DISCLAIMER: This trip was thrown together a month before the game with the inability to take Friday off from work to get the full weekend out of it. I'm sure there was way more to see and do but such is this life of someone with responsibilities in the real world. Next trip to Austin (if it ever happens) will have to be different.
Saturday: arrive at hotel around noon
The day started with checking into our hotel, changing into our game day swag and heading downtown. We asked our nice Korean lady cab driver to take us to an authentic Texas BBQ restaurant.
The conversation went something like this:
Us: "We are starving! We'd love to eat some Texas BBQ somewhere near 6th st so we can walk there afterwards."
Cabbie: "Ah yes! IHOP great Texas BBQ!"
Us: "Ummm, we were looking for something more local and authentic and....not breakfast."
Cabbie: "Yes yes, you will love IHOP! Very close to 6th street."
Turns out there was a lot lost in translation (or accent). IHOP actually turned out to be Iron Works. And yes, Iron Works BBQ was very scrumtrilescent. I could also tell it was authentic Texas BBQ based on the fact that the only pork on the menu was smoked pork loin. Below pictured is the sampler: smoked sausage, brisket, and beef rib along with some extra brisket for a growing boy like myself. Then slap on some beans, tater salad and pickle/onion fixins.
From there we walked to the infamous 6th st.
If you've ever been to Athens and seen the consolidation and saturation of bars downtown, just imagine that but down one street. Bar after club after restaurant squeezed next door to each other for several blocks. We popped our heads into Iron Cactus because we could see lots of red shirts through their big windows. Looked like a hoppin' place but we were looking for a quick beer and place to sit.
On we journeyed until we settled on Blind Pig. They had college football broadcasters blaring on their speakers and a good crowd of red shirts sitting at the bar.
Apparently the term "Blind Pig" was a hush hush way to mention a speakeasy, and that's why there are so many scattered around the country [ED: I believe it has something to do with the police - "pigs" - turning a "blind eye" to the then-crime of boozin']. Learn something new everyday. We hung there to finish the UCLA/Wisconsin game and catch the opening of Bama/A&M. Some LSU fans even made an appearance to do what LSU fans do best: get riled up over some Buck Hunter arcade instead of college football.
Very cool side note of 6th st, a couple bars/eateries had 2 flags outside their doors: one for ole miss and one for Texas. I think neat little nuances like this add to the environment of the college game day experience.
From there we headed to campus to try and get a feel for the tailgating scene. Similar to UGA/LSU, Texas has a massive campus with lots of random pockets of tailgating spots spread out. What surprised me the most were the amount of "sponsored" tailgating areas. Just off campus was a parking lot full of tents, one of which had Tito's Vodka signs all over it. To its credit, Tito's started and is still based out of Austin.
The thing that got me was the Coors Light "Biggest Texas Tailgate" area. It was right outside the Alumni Center and it required membership to enter. Then once you are in, you had to pay for drinks. This was really confusing so if any Texas fans want to explain this whole situation please feel free to do so in the comments.
If some liquor/beer company tried to set up any type of "official" tailgate on campus, I'm sure people would be as up in arms as the old school Oxonians were over cold beer in Oxford.
After a bit of meandering around campus I made it to the southeast corner of the end zone where I had the awesome opportunity of getting a closer look at the Longhorn Network's Texas Game Day set and production facilities. It was a very insightful experience into everything that goes on to make the Texas Game Day coverage tick. The organizers of the set were very accommodating in offering me something to drink and a great seat to see and hear the show. From where I was sitting I could see the commentary set plus a big screen of the actual LHN feed. The analysis, breakdown and preview for the game were top notch.
I really hope that once the SEC network goes live, they try and have some sort of pre game set similar to Texas Game Day. Maybe something like a rotating set at the highlight SEC game of the week of which College Game Day is not attending. And hey, I hear Tim Tebow is available as a commentator. Make it happen Slive! For Tebow, money is no option (pssssst, he drives ratings! Ask Rex Ryan and NYJ owner, Woody Johnson). Plus I want to see Ole Forty back in the limelight.
From there I went back to the friend of a 2nd cousin once removed of my dad's best friend's tailgate and bummed a couple beers before heading to the stadium. Having experienced four (UGA, LSU, Notre Dame, Texas) of the most storied big boy game days and their respective tailgates, I must say we are truly blessed to have the Grove. Call it homerism if you must, but there is something truly special about having one central location where fans come together to celebrate victories and grieve losses. A big part of it is due to the size of the university, Oxford and the campus itself. Only after a good bit of traveling to other universities can you really appreciate how lucky we Rebels are.
As for the game itself, you probably watched it and loved it as much as I did. Our seats were actually pretty good considering how high up they were.
While I was nervous for most of the 1st half, I felt like an excited spectator in an operating theatre during the 2nd half as I watched Dr. Bo work his surgical magic. My biggest gripe would have to be the refusal of the Texas jumbotron operators to show ANY Ole Miss replays. I get it, you don't want to further emphasize the implosion of your football program but c'mon, have some class and show the replays of every play, even those that involve a clunky Dr. Bo sloppily executing a goofy spin move to score a TD.
The Texas fans around us were very courteous and wished us good luck with the rest of the season and a safe trip home. As they left after the Mike Marry fumble recovery, I wished them a new head coach in Nick Saban so he can take his coaching prowess to some other over zealous and obsessive fan base outside of my team's conference.
Quick props to the pep band and Ross Bjork (who I assume allocates the money to pay for how big or small a pep band goes to away games). During my tenure in the Pride of the South, my pep band trips never had more than around 40 people while at Texas I'm guessing there were about 80 band members. Even though I couldn't hear them for the most part over Texas's massive band, you sure as hell could hear them during the Hey Song at the end as the football team came across the field to thank and celebrate with all of the fans that made the trip.
We passed on Saturday night activities (call me old I guess) in exchange for a good night's rest after a long day of walking in 95+ degree Texas heat. Sunday morning we took the advice of the Barking Carnival and Burnt Orange Nation SBNation blogs to check out Torchy's Tacos.
BBB, BottleTree or even South Depot need to wise up on the idea of bringing the breakfast taco east of the MS river. I for one had never heard of such a delicacy but who wouldn't want to eat scrambled eggs, potatoes, chopped smoked brisket, jack cheese and salsa all wrapped in a tortilla for breakfast.
Considering the spontaneity and lack of planning, it was a great trip that was way too rushed for its own good. While locking up W's by scheduling cupcake out of conference games is important for an Ole Miss program in the loaded SEC west, I hope our athletic department doesn't completely rule out the possibility of future home and homes with big name teams in the future. In closing, we ended our trip just like it began, with a funny cab ride experience.
Stay weird Austin.