This wasn’t our first year going to Boston for the NCAA championships. When my boyfriend proposed it late in the winter of 16/17, I thought he was joking. We were watching TV and he turned during a commercial and said we should go to the championship that spring. “Uh huh,” I replied, mindlessly turning back to the screen.
He brought it back up around Valentines Day and I realized he was serious. I wasn’t completely sure we were official and here he wanted to go on a vacation. Together. Even more, finding a hotel with only 3 months left before a huge holiday weekend is not advisable. We took the only one that had an opening. Also not advisable was making half the drive Friday night since I couldn’t take more time off work and doing the rest of the drive bright and early the next morning; unless you’re a morning person unlike me, then you’ll be fine.
It was a great trip though. I’d never been that far north or even seen the edges of NYC. The biggest sporting event I’d been to before that was Bayhawks vs Lizards… being in a full-sized football stadium was mind-boggling. There were just people everywhere. I’m not a fan of crowds and it took a lot of conscious effort not to get swept up in the bustle. But one of those people was my friend Foss who I’d only known through the world of Instagram and there’s something to be said for what a close-knit community the stringers and dyers are even though most of us only get to meet up once or twice a year. She’d brought a friend too and the four of us “tailgated” in the parking lot one of the mornings waiting for the games, talking about the state of the industry when nobody knows who you are.
Also inadvisable was making the trip back right after the final game. I fell asleep during the last hour, restless and dreaming of not being so uncomfortable; we got back around midnight. Not repeating that this time around, we took a couple extra days off and decided we’d make the drive up Friday morning and stay the night Monday so we had all day Tuesday to come back when most people had already gone back to work. The best laid plans… as they say. The entire state of Connecticut was a traffic jam and we spent an extra hour on the road, irritably sitting at a standstill eating gummy worms. All in all, it could have been worse, I reminded him. We passed a few accidents and I said their day was going far worse than ours. The weather was hot but no rain; I managed to hold it together when we had to sit in more traffic on a bridge, another semi-rational fear of mine.
We got into Boston around 7 and went to meet up with his cousins. They were incredibly friendly and hospitable, showing us restaurants and shops around their neighborhood so we could get the real experience. We walked with them and their dog to a local ice cream shop after dinner enjoying the perfect weather; in the morning, we grabbed the best bagel I’ve ever had in my life before heading to the stadium and sitting in more traffic due to poorly planned road work (that wasn’t actually being done but the signs hadn’t been moved and everyone lost their minds having to move one lane over).
It was unbelievably hot and I was so glad to have picked seats high up, away from the field so we’d have shade. I’m not a summer person by any means which I reminded my boyfriend as I begged for an Icee and left his chicken tenders alone. I can’t imagine the heat down on the field with both teams that day playing in full sun with no clouds for respite. The Dane Train from Albany valiantly tried to hold Yale off but couldn’t take the heat. Yes, I had to make the pun. Maryland fell to Duke later in the day although the score variance wasn’t quite as notable.
There are three rules my mother always told me about traveling, only one of which I actually paid attention to:
1. Make sure the shoes you’re wearing are comfortable and broken in. I got to meet the EMTs at the stadium because my new boat shoes don’t fit as well as my old, falling apart ones. They were super nice and offered me plenty of band aids and tape for my blisters. At least I wasn’t throwing up from heat stroke.
2. Make sure the clothes you bring with you actually fit if you haven’t worn them in awhile. Thankfully I over-packed as always because the dress I pulled on that night for dinner fit me when I was 10+ pounds heavier.
3. Make sure you pack various clothes in case of weather changes. Saturday was 90 and humid enough to kill a buffalo. Sunday was 55 and raining steadily.
We sat under the overhang to watch the DII and DIII games Sunday afternoon as I shivered in torn jeans and a pair of flip flops to avoid rubbing the blisters from the day before. The hawkers had switched from iced lemonade the day before to hot chocolate (and it was so good, you better believe I drained that in 5 minutes). Rapid changes in weather make me think first of horses colicking from the shift in barometric pressure and second that we are nothing in the face of Mother Nature and weather is a good way to remind us that we control very little.
It was a weekend of upsets with Wesleyan beating Salisbury to take their first championship home rather than just one of many past for the Seagulls, a team used to making their appearance at the championship venues. We left early during Merrimack’s slaughter of the up-and-comers St. Leo’s. It looked as if Merrimack had funneled all their disappointment from losing to Limestone the year before and brought that fire down on their opponents this time around.
The weather picked up to mid 60s with no rain the next day, perfect lacrosse weather. If the stadium atmosphere had felt electrified on Saturday, it was fervently buzzing for this game: well-known victors Duke against Yale, looking for their first championship. Even making it this far, something they hadn’t been able to capture in my entire lifetime, was a nice ending note for their season but they were there for more and didn’t disappoint. It was one of the best games I’ve ever watched and being there in person was a thousand times better than watching on TV.
The celebrations after were moving to watch. Every team that wins is happy, sure, especially seniors who know at some point, each time they step on the field could be the final game. But for Yale having such a charmed season, it could only end so perfectly capitulated in this moment. If Ben Reeves wasn’t ecstatic solely in that moment, he would be upon winning the Tewaaraton soon after. But in that moment, it was nothing but an empty field to storm and gloves and helmets being thrown everywhere.
We stayed to watch some of celebration to avoid getting swept up in the tide of people rushing to exit the stadium just to sit in… more traffic. Instead we stopped at Tavolino’s to grab a bite and kill more time but really I’d been craving their crème brulee for an entire year and an actual herd of mustangs couldn’t have kept me from fulfilling that. After all, half of a vacation is about food and when you’re on the upswing of recovering from a long-term injury and know that you’ll have to start working out again soon, that makes desserts taste even sweeter.
The food at the hotel restaurant had never disappointed, either last year or this time around, but I’d heard about a sushi place not far from the stadium and it was definitely worth going a little out of our way for. Asian Ginger reminded me of a small restaurant back home, just darker lighting. We were surrounded by other tables full of fans who had also just left Patriot Place, snippets of conversation about the games wafting over to us while we devoured our food. I’d never expected to be here, from the moment I ripped open my box of sticks off an impromptu eBay purchase all the way last year, getting to go to the Warrior party one evening, spinning gleefully around the sidewalk in a dress and heels, just enjoying the beautiful weather as my boyfriend yelled not to break an ankle. I thought about how much I missed not having Foss up there this year too since the women’s championship was at Stony Brook. If anyone who has decision-making power is reading this for some reason, don’t split up the men’s and women’s games anymore, thanks.
The drive home was easier, other than getting caught in more poorly planned roadwork and Apple maps getting us lost, allowing us to tour half of Massachusetts before finally finding an interstate. I thought about trying to stop at the lake we passed just to prolong it a bit more but I really wanted to get back home and hold my fur-child. The bridges were less clogged than when we came up; additionally, it was easier this time to hold my breath the whole way through some dark tunnel of Albany (apparently it’s good luck to not breathe in a tunnel…?) but there’s still a distinct sadness at the end of a vacation. The thought of having to unpack or getting back to real life, it makes vacations feel like a daydream or a mirage. The miles zipped by but roads and trees and buildings all look the same. On the way up, I’d been singing in the car and enjoying the trip as much as someone who doesn’t really like being in cars (or planes or trains) can but now I just wished we could teleport. The last hour or two of a lengthy trip is always the hardest and as much as I’d enjoyed being up in Boston, I think I smiled the most when my cat came running up to me, singing as she does, and flopped on my feet for the first time in 120 hours. Yes, I counted. Because as wonderful as trips are, there’s no place like home.
Epoch Women’s Author