Jesse Squire’s Thursday Morning College Trackstravaganza and Field Frenzy runs every Thursday morning at Citius Mag. You can follow him on Twitter at @tracksuperfan.
This week is championship week for the NCAA in Division I, Division II, and Division III, as well as for Canada’s U Sport. Lots of people are taking road trips right now going to one of them.
One of my goals whenever I travel is to find good roadfood. If I can find just one it’s a successful trip. What do I mean by “roadfood”?
The term Roadfood was coined by [Jane and Michael Stern] to describe the regional cuisine they discovered when they began driving around America in the early 1970s. Their focus was not on deluxe fare, but on everyday local food – barbecue, chili, fried chicken, apple pie – and the unpretentious restaurants that serve it: diners, small-town cafes, seaside shacks, drive-ins, and bake shops.
The Food Network has run a few series celebrating this kind of fare. Alton Brown’s Feasting on Asphalt essentially took a page right out of the Stern’s books. Guy Fieri hit the lower end of the genre with Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. “Roadfood” can mean a lot of things, but for me the essential factors are that it is one-of-a-kind, friendly, unpretentious, and most importantly good food.
The #1 roadfood destination in my track and field travels is The Frontier in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As I wrote for Daily Relay four years ago:
The barn of a restaurant sits across Central Avenue from UNM and it brings in customers from all walks of life. College kids, suburbanites, travelers, old men in flannel shirts and bolo ties and Wrangler jeans with crisp creases ironed into them. It smelled like what you think New Mexico should smell like and tasted even better. Schrodinger ordered huevos rancheros: “what kind of chiles do you want on it?” He asked what they had and after what seemed like dozens of options he went with the first one he heard (the only one he could remember). The décor is Western Art straight out of fifty years ago; John Wayne paintings, horseback Native American figurines. Whole oranges in a wire basket slowly dropped into a juice machine. Tortillas were hand-made. The employees wore white aprons and paper “soda jerk” hats. True elevator music played over the speakers. All without irony. It has all worked since the day it opened in 1971 so why change? And everybody, everybody, seems to love it..
With this in mind, where are your roadfood options for this weekend’s four championship sites?
College Station, Texas
As far as I can tell, the best local faire in the host of the DI Championship meet is Fuego Tortilla Grill. It’s one of three locations (the other two in San Marcos and Baylor) and is a counter-serve walk-up joint. There are a lot of taco stands in College Station but this one is consistently rated as the best and most interesting. Dishes with names like the El Presidente, the Juan Juan, El Guapo, and I-Chee-Wa-Wa populate the menu. Possibly the best is an East Texas original: the Dr. Pepper Cowboy brisket taco.
Pittsburg is a small town near the Kansas-Missouri border and hosts the DII Championships. It is among the best roadfood towns in America. The local specialty is chicken dinners, which you might think is easily obtained elsewhere, but not like this. Roadfood.com says [t]he bird itself is beautiful, fried to red-gold perfection, but these meals are unique among the nation’s chicken dinners because of the German accent of their side dishes: vinegar-and-oil (not mayo) cole slaw and a similar tart-tangy potato salad. There are SIX such restaurants in a town of 20,000 people! Two stick out above the crowd, Chicken Annie’s and Chicken Mary’s, located just a hundred yards apart on 600th Avenue (aka Chicken Dinner Road).
The Sterns refer to the southern “Meat and Three” restaurant as “glorious vittles served with the utmost informality”, and that’s what roadfood is. The name means you pick one meat and three side dishes. There are lots of those in Birmingham, host of the DIII championships, and the Sterns single out the breakfast oriented Bogue’s as the best example of the genre. Click on the link and watch the photo gallery — you’ll instantly know it’s where you want to spend a lazy morning before the meet.
I’m going to Windsor to cover Canada’s U Sports championships since it’s just 45 minutes from my house. Windsor is such a border town that I’ve rarely stayed to eat when traveling to The City of Roses. This time I’m going early and getting some poutine. What’s poutine, you ask? Only heaven on earth. It’s a French-Canadian invention consisting of French fries covered in gravy, cheese curds, and sometimes smoked meat.
The consistently #1-rated poutinery in Windsor is Frenchy’s. It’s mainly a walkup/takeout place, which isn’t all that friendly to travelers such as myself. The other place I’ve been told is good is Motor Burger, an “industrial-chic diner” whose calling card is burgers but with great poutine too.
LAST WEEK’S MEDAL WINNERS
Handing out the medals for the best in college track…
GOLD – Keturah Orji, Georgia
There was very little competition on the Division I level this past weekend since the NCAA Championships are coming up this weekend. One notable exception was Orji, who flew over to England to compete in the World Indoor Championships.
The number of active collegians who have competed at the World Indoors is very small, partly owing to the fact that they are usually the same weekend as the NCAAs. The last two editions of the World Indoors have not, though, and Orji competed at both of them.
Orji was 5th this year with a distance of 14.31 meters (46′ 11 ½”), the third-best indoor distance in collegiate history. (Orji also holds positions #1 and #2.) Two years ago she was 4th with 14.14 (46′ 3½”).
Is this good for an American women’s triple jumper? Very good. The only other American to ever finish in the top seven at the World Indoors was Tiombe Hurd’s bronze medal in 2001 (14.19, the best indoor jump of her life). So yeah, this is a big deal. In her off time between the SECs and NCAAs, Orji put up the best mark any American has ever recorded at the World Indoors.
SILVER – Devin King, Southeast Louisiana
King was third at both the indoor and outdoor NCAAs in 2016 but only got 9th and 10th in 2017 despite clearing similar heights as in 2016. He redshirted the indoor season and got an early start on the outdoor season at the Tulane Early Bird Invitational. He cleared 5.70 meters (18′ 8¼”). Only South Dakota’s Chris Nilsen has topped that during the collegiate indoor season.
BRONZE – Michael Shanahan, New Hampshire
The lone Division I indoor competition this weekend was the IC4A Championships. It’s the oldest organization in college sports, formed in 1876, and was the northeastern conference meet in the era when most northeastern universities were independent. These days it’s a bit of an add-on at the end of the season, and nearly all the qualifiers for the NCAAs skip it – but not all of them.
One who did not is New Hampshire thrower Michael Shanahan. He won the weight throw with 22.52 meters (73′ 10¾”), a PR and good for #8 in the NCAA. He’ll throw at the NCAAs on Saturday at 3:00pm.
THIS WEEK’S MEETS
The top meets of the upcoming weekend are rated from one to three dip finishes for sheer watchability…
Four Dips: NCAA Division I Indoor Championships
That’s right, it breaks the meter! It goes to eleven! To infinity and beyond!
Last year I wrote that the NCAA Indoor Championships is “a tight, two-day, action-packed adventure with an overnight cliffhanger” that has “resemblances to the classic 1960s Batman TV series.” It comes with dynamic duos (and trios and more) racing to the finish line “while the villain webcasters [plot] against us with bad announcing, brainless pre-produced pieces instead of racing, and a complete field event blackout.” C’mon, sing the theme song with me! Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na. . .
BAD MOVIE OF THE WEEK: CHOPPING MALL
Where the shopping costs you an arm and a leg! The 80s were peak mall culture and bad slasher movies, so why not put them together? The plot is simple: teenage mall employees get locked in after closing time and three security robots gone rogue try to kill them. It’s a plus that the teenagers are so stupid that you begin cheering for the robots.
This being the 80s, the teenagers are oversexed (they have an orgy in a mattress store!) and their sexual adventures always lead to death. (Not as effective a deterrent as birth control or sex ed, but it was the Reagan era and ineffective shaming was official government policy.) Released in 1986, it was almost certainly directed at the expanding video market. It was a cut above the usual straight-to-video dreck, but only barely.
With a name like Chopping Mall you’d expect a lot of blood and gore. You know, chopping. Nope. Electrocuted, lasered, chased off a roof, yes, but ixnay on the chopped up thing. It’s as if someone came up with a brilliant play on words and slapped it on a movie only tangentially related. That’s because it’s exactly what happened. The original title was Killbots. It does’ quite draw you in like Chopping Mall, though, does it?
Terrible! Awful! Couldn’t be worse!