The Pac 12 is an exciting new sports car for the athletic department and their fans to drive fast and whoop it up, while the Big 12 is an old pick up that just got you by.
I look forward to the shiny newness of the Pac 12, but the Big 12 days will burn in my memory each time the pigskins start flying in the fall.
The beautiful people of Southern California and their hustle and bustle about life a wait, but the “howdy, welcome to Texas” salutation from Aggie fans in College Station will be missed. The almost Footloose religious zealotry in Waco, the basketball-and-everything-else mindset in Lawrence, and even the football knowledge of those folks in Lincoln will be hard to find on the West Coast.
New cities will give us a chance to sample new beers in Oregon, fresh fish in Seattle, and exquisite Bay Area eateries. My mouth will still water however for the BBQ of the Salt Lick outside Austin. Every trip to Kansas required cold Boulevard Wheat, as every trip to Texas saw scores of Lone Star and Shiner Bock. The new grub may be prepared with care and healthy standards, but who can really front on some simple Midwest deep frying?
We’ll see the ocean a plenty in our new haunts, along with the green of the Pacific Northwest, the sites of San Francisco, and the desert of Arizona. But there is still something so tranquil seeing the sunrise over the flatlands of Kansas and Oklahoma.
Stadium wise we’ll be greeted with a more laid back attitude and smaller venues than what we were used to in the Big 12. The massive concrete structures of Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and A&M seemed to extend so tall into the air they seemed unsafe. The crowds could get to a roar that would shake you down to your spine.
I’ll get to know the airports of the Western US, and along with that a quick jaunt to games from DIA to the site. That means the old school road trip will amp down. Eight plus hours in the ride past the Geona Tower, the outlets in Russell, and a drab West and East Texas landscape will be no more. We would listen to music, bag on each other, and watch countless TV shows and bad movies on stretches of the interstate system. Chappelle’s Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, SNL Best Of, seemingly rolled the rig along with laughter.
Stops at rest stops with bathrooms straight from the 60s and stops at truck stops to but some of the most unfriendly food and drink were standard. Of course, popping those first cold beers when the destination was a few miles out was a must. One of those destinations wasn’t a college town but rather Hays, Kansas, which became our halfway weigh station between Denver and our end destination. A night in Hays was filled with good grub and hand crafted brew at Gellas, followed by the old school small town bars Sit N Spin and Golden Q, and a myriad of motels that would make many a seasoned traveler shudder. We would shake it off the next morning with butter pizza and a pitcher at Breadeux down the road in Abilene.
We’ll find new bars to throw some back, but I’ll reminisce about The Dixie Chicken, the Wheel House, Sixth Street , getting “stuck” in a bar in Manhattan because the Homecoming Parade blocked our rig in the parking spot. Massachusetts Street in Lawrence and Bottlecap Alley in College Station, and the sheer dominance of Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater. Aggieville in Manhattan where denied entrance into an establishment for being a bit tipsy. While the saloons in parts west might be quirky, we were greeted outside a bar on a rainy morning in Norman with a rolled up piece of carpet that read “f*ck me hard” and Ames had us mingling with an older man who thought it was OK to bring his white poodle to the bar.
It seems ironic that the Buffs are jumping to the new go-fast, chic, trendy conference while my own life is rapidly approaching middle age seemingly better suited for the go-slow Big 12. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll sample all that the speedy Pac 12 has to offer over the next few. But that old pick up will still meander slowly across the flatlands in our memories.
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