Over the years, more than a few had died here. Many others needed to be rescued, suffered from heat exhaustion, or weren’t fit enough to finish the journey.
As I looked behind me, I saw the place where I started. There were more rocks to scale but I had made it. This was the end of my journey. It had been a long, tough climb.
The views were spectacular from the top of Camelback Mountain. After 5 months on the road, the College Football Travel Tour journey had come to an end – a Fiesta Bowl and a perfect ending to an incredible season.
A Fiesta Bowl with passionate football fans
With warm weather, sunshine, and plenty of outdoor activities, Phoenix is one of the best places to spend some time in January.
While Phoenix is a city of locals, transplants, college students, and visitors, thousands of college football fans from Oregon and Kansas came to town. Downtown Phoenix, the nightlife in Scottsdale, and a festive Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, fans were everywhere.
The Fiesta Bowl was truly a party with two great football teams battling it out in the desert for the new year. While Oregon overcame a sluggish first half, they pulled away from Kansas State and won 35-17.
Yet the game itself wasn’t the highlight. Like every game I attended this year, this was about the fans.
Kansas State fans were everywhere!
I met a few Oregon fans when I was tailgating at Oregon State for the Civil War. However, I had no idea Kansas State fans were so passionate and supportive of their team. Nearly 40,000 fans showed up in Arizona, packed the stadium, and enjoyed the nightlife and the outdoors.
Fans filled the parking lot of the University of Phoenix stadium before the game. Miles from home, this didn’t stop them from enjoying the tailgating experience. Games, drinks, food, purple, green and gold were everywhere.
While a drunk man passed out in a women’s bathroom and two Kansas State fans were hit by a drunk driver, I only experienced the positive side of the Fiesta Bowl experience with Oregon and Kansas State fans.
On top of Camelback Mountain, I talked to a couple of Kansas State students who made the long road trip leaving behind the cold and snow for the sunshine and warm(er) weather of Arizona.
On the streets of Scottsdale, the music grooved and the drinks flowed as college football fans celebrated the excitement of the Fiesta Bowl and drowned their sorrows. Walking into a crowded bar, I quickly made acquaintances with a number of Kansas State and Oregon fans.
From golf to football to hiking, the Fiesta Bowl with Kansas State and Oregon football fans was the best way to end the season. A few photos from the Fiesta Bowl don’t capture the true experience. However, the conversations, the people, and the connections are what the sports and travel experience is all about.
The end of the season, the beginning of a new year
Standing at the top of Camelback Mountain, I could look back on all that I accomplished. The journey was over and it was a long, tough climb.
There were times I almost turned around. There were some slips, falls, and close calls. In Miami, I almost quit traveling.
There were the highs like hanging out with the Irish people in Dublin and goose bumps at the Air Force Academy. The middle of the season was the hardest part – struggling to make it to the next point without giving up.
The season finished strong with the best trips of the year to LSU, Oregon State, and the Fiesta Bowl. As strange it may seem, the Expedia College Football Travel Tour wasn’t about the football games. The people, the highs and lows, and the experiences are what I will remember.
Even with a series about college football and travel, the most important lesson I’ll take from this series is my own personal travel quote I learned a long time ago – travel is about the journey, not the destination (or even the football game).