- Justin and Mike declined Scene's offer to make "Really, Really Epic Road Trip '07" T-shirts.
But for Justin Stenger and Mike Maier, both Ohio State seniors, this isn't just any excursion. These 22-year-olds are embarking on the ultimate road trip to end all ultimate road trips: to see their beloved Buckeyes play for the national championship. It's the road trip most of us wish we could have taken, but were never invited. A road trip for the ages. Luckily, these Buckeye faithful invited me to join them, so I could chronicle their journey and buy them stuff.
Day 1: 2 p.m., the Maier house, Mentor: We are ready to set sail on the concrete seas that will lead us west. Justin lugs a six-pack of "refreshments" to the rusty RV, insisting this isn't excessive, though it clearly is. (There are only three of us.) Mike carries some sort of oversized inhaler made of green plastic and covered with skull stickers. Oddly, the inhaler is emitting thick puffs of smoke. Apparently Mike has asthma.
As Justin pulls the RV onto Route 2 and points it toward our destiny, the guys pass the inhaler back and forth. "You guys both have asthma?" I ask. "Weird." It's going to be a long trip.
Day 1: 2:23 p.m., Becky's bar, Cleveland: The miles are piling up. We're outside Becky's bar, across the street from Cleveland State. We're supposed to be inside, "pulling some sweet tail" for this once-in-a-lifetime trip. But so far, destiny is not on our side. It appears the land of sweet-tail pulling is heavily guarded by a bouncer named Jaime, who requires some sort of identification.
"What do you mean you didn't have your ID?" Mike is yelling.
"Sorry, dude," Justin responds.
I'm standing several yards away, where the guys asked me to stand, for reasons of "journalism ethics." Now they're coming toward me.
"Hey, man, can he borrow your ID?" Mike asks.
Without my ID, the entire trip might unravel right there on East 18th Street. But as I reach for my wallet, I look up to see Jaime's massive head.
"Sorry," I say, "this is illegal."
Looks like we're headed back to Mentor, which is fine by me. I have to pee.
Day 1: 4:15 p.m., Christie's Cabaret, Cleveland: I'm climbing out the RV's window to catch up with the guys, who accidentally locked me inside. (Any epic road trip will have a few snafus.)
Back in Columbus, the guys' classmates are busy studying human anatomy in some heavy tome. But on Day 1 of the The Best Road Trip in the History of Awesome Road Trips Ever, Mike and Justin plan on studying human anatomy the way only kick-ass college students can: at, shall we say, a "gentlemen's club."
"Be careful," I warned earlier. "This road trip will be way less epic if you wind up with Chlamydia." But I don't think they took me seriously, judging by the way Justin punched me in the stomach.
When I catch up with the guys in the lobby, a woman is taking their cover charges. Before they enter the club -- I'm staying in the lobby, where it's safe -- Mike's phone rings. He notices a familiar number: Mom. He starts to put it away, but I grab it from him. I struck a bond with Mrs. Maier before we embarked on this journey of a lifetime.
"Hey Cindy!" I say as Mike looks on. "Yes, we're doing fine. We're about to go inside this place called --" Mike lunges for the phone but misses -- "Christie's. No, don't worry; I gave the guys some condoms. They'll be fine."
When I hang up, Mike and Justin look as if I'd violated some kind of Unbelievably Awesome Road Trip Code. "It's cool," I say, quelling their fears. "She's coming down here. She wants to take us to Rock Bottom!"
Day 1: 6:32 p.m., Lakewood: When I finally catch up with the guys, they're at Mike's girlfriend's house in Lakewood.
"How'd you find us?" Mike asks as I try to step inside.
Hours of frantic globetrotting behind them, the guys look ready to rest up for the final, crucial leg of the trip as they pass the inhaler back and forth. "You guys go running or something?" I ask, but they can't hear me with the front door closed like that.
Day 1: 7:15 p.m., Marathon station, Lakewood: It's not looking good.
To finance the ultimate road trip, the guys planned on buying a bunch of Lotto scratchers at the gas station. It was a fool-proof plan -- or so it seemed. Justin scratches off the last of his 10 tickets, which reveals that he has won another ticket. So he scratches off his new ticket, which reveals he has won a dollar. Foiled.
The guys briefly discuss robbing the Marathon, but quickly realize they don't have any guns.
Before we leave, Mike starts to top off his fountain soda.
"No refills," I say, tapping the handwritten sign on the soda machine, which clearly reads, "REFILLS 25 CENTS."
Day 1: 8:29 p.m., Rocky River: It's game time, baby.
We're standing on the cusp of glory, just a few feet away from watching the Buckeyes and Gators do battle. The Ultimate Road Trip to Make All Subsequent Road Trips Look Pathetic by Comparison is almost over -- and yet, it has barely begun. The line to get into the Rocky River Buffalo Wild Wings, where the guys will watch the game, is really, really long.
"Maybe you guys should've gotten reservations," I say. "This line's gnarly."
"It's BW3's, asshole," Justin says, taking yet another swing at me. "They don't take reserfuckingvations." Mike holds him back and eventually calms him down, assuring him the road trip can still be just as ultimate as they imagined, if they can just get some teriyaki wings. Mike suggests they sneak through the back door, where the smokers are huddling.
"Sneak in?" I ask, but they're already gone. Destiny awaits them, smothered in teriyaki.