After a few thousand miles and around 35 hours of driving, Onward State made it down and back to Atlanta for Penn State football’s Peach Bowl game.
During our longest road trip of the year, the blog went on some unique adventures. The trip, the football beat’s last of the year, was bittersweet but special. Let’s take a look at what Onward State did driving to and from Atlanta and everything in between.
With the body of Christmas Present still warm, we started our journey south. In-person media availabilities began Wednesday morning, and the drive from Central Pennsylvania to Atlanta was our longest of the year, so we hit the road early on December 26.
The drive to the game included only four of our five beat members, as the powers that be (Mrs. DeAngelis) kept our photographer Mikey from driving down with us the day after Christmas. Designated blog driver CJ Doebler met up with Hailey Stutzman in the Harrisburg area before the two of them picked up Nolan Wick and me outside of Washington, D.C.
It didn’t take long for us to reach the Virginia border, which began an atrociously long drive south of our nation’s border. A pit stop at a Panera broke up the drive, at which point media week started with a Zoom call with James Franklin and two players.
The drive through Virginia and both Carolinas brought nothing but rain and exhaustion as CJ handed the wheel off for the first time in the entire season. After we all tried Cook-Out for the first time, yours truly took the wheel for a drive through hell. Dark skies and intense rain made the road impossible to see for a while, but eventually, the weather cleared up and we reached Atlanta.
After driving in circles around our hotel for 30 minutes, we finally found parking, checked into the hotel, and went right to bed.
The real work began early Wednesday morning as we spoke with Ja’Juan Seider, Ty Howle, and a handful of players for our first in-person availability of the week. We attended the press conference, checked in to get our press passes and complimentary water bottles, and started writing our first sidebars.
We also went to open practice for Penn State and rushed around trying to get all the stock photos we could in a 15-minute time span while also being impressed by the size of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
While (for good reason) no pictures were taken of the blog watching USC’s Holiday Bowl game against Louisville, believe that our in-house Trojan fan had the time of his life to wrap up the blog’s first full day in Atlanta.
After another day of press conferences and sidebars, the blog finally learned how to have some fun. We walked a few blocks through Olympic Park to reach the Georgia Aquarium. We saw sea otters, beluga whales, jellyfish, and even a whale shark. It was awesome.
Friday was the blog’s coolest day. I laid eyes on the man who ruined my life between 2010 and 2013, Lane Kiffin, and we all got some great stories out of the last day of media availabilities. With work done and photographer Mikey on the scene, the gang went to the world-famous Coke museum, which is next door to the aquarium.
Later that night, four blog members went to the Peach Bowl media party while Mikey shot the Hawks game happening down the road. With unlimited arcade games and an open bar, fun times were had by all.
Saturday morning and afternoon, well, you already know how that went. After dashing back to the hotel and eating too many soft-shell tacos, the blog hit the road to go back home. We had a long drive ahead of us and wanted to break it up to make it home for New Year’s. Hailey also brought along a new penguin friend.
We made it through Georgia, South Carolina, and a good part of North Carolina before stopping in Greensboro for the night at an unexpectedly nice hotel.
After getting to the hotel at midnight the night prior, we hit the road at 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning. A slog through our now-least favorite state, Virginia, brought us to Maryland, which is where our story ended.
While most of us got home at 5 p.m., the road trip really ended when we said goodbye to Nolan at 2 p.m. Nolan went home before CJ drove Mikey, Hailey, and I to Harrisburg, where Hailey took Mikey and I to her house near Philadelphia, from where Mikey and I went to our respective homes.
All in all, the blog had another successful road trip. Penn State football may have gone 0-1 against Ole Miss, but Onward State always goes 1-0 against the competition. Every. Time.
We’ll see you next year folks when our next road trip recap will come on the road to Morgantown.