2019 – Best Of List

The 2019 season was another great year. Now that I have done this for a second year, I feel like I have a better feel in how to plan these trips to take in the most activities possible which led to experiencing a lot of fun events. Let’s take a look at some of the best from the 2nd year of the College Football Road Trip!

Top 5 Games of 2019

5. Oklahoma at UCLA: Oklahoma 48 – UCLA 14

Fifty yard line view at the Rose Bowl

After starting the season 0-2, there were not many expectations for a competitive game, and that would turn out to be for good reason. After an amazing first two games of the year, Jalen Hurts continued his early season dominance on the first series when he ran for 99 yards on four plays to score a touchdown. This started a streak of scoring on every possession of the first half to take a 34-7 lead into the break.

The big question for Oklahoma coming into this season is around their defense. They gave up a couple big plays, but in general was much more stout than in past seasons, as they held UCLA to a total of 14 points. Oklahoma rolls to a 48-14 victory.

4. Missouri at Kentucky: Kentucky 29 – Missouri 7

Fifty yard line view at Kroger Field.

The weather forecast for this game mentioned rain for days leading into this match up. The forecast was very accurate. Although before the game the rain had let up, around kickoff the rain became a downpour and the downpour continued for virtually the entire game. The one saving grace was the temperature was fairly warm so the rain was not super cold and it stayed comfortable.

Kentucky believed this would favor them after the defense stepped up and held Georgia scoreless in the first half in similar conditions the previous week. The defense played strong again in this game holding Missouri scoreless in the first half and only along one long touchdown pass on the first possession of the second half to Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant.

The offense did their part as well, especially in the running game. Running back Lynn Bowden Jr. ended with 204 yards on the ground and as a team Kentucky finished with 297 rushing yards. After a scoreless first quarter, the Wildcats blew the game open with 3 touchdowns and 22 total points in the second quarter. They were then able to rely on the sturdy defense to coast to a win, 29-7.

3. Texas at Baylor: Baylor 24 – Texas 10

View from seat at McLane stadium.

Baylor came into this game coming off their first loss of the season to Oklahoma the week before, blowing a 28-3 lead. The question was if Baylor would find a way to respond to that loss. Texas had been struggling coming in losing three of five, with their only wins being by 2 over Kansas and by 3 over Kansas State.

This game was dominated from Baylor from the beginning. After a scoreless first quarter Baylor started the scoring off with a 28 yard run from John Lovett to take a 7-0 lead. Texas struggled the entire first half offensively, but was able to put in a couple big plays on the last possession of the half to kick a field goal and go into halftime only down 7-3.

The second half was more of the same. Baylor was able to put together a couple drives in the third to score twice and take a 21-3 lead into the fourth. They scored another field goal to make it 24-3. The only touchdown of the game for Texas came with one second remaining in the game after taking a timeout to stop the clock after the game was already decided. Final score: Baylor 24-Texas 10.

2. Charlotte at Western Kentucky: Western Kentucky 30 – Charlotte 14

View of field at WKU

The first half of the game was a very competitive, back and forth affair. Charlotte started the scoring off with taking the opening kickoff on a methodical fourteen play, 75-yard drive down the field to take an early 7-0 lead. Not to be outdone, Western Kentucky followed that up with a twelve play, 75-yard drive of their own to tie the game at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, after a Charlotte punt, the Hilltoppers struck quickly on their second possession on a 69-yard pass from Ty Storey to Lucky Jackson to take their first lead of the game. Charlotte tied the game back up at 14, but Western Kentucky was able to follow that up with a field goal to take a 17-14 lead into halftime.

The second half was dominated by Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers defense was able to hold Charlotte to just 74 total yards in the second half as the 49ers never came close to striking again. Western Kentucky was able to add some insurance points in the third quarter as well to win the game 30-14. The win kept Western Kentucky undefeated in Conference USA play at 4-0.

1. Minnesota at Fresno State: Minnesota 38 – Fresno State 35; 2OT

Fresno State stadium 50 yard line view.

There was quite a bit of hype around Fresno for this game. After a close loss to USC the week prior, Fresno State was excited for their home opener against a Big Ten opponent. Both teams got off to a fairly slow start, with only a single Minnesota touchdown in the first quarter. After a Fresno State field goal in the second, Minnesota scored a second touchdown to move out to a 14-3 lead. Finally, Fresno State’s offense started to pick up with two Jorge Reyna touchdowns, one in the second quarter and one in the third, to help spur a 17-0 run to give Fresno State their first lead of the game at 21-14 at the end of the third quarter.

The fourth quarter was a blast. Minnesota started the quarter with an early score to tie the game at 21. Fresno State came back half way through the quarter with Jorge Reyna running it in himself from two yards out to once again give the Bulldogs the lead. Then, with under a minute remaining and the Golden Gophers facing 4th and 13 from the Fresno State 20 yard line quarterback Tanner Morgan through a perfect pass to Chris Autumn in the corner of the end zone to tie the game at 28 and force overtime. After both teams scored in the first overtime and a Minnesota field goal to start the second overtime, Minnesota intercepted the ball during Fresno State’s second overtime to secure the victory from behind 38-35. An exciting game from start to finish.

Top 5 Stadiums of 2019

5. Bulldog Stadium – Fresno State

East sideline at Fresno State

With the excitement around the game, I arrived at one of the public parking lots outside the stadium a couple hours before the gates opened and was surprised by how few cars were in the parking lot at the time. As I walked through an almost empty campus I started wondering if there was less excitement for the game than I initially anticipated. Luckily, as I approached the stadium there was a lot going on. There were a lot of events going on around the West side of the stadium where a lot of people were tailgating. This was also the area the Fresno State team walked in to the cheers of the crowd.

The stadium itself was a moderate sized stadium. The first thing I found interesting is they had very steep hills on both side of the stadium that took people up to the top of the seating sections and then had people walk down steps to their seats. Both sides had a lot of golf carts set up to assist those that needed help up the hills which I appreciated. There was single video board on the North end of the stadium, with a regular scoreboard on the South side. There was nothing as far as streamer boards along the two sidelines.

For concessions there were a few standard concession booths scattered throughout, but also a great deal of food trucks and other pop-up booths with various restaurants from across the area. This included Carl’s Jr., Chicken Shack, Dippin’ Dots, and Guadalajara Mexican food. The other thing I really liked that Fresno State had in place was a Happy Hour, where guests could get a hot dog and drink for just $5.00 from the time the gates opened until the opening kick. That was a cool way to encourage people to come to the stadium early.

4. Kroger Field – Kentucky

Outside of Kroger Field.

Although Kentucky is not considered a powerhouse in the SEC, I was excited about visiting my first SEC stadium. The stadium itself was located on the south side of the Kentucky campus and was surrounded by parking lots on three sides. To me, that always takes away from the prestige of a college stadium. There was not a whole lot of tailgating going on either, but I’m guessing the rain kept quite a few people away. Before the game, Kentucky’s players made their way into the practice facility about an hour before the gates opened to the marching band and cheerleaders who were leading the way.

Inside the stadium, the field was surrounded by a large lower bowl plus a small second deck on the two sides. One thing I noticed was around the field the end zone seating areas were separated by a wall, as were the donor areas from the main seating areas. This means the only way to go to different areas of the stadium were through the concourse areas. That seemed very inconvenient.

There were very large video scoreboards in both end zones along with runner boards around the entire stadium. There did seem to be an issue with the audio system as well as the sound on the south side of the stadium seemed about half a second off the north side. This was very apparent during the National anthem which made it sound like there was an echo.

There was a pretty good variety of food throughout the concourse including Papa John’s, Dippin’ Dots, Chick-Fil-A, House of Cue BBQ, Athenian Grill, and Skyline Chili.

3. Houchens Industries–L. T. Smith Stadium – Western Kentucky

Welcome To The Hill

Houchens Industries–L. T. Smith Stadium is a fairly small stadium, but that is to be expected of a Conference USA stadium. It was homecoming weekend, and Western Kentucky was undefeated in conference play, so I expected a pretty full house, but the stadium was probably less than half full for the game. The attendance was just under 16,000.

The stadium itself, like the rest of the campus, was very nice. There was a large video board on the North side of the stadium and a small, basic scoreboard in the Southwest corner of the endzone. There were no runner boards along the sideline. On the north side of the stadium there was a grassy areas where people could purchase general admission tickets. On the south side there were several tents where it looked like companies could rent them out for the game.

Alongside the normal concessions, there were stands for Sonic, Pizza Hut, and Cinnabon, along with a Hillbilly Grillers in one corner of the stadium that had a small seating area.

2. McLane Stadium – Baylor

Outside McLane stadium at night.

McLane Stadium is one of the newest stadiums in college football, opening in 2014, and is located along the Brazos River. Being along the river led to a pretty unique tailgating experience as there were several boats along the piers that many people were hanging out on. There is also a large bridge across the river to led to many other tailgating activities on the other side.

Inside the stadium there was very large scoreboard on the South side of the stadium. Below the scoreboard there was a small grass area where there was some general admission seating. Throughout the rest of the stadium there were three seating tiers. Along the sidelines there were individual seats. In the corners there were benches with backs and along the North side of the stadium there were regular benches with no backs. Between the first and second tier there were also runner boards that went around the entire stadium.

The concourse area around the stadium was one of the nicest I have seen. There was plenty of room for people to walk around and they were all under cover as well. There was not anything special about the concessions in the stadium. Beyond the normal food, there was Chick-fil-a, Pizza Hut, Double Dave’s pizza, 5th Street Grill, and Dippin’ Dots.

1. Rose Bowl Stadium – UCLA

Outside the famous Rose Bowl stadium

This was actually my second trip to the Rose Bowl in three years. I was able to attend the actual Rose Bowl game at the end of the 2017 season for the great Oklahoma/Georgia overtime thriller. The atmosphere for this game was, as expected, much more subdued, but there was still something about being in this historic stadium that makes it special.

After losing their first two games of the season, many UCLA fans stayed away from this game. In fact, Oklahoma fans outnumbered UCLA fans at the game. One reason for this was UCLA students had not even started classes yet so the student section was almost empty.

Another reason for the lower turnout could have been the heat. At kickoff the temperature was around 95 degrees. With the majority of the seating still in the sun when the stadium opened, many of the ushers suggested that fans stay on the concourse in the shaded areas until close to kickoff. They were very prepared for the heat though, which I appreciated. They had several cooling areas with large fans plus several misting areas throughout as well. Even before the stadium opened, many city buses were brought in as cooling stations where people could rest and cool down from the pre-game festivities.

As for the stadium itself, the place was fairly modern while still maintaining its historic feel. They had a large video board on the North side of the stadium and streamer board along the West side below the press box. But, on the South side, they had an old-school scoreboard that felt more at home in this venue. Out on the concourse areas, they had a very large variety of food including tacos, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and teriyaki bowls, just to name a few.

Top 5 Campuses of 2019

5. Fresno State

Fresno State University

It was very hot in Fresno when I first arrived, so I made sure to do my visit early in the morning. The Fresno State campus was pretty and quite large. The first thing I saw was an amphitheater in the middle of the campus which could be use for a lot of events and concerts which I thought was pretty neat. Another pretty cool thing was in the area around the union where there were a ton of booths that various fraternities, sororities, and other campus groups could set up to meet with students. The library was another pretty building right in the middle of campus. Walking past the library after the game on Saturday night, it lit up very brightly in LED lights. The prettiest part of the campus in my opinion was the fountain just outside of the union.

4. Baylor

Rosenbalm Fountain with Pat Neff hall on Baylor campus.

Baylor University is the first private university I have visited as part of this road trip. As such, it is also one of the smaller campuses with very few students walking around while I was there. There were a lot of pretty buildings throughout the campus. My favorite view on campus was probably from the photo posted below from the Rosenbalm Fountain with the golden dome of Pat Neff hall in the background.

There were a lot of open areas along campus which I really liked. There is also a bear habitat on campus though the bears were not out when I visited; likely because it was fairly early in the morning with on and off rain at the time.


View of UCLA campus

The UCLA campus was a beautiful campus located West of downtown LA, near Beverly Hills and Bel Air. As mentioned in the stadium overview, the semester had not yet started, so other than a small set of students wrapping up some intersession classes, there was not too many people around. There were a few families enjoying the campus with their small children.

A lot of the building on campus, including the UCLA library, had an older vibe to them, but looked beautiful on the campus grounds. All of the sporting venues, other than football, had their facilities right on campus, including the historic Pauley Pavilion. The student union had a large variety of dining and other services for the students, including a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, and looked up to date inside.

2. Kentucky

Memorial Hall on University of Kentucky campus.

The University of Kentucky campus is located just south of the downtown area. It is a very large campus that I did get lost walking through a couple times. The campus had a nice variety of older building, such as Memorial Hall and new building like the student union.

The student union was one of the nicer unions I have been inside. They had a lot of seating areas, a good variety of food choices, and a large outdoor courtyard. There were a lot of green areas on campus as well. The fact that the stadium was right in the center of town definitely gave it a much different feel than other campuses in smaller towns, including the Western Kentucky campus I visited the week prior.

1. Western Kentucky

Big Red inside WKU union.

Western Kentucky is known as the Hilltoppers and for good reason. The university sits on top of a hill in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Walking around the campus I was struck by how new most of the building appeared to be. There was a good amount of trees and green areas around as well that gave the feeling of being part of a campus that was actually bigger than it probably is. One of my favorite areas of the campus was the area in front of the student union on the Centennial Mall. There were cherry trees lining both of the mall both leading to a great view of the clock tower in the background. I can just imagine how pretty this area must be in the spring when all of the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

Top 5 Attractions of 2019

5. Dr Pepper Museum – Waco, TX

Outside Dr Pepper museum.

I still remember the first Dr Pepper I ever had when I was at a Boy Scout camp growing up. I became a big fan and it was interesting to see the place where it was originally bottled in Waco, Texas. I actually came to this museum right after it first opened as a kid, but it has expanded a great deal since that initial trip.

There are two building as part of the museum. The first has a lot of history of Dr Pepper including how it was first created along with a lot of memorabilia. It also showed some of the first machines that were used to mix and bottle the drink. There was also an old well that was initially used to get the water used to make the drink when it was first being made.

The second building was an old bottling plant that has been converted into more exhibits, including a large 7-Up bottling display. There was also a gift shop and small cafe that sold drinks and floats. The drinks were severed the old-fashioned soda counter way, with syrup and soda, as opposed to pre-mixed drinks. You received a voucher for a small soda along with your admission, but it was just a tiny cup.

4. National Corvette Museum – Bowling Green, KY

1950s cars at Corvette museum.

Bowling Green is the location where the Corvette is built and so is the perfect place for the National Corvette Museum. The GM plant is actually just across the street from the museum. The museum was very well maintained and had many Corvettes from the early days all the way until today. They also had several areas devoted to auto racing cars. They also have a racing simulator on site for an additional cost and a small cafe.

One of the most fascinating parts of touring the Corvette museum was learning about the history of its infamous sinkhole. On February 12, 2014, a 40-foot deep sinkhole occurred right in the middle of the museum. Luckily, it happened while the museum was closed, but 8 Corvettes fell down into the hole. The museum was closed for 2 years, but reopened with tape on the floor to show where the sinkhole occurred inside. They also had on display the eight Corvettes that fell down the hole, some of which were all but destroyed.

3. Getty Museum – Los Angeles, CA

Outside garden at Getty museum

The Getty museum was a great venue that is free to the public, though there is a charge for parking. The amount of art work and exhibits at this museum blew me away. They had multiple buildings with art work pieces from throughout the world throughout multiple centuries. One of the most well-known pieces is the Galle chandelier which resembles a hot air balloon with amazing details throughout. The bowl at the bottom of the chandelier was actually designed to be a fish bowl.

They also had a garden area outside that had a plethora of beautiful flowers. The amount of different flowers in so many different colors was breathtaking. I spent about two hours here and felt rushed and that I missed out on some of the exhibits. This is place I would easily visit again if I came back to Los Angeles.

2. Warner Brothers Studio Tour – Los Angeles, CA

Big Bang set

There are many studio tours that you can take around Los Angeles. Universal Studios is probably the most popular, especially for families, because of the surrounding theme park. But, as a huge Big Bang Theory fan, I knew the Warner Brothers tour was the one I wanted to take.

The tour was very extensive. It started with a view of some costumes and props from a lot of the recent box office hits for the studio, including Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Harry Potter. They then took us down the streets where they filmed scenes for shows like Friends, Gilmore Girls, and even the original Batman and Robin. They took us into a couple of the studios where they film Mom and Conan as well.

After a couple more stops to show off the prop warehouse and a garage were they displayed all the vehicles from the Batman movie franchises, the tour wrapped up with a self-guided component that had the Central Perk set from Friends and Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment from Big Bang Theory were you could have your picture taken professionally. It also had many other props from television shows and movies throughout the history of Warner Brothers. This tour was easily the highlight of my trip to Los Angeles and highly recommended.

1. Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks – CA

Top of sequoia tree at Sequoia National Park

One of the best things about visiting Fresno is that is close to many national parks. Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia are all just a couple hours away. On my trip to Sequoia I checked out Moro Rock, the Big Trees trail, and the General Sherman tree. Moro rock was a trail that had approximately 400 steps to the top but gave incredible 360 degree views of the entire park. There are plenty of places to stop along the way if you need to rest so the walk is not overly difficult. The General Sherman tree is one of the largest trees in the world in terms of pure volume. It is approximately 2,000 years old. There were definitely a lot of people there, but it was not nearly as crowded as Yosemite. There are a ton of things to do beyond these items as well. It would be easy to spend several days in the park and just start to enjoy the area.

I purposely chose to drive to Yosemite on a Monday morning expecting less traffic then if I attended on the weekend. I was very surprised with how much traffic was still at the park while I was there. The trip to Yosemite started with a long and winding drive up to Glacier Point. The views were amazing from the top. You could see from miles in all directions including a couple waterfalls on the other side of the valley. After taking in the sights from the top, a drive down into the valley led to more spectacular views from the Yosemite tunnel view. Seeing cliffs rise up from both sides was another sight to behold. After this, a short hike took us to the bottom of Yosemite Falls. There was not too much water flowing down this time of year, as the best time of year is early spring when the snow on top of the mountain is melting.

Top 5 Restaurants of 2019

5. Double Dogs – Bowling Green, KY

Outside Double Dogs

Double Dogs is a small chain sports bar with locations in Kentucky and Tennessee. With a full set of college football games on tap, this was a great location to pick. They had a very wide variety of televisions throughout the restaurant. Outside the restaurant was a nice set-up with a small dog house that actually barked when you walked past. Inside there was also a large patio area that opened up to allow people to enjoy the weather on a nice day.

I went with the lunch special, which was the Bo Burger, a typical cheeseburger with grilled onion, lettuce and a special sauce that came with a side of fries. The burger had great flavor and the fries had a nice seasoning to them. This was a location that would be a lot of fun to go to with a group of friends to watch a game. The staff was all very friendly as well.

4. Westwood’s BBQ and Spice Co. – Fresno, CA

Tri tip and ribs from Westwood’s BBQ & Spice Co.

One main food kept coming up over and over when searching for place to eat in Fresno. One item that has become known as their specialty, and that is tri-tip. To try this item out I went to Westwood’s BBQ and Spice Co. It was a very large restaurant that was very full. It looked like a popular place to meet up with friends over a beer. Knowing I had to try the tri-tip I went with a special of tri-tip and ribs. The tri-tip was cooked for 8 hours and served medium and the ribs had a deep spice rub on the outside. I am not a huge fan of ribs, but the ribs here had pretty good flavor. I greatly approved of the tri-tip though. It was tender and delicious. The sides of potato salad and mac and cheese were both tasty as well. The price was a little on the high side, but not too unreasonable based on the quality of the food.

3. Hecho en Waco – Waco, TX

Carnitas tacos at Hecho En Waco.

Hecho En Waco is a moderately upscale Mexican restaurant located in the downtown area of Waco. It is located in a small strip mall along with some other small, local businesses. Inside was a pretty open space with plenty of seating including a bar and some outdoor patio seating.

I went with the Che’ tacos which were corn tortillas with carnitas, cheese, avocado, pickled onions, and tomatillo sauce served with a side of rice and black beans. The tacos were delicious with the carnitas being nice and moist and a generous portion of avocado inside. The cost was a little high for the amount of food received, but no complaints about the quality of the food at all.

2. Tolly-Ho – Lexington, KY

Tolly Ho burger and banana pudding milkshake.

Tolly-Ho is a local joint located near the University of Kentucky campus and is very popular with the students there. They are open 24 hours and have a great variety of burgers and shakes. Inside the restaurant they also have a variety of arcade games and pinball machines. Another interesting thing was a small ‘Ho-Mart’, which sold items like candy bars and over the counter medicine inside the store. That actually seemed like a great idea for a college joint like this.

One thing Tolly-Ho is famous for is their banana pudding milkshake. It’s a regular banana milkshake, but has banana pieces and vanilla wafers in it. The shake had great flavor and having the real banana pieces in it made it much better. The Tolly-Ho burger was also very tasty as the beef patty had good flavor. The fries also were crispy and hot out of the fryer. There is a reason why this place is very popular in Lexington and it would be a regular place if I were to live in Lexington.

1. The Luggage Room – Pasadena, CA

Avocado festival pizza at The Luggage Room

The Luggage Room was in a very small space located right next to the Del Mar Metro station in Pasadena. It got its name from actually being a former luggage room for the train station. They had a dynamic variety of pizza. I went with the avocado festival pizza which had avocado, tomatoes, basil, and lemon zest. The flavors on the pizza were spot on. The crust was the perfect texture, the lemon zest brought out a lot, and this might have been the best pizza I ever had. Highest recommendation for this place!

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