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GSU football: Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses

July 10, 2018

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It’s July, which means football season is quickly approaching. The newest Eagles are moved in, Eagle Creek is glistening, and the Statesboro heat is sweltering. It also means that it is time to start planning your road trips to watch the Eagles play! I have been fortunate to see the Blue and White play in many cities, and I have had the opportunity to experience many great things about said cities and campuses. That being said, along with the untimely passing of one of my favorite television hosts Anthony Bourdain, I’d like to call this “Parts Unknown: Georgia Southern Football.”

The Eagles’ first road trip will be to Death Valley in Clemson, South Carolina, as the Eagles will go to battle with the Tigers. Clemson is one of my favorite college towns outside of Statesboro, and with several reasons why. The first is the proximity to Lake Hartwell. If you have a day before or after the game to spend on the lake, I highly recommend it. Any day on the lake is glorious, but this quieter lake (relative to the metro Atlanta lakes I grew up on) is a scenic view that splits Georgia and South Carolina.

If you love to golf, the Walker Golf Course on campus is of championship caliber with scenic views of Lake Hartwell, and the signature 17th hole, in which the green and bunkers form the Tiger Paw logo. In terms of tailgating, Clemson has a compacted campus, and Clemson Memorial Stadium is in the middle, so there are several fields and quads that are open for tailgating. For our match up, the tailgate lots will open at 8 a.m. on game day, and if you want a decent spot you should shoot to be there by then.

If you take one piece of advice and one recommendation from me regarding Clemson, it is this: The Esso Club. At the very minimum take a visit inside, but definitely stay and eat. The Esso Club has been a staple of Clemson since 1933, and is an atmosphere like no other. Well worth the time.

Finally, if you are as big of a fan of college football traditions as I am, definitely be in the stadium early to see Coach Dabo Swinney lead the Tigers down the hill and past Howard’s Rock. In all, honestly, I am looking forward to the Clemson trip more than any trip, as not only as it is the first trip of the year, but it is also one that truly epitomizes the culture of college football in the South.

After a nice month at home in Paulson Stadium, Georgia Southern will travel to the Lone Star State to take on the Bobcats of Texas State. Now, I have not had the fortune of traveling to San Marcos, but through others’ experiences, I can provide some insight, as I have been planning on making the midweek trip to see the Eagles. In terms of traveling, if one was to fly, the most accessible point is through San Antonio, about 45 minutes from San Marcos.

Now, one can spend an entire trip in San Antonio with Riverwalk and the Alamo and much, much more. In San Marcos, the campus is gorgeous, and is one I want to visit solely based off of Instagram pictures. The San Marcos River runs through the heart of campus, and is a perfect spot to tailgate. The campus has several quads and statues, marking historically significant events. There are several natural springs, caverns and caves that are present in San Marcos that make for a very scenic trip, all capped off with some hard-nose Georgia Southern football.

A week after our trip to Texas, the Eagles head even further out west to Las Cruces, New Mexico to take on the Aggies. Las Cruces has several things to offer that might intrigue the dedicated travelers. The mid-size southwestern town boasts several vineyards and breweries, 15 to be exact, that are compiled to make the Las Cruces Wine and Ale Trail. Several national parks and monuments are within an hour’s drive of New Mexico State, so the nature lovers will enjoy the scenery. Finally, the same weekend the Eagles are in New Mexico, the city of Las Cruces is hosting its fifth annual Country Music Festival. So if you are into the music of Dwight Yoakam, Randy Houser and several others, this is a good weekend to make a trip to what many consider a “flyover state.”

The next stop on the Eagle’s journey is Monroe, Louisiana, where the Eagles will take on the Warhawks of ULM. The towns of Monroe and West Monroe are small and quaint in the bayous of Louisiana that is home to the infamous Duck Dynasty. If you are a fan of the show, they have gift shops and the operating warehouse that is open for visiting. Not big into hunting? Not a big deal, as there are several museums and gardens, including the Louisiana Purchase Zoo and the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum, which are both neat attractions. Of course, being the trip to Cajun country, it may be worth making friends with the Warhawk fans, as you might get a chance to experience a true crawfish boil. Depending on how much time you have, you can drive to Monroe in about 10-12 hours, or you can fly into Monroe directly from Atlanta, which is nice to have a direct flight into a regional airport.

The final two stops on the Georgia Southern trail are more likely to have a large chunk of Blue and White in the crowd, as both Conway, South Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia are within four hours each. Conway was a fun trip last year (not including the result), as it is about 20 minutes from Myrtle Beach. Obviously you have a lot of the touristy stuff in Myrtle, but you can never go wrong with these things, such as the boardwalk and the beaches. Granted it will be mid-November when we travel to the Surf Turf, Myrtle has lots of entertainment to provide an enjoyable weekend, especially being the weekend before Thanksgiving.

I have been to Myrtle Beach a few times, and I have to always eat at the Sea Captain’s House. This place used to be a beach house in the 1930s and has since been serving some of the best seafood you can find in the Carolinas. If you are into fishing or golf, Myrtle Beach boasts a plethora of party fishing boats, and well over 70 golf courses. There is plenty to do in the Conway/Myrtle Beach area, which is in contrast to the contrast of the secluded and neat Coastal Carolina Campus.

Finally, the Eagles head to Atlanta to play the school that shall not be named aka the commuter school aka the school that took over Turner Field. Yes, it will be our third trip to take on the kittens, but our first in the old Turner Field. It will be interesting to see what the folks in Midtown did with the old Braves stomping ground. In Atlanta, there is obviously a lot to see and do. I have spent many of days in Centennial Olympic Park seeing the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola and now the College Football Hall of Fame. I will definitely be returning soon now that Adrian Peterson is in the hall, joining Tracy Ham as the Eagle greats to be enshrined. Any fan that loves college football will thoroughly enjoy this interactive experience, get to actually be on a field, see many of the great trophies of college football and much more. If anyone wants some southern cuisine in the big city, swing on down to Mary Mac’s Tea Room on Ponce de Leon, where you write your ticket for the waiter, and trust me it is well worth the extra work. Overall, Atlanta is a great spot to visit and make a weekend trip for more than just a football game.

In all, Georgia Southern football has blessed me with the opportunity to see some cool parts of this country, and this will continue to happen in the future. Sure, one can get excited about the trips to Nebraska, Boise State and BYU, but I just as much have enjoyed the trips to Auburn, Conway, Greenville and other cities that to many, are just considered “parts unknown.”

GATA: Get After That Aqua (Stay hydrated; it’s getting hot out there!)


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