By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Let me start by saying that Ames gets a bad rap, although, calling it Lames is fun in a snarky, immature kind of way.
If you can get a rhyme to push your narrative, and also insult your instate rival without crossing the line, then by all means do it.
But seriously, Ames is not the living hell that some would like you to believe.
The area around Lake LaVerne on campus is beautiful, and the ideal college setting.
Ames is also home to one of the best college football teams in the country, and those who love the Lames reference, in other words, Hawkeye fans, are having to deal with that. And it isn’t for them.
I’ll be making I believe my 14th or 15th road trip to Ames on Saturday to cover the annual instate football showdown, and this is by far the best matchup on paper.
Whether that carries to the field remains to be seen.
The road trip itself, though, has produced some moments that I will not necessarily cherish for the rest of my life, but will certainly remember.
Like the time when Iowa State served tacos in its steamy, crowded press box that didn’t have air conditioning and I pounded four or five in a matter of minutes.
It left me bloated, sweaty and regretful.
Thankfully, I made it through the game without having to spend any extended time in the bathroom, because as a germophobe, public restrooms can be scary.
There was also the time before a game in Ames when I spent Friday night at my parents’ house in Johnston. I can’t remember if my co-worker at the time, Bryce Miller, stayed at my parents’ house, or somewhere else on Friday night.
But as we were backing out my parents’ driveway on the morning of the game, Bryce rolled down the window and told my father that it was nice to have met him
My father, who wasn’t great at remembering names, looked up from the plants he was watering and said, “Nice to meet you, too, Chris.”
Bryce, who now works as a sports columnist for the San Union-Tribune, probably doesn’t remember that moment, and why would we?
But we both laughed because I had warned Bryce that my father probably would call him by the wrong first name, even after having just been introduced.
And dad didn’t disappoint.
There was also the time when traffic was at such a gridlock on Highway 30 in Ames that people turned off their car engines and some played cards and hacky sack at road side to pass the time, while others searched for places near roadside to relieve themselves. I believe we arrived at the press box late in the first quarter and guess what was on the menu?
Luckily, the traffic nightmare had sapped my appetite, so I only ate a couple and made it through the game without fantasizing about wearing sweat pants.
There was also the time when a drunken Cyclone fan saw my press credential, and noticed that I worked for the Iowa City Press-Citizen at the time, and he staggered towards me and yelled “Iowa sucks, and so does its media,” before tripping over his untied shoelace and landing face first on the cement.
I remember being impressed that he was aware enough to realize that Iowa was singular and that it was grammatically correct to use the word it when referring to Iowa.
He also got right back up and staggered away, yelling incoherently.
There was also the time when in order to avoid traffic I took a different route than I-35 from the Des Moines area to Ames and got pulled over for speeding, stuck in construction and nearly side swiped by a semi.
Fortunately, I wasn’t going too much over the speed limit, and received just a warning from a nice patrolman who admitted to being an Iowa fan.
There was also the time when I somehow deleted my game story, I believe in 1995, late in the fourth quarter when it was almost finished. Iowa was leading comfortably at the time, and would go on to win 27-10, but there are few things worse for a sports writer than having to start a story over on deadline.
But I had nobody to blame but myself, and to this day, still don’t know how I deleted the copy.
There was also the time when I was returning from Ames by myself and pulled over near Grinnell to get gas and a snack. I then locked my keys in the car with the engine running.
I was tired, frustrated and had to wait about two hours before somebody with the right tools finally came to the rescue. This was the second time that I had locked my keys in the car with the engine running, and it burned about a half tank of gas.
I remember telling my father, and he shook his head before saying, “to lock your keys in the car once with the engine running is bad enough. But to do it twice means you’re just an idiot.”
That was dad’s idea of tough love, but sadly, he was right.
My first road trip to Ames was in 1993 when Iowa hung on to defeat the Cyclones 31-28 to improve 2-0 on the season.
It was Iowa’s 11th straight win in the series, and Iowa led 31-7 in the third quarter after having scored on its first five possessions of the game.
However, the Cyclones scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and came close to ending the losing streak against Iowa.
Iowa would go on to lose it next five games and finished 6-6 that season.
It’s hard to think of a visit to Ames for me that hasn’t been connected to an Iowa-Iowa State sporting event, or to a concert.
I saw Paul McCartney and Pink Floyd perform in Ames in 1990 and 1994, respectively.
What stands out about the McCartney concern is that we had taped it, but unfortunately, one of my friends sang throughout the concert and his horrible singing voice is all you could hear on the tape.
I also have attended several Leo Kottke concerts in Ames, and during one show, I dropped my glass near the bar, and he stopped briefly and asked if he was bothering me.
My date was humiliated by the attention, and needless to say, it was our last date.
So for me, Ames has been more like Lames in some respects.