Derek Johnson Muses

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College Stadiums Through a Prism

In my travels, I’ve passed many college stadiums, and have endeavored to keep a photographic record of them. I love seeing them when they’re empty, because you can tell so much about their character, and what kind of fans go into them. Here’s a few of them, on game days and other days.

Uppers...

Uppers…

This walled-in construction lot this is Cal’s Memorial Stadium during its renovation in 2011. Literally, they tore it all out except for the walls. You couldn’t even go up next to it with all the construction fences, but you could still see inside from up on Tightwad Hill.

Closest I'll get to the Blue Turf

Famous Turf…

As I’ve shared before, this photo was taken through the chain fence at Boise Stadium. That strategy was not as ingenious as the one I utilized below…

My Secret View of the Badgers' Home Turf

My Secret View of the Badgers’ Home Turf

..where I actually snuck into Camp Randal Stadium and found a window. Looks like a snow globe.

Spartans lying in Wait...

Spartans lying in Wait…

If you look close to the left of the tree, that’s the south side of Spartan Stadium. At the time, I was on a short time table, and there was not an open parking space close to the stadium, so I ended up with this crappy, obstructed picture. The stadium has some dazzling windows, and fits with the summer greenery.

Hawk Nest...

Hawk Nest…

This photo was taken on an early morning in September of 2009, you know, way before Nebraska and Iowa would be shoehorned into a rivalry. At the time, I was just moseying through the lazy Iowa cornfields, wanting to capture a great stadium in the most glamorous college league in America. I’d have a different attitude about it if I were passing by it today.

Corner...

Corner…

This is stadium on a game day. The Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan to be exact. The flag is the Nebraska flag that flies in the northwest endzone. Pretty simple for such an important college football venue. (More photos from last year’s Nebraska-at-Michigan game.) I don’t get why people criticize it for being a high-brow stadium. As a visiting fan, I’ve been to both high-brow and low-brow stadiums, and Michigan Stadium was much less threatening stadium for a visitor.

DSCN1025

Sunny Days…

This is Jack Trice Stadium, through the fence at the south end zone. I’ve been to two Husker-ISU games there, in 2006 and 2010. Even though it’s a bit of a band box, it’s noisy as heck, especially at night, and the trees and greenery in this end zone are an unique feature. That dazzling scoreboard at the other end got installed in the first year was Nebraska out of the Big 12. Sigh.

Window Dressing...

Window Dressing…

With Nebraska’s move to the Big 10, the away trips have gotten longer, like our family trip last year to Northwestern. This is the scoreboard that watches over the north exit from the stadium. It’s in desperate need of upgrades, much more so than Jack Trice. Still, it’s great to think that migrations of Husker fans will continue to Evanston over the next ten to twenty years.

Decks of Concrete...

Decks of Concrete…

Technically, Qualcomm is an NFL stadium that happens to host a college program and two college bowl games (shown here before the 2009 Holiday Bowl), so I guess I can count it. While its sun-worn concrete sags away, it is nowhere near being the dump that its northern California doppleganger, the Oakland Coliseum is. Oh, why I am being so hard on it, it is a throwback to a money-saving time when football and baseball stadiums where single venues.

November 29th, 2013

November 29th, 2013

Did you not think I wouldn’t put in a picture of the stadium of my heart?

Roads Notes from my First Production Trip: Wisconsin

Tuesday-Left home ten until nine. Dropped off recyclables in north Lincoln. Get off at 84th street to go to Crane Coffee, but stop at Husker Hounds first; score a mesh shirt on sale. Then get a green tea smoothie and write on my IPod at Crane.

Lunch at the Corn Crib. Usually, I order off the menu, but to save time, I get a pre-made pork tenderloin out of the warmer. The flavor is authentic as it always is. Watch the weather channel and read Body Surfing by Anita Shreve. (Why am I even starting that book? I’m reading another five already.)

The Corn Crib in the Shelby, Iowa (I-80 exit 34)

Took a detour from I-80 MM 60 through 67 to shot some barns. Found several, and only had one mile of road to drive on. Took 1/2 an hour somehow, & when I got back on the road, found a text that said my meeting was at 3 instead of 3:30 Arrived 15 minutes late.

Wednesday-Got up at 5:38 and left at 6:55. It’s partly cloudy with scattered rains off and on, threatening to blind me with the rising if a sudden hard rain comes. But after I-35 MM 165, the clouds burn off.

At 8:39, stop & use restroom at MN welcome center. Grab hotel coupons. While most of the work is done, Owatonna is still working on their construction project from last summer.

As I dart through the MSP suburbs, stop in Woodbury for gas and a Quizno’s breakfast sub in a strip mall built for wealthy wives with stated parking time limits on parking individual spaces. There’s a non-chain coffee shop I’m intrigued by but don’t stop in. Cross into Wisconsin to be greeted by rain showers and sunshine. Not blinded, but a few never-racking miles.

Get off where I’m supposed to, but take a wrong turn and end up in the middle of Hoffman Hills State Park. Arrived at our growers, field tour lasts an hour. Plants hand high. Forget my camera and have to take photos on my way out.

Hopefully, this will be a field of gold in September.

Take a wrong turn and end up taking WI-HWY 29 into Eau Claire instead of I-94. Minus a Wisconsin map, I have to rely on my GPS, and find my way down to the interstate. Detour leads past Starbucks and I grab an iced caramel macchiato and a blueberry muffin while I check e-mail and social media Eat ravenously as my lunch was inadequate.

Around I-94 MM 111, there’s grafatti on a rock quarry. See a lot of roadside signs supporting Governor Walker, only two calling for him to be recalled.

Stop at rest stop about MM 137 to see if they have a Wisconsin road map. They don’t, but after observing the framed map in the lobby, I decide to get off at Warrens and see if there’s a cool cranberry-themed shop. There is, but it’s closed when I get there. I take backroads to Tomah, where I stop by a Humrid Cheese, a store I’ve observed several times. But fudge and summer sausage and cheese pack.

Photograph both the Wisconsin River and Ship Rocks on my way to the field. I really like the Ship Rocks photos and might frame one for myself. The field takes me too long to find, due to it being 5 o’clock and curved Wisconsin roads. Afterward, I get on I-39 and head down to Portage. I check the Super 8 first, but it’s full. The woman behind the counter tells me to check the Best Western behind Wall-Mart. It looks like a midlevel conference center, and I worry it’ll be over $100, but the corporate rate is $80 with tax.

Ship Rocks

I check the steak and seafood house across the street, but it’s got nothing I want. I go to Culver’s and order cheese curds, fries, and chili: three sides that cost as much as a value meal. I go back to my room and eat in front of baseball and the Western Conference Finals, but I got to sleep at 9:30.

Thursday-Zip Down to Madison on I-39. Some construction, but the sun is shining. Get off on US 151 to head downtown, find that it offers a few of the Camp Randall press box in the distance, like the one you get of Memorial Stadium’s when you’re driving west on Vine Street. Madison has college town feel akin to Eat Lansing and Berkeley: dingy houses with obvious snow wear, lots of trees, people wear odd clothing combinations. Before I get to downtown, I get stuck waiting for a train, so I check my GPS and write this.

Walk around the Lake Mendota and the river flowing into it. Pass a group of kids who must be in some summer day camp, three older African American guys fishing, and two girls who look be going kayaking. Admire the Lilly pads, then get in the truck and continue heading downtown. Like Milwaukee, the houses in Madison suddenly get nicer the closer you get to the lake.

Summer Lake

When I approach the Capitol, I realize what I thought must be the Camp Randall press box is really a building with a lot of glass windows. I circle the Capitol, and park on street, only to find my thirty-five cents net me 14 minutes of parking time. I make a quick run inside the Capitol, observe a protest against governor Walker, see where I want to eat on State Street, and move my truck into a parking facility I passed up on my way to park on the street.

Madtown

I have lunch at Michalengo’s Coffee on State Street: turkey and asparagus on focaccia, with baklava for dessert. Unfortunately, they don’t take my company credit card. I lunch while staring at their bright, homey abstracts which seem strangely accessible.

Post lunch, I stroll down State to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, which I technically don’t have time to go to. It requests donation, but I don’t have the right bills. (Actually, I do, but they’re stuffed down in my wallet.) I check out one of the floors sheepishly as the docent watches everyone like a hawk. The show is of abstract animals; I bail after a quick glance through, wishing I had the time.

Drive in circles looking for Camp Randall Stadium, and then drive around Camp Randall once before deciding to park there. Sneak and get a view of the field through a supply hall were some chair backs are stored. Field turf shimmers like a lake in the Wisconsin summer sun.

My Secret View of the Badgers’ Home Turf

After threading my way through Madison’s quaint, 1950’s box home neighborhoods, I get on Highway 14 to go to Dakota, Illinois where our next grower is. Most of the highways I have to use are county roads, and I am forced to use my GPS often. Lots of little towns and dairy farms, but I finally get there after another wrong turn. The farms here are closely clustered together, more so than in Nebraska and Iowa.

While I’m at the field, my Dad calls me to say he’s received the locations of our test plots in Wisconsin. Previously, I understood there would just be one or two, but now he tells me that there’s eight, some of which are east of Madison. He suggests that I go back up to Madison to start in the morning, but I decide to go to Freeport (which is only six miles away) and check the e-mail. This is the first time it would have been helpful for me to have 3G.

Freeport, Illinois is so much more run down than it’s neighbor to the west, Dubuque, Iowa. What a difference a state government can make. While Dubuque is defined by its shipping yards on the Mississippi and its agrarian fields to the west, Freeport is a run down factory town. Initially, I target McDonald’s for WiFi, but then I find the public library, which happens to be in a municipal building. I sit in the building’s main hall and check the e-mail: the first field is by Fennimore, Wisconsin, which is directly north of Dubuque, so I go there as I planned and spend the night with my friend Tom.

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