(This has been ready for a while, but I saved it for a slow #content day, because why step on others’ good writing.)
It’s no secret I enjoy attending sporting events. After all – I sell beer at baseball games. At least five times per year I drive down to Seattle for Seahawks games. I go on road trips with friends to attend sporting events. And once a year I try to attend a sporting event in another town, usually based on how many frequent flier miles WineWife needs in order to maintain her airline status.
Because the world sucks, when I lost my four days per week schedule a couple of years ago it really put a crimp into our Fall getaways. Now we have to plan around long weekends and/or 8:00AM Monday flights – neither of which are popular options. However, I have learned that of all recognized holidays, Veterans Day is the easiest to fly around the US during, because most people are saving their travel for Thanksgiving a couple of weeks later.
Looking at the NFL schedule back in August, real possibilities for the Remembrance Day weekend were Chicago, Green Bay, and New York. This is because the stipulations for WineWife’s choices are direct flights and quality matchups. Vancouver doesn’t have too many direct flights to major US cities outside the West Coast; only Chicago & New York are available. However, Green Bay was an option because it’s only a three-hour drive (with tolls) from Chicago.
Looking at possible matchups, the schedule had
- Jets versus Giants
- Lions at Bears
- Panthers at Packers
Clearly, the best of the three choices was the Packers game. Getting tickets wasn’t an issue, because – as a Seahawks season ticket holder – I can get emails about ticket availability at other stadiums if I choose. I signed up for the Packers emails, and when the season started & ticket holders returned their future unused to Ticketmaster, I was able to buy them at face value when they came available.
When it came to hotel reservations, geography played a part. Having paid the premium to stay in Green Bay on game weekends before, I knew staying outside of town & paying for parking was the smarter play. So we stayed in Appleton, thirty minutes away,
It was a comfy bed & had a large continental breakfast. That’s all you need.
and advance paid $25 to park outside the Green Bay Distillery.
So we flew into Chicago on Saturday morning/afternoon, and after having to change car reservations because Dollar Rent-A-Car was out of vehicles we were on our way north. It’s a fairly benign drive, because O’Hare is far enough outside downtown Chicago that you never get near the chaos, and we were able to take the bypass past Milwaukee to avoid that urban hellscape. (At least, that’s the impression CNN gives off.) (However, it appears many Wisconsinites are familiar with at least one kind of bypass.) Three hours later we were in downtown Appleton.
We settled in for the night, knowing we didn’t have to wake up early – because my old pal Roger had the game flexed from the morning to the afternoon to accommodate his pals at FOX. The 12:00PM start was now 3:25PM, leaving plenty of time for drinking.
Everything went smoothly heading up to Green Bay. We left at 11:00, figuring the 30 minute drive would be longer given the gameday traffic; it wasn’t. We got to the Distillery at 11:35 & parked the car.
Now, previous trips to Green Bay were made through the Packers “official tour company”, and while we didn’t book through them this time, I knew they ran a tailgate party prior to the game. This time, the tailgate was in the Distillery parking lot – convenient! So I prepaid the $25/person fee and while we waited for the official 12:00 start we walked around the neighbourhood.
I’m not the first [DFO] author to write about the Green Bay experience – former Commentist Shogun Marcus has an excellent account of going to a Packers-Cowboys game back in 2017 – but I am the most recent. Most of what he said then still resonates now: on game days, the town is awash in alcohol & out-of-town visitors gawking at the spectacle of the NFL’s only “small town” franchise. Everywhere we walked (granted, within three blocks of the tailgate location) was already filled with people starting their day quite early.
After walking around & seeing those tailgates, the one we returned too…kinda sucked. Sure, it was held in a tent outdoors, and there were unlimited burgers, brats & beers (plus vodka lemonades for WineWife).
But they had a DJ playing electronic music way too loud, and no screens with which to watch the early games. Sure, I met people from different parts of the world – actual off-continent foreigners included Swedes, Germans, Dutch, and, naturally, some dumbass Australian using his best “Crikey!” accent to scream “GO PACK GO!” to win prizes. So while I got my money’s worth out of the event, I highly doubt I’ll be attending such a function again.
We left the tailgate at 2:15 to make our way over to the game. The block-and-a-half was filled with people giddy at the prospect of a good game. And the stadium area was chock-full of people pounding in two last beers before heading inside.
You can sort of make out the dumpsters where fans are urged to drop their empties before entering the stadium.
The forecast was “cloudy with sunny periods”, so everyone expected a good, non-weather impacted game. We hit the main gift shop – which is located under the main concourse – before alighting to the seats. For once, I got what I paid for at a non-home stadium.
And we settled in for the game. We got a unique version of the anthem by a Navy vet and the now-traditional flyby, courtesy of four F-15E Strike Eagles, out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.
I’m not sure why they tried shooting them down.
Because it was “America’s Game of The Week”, and being announced by Joe & Troy,
the game was taking forever to play. Every change of possession brought a commercial timeout. (If you’ve ever been to a live game, you can tell what’s what when you see those sideline guys with the orange sleeves out on the field.) It took well over 45 minutes to play the first quarter. Still, we got to see a fair amount of action down at our end of the stadium –
It was just before the start of the second quarter when the first flakes started to fall.
Gently at first. They added a folksy touch to the contest – one of those things you can say “happened to me” in Wisconsin’s footballing cathedral when people ask you about the trip.
By halftime it was a full-on blizzard.
Someone thought it was still a good idea to have the army drop people into a stadium during a swirling windstorm.
The guy with the flag was the only one to stick his landing. Most of the others hit the back wall; one guy almost got tangled in the field goal netting.
The second half commenced under increasingly snowy conditions, which was more apparent live than on TV. The Packers went up by 14, and then proceeded to slowly let the Panthers back into the game. When it came down to the final play – the goal line TD attempt with three seconds left – the palpable tension could be tasted in the air.
The closest I have been to a sensation like that was in Seattle at the “Fail Mary” game.
This wasn’t as egregious – you could make a case either way. Because they said “no TD” on the field, it made it harder to overturn. Nonetheless, there was much relief when the call was decided in the Packers favour.
Packers fans got to go home happy, and I got my traditional field-adjacent photo.
Before heading back, we killed a little time back at the distillery waiting for the traffic to thin out.
The next morning we drove back to Chicago. It was a little harrowing in places, but on the whole we were able to stay near the speed limit the whole way down. Which didn’t matter, as the blizzard known as “Winter Storm Caleb” blew through Chicago earlier in the day and had absolutely rocked their flight schedules. Throw in snow affecting some flights before taking off from their home airports for ORD and you had quite a mess. This should give you an idea.
The four cancellations were for four flights that never left Canada, and there were two flights that couldn’t get off the ground in Chicago. And the 21:00-ish arrivals were only two flights left to come in that night so they could turn around and take folks home. Of the 500 people who expected to be on those four cancelled flights, only 30 were going to be on the two final flights. Everyone else had to wait until morning, when the Canadian flights arrived to turn around & take them home. There were lots of tears, and plenty of yelling & horsetrading on pity.
By the way – when did winter storms start getting names? Were the Dakotas jealous that they don’t get in on that sweet hurricane disaster relief, so they bullied Congress into forcing NOAA to do this? “Hey – we’ve got trailer parks too!”
But I digress. We were at least flying to Vancouver, which meant only a two-hour delay as the flight was apparently forced to delay leaving Vancouver in order to miss the blizzard & be able to land in Chicago. But thanks to the 737 groundings, I believe we flew an old DC-4 back home.
We rolled in about 9:00 Best Coast Time, but we were home.
In conclusion, sports road trips are fun, and you should always take one when the timing works out. It wasn’t England or France, and I did see too many fat people’s underpants, but taking a weekend with some buddies or a very agreeable spouse is an excellent way to recharge one’s battery. I encourage others to share their stories of vacations, TV appearances, concerts, food & drink festivals, porn conventions, sporting events et cetera; sometimes we can inspire others. Boots on the Ground can be a way of life – it can become YOUR way of life!