system, while my parents, who grew up in the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s, thought of the state routes as highways. I must say that the older system is much more enjoyable to drive through, scenery-wise, and the shorter mileage made up for the faster speed of the Interstate. Around 12:30, we got to the traditional half-way stop, the MacDonald’s and truck stop just off I-80.
We took I-80 the rest of the way to State College, and followed the electro-signage onto some new-to-us interstate, and cruised down nearly-empty roads to the parking areas near the stadium, arriving shortly after 2 p.m.
We sold the extra ticket we had to a scalper, wandered through the Centre County Visitor Center, dad bought a PSU hat with the ticket money, and we made our way into Beaver Stadium (*snicker*). Just inside the stadium, we stopped to inspect the curious nature of the stadium’s architecture. Back in the 70’s(-ish), the existing bleachers were jacked 10-15 feet into the air, and in place of the running track, new seats were built to meet the newly raised bleachers. Over the years, additional decks and suites were added, as well as two large end zone scoreboards.
We made our way up to our seats, which were in the corner of one of the end zones, not too far above the Minnesota cheering section, but far enough to be surrounded by Penn State fans; it made for some entertaining moments, though. We arrived early enough to watch much of the pre-game warm-ups, the two head coaches meeting and shaking hands, and the various and sundry exercises and drills both teams performed. I especially enjoyed the one where a line of players stretched across the goal line, who proceeded to maneuver in a cross between goose-stepping soldiers and the Rockettes. When the first line got five yards away, a second line began moving in the same fashion, followed by a third and fourth.
The game itself is a blur. There was much standing, and sitting, and yelling. It was truly inspiring to hear a stadium with over 100,000 people in it chanting, “WE ARE!… PENN STATE!” We probably did that a dozen times. It was an amazing game, with good offense, great defense, and opportune scoring. PSU won, 44-14, moving them to 18th in the polls (they’re 8th now, WooHoo!). After the third quarter, I was getting sore from being crammed into the bleachers, as well as repeatedly swapping between sitting and standing, so dad and I walked to the other end of the stadium, and stood at the base of the upper deck of the student section until there were about five minutes left in the game when we returned to our regular seats.
After the game, the Blue Band came back onto the field, having also performed during halftime, and performed again, a tradition at PSU and presumably at other universities as well. They were quite entertaining, and a good way to complete an official PSU football game. All that remained was to walk back to the parking field, err… lot, and find the van. The parking wasn’t as far away as I had feared, and was easy to get to after the game. What was difficult was finding a silver minivan in a dark field, among hundreds of cars SUV’s and silver minivans. After 15 minutes of patrolling the lanes of vehicles, we were able to find our car and make our way to the road. Traffic on the way out went as smoothly as I could have hoped, since the police here have been managing football crowds every fall for decades now, and had it down to a science. We drove into State College proper, looking for a place to eat that wasn’t packed to the gills, and found a little sports bar with outdoor seating right on College Ave.
Dad and I had cheese steaks and split an order of onion rings, and watched the cars and people go by on the street and listened to a guy argue with his girlfriend over a cell phone and drinks. I kept thinking about missed opportunities and how my life could have been different had I gone to college right out of high school instead of after a few years of diving a depressed and grief-stricken life. To get back on track here, I am glad to be where I am now, and look forward to my opportunities, but do feel that I missed out on a great collegiate experience.
After dinner we sought to make our way toward our hotel, some 30 minutes away. Due to the darkness of night, and the fact that we’d been on the road since this morning, then experienced the exhilarating event that is Penn State Football, road signs were misinterpreted, and we ended up a winding two lane road going down a mountain. An intersection was reached, which led to the proper road, and we were safely ensconced in our hotel room without further incident. Some teevee was watched, then we slept, for the road was beckoning us on the morrow.
Sunday morning we awoke to a dense fog, which made the drive back to State College and adventure. We intended to partake of the institution that is the Waffle Shop, among other stops. The location next to Scott’s motel was as packed as we remembered, but the dining area was slightly larger. I had a blueberry waffle and coffee; dad had a sausage and cheese omelet and coffee, and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Once could taste the absolute freshness. After the Waffle Shop, we located a grocery store where mass quantities of the delicacy called Tastykake were procured. Our odd shopping selection was marked upon by the check-out girl, and was answered by my favorite traveler’s phrase, “We’re from out of town.” Our next stop was the Creamery, via a short driving tour of the campus, where three half gallons of ice cream were purchased, with complimentary dry ice to preserve our catch through the journey. Cones were reluctantly bypassed, due to the recent taking of breakfast. Our last stop in Happy Valley was Penn State Sub Shop #1 for three traditional classic Italian hoagies to eat for lunch as we drove and as needed later.
The Interstate was chosen as our route home, and the drive was begun before noon. Around two, we reached Cook Forest, where we ate our subs in the company of the park office cat. I slept for a time during the drive, and we got back to town at a quarter to four.