Finally — finally! — January 1, 2003 arrived.
Russell and I boarded our plane, flew to San Diego, got our rental car, and drove to the Paradise Point Resort & Spa. After checking in, we dropped off our bags and decided to explore Balboa Park and the excellent San Diego Zoo. We enjoyed the pandas, giraffes, elephants, and swimming hippos, then journeyed to the Old Town area of San Diego for a terrific Mexican feast at a somewhat run-down restaurant.
The next morning we got up early and drove east, over the mountains and into the desert, under a brilliant blue sky. The drive east from San Diego is filled with classic Americana, including a ’50s diner where we ate lunch, rest stops that warn you to watch for scorpions and rattlers, and a Best Western “Space Age Lodge” that is supposed to look like a spacecraft. Along the drive we listened to sports talk radio, and the prevailing view was gloom and doom for the Buckeyes and predictions of a royal butt-kicking. Eventually we switched off the radio and decided to listen instead to Rage Against The Machine’s War Within A Breath and its encouraging refrain (“Everything can change . . . on a New Year’s Day.”).
As we approached Phoenix we were pleased to pass a town called Buckeye. It seemed like a good omen. We rolled into The Boulders, met up with Danny and John, and explored the beautiful grounds. Then we went to a honky tonk bar to have dinner, join some fellow Buckeyes, and watch Iowa get stomped by USC in the Orange Bowl. The mood of the Buckeye faithful was one of jittery anticipation. Even with a few beers under my belt it was tough to fall asleep that night, knowing that the big game was less than 24 hours away.