Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Spiriting off to St. Louis

PunCity kept a running log of its conference tournament trip, so it figured it would give its 4 readers (that's right, up to 4! A couple foreigners stumbled onto the site after hearing it might have porm).

March 2nd, 1st Day of Trip. Ideal budget: $50.00 per day, not including tickets or hotels (previously paid for); or gas (pretty much a fixed expense).

Started driving toward St. Louis (from Grafton, WI) at 10:00 AM, CST. Most of the trip is going to be in the Central Time Zone, so that's a nice bonus. A somewhat annoying part of many vacations is either having to reset your watch or mentally adjust the time when entering some weird, non-central time zone (or, if you prefer a "fake" time zone). Supposed to be a 6-hour drive. Games start at 6:00 PM.

Cruised pretty well through Wisconsin. Probably the first time this blog's been through Beloit, which is somewhat unexpected for a lifelong Wisconsin resident. Rockin' the IPass for the first time - X-tremely Highly Recommended if you go through Illinois even once a year. This blog's brother suggested it, and it certainly saves at least 15 minutes and a lot of digging for change every trip through the flatlands. All that, and it cuts the tolls in half, so it saves money too. With Open Road Tolling, now coupled with Cash lanes requiring one to veer about 5 lanes out of the way just to get into them, there's very little excuse to avoid getting the IPass.

Anyway, the original plan was to get to a White Castle since this blog doesn't often get to those, so PunCity planned to stop whenever it saw a billboard for one. Problem was, the trip didn't get close enough to Chicago to run into one of those, and by the time it got to St. Louis, this site would have been starving. As it turned out, a good meal was had anyway. Stopped at a Petro Mart in Illinois for petrol. The pump said that with a 10-gallon fill-up, one could receive a free slice of pizza from the Villa Pizza inside. After several friendly interactions with both customers and employees (holding doors and thanking people for doing so, stuff that never happens in Madison, the rudest place this blog has been), this blog got a large slice of pepperoni pizza for 50 cents, since the coupon allowed you to upgrade to a topping on the free cheese pizza at that price. This combined with the soda this blog had brought along on the trip meant that after its first meal, PunCity was cruising well under budget.

This blog then proceeded into St. Louis, overshot the Savvis Center, and wound up on Saint Louis University's campus. This wasn't a bad deal since this blog needed gas anyway, and college campuses end up being among the cheapest places around for gas. It was $2.09/gallon at a Shell station that was somewhat difficult to enter.

After that, proceeded to the Savvis Center, where the Missouri Valley Conference tournament would take place. Just outside the stadium, McDonald's representatives were handing out free can coolers with coupons for a free cheeseburger and fries. This was of course right up this blog's alley, so thanks McDonald's, you rock. (It also turned out being a smart move; there wasn't a McDonald's within walking distance, according to a policeman this blog asked. This site ended up cashing in on the free food when closer to its hotel).

Within the Savvis Center, this blog found some awesome stuff that is usually a hallmark of NCAA Conference Tournaments: Free stuff. Two sizeable stands were set up for State Farm Insurance (the tourney's title sponsor) and Army National Guard. This blog pretty much lived at those stands throughout the tournament, and it was some solid living. After taking a short survey at the State Farm stead, they issued this blog a card with UPC code to scan to see what this site won. It was a State Farm coffee mug, which was an awesome prize. This blog then went to the Army National Guard stand, where one could attempt a physical test for a t-shirt. Options were: 20 pull-ups, 50 push-ups, or 50 sit-ups. Not having done a pull-up in this blog's life, this site figured it'd do the sit-ups. PunCity knocked out 47 with no difficulty, after which the sites abs inexplicably shut down. After a short rest, PunCity did 48, then another rest, then 49 and 50. For this blog's efforts, it got a green t-shirt that says "Defend Freedom" across the front, and has the Army National Guard logo on the back. This blog also picked up a free pen from the National Guard post, so the trip remained on an awesome pace, and this blog hadn't even seen any basketball yet.

Basketball included Indiana State's mild upset win over Drake and Evansville ending Illinois State's season. Some assorted game notes:

-Savvis Center chili cheese dog well-worth the $5.25 this blog paid for it.
-Indiana State's mascot, Sycamore Sam, is pretty cool. Fairly tame throughout the game, but gave PunCity "5," so that was cool.
-Indiana State fans cheered: "Put up the deeeee-fense, put up the fence." (Hadn't heard that one before)
-Picked up MVC Tournament "Arch Madness" shirt for $15.00
-Grabbed some free stuff left over from an Illinois State party in the upper deck: ISU megaphone and pom-pom.
-Illinois State cheerleader had awesome sign: "8 games to the Final 4!"
-Savvis Center did not show out-of-town scores. This was somewhat of a disappointment since Wisconsin was playing Michigan State that day, and it would have been nice to follow the scoring in that one. (UW ended up losing, so in the end it was not too bad).
-Neil Plank played for Illinois State. Because he is a senior and this loss ended their season, it meant this blog had seen his first and last collegiate games. Plank was a transfer from Wisconsin, where he had played his freshman year. This blog didn't miss his play terribly after he left, but he would have been a nice outside threat the last few years in Bo Ryan's system. He seemed to have developed into a leader with ISU, so it was good to see the growth in his game.
-Evansville's band played Sheryl Crow's "I Wanna Soak Up The Sun" and the Imperial March from Star Wars. This in addition to Offspring's "Pretty Fly For A White Guy," which this blog would soon find out every band plays (except Wisconsin's, which is why this blog initially thought it was unique).

After the game, it took this blog a good amount of time to find the proper highway back to its hotel, a Super 8 in Bridgeton, MO. This motel was horrendous, so this blog would recommend never going there if at all possible. A used comb was in the shower, hair on the towels, only 14 channels, the only sports channel was ESPN, no fridge in the room, and a rude and inattentive night staff to boot. This blog was able to switch rooms, to a new room with a useless extra bed, but this was of little consolation and did nothing to dissuade this blog from recommending a lifelong boycott. (This blog does realize that it's not likely to return there again, but this blog's throwing that out there anyway). So anyway, great start to the trip, somewhat disappointing conclusion to the evening, but 4 games coming up 3/3, plus a probable trip to the Gateway Arch. Stay tuned, this blog's going to try and get a mid-week post or 2 up to continue the journey.


Blogger Pen Caps said...

$2.09 a gallen, Isn't it amazing how much gas goes up in less then a month. Current $2.65. However, from my experience's of road trips, gas is always cheaper down south.

10:12 PM  

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