Fall, Family, and Football at Notre Dame

127

I told y’all we’ve been traveling a lot lately–one trip each month since May–and last weekend was our October trip.  Thanks to the generosity of one of my oldest and dearest friends, we had tickets to the Notre Dame vs. USC game, so we headed up for some football and a visit with Teddy, who is a Junior now.

This was my third visit to Notre Dame–John and I brought Teddy up to begin his college career, and then I returned that Spring for Moms’ Weekend.  John was the one who drove him up to see the campus when he was in high school, and he’s been up briefly to pick him up a few times, but since Teddy has a car now we hadn’t had any reason to visit since his first year.

We left on Friday with the idea of arriving early.  Can I laugh at our hopeful plans?  First we couldn’t even make it out of Knoxville for one reason or another until almost two hours after we left our house.  Then en route we had to sit unmoving for 1.5 hours because of a wreck that shut down the bridge over the Ohio River.  So it was after 9 p.m. when we finally arrived.  We blundered about a bit because I was driving and I can’t see so well in the dark until we were able to find the parking lot where Teddy wanted to meet us so we could have a late dinner together.

I got my hugs, which is my favorite part, and we had a good time talking over supper.  Teddy probably would have been good to hang out some more but we are old and tired and still had to get to our hotel (12 miles away because football).

The football game was a night game, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m., so I asked Teddy what time we would need to arrive at the game.  He said tailgating started by noon (actually, it starts even earlier!).  I asked who was having a tailgate? “Everyone,” he answered.  I asked which ones we were going to, and he replied, “All of them.”

Well, that turned out to be an exaggeration, but it was still pretty amazing.  We made a trip to the bookstore first–which was predictably a zoo, but I needed a sweatshirt–and then spent about five hours taking in the spectacle that is Notre Dame tailgating.

124

131

The pictures really don’t give a sense of the full scope of the thing, with an enormous parking lot pretty much completely given over to revelry.  Tents, televisions, generators, tiki bars, rows and rows of porta-potties, food of all kinds (we sampled brats, burgers, and burritos, to name just a few), and naturally freely-flowing alcohol (insert Irish stereotype here).

I’m not a seasoned tailgater, so perhaps the above isn’t so unusual, but there were definitely some uniquely Notre Dame touches:

129

The tents we visited were hosted by parents of Teddy’s friends, many of whom attend all the home games.  It was good to meet them, and also to talk to Teddy’s friends and hear them say nice things about him.  And to see him get irritated when they heard us calling him Teddy instead of Theo (his preference) and tried to follow suit.

We were ready to head to the stadium before Teddy was, him having no interest in the pre-game activities.  So around 6:30 we left the party and headed over.  To me it was a thrill just to enter the stadium.  Not that anything can top Neyland Stadium here in Knoxville, but there’s just something about Notre Dame football.

122

It was sunset when we arrived, and not too cold yet, but that was soon to change.

133

We were pleased with our seats–we had a good view of the field and of the famous Touchdown Jesus.

137

135

All colleges have special traditions and ways of doing things.  Notre Dame may have more than most.  Of course I appreciated that when the players run out onto the field they all fall to their knees at the end of the field and pray before the game begins.  Yet there was no invocation before the game–perhaps that’s a Southern thing?  Every time they announced their fight song they let us know that it’s the best one ever (I forget the exact words they use but the phrase is always the same).  In general, Notre Dame fans and for that matter their alumni seem more insanely devoted than people from other schools.

Anyway, we enjoyed the new experience–and the win–but not the rapidly falling temperature; it was 37 degrees by the time the game was over and we went to find Teddy.  There was still some tailgating going on–one of our hosts sang an Irish tune for us before we headed back to our car.  Thankfully, Teddy lives off campus just a short walk away, and was able to get us free parking there; non-residents normally pay $35 on game days.

The next morning we drove back to campus to hang out with Teddy for a little while, which gave me an opportunity to take some Fall pictures:

140

144

146

142

150

We ended up at the Grotto to say a prayer before heading back to Knoxville.

148

There were no blocked bridges on the way home, thankfully.

We will visit Notre Dame again for Junior Parents’ Weekend in February, after which you will likely be seeing some pictures of a snow-covered campus!

Fall, Family, and Football

Hey It's Good to Be Back Home Again . . .

. . . after ten days away! (about which much more later, I hope!)
The last time we went to Baltimore, our house burned down.  So I think we were all a little nervous and were happy to come home to this:

Two of three kitties have yet to put in an appearance, though, so say some prayers that they come home soon. (Yes, we had someone caring for them while we were gone.)
The primary purpose of this trip was to look at colleges for Teddy, a rising senior, and I will write more about that in another post.  This made for a lot of driving and hotel changes and being at places at certain times, which made this a less relaxing trip than last year’s.  It was the kind of vacation you need to recover from.
We started last Saturday and drove straight to Baltimore, arriving too late to do anything more than crash.  We made two changes in our usual vacation protocol this year, two expensive but necessary changes:  we drove two cars and booked three rooms.  For years, John and I have shared a room with the little people while the three big kids stayed together. This time, Emily shared with the kids, Jake and Teddy were together, and John and I were blessedly alone until the last couple of days when we took William off Emily’s hands to give her a much-needed break.
We have a minivan that seats seven, but with the size of our boys, the amount of stuff we needed to bring (and knowing we would be acquiring more before we came home) and the fact that some members of our family are irritable while others are irritating, we had Teddy drive his car as well.  So the big kids followed us and Teddy did a spectacular job of driving in unfamiliar and challenging territory.
So last Sunday we indulged ourselves in our hotel’s outdoor pool for a few hours before heading to John’s mother’s house.  We visited for awhile then went out for crabs.

I’ve loved crabs since my very first crab feast 25 summers ago, and now the kids love them too and are quite expert at picking them. (What exactly some of the stuff is that we are discarding doesn’t bear thinking about.)  Even William, who takes picky to a-whole-nother level, LOVES crabs.  After dinner, we went back to Grandmom’s house for dessert–which means four or five different choices!
Our first college visit was the following morning, just a day trip to Georgetown, our alma mater, only an hour away in D.C.  We followed that with a trip to a monument the kids didn’t even know existed, visiting Theodore Roosevelt Island.


We drove around D.C. for awhile.  Traffic was bad and parking practically impossible.  Jake struck out on his own to see the Lincoln Memorial and the White House, while the rest of us drove to the Tidal Basin (where parking is free) and took a quick look (and a bathroom break) at the Jefferson Memorial.  There’s a nice museum at the lower level that is new since my last visit.  Next time we do D.C. we will remember to leave the car and take the Metro.

The plan was to head back to Baltimore for supper, but we just happened to see an old college favorite, The Dubliner.  After we parked we learned there was an hour wait!  So we went next door to another Irish pub instead.
We departed Baltimore for New Jersey on Tuesday, stopping there just long enough for a college visit at Princeton University before heading to New Haven, Connecticut.  The following morning was our Yale University visit, and then we drove to Warwick, Rhode Island.  We were so tired by this time that John and I and the little kids just chilled at the hotel for the evening–John took them swimming–while the big kids went out exploring and finally to a movie.
The next morning was a real highlight of the trip for me.  An online blogging friend–Laura Rossi–learned I was in her home state, and took the time to come to my hotel to bring me a muffin and have coffee!  We had a great time talking and our visit was much too short.  I still smile when I think about it.
After we checked out we drove into Newport, Rhode Island.  It was frustrating that all our visits had to be so brief this time.  There is so much to do and see in Newport, where I have been before because I have family in the area (who I wish I had had time to visit!).  Right now I am so exhausted that I don’t even want to think about traveling, but I know we need to get back up to some of these places for more leisurely trips in the future.
Anyway, our main purpose for the Newport visit was to try a new beach.  We went to Easton’s Beach, which the locals call First Beach.  I think it might be my favorite beach of all time.  From the parking lot to the water is only a few hundred feet!  I’m used to trudging what seems like miles over hot sand to get to a place to sit.  It’s also a narrow beach, almost like a cove, so even the big boys couldn’t get out of sight.  And yet there are plenty of good waves.  We could have done without the red seaweed that remained in the little kids’ hair until the next day, but we had a lovely few hours there.




After washing off the sand we went for a short drive to see the Newport Mansions from the outside, then parked downtown and found a place to have dinner.  We would have liked to walk around afterwards because there are tons of shops there but we were just too worn out, and we still had to drive to our next stop before bed.
The next stop was kind of a dump in Malden, Massachusetts, just past Boston.  Seriously, we drove through the exciting lit up big city and across a cool bridge with purple lights and then we were all like, what kind of neighborhood are we staying in?  It didn’t look as bad by daylight.  But hotels any closer to Boston are very expensive.
Boston roads are full of those traffic circles and we did have a small amount of trouble finding our way but we made it to our appointment at Harvard University the next morning in time.  When we were finished there we took the T (that’s Boston’s subway) to Beacon Hill to have lunch at Cheers.  It’s a tourist trap, really, but still kind of fun to say we did it.  The sad thing is that the show ruined the pub that inspired it.
After that we had big plans.  I’ve been to Boston before–the only one in my family who has–and I wanted to take them on the Freedom Trail.  We were all really excited about it.  Except this was the first really hot day of the vacation.  And we were full.  And worn out from the rigors of the trip so far.  We started walking through the Public Gardens to Boston Commons and by the time we found a bathroom everyone was so wiped out that those crappy motel rooms were starting to seem very inviting.



So we trudged to the nearest T stop, rode back to Harvard Square, went through an unbelievable ordeal and paid $27 to retrieve our car (we took only one car unless we were traveling between cities), and drove back to the lovely Econo Lodge, where we ordered Indian food for the little kids (the best meal of the trip, per William) and Chinese for the rest of us and vegged in the AC the rest of the night.
That brings us to Saturday, when we drove from Boston all the way back to Baltimore, where we were lucky to find rooms given the storm which had left hundreds of thousands of people without power and looking for refuge from the searing heat in all the local hotels.  We got there in time for an evening swim before going out in search of dinner, and then it was back to the hotel and a late night for me doing laundry as we were all almost out of clothes.
Sunday included swimming and more laundry, and then we met the family at Squire’s, an old favorite of theirs and of almost everyone else in Dundalk as far as I can tell.   Then we went by John’s grandmother’s house (which his mother is working on clearing out and selling) and acquired some new possessions while Jake and Teddy carried several heavy boxes down to the basement.  Finally it was back to Grandmom’s for more dessert and conversation.
John wanted to stay an extra day but he was the only one.  The rest of us were very anxious to get home, and it took us about eleven hours yesterday to accomplish that, counting multiple bathroom stops!
So far today I’ve already driven Jake across town to pick up his girlfriend, gone grocery shopping, done multiple loads of laundry, and written some client letters.  But I’m so happy to be home that it’s all good. 🙂