Road trips are as essential to the college experience as all-nighters and cheap beer. From the moment I knew we would be facing FSU in Tallahassee, I knew I had to make the trip up north to to watch my beloved Canes take on our arch rival, the Seminoles. Here is what transpired:
3:18 p.m. And so it begins. My buddy Max, his roommate Chris and I cram into a 2004 Hyundai Elantra and pick up my roommate and good friend from home, Andi. As we crawl down U.S. 1, Dan LeBatard reminds us how hopelessly overmatched UM is and how FSU will make short work of the Canes. “We’ll see,” I think to myself.
3:31 p.m. After a solid 13 minutes in the car, inching down the asphalt hell that is U.S. 1 on a weekday afternoon, it is already an approximate 115 °F. The Miami weather is apparently oblivious to the fact that it’s November.
3:46 p.m. Max, a big proponent of the “slamming the breaks at the last possible moment” school of driving, just gave somebody the finger as we continue to be stuck in traffic purgatory. Vegas set the over/under at 31 ½ for the trip. I’m taking the over.
4:05 p.m. Second near-death experience courtesy of Max’s insane NY-style driving.
5:25 p.m. I flash the “U” at an FSU fan we’re passing. Clearly annoyed he gives me a sarcastic thumbs-up. Yup, we’re those guys.
5:56 p.m. A spirited Tallahassee discussion flares up. Max calls it a dump and Chris says “it’s not what you expect” which leaves me puzzled. We Google the population (186,000, in case you were wondering).
8:29 p.m. The last two hours featured me driving and an animated debate about whether “F**kin’ Problems” by A$AP Rocky featuring Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar is in the top 10 all-time best rap songs. I say no. Max says yes. So I proceed to introduce him to Mr. Shakur and “Hit ‘em up” claiming that that’s what rap should sound like and that it might even be No. 1.
8:41 p.m. Enter our first Cracker Barrel experience, complete with the first disapproving looks by some FSU-clad customers.
8:42 p.m. Chris proclaims that he might eat breakfast the rest of the weekend. He may be on to something.
8:44 p.m. We all order breakfast.
9:24 p.m. Back on the road and the first gun shop billboard in sight. Florida – the more north you go, the more south it gets.
10:45 p.m. Torrential downpour and lightning. A storm is coming. That’s a good omen for tomorrow, right? I like to think so.
10:46 p.m. There is an 87 percent chance our car was just struck by lightning. This trip is starting to feel like Homer’s Odyssey.
10:50 p.m. Violent rain showers start. I’ve never experienced this kind of weather engulf our car. Andi: “I can’t see anything.” Never something you want to hear the driver say.
12:14 a.m. Against the will of the gods, we do finally make it to Tallahassee and proceed to collapse on our Best Western beds while I try not to picture how many sweaty truckers have slept here before us. Good night world.
6:03 a.m. Waking up at six in the morning is never fun. But it’s especially rough when the room temperature is comparable to a frozen Tundra. The question of how cold/warm the room should be is the root of 99 percent of roommate feuds.
6:07 a.m. Of four college kids in their early-20s not one brought toothpaste. Talk about fueling the stereotype.
6:15 a.m. As we walk to breakfast, an FSU fan asks us if we’re suicidal. We’re dressed head to toe in orange and green. Might as well be.
7:03 a.m. We arrive at GameDay. There is no feeling like walking through enemy territory in the pitch black and then being surrounded by a sea of garnet and gold. It’s a mixture of chest-puffing defiance and sheer terror.
8:42 a.m. Lots of country music. I mean A LOT. 8:47 a.m. A solid hour of hearing the chop and we’re already close to blowing our brains out.
9:00 a.m. Here. We. Go. ESPN College GameDay finally starts.
9:10 a.m. Chris is making us very unpopular with the locals with repeated digs at FSU. We may get killed today.
9:15 a.m. After more than two hours of waiting and 15 minutes of actual broadcast, we’ve had enough of GameDay. We decide to instead explore the campus.
9:27 a.m. I urge everyone who plans on attending an away game to venture into the home team’s souvenir shop. Customers and employees alike stared at us like we were zombies. It’s quite an experience. Bonus points for asking where the UM section is.
9:43 a.m. Chris is hammered. I am not quite sure how it happened but this should be good.
10:26 a.m. Chick-fil-A. Ten bucks for four meals. Andi is in heaven.
10:45 a.m. Buying beer at Target turns into a 10-minute discussion of whether a cold Key Stone Light 12-pack is better than a 24-pack of warm PBR for the same price. We get both.
11:05 a.m. Our next stop: a sports bar called BJ’s. As an opposing fan in a college town like Tally you really feel like the main attraction wherever you go. Everyone has a comment. Everyone feels the need to give you his or her two cents – both good and bad. And all of it is awesome.
4:10 p.m. After a much-needed nap we make our way to the stadium and are now tailgating on top of a parking garage. Welcome to Tallahassee, ladies and gentlemen!
6:03 p.m. The last two hours featured some fierce games of cornhole, delicious shish kebabs and smooth tequila shots. All courtesy of Virgil, a UM alum from the 80s who took us in like lost puppies and once again proved that it’s a Canes family, not a nation.
7:26 p.m. After navigating through hordes of FSU fans we arrive at our seats. One look around me almost takes my breath away. This is unreal. I can’t believe I’m here.
8:12 p.m. It’s pretty intimidating to see a whole stadium do the war chop. I can only imagine the butterflies the players must feel.
8:30 p.m. FSU’s first touchdown. It’s like letting air out of a balloon. My fellow Canes and I are deflated.
8:39 p.m. Have you ever stood next to a Boeing 747 when it takes off? That’s how loud it is.
8:56 p.m. Allen Hurns catches a beautifully thrown Stephen Morris pass for a touchdown. 7-7. Pure bliss. Voice gone.
9:47 p.m. The Canes score again to cut the deficit to 21-14. Halftime. Believe.
10:39 p.m. FSU 35 – UM 14. So much for believing. At this point I think my hands have attached themselves to my hips. Total disbelief. Not just because of the score, but because I forgot how much this can hurt.
10:53 p.m. It’s the start of the fourth quarter, the Canes are down by 21 and yet, I can’t stop thinking about some miracle happening.
10:59 p.m. Morris throws a pick. I feel empty. My face is now buried in my hands.
11:02 p.m. I’m sitting down for the first time. It’s the unofficial white flag.
11:08 p.m. As the Canes are hopelessly overmatched (Damn you, LeBatard!) and trail the Seminoles by 24, Max goes: “We’re going to beat them in the ACC championship.” The endless optimist.
11:14 p.m. We left. I never leave games early, but this was too much. I have yet to see Miami beat Florida State in my time at UM. I am 0 for 4. The thought alone makes me sick. But no time for sulking. Not yet. First we have to take the walk of shame back to our car – head down, no one speaking a word. We’re not even retaliating as FSU fans taunt us. We are broken.
12:02 a.m. We get back to the hotel. I sink down on the couch, close my eyes and try to soothe my pounding headache. Maybe even forget this ever happened.
9:18 a.m. “Rise and shine,” Max and Chris drone. For a second everything is okay. Then I remember what happened. Ugh.
9:24 a.m. Max tells me that Duke is out for the season with a broken ankle. Sometimes the sports gods think it’s funny to kick you when you’re down.
11:52 a.m. We’re back on the road again and take our first meal of the day at Ker’s Winghouse near Gainesville. Andi is so enchanted by the drop-dead gorgeous waitress that it took him a solid five seconds to decide whether he wanted more water. It goes without saying that the clientele of this place is mostly male.
6:26 p.m. Finally, the last leg of our trip includes some napping, a few driving substitutions and some liberal interpretations of the speed limits. Then, over 48 hours after we left – home at last. The pain of the loss has still not completely left my body. But it is slowly being replaced by a feeling that one can best equate with hope. Maybe Max is right. Maybe we’ll have our revenge in the ACC championship game. After all, I can’t go 0 for 5. I just can’t.
words and photo_patrick riley.