Three Days in the SEC
The SEC has always been this big mystery to me. Growing up in Southern California prior to moving to the Midwest I’ve had the occasion to attend a lot of Pac12 and Big10 games, but never the chance to see a game on the grandest of all stages, the SEC. When the opportunity arose to see Tennessee play Ole Miss in Oxford (the one venue I had heard legendary tailgate stories about) I was all in. The trip did not disappoint.
I arrived in Memphis about noon on Friday and had a tee time at Justin Timberlake’s Mirimichi. I had read excellent things about the course, but it ended up being just average. The front nine was more like a municipal golf course than a high-profile spot, but the back had some good holes. Overall it was worth playing but Timberlake needs to do some more work on the place.
After a short drive to East Memphis I met up with my host family for the weekend, where I got to stay in their gorgeous home. Southern hospitality is definitely not a misconception, as I was welcomed by a friend’s brother and sister-in-law and their daughter and made to feel right at home having met them for the first time. We quickly got in the car and headed downtown Memphis for some sightseeing and some of the best BBQ I have ever had at Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous.
I was warned that Rendezvous was a little touristy, and it was, in the sense that it was jammed on a big game weekend. That said, it was touristy in a good way, as it gave the feel and vibe of Memphis in the same way that Universal CityWalk encapsulates Hollywood and L.A. You just have to go. Additionally, the ribs were particularly tender and were some of the best I’ve ever had. A must visit.
After we finished up at Rendezvous and had a drink at the historic Peabody hotel we headed out to Beale Street. Beale is like a mini New Orleans in that there is good music, a friendly vibe and people drinking in the street. I am definitely looking forward to coming back to Memphis and hanging out a bit more. Top 5 U.S. city in my book (and I’ve been to all the major ones).
We got home and met up with my two friends and had some drinks until late in the night. The next morning the fun started with an amazing breakfast casserole and Lisa yelling at the Comcast representative in India, informing her that there was a house full of boys who are missing College Gameday. People in the south take Lee Corso very seriously.
At 11am sharp our driver George arrived to escort us 75 miles southeast to Oxford. Since Memphis is fairly close proximity to Oxford people hire drivers to drive your own vehicle to the destination so that nobody has to worry about drinking and driving. We are starting a business doing this in Green Bay if anyone is interested. A great time was had by all partying in the car and we arrived at the tailgate house in a little over an hour.
The Grove is the most famous part of an Ole Miss tailgate, but many alumni own homes near the campus that they use as pre-party facilities on gamedays. Suffice to say, it was an added perk that allowed us to watch some football before walking over to the Grove.
The Grove is spectacular. Hundreds of acres of ornate tailgate tents where everyone wants you to come in and socialize. The experience is very surreal, as each tent has its own flavor, all with the pageantry of a Southern cocktail party. Even though we were supporting Tennessee people had no problem inviting us in to snack on tailgate food and drink booze (as long as you keep it in a red cup). Ole Miss is located in a dry county, and even though the laws are loosely enforced, if you are caught pouring alcohol into a cup the police will take it away and pour it out. Interesting. For this reason people don’t drink much beer, instead they drink mixed bourbon cocktails – and a lot of them. Very good time. Note chandeliers in first tent pictured below.
After five hours in the grove it was time to take the short walk to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for the game. The result wasn’t pretty for Tennessee, but the experience was a ton of fun. College football definitely is religion in this part of the country and it blows anything you’ll find in the midwest or west coast out of the water. The best way to describe it is different. It’s something everyone should see at least once and I’m looking forward to touring many (not all) of the SEC stadiums following my bandwagon Vols. A+ trip and special thanks to my hosts Brett, Lisa, Lauren, Gerald and Margaret.