Although I love going to college football games, the main reason I started this adventure is to have a way to travel across the country in a way that is organized and fun for other people to see as well. This year I literally traveled from coast to coast. From Mount McHenry on the East Coast, to the Pacific shores of Oregon on the other.
It is also amazing how much nature can change in a single state too. Oregon is probably the most beautiful state I have spent time in. Between the coast line, the Cascade mountains, and all the various waterfalls, it is the trips like this that make this worthwhile.
As always, thank all of you for taking time to read my blog, like my Instagram posts, and comment on my Facebook pages. Now, it is time to start thinking about our trips for next year!
Top 5 Games of 2023
5. Air Force 17 – Navy 6
All of the military academies have a unique play style, which means it would be a run-based game on both sides. This came to fruition very quickly in the first quarter. On the first drive Air Force drove the ball down to the 25-yard line and attempted a field goal. The try went straight into the strong wind and dropped straight down just short of the uprights.
After that drive the rest of the quarter went back and forth with punts from both sides and a fumble by Air Force that was recovered by Navy. We ended the first quarter scoreless.
On the first play of the second quarter, Air Force went against the grain and threw a pass. The pass ended up going for 94 yards and a touchdown to give Air Force a 7-0 lead. After that score, the next six drives by both teams all ended in punts. Air Force took their touchdown lead into halftime.
The defenses continued their dominance into the third quarter. Air Force did manage a field goal to go up 10-0, but Navy just couldn’t get started. In fact, after three quarters Navy had a total of just 11 yards of offense.
The strong defense continued in the fourth for Air Force when they had a pick six to go up 17-0. Navy did finally make it to the end zone with just under a minute left in the game to avoid the shutout. Air Force continued their undefeated season.
Final: Air Force 17 – Navy 6
4. Cincinnati 27 – Pittsburgh 21
The majority of this game was fairly anticlimactic, but Pittsburgh did end up making it a much closer game by the fourth quarter.
Cincinnati got out to a fast start by scoring on their first drive of the game. After a second three-and-out by Pitt, the Bearcats kicked a field goal to go up 10-0. Finally, Pittsburgh got on the board after a 75-yard drive to pull within 10-7 at the end of first quarter.
It was at this point the Panther offense shut down. They would punt twice, have a fumble, and miss a field goal on their next four trips. The Bearcats would take advantage and start to pad their lead. A touchdown early in the second extended the lead to 10. Then a field goal to end the half made it 20-7 Bearcats.
Cincinnati scored the only points in the third quarter to go up 27-7. Pitt did make a valent comeback effort though scoring touchdowns on their first two drives of the fourth. This brought the Panthers back within 27-21. They had a couple chances to take the lead on their next drives but ultimately came up short on reaching the end zone again.
Final: Cincinnati 27 – Pittsburgh 21
3. West Virginia 17 – Pittsburgh 6
These two fan bases do not like each other and this was the first time the Backyard Brawl was played in Morgantown since 2011. You better believe the crowd was hyped up. The fact this was a 7:30 Eastern kickoff gave the crowd plenty of time to tailgate and pump even more before the game started.
The first half of the game was pretty sloppy. After a Mountaineer punt, Pittsburgh took their first drive of the game down for an opening field goal to go up 3-0. This was the only score of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, West Virginia finally got on the board. After a fumble gave the ball to Pittsburgh, Phil Jurkovec threw it right back to the Mountaineers on the second play of their drive. Seven yards later, West Virginia took the 7-3 lead. Pittsburgh would add another field goal at the end of the half to make it 7-6.
The second half started out bright for West Virginia who took their first possession right down the field for a touchdown to take a 14-6 lead. After a second Pitt interception, the Mountaineers kicked a field goal to go up 17-6.
That is all that was needed. The Pitt offense struggled for the second straight week. Phil Jurkovec ended up throwing for only 81 yards with three interceptions. The Mountaineers picked up the win with the crowd going home happy.
Final: West Virginia 17 – Pittsburgh 6
2. #6 Oregon 36 – USC 27
This was a game that at the beginning of the season was very anticipated. Unfortunately, USC’s struggles coming in led to the prestige being removed at least somewhat. Still, with both teams having very strong offenses the expectation was a lot of points would be scored.
There were fireworks in the first quarter, but mostly from the Oregon side. Duck quarterback Bo Nix’s first two passes in the game were both for touchdowns. One went for 77 yards and the second went for 84 yards. USC did score in between those two passes, so at the end of the first it was 13-7 Oregon.
After scoring another touchdown and field goal in the second quarter, it looked like Oregon was pulling away. But Caleb Williams took the Trojans down the field with less than two minutes in the half to score a touchdown and make the score 22-14 Oregon at the half.
After all the scoring in the first half the third quarter was rather tame. Oregon scored the only points on a long 85-yard drive to take a 29-14 lead into the final quarter.
The Ducks put the game away on the first play of the fourth quarter on a touchdown to take a commanding 36-14 lead. USC would end up scoring two more touchdowns, but the last came with under four minutes remaining and the missed two-point conversion made it all but official.
Final: Oregon 36 – USC 27
1. #5 Washington 22 – #11 Oregon State 20
The rain started early in the day and stayed constant through the first three quarters of the game. This made things a little less explosive from an offensive perspective during the game.
At first, you did not think the rain would slow things down. Both teams scored on their first drive of the game on long, methodical drives. The first major miscue, one that would end up being game-defining, came on the Beavers second drive. On a fourth down, the ball sailed over the punters head and was kicked out of the end zone for the safety. Washington led 9-7 after the first quarter.
The second quarter was won by the Huskies. After a fumble by each team on consecutive drives, Washington scored touchdowns on their next two drives. Oregon State did get a field goal in between those two scores, which led to a 22-10 Washington lead at the half.
Oregon State’s defense came out with a mission in the second half. They shut Washington and Michael Penix out completely. This gave the Beaver offense a chance to get back in the game. They took advantage with two long drives, one for a touchdown and another for a field goal. This cut the Husky lead to 22-20.
The Beavers had one last chance and they put together a nice drive. They were able to take the ball from the 5-yard line to around mid-field. That luck would then run out with a failed fourth and five to turn the ball over and allow Washington to kneel the ball out and win the game.
Final: Washington 22 – Oregon State 20
Top 5 Stadiums of 2023
This is one stadium where it made sense not to have it on the actual campus. This kept having to get everyone through security up front. With that said, the entire stadium was surrounded by parking lots which took away a lot from the atmosphere. There was a lot of tailgating going on, especially with this being an all-academy game with Air Force.
One cool thing on the outside of the stadium were a couple small runner boards near the gates. These ran some announcements like what time the gates opened to the public. I found these very useful and something other stadiums could take advantage of.
On the inside, the stadium had a double decker format on the two sidelines. The North end zone had some seats, but also a large grassy area with general admission seating. The South side was mainly suite seating. There were medium-sized video boards in both end zones but no runner boards on the sidelines.
There were a number of concessions stands around the stadium all of them selling your usual stadium food. There were a couple of Chick-Fil-A tents set up as well, but that was really the only non-regular stands at the game. The stadium also only sold bottled drinks. They did not have souvenir cups for sale.
By far the coolest thing about the stadium was the entry of the midshipmen before the game. They all marched onto the field by battalion. This was followed by the National Anthem by the drum and bugle core and a fly over. After the fly over, the midshipmen were dismissed and all ran to their seats.
This was the first stadium from my trips that occurred in an NFL stadium. It was located on the North Shore downtown. I parked a few miles from the stadium and took the light rail which had its final stop right next to the stadium. It was an easy trip to the stadium, but the train did fill very quickly once the game was over on the way back out.
The stadium is a triple decker stadium around 75 percent of the bowl with a double decker style on the other 25 percent. All of the seats had individual seats except the third tier of the south endzone which still had benches with backs. That was probably the biggest perk of being a pro stadium.
There was a large video board above the north endzone and a medium sized video board in the Southeast corner. Runner boards went between the second and third decks.
The game was not a sell out but had a decent attendance. The lower decks were around 80-90 percent full. On the upper decks, about 40 percent of the stands were occupied. My pet peeve of the stadium not being next to the campus was in full effect here. But they had plenty of buses to bring students to the stadium and the light rail is free if you are just riding downtown.
Being an NFL stadium, the concession prices were much higher than at normal college stadiums. They did have a much larger range of food stands though. Some of the stands that were represented included Franco’s Pizzeria, Primanti Brothers. Quaker Steak and Lube, Pierogi House, Little Caesar’s, and Crabfries.
3. West Virginia
I had been to a West Virginia previously before starting my Road Trip adventures, but this one had a much different feel as it was against a bitter rival. Fans showed up in force and was tailgating in masse before the game. There was even a concert going on pre-game close by. People were excited for this one and started lining up at the gates about 30 minutes before they opened.
The alignment was horseshoe based with a second tier of seats on both of the sidelines. The north side of the stadium had the Diversified Energy terrace. There was a large video board on the South side of the stadium and a medium sized one on the North side. Runner boards ran between the two tiers as well.
The one interesting was in the South endzone. They had a large field area behind the field with a large number of tables and chairs. It appeared to be an area for donors and season ticket holders to hang out before the game.
From a concession standpoint, there wasn’t anything special. They did have a couple places serving Papa John’s pizza and Zul’s frozen lemonade. Other than that, there were only regular concession stands serving normal stadium foods.
In one of the more interesting entrance set-ups I’ve seen, they actually opened the gated areas three hours before kickoff, but left the actual stadium unavailable until 90 minutes before kickoff.
Once you got inside the ticketed area, they had a variety of food trucks as well as access to the pregame FanFest inside the practice facility. It did take a while for me to realize that was open to everyone by going in early, so I wish they could have found a way to publicize that better. The idea was a good one though.
Once in the actual stadium, three-quarters of the stadium was in double-decker format. The other quarter was one section, but it rose up just as high as the other parts of the stadium. Above one end zone was a large video board, while the other end zone had a medium video board. No runner boards were located in the stadium.
This game was a black out. For every game, they choose a different color for fans to wear between black, green, and yellow. Other than the food trucks down below the main stadium area, there were no special concession stands. But they did sell a variety of food at each one to give you a choice of what you wanted to eat.
The crowd showed up for this one, as it was announced it was the fifth largest crowd in stadium history.
1. Oregon State
Reser Stadium is one of the smaller Power Five schools I have attended. It has a capacity of about 43,000, and was about ninety percent full.
Although it is smaller, the stadium has gone through some major renovations that has made it a beautiful stadium inside. The major changes were in the North end zone where they placed a small area of seats and had a large terrace for donors.
The east side was a triple decker format and the west side was actually a quadruple decker, though all the decks were relatively small. There was just one video board. It was a large one in the South end zone. There were also runner boards on both side lines between decks.
One thing that I appreciated was how the school allowed the student section to span the entire field on the lower section of one sideline. They were into the game and made their voices heard throughout.
As seems to be the current trend, almost all of the concession stands were normal, with no company alignment. The only exception to this at Reser Stadium was a Qdoba stand. The concessions did seem to be a little more costly here than at some other places. There were much nicer concessions on the west sideline where more of the donors likely sit.
Top 5 Campuses of 2023
The Pittsburgh campus automatically hit my main dislike by being right in the heart of downtown. This made it a little hard to get to as well as find parking. Luckily, I did get the last parking space in the lot I went to first which saved me some trouble.
One difference between this campus and the Nebraska campus I visited last fall was that Pitt was much more entrenched in the downtown motif. This made it harder to tell where the campus actually began and where other regular buildings were located. It always makes a difference for me to get a full campus feel and that definitely could not happen on this trip.
Being amongst the other downtown buildings, the first thing that stuck out was the Cathedral of Learning. This was a 42-story building and the second tallest educational building in the world behind one in Moscow, Russia.
Another building that has a lot of history behind it is the Heinz Memorial Chapel. This chapel was built in 1938. It was not open when I visited the campus and the exterior is going through some renovations, but it still rose up in the middle of campus like a beacon.
I usually try to visit campuses on Friday mornings. That’s when I usually expect the fewest number of students and less traffic. On this trip though, Friday fell on the observed Veteran’s Day holiday. Thus, there were no classes and most areas were closed. Because of those reasons, I decided to visit on Monday morning instead. I was still able to get there rather early before most students were out for their first class.
The Oregon campus is also a downtown campus, which I usually don’t like. This one wasn’t quite as bad though because Eugene is a much smaller city than a place like Lincoln, Nebraska, or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. So even though there was still a lot of streets I had to navigate around there wasn’t as much hustle and bustle to worry about.
There really weren’t any super unique buildings on the campus which took away from the walk. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a pretty campus especially in early November with some of the trees changing color. There just wasn’t anything that made it stand out to make me remember much about it down the road.
There is one place I would have liked a better view at and that is Hayward Field. This is one of the most famous track and field venues in the United States. They did have visitor access on Fridays, but since I had to move my visit to Monday, I was only able to walk around the outside of the facility.
3. West Virginia
One of the interesting things about the West Virginia campus is there are two almost distinct campuses. There is the main area in downtown Morgantown, but then there is a second area a couple miles northwest of the main campus. In order to connect the two areas there is a small light rain system that is free for students to ride to get back and forth. This would also be beneficial for parking purposes.
I spent my visit on the main campus downtown. There were a lot of older building that gave it a distinctive feel. The only thing that took away from the campus was there was a main road that cut right down the middle of the campus. This meant there was always traffic and that it was always backed up. This would be frustrating if I had to drive in this area with any regularity.
Some of the building on campus were very pretty though. The main one that stuck out was Woodburn Hall. This building had a classic clock tower in the middle of it. There were a couple other buildings that had the old campus feel to it as well including Stewart Hall and Elizabeth Moore Hall.
This came a lot closer to the East Coast classic college campus feel that I love walking amongst on my trips.
2. Oregon State
The Oregon State campus is the type of campus I love walking through. It was a large campus that was spread out and was easy to walk around without having to worry about traffic along the way.
Since my hotel was so close, I was able to walk directly to the campus from my room. The first building that I came across was Weatherford Hall which is one of the residence halls. The arch that separated the two sides of the building was a great piece of architecture.
The next area was the Memorial Union Quad. This was a large open area that was basically the middle of the campus. It was surrounded by the student union on the south side and Milam Hall on the other. The Library Quad was another open area that led into The Valley Library, the main library on campus.
Due to the number of open areas and early time I was able to visit, the campus was very quiet and peaceful as I walked through it. That made it an enjoyable experience and one of the better campuses I’ve been able to explore.
I knew the Naval Academy would be a special campus, so I went on a walking tour of the facility that they offered. This ended up being a great choice as it went through a lot of the places I would have visited on my own but gave a lot of additional background I wouldn’t have known on my own.
The first area was the athletic facilities. This was something that made total sense, but I didn’t really think about until we walked through. On top of all of the swimming classes, there are also required classes in boxing, wrestling, and judo. By the time they graduate male midshipmen have to run a mile and a half in 10:30 minutes, do 35 push-ups in 2 minutes, and half a 1:45 minute plank. Female midshipmen have to run a mile and a half in 12 minutes, do 20 pushups in 2 minutes, and also do a 1:45 minute plank.
After the athletic areas, the next area we visited was Dahlgren Hall. Inside this building was a plane that was flown by the Wright Brothers on the grounds. Next to this building was Bancroft Hall where all of the midshipmen live. The building was spectacular, especially on the inside.
One of the places I was looking forward to visit was the chapel. Unfortunately, there was a funeral going on so our tour was not able to go outside. The building was beautiful on the outside. In the lower area of the chapel was the crypt of John Paul Jones, who is known as the Father of the U.S. Navy. That area was open as part of the tour.
After the tour was over, I was also able to take in the daily noon formation. At lunch, all the midshipmen group up with their battalions and march into lunch together. There were a lot of people on the day I went checking out this very cool event.
As expected, visiting here was drastically different than any other college campus I’ve been to in the best was possible. This was the highlight of the entire trip.
Top 5 Attractions of 2023
5. Fort McHenry National Monument – Baltimore, MD
This was another location that had so much history behind it. Fort McHenry is known as the place where Francis Scott Key wrote what would eventually become the National Anthem.
The fort is known for its role in the War of 1812. After Washington D.C. was captured by the British, they launched bombs at Fort McHenry for 25 straight hours. After the smoked clear, the Americans had kept control of the fort and this became the turning point of the war.
There were also significant uses of the fort during the Civil War as a prison and as a hospital during World War I. It became a National Monument in 1939.
They have done a good job with preserving the area. There are several canyons around the area that show the type of arms used during the war. There are several buildings on the inside to show the type of barracks that were used during the time period as well.
There were a couple middle school groups while I was there, but luckily there was enough open space so it wasn’t distracting. Again, being able to be in a place where so much famous history occurred is one my favorite things to check out.
4. Silver Falls State Park – Oregon
Silver Falls State Park is approximately one hour Northeast of Corvallis. It is most known for having a group of ten waterfalls that you can hike down to and walk behind along a 7.2-mile path.
The first waterfall I came to was the South Falls. You had to hike down into a ravine to get to it. Once you got down to the falls it was a stunning view. Since you could walk along both sides of it and behind it you were able to get multiple angles and see how impressive the falls were.
After the South Falls, I continued my hiking until I hit the Lower South Falls. To get here you had to go even further down into the ravine. There were quite a few hikers along the path, but it was still less crowded which let you appreciate nature around you. Again, seeing the power of the falls up close made this an amazing hike.
After the second waterfall, there was a decision to make on whether to continue on to the third waterfall or to walk back to the main part of the park. Once I realized how far down I had walked, I determined I better call it a day as opposed to adding much more hiking to the agenda. This ended up being a great call, because the walk back up was very steep and fairly strenuous. It would be a great place to come to in order to get in shape if living nearby.
This was just another location that showed the beauty of Oregon. Between the ocean cliffs, the waterfalls at Multnomah Falls and Silver Falls, and even the view of Mount Hood from Portland the scenery was all amazing on this trip.
3. Heceta Head Lighthouse/Thor’s Well – Florence, OR
There were so many places to choose to visit the ocean from along the Oregon coast. The ones I chose were stunning. In most areas the coast was lined with cliffs as opposed to sand beaches that you usually think of.
The first stop I made along the coast was to Thor’s Well. This was an area where the tide came in especially hard and caused large crashes along the rocks. Right next to it was the Spouting Horn. Here water would come in and then spout into the sky almost like a whale’s blowhole. It was one of the most stunning views I’ve ever had along the ocean.
For my second stop, I visited the Heceta Head Lighthouse. This lighthouse was originally built in 1894 and is still functional today. It was a small climb to the top, but you were able to walk inside and see at least the lower level. You could not climb up into the upper area however since it was closed to the public.
The lighthouse was nothing special, but again the views from the top of the hill were spectacular. Near the bottom of the hill around the parking lot there were also good views of the waves crashing into the various rocks nearby. This area was a little more walkable.
Overall, the entire Oregon coast line was a great site. Being able to drive along Highway 101 is a cool thing to say that I have done.
2. Heinz Museum – Pittsburgh, PA
The Heinz Museum was selected as the second-best history museum in the United States by USA Today, just behind the Underground Railroad museum in Cincinnati. It was a huge building in the downtown area that had several different featured exhibits.
Of course, the first major exhibit is the Heinz exhibit. This gives a history of the company, including a huge set of memorabilia from throughout the years. They also had many televisions airing old Heinz commercials.
The next area was the Western Pennsylvania sports exhibit. This showed everything from major sports teams like the Steelers and Pirates, down to individual athletes that made a difference in local sports.
Finally, one neat area was the Mister Rogers exhibit that displayed some scenery from the Land of Make-Believe including King Friday’s castle. It was cool to be able to see some of the set pieces from a show that made up a big piece of my childhood.
In total there are six floors of exhibits and we weren’t able to get through them all in one trip. Before you go, make sure you know which exhibits you want to see most and make a list. This was a fun museum!
1. Multnomah Falls – Portland, OR
When people think of the most photographic place in Oregon, most would say Multnomah Falls. It is located about 30 minutes east of the Portland airport so a great first place to visit when you land.
I have visited Multnomah Falls before, but last time it was near freezing outside so a lot of the paths around the falls for frozen over with the mist from the falls. This time it was much nicer outside and I was able to take a lot more in.
Multnomah Falls rise up approximately 620 feet and is the tallest falls in the Columbia River Gorge. There is a hiking trail that takes you up to a bridge about a third of the way up so you can see the upper part of the falls with a better view.
The views on this visit were beautiful. On top of the falls themselves, a majority of the trees were changing colors. There were a ton of yellow leaves abound which just added to the stunning views.
This is a place that should be on everyone’s bucket list if you ever visit the Portland area.
Top 5 Restaurants of 2023
5. Bao Bao House – Eugene, OR
The Bao Bao House is a Chinese dumpling restaurant. They had two locations. The main one is downtown, but I went to a second newly opened location located near my hotel.
Of course, the majority of the menu was full of different types of dumplings. I ordered the cheese and chicken pan-fried bao. They came as a group of six. The wait for the meal was a little long, but then I realized that they were making all of the dumplings by hand to order.
First off, it might be weird to say this about a food dish, but the dumplings were beautiful. You can tell that the cooks took pride in their dishes and that means something.
As for the actual dumplings, they were really good. I do think there was a little too much cheese that overpowered the chicken. It would be interesting to try a couple other types to see if they had a more balanced flavor to it. At the end of the day, I really enjoyed this place.
4. Phillips Seafood – Baltimore, MD
If you are in the state of Maryland, a crab cake has to be on the list of things to try. There are a lot of different places you can go to for seafood in the Baltimore/Annapolis area. I decided on Phillips Seafood which was near the National Aquarium in downtown Baltimore in the Pratt Street Power Plant.
The restaurant was more on the upscale side. They had a lot of seating inside as well as a large patio outside for the nicer weather during the summer. The décor in the restaurant was on point. They had a few ships on display as decoration that made it a nice place to sit down and have a meal.
I knew I needed to try to crab cake, so decided on the fried seafood trio. This came with a crab cake, fried shrimp, and a fried piece of beer-battered haddock. It also came with sides of fries and coleslaw.
The crab cake was good, but I honestly preferred the shrimp and fish more. The shrimp were large and had good flavor. Adding some lemon juice, malt vinegar, and tarter sauce to the fish gave it a lot of flavor as well. I am glad that I tried the crab cake, but the high cost of them would not make it a go-to on my list very often.
3. Primanti Brothers – Pittsburgh, PA
Usually I avoid chain restaurants, but Primanti Brothers is a chain that is based out of Pittsburgh that has a lot of positive reviews. There are currently a total of forty locations throughout Pennsylvania, West Viriginia, and Maryland.
The atmosphere was very sports bar like. Being a Sunday afternoon of the first NFL weekend, there were a lot of people inside watching the Steelers game at the bar.
Wanting to try one of their popular sandwiches, I went with the capicola and cheese. What makes the sandwiches different is that their sandwiches include French fries and slaw as part of the sandwich. It usually comes with tomatoes as well, but I took those out and added onions instead. It is served on large pieces of Italian bread.
This was a delicious sandwich. The capicola had a nice kick of heat to it and the slaw contrasted nicely with it. The sandwich was large enough that you really didn’t need a side with it to have a full-sized meal.
2. Mo’s – Florence, OR
Mo’s is a small seafood chain with restaurants mainly along the Oregon coast cities. The one I visited was in Florence, and was right along a local pier with a small-town feel.
Mo’s is known for their clam chowder. I considered getting the Cannonball, which was a large sourdough bread bowl fill with chowder. I decided that is would be better to try a little more variety. Since their combos came with a small chowder with the meal, that is the direction I chose.
I ended up going with the classic fish and chips. The fish was a panko-breaded cod. The chowder came out first and was very good. There was a good ratio of clam and vegetables and the chowder base was thick and tasty as well.
The fish was cooked perfectly and had a good portion for the price. You could cut right through it with a fork and the flavor, especially with tartar sauce and malt vinegar added was very good. One of the better fish plates I have had in a while.
1. Muriale’s Italian Kitchen – Fairmont, WV
While looking for places to eat in the Morgantown area to dine, this Italian restaurant in Fairmont kept showing up at the top of the list. It was originally founded by a family that migrated from Italy in the early 1900s.
The outside of the restaurant was nothing special but walking in there were a lot of pictures and décor that made it feel homier.
Of course, I had to go with the spaghetti and meatballs. One thing slightly different is the sauce that came with the meatballs was a meat sauce as opposed to just a marinara.
The spaghetti was delicious. The meat sauce made the spaghetti a lot heartier and the meatballs were tasty as well. Authentic food from small restaurants always will win out over chain restaurants when it comes to this type of food. This place would be a regular go-to if I lived in the area.