The road to Texas and Toyota Stadium leads to some interesting people-watching
Upon receiving my credentials for the national championship game in Frisco, I began considering exactly how I would get to Texas. Obviously, I would really like to fly, but looking at the prices at the late date I did and watching the pain the airlines (and their customers) were going through, I thought about a bus trip. After having the first bus line cancel on me, I was able to get a seat for the trip to Frisco. While I was reading the itinerary, I thought to myself, “this might be a story in itself”. It was…and now after sleep, several visits to mom where she cooked my favorite meals, and some therapy, I’m ready to tell my story.
THURSDAY, JAN 6
Two buses depart the Elks parking lot in north Fargo a little late at 6:36 p.m. I am on bus No. 2. We were waiting for a couple of guests that did not show up. By 6:46 p.m., we are headed south on I-29. As soon as we turn onto the on-ramp, “If You’re Gonna’ Play in Texas (You Gotta’ Have A Fiddle in The Band)” plays…hmmm, that didn’t take long.
9:58 p.m. – We make our first stop in Sioux Falls, S.D. I was going to look for a ‘Dakota Marker’, but no one told me we crossed the border. Maybe I am not newspaper reporter ‘material’? We stop at a Flying ‘J’ travel plaza for snacks, drinks, and to stretch our legs. It’s ‘warmer’, but still bitter cold at 8 below zero. After I purchase some snacks and water, I get on the bus. I immediately sense a problem. My Bison blanky is not on the seat where I left it. I look up into the storage compartment and my backpack is gone! You’re kidding me, right? Stolen already?! Now, what do I do? So, as I start to ponder my future (maybe they’ll take me back to Fargo? Maybe someone can float me some money? The trip is already paid for, right?), I look up and a gentleman is looking at me with a broad grin. He asks, “did you get on the wrong bus?” I look around and realize there is, indeed, something wrong with this whole bus. “We pulled in shortly after you guys. This is bus No. 1.” Ooops… this just might be a long bus ride.
10:38 p.m. – On the road again (and on the correct bus) and the “fiddle in the band” song comes on again…Yeppers! It’s going to be a loooong bus ride.
1:10 a.m. – I awoke to the voices of women singing, “Any Man of Mine” by Shania Twain. uuughhh…zzzzz…
2:31 a.m. – zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…
4:01 a.m. – zzzz…no…No…NO!!! MOMMY I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL TODAY!!! What the…just a nightmare…just go back to sleezzzzzzzz…
5:27 a.m. – somewhere between Topeka and Emporia, in Kansas. We have stopped so the bus drivers can switch out. I’m awake again, but the good news is the bus is quiet.
8:02 a.m. – Guthrie, Okla. We have stopped for a refuel and people are up and about. The gas station we stop at is suddenly packed with the Green & Gold and the locals are staring and confused. After dropping us off, the busses leave to fuel and clean restrooms. Meanwhile, 40-some odd Bison fans stand outside a gas station in Oklahoma…kind of sticking out, don’t cha ya know. A police officer pulls up and says, “ya’ll from North Dakota?” After several people say “YES!” He says, “aren’t ya’ll supposed to be in shorts or somethin’?” Very funny…then I check the weather. It is 6 degrees ABOVE ZERO!!
11:56 a.m. – Back on the road. One of the guides shouts, “we’re about to cross into Texas!” People scramble for their cameras to get a picture as we cross the Red River into Texas. Yes…you guessed it. “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas, (You Gotta’ Have a Fiddle in The Band)” starts playing (again). Well, we did get to Texas…shortly after the border, we see the first building in Texas. It’s an adult video store. One lone person (yes, just one) yells, “Let’s stop!” No one responds and the bus keeps right on moving. That guy is wishing for the fiddle song to play one more time right about now.
1:14 p.m. – Dallas, Texas. Since we can’t get into our hotel rooms until 3:00 p.m., we stop at a barbecue place in north Dallas. Excellent ribs and pulled pork. Everyone is in a good mood. Several people come up to some of us and ask, “are you gonna’ win this year?” Or they say, “we sure missed ya’ll last year.” It is true what they say about this area. The people (and yes, the businesses) are all very welcoming. I see signs that say, “Bison Fans 20% off” and “Welcome Back, Where’ve Ya’ll Been?”
3 p.m. – at exactly 3 p.m., Bus No. 2 pulls into the hotel parking lot. I’m suddenly not tired…I move into my room and unpack. We have about two hours before we leave for the pep rally. I turn the TV on, turn my laptop on and catch up on some emails…………………zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
8:45 p.m. – I wake up and I’ve missed the pep rally. I look at my phone and one of the guides tried to call me when the bus was leaving…. ooops. Well, now I’m in and might as well get a good night’s sleep. But I start to write this story first…” I start humming, “If You’re Gonna’ Play in Texas, You (Gotta’ Have a Fiddle in The Band”). Just go back to bed, Craig.
SATURDAY, JAN. 8 – Game Day
6 a.m. – I’m up and refreshed. It’s great being a guy in the morning. Quick shower, brush teeth, throw some “gunk” into my hair, and out the door. No, I did not forget to get dressed. Or wear Bison gear.
6:36 a.m. – Bison Nation is up and at ‘em. Crazy wigs, crazy clothes, crazy signs. The hotel opened their breakfast up early for the Bison fans. I’m serious, they really love us down here.
2:41 p.m. – The Bison win big. A great game if you’re a Bison fan, but not so much if you were looking for a good game. The Bison never really appeared to be threatened. But we won. That’s what we are here for. I head for the bus group’s post-game party.
SUNDAY, JAN. 9 – Trip Home
8:13 a.m. –Now starts what I am told, is the worst part: the trip home. I figure I’m going to be fine. I have two stories I can work on and a book a friend gave me to read. We get started late as we had to wake some people out of their sleep. Grown adults start fighting over seats. “This is my seat…but we sat here on the way down.” Good God! The book my friend gave me is, ‘All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten’. No kidding…
8:44 a.m. – Not going to be an easy day I discover early. The bus suddenly stops and pulls over…on the interstate. We have a broken radiator hose, and the engine was starting to run hot. Awesome……we limp the bus back to a truck stop and those in charge decide what to do. People occupy themselves with stories of the game, shopping for Texas trinkets, and last night’s “festivities”.
12:16 p.m. – A different bus arrives from a company out of Dallas. There are two drivers. We will meet a bus from our tour company somewhere in Iowa and switch busses there. Thank goodness this bus is larger. No fighting over seats as everyone is happy to be underway again, but still some grumbling. Just a thought…maybe we should charge people to be adults. Then they would know it is time to act like one. The sign could say, “WELCOME TO ADULTLAND – PAY FEE AT TOLL LANES” Just like Disneyland or Six Flags!
12:53 p.m. – We cross the Red River into Oklahoma. Nothing against Texas or Texans, but thank you, God!
4:34 p.m. – First stop on the trip home (official stop). This one is quick. Everyone gets their goodies and is back on the bus in 20 minutes. Impressive! Next stop, Council Bluffs, Iowa??
11:29 p.m. – Onawa, Iowa. We meet our bus from Bismarck here. We are out in the middle of nowhere at a truck stop. It is dark and windy. People are tired…really tired. We move all our things over to the other bus. The drivers from Dallas say good-bye and congrats and head back south. I think I see anxious faces wondering if they will get “their” seat. Back on the road at 12:02 a.m.
1:41 a.m. – We stop in Sioux Falls to drop three people off. I’m thinking, “they should have had dinner at home tonight”, but we are about 4 hours behind. Now I start to calculate my arrival. Man am I tired. It does feel like we are getting close, though. This is the first stop that the real cold is back. Brrrrr.
2:02 a.m. – Back on the road.
4:08 a.m. – Back in North Dakota! Once again, I look for one of those ‘Dakota Markers’ and do not see one. Whatever…I’m tired and cold. In fact, I am officially too tired to sleep.
4:27 a.m. – Stop at the Mooreton weigh station. Never heard of it, I think. I guess we stopped here on the way down to pick up the one person we just dropped off. I think my head starts to hurt because my ’clock’ is so screwed up. Back on the road at 4:40 am.
5:21 a.m. – FARGO, N.D. We are back where I left my car nearly 60 hours ago. The bus comes alive as it is the quietest it’s been for the entire trip. I’m not sure how many got out, but I know I did. As I throw my things in the car, I am a little nervous about the engine starting, but it does…no problem. What a champ! As I sit in my car while it warms up, I watch the bus drive away. I think to myself, “it will be light when those Bismarck people get home. Probably lunch hour” …talk about your ‘clock’ being off. Get on the bus for the first time, it’s light, get off the bus, for the last time, it’s light (with about 11 hours and 30 minutes of dark in between) …yikes.
The trip is over. There is no more music. No fight song, no ‘Pride of North Dakota’, no ‘fiddle’ songs, or Shania Twain. No one is fighting over seats. No singing, no cards, and no dice. ‘If You’re Gonna’ Play in Texas, (You Gotta’ Have a Fiddle in The Band’ was not played once on the way back. We are spent in our quest to see another version of Bison football win another championship.
After all the rest and desperately needed healing, I am finally able to finish this story. I did not realize what I was getting myself into, but I must say, what a great trip and a great win. Hopefully, this is a great story. Go Bison!!!