In 2009, my brother and I went on a four bowl games in four days trip from December 26 through December 29. The four games we went to were the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte,, North Carolina, the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl in Nashville Tennessee, the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana and the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C.
Here is a recap of the entire trip off of my old website:
2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl: Pittsburgh versus North Carolina
2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl ticket stub
My brother and I left from outside Pittsburgh just after 6am. We drove 442 miles straight through to Charlotte and arrived around 1:15pm. The drive was pretty uneventful except for stop and go traffic about 30 miles outside of Charlotte, put that only delayed us maybe 5 minutes total.
We got off the interstate and Bank of America Stadium is right there just a few blocks away. Parking was plentiful as it seemed like anyone with a sign and an empty space would sell you a spot. Prices ranged from $25-$10 and what was amazing was the $10 was the only one in a paved lot that was in front of a business that wasn’t shuttered. It was actually a brand new office building with cameras around so it was an easy choice.
Since we got to Charlotte so early, we found a radio broadcast of the Little Caesars Bowl and listened to that until Marshall took the 21-0 lead. At this point we decided to walk around and find some tickets. Since we are on a budget, we were looking for the $35 upper deck seats.
outside Bank of America Stadium prior to the 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl
The Bowl only sold about 1/3 of the upper deck seats, limiting the sections they were available in to the 4 sections on each side between the 30 yard lines and the lower 1/2 of the sections from the end zones to the 30 yard lines. These tickets were actually the hardest to find on the street. Club seats ($100 face) could be had for around $75 each and the $65 face value seats were around $45 each. We got our $35 tickets for $30 each and I am sure we could have got them for $25 but the guy was nice so I didn’t even try to bargain.
The tickets were for the UNC side of the field, which led to a few interesting situations, right on the 40 yard line. Not bad at all since they were aisle seats and the rows started at row 5 due to the portal.
The Meineke Car Care Bowl had a nice area set up about a block from the stadium with a band and the usual assortment of fun activities, mainly geared toward kids. The Geico Gecko was there which seemed to have a large crowd of people. I was surprised to see that drinking was allowed in this area, but there was plenty of security around so there was no threat of anything getting out of hand in that area.
inside Bank of America Stadium for the 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl
Bank of America Stadium was very nice. It is your standard modern stadium with plenty of ramps, bathrooms and concessions. They offered Domino’s Pizza, Bojangles Chicken and JJR’s Pork along with your standard stadium fares like Hot Dogs, Popcorn and Nachos. 16oz beers ranged from $6.25 – $7.50 depending on brand and they had 13 to choose from I think. The Pizza was $7 for an individual size and the popcorn was $4 for a small bag. 20oz bottles of soda and water were $4.
My favorite part of the stadium was in the upper deck where Schutt helmets has a display of helmets for every collegiate and high school team in North Carolina.
the Schutt helmet display at Bank of America Stadium
Lots of Meineke advertisement including George Foreman himself at mid-field to do the coin toss. They also gave out Meineke Gift Baskets during TV timeouts to people in the stands if you could answer trivia questions related to their pre-game video.
The game itself is where things got interesting being seated with the UNC fans. First, they thought since we were wearing Penn State stuff that we were rooting for Pitt since both teams are in PA. Hello, UNC fans, that would be like assuming you are going to cheer for Duke basketball because they are from the same state.
The Penn State/Pitt rivalry is still in the top 10 rivalry display at the College Football Hall of Fame! We don’t like them, trust me. Second, not every pass play where your QB fails to get it to your receiver is pass interference. While I agree that refs miss calls every so often, I promise they don’t miss that many. Finally, the “punt” by Little into the stands after his TD catch to open the game was classless. Hand the ball to the ref, celebrate with your team and get off the field.
So once we were able to convince the people around us that we weren’t Pitt fans, we were able to enjoy the game. Lots of momentum shifts and big plays occurred for both teams.
For instance let’s look at the 4th quarter. UNC is driving to go up by 4-8 (pending FG or TD). They got into FG range and Pitt suddenly gets 2 straight sacks to force a punt. Then Pitt drives down the field while chewing up the clock. UNC gets Pitt stopped for 4th and 3 so they need a 48 yard field goal, which is the edge of their kicker’s range, to take the lead with less than 3 min left. For some unknown reason, UNC then jumps offside giving Pitt a free first down. Pitt runs down the clock to 52 seconds and kicks and easy FG for the 19-17 win. It was a good game between 2 evenly matched, top 20-25 teams.
a blurry picture from the fourth quarter of the 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl
Lastly, attendance was a little weak (announced as 50,389) and that includes the tickets Pitt had to buy that didn’t get sold. Pitt gave free tickets to any student who made the trip, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. The section they had designated for this was mostly empty. Tickets for the end zone sections in the upper deck were not sold and you actually could not walk the whole way around the upper concourse. When WVU played UNC in this Bowl last year it was a sellout. It is only 30 minutes further for Pitt fans so I just don’t understand. It was their best season since Dan Marino was QB and they can’t get 20,000 fans to a bowl game.
The halftime show featured both schools bands. UNC came out and did a Blue Man Group performance. All members of the band drummed on things such as empty tin cans and garbage cans. It was maybe the most impressive show I have seen by a band. Sure, there was no marching involved but it was well put together and truly entertaining. Pitt on the other hand just did a quick song from the stands. Yes, that’s right, they didn’t even get out of their seats! However they did manage to perform Sweet Caroline (my most hated non-Michael Jackson stadium song) at the end of the third quarter as they traditionally do.
2009 Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl: Clemson versus Kentucky
2009 Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl ticket stub
As soon as the Meineke Bowl was over we drove straight to Nashville. The trip was 513 miles and took a little over 8 hours. There was a rock slide on Interstate 40 East of Knoxville a few months ago so we had to take some back roads as a detour, but a good trip overall.
Our hotel room was actually in Murfreesboro, about 25 minutes SE of Nashville. It was good for a 2-star rated hotel and only cost us $31.50 a night. I’ve certainly stayed in worse places that cost a lot more. We slept till 11am, got up for a little and wrote the Meineke entry, then took a nap. Not a very exciting day, but we knew there was still a lot of driving left.
Driving to the game was real easy as we just had to head right up the interstate and follow the signs to the stadium. Once we got off the interstate there were cones everywhere to mark lanes to get you to the different stadium lots. I am not sure, but I assume the lots required pre-bought passes so we drove right past the stadium lots over the bridge of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Parkway. There is also a pedestrian only bridge (Shelby St Bridge) over the river so we tried to park as close to that as possible. As we headed toward the pedestrian bridge, we saw a parking garage with $10 parking. We went in and found a spot on the third floor.
Little did we know that where we parked was the Pinnacle building and that the pedestrian bridge is actually connected to the 3rd floor of the parking garage! I honestly don’t think you could find a better place to park for $10. The area of Nashville where LP Field is located is really beautiful and well lit.
As soon as we stepped onto the Bridge there was a Kentucky fan selling two tickets. We were only looking for the $15 upper corner seats and he had the $50 lower level seats. When we told him this, he offered us the tickets for $20 each, a real good deal. I did get a little concerned when the “pro” scalpers were selling tickets from the same section for the same price.
Then I got real worried when we got to the gate and the people in front of us who had bought tickets from the scalpers for the same section had counterfeit tickets. Thankfully our tickets were legit.
The stadium seemed to have good security that included limited pat downs. They had the same number of men and women “searchers” which created a wait in the men’s line, although it moved very quickly.
Once inside, we took a walk around the stadium. They had a very nice food selection with both name brand foods and regular stadium concessions. We stopped for a moment and stepped into a handicapped section of seats a section over from where our seats were. Just so happened that this was the section the Kentucky band was sitting in and they were right behind us so we had to stand there while they made their way to their seats. One member even gave us a “We Are…” and we gladly replied back “…Penn State.”
Concession prices were basically the same as Charlotte such as $7 for a personal Papa John’s Pizza. Nachos were only $4 versus $5.50 for the same exact sized tray. Beer was more expensive at $7 for a 16oz bottle. A 16oz Hot Chocolate was also $7 in a plastic souvenir cup with a coffee mug type lid.
Our seats were in the eighth row of the end zone just to the side of the uprights. Only four rows of seats were in front of us because of the camera. The seats were in the Kentucky section. The fans were extremely nice and the little kid sitting beside me was very well behaved. My favorite part was that the fans stood the entire game.
The game itself was pretty good. Kentucky had the early momentum with the crowd being almost 80% Kentucky fans by my best guess. Their game plan did perplex me a little as they ran a lot on third down, even in long distance situations. Based on the chants from the fans, the Kentucky fans certainly believed that SEC speed is greater than ACC speed. Then Spiller and Ford got the ball a few times in open space and I swear they shelved that chant in a hurry. I said a few weeks ago that I thought CJ Spiller was going to turn out to be like Teddy Ginn Jr and be nothing more than an over-paid punt returner. Then I saw him in person. Wow! Good vision, even better speed. Once Clemson started to use Harper some to run up the middle, then just out powered Kentucky and won the game 21-13.
The attendance was announced as 57,280, which seemed about right for the number of people in the stands. The only empty seats were in the upper deck under the sets of lights. Not sure how to explain it, but it seemed like those seats are purposefully sold last.
Halftime featured the bands of the 2 schools doing “best of” performances, which I like a lot better than the music acts or dance groups you get at the bigger bowls.
There was more corporate advertising then the Meineke Bowl, but it was done in a way that flowed well with the TV timeouts and the crowd. For instance, if a timeout came when the crowd was fired up, they would skip the commercials and catchy stadium music. If it was a more subdued crowd at the time, then the corporate plugs were played. What was odd was new 2010 title sponsor Franklin American Morgage Company had more ads than current sponsor Gaylord Hotels.
Overall, the Music City Bowl was a well done production in my opinion. Best of the seven bowls I have been to. I would go back in a heartbeat even though the Big Ten doesn’t play there.
2009 AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: Texas A&M versus Georgia
2009 AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl ticket stub
After the Music City Bowl was over we drove back to our hotel room South of Nashville. We got a little under 4 hours of sleep and had to get up and leave for Shreveport, home of the Independence Bowl. It was a 538 mile drive that took almost 9 hours.
We did drive a few miles out of the way around the city of Texarkana so my brother could say he has been to Texas. We also were looking for some sort of fast food TexMex type of place, but apparently such a thing doesn’t exist around the Interstate there. We wound up stopping at a Popeye’s in Shreveport.
The part of Shreveport where the Independence Bowl is located is not exactly prospering. Tim Brando may love his home town, but I can’t say I would move there. Most houses had fenced yards, some with barbed wire on top and when driving around, we ran across a domestic dispute that resulted in the cops showing up.
Parking was interesting. The radio was reporting that the lots were filling up so you should park at the mall and get bussed in. Reports are that the line for the shuttles were wrapped the entire way around the mall and it was about 1 hour and 15 minutes from when you got in line till you got to the stadium. A fair portion of fans didn’t get to the game till well into the 1st quarter or even the 2nd. I would not recommend using the shuttle system.
Luckily we didn’t try the shuttle system, and instead drove around looking for a closer place. Parking ranged from $5-$20. Most parking was $10 and located in peoples yards. The problem was they were parking people up to 4 deep, so you were stuck there till the other cars left. Our drive around led us to Jewella Drive where the local Fox TV station is located, about 2 1/2 blocks from the Stadium. They offered paved parking for $5 and an easy walk to the stadium. Even more important, it was just a few blocks from Lakeshore Drive, which leads right to I-20, the road we needed to take to get out of town.
We already had tickets to the game waiting at the Georgia Will Call. Face value printed on the ticket was $35 but Georgia sold them for $30 each, although they did tack on a standard, yet ridiculous, $15 transaction fee. The Independence Bowl was a sellout because the schools are forced to buy so many tickets up front, but Georgia never did sell all their tickets. If I had to do it over, we would have just scalped.
Independence Stadium is an average stadium. It had odd bathroom arrangements with different rooms set up a bit like a maze. One room might have urinals and toilets, while another had sinks and urinals, etc. They were plenty big for the size of the stadium however. Concessions were your standard stadium foods along with a local pizza chain with $7 personal pizzas and of course there was beer.
The game itself was very good at the beginning, but Special Teams bit Texas A&M multiple times. The game was 0-0 well into the 2nd quarter thanks to a blocked A&M field goal. Finally A&M got on the board only to give up a kick return to Georgia to tie the score at 7-7. Then Georgia blocked a A&M punt for another score before half. At the end of the first half, Texas A&M employed some Les Miles time management and cost themselves a FG attempt.
After that, Georgia came out and finally realized their players were bigger and stronger than A&M and just ran the ball down their throat. While the game got out of hand score wise, the Texas A&M fans stayed till about 10 minutes left in the game. The final score was 44-20 after A&M scored a late TD.
The halftime show featured a short show by each teams’ band, followed by some presentation that featured Archie Manning. The lady who spoke before Archie sounded like me speaking in public, which resulted in a soft boo from the crowd. After that, I lost interest to be honest.
Attendance was pretty good, announced as 49,653. Our section was pretty much an even mix of Georgia and A&M fans with A&M fans dominating the stadium. The Georgia fans around us were real nice and wished us safety on our trip to DC. There was also a nice flyover to start the game.
2009 EagleBank Bowl: UCLA versus Temple
2009 EagleBank Bowl ticket stub
The EagleBank Bowl was the big question mark of the trip. We had to drive 1,186 miles from Shreveport to Washington, DC in less than 18 hours to make the game on time.
Luckily everything worked in our favor and the trip went very smooth until we were about 15 miles outside of DC when we hit stop and go traffic due to construction. Since parking was $20 at RFK, which is located in a somewhat limited parking area of downtown DC, we decided to park in Springfield, VA and ride the metro. This is the end stop on the blue line, and trains come every 11 minutes.
It is approximately a 45 minute ride to RFK from there. We took too long finding the right ticket machine and missed the train we wanted by 1 minute. Luckily we did beat the rush hour clock by about 10 seconds, so the ride was only $2.35 versus $4.50.
We did stop real quick in the Armory building next to RFK on the way to the stadium to use the bathroom. I appeared to be hosting a pre-game tailgate. You had to go through metal detectors to get inside. I am not sure if this was the all-you-can-eat tailgate that fans complained about running out of food over 2 hours before kickoff or not, but there were a lot of fans in there from both teams. Considering how cold it was outside, I don’t blame them.
Once we got to the stadium, I tried to use twitpic to post this picture of RFK but for some reason it froze my phone. By the time I got my phone to restart, I missed the pictures of the members of the Wounded Warrior Project parachuting into the stadium. I did get it started in time to take this picture of the huge American Flag they rolled out for the Anthem.
We had grabbed tickets from a scalper when we got off of the metro. They cost us $20 each. As you can see, they were free comp tickets given out to some group but they were going to cost us $30 at the gate and we didn’t have a whole lot of time to waste as we got off the metro just 35 minutes before kickoff and it’s less than a half mile from the stadium.
Concessions were well, lacking. Look at these pictures, they are from 2 different stands and show the entire menu offered at the stadium. Only one in every three stands was set to be open and then only about half of those were actually open. There was a Sodexho commercial at one point, so I don’t know if they were in charge of the concession stands or not, but it was awful. The local high school here doesn’t even have a concession stand, they have to bring in trailers every game, and it has a much better selection.
The stadium itself is probably close to being condemned. The only stadium I have been to that was in similar condition was the old Orange Bowl during its last season. The EagleBank Bowl was originally supposed to be called the Congressional Bowl and played at Nationals Park but the Nationals told them no. However, couldn’t they pony up a little more money and pay Daniel Snyder to use FedEx Field? This Bowl is honestly likely to fold quickly if they can’t upgrade the experience with better concessions and a maintained stadium.
The game itself was the tale of two halves. The first half (before Bernard Pierce got hurt) was dominated by Temple. They were all over UCLA and I could already see the headlines flowing about how it was the classic case of team who wants to be there versus team who could care less. Well, I disagree. It was the fact that Pierce was just plain the best skilled player on the field for either team and was making UCLA look silly. After he got hurt, Temple didn’t have anyone else to go to for the big play, allowing UCLA to shut them down completely and finally win 30-21.
Attendance was pretty good, announced as 23,078, considering you wouldn’t expect many UCLA fans to follow a 6-6 team to 15 degree weather. Temple fans travelled well, bringing almost 20,000 fans for a school with a history littered with failure. I was very impressed with both the Temple turnout and the level of enthusiasm. The fans stayed till inside the final 5 minutes and stood for the entire game.
The overall presentation of the bowl was strange. They had tons of corporate banners in the stadium, and even sent a tweet the day before about how they had over 30 sponsors. However, there was very little mention of them; a reading of the list while displaying them on the replay board was about it. There was probably more focus on the Wounded Warrior Project than all the other sponsors combined. Halftime featured the Temple band with a standard performance.
After the game was over, we rode the metro back to Springfield, grabbed a bite to eat and drove the 204 miles back to our mom’s house outside of Pittsburgh.
Trip Rewind & Stats
all my ticket stubs from our 2009 bowl trip
Here are some stats from our four day – four game bowl trip.
Total cost (per person): $325
Cost Breakdown (per person):
Parking (includes metro): $20
Miles traveled: 2,883
Gallons of Gas: 88
Miles per Gallon: 32.75
Time spent on trip: 92 hours
Time spent driving: 46 hours