Tusk to Tail: Some tips for those traveling to Baton Rouge to be ‘tiger bait’

This will be my sixth trip to Baton Rouge since Tusk to Tail started making the SEC road trips. The Hogs have gone 2-3 on the trips I’ve made to Death Valley. There was one huge win in OT, one loss in OT, another close loss, one blowout loss, topped off by a nice convincing win in 2015. That was the last time Arkansas won in Baton Rouge.

This team should roll into Tiger Stadium with some confidence after a nice win over Mississippi State. I hope LSU is feeling a little drained and lost after a close, emotional game at Bama last Saturday. Perhaps that gives the Hogs a slight edge. The QB play from LSU has not been outstanding, which I think also plays into the Hogs favor this week. All things considered, I like the Hogs 27-17 this week on the road.

The group and I procrastinated some on making our lodging plans for LSU. We knew we had a nice sized crew making the trip, but we were hoping to mix in some time in New Orleans before going to Baton Rouge. Unfortunately, we didn’t know the game time until last week. If it was going to be an early kickoff, we didn’t want to stay that far away, so we waited.

Well, we waited too long.

New Orleans hotels filled up with a big medical convention, pushing rates well over $400 at night, which is well above what we like to spend for a football weekend. Adding insult to injury, all of the nice hotels in Baton Rouge had sold out in the meantime. We found some rooms near the airport in NOLA, but not as close to the action as we had hoped. It also made a drive after the game necessary, which is not ideal. For me, the lesson was learned. Book rooms early no matter what and just cancel them as plans develop.

The goal is to be hitting Baton Rouge by 9 a.m. on Saturday. The weather looks to be just about perfect with a high of 65 and a low around 45. We have a good line on a great tailgate spot, so we don’t have to get there too early for the nighttime kick off. However, if you don’t have a spot, you better be close to campus by 7:30-8:00 a.m. to get a spot. We will grab some ice and cocktail mixers upon arrival, but I’ll have most everything else purchased before we leave Fayetteville.

Food for the tailgate is still up in the air. Our chef Brad is at a wedding, so that just leaves us with some local catering options In years past we were so close to Walk On’s, we just ate there or grabbed food to go and ate at the tailgate. I’m told we should have that option with the proximity of our tailgate spot, but we can firm that up as we drive down on Friday and make some calls for catering if needed.

If you are making the trip by car, stick with the 425 route. They have made some road improvements which make that the quickest route. Be careful of the small towns. They like to write tickets for Hog Fans, which we have learned the hard way. If you are heading to New Orleans, consider stopping in Lake Village and grabbing some of Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales.

If you are going to NOLA and can time it right, consider stopping on Highway 61 at The Country Store near Lorman, Miss., for some of the best fried chicken you will ever eat. In Baton Rouge, there are some great spots to eat. Of course, like any college town on a game weekend, the spots are packed and there will be a wait. Consider some of the following: The Chimes, Walk-On’s, Juban’s, Mansur’s, Pimanyoli’s Sidewalk Café, Parrain’s Seafood, and last but not least, Elsie’s Plate and Pie Shop.

Oddly enough, we’ve never spent much time out in any of Baton Rouge’s famed drinking establishments. When we were younger, the game was always the Friday after Thanksgiving, so we were rolling into town Thanksgiving night with nothing open. Once the schedule changed, I suppose we had aged out of that a bit, so I’ve got nothing for you in that department.

I would be remiss if I did not pass along some advice for visiting Tiger Stadium. For atmosphere, it’s one of the best venues in the SEC. Saying that puts it as one of the best spots in the country. Night games can get loud and the fans will be mouthy. The stadium itself is pretty much a dump, but they have great Cajun concession stand offerings. On your walk in, you will hear chants of “Tiger Bait” until you feel like your ears are going to bleed. You will hear other chants, taunts and curses on your walk in, and they don’t care if your young children are with you. Don’t let it phase you. Take it with a smile, and give them some in return. If they smell fear, you’re done for.

To be fair, we’ve always traveled to Baton Rouge in groups of 6 or more. We do wear our red gear and we have rarely had much to speak of in the way of out of ordinary visiting fan treatment. Over the years I’ve heard plenty of horror stories regarding visiting fans in Baton Rouge, but I have never witnessed those incidents. On most trips, we have been invited to share a beer with Tiger fans tailgating nearby and offered some delicious food to boot. I can only say we’ve had fun trips to Baton Rouge, and for the most part the Hogs play well there. I expect nothing less this trip and hope the Hogs can grab that Boot!

Go Hogs, Beat Tigers!

Editor’s note: Now in its 10th year, Tusk to Tail is the sport of tailgating as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together sober and otherwise for more than a decade. The primary focus of Tusk to Tail will be to follow the Hogs through the fans’ perspective with their insightful, irreverent, smart-alecky and sometimes practical style. The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter and Instagram, all @TuskToTail.

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