To the Valley of the Stun – pt. 1

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Finale

Here we go… a blow by blow description of my unbelievable weekend in the Phoenix watching my beloved Boise State Broncos play in the Fiesta Bowl.

Friday, Dec 29th

My plan was to fly round trip to Phoenix from Salt Lake City rather than Boise. After the Broncos clinched their undefeated regular season vs. Nevada (another game I was at) the airfares from Boise to Phoenix jumped to over $400. Being the genius I am, I checked for flights from SLC and found one for $260. I jumped on it.

I didn’t think when I purchased the ticket that it was winter and the weather for the drive might screw me up. Thus, I planned to stay the night in SLC the night before my flight was to leave, just to give me plenty of leeway. Of course, it would turn out I wouldn’t need it at all, but more on that in a minute.

fiesta-bowl-trip178 I got on the road at about 1pm. The day was crystal clear and there was not a single icy spot anywhere on the 300 mile trip to Salt Lake. fiesta-bowl-trip174

All was well and good during the drive until about 4:30, when I ran into freeway construction and a Friday rush hour all rolled into one. About 30 miles from Salt Lake, I was fortunate enough to be able to slow down and really soak in the scenery… In other words, I got to come to a complete stop on the freeway, which is always one of my favorite things in the world.

The traffic finally lighented up and I approached my exit. Well, at least it was the exit that Microsoft told me to take. I used MapPoint to plan my trip, and Microsoft screwed me. I got off at exit 316 like they told me, only to find NOTHING THERE. So, after a quick pee break, I get back on the freeway. A couple miles down the road, I saw a sign pointing to what I thought was the exit I was supposed to take… well, it was an exit too early. To top that off, it was an exit with no corresponding on ramp. Thus, I’m driving in the dark through this industrial area looking for a way to get back onto the freeway. When I finally find an on ramp, I realize that this ramp is AFTER the exit I should have taken. Well shit. So, I stay on the freeway knowing my hotel is by the airport. I should be able to find that.

I drove until I found an airport exit. Great! Back in business. Well, that was until I found myself cruising around these deserted loops around the airport. I’m on these freeways that drive past the damn FedEx terminal. Its pitch dark out here and I have no idea where the hell I am. On top of this, my gas tank is hovering very close to ‘e’.

Somehow, I find the street my hotel is on and make it to a gas station in time.

I would just like to take a second to get on the record how much I HATE the street names in SLC. Or should I say the lack of street names. Everything is a number. And not good numbers like “40th street”… no no… they are all “W 2000 N.” When you are reading a freeway sign that is entirely composed of numbers and random letters, you really start to get frustrated. “wait, was that 200 N or 2000 W?!? Son of a bitch!!” My hotel was on a ‘named’ street, but even that was messed up. North Temple West. *sigh*

I digress. I made it to the hotel (which had the swimming pool and hot tub actually in the lobby, which I found a little odd) and saw my first fellow Broncos in the lobby. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to have the same ingenious plan.

I got a pizza and a beer from the grocery store since there was no way was I going to try to find a “sports bar” in Salt Lake. For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of attempting to drink in Utah, let’s just say it’s an adventure. So, I stayed in the room and flipped between bowl games and Saddam’s execution. It was a strange evening in a strange place, to be sure.

Saturday, Dec 30th

I woke up early. I was geeked up and couldn’t help it. I was packed up and ready for the shuttle to the airport atfiesta-bowl-trip170 9am. The hotel gave me a complementary paper with an interesting little sticky note on it. “If you do not wish to receive the newspaper please contact the front desk for a $.15 refund.” Seriously? How big of a skinflint are you that you are indignant that they stole fifteen cents from you?

I got checked in and through security and to my gate at 9:30. Only problem? My flight was scheduled to leave until 11:55. Oops. I settled in for my wait.

As I read my $.15 paper, I did see that the Salt Lake Tribune predicted Boise State 27 Oklahoma 21. That’s a good sign, right?

At 11, they announced my flight would be delayed 30 minutes.

At 11:40, they announced a 2 hour delay. It appears that our plane had an engine that wouldn’t start. So, they had to fly in a new plane and we should hopefully be off at 3:00. Great. To rub salt into the wound, they boarded and departed another flight to Phoenix. Those of us who were stuck grumbled amongst ourselves about how we got jobbed.

To rub even MORE salt into the wound the airport in Salt Lake is horrible. They had multiple TV’s on all over the place. Every last one of them was tuned to CNN with no audio. There were multiple college bowl games on, but could we see any of them? Absolutely not.

Eventually we got out and got safely to Phoenix. Only about 3 hours late. That made for a long day at the airport.

fiesta-bowl-trip114 I met up with John and Ilinda (who flew into Phoenix from Georgia a couple hours earlier) and John drove us directly to the local Indian casino. Gotta love vacation. Weather was beautiful and it is always nice to see palm trees.

Gila River Casino is on the south side of town and John and I headed directly to the blackjack tables. We found seats at a $10 table and started playing and the drinks started flowing. At this particular casino however, if you’re playing the table minimum as I was, you gotta pay for your drinks. John was playing $25 a hand and got his drinks for free. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I gotta think that getting EVERYONE sauced should be your number one priority in a casino. But what do I know.

We played for about 3 hours and I broke even (even after paying for drinks). John, being the stud that he is, ended up $800! So, dinner was on him. Seeing as I had eaten exactly nothing for the whole day, I was more than ready for a little grub.

We hit the road and found the local Claim Jumper. The food was tremendous, but then again, 3 hours of drinking on an empty stomach and I would have been hard pressed to find a meal that wasn’t any good. It was a beautiful piece of prime rib and a huge baked potato. My meal also came with a muffin and whipped honey butter but they cleared that off before I had a chance to partake. In the state I was in, I didn’t even notice until we were leaving. That bummed me out because I love whipped honey butter!

John was not finished gambling… aka. he still had money in his pocket. Thus, we went back to the casino. I proceeded to give them that $100 I had been playing with post haste. John fared a little better, but also ended up giving them some of their money back. We decided to call it a night and head to the hotel.

fiesta-bowl-trip013 The good news was that our hotel was right off the freeway. The bad news? Everything else. We drove upfiesta-bowl-trip014 and the neighborhood was a bit dodgy, but when I saw the hotel (which was more of a motel actually) had an armed guard in the parking lot, that sealed it. You gotta love those blind internet booked hotels, right? Its almost like the lottery. This place was very much like the Super 8 in Reno. Mostly clean, but certainly not The Ritz. (Picture to left is a lovely stain next to the bed and to the right is a wad of gum on my headboard. That should give you a hint)
However, at that point, I didn’t care. I came in and crashed in no time.

We had big days ahead.

To be continued…

2 Replies to “To the Valley of the Stun – pt. 1”

  1. mmmmmm…. Claim Jumper. I ate there once in San Diego…and the sandwich was UNBELIEVABLE. Honestly it was probably 12 inches tall and had half a head of lettuce on it…crazy. I’ve got a picture of it somewhere….

    Anyway, great beginning to your story!

    keep it going! 🙂

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