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Living Vicariously: A Penn State Bowl Week Travel Blog

by on December 30, 2015 10:10 AM

Thursday:

Lots of working, less seeing. The New Year reaches Jacksonville at the same time as it does everyone else on the east coast, which is a relief. Other than that Thursday was not full of much more than talking and writing. Working on the beach was fun though and turns out to be far more productive than you might imagine. Popcorn shrimp for days.

Ate dinner at the Blind Rabbit and it took an hour to get drinks and nearly two hours to get our food. But on the bright side it was a tasty burger.

Wednesday:

The first morning I was here I assumed it had rained overnight despite not thinking that was in the forecast. My windshield was covered in water and the ground was generally damp.

But no, it turns out that there is just a perpetual haze of moisture in the air that condenses on anything that sits still long enough. Menus for outdoor eating, your car, you. Even driving on the highway can lead to picking up a bit of water as you move along. Whatever the case a hot and humid 82 degrees at the end of December is far from something I'll turn down.

Aside from one smallish event, Wednesday wasn't scheduled to involve any media opportunities with Penn State which opened the door for a bit of exploring. So I visited TPC Sawgrass, where for those who are familiar with golf know as the home of The Players tournament. It was quite nice if not a little bit intimidating. There is a security booth before you enter the property which requires you to give you name and they in turn they print off a parking pass. There are houses inside the gated community (funny how that works) so my guess is it's some level of security for people who probably worry about security more than they should. Then again I've never lived somewhere that requires security in the first place.

From there it was the beach, which like most beaches involved a lot of water and a lot of sand. I saw a real jellyfish, that was exciting, and saw some little old man catch a stingray so causally that it almost seemed to annoy him.

All in all Florida continues to be an interesting place. If not constantly moist.

Penn State opens practice around 1PM on Thursday which means it will actually be open around 2PM because nobody likes being on time anymore.

Tuesday:

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I'm all for safe driving, but I find random 45 MPH zones on a four lane highway to be a bit much when they're bookended by 70 and 55 MPH zones. It's like Florida's response to having a bunch of old people living there. "You can't see, slow down" is essentially the motto.

That being said Florida during the day is considerably nicer than at night, which is to say it's easier to see Florida when the lights are on. Penn State hosted practice about an hour outside of Jacksonville which resulted in a fair amount of driving today. The good news, the practice fields are about a half mile, if not less from the ocean which obviously required some in person viewing. And considering it was 83 I was happy to pretend to dive in and cool off.

Interestingly enough the water is actually not all that cold. This perhaps is not a surprise to most of the world, but as someone who only ever visits the beach in Maine, the concept to not freezing to death while on a brief break was nice. In the meanwhile I ate lunch at a grill/bar on the beach that had all of the ocean front items you might expect. Including someone surfing, also something you don't see very much of in Maine.

A quick drive back to the fields and it was time to work. The high school Penn State is practicing at has "welcome fans" signs which is nice aside from the fact fans will never see them. Thought that counts I suppose.

I also learned that Manatees are real, not that I ever doubted this, but "cows of the sea" seemed too good to be true. Sadly I didn't actually see one in person but I have more time to do that.

EverBank Field is like EveryFootball stadium you've seen. It has a huge scoreboard though which will probably 50% covered in ads during most of the game because, money.

Monday night:

Made it to the hotel, some 20 minutes or so from the airport. Like all good cities things are measure in time and not actual miles. Florida already seems to be a curious place, basically every road ends with water somewhere which makes sense because the entire state appears to be roughly 0 inches above sea level. 

A quick run to Neptune Beach made for a fun evening trip but as you might imagine they do NOT leave the light on for you. So basically it's a long ramp down into sandy darkness and getting stuck with a needle in the black of night seemed like a bad way to end the first day of the trip. So I just waved at the ocean from a distance and it made ocean like sounds in return. The commercial area around Neptune Beach involved far less danger though unless you feel uncomfortable paying lots of money for not lots of seafood.

Penn State basketball has a conference call at 9:45 tomorrow morning. That's neither here nor there, but it will kick off what should be a more interesting day with far less travel involved. Although Penn State is practicing an hour away from Jacksonville because why not. Then again gas is under $2 here so that will be fun just out of principle.

It was 83 when I got off the plane. It was 34 when I got in my car this morning.

Opening

It's Monday, or at least that's what my Google Alerts say. Between the conclusion of the regular season, the holidays and vacations the days start to run together a little bit around the end of December.

Regardless, there is a plane to catch. Penn State and Georgia are set to play this coming Saturday in the TaxSlayer Bowl and StateCollege.com, or rather I, will be traveling to cover all of the action during the week leading up to the game and whatever happens once the final chapter of the 2015 season has been written.

This year's trip begins a year and one day following Penn State's 31-30 overtime win in the Pinstripe Bowl and will end on the 10 year anniversary of Penn State's triple overtime win against Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

You can read about all of the action elsewhere on the site, this story is slated to be a travel blog, documenting the rest of what Florida has to offer during the trip. It is my hope though, that this trip does not involve getting stranded in Paris like the last time I wrote one of these stories. With a layover in Charlotte, North Carolina, anything is possible, but at least I won't have to speak broken French to find a bathroom.

Right now it's a drive to Harrisburg for a 1:41 flight to Charlotte before a final flight to Jacksonville slated to land around 5:00 PM.

So live vicariously. And see you in a few hours.

 



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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