For the Most Part, a Great Trip
by Jim Alderson, 1/8/02

I certainly hope other Hokies had smoother sailing on the trip home from Jacksonville than I. Extending the trip by spending Wednesday at a friend’s Myrtle Beach condo seemed sound in theory but in practice did not work out so hot. It began well enough, humorously observing the television news at seven am over coffee and what was referred to by the Holiday Inn web site as ‘free breakfast,’ as panic-stricken Jacksonville weatherpersons screeched about an impending ice and snow storm and encouraged everyone to run for their lives -- forecasts sponsored, naturally, by area grocery stores.

It was decided that this was Florida, after all, and things wouldn’t be that bad, so we set sail for Myrtle. Sure enough, things weren’t bad at all, and after making terrific time over Georgia and South Carolina roads clear of any precipitation, we arrived shortly after noon to a Myrtle Beach that can best be described as Dante’s Inferno with the fires turned off. When one thinks ‘Myrtle Beach’ one usually does not conjure up visions of a cold, gray sky spitting freezing rain and an icy wind howling off the ocean.

Nevertheless, there are worse ways to spend time than an afternoon spent sipping brown liquor and staring at the ocean from a warm living room followed by a dinner of fresh seafood and an evening spent observing the charms of employees of the Crazy Horse. It was the next morning the problems began.

This time, breakfast was spent watching Wilmington, North Carolina television stations not engaging in theoretical speculation of weather patterns but broadcasting images of deep snow over most of our direct route home. We figured, again, that things wouldn’t be that bad and I-40 would be clear by the time we got on it, and, of course, we figured wrong.

The jaunt up US 17 to Wilmington was clear and we rolled onto I-40 full of what turned out to be a false confidence. Things soon got a lot worse, particularly in Raleigh. The Public Works Department of Danville, Virginia has a well-earned reputation of being the worst in the world at clearing streets of snow, and it would appear the North Carolina counties of Wake and Durham are only slightly less inept. The RTP region contains one of the highest concentrations of doctoral degrees in the country, but of all of that education, none seems to have been in the science of removing snow from highways. It was a mess. Russian Hokie’s relatives still residing in the mother country have an easier time crossing the tundra that we did navigating I-40 through Raleigh and Durham.

When the Cary exit appeared, I gave serious consideration to showing up at Kevin’s front door demanding home brew and announcing that we would be staying for a day or two. To what I imagine is great relief on the part of Kevin’s wife [although Nathan would probably have gotten a kick out of playing in the snow with us], we didn’t, and continued our luge run, finally arriving home after an arduous trek some four hours longer than it normally would be, leaving me so exhausted that I could do nothing more than collapse into my recliner and sleep through every last Rose Bowl play. I’m told Miami won, and congratulations to the Canes for bringing the Sears Trophy to the Big East.

I received news of the Canes victory while reading newspapers on the Internet the next day. As for the Gator Bowl, football games are almost always won by the team that puts together the best combination of running the ball while stopping the opponent from doing the same. That is what Florida State did, and they won. A solid effort by Grant Noel couldn’t overcome that rather basic tenet of football. Those who spent a good part of the year blaming Grant because genetics did not as generously endow him as his predecessor should pay more attention to the offensive line, which was the major problem with this year’s team. They could push around the inferior defenses that comprised much of Tech’s schedule, but they had serious problems when faced with quality ones. As in 99, Florida State was superior to Tech on both lines.

Except for the 99 Sugar Bowl, I rarely get hung up on bowl wins or losses, generally because I have little to do with the outcome. I regard them as a reward for me, and I again had fun in Jacksonville. From spending another New Year’s Eve strolling around Jacksonville, again running into people also from Danville who live just up the street from me that I almost never see here, to being hailed by Frank, who informed me he liked these missives, generating among my companions the bellowing of ‘Big Head Alert’ first utilized by my brother to combat what is regarded by some as a healthy ego, to the ‘Hug a Hokie’ campaign instituted along the Landing by someone who, once he put six hundred miles between he and his girlfriend, behaved exactly as she had feared, to my knack for cadging meals from opposition fans as I was invited to a magnificent tailgate spread by friendly Noles that included Bobbi Nute, an engaging young lady whom I promised to mention in this column and hope to meet again.

Tech bowl fan support, as always, was terrific, and was exemplified by the guy I met at halftime who had broken an indeterminate number of ribs during what he referred to as hotel room ‘roughhousing’ [I didn’t pry] and was in such pain that he could barely stand upright but steadfastly refused to seek medical attention until after the game. That is the Hokie spirit that keeps getting us invited to good bowl games. Except for the Fourth Quarter and I-40, I had a great time.

Jim Alderson, who first made his mark with his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports.  While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1.  For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.


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