The preferred road trip this week is challenging under ideal conditions, but the trip for LSU to Florida is made even more so by the intrusion of Mother Nature.
Hurricane Matthew is rumbling through the Caribbean, but the game is scheduled to go forward at noon on Saturday.
Our friends at Google tell us it’s more than 8 hours by car from Baton Rouge to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, most of which will be spent on Interstate 10. Any time Google Maps spits out a car trip that long, it helpfully suggests you drop a little money and book a flight.
A quick check online reveals flights available (with stopovers in either Charlotte or Dallas) for about $350 per person, so that’s an option.
Let’s have a look at the route:
It’s a long trip, but it’s a straight one. Hopefully there will be fewer yellow exclamation marks (accidents) when you point the car toward Florida.
Why the game could be good: For LSU, it’s Game 2 of the Ed Orgeron era. After the Tigers set a school record for offense against an SEC foe in a 42-7 pasting of Missouri, it will be interesting to see what they cook up for an encore.
The health of Leonard Fournette, who’s dealing with an injured ankle, also will be a storyline — and even more so if there’s a wet track.
For the Gators, it’s all about building off last week’s rugged win against Vanderbilt. Quarterback Luke Del Rio (knee) might be available. If he is, that would be a nice boost for a struggling offense.
On the other side of the ball, all four starters on the defensive line are dealing with injuries. Joey Ivie (thumb) and Jordan Sherit (knee) will miss the game. Bryan Cox Jr. (leg) and Caleb Brantley (finger) could be limited.
It’s a critical game for both teams and their hopes of reaching the SEC Championship Game.
Stop for food: Pensacola is about halfway, so it’s a good place to stop, stretch your legs and grab a bite.
For upscale dining, TripAdvisor recommends The Global Grill, where you can try potato-crusted Gulf fish or roasted duck breast.
Want something a little more casual? Try McGuire’s Irish Pub. Sure, you can eat fresh seafood or an Angus burger. But, at an Irish pub, you’re cheating yourself if you don’t have the Shepherd’s Pie.
What to see along the way: While you’re in Pensacola, stop and see the Blue Angel on a Stick. As the name suggests, it’s a Grumman F9 plane on a stick honoring the Blue Angels — the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration team based in town.
If you miss it, there’s another one a little farther along in Milton.
In the true exploring spirit, you can visit the Ponce De Leon Springs in Ponce De Leon. The Spanish explorer searched what is now Florida for the Fountain of Youth about 500 years ago. In the place that bears his name, there is a natural spring.
There’s a state park around that spring, and although it won’t help you stay young, it might be a nice place to take a dip.
What to do besides watch football: If you have some time in Gainesville, check out the Butterfly Rainforest. On a nice Sunday afternoon (which may be asking a bit much this week), you can watch a butterfly release.
Of course, there are plenty of other places in town designed to separate you from your money.
Tailgating options: It’s hard to find a bad spot for tailgating in the SEC, and the scene at the University of Florida is a good time. The weather likely won’t be great, but it won’t be tough to find a good spot to enjoy some pregame festivities.
Parking: Come early and be patient. More tips and information can be found here.
Need a postgame drink? The folks at keneatsgainesville.com have you covered.