A Guide to Following Cal Football on the Road, highly colored by One Man’s Experiences and Personal Tastes.
Sure, sure, I love Saturdays in the fall at Memorial Stadium as much as the next man who bleeds blue and gold, but some of my favorite college (and post-college!) memories have come via that time-honored college tradition: the road trip. By hitting the road, you get to see the country (or at least the West Coast), meet new and interesting people, cheer on your Bears in the midst of a hostile crowd, and never miss a Saturday of college football. Ever wonder how the Memorial Stadium experience stacks up against the rest of the Pac-10? Ever wanted to taunt USC fans as they file dejectedly out of their own homecoming game? I’ve done it, and let me tell you, it’s pretty sweet.
Still, not everyone can afford (or has the time) to see every Cal game in person. Choices must be made. Thus, for the road-trip uninitiated, what follows is my personal ranking of which Pac-10 destinations make the best road trips. No consideration will be made for the relative strength of the teams involved, which will change from year to year. However, I do take into consideration a Bay Area home base; obviously, if you now live in Southern California, making the drive to the Rose Bowl is no great shakes, but I’ve never lived outside the Bay Area, and this is my list, so I make the rules. Finally, Stanford will not be considered; if you can go to the game and still sleep in your own bed that night, it’s not a road trip.
Aaanyway, with that, let’s take a look at who finished at #8:
#8 - Washington State
The last time I took a trip to the University of Washington, I stopped in their Student Store to check out the merchandise. Inside, they were selling large purple pins that read "All Dirt Roads Lead To Pullman". Big City University vs. State Ag College partisanship aside, it’s a pretty apt description. Pullman, Washington, where Washington State is located, might not be the middle of nowhere, but it sure is in the area code. If all you’re looking for in a road trip is a football game, Wazzu will do you just fine; however, if you’re looking for something, anything else to do, well, good luck with that, son.
There’s a college…aaaand that’s about it.
My first (and so far, only) trip to Pullman was quite an arduous journey. First off, it’s much to far to drive (at least if you can’t skip a couple days of class/work). From Oakland, we had to fly to Portland and change planes just to get to Spokane, and once there, it’s an hour and a half drive south through wheat and not much else.
Reasons to go to Wazzu:
- You’ve never been before.
- Can’t stand to miss a football weekend.
- The game isn’t on TV and radio doesn’t cut it for you.
- The locals are friendly.
- Cougar Cheese is pretty tasty.
- It’s really close to Idaho, in case you’re like me and have a need to visit all 50 states.
- There’s something ‘wonderfully calming’ about Big Sky country. I don’t know why the sky is bigger, but it really is.
Martin Stadium isn’t one of college football’s great venues, but certainly nothing to complain about.
Reasons to stay home and listen to Starkey:
- There’s nothing interesting to do in, around, or anywhere near Pullman. Seriously. Pullman’s Wikipedia page lists Wazzu and the National Lentil Festival as its main — indeed, only — attractions. Myself, I get bored just contemplating a festival devoted to lentil.
- It’s a pain in the butt to actually get to Pullman.
- If the game’s in November, rest assured that the weather will be brutal.
- ‘Wonderfully calming’ is a nice synonym for ‘lull-you-to-sleep boring’.
I don’t want to make Wazzu sound like a bad experience; it’s not. In fact, I’ve never had a road trip I didn’t enjoy (besides the game, of course, and with the possible exception of that trip to Fresno in 2000). It’s just that, well, there’s not a whole lot to recommend a trip to Pullman besides college football. Did I enjoy myself? Sure. Will I ever go back? Eh, probably not.