Tailgating RV Style: The Top Four

Tailgating and football go hand in hand, but on college campuses around the country, the fans often take it to another level. The union of football and tailgating is a marriage celebrated every Saturday with a “renewal of vows.”

Ole Miss (Courtesy of live.oxfordms.com)
Ole Miss (Courtesy of live.oxfordms.com)

It’s a combination of passionate, lifelong fans, the excitement of young college crowds, and of course, the good ol’ pigskin.

Another college football season is almost here. Get out the grill, stock up the cooler, and let the party begin!

Here’s a look at the top four tailgating schools in college football. This is not a scientific list, but rather one that was ranked based on, err…OK, my biases.

Ole Miss

Mississippi is home to the legendary Grove, Ole Miss’ tailgating location for generations. A 10-acre, tree-lined area which does not allow automobiles, the Grove is a mecca for Rebel fans and one of the most unique tailgating environments in college football.

Tailgating and football have been one and the same here since the game first took hold over 100 years ago. Unlike some places where the fans are rowdy, the atmosphere at the Grove is welcoming, family-friendly, and even “sublime.”

2014 was a special year in Oxford. With coach Hugh Freeze’s guidance, Ole Miss finally had a football team worthy of its tailgating success. The Rebels won nine games and upset then-No. 1 Alabama at home, sending The Grove into convulsions of excitement.

You can find all sorts of Southern food there and a genteel atmosphere that lends itself to incredible people-watching. Tailgating goes above and beyond at Ole Miss. It’s a must-do for any serious college football fan.

LSU (Courtesy of LSU)
LSU (Courtesy of LSU)

LSU

If you have a college football bucket list, an LSU home game has to be on the list. It’s one of the most unique and raucous environments in college football, both for the experience inside Tiger Stadium and the atmosphere that surrounds it.

Tiger Stadium seats 102,321, which makes it the fifth-largest city in Louisiana on game days. LSU fans are rabid, arriving well before games in their RVs and setting up tailgates across campus well before kickoff on Saturday.

Louisiana knows how to do one thing better than any state in the country—Cajun! The dishes you’ll see prepared on a Saturday outside the stadium are truly amazing. Not only do you have some of the nation’s best fans, but they bring the absolute best food to the table too—duck, gumbo, sausage, craw fish, etouffee, and grilled alligator.

The food might be better than the football. LSU fans are friendly and willing to share with visitors, and they cook numerous Cajun and Creole dishes that are a delight to the senses. It’s a unique experience and may be the best in college football.

Alabama

Alabama (Courtesy bamahammer.com)
Alabama (Courtesy bamahammer.com)

Since his arrival eight years ago, Nick Saban has done plenty to restore Alabama to national relevance, most notably with three national championships. But even before Saban came to town, the Crimson Tide already boasted a rabid fan base. His success has only ignited their fervor.

Following a recent expansion, Bryant-Denny Stadium now boasts a seating capacity of 101,821, and Crimson Tide football remains one of the toughest tickets to get in America.

It’s also a fun tailgating experience, with some fans arriving days in advance to claim parking spots for their large motorhomes.

Chances are, you’ll hear more than your share of “Sweet Home Alabama” and, with an Alabama win, the famous “Rammer Jammer” chant. It’s a must for any serious college football fan.

Texas A&M

Texas A&M (Courtesy youtube.com)
Texas A&M (Courtesy youtube.com)

The fans at Texas A&M have been compared to a cult. They take their football so seriously that the old saying “Football is a religion in Texas” couldn’t possibly ring truer.

Texas A&M is only beginning its fourth season in the SEC, but the Aggies have shown they’re a perfect fit for the league on the field and in the tailgates. College Station lives for Aggie football, and it starts on Friday nights before home games with Midnight Yell practice.

Following a recent $450 million renovation, Kyle Field seats 102,512 fans, making it the SEC’s largest stadium and the fourth-largest in college football.

Be sure to try some brisket and beer while you’re in town, and don’t forget to visit the gravesite of A&M’s Reveille collie mascots outside Kyle Field, which famously has a working scoreboard on site.

Worth Pondering…

Graham is as Southern as black-eyed peas, scuppernong wine, she-crab soup, Crimson Tide tailgating and a dog with ticks. She is so relentlessly Southern she makes me feel that I was born in Minnesota!

—Pat Conroy

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College Students Help Replant Bastrop State Park

Flash back to Labor Day weekend in 2011 when high winds spawned by a tropical storm in Louisiana combined with epic drought conditions to fuel the most damaging wildfire in Texas history in and around the Central Texas community of Bastrop.

High school students planting trees at Bastrop State Park. (Source: statesman.com)
High school students planting trees at Bastrop State Park. (Source: statesman.com)

The wildfire that engulfed much of Bastrop County also consumed most of Bastrop State Park; however, Buescher State Park was not affected by the blaze.

The two adjoining parks are home to the famous “Lost Pines,” an isolated timbered region of loblolly pine and hardwoods. This 70-square-mile forest of loblolly pines is the state’s most westerly stand of these trees. These woods are called “lost” because they’re separated from the main mass of East Texas loblolly pines by about 100 miles.

The wildfire charred 34,000 acres and burned more than 1,500 homes, but Buescher State Park manager Cullen Sartor said his park dodged serious damage.

“The fire got within about two miles of our northern park boundary so it was pretty close,” Sartor said. “A little scary but we came out unscathed so that’s important.”

Buescher is only a sixth of the size of Bastrop State Park.

Massive help poured in then for the people affected by the fire.

Scene from the fire that devastated  Bastrop State Park in 2011 (Source: KVUE-TV)
Scene from the fire that devastated Bastrop State Park in 2011 (Source: KVUE-TV)

Now, fast forward to the February 16-17 weekend when hundreds of Texas A&M University students partnered with the Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to help the Lost Pines ecosystem recover by planting thousands of pine seedlings, tamutimes.edu reported.

The student aspect is being led by Aggie Replant, a student environmental organization.

Approximately 800 Texas A&M students bussed to Bastrop State Park to start planting 30,000 seedlings as part of Replant’s community outreach efforts. The students separated into four groups—one Saturday and another Sunday and repeated the process following weekend—in planting loblolly pine seedlings to replenish the trees lost in the fire.

The event kicked off with brief remarks by representatives of the participating entities and invited dignitaries.

Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp was instrumental in bringing the key groups together to carry out the initiative, citing the benefits to the state and its citizens.

“This a grand example of working together for the common good—Aggies volunteering their weekend time to join teams from the Texas A&M Forest Service and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to restore this state treasure—the Lost Pines of Bastrop State Park—for future generations,” Sharp notes.

“For our Texas A&M University students, this event demonstrates our core value of selfless service, while also carrying out the land-grant mission of the Forest Service and The Texas A&M University System overall for the benefit of Texas and Texans.”

John Han, Aggie Replant director, agrees with Chancellor Sharp, saying, “I am excited for the opportunity that has been given to Texas A&M. We are taking the initiative to assist a community in need and that is truly exemplary. I think that this project does a good job of embodying Texas A&M and its core values.”

TFS foresters are helping facilitate the Aggie planting events and training the students on proper planting technique, working alongside Bastrop State Park rangers.

Since wildfire recovery replanting started in December, 214,089 seedlings have been planted at Bastrop State Park. The park has reopened since the fire, including all campgrounds, cabins, and almost all trails.

See the Bastrop State Park web page for complete visitor information and the latest on wildfire recovery.

Pine seedling, the start of reforestation of Bastrop State Park in Texas
Pine seedling, the start of reforestation of Bastrop State Park in Texas

Last fall, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Arbor Day Foundation launched the Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign, a public-private partnership to raise money to plant more than 4 million trees. Since then, more than $2 million in donations has been raised to aid Bastrop wildfire recovery.

Tree plantings this season are being paid for by the Apache Corporation, Friends of the Lost Pines, Nobelity Project, and many other donors.

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

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Aggieland Outfitters Billboard-on-Wheels Road Trips

The Texas A&M football season is about to begin and a local sportswear company has a unique way to travel to away games.

Aggieland Outfitters is ready for a road trip, and its newly tricked-out RV will be perfect for showcasing The 12th Man at away games in the inaugural season for A&M in the Southeastern Conference, reports KBTX.com.

Who doesn’t want to travel to Ole Miss to tailgate at The Grove this fall?

How awesome will it be to experience game day at Auburn and Alabama?

And just how loud are the cowbells at Mississippi State?

Aggieland Outfitters is about to find out!

Aggieland Outfitters recently unveiled plans for the Aggieland Outfitters Road Trip, which plans to travel to every road game this season, bringing the sights and sounds of life on the road.

Want to know where to eat when you travel to the great Southeast? Where to grab a cold beverage before the game in Tuscaloosa?

Aggieland Outfitters will take you there. Get set for a little “Aggie tailgating” too.

The bus features a photo of Aggies tailgating before a game at Kyle Field, cooking burgers, playing with the dog, talking a little smack, and just having a good time.

Aggieland Outfitters RV

The other side of the decked-out RV features a full length photo of Aggieland Outfitters’ most visited location on George Bush Drive.

Fans that spot the bus can see the contact information on the back.

This RV is for company staff and guests, but they’ll be handing out goodies as they tailgate at the road games.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Aggieland Outfitters Marketing Director Dallas Shipp.

“Everybody talks about tailgating at the Grove. You know, obviously hanging out at Auburn and Alabama and Mississippi State. I mean it’s going to be some great trips. And even SMU and Louisiana Tech games, we’re going take it to every game. We will have t-shirts and koozies we can give away at the tailgate, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The company has been working hard on the bus for several months, and hopes that it will be something Aggies get excited to see on the road, Shipp added.

“We just thought that it would be a great way to travel to all of the games on the road this year, and also take a little piece of Aggieland.

“Not only will it be a great opportunity for us to personally check out the other SEC cities, but we’ll be posting regularly with pictures, videos, and stories from the road. It seems like every Aggie wants to go to these venues, so for those who can’t make it, we’ll try to bring as much of the action to life online for those back home in Texas.”

The first run for the Aggieland billboard on wheels was scheduled for Shreveport, Louisiana for the season opener against Louisiana Tech on Thursday, August 30.

Because of concerns surrounding the effects of Hurricane Isaac, Louisiana Tech officials announced Tuesday, August 28 that they have postponed the season opener against Texas A&M until October 13.

Details

Aggieland Outfitters

Aggieland Outfitters began with a young Aggie’s struggle to support himself through school in the late 1980s. He found that he could design and sell T-shirts to Aggie fans on campus and thus began what has grown into a flourishing retail operation in Aggieland.

Following his graduation from Texas A&M in 1991, he and his wife (fellow Aggie, class of 1990) opened an Aggie T-shirt store in Post Oak Mall in College Station called Inspirations—a store that is as popular with Aggies of all ages today as it was when it first opened nearly twenty years ago.

Fans can follow the Aggieland Outfitters Road Trip online through Aggieland Outfitters’ various social media channels, as well as AggielandOutfitters.com/blog.

Address: 360 Graham Road, College Station, TX 77845

Phone: (979) 775-5030

Website: aggielandoutfitters.com

Texas A&M University

Opened in 1876 as Texas’ first public institution of higher learning, Texas A&M University is a research-intensive flagship university with close to 50,000 students—including 9,500 graduate students—studying in more than 120 undergraduate and 240 graduate degree programs in ten colleges.

Texas A&M University placed second nationally in Washington Monthly’s new rankings, which take into major consideration factors such as research and service.

In the magazine’s 2012 rankings released August 27, Texas A&M was runner-up to the University of California at San Diego.

Website: tamu.edu

Worth Pondering…

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

—Vince Lombardi

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