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Old 12-30-15, 05:34 PM
Sykotyk Sykotyk is offline
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Join Date: 10-12-06
Location: Lowellville, OH
Posts: 4,235
Sykotyk will become famous soon enough
TRAVEL & FOOD

I've decided to add a little interest to this with some travel recommendations and food options along the way. Generally, I'm cheap when it comes to hotels. My wife, though, is a little more picky and that makes booking a room a little more than the overall cost. For example, I've stayed in a hotel room in Time Square for $40 many years ago.

Generally, big name hotels won't get a lot of love from me. They are what they are. Bed, TV, Shower, relatively clean or safe. Some have a bit of a look to them that makes them interesting.

HOTELS

Historic Streetcar Inn, New Orleans, LA

This was probably our favorite find while traveling. Located just a mile from the Superdome, it was cheap, and despite some negative reviews, we had a great experience. The hotel is located on St. Charles, which has a street car (hence the name) running down the middle of the street. It's surrounded by many food and entertainment options. And the street car can take you right to Canal, dropping you off right at Bourbon St. It has high ceilings, which is more a southern style to deal with heat. And through Priceline it was cheap, at less than $60 including tax for the first night. We liked it so much, we stayed an additional two days, and had the room for less than $50 for a return rate. The only downside is the lack of parking. You must find a spot on the street, which was usually about a block away.

Caboose Motel, Titusville, PA

This was a complete surprise. We were planning on attending the Titusville-Greenville game on Friday night and also wanted to see two games further east of there on Saturday. But, finding a decent hotel was a bit of a problem as there isn't much in that area of the country. To our surprise, we found the Caboose Motel, which is a series of 21 caboose rail cars situated right next to the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad. Given that it was my wife's birthday that weekend, she loved the idea of sleeping in a train car that's been converted into hotel rooms. It wasn't that cheap, though at almost $90 and it's in an industrial area on all sides with the railroad and a primary truck route from the factory next door. It was a great time, though spending the day in Titusville and seeing Drake Well and then seeing the game at Carter Field, the high school home field of John Heisman. The only knock against the stadium is the large warehouse that looms over the home side of the field when sitting on the visitor side.

Harrah's Gulf Cost Hotel & Casino, Biloxi, MS

This was the afternoon before arriving in New Orleans. Good price, but they get you with an additional resort fee that adds to the overall cost. It is a great room, that's almost to the level of a suite for less than $60. Again here, we managed to win a little money. I think overall we came out $30 ahead of what we went in with. Their buffet, though, wasn't the best. Which was a disappointment as I love southern gulf/cajun/creole foods.

Sunset Motor Lodge, Stanford, KY

This was a good find. Wanting to see the Death Valley Bowl in Stanford on Friday and then the Rec Bowl in Mt. Sterling on Saturday, we were thinking of driving up toward Lexington to find a hotel as Stanford is a very small town. However, the lone motel turned out to be one of the best rooms of the season. Decently priced in the low 60s, it was a great room with a great memory foam bed. It also let us check in before the game, get something to eat, and then head to the game rather than just killing time somewhere before the games.

CareFree Inn, Houston, TX

Located only 1.2 miles from NRG Stadium was about the best thing. It was next door to a Whataburger and was relatively easy to get in and out of despite being on a very busy intersection. The price wasn't that bad, high $50s, but it is what you pay for. Bed was horrible, but the room was clean with a fridge and microwave.

Extended Stay America, Various Locations

If you travel a lot, this is one of my favorites. Usually can get pretty cheap through Priceline well below their listed price, and just a home away from home. Twice I've stayed at the one in Dearborn, Michigan and this year also in East Syracuse, New York. It's basically a small apartment. The stay in Syracuse was great, especially with my wife staying in the room one morning and then calling it a night early from the Carrier Dome on Saturday. Not too far a drive from the university, either.

Holiday Inn, Evansville, IN

This place disappointed me. Rated at 3 stars, the only great thing is the view of the atrium and pool area. However, the room, on the fifth floor, was absurdly warm and the old thermostat just couldn't get it down as cold as I'd like it. With the balcony and sliding doors, there was an everpresent chlorine smell from the pool. And, there was no fridge or microwave. The bathroom, too, was something you'd find in a $40 hotel. And, aside from the Caboose Motel, this was our most expensive stop of the year at almost $90. Just a let down.


FOOD

There's a lot of different options around the country depending on your tastes. I tend to love Cajun/Creole, Indian, Seafood/Sushi/Calamari, and Barbeque. Mostly Texas BBQ over Carolina, Kansas City, or Memphis BBQ.

So, here's the places I remember from this year. In no particular order.

Lee's Chicken, Various Locations

If you go to Kentucky, you have to stop here if you love fried chicken. It's so much better than KFC and generally cheaper, as well. Their sweet tea is also some of the best you'll find. Though they tend to be very stingy with it, requiring someone else to refill your cup. Otherwise, no matter where you stop, this is a good regional chicken chain.

Culver's, Various Locations

Of all the Culver's I've ever stopped at, only once was I disappointed. My wife loved this place. The Pot Roast Sandwich was her favorite order. While I got the Pub Grinder Burger, their special at the time. As well as their Frozen Custard that alone is worth the stop. Based out of Wisconsin, there's a few in Columbus and suburban Detroit, but otherwise ubiquitous in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Whataburger, Various Locations

If you have the choice, there's no reason to stop at a McDonald's or Burger King if there's a Whataburger around. It can be a little pricy, but to me it's worth it. The Double With Cheese, with mustard and onions is my staple. It's only topped by In-n-Out for quality. Their Fiery Buffalo Chicken Tender Sandwich was good, too. Given that it was next to our hotel in Houston, we'd stop before and after the games to avoid spending much at the stadium.

Court of Two Sisters, French Quarter, New Orleans, LA

I knew nothing of this place when we stumbled upon it just after noon on Royal St. They serve a daily Jazz Brunch Buffet that's a bit pricy at $30/each. However, it is definitely worth the price. The Crawfish Louise may be my new favorite food. I've had nothing like it. And that wasn't all they had. The Jumbalaya, shrimp, and various other meat options were great. And sitting in the courtyard under the tree canopy with a live band was just extra. Total meal with tip was $80 but if you're in New Orleans, you have to stop. I know I'll be back.

HuHot Mongolian Grill, Cedar Falls, IA

This is a small chain that's growing, but appears to be located primarily near large cities or college campuses. It's all-you-can-eat. You get a bowl, get what you want, add your sauce, and they cook it on a 600 grill. Food was great, and mixing and matching stuff to get the right flavor is a fun endeavor.

Maharaja Grill, Dearborn, MI

This was a surprise. It's a hole-in-the-wall restaurant akin to Chinese takeout, but this was Indian and it was some of the best Chicken Curry and Chicken Tikka Masala we've ever had. The place is nondescript, but the food is amazing. With a 4.2 rating on Google Maps, it greatly exceeds initial expectations.

Old Tyme Grocery, Lafayette, LA

Driving west across US-90 from New Orleans to Lafayette, I was going to stop at a Po'Boy shop I knew southeast of Lafayette. But, we started looking for other options, and stumbled on a few located in Lafayette. Including this small place called Old Tyme Grocery garnering a staggering 4.7 rating. Located as part of a corner store, you order your food at the register and have your option of all the bottled or canned drinks in coolers. As well as snack cakes, et al. I ordered the Old Tyme Special and my wife had the Meatball, since while pregnant deli meats were out for her. Her's was a tad spicy for her liking. However, I think my Po'Boy was one of the best non-seafood Po'Boys I've ever had. If you're ever in Lafayette near the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, you need to stop.

Phil's Marina Cafe, Slidell, LA

Our first meal in the Pelican State was a good one. Overlooking the marina, the place serves a lot of seafood. We had calimari to start and then I had an Oyster Po'Boy, which was tremendous. It was huge, too, for the $13 price. My wife had the Shrimp Platter, with about 20 breaded shrimp. The only knock was that their key lime pie, though possibly homemade, was nearly frozen solid and overpriced. But, the seafood is the draw and well worth it.

Texas Hot Lunch, Kane, PA

This is a must-stop when you're up in the Allegheny Mountains. Combining a Sheffield and Elk County Catholic game in the same trip, Kane is a logical stopping point for a between game meal and Texas Hot Lunch delivers. This year, their chili fries were a bit of a let down, but their burgers were great. It has a 4.3 rating, and has been well-earned.

Sonny Boy's, Bridgeport, OH

Twice, we've eaten here this season. It's a great, cheap restaurant located next to Perkins Field in Bridgeport. Regardless what you order, the food is great, and the prices are amazingly cheap. Their sweet tea is great, as well.



As with last year, I'm not really sure what the plans are for next year. Most schedules aren't out, though a lot of the playoff games are getting set in association calendars. We'll be first time parents near the end of March, and that will most definitely alter any plans I would make. So, for now. We just plan on seeing local games and locations or stadiums we've yet to see before.

If the Texas games return to AT&T Stadium, we both want to make the trip. But, if they're in NRG Stadium as they were this year or at Alamodome (where I saw the 5A games in 2009), we'll probably opt not to go. We would like to see the games in Indianapolis next season and a trip to Syracuse wouldn't be bad if the temperature is decent in August. Pennsylvania title games will be a week earlier and have six games. Temperature would be the biggest consideration. Same with Ohio or West Virginia championships. For a change, we may venture out to California for the CIF Bowls in Sacramento and have an opportunity to see my sister in Los Angeles.

One of my bucket list games is attending one at Monument Valley early in the season so the sun is up longer. That would cut into a bit, and I'd want my child to be old enough to experience the trip. Which is another consideration in all of this.

Wherever we wind up this year or how things go, I'm sure we'll be somewhere having fun together. Be it at a game or not.

Sometime this spring I hope to get my photos uploaded for this season's games. You can check out photos from previous seasons here:

http://www.flickr.com/sykotyk/sets/

Hope you've enjoyed reading and have a Happy New Year.
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