story by Dale Cullins
Editor’s note: Welcome to Tusk to Tail, a special “web reality” presentation of the tailgating experience as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together for more than a decade. Members of the Tusk to Tail Team are Sean Casey, Jack Clark, Dale Cullins, Greg Houser, Craig May, David Rice and Mark Wagner. Link here for the explainer story and the photos and “stats” of the core Tusk to Tail crew. Tusk to Tail is managed by The City Wire and sponsored by Preferred Office Products.
Follow the crew on Twitter — @TuskToTail
Sitting here on an election night, eating some pizza and watching the returns with my 10 year old, I am thinking how lucky we are to be born where we are with choices and the opportunity to vote in all manner of things.
It leads me to wonder if Jeff Long looks at message boards to gauge the responses there as to whom the Hogs’ next head coach should be.
I sure hope so.
Knowing how close he came to hiring some losers last time is still far too frightening to consider. It’s not like we as fans know all of the back channel negotiations and discussions, but I think we have the right to ask our athletic director to go to the mattresses to get the right man. He should not take no for an answer. Alabama’s AD didn’t take Saban’s initial negative responses as his final answer. He went back and back until he got his man, and look where the Tide is now.
Getting back to the Hogs current predicament, there is a road trip, or I should say plane trip to Columbia, S.C., this weekend. I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t been there since 2006, and I thought this would be a much different year when I bought tickets, but what can you do? Just go, enjoy the city, atmosphere, and as much of the game as possible and who knows? Somebody has to win. Perhaps Spurrier will play three different quarterbacks and the Hogs will win going away.
Columbia is a great city, much like Little Rock in terms of size and the distractions to be found, but just imagine if our campus was located across the street from the State Capitol building. There is lots of hustle and bustle, but Columbia is also a city with divided loyalties.
Going into a sports bar to watch a game involving Clemson will find the bar divided quickly between Clemson supporters and Gamecock loyalists. There will be lots of yelling and bickering back and forth, and you feel like you should be defending your imminent opponent, based solely on the fact that they are brethren in the SEC. Hog Nation is very lucky in that respect.
Craig May, the godfather of Tusk to Tail, reserved some rooms back in March at a Hampton Inn downtown near campus and close to one of the bar and restaurant districts. Early booking saved us about $100 a night per room. All of us bought plane tickets during the summer when rates were relatively reasonable. This also is a good tip to help spread out the cost of a long season. Pay for football tickets, plane tickets and rooms during the months when you aren’t buying gas and tailgate supplies, and it eases through your budget much easier.
Greg Houser jumped first and found a good rate from XNA straight into Columbia. I waited just two days later and had to choose Charlotte as my destination. Mark, Jack and I are sharing a car rental and ride from Charlotte, which is only 91 miles away from Columbia, but generally costs about $150 less per ticket.
Once in Columbia, the Vista area has some great bars and low country restaurant fare, and perhaps might be the more grown-up portion of town. Five Points seems to be more of the college-age scene, but I think we will hit both.
Being the capital city, Columbia feels like much more than a college town. The establishments have to try to keep things even between Clemson and Gamecock fans, despite the fact that the Gamecocks are the hometown team.
Check out these spots:
Try Liberty Tap Room, Flying Saucer, Pearlz Oyster Bar, The Tin Roof, Thirsty Fellow, Cock ’n Bull, Henry’s and a new spot named The Social Bar and Lounge
Cola’s, Motor Supply, and the Blue Marlin are some old standbys, and we might try to hit up a new spot named the Oak Table this trip.
One positive thing about the early kickoff is that we will have time to eat at a few spots this trip.
• The Game
As far as the game venue, Williams-Bryce Stadium is located off campus in the fairgrounds area of Columbia. The stadium is not new by any means, but doesn’t really feel old or outdated either. The parking is abundant and safe, and the tailgating is a growing sport.
I expect a full house and a loud crowd, but not an LSU or Bama type of atmosphere. The fans are cordial, but since my last visit they have won a few games, so it will be interesting to see how this has affected their attitude towards opposing fans.
I understand that South Carolina has added a new HD video board which makes it the third largest in the SEC behind the Hogs and Mississippi State, and a new 52-acre tailgating field with a “Garnet Way” for the team to enter the stadium.
One of my favorite aspects of tailgating at South Carolina is the Cockabooses. There are 22 converted train cabooses that are stationary tailgating platforms right next to the stadium on an old rail line. They go for well over $175,000, but the proximity and the luxury provided are second to none.
It should be a great trip and I can’t wait until Friday. Go Hogs, Beat the Gamecocks!