There were not many good things to discuss after Saturday’s catastrophe in The Swamp, but it couldn’t all be bad, right?
I’ll put that awful game in the rearview mirror soon enough, but first, I must discuss my first trip to Gainesville. A sign I’d always seen on I-75 heading south for vacation, my first trip to Gainesville was obviously not the best, but it had its moments.
A Surprisingly Pleasant Place
When you think of Florida, usually the first thoughts are of the beach or Disney World. For me, my mind goes straight to run down strip malls and cheap tourist attractions. While we did see plenty of billboards for Ron Jon Surf Shop and “Check out a 14′ Alligator,” once we made it into town, it was nothing like I pictured.
The Florida campus is like most schools in the SEC. The campus is massive, filled with old brick buildings and giant trees to provide much-needed shade. Everywhere you turn, the scenery is fantastic.
The Pregame Ceremonies
The differing pageantry of each school makes the experience worthwhile. The marching band wielded a giant drum adorned with a gator, placed just outside of the band’s formation that outlined the state of Florida. Of all the places I’ve been to, their signature pregame ritual of “Two Bits” is hands-down the worst of the worst, especially when you throw Joahkim Noah into the mix. It could have been worse, it could have been South Carolina’s Sandstorm.
A Gutted O-Dome
As painful as it was to have them throw their basketball national championships in our face, it was nice to see the O-Dome in ruins during their renovation with the front of it completely ripped out.
The security surrounding The Swamp was similar to what you might in see in movies where America is under attack. Military vehicles filled with camouflaged personnel were seen every few blocks. On top of the buildings adjacent to the stadium were snipers, ensuring we had a safe stay at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
A Crowded Cat Walk
The fans that make the road trips are without a doubt the most dedicated, especially when you know success is not likely. It’s always fun to hear why they made the trip; I found a friend from school I didn’t know moved to Tampa, and a crew that had checked off the list their 12th SEC stadium.
Most of the fans were actually family members. With 14 players from the state of Florida, the entire extended family in attendance, adorned in homemade t-shirts to show their support. Chris Westry’s family probably had the best, just ahead of Boom Williams’. That extended family also included former teachers, who could not have been more proud, win, lose or draw.
The trip didn’t feature too many highs, so we made our own on the way home. After passing the “Plantation House” and “Magnolia Plantation” gas station/gargantuan convenience store approximately 26 times, I finally went inside to see what the place had to offer. With manual gas pumps and a gazillion pecans, Georgia’s Plantation House did not disappoint.
It’s fitting that the best part of this crappy trip to Gainesville was a pair boxer briefs at a gas station.