Over the past few years I have written a number of columns about the Friday road trips taken to out of town football games by the WTGA radio crew. I have probably gotten more response from these columns than any others that I have written. With the 2015 Upson-Lee football season having ended, I thought that I would add one more chapter to this continuing saga.
The road trip to Liberty County a couple of weeks ago wasn’t as eventful as some others, but it was still an interesting adventure. First of all, one of our trio did not make the trip. Jim Pruett was away at a wedding in Young Harris and missed the chance to make the 3+ hour trip to Hinesville. So it was just Mickey and me. Sounds like fun already, huh?
As is our normal plan, we had to leave town a couple of hours before any sane person would consider leaving. We pulled out at 12:30 to get to a 7:30 game. I have become accustomed to these early leaving times, so this wasn’t a surprise to me. We had good directions (or so we thought) so off to Macon and down I-16 we went.
It was a beautiful day and the trip went well. We took all the right turns and eventually rolled onto the grounds of Fort Stewart army base, a place that I knew a little about from my National Guard days. The first sign of where we were was the road sign that read “Tank Crossing”! Now I’ve seen “Deer Crossing” but never “Tank Crossing.” We were a bit concerned but no track vehicles showed up, although Mickey kept hoping to see one.
As we approached the end of our journey, we took a turn which we eventually deemed to be incorrect so we backtracked and tried another road. Wrong move! After a couple of miles I determined that we on the wrong road so I pulled into a drive to turn around.
I immediately figured out that we weren’t welcome. This was the driveway to a live-fire range and I could hear the M-16s firing just a few yards away. A soldier with a pistol strapped to his hip stepped out of a guard house to encourage us to leave. He didn’t have to say a word. He never got within 30 yards of our truck before we quickly turned around and headed back up the highway. Close call!
We went back and took the same road that we had earlier abandoned and turns out it was the one to the stadium after all. When we got to the stadium we found the Liberty County coach that Mickey needed to talk to. This guy had not been very accommodating to Mickey throughout the week and he had a few choice words to deliver to the coach. He did so and felt much better about things.
We had been allowed to park in a nice lot about 100 yards from the press box that we would occupy that night. This wasn’t good enough for Mickey. We had to get closer! So he asked about a closer spot and was told about one at the other end of the stadium. So off we went!
We pulled into the other area and found that it was where Upson-Lee’s dressing room was. After we figured out that we could park there we went off to find some food.
We quickly determined that neither of us was really hungry. Yep, you read that right. Neither of us was hungry! We went on down the road however and pulled in at a Panera Bread store. We decided to buy a sandwich to take back to the stadium. Worst sandwich I have ever had! The waitress was cute, but the sandwich was horrible. We met up with our third partner for the night there and with David Banks we were again a trio.
Back at the stadium, I parked directly under the press box on the visitors side. A great spot and as close as I could get the Mick to his work station. Directly under the press box which was about 50 feet above us. I thought that I did rather well.
Well, to try to finish this up, the Knights played hard, but fell a bit short to end their very exciting and successful season. They gave us 11 great games and the radio crew enjoyed every one. We are very proud of these players and coaches.
Mick and I got back on the road and headed home without a glitch, except that the low tire pressure light came on in my truck. We stopped at a convenience store and paid for some air that we got at a pump that was dark and unlit off in the middle of nowhere. After that the trip home was uneventful. Mickey stayed awake and kept me company.
Well, that’s it except for a few things that I cannot share. I walked in the house at 2:20 in the morning. Another road trip in the books. Thankfully home safe again.
Jim Fowler is a sports columnist and retired teacher and coach who worked in the local school system for many years. He is a founding board member of the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame and is also the statistician for the Upson Lee football team, and has written a book about the history of football at R. E. Lee High School.