This year's trip to the Senior Bowl gave new meaning to "Mobile" in Alabama.
It literally went mobile, as the annual voyage made by members of the DallasCowboys.com staff took place for the first time in an RV bus, driven and owned by Doug Branch, a close friend of analyst Bryan Broaddus, who for some reason agreed to help support the 12-hour cause.
Alongside Bryan, Doug, Mickey Spagnola, David Helman, Ed Cahill and Chris Behm, I woke up at 7 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 19, to be at Valley Ranch by 8 a.m. promptly (Bryan threatened to leave any late stragglers, which almost didn't bode well for David), so the whole crew could take off and be ready to go Monday morning to see some of the best and brightest seniors from the 2013 college football season.
It's always a tricky effort every year the event rolls around. As staff writers, our primary job is following around members of the front office to see the latest happenings after the postseason hiatus. Owner/general manager Jerry Jones, executive vice president Stephen Jones and head coach Jason Garrett each talk at different times throughout the week, and you don't want to be the lone media member to miss that opportunity.
At the same time, this is a rare chance to get a first glimpse at some potential early-round picks with practices every day as the North and South teams prepare for the Senior Bowl game. That's primarily why Bryan is there, to take notes for the website, with Mickey and Chris also getting features and information for Cowboys television.
But before any of that could happen, the staff first needed to make the voyage from Dallas to Mobile, where the brisk weather unusually followed us there and back.
Sunday, Jan. 19
8 a.m. – This marked my first trip in an RV, so I didn't know what to expect as I walked up the steps and entered. Immediately across from the door sat a long couch, big enough for three to sit or two if someone sprawled out. To the right of the door sat a recliner, a spot Mickey laid claim to immediately.
The RV included a bathroom with a shower – a necessity for Doug, Bryan and Chris, who'd be spending their entire trip living and sleeping out of the RV, unlike the rest of us royalty who demanded hotel rooms.
Go farther back in the RV and a bed big enough for one or two covered the room. A generator and lights throughout the RV made the entire experience more enjoyable, and I can say with confidence making the trip in this kind of ride was twice as pleasant and bearable than trying to do so in a car. The rest of the RV came complete with food, drinks, a cooler and a table that served primarily as the card and board game area.
The first order of business was obvious – picking a spot. I settled on the edge of the couch and before I knew what happened my siesta was tweeted out to the world, courtesy of Bryan, who manned the passenger seat and helped Doug navigate.
Afternoon – After dozing in and out, I finally awake somewhere in Mississippi, as the crew is getting off the bus for the one and only restaurant stop along the way. Afterward, loading back up is the biggest bummer about driving at this time, thanks to it being NFC and AFC Championship Game weekend.
But Mickey, who typically sports his sling box when the team hits the road, has the game on one of his mobile devices and supplies the crew with updates. There's a cooler filled with enough water and beer to keep everyone occupied in the back, particularly during the stops while waiting for everyone to get settled. Thank goodness for the creator of Farkle, a dice game I learned on the trip that became a favorite of mine to play against Ed and Bryan as we passed the time.
Right before the Broncos wrapped up their AFC-winning victory against the Patriots, the RV stops for gas. Unlike most 12-hour trips, the big rig needed just one stop to fill up with more gasoline, although it came with a price tag I'd never seen at a gas station before.
"Are the women following you?" asked the puzzled cashier at the station as she watched all seven guys of various ages file out of the RV.
No, no they weren't.
In most cases, riding with seven dudes, some of who can be combative at times, would be a colossal pain, but the long trip actually went by rather quickly. I taught some card games, including spin-offs of gin rummy, took sporadic naps, and it wasn't long before a groggy Bryan asked, "'How many fars are we?" Oh, Broaddus. At that point, when everyone was lagging from the trip, the RV arrived in Mobile.
Night – Our group filed into the hotel just in time to see Richard Sherman deflect the game-winning interception and ridicule Michael Crabtree in what would become the most prominent storyline of both the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl week.
Ed's fine taking the pullout couch, giving me and David the two twin beds, so we all order a pizza and call it a night after the long, 12-hour trip. Some adventurous 20-somethings we are. It's an early morning start Monday to watch the players arrive for weigh-ins, although the real goal is to peruse the setting for coaches and front office members who could be in attendance.
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