Road Trip: Tennessee
Posted: Wednesday October 25, 2006 11:01AM; Updated: Wednesday October 25, 2006 11:19PM
Welcome to the peak of ingenuity -- Knoxville, Tennessee, the home of 18.000 students -- where football and religion sometimes appear to be one and the same. Tennessee is the only school comprised of people entirely from Shelby and Williamson counties, arguably one the most scenic areas in the country. The people reflect that to a "T" as they represent a life style unique to the south. Especially on Saturdays in the fall when Knoxville fills Neyland Stadium with more than 106,000 orange-clad souls.
Best place to tailgate: There is not a bad place to tailgate on the 750-acre campus unless it's with people who are not wearing bright orange. On Saturdays, the campus is blanketed with tents and tradition as people arrive from across the state. Similar to a trip to Mecca, Vol fans feel they most travel to Knoxville once a year to show their support. The university resembles a town fair as fans intermingle between tents. Many people enjoy cooking competitions and testing each other's original dishes.
Best place to go after a victory: The Strip. A three-block oasis on Cumberland Ave., just west of campus, it offers an assortment of bars. Many fans migrate straight to the Strip on the ankle express after home games to celebrate anything from a Tennessee win to an upcoming weekend. Live music is rare, but just make sure you are 21 if you want to participate in the fun.
Best place to spot athletes: Gibbs Hall. Just ask the "Cleat Chasers." They'll tell you to check the cafeteria for an opportunity to eat with football coach Phillip Fulmer and basketball coach Bruce Pearl. The athletic dorm is a short walk from Neyland Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena.
Best sports team nobody knows about: It used to be the men's basketball team until its cover was blown by a 22-8 season and No. 2 berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Knoxville Ice Bears are now the reining Southern Professional Hockey League champions and they play from late October through March against seven other teams from Southeast states.
Best place to eat after 1 a.m.: Gus's Good Time Deli. In Tennessee, study is taken extremely serious, but the large percentage of students who are willing to risk their academic success expect nothing but the finest foods after 1 a.m. Gus's is located one block off the Strip and serves a variety of steamed deli-style sandwiches. The walls are crammed with autographs, from Peyton Manning to Pat Summitt.
Best place to boat on Saturdays: The Tennessee River. Accelerate your life before home games by joining the Vol Navy. Neyland Stadium is hard by the pristine river where a fleet of boats congregates before every home game. Boaters from around Tennessee arrive as early as Thursday to begin their floating tailgate party.
Best place to see the Circle Drill: Halftime at Neyland Stadium. "Rocky Top" isn't the only thing that Tennessee's Pride of the Southland Band is known for. Since the 1960s, the band has been world-famous for the Tennessee Circle Drill. The Circle, Flower and Star marching drills are performed twice a year: at one of the final home games and at a bowl game. The intricate, six-and-a-half-minute routine creates a kaleidoscope of people.
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