A few weeks ago (mid-October to be exact) I flew to Springfield Missouri on a completely full Allegiant Airlines flight. I packed my clothes into a little bag that sat at my feet and sat my fat butt into a seat that had been occupied by so many people of similar size that the cushion was not. It was an uncomfortable flight. After landing about 9pm, I rented a car and headed north towards the little town of Fulton Missouri, home of Westminster College about 2 1/2 hours away. I arrived in Fulton somewhere around midnight and rested my rear for 15-20 minutes and discussed with Jake the pros and cons of driving to Michigan that night 600+ miles further north. We decided to forget the sleep and head towards Michigan. Michigan is where these two Shill boys became men. I had not been in Michigan for about 34 years, Jake about 30 less than me. We were both a little excited to go.
What added to our excitement was that we were fulfilling a dream. That dream was to go together to a Michigan State vs. University of Michigan Football Game. You see both Jakob and I serve our missions in Michigan, Me in the Lansing Mission and Jake in the Detroit Mission. Michiganders are passionate about their football. Even in a large town like the Detroit Metro area you can feel the buzz about this game. When we started looking at this year to attend The Game, it was just going to be another MSU vs U of M game, which is big, but as the season went on it became bigger and bigger. The return of Jim Harbaugh (rumor is that they are renaming the town Ann Harbaugh, instead of Ann Arbor), MSU was undefeated and the Wolverines were playing some very good football after their one loss at the beginning of the year. It was getting big...and exciting, and expensive. Tickets had shot up in price and I had been just planning to scalp some. In the last few days before I departed I broke down and bought some on-line. They weren't going to be great seats, but hey....we were going to the Big House. The Big House is the nick name give to Michigan Stadium. It is the largest stadium in the free world (only North Korea has one bigger) and seats 110,000+. The excitement was building!
We arrive in Detroit in the morning and started driving around some of Jake's old mission stomping grounds. He showed me places where he lived, and where he taught. We pulled into a vacant lot/field next to a baseball backstop and he told me of a lesson that he and his companion taught there to a homeless man. He showed me some pretty rough neighborhoods where the shops were boarded up and many homes had been gutted by fire and he told me that the area had improved significantly from just a few years ago. We also went to his favorite Mexican food restaurant, Camino Real. It was really good and that is a change from my days in Michigan.
I needed some MSU attire. - DONE
We needed a place to stay so we started the search for a hotel. - DONE, or so I thought. I used Hotwire to find a decent hotel and it worked great. However, when we arrive at the hotel and needed a room for 2 beds, there were none. (Lesson - when using hotwire call immediately after booking to make sure you get the type of room you need)
I needed an air mattress - DONE (6'5" vs. 6' so we know who was sleeping on the floor)
After a good night sleep, we were ready to go. Conversations with strangers took no effort to start with Jake wearing Maze and Blue and me in Green. I felt a little like a Sun Devil in Tucson. We found our way to the park and ride where we met up with some incredibly nice people. Some in Green, but most in Maze and Blue. (and it is MAZE, not Yellow) Whatever they were wearing they were all really good people.
As we approached the stadium I noticed a high school across the road. Every square foot of the school property was covered with cars, RV's and E Z Up's for a very big tailgate party. The bus stopped right at Michigan Stadium. We were at the Big House! Ya it's big and talk about a fan base.....the jumbotron posted a stat. This was the 263rd consecutive game at Michigan Stadium with 100,000 in attendance. Wow. I told you, football is different in Michigan. I was loving the experience, it was cold (for an Arizona boy), the leaves were beautiful, and I was at a Michigan/Michigan State game with my Michiganary son. Nice....very nice!
As we exited the stadium and waited for the bus, Jake was busy trying to get his ESPN app to show the final score. He could not believe what had just happened and needed independent proof beyond what his eyes had just witnessed.
We arrived back at the car exhausted, but we knew that we just had to start driving again. We got as far as Kalamazoo and figured to just find a cheap motel and crash. We tried a Motel 6, but walked in and walked out for a refund. Once we found a decent hotel (with 2 beds) we crashed.
The next morning was Sunday, so we found the nearby ward and went to Sacrament Meeting. I enjoyed this time very much. This was in an area where I served. The last area of my mission. There was a great feeling of peace and love there. I felt home. I am sure that it was because I was in Kalamazoo, but is was probably more so that I was in Sacrament Meeting and the church works in Michigan just like it does in Lehi.
Soon we were back on the road and driving, and driving. When we reached Fulton, Sarah (Jakes loverly wife) had dinner waiting for us. It was great to relax for a while, but soon I was back on the road solo toward Springfield and another crowded flight to Phoenix. We put about 1800 miles on the poor rental car over the course of 3 days and fulfilled a dream. One day I will go back to Michigan and stay for a while. I would love to serve another mission there with Marci.
What a great trip!!
MICHIGAN STADIUM STUNNED