Relive Onward State’s Road Trip To Illinois

We’re so back, folks.

This past weekend, Onward State photographers Hailey Stutzman and I traveled alongside writers Joe Lister, CJ Doebler, and Nolan Wick to cover Penn State’s first road game of the season against Illinois.

With about 20 total hours in the car over the span of three days, there were plenty of adventures to be had and memories to be made as we watched the Nittany Lions move to 3-0. Let’s take a look back at Onward State’s road trip to Champaign, Illinois.


We wanted to get to Champaign at a fairly reasonable time, so we aimed for a morning departure. By 8:50 a.m. we were on the road.

The first stretch of the drive is arguably the most interesting visually. We passed through the rolling green hills of western Pennsylvania before crossing our first state line of the trip into the panhandle of West Virginia.

We played a variety of games to make conversation and pass the time, like “two truths and a lie.” The morale was fairly high at this point in the drive, even as we crossed the border into the worst state ever: Ohio.

Our first stop of the day came in Ohio. Continuing the tradition set in stone by our football-beat forefathers, we opted for Panera Bread for lunch. The ancestors would have been proud.

Feeling refueled and rejuvenated, we got back in the car and headed southwest. It was at about this time we started listening to “Ima Boss,” by Meek Mill (James Franklin’s walkup song) on repeat.

The first major city we passed through was Cincinnati, Ohio. This was a slight detour from the most direct route to Champaign, but that’s because I had a finger-lickin’ good idea.

In my life, I hope to visit all 50 states. I’ve been to the Midwest a few times but always narrowly avoided Kentucky. Once I found out that it was only a 20-minute detour from the most direct route, I made my pitch to the rest of the crew.

For the sake of timeliness, we didn’t dilly-dally in Kentucky for very long, but we did make a stop for food at one of its most famous cultural exports: Kentucky Fried Chicken. The chicken itself was about as average as you’d expect, but the experience brought morale way up as we prepared for the next leg of our journey to Champaign.

We passed through our fifth state of the day: Indiana. The view was just about as flat as could be, with cornfields stretched for miles and miles in any given direction. Following a dare from an in-car “what are the odds” game, Hailey made her thoughts known at a gas station somewhere outside Indianapolis.

At long last we crossed the border into the Land of Lincoln. The sunset made for a beautiful backdrop for our Mike Rhoades-style selfie at the state sign.

After a little bit more driving through the open plains of the Midwest, we finally arrived in Champaign. We decided to take the evening to explore the town and campus. We did a drive-by of Memorial Stadium before parking near the Main Quad.

We explored a bit of “Campustown,” which seems to be a separate area of the town largely designed for students. After a stop for lemonade at a Raising Cane’s with a rooftop patio, we made our way to our motel and hit the hay.


We woke up around 7 a.m. CT and headed right to Memorial Stadium. The writers headed for the press box and the photographers headed for the photo tent as the Onward State crew went into game mode.

You’re all familiar with the next part of the story. The Nittany Lions defeated Illinois 30-13 in a Big Ten battle that left fans a bit concerned with Penn State’s offensive firepower. The Illinois gameday experience was solid, and the band was a true highlight.

Following the game, Hailey and I edited our photos while the writers wrote their stories. The press box was nice, with ice cream, hot dogs, and bottomless popcorn available to media members. After the job was finished for the day, we had to head down to the field for some post-game shenanigans, including a 40-yard dash.

We celebrated another successful day with dinner at Farren’s Pub & Eatery in the non-Campustown part of downtown Champaign. We all split some buffalo wings and enjoyed some delicious burgers as we watched Florida take down No. 11 Tennessee on TV.

Having explored campus the night before and exhausted from a long day of football coverage, we headed back to the motel from there. We settled in for some much-needed rest.


Sunday was by far the most boring day of the weekend. For one, it was raining for much of the drive which made the already flat scenery even more dull. Secondly, we didn’t have any specific “fun” stops planned for the day. The objective was clear: get back to State College as soon as we could.

We passed through Indiana again.

For our singular stop of the day, we opted for lunch at a Midwest classic, Culver’s, somewhere near Toledo, Ohio. I had never been before, and I actually thought it was really good — greasy and unhealthy, sure, but delicious. I got a butterburger, cheese curds, and a caramel milkshake. I will be back one day.

We powered through the rest of the drive without stopping, ultimately making it back to State College around 7 p.m. despite losing an hour on the drive home.

Another successful road trip in the books! Here’s to the next one.

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About the Author

Mikey DeAngelis

Mikey DeAngelis is a junior majoring in film production who is also serving as one of Onward State's visual editors. During his free time, he enjoys making content for his YouTube channel. 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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