On the road again — in Nebraska
Another whirlwind football weekend. A flight to Kansas City on Friday with Mike Baldwin and Miss Saigon, followed by a drive to Omaha. Saturday morning, a drive to Lincoln for a morning kickoff and Oklahoma State’s historic rout of Nebraska, then a night drive back to KC. Sunday morning, a quick flight home, a mad-dash drive to east Norman for church, then back to the interstate, where I met boss Mike Sherman for the drive to Dallas and the game of the season in the NFL, Patriots-Cowboys. Finally, a late night drive home.
Omaha is a charming city. Nice downtown. Lovely parks. Easy to get around. It’s sort of a small Kansas City, another Midwestern city I just love. And Lincoln is a quality place, too. Sort of a small Austin — university and state capitol all nestled together downtown — without the pretensiousness. Nebraska has got to be one of my 10 favorite states. That’s a ranking I need to do. My favorite states, in order.
Going to a game at Nebraska is extra special. The fans really are classy and take great pride in their status as the nice folks of college football. The Husker fans were hard-pressed to even boo their team’s own sorry performance; down 38-0 at halftime to Oklahoma State, then a 45-14 loser. OSU academic guru Marilyn Middlebrook told the story in pregame that on their 1999 trip to Lincoln, a cold front blew in, and the Cowboy contingent wasn’t dressed properly. So Nebraska fans outfitted them in blankets to help keep warm. The story doesn’t surprise me one bit.
NU’s Memorial Stadium is one of my favorite ballparks in college football. Very strangely built. The east side is not as high as the end zone seats; the west side is a huge structure, with several stories of luxury suites. But somehow, it all works and makes for one of the great settings for the sport.
I’m no big fan of satellite radio; I think it has the potential to harm local radio, and I don’t want to harm anything local. But Thrifty outfitted us with satellite radio in the Dodge Nitro we rented, and it came in handy driving home Saturday night. We listened to OU-Missouri, the Tigers’ crew, and it was a very professional production. But Arkansas-Auburn and Louisville-Cincinnati were on the radio, too, and both were great games that went to the wire. If you’re a sports fan, and you’re driving a lot on the weekends, I have to say, satellite radio is the way to go.
I don’t patronize ala carte joints. But sometimes you get caught. Friday night, we went to Omaha Prime, an old-money steakhouse in downtown. Great, great beef streak. I had a New York strip, medium rare, that was just unbelievable. But throw in a scrumptious salad, a potato and asparagus (don’t ask), and the bill climbed into the $50 range. Omaha Prime was good, but it wasn’t that good.
A few other food adventures on the trip:
1. In St. Joseph, Mo., we stopped at a McDonald’s for Miss Saigon to get a salad. They made us pull up and said they would bring it out to us. We sat for 10 minutes, then she went in and retrieved it. My wife figured out this problem years ago. When at a drive-through and asked to pull up or pull around, she says no thanks. Usually, this stuns the drive-through controller. But my wife says, no, that’s OK, I’ll just sit here. They never forget about you when you’re blocking the drive-through.
2. Here’s the best way to get a thick milk shake. Don’t ask for one. Years ago in Creede, Colo., I went into an old-fashioned ice cream shop and asked how thick they could make their shakes. “As thick as you want it,” I was told. Make it as thick as possible, I said. Moments later, I got a shake that I swear was pure liquid. Saturday night, we stopped at some gas station in northwest Missouri that included a Baskin-Robbins. I told the gal I wanted something thick, with sprinkles. We settled on a shake. Same thing. Pure milk. I give up.
3. Arby’s is the best fast-food buy in the business. We stopped on the way to Omaha, and me and
Baldwin shared the 5 for $5.95; a splendid deal. Coming home from Dallas on Sunday night, me and
Sherman did the same. Except in Gainesville, the deal was 5 for $6.95. Huh? Roast beefs with melted cheese and potato cakes cost more in Cooke County, Texas, than anywhere else in America?
10 BIG LOSERS FROM WEEK 7
10. Miami: The Hurricanes had a chance to stay in the ACC race but gave up a fourth-quarter field goal and lost 17-14 at home to Georgia Tech. Now Miami is 1-2 in the Coastal Division, with little chance of making Randy Shannon’s first year special.
9. Rice: The 1-4 Owls had a chance to go 2-0 in Conference USA. They led crosstown foe Houston 48-35 after three quarters. But the Cougs rallied for a 56-48 victory.
8. Vanderbilt: The Commodores get few chances to beat Tennessee, Georgia or Florida, the upper crust of the SEC East. But Vandy led Georgia 17-7 in the third quarter. Then the Bulldogs rallied to tie, a Vanderbilt fumble wiped out a sure field goal try and Georgia won 20-17.
7. Missouri: The Tigers hadn’t won in Norman since 1966 but led OU 24-23 in the fourth quarter. Then the Sooners rallied for a 41-31 lead that delays Mizzou’s ascension into the national spotlight.
6. Connecticut: The Huskies were 5-0 and had a chance to be one of the few undefeated teams left halfway through the season. But UConn gave up a fourth-quarter field goal and lost at
5. Charlie Weatherbie: The Louisiana-Monroe coach — and ex-OSU quarterback — coached the Indians to a loss to hapless North Texas, and ULM fell to 1-5. Weatherbie’s team looked competitive in a opening-week loss to Tulsa, but his program is going nowhere, at 16-36 under Weatherbie.
4. Cincinnati: The Bearcats were ranked 15th and had a chance to be 7-0 with a home victory over
Louisville. But the Cardinals rallied for a 28-24 victory, and Cincy’s November showdowns against South Florida and West Virginia lost some luster.
3. UTEP: The Miners seemed the likely West Division winner in Conference USA, but after an overtime loss to East Carolina, UTEP has no margin for error. Tulsa, UTEP and Houston all are tied at 2-1.
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