By Brendan Loy
Just over a month ago now, DU Bally and I set out on an Excellent Adventure, an odyssey of open-road travel and (barely) above-the-Red Line basketball that took us to two separate Mountain West games, involving two Top Ten teams, in two different states, in the space of less than 3 1/2 hours. It was the most awesome hoops-related thing I’ve done since BracketBusters 2006. It was so much fun. And although it’s taken me a while to do a full write-up due to a busy February, it deserves such a post before my memories fade.
At the heart of the adventure was, obviously, basketball. But years from now, when Colorado State’s bid for a 2011 NCAA Tournament bid is consigned to the dustbin of history, when San Diego State is back to being a perennial bubble team or worse, when “The Jimmer” is just another hazily remembered sweet shooter of NCAA lore alongside Steph Curry and Adam Morrison and the rest, I think the thing I’ll remember most from the Excellent Adventure might be… this:
It may not have the same effect on all of you, but for me, that video — taken by my iPhone, nestled on my dashboard as I drove — is mesmerizing. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps the slightly off-kilter camera angle is part of its appeal. A bigger part is simply the gorgeous visuals: the stunning landscape of southeastern Wyoming speeding by, the dormant midwinter grass lit up by the setting sun to an almost overworldly yellow-orange hue — but most of all, those wispy, insubstantial filaments of blowing snow, dancing across the otherwise pristine, frozen blacktop, dry and powdery to the point of appearing nearly substanceless in the frigid, 15-below-zero degree air outside. I’ve never seen blowing snow behave quite that way before, and the sight was breathtaking; it’s the reason I took the video in the first place. (Skip ahead to around the 1:20 mark for the best blowing-snow segment.)
Then there’s the music: “The Man Comes Around” and “Easy Silence,” two very different songs, but somehow both very appropriate to the scene. And of course there’s the droning hum of road noise, a reminder that this isn’t some heavily edited highlight reel, but a video snapshot of real life. Note also the absence of conversation over the music and the road drone, a sure sign that this was a solitary road trip — just me, all alone with my thoughts (and my stuffed basketball, and my country music playlist in random shuffle mode — hence Johnny Cash followed by the Dixie Chicks).
I think all of that adds up to the real reason I like the clip so much: not just because of what it shows, but because of what it evokes. It’s like a video postcard from The Road, that plain, romantic black ribbon of asphalt about which so much has been written by so many writers more talented than I, from Jack Kerouac to mid-major basketball’s facsimile thereof, Hoops Nation’s traveling philosopher-poet-journalist Kyle Whelliston, whose travels helped inspire my Excellent Adventure in the first place. There’s just something wildly evocative and endlessly memorable about the feeling of hurtling down the interstate, inside a small automotive bubble of warmth surrounded by impossibly cold Arctic air, all by my lonesome, in the middle of freakin’ nowhere, busting through those filaments of snow and speeding toward Laramie, the Dome of Doom and The Jimmer.
It’s a feeling and a memory I won’t soon forget, even once the day comes when I can’t remember the name of the SDSU player whose dagger with 1.8 seconds left sunk Colorado State (D.J. Gay) or the Wyoming coach who was fired shortly after I witnessed the first half of his team’s near-upset of BYU (Heath Schroyer). Don’t get me wrong, the basketball was great (well – some of it). But above all, Brendan & Bally’s Excellent Adventure was a glorious road trip. Objectively, it was rather foolish and silly and pointless (and used a lot of gas). It was also unforgettable.