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Relive Onward State’s Road Trip To Auburn

This past weekend, writers Gabe Angieri, Frankie Marzano, and Sam Fremin, as well as photographers Ryan Parsons and I, drove down south to cover Penn State football’s 41-12 win over Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.

With a combined 30 hours in the car and a pretty cool football game somewhere in the middle, there were certainly some adventures to be had, especially considering that Penn State was the first Big Ten team to ever play at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

As we recover from an obscene amount of time on the road, let’s take a look back on the wild weekend trip we took down south.

Friday

With a long day ahead of us, we aimed for an early departure. We actually did a decent job of hitting the road early! With some Vibe Coffee in our systems and the car stocked with RedBulls and pretzels, we hit the road around 7:30 a.m.

We had a long day ahead of us, but morale was high. For one, we were all pumped to cover Penn State’s historic matchup against Auburn. But, the drive down the Appalachian Range was different than the usual (flatter) drive through the Midwest for Big Ten matchups.

We headed south, working our way through Pennsylvania before crossing over the narrowest part of Maryland. To be specific, we were in Maryland for about two minutes before crossing into West Virginia. Morale was high and we were rolling through the states pretty quickly. We were only a few hours in when we crossed the border into Virginia, the fourth state of the trip.

We made our first real stop of the day at a Panera Bread in Winchester, Virginia. Despite our disappointment to find out Panera stopped serving breakfast for the day, we fueled up with some hearty soup and bread and got back on the road. With almost 11 hours to go, every stop was wasting precious daylight.

The drive through Virginia was pretty for sure. The rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley made for an amazing backdrop for this part of the ride and certainly stood out compared to the flatter terrain of the Midwest.

That being said, our time in Virginia felt long. We drove from the north part of the state toward the pointy bit in the southwest, which prolonged our Virginian experience. The first few states of the day had gone quickly, but by the end of our time in Virginia, I felt like I needed to cross a state line to feel like we had made some progress on the drive.

Luckily, after we crossed the state line into Tennessee, we would enter another stretch of states in close succession. We didn’t stop at all in Tennesee, but I got a good vibe from the Volunteer State based on the scenery I saw from my window. We passed through Johnson City before heading into North Carolina, where we’d make the longest stop of the day.

Like I said earlier, time is precious on these long travel days, but when you have the chance to try some authentic southern barbecue, you have to take that opportunity. I checked the trusty TripAdvisor app and found the highest-rated barbecue restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina: Luella’s.

We stopped for a sit-down meal, and it was 100% worth the time. We all ordered Luella’s famous brisket, which was as juicy and tender as you could imagine. It was also served with five different sauces to ensure that you found the one that was just right for you.

As a group, we got a combination of hush puppies, mac and cheese, sweet potato chips, french fries, and coleslaw as sides. These were par for the course — just as delicious as the brisket. The two 21-year-olds of the group ordered Luella’s Lager, a local beer that was specially made for this restaurant, and said it was delicious.

It was legitimately one of the best meals I’ve ever had and is worth a stop if you’re in the area. It was so good that we consistently joked for the rest of the trip about going back on the way home, even though it’d be a detour (Editor’s Note: We 100% should’ve stopped here again on the way home).

We made our way south, dipping through the uppermost corner of South Carolina. We took note of the surprising amount of peach stands along the side of the road, which meant we had officially made it to the south. We made our way into Georgia, our final destination for Friday.

Ryan Parsons and I are Phillies fans, so when we realized the Phillies were playing the Braves in Atlanta, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to see if we could get in. Did we have tickets? No. Did they sell them to us when we got there? No. We didn’t get in, but we did get to see the very cool-looking Truist Park…from the outside. It was worth a shot for sure, but slightly disappointing all the same.

We made it to our motel in LaGrange, Georgia, around 11:30 p.m. After a long day of travel, it would surely be the right decision to go to bed, right? It was, but we didn’t do that. It was about to be midnight, which would make it Sam Fremin’s 21st birthday!

We went out to the Main Street Pub, which appeared to be the only establishment open that night. We saw the clock strike midnight, and Sam ordered his first beer in what was one of the strangest bars in America. After the obligatory 21st birthday celebration, we headed back to the hotel in anticipation of the game the next day.

Saturday

Despite how much fun 15 hours in the car was on Friday, we were all pumped to cover Penn State play in an SEC stadium. LaGrange, Georgia, where our motel was, was a 45-minute drive from Auburn, Alabama.

We started our morning with a southern tradition: Waffle House. The food was just as average as you’d expect, but the environment and atmosphere were everything I imagined it to be. This food ended up messing with my system for the remainder of the day, but that was a whole other issue.

We arrived in Auburn about an hour before the press was allowed to go into the stadium, so we did some laps around the tailgate lots to see just how many Penn Staters actually made the trip. Turns out, a lot of them did.

Friend of the blog and Penn State football beat writer for The Athletic Audrey Snyder made Gabe’s day when she posted a picture of him to her Twitter account. Morale was HIGH at this point, folks.

We got into the stadium, got settled, and took some photos on the field before the teams and fans arrived. I’d like to personally give a huge shoutout to the entire Auburn Communications team for being so accommodating and making us feel welcome so far away from home.

You know this next part of the story. Penn State walked all over Auburn in its home stadium, and it was a great game to cover. Ryan and I covered the game from the field, and the other three lads crushed it up in the press box.

After the game, the crew stayed on the field to capture the celebrations and then attend press conferences. During this time, I was searching for my lost phone, but that’s a story for another day. Short story — I found it…eventually.

We headed up to the press box to work on our stories for a couple of hours before finishing up our day at the incredible Jordan-Hare Stadium. It’s no Beaver Stadium, but I’ll give credit where credit’s due. The Auburn gameday experience was incredible.

We made our way downtown after our work was done for the day. Even though LaGrange’s Main Street Pub felt like an eternity ago, it was still Sam’s birthday, so he met up with his family. Frankie and Ryan went to check out Auburn’s famous Skybar, and Gabe and I went out for a late dinner at Tekila, a Mexican place down the street. The food was much needed, considering I hadn’t eaten for about 14 hours.

We were back at the motel by 1 a.m., and we settled in for a much-needed night’s sleep.

Sunday

Rise and shine! Sunday didn’t get off to the best start. We planned on getting up around 7 a.m. to get a jump on the long day ahead, but when the clock hit 8:30 a.m., we were all still peacefully sleeping in our questionable motel room.

We were able to hit the road around 9:30 a.m. after a stop at Starbucks. We drove through Atlanta again, this time in the daylight, spotting Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Coca-Cola headquarters. Our route was similar to Friday’s but in reverse.

We made our way through Georgia, looped past Greenville, South Carolina, and opted to go the quicker route through North Carolina, heading through the Charlotte area rather than taking the scenic route through Asheville again.

Saturday had been a busy day, so those who weren’t driving spent much of the drive working on stories, sorting through photos, and catching up on missed homework from the weekend. We stopped at a Panera Bread somewhere in North Carolina and decided to mix up the final part of the drive by driving through West Virginia instead of doing the grueling Virginia drive again.

Our drive through West Virginia took us through a small sliver of New River Gorge National Park, where we took our only significant break of the day to take in the sunset view.

It was a quick stop, but it was super cool to briefly be in a National Park. Unfortunately, the vibes were all downhill from here. The hours had piled up, and as the sun set and the drive got dark, we all collectively hit our wall. We drove through Morgantown, West Virginia, but couldn’t even see anything, before arriving home in Happy Valley around 11:30 p.m.


Despite the tiredness and long hours in the car, this was an incredibly memorable experience for the entire crew, and I certainly wouldn’t trade it for the world. That being said, I’m glad this weekend is a home game.

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About the Author

Mikey DeAngelis

Mikey DeAngelis is a sophomore majoring in film production, working in his role for Onward State as a social media editor and photographer. He is also the creator of the Mad About Disney YouTube channel and an aspiring filmmaker. Mikey loves Philly sports, traveling and hiking in National Parks, and watching movies. To reach Mikey, feel free to reach out on Twitter (@mikey_deangelis) or by email ([email protected]).

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