After Clemson’s New Year’s Eve decisive victory against Ohio State, which earned us a spot in the championship game, I was on a high shared by Tiger fans everywhere. I remember waking up on New Year’s Day, wondering if there was any possible way to get myself to the Championship game in Tampa.
I was amazed to see I could get round-trip airfare to Tampa for $74! I settled on the first reasonable room I could find, which was under $150. Armed with the knowledge that we could get there and back in time for the game and so affordably, I reached out to my very good friend from college, Kim, and convinced her we should take the trip together.
Both of us were so entrenched in our day-to-day lives filled with work and kids and responsibilities, the notion we could spontaneously fly to Florida for the game and return the next day was intoxicating. It took a little smooth talking, but Kim got the ok, and we were Tampa-bound!
Our trip started out with shots of whiskey gifted to us by an Alabama fan in the airport bar before we even left New Jersey. And since Kim has literally never met a stranger before, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves with a group of fellow Tigers and new friends. The flight was easy and within a few hours, we were being directed into a tailgating spot with some very dear friends from school. Spending the hours before the game with friends we haven’t seen in years made me yearn for my college days. Hanging with them was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip!
Although we gave it the old college try, Kim and I were unable to find tickets for less than $1700 each, even fifteen minutes after kickoff, so we socialized our way around the stadium, meeting all kinds of people and having all kinds of fun. After half time, we headed to a bar near our hotel so we could concentrate on the game. But after a while, I couldn’t stand the suspense and the back and forth of the game, so we decided to finish watching in our hotel room.
The hotel room turned out to be the most disgusting hotel I have even stayed in. I’m pretty sure someone tried to escape entrapment in our room, since the paint surrounding both the bathroom doorknob and the main doorknob was scraped off in what looked like a pattern of desperation. But since I am convinced that every time I watch Clemson play, they lose, I committed to the team and spent the final five minutes of what I’ve been told was an amazing game with my head in my hands, perched on the edge of an exceptionally dirty tub. And the Tigers won!
Kim and I jumped up and down and screamed like lunatics like every other Clemson fan. After we calmed down, I climbed onto the nasty bed with my sweatshirt on and my hood up, keeping as much of myself off of the sheets and pillows as possible. Thank God we were too high from our victory to think too much about our home for the night.
We got up and out early and explored the Hyde Park area of town. After a delicious breakfast, we made our way to the airport. We actually ran into our new friend Jim, and spent the time waiting for our flight home basking in the victory with all of the other Clemson fans proudly sporting their orange and purple.
It was an unforgettable trip of a lifetime, even though it only lasted under 36 hours. What an amazing way to start out my twelve month travel challenge! Spontaneous and short, but filled with nonstop laughs and great times.