Tusk to Tail: Traveling to ‘the Plains’

The trip to Aggieland was a complete washout. The game and the tailgating left a lot to be desired.

With the early start and amount of rain that was flowing, we chose to hotel-gate at the Holiday Inn Express. It didn’t seem worth the trouble to set everything up in the rain before an early kickoff, but there were more A&M fans tailgating in the rain than I expected. Insert your own Aggie joke here.

Thanks to Craig May’s early booking in February, Tusk to Tail saved $160 per night from the rate the hotel charged victims who were not so thoughtful. Craig has again saved us over $80 per night this weekend in Auburn with that same early booking strategy.

If unable to dodge the price-gouging, we have been known to bring some air mattresses and squeeze in a third person to help defray some of the cost. When you don’t spend more than a few hours in the room, spending that much just doesn’t seem right.

We plan to leave Little Rock for Auburn no later than 9:30 a.m. on Friday. That should get us to Memphis before lunch, but more importantly, it will get us through Birmingham before rush hour and into Auburn in time for dinner. That early departure should save us 45 minutes of travel time as compared to getting stuck in Birmingham and crawling our way down to Auburn.

The best route is Interstate 40 to Memphis, but be mindful of the construction west of Brinkley, and try to get a traffic report. It might be necessary to detour on Highway 70 from Hazen to Brinkley. From Memphis, use Highway 78 to Birmingham and then 280 on down to Auburn. It should be a seven-hour drive from Little Rock to Auburn when traveling at warp speeds, but perhaps closer to eight hours for mortals.

It has become tradition for Tusk to Tail to stop at the Rendezvous in Memphis on the trips heading east into the heart of the SEC. The ribs are good, but that is just a bonus.  It is more about the game-weekend atmosphere found there. Memphis and the Rendezvous, in particular, has become the crossroads of the SEC for travelling fans.

If you can avoid the wait, the Rendezvous is ready to serve. It is so easy for our traveling caravan to sit down, order pitchers of beer, sausage and cheese plates, and full racks of ribs, and all be eating in 15 minutes.

On the drive home, we try to time our departure from the visiting locale to hit Memphis by 11 a.m. and line up for Gus’s Fried Chicken. I don’t know how old this establishment is but the fried chicken is to die for. The man marinates the raw chicken in Louisiana Hot Sauce and then breads and fries it. It’s not only finger licking good, it is slap your mama good. Tusk to Tail highly recommends you try this spot on your next trip to Memphis.

We have picked a few spots in Auburn where we want to try and eat this weekend, including more barbecue. Mike and Ed’s or Byron’s look like they may be best.

One Tusk to Tailgater has a friend in the Auburn athletic department, who has helped us reserve a tailgate spot near the stadium. We expect a crowd of about 20 to tailgate with us Saturday morning.

We will take a small basic setup: just the tent, a few chairs, tables, and the TV.

We hope to catch Gameday on ESPN and then the 2:30 p.m. game on CBS after our game while the traffic clears out. We will have some breakfast sweets and a nugget tray from Chick-fil-A to nibble on, which should tide us over until dinner. Of course our arsenal of breakfast cocktails will be available before the game and for any frustrated fans who need to drown their sorrows before the final whistle.

Win or lose it should be a great weekend in the loveliest little village on the plains of Alabama.

Go Hogs, Beat Tigers!!