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48 HOURS OF FOOTBALL: Shuttle rides to Faurot Field are hectic, yet convenient

Friday, October 28, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 8:26 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 28, 2011

Hour 18: 9:45 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22

Getting to Faurot Field on a Saturday morning for a Missouri Tigers football game can be a difficult task. Pedestrians clog the roads and aren't afraid to walk in the middle of the road, stop signs have long lines that take a long time to get anywhere and every parking spot that doesn't have a car in it is full of tailgaters.

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But, there are ways to work around that mess. The shuttle that goes from Bengal's Bar and Grill on the corner of Sixth and Elm streets to Laws Residence Hall near the stadium is one way to get to the game and can provide some interesting encounters along the way. On Oct. 17, this included a guy who looked exactly like Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden's wife.

At 9 a.m., people were drinking beer while they ate breakfast and waited for the shuttle, which was scheduled to start about an hour and a half before the 11 a.m. kickoff.

The plain yellow school bus that serves as the shuttle didn't show up at the bar until close to 9:45 a.m. Then, a couple employees spent another 15 minutes trying to tie a banner onto the windows.

So, it was nearing 10 a.m. before the first shuttle finally left the bar and headed for the stadium. The first trip saw mostly older people on the three-quarters-full bus.

Quiet conversation was the communication mode of choice and the radio played Lady Gaga, OneRepublic and some other hit music.

That was not the case for the second trip to the stadium. This trip, starting around 10:25 a.m., was filled with loud and rowdy college students, some of whom had to stand in the aisle because it was so crowded. Simply put, drinking beer and standing in the aisle during a bumpy bus ride is not conducive to good balance.

About halfway through the second trip, there was a very narrow gap between a pedestrian crossing sign in the middle of the road and the side mirror of a parked car. Everyone on the bus noticed this as the driver, Charles "Bandit" Ashton, slowed down to try to squeeze through the small opening.

After making it through without causing any damage to the bus, sign or car, a cheer arose from the standing-room only shuttle.

Squeezing big vehicles through tight spaces isn’t new to Ashton, who runs a trucking company during the week and has been driving the shuttle bus for a couple of years. He said this week's traffic was nothing compared to the Homecoming game last week, when he was making trips to the stadium nonstop between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

This weekend, though, three trips was all it took to get the majority of fans from the bar to the game.

But for me, the fourth and final ride to the stadium — for any stragglers left behind — ended up being the most interesting.

That's because Baily, Oklahoma State center Grant Garner's wife,sat next to me, with Brandon Weeden's wife, Melanie, standing in the aisle a few feet behind.

Bailey Garner and I talked about what it's like to be the wife of a player. She said she worries about Grant's health a lot when he's playing, but other than that it's fun. She said Brandon and Grant are the only married players on the team, so she and Melanie stick together at games.

They are good friends and joke around about things, like how Brandon touches Grant’s butt more during the course of a football season than Bailey does as his wife.

That made the last trip to the stadium an enjoyable one amidst the unintentional elbowing and jostling that inevitably takes place on a crowded bus.

But, as crowded as that bus was, it still beat driving around for an hour looking for a parking spot near the stadium on game day.

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