Top Three Travel Memories
Asking me to choose a favorite travel memory is like asking me to choose a favorite pair of shoes. It’s nearly impossible!
So when Christina of Jandal Road recruited me to be on #TeamBLUE for the LowCostHolidays.com blogger relay contest, I had a minor freak out. I had nearly a week to come up with my three favorite travel memories before I was going to be tagged. What on earth would I write about? Being the fourth blogger on #TeamBLUE, I can’t help but compare my post position to the anchor leg of the mile relay. My heart is racing as I look over my right shoulder waiting for the baton. I take a few steps forward making sure to stay within the exchange zone. And with my arm back, I hear Cathy from Traveling with Sweeney yell “stick!” And I’m off…
#3: Carnival Samba Parade in Rio de Janeiro
I’m convinced that the Samba Parade is the greatest show on earth. Forget the Ringling Bros; they have nothing on this event. Prideful. Gluttonous. Lustful. It’s got three of the seven deadly sins covered. How can something like that not be marvelous?
For two glorious nights, thirteen samba schools bring the Sambordromo alive with their elaborate, grand pageantry. From sundown to sunup during this nationally-televised event, dancing and music consume all in attendance, and I was no exception.
For me, the Samba Parade was nothing I could have imagined, but everything I hoped it would be. The pounding drums, rhythmic dancing, and fanciful costumes made me feel as if I was trapped inside of a Tim Burton or Baz Luhrmann movie. Each of my five senses was on full alert throughout the ten-hour affair. It was stimulating, hedonistic, and over-the-top, which is exactly how I like my experiences.
#2: Queenstown, New Zealand
A long day of driving took me from down the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Starting from Fox Glacier, I drove through Mt. Aspiring National Park, down past the beautiful water of Lake Wanaka. Instead of taking the main highway to Queenstown, I chose to drive the smaller, Cardona Valley Road. Since I’d driven from Auckland in the North Island down to the southern portion of the South Island, I was used to seeing the change in landscape. But when I started south towards the Cardona Ski Resort, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.
The mountains were high, but somewhat soft. They weren’t jagged as I often think of mountains. The surrounding land looked similar to Palm Springs. Tufts of dry grass covered the landscape and the area was generally brown. It was a stark contrast to the water-rich area I’d just come from. I put my car in low gear just to make the final ascent up the mountain.
There was a place to pull over at the ridge of the mountain. The twenty-mile drive was nerve-racking, and I needed a break. In the near distance, a steel ladder pointed the way over a wire fence; I climbed it. In front of me was a mound of earth that just begged to be conquered. I struggled to find my footing, and essentially, climbed with my hands on the ground for stability. Somehow I managed to reach the top.
When I stood up to get a better look, I was nearly pushed back down to where I started. The wind must have been blowing 70 mph. Growing up on the South Plains of Texas, I have often experienced winds 50+ mph, but this was nothing like I’d ever felt. I literally was nearly blown off the mountain. I could put my full weight forward into the wind and not fall. The steady winds were that strong.
Was it fun? Hell yeah! But once I established my footing, I got a good look at what awaited me on the other side of the mountain. Below was the antithesis of what I’d just driven through: lush, green grass was divided by brilliant blue water. It was like Dorothy seeing the Emerald City for the first time. My eyes welled up with tears and a giant grin firmly planted itself on my wind-blown face.
#1: Lubbock, Texas
November 1, 2008 will forever be burned into my memory. It was the most important game of the college football season thus far. My alma mater, Texas Tech, was playing the University of Texas in Lubbock. We were ranked #6 and Texas was #1. All eyes were on this match-up, including those of almighty ESPN. Tickets were impossible to find, as were hotel rooms. This game was the biggest thing to hit Lubbock probably ever. I wasn’t going to miss it.
On October 31, Halloween, I left Austin for Lubbock with my best friend in tow. My goal was to make it to Lubbock for some of ESPN’s live broadcast from campus. I wanted to see all the pageantry. We promptly arrived and took our places among the legion of college students and their signs. We watched Kirk Herbstreit as he talked about the weekend’s games. That was just about all I could take. We needed to check into our hotel and get cleaned up for dinner.
Fortune and fate stepped in during dinner. We were seated next to the guys in charge of ESPN’s College Gameday, and somehow I managed to charm my way into VIP status for the show. Saturday morning arrived, and I sprung out of bed. Back to campus I went, but this time I wasn’t being squished by a bunch of frat guys. Instead I watched the show from the comfort of a tent. I toured the Gameday bus, met Desmond Howard, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, and Chris Fowler. I was on stage for pictures, and spoke with the guys after the show. For a football fanatic like myself, I couldn’t imagine the day getting better.
I’d attended Texas Tech football games since I was a little girl, but I’d never seen Jones Stadium as electric as it was that night. It’s as if I could see the concrete pulsating. Everyone was clad in black except for a small smattering of burnt orange. Alcohol-fueled fans were like wild, caged animals waiting to attack. It was the most intense scene I’d ever experienced. This is what football in Texas is all about. A chance at a national championship was on the line, and all bets were off.
Like a scripted movie, this game was dramatic and exciting, yet full of heart break and elation. The final 1:29 thrilled Texas Tech fans and brought Texas fans to their knees. I didn’t want to watch, yet I couldn’t take my eyes off the field. I was more alive than I’d ever felt, but I wasn’t even sure if it was real. Was I really present? Or was this some crazy dream? I’ve played in big games and coached in even bigger games, but nothing could compare to watching this battle. As a mere bystander, I couldn’t do anything to influence the outcome, which probably contributed to my erratic heart rate and impromptu tears.
I’m not sure that I’ll ever experience anything like that again. Nearly four years later, the feeling is still burned into my memory. Thinking of that experience livens my pulse and brings a smile to my face. Goosebumps rise on my arms and my stomach fills with butterflies. This is the high I’m constantly chasing. (If you’d like to see a sweet video capturing that night, please go here.)
Luckily this isn’t the mile relay, because as the anchor leg, the race would be over with my post. Instead of crossing the finish line, I get to pass the baton to another blogger. So here you go, Dave and Deb from The Planet D.
If you haven’t gotten your fill with my favorite travel memories, follow the hashtags #BloggerRelay and #TeamBLUE on Twitter. Do you want to share your travel memories and want to be on the BEST team, contact me for a coveted spot on #TeamBLUE. The best travel memory wins an iPad 2, a digital SLR camera and walking boots.
Did you know that last year I had a series featuring some of the best places to experience a college football game? For eight schools, I showcased the traditions, game day experiences, as well as the city each university is located. Did your favorite school make last year’s cut? Find out here.