Tusk to Tail: Near the end of the nightmare

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

The 2012 season is rapidly winding down, and our long Hog Nation nightmare is about to reach its ultimate conclusion with the hiring of the next Head Hog. As with most of you, this new chapter cannot come soon enough for the Tusk to Tail crew.

I know we rededicated ourselves to the idea that if we can’t win the games, we can win the party, but I’m not sure how Ole Miss and Vandy have done it all of these years. It is difficult to keep up one’s spirits, wishing for a win and then watching those wishes dashed on the jagged rocks of an SEC schedule as the team flounders rudderless in the surf.

This week the Hogs travel to Starkville, or StarkVegas as it is affectionately known, deep in the heart of Mississippi. Arkansas is 4-6, but records can be misleading. The Dogs raced out to 7-0 before losing the next three, while the Hogs appear to have more talent than their record shows. At this point, all we can do is hope for a win.

Tusk to Tail decided in the off-season that this week would be the best opportunity to take the kids on a road game. Even though most of the kids went to Starkville a couple of years ago, there was truly no other option. The trip to A&M was a first to College Station, so best not to take kids on that one. The Auburn trip has too much of a bar scene, and the expense of South Carolina ruled out that game.

Timing of the kickoff pretty much dictates the arrival and departure for this game. We always wait to hear that before booking hotel rooms, as it is really only a one-night destination at most. If you don’t mind the early wake up, you could go there and back in a day from most points in Arkansas.

Tusk to Tail will depart Little Rock around 4 p.m. on Friday to get ahead of rush hour traffic, and will attempt to avoid the construction on Interstate 40 while heading to Memphis for dinner. We will make the usual stop at the Rendezvous for a ‘Full Rack’ and some beer, then on to Tupelo for the evening.

It’s about 50 miles south on Highway 45’s four lanes into Starkville from Tupelo, so not a bad drive at all.

When we make the drive straight from Little Rock, it might be quicker to take 55 south out of Memphis and then Highway 82 over to Starkville, but there is a larger selection of hotels in Tupelo, and thus the pricing is a little better than what can be found around I-55 the night before a game. I know plenty of folks who have stayed in Tunica or Memphis the night before, but the early game time makes that an early start from those locations.

Tusk to Tail has tailgated in Starkville, and it is an active tailgating scene, but it seems to lack the energy found at other stops in the conference. Hopefully Dan Mullen’s ability to get this team winning is starting to turn that around.

It is a family-friendly location with lots of grass areas to park and for kids to play. For the most part, the Bulldog Fans are welcoming. I can’t say I recommend any one spot to park or tailgate. We always seem to drive in, find a good spot, and pay about $15 for the privilege.

I’m sure the early start this week will hamper the tailgating some. We don’t plan to do much more than drink a few beers while tossing the football around with the boys.

Perhaps when we return in a few years, this will be a top 25 matchup on ESPN at night, and we can bring our gear and spend the day tailgating.

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On the return trip after the game, we hope to put a hurt on Gus and his fried chicken in Memphis. With this being Sean’s first road game of the season, we felt it important for him to experience Gus’ Fried Chicken.

Safe Travels and Go Hogs, Beat the Bulldogs!

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