Against my better cheapskate judgement, we spent part of our New Year's Eve buying our tickets and booking our trip to sunny Phoenix, Arizona. As my husband so tactfully pointed out, the last time Clemson won "the natty," I was only 3 years old, so this isn't exactly something that comes around for us every day. And even thought we didn't win the grand prize, we had a great time--and I learned a few things along the way:
First, it doesn't come cheap. No seriously, I'm not using that as a bad cliche for all the hard work and perseverance that goes into making it all the way to the national championship game. I mean literally: everything associated with the event is SO expensive! Practically every attendee was wearing it as a badge of honor, a type of battle scar to compare with other savings account-ravaged travelers. Those who got a deal on game tickets confessed that they were awestruck at what they paid for airfare, and vice versa. Rewards points, hard negotiations, airline miles, favors from friends...you name it, Clemson fans bargained with it. And it was absolutely, positively, worth every penny--but more on that in a bit.
|At least it died for a noble cause, right?|
Clemson people take their wardrobe very seriously. I was amazed and honestly, delighted, at the sea of orange everywhere we went. The airport in Charlotte as well as in Phoenix, was a site to behold, with about 9 out of 10 people clad in orange, purple, Tiger paws, and the new, popular Bring Your Own Guts merchandise. Everywhere we went, it looked like game day on campus. And this continued for the duration of our trip, which means many of you have a Clemson wardrobe so spectacular that it can continue for a duration of four or more days without any interruption. Very impressive, indeed. I'd like to take this moment share with you two of the more creative game day outfits that I particularly enjoyed:
|This outfit gets bonus points when you consider the fact that this diehard walked around all day in the desert heat, full sun exposure, with a smile on his face in a plush onesie. That's real dedication.|
|For me, Clemson is as close to heaven as a girl can get, so a Clemson Pope seems like a natural fit.|
There is such a thing as too much Mexican food. Frankly, this one shocked me right to my core. My family has often joked that I need an IV drip of salsa in order to sustain life, but four days of southwestern influenced fare may have temporarily cured me. Don't get me wrong: it was delicious, but the good people of Phoenix are eager to flavor every bite of food you might ingest with salsa, pico de gallo, green chilies and the like. The morning of the game, we enjoyed a fantastic brunch at a delicious place called Snooze before beginning our tailgating. We were some happy diners with huevos rancheros, breakfast tacos, and spicy Bloody Marys.
|Breakfast of (near) champions at Snooze Eatery, Phoenix.|
For our last dinner in Phoenix, we went to Aunt Chilada's, a Mexican restaurant housed in a hacienda that dates back to the 1870s. There, I discovered fideo--which is basically short cut Mexican spaghetti. It was a fantastic side item to my chicken chimichanga, and so much better than the rice that typically lingers on your plate at most Mexican restaurants. However, by the time we reached the airport Wednesday for our flight home, I was ready to leave the world of tacos, burritos, and chilies behind (for a little while, anyway). I forced down one last breakfast burrito and bid Arizona hasta la vista.
There's really nothing quite like the College Football National Championship. I've talked to people who have been to the Kentucky Derby, the U.S. Open, the Final Four, the Masters--you name it--and the unanimous opinion is that the national championship game is the best experience of them all. The excitement was palpable, and there were so many wonderful stories and moments leading up to this final game that the experience was exciting and unique. There were parties and concerts, tailgates, and old college friends reunited.
|My friend John and his wife live in Charlotte, too, but we saw them more in Phoenix than we have in a year at home!|