‘The World’s Best Road Trip’ hits this week's epicenter of the sports world
You’ve gone deep in the heart of Texas. You’ve seen the house that Bear built. You’ve been to the birthplace of this wonderful game and you drank the Kool Aid in Starkville, Mississippi. This week, NCAA.com’s Ultimate College Football Road Trip takes you on tour in Missouri to see the No. 22 Tigers square off against No. 13 Georgia.
Folks coming from Dawgs’ territory that decide not to take to the skies to get to Farout Field have a near 12-hour drive to Columbia. But, if you need to know something about fans in the Southeastern Conference, it's that 12 hours is not enough to stop fans from going to road games in droves. So expect to see some red peppered in with the black and gold in Columbia.
This is a great week for sports in the state of Missouri. Not only are the Tigers playing No. 13 Georgia, but the MLB playoffs are in both Kansas City and St. Louis. The Blues open the season against the defending Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers on Thursday night and the Rams play host to the 49ers on Monday Night Football. Unfortunately, the Chiefs are on their bye week. Sad to say, but some storms just aren’t that perfect. But still, if you’re the real try-hard sports fan there are a couple of trips you could hit for four different games in four different sports in three different cities.
Those people coming from Georgia or anywhere else east of the mighty Mississippi will be passing through St. Louis to get to Columbia, so after you fill up on college football, you have two options.
The pedestrian access way on the Walnut Street Bridge is now officially complete with this brand-new canopy. pic.twitter.com/xGXlumSeMy— Gateway Arch (@GatewayArchSTL) September 22, 2014
You could take the red pill. Head back east and spend a couple days in St. Louis to see Game 2 of the NLCS between the Giants and Cardinals on Sunday and the NFL game the next night.
Or you could take the blue pill. Keep going west through Columbia to Kansas City and see Game 3 and Game 4 of the ALCS on Monday and Tuesday night. My suggestion: take the red pill. Head back home Tuesday, turn on TBS and catch Game 4 of the Royals and Orioles on TV.
But for those of you die-hards whose love is reserved for college football and road trippin’ the good ole US of A, let's focus our attentions on exploring the three cities that lay along I-70 (STL, KC and your destination, Columbia).
Now for those of you who are perplexed by Missouri being in the SEC, consider this: It’s a particularly southern trait to think your city has the “World’s Best Barbecue,” like Will Ferrell drinking the "World's Best Cup of Coffee." People from Kansas City and St. Louis are no different, not shy to make that same claim about their barbecue. So congratulations, state of Missouri, you fit right in, in the South!
So let’s start with the “World’s Best Barbecue” St. Louis edition at Pappy’s Smokehouse on Olive Street. Of course, it’s St. Louis, so once you're done grazin' at Pappy's, check out the Gateway Arch. The beauty of the Arch is that it’s something you have to take a step back from to truly appreciate (definitely a good photo opportunity).
Also, if you’re a fan of free things, take a tour of some free beauty at the St. Louis Zoo or Art Museum or take in some truly golden homemade art at the Anheuser-Bush Brewery.
Then go ahead and pick one of the cool neighborhoods in St. Louis to wander around. There’s “The Hill,” which is St. Louis’ version of Little Italy. The Central West End is a laidback modern-type village area or the Grove, somewhat of a downtown scene with great nightlife.
Coming to Columbia from the opposite direction, you will hit Kansas City. Let’s get this out of the way right now: Gates Bar B.Q. in Kansas City is “the World’s Best Barbecue.” Awesome. So if you want to enjoy a night out in K.C. you’re going to want to see the Power and Light District.
The PLD is kind of like the Mall of America meets Bourbon Street. Theaters, bars, restaurants and all walks of nightlife can be found in this district of downtown Kansas City. If you’re looking for an area a little more Bourbon Street than Mall of America, head toward a neighborhood called Westport.
Now comes the day you wait for all week, Saturday. Before the game (and I mean way early. They like starting around 6 or 7 a.m. in Columbia) find a good place to join the crowd in a tailgate. It’s a huge tailgate that stretches more than a mile in all directions. If you’re with your family find parking lot X, but if you want your parking lot party to turn into a mobile or lawn party with a bunch of rowdy college kids, park on the east side of campus.
The obligatory things for first-timers in Columbia on gameday is to see the Tiger Walk, sort of a pregame pep rally similar to the Elephant Stomp in Alabama where the marching band and fans form a tunnel the team walks through to get into the stadium. Amidst all the tailgating, there is another landmark on campus that’s great for an amateur photo shoot, the Columns.
The places to go after the game, especially if you enjoyed those rowdy college kids from earlier, lie on Broadway and 9th and 10th Street. Missouri students have a tendency of tearing down the goal post after a big win (athletic director Mike Alden installed collapsible goal posts in 2006). After the goal posts get a campus tour, they will probably end up at Harpo's on 10th Street.
On 9th Street, there’s the International Tap House (iTAP, if you’re cool) and the Campus Bar & Grille (cool kids call it the Big 12). On Broadway, go to either Shiloh’s or The Penguin (again, cool people call this one Piano Bar. Where would you all be without me?).
Oh by the way, forget everything you knew about how to spell the word, “Missouri.” M-I-Z-Z-O-U is now its proper spelling. Don’t worry, if can’t solve that puzzle, 70,000 of your closest friends will be willing to help out.