Fort Collins is off the much-traveled Interstate 25. The most noticeable landmark I see is the Budweiser plant, going to Denver from my hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming.
If you get off the beaten path, as I did, you’ll see there is more to Fort Collins, a city with a population of well over 130,000. It’s an easy journey for me since I live less than 50 miles from the city that’s renowned for its beer-making and plentiful shopping centers. These bring many Wyomingites for a day or two. This time, though, I did some tailgating and watched college football – my first experience with some die hard fans of a team that has seen better days.
Sports travel is one of the most popular activities in this nation, especially in the fall when fans of college football make a pilgrimage to their favorite team’s home or visiting field. But before the game, the ritual of tailgating across this country outside of the nation’s sports cathedrals is an important aspect of the football game experience. Friends get together to chow down on great tasting food, anticipating a victory for their team.
The Colorado State Rams team has fallen on hard times. It is coached by Sonny Lubick (the football field is named after him). After many successful years, the game I attended had the Rams going beyond the 371 days without winning a game, now losing thirteen games in a row. The streak began last year and continued with the team, the Air Force Academy Falcons, from Colorado Springs. The pre-game festivities turned out to be one of the strangest October days in Fort Collins.
I wanted to talk to some of the Rams fans to find out how they felt about the struggles of their team. For the most part, they do admire and respect coach Lubick, but they think his coaching staff has been more the cause of the team’s bad fortunes than the players. I didn’t detect the anger or bitterness I’d heard about. They see their biggest rival as the University of Colorado at Boulder Buffaloes (CU), an hour away. When CSU and CU play, it’s before large crowds at the INVESCO Field in Denver, mostly the home of the NFL Broncos. Ram tailgaters’ remarks showed they do not like the Buffaloes at all. My home state team, Wyoming Cowboys, UW, gets the second slot for rivals (yearly clashes between CSU and UW are known as “border wars”).
A light and cold drizzle came over the city as we feasted on delicious beef brisket, barbeque baked beans, potato salad and brownies. In another tailgating section, I heard drum banging and chanting, so I investigated (the drizzle was turning into a full fledged thunder and lightning storm). I found four Native American Ram fans. They were performing a victory ceremony for the down-on-their-luck team. A few people joked, “We got rain instead”. Even the drummer-chanters laughed. It’s rare for this part of the country to get a gully washer in the middle of October. The semi-grassy grounds were quickly turning into mud; the temperature was falling fast.
Fans learned that a power outage and the lightning would delay the 3:30 P.M. start of the game; no one knew for how long. Many got back into their automobiles, drove off, without coming back. The delay lasted an hour. For the CSU Rams, this only put off their inevitable torture – another loss as the temperature dropped due to the gusts of wind that followed.
The Falcons raced to a 28-7 halftime lead. In the second half, the Rams played better as the sun set in the midst of a hard core stance of fans from both CSU and Air Force, who braved the cold weather only to see the home team go down 45-21. What I really enjoyed besides the action on a beautiful field, was listening to the CSU band playing percussion. The musicians happily played on whenever the Rams made a good play or scored, including one play where a CSU defender picked up a fumble and ran 48 yards for a touchdown. I was bundled up well, so I survived my time in the upper stands of the stadium.
I guess the CSU fans can take solace that nothing lasts forever. Some day, a win will appear, and then another. Win or lose, the sports pilgrimages of tailgating will go on and on in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Old Town Fort Collins
A former Fort Collins inhabitant, movie visual artist, Harper Goff (1911-1993) did something that has an effect on travelers the world over, especially families. His showing of childhood photos of the older part of Fort Collins to Walt Disney became an integral basis for Main Street U.S.A. It features layout and feel of the Disney theme parks; Disney was so impressed with the city just browsing Goff’s pictures. Today, Old Town has restaurants, shopping and other businesses.
The Fort Collins Museum, is an idyllic courtyard that contains a number of relocated 19th century homes. Old Town has been restored to resemble the look and feel of a past era, more laid back than the rest of the city, which bustles with shopping and university traffic.
For a special meal in the Old Town area, Jay’s Bistro is the place to go. This dining establishment has a jazzy-eclectic atmosphere, serves some rather exotic dishes, like Duck Egg Rolls and a mixed wild game platter that contains such meats as wild boar, red deer and ostrich. My favorite was the gooey and addictive Baked Brie (in phyllo) appetizer. Their robustly scented and tasting table bread comes with a good tomato jam spread, a great alternative to butter.
Roy’s Travel Tips
I stayed at the Marriott; beds are comfortable. A good-sized work table is provided to access the internet, costs $9.95 per day (noon-noon), but with that, all local and U.S. long distance calls are free. The visiting football teams to Colorado State’s home games stay there.
Roy A. Barnes writes from southeastern Wyoming. He is a frequent contributor to Bootsnall.com. He pens poetry and prose that have been featured at Skatefic.com, Poesia, Live Life Travel, Literary Liftoff, The First Line, The Goblin Reader and Skive Magazine.