Holy cow! Have I got a Saturday planned.
So, about a half-decade ago, I fled Park City in my Forester with exactly $3.78 in loose change a half-eaten ‘neath-the-seat Slim Jim and an interior covered in Border Collie hair. The car finally broke down on the Central Coast of California and it’s here I’ve been living ever since—watching housing prices desperately try to keep time with the Bay Area as the job market floods with newbie Cal Poly polyglot brocoders each spring.
It has been, in other words, a long time since I’ve been both mentally and physically ‘back’ to Utah. But lo, a quarterly budget-centric, um, you know, examination of our credit card bill and my significant other (who moonlights during the day as an accountant) feels the $80/month spent on a
storage unit windowless Airbnb rental near the Kimball Junction McDonald’s (#doubledrivethru) is a drain on both mental and monetary resource. It got to the point where I couldn’t even say the word ‘park’ without inducing a cringe-worthy cringe.
And so, she generously volunteered for 26 hours of solo parenting in exchange for me to go ahead and hop two states over to clean out my past. I agreed and decided it’d be a morning flight there and an afternoon flight back, with nary the time to make a lunch date in between; my tacit acknowledgement that this was an all-about-business trip.
But what of your stuff, she asked. I said I’d either drop it at the Park City thrift (where you can still score last year’s Bogner onesie for under $100…sequined and fur-lined and all) or carry-on/ship some of the more keepable keepsakes back. Nope. That was a no-go. I won’t bog down with the details or take my creative license to misquote the conversation (it’s already a sore enough spot) but I will say, to you and to our generous reading public, she is 100 percent right. That I didn’t just blow two grand to have a bunch of skis and half-tees sit in a shed only to let it flick away into the rarefied Utah mountain ether like a MGD wrapper skipping behind the Circle K Dumpster.
I could, in other words, be recovering the Ark of the Covenant or three giant bags of plastic spiders. It doesn’t matter. It’s coming home.
So, I present to you Kyle, the itinerary of my ballsiest/most comprehensive and audacious Western States road trip to date.
Saturday, Nov. 14:
6:15 a.m. — Check in at San Luis Obispo international (state one, Calfornia. Check). At SBP, there is a single airline agent who also checks your bags, puts ‘em on the plane, sells granola bars at the magazine rack and even works the Avis counter. San Luis Obispo is no hub and there’s always a connector to be had, but the longest I’ve had to wait to be scanned by the 92-years-young TSA agent waving the old-school wand is about three minutes…whether I have ID on me or not.
8:20 a.m. — Wheels down at PHX/Sky Harbor (state two, Arizona. Check)…Resist the urge to Uber it to the Coach House in Scottsdale to down a $4 morning pitcher of Coors heavy and pretend it’s Spring Training already during my two-hour layover. Note: Upon Terminal B to Terminal A gate switch OJ sprint, I had to pause and take a shot of this…yes, this awful goes down in AZ in fewer than two months:
Noon — SLC Int’l (state three, Utah. Check)…Pick up that azure Ford Focus and be on my way from the best airport in the world to ever get to pick someone up at: SLC features a waiting corral/parking lot with flight arrival times up on a big board so you don’t have to keep circling and can read a book instead.
12:28 p.m. — Quick detour off the 15 en route to the 80 to Epic Brewing Company on State Street. Epic can’t give you sample pours in their brewhouse because they’re all high-point suds. Clever blue laws Utah. In the five years since I left, Epic went from a single vat, double bro-with-beards operation in the shadow of the Temple to a pretty big Utah/Colorado macro-micro movement that sticks with its roots in providing not-too-hopnoxious flavors to the local climbers and riders. Can’t wait to clink clink clink out of there.
1:09 p.m. — Sunridge Perimeter Trailhead Snyderville, (suburban Park City) USA. Kyle, I can’t NOT go out and do a quick out-and-back on one of my favorite aspen-lined tacky single-tracks of all time. My lungs won’t be acclimated and I’m 10 pounds of baby weight not yet shed more than my last time out. But this is 50 minutes I’m going to take to stretch my legs, breathe in that pure Utah mountain cush and re-set.
2:05 p.m. — El Chubasco. (Translation: The Chubasco). If you’re ever around the Wasatch Back, be sure to check out the salsa bar that most salsa bars dream of becoming (hint: try the mango). Unfortunately, I’m taking this to go.
3:01 p.m. — Back on the 15 pointing south. Look out Provo, St. George, Northwest corner of Arizona…I’m coming down hawt. Setting the cruise control at a responsible 82 and looking for that sub 5 hour, 30 minute throwdown to state number four which is…
7:49 p.m. — Viva Las Henderson, Nevada. No, my math’s not wrong, I gained an hour getting back to PST. Second-half wagering on the Oregon/Stanford game at the Green Valley Ranch Sports & Race Book awaits.
Sunday, Nov. 15
6:14 a.m.— Bid farewell to my host family (former college roommates) and their three daughters and his kegerator. And get back on the 15 for the homestretch 420 miles. Barstow to Bako to SLO.
12:39 p.m. — Back at SLO int’l. Crack open an Epic and transfer gear from rental car to full-time car. Remember that no matter where you are, it’s there that you are.
Oregon +8/5 @ Stanford
Is this the wrong time to profess I had a dream this week that Oregon was leading 45-25 in the fourth quarter? I don’t believe much in dreams Kyle, so I’ll go ahead and talk about the things I’ve learned in the waking hours from watching these two Pac-12 North rivals:
- Ducks’ OC Scott Frost is going down to The Farm for nothing less than a 3 hour 23 minute job interview for David Shaw’s gig. He’s got the Stanford pedigree (not to mention degree) and, you know, Ken Doll hair. Unlike Shaw, Frost doesn’t branch off the Harbaugh coaching tree but if the Stanford Tree needs a suitable sideline replacement next year to run the offense a bit more up-tempo, he’s the obvious choice.
- Oregon D coordinator Don Pellum’s DBs are starting to learn how to turn around and find their place in space. Plus Stanford’s Kevin Hogan can’t throw the ball more than 15 yards. True sophomore/NFL-bred RB Christian McCaffrey is the Cardinal offense’s singular attraction and will be tougher to bottle than genie Shaq. Pellum will let the son of Sir Edward Thomas have his 35 touches and 220 all-purpose and key in on the wideouts and tight ends instead. Oregon is 105th in the nation on points/yards allowed per game, but of late has an answer along the lines of 660-plus yards of total offense per game (777 last week). However, with so much ‘explosive offense’ hype happening pre-game, I’m feeling Oregon/Stanford will take it into the locker room 10-3 at the half before the six guns come out in the third.
- Oregon playcaller Vernon Adams is finally creating under center and he has shown the last three weeks that can be a dangerous post-graduate transfer when given a little wiggle room. Stanford’s D line is one of the better fronts in all of college football, but with Oregon’s chorus of five-star RBs starting to find their extra gears the Ducks could forestall the Cardinal from locking up that bid to the Pac-12 championship game for one more week.
SJSU +1 @ Nevada
The Spartans and the Wolfpack have transposed records (4-5 vs. 5-4) but San Jose State is a better team with a tougher schedule. Spartans’ running back Tyler Ervin is top two in the Mountain West in rushing yards (1,239) and total touchdowns (14). Of those 14 touchdowns, a dozen came on the ground and a handful are of the 20-plus yard variety. That’s gamebreaking speed that probably won’t slow much in the communion wafer-thin Reno air. The Wolfpack’s D-line is anchored by Ian Seau and Lenny Jones who know how to sneak into the backfield like it’s the buffet at the Peppermill. But once Ervin is sprung into the Pack’s secondary, it’s on.
Last week, San Jose State juco transfer quarterback junior Kenny Potter had the Spartans rolling in the first three quarters against BYU and was a PAT away from a tie and some overtime action at home. If the Spartans’ defensive front seven can similarly contain the increasingly dangerous Wolfpack RB tandem of James Butler and Don Jackson and apply their formidable pass rush to QB Tyler Stewart—who when the heat is on is less light on his feet than Gary Busey doing the Nae Nae!—SJSU should leave Mackay Stadium with a dust of snow on the helmet and a minor upset.
Minnesota +12 @ Iowa
Kyle, I gotta say Minnesota has been getting better every quarter in the bid to keep HC Tracy Claeys employed. A couple weeks ago, the Golden Gophers barely let Harbaugh and co. out of Minneapolis with a complimentary set of little brown jugs (which I only just now realized wasn’t a euphemism for over-spray-tanned strippers). Last week, Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes looked like they were dying to let one slip in a really big way against the Gophers and their suddenly stingy D. For three-and-a-half quarters, the pre-season favorite to repeat looked like they were going to sleepwalk to their first L at home in a calendar year.
This week, it’s a different type of ____eyes the Gophers are attempting to derail. Iowa has the opportunity to be 10-0 for the first time in school history and is carrying a giant head of team steam into the CFP top four if this week’s SI jinx doesn’t create a ripple. The Grapple on the Gridiron event Saturday morning outside Kinnick Stadium should surpass 40k and all those folks queuing up at the cornfield to see a bunch of racist baseball players—and James Earl Jones—under the lights, have made their way to Iowa City.
Is this heaven? No, it’s a school that finally is in the spotlight enough to have an alternate uniform. Props to The Guy Who Looks Like the Guy Who You Want to Be Your Next-door Neighbor Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz for taking a shot back this week at Fox-sponsored bag ‘o wind Colin Cowherd and his brand of assured drivel infused with not-so-informed hatespeech. This, and the fact that Iowa can replace a vestigial SEC franchise during the January bowl miasma, is enough for me to root for them to get over, but just barely, on the Gophers.
Kyle, would you like to join me on the road?
I’m jealous of every aspect of your trip, save one. Dropping off a rental car is one of the most painful experiences known to man. OK, maybe not man who owns one of Carroll Shelby’s famed rides or some obnoxious one-percenter who waxes every weekend and bristles at watering restrictions, but the rest of us. Look, even if you opt for the Focus or a souped-up Go-Kart like an Aveo, it’ll nearly always have a nicer interior (and probably exterior) than your current whip. There’s no coffee stain on the front seat. Your dog hasn’t tracked 10 pounds of the world inside with her after countless trips to the beaches and trails and post office (where she always finds the most fascinating dead animal to roll in.) It’s almost always a product of the current administration’s auto policy and carries a music system that will make yours sounds like an eighth grade band concert. Cousin Michael learned all seven notes to Jingle Bells.
For a brief time in the sun, you get to drive the living shit out of a new car. I’ve never not repeatedly redlined a rental and really opened that sucker up. You’ve got a God-given opportunity to cover a lot of not-real-populated desert real fast on your way between the two intermountain meccas of Mormonism and Payday Loanism. I envy that most of all, and I’m not even a motorhead.
Onto the picks…
Oklahoma State -14 @ Iowa State
This may be more of a sure thing than the over on 60 in this game. Mike Gundy is firmly in ‘look-at-me’ mode with his 9-0 OSU charges this weekend. The team is on the outside looking into the playoff right now, so it’s vital they build their case in the most sadistic way possible in Ames against a sad-sap 3-6 ISU team coming off a throttling at the hands of Oklahoma. That means Gundy will be turning his quarterback JW Walsh loose both early and often and also late and frequently when the Pokes are up many, many points. The Cowboys need a(nother) statement after beating TCU last week. They also need so, so much insurance because a frankly unimpressively-scheduled Baylor Bears team plays a strong Oklahoma team on Saturday (more on that in a moment) before the two get together next week. If Baylor were to lose to the Sooners, big, bloody wins are going to be OSU’s best argument to lay at the feet of the playoff committee. A victory in Ames needs to be decisive, and I imagine that’ll happen.
Oklahoma +3 @ Baylor
Boomer! How did the 8-1 Sooners ever lose to Texas? That’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery. I can tell you how they’ll keep it real close on 8-0 Baylor and maybe even win. That’ll be by the Bears continuing their maybe-we’re-not-that-dominant trend. In the past four weeks, their margin of victory has dropped from 59 versus Kansas to 24 vs. WVU to 18 vs. ISU to 7 vs. Kansas State. OU’s Bob Stoops is both a slightly better coach and a man with far superior talent to the band-aids and walk-ons Bill Snyder rides to winning records every year. Art Briles’ bunch at Baylor just haven’t seen this kind of attack in Waco (<<S.E.O. S.E.O.!) Oklahoma hasn’t given up more than a touchdown in a road game since week 2 and they’re eyeing upcoming dates with TCU and OSU to bolster their playoff resume, too. I expect OU to come out on top.
BYU @ Mizzou +6.5
Everybody knows what happened at MU this week so I’ll spare our readers the re-hash. The key thing to remember is that Gary Pinkel stood by his guys, and then on Friday announced his impending retirement due to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I like the idea of a siege-mentality team, even a 4-5 one, coming out to fucking play against a 7-2 Cougars team who last saw real competition before Hotline Bling dropped.