We’re racing down a windy stretch of Highway 33 bisecting the Shenandoah Valley in western Virginia. Rain pelts the windshield as Colin mashes the unresponsive accelerator of the feeble four cylinder Hyundai Elantra. We wind the beige comet through the dense fog of switchback mountain roads, and down into the broad, lush green valleys below. On any other day, this would be a breathtaking drive, but in the thick white mist, visibility is nil. Despite the inclement weather, western Virginia is magnificent country.
We’re running late. Way late. We had spent the morning at a “Go Ruck: Nasty” event, a six mile outdoor adventure race inspired by military obstacle courses. Colin, my Oregon State cohort from last year, had agreed to run the race with a couple friends. After a quick 6 mile morning jog, he assured us he’d be ready to make the quick hop into Charlottesville for a late afternoon ACC tilt.
Another friend Tim, a classmate from Notre Dame and ardent follower of the Pigskin Pursuit, and I both agreed to spectate this goofy event from the confines of the $1.00 beer tents. A far more palatable option than, you know, actually running. I hadn’t seen Tim since the BCS National Championship game this past January, and, with an eerie unspoken agreement, neither of us brought up the repressed nightmare of that awful evening. Instead, we spent the better part of the morning nursing a few Yuengling drafts, lamenting the current sad state of the Irish squad and chuckling while mud covered race goers hurled themselves over logs, wooden walls and cargo nets. It was like watching a live Japanese game show.
Following the misty post race drive, we arrive in Charlottesville, and with only 30 minutes to spare before kickoff, there is little time to hunt for free parking. I begrudgingly point us into a spot on the lawn of a dingy student house on Jefferson Park Avenue. The gawky undergrad waving us in tries to hustle us for $30, but I barter him down to $20 strictly on principle. With little time to spare, Tim and I quickly don our rain gear while Colin changes out of his mud crusted shirt and shoes. With a steady rain continuing to fall, it’s going to be a soggy afternoon.
We hustle straight towards Scott Stadium and when the first scalper I see has a handful of seats together on the 30 yard line, we pry them off him for $20 bucks a pop. Ordinarily, I certainly could have hunted around for a better deal, but we can already hear the faint sounds of the band brass warming up on the field. Racing into the stadium, I park into my seat with only eight minutes remaining until kickoff, just early enough to see the Virginia Cavalier rider streak out of the tunnel mounted on “Sabre” a chestnut colored thoroughbred horse.
Predictably, the game proves to be a lopsided affair. Despite a few initial turnovers in the first quarter, a couple errant throws by Cavalier Quarterback David Watford, the VMI Keydets are completely outmatched by the Virginia Squad. Beginning in the second quarter, UVA mounts drive after drive, marching methodically down the field on the strength of a pounding rushing attack. After each successive Cavaliers score, the crowd locks arms and sways to the “Good Old Song”, a defacto alma mater for the university with a chorus that shares the same tune as “Auld Lang Syne”. Although the game is already a 35 point blowout midway through the third quarter, we stay through the entirety of the contest. Sheltering under the grandstands while the rain intensifies, Virginia continues their romp on the field, eventually running away with a 49-0 blowout. With all those touchdowns, the “Good Old Song” is now seared into our collective ears for the evening like a catchy pop tune…
After the game we take a detour through the University of Virginia campus, widely reputed to be one of the most picturesque in the country. Even in a steady downpour, the campus is a magnificent example of Jeffersonian Architecture. Designed by Thomas Jefferson himself, “The Lawn” is a terraced stretch of grass flanked by white columned arcades on three sides. Behind the white colonnades, sturdy brick structures house student dormitories, each of them a numbered Pavilion 1 thru 10. Living in “The Lawn” is considered a privilege among UVA students, only “4th years” are permitted to live here, and after applying the chosen few are selected based on academic standing and leadership. The entire quadrangle is anchored by the iconic Rotunda at the North end, a white columned homage to the Roman Pantheon built at ½ scale. While the Lawn and Rotunda are enduring symbols of the University of Virginia and architectural landmarks in their own right, Jefferson’s design has since inspired countless centralized “quads” on university campuses across the country.
From there, we crowd into the White Spot and straddle three stools in the landmark Charlottesville diner. The walls are covered with pictures of the owner – Dmitri Tevampis, who poses with armloads of attractive coeds in every photo. Peering up at the backlit menu board the “One Helluva Mess” catches my eye, but we’re here for the burgers on the recommendation of my friend Jared, a die hard UVA alum. The “Double Gus Burger” specifically, is what I’m told to order, a double cheeseburger with a fried egg cracked on top. Served between a soft white bun, the gooey patties are the perfect gut bomb after an afternoon in the rain, and they’d probably taste even better at 2AM after serious shift in one of the many local watering holes.
After the deliciously greasy burger, we note some of the eating records tacked up on the walls. A former student named Rich Pierce seems to own a handful of them, having downed 8 Gus Burgers in only 6 minutes during his belt busting run from 1995-1997; an impressive pace of one burger every 45 seconds. Exiting the tiny diner, a few pubs look like a tempting retreat from the steady rain, but unfortunately this is only a day trip. The impressive “C’Ville” nightlife will have to wait until my next visit, perhaps with an appropriate UVA tour guide in tow…
Thank you to my friend Colin for putting this trip out there, and manning the wheel down to Charlottesville. Next time, run faster man! Looking forward to the Ducks game in a few weeks.
Thank you to my friend Tim for all the support on the PigskinPursuit over the years, and finally getting together for a game! Really looking forward to a Virginia Tech experience next year with you and Suzie!!!
Thank you to my friend, and UVA Alum, Jared for the recommendations and insight into the Cavalier experience. Really looking forward to coming back to C’Ville with you for a full weekend sometime…
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