A Wonderful Clemson Weekend With the Mathis Family

The arrival of October brought with it my favorite weekend since our wedding/honeymoon back in June. I had the pleasure of spending a couple of terrific days with Sidney’s family in the Clemson area. By all accounts, it was a memorable trip.

After work on Friday, Sidney and I jumped in the car with my in-laws and we started on our way to upstate South Carolina. It didn’t take long for the trip to become special. We revealed on social media that we were expecting and as we drove through the beautiful state we were overjoyed with the outpouring of congratulatory messages that came through.

Sidney, myself, and my in-laws took off for the Clemson area after work on Friday.

Sidney, myself, and my in-laws took off for the Clemson area after work on Friday.

We stopped in Columbia for dinner at a place called Rush’s, a local fast food type restaurant specializing in fried chicken. We loaded up on chicken and fries and relaxed while we took a break from the road. With two hours of driving down, we had roughly two hours of driving to go. Just like the first half of the drive, the second half went quick. Before we knew it, we pulled into our hotel in the town of Easley, South Carolina, at around 9:45 p.m. We checked into our room and watched the Washington-Stanford football game before drifting off to sleep.

This is my meal at Rush's Chicken on Friday night. Very good food!

This is my meal at Rush’s Chicken on Friday night. Very good food!

The four of us woke up early the next morning. After watching a little bit of College Gameday from the exact same location we would soon be at (the show was at Clemson), we left the hotel to go see the rest of our family. The other two Mathis sisters were at a campground near Clemson. Steph was there with her husband, Jon, and Courtney was with her boyfriend, John Henry. After stopping at a grocery store to pick up some supplies, we used Navigation to get us to the campground.

What was waiting for us when we arrived was the full set up! John Henry had with him his luxurious camper that included just about everything you needed. Outside they had chairs and a television so we could all sit around and talk while watching the early games. The best part, though? The food!! The four of them cooked up grits, bacon, and quiche. We soaked in the beautiful weather while eating/drinking, watching football, and enjoying one another’s company.

This is what the TV and chairs setup looked like. Jon and John Henry are sitting down enjoying College Gameday (photo courtesy of Courtney).

This is what the TV and chairs setup looked like. Jon and John Henry are sitting down enjoying College Gameday (photo courtesy of Courtney).

The time came for us to head to campus. The women got in one vehicle and the men got in another. The girls went off to shop around at a Clemson apparel store and us guys went to a hidden gem to pick up our tailgating food of fried pork chops, mac & cheese, potato salad, and coleslaw. We met back up at a parking lot right outside of campus and merged into one car. From there we went to our tailgate spot.

This is all of us piled into one vehicle on our way to the tailgate spot.

This is all of us piled into one vehicle on our way to the tailgate spot.

Tailgating at Clemson is crazy! After Jon maneuvered the vehicle into our spot, we set up shop and started to have fun. It wasn’t long until some special guests joined us. As I mentioned in my Thursday Rundown, I had plans to meet my friend Kenny during the course of the day. As he is the nephew of Bobby Petrino (Clemson was playing Louisville), he brought some of his family members to hang out with us, including a couple of Coach Petrino’s adult children. The Tigers and Cardinals all got along great.

This was our entire Mathis Family squad (made up of Henrys, Yarboroughs, and Resers as well).

This was our entire Mathis Family squad (made up of Henrys, Yarboroughs, and Resers as well). – Photo courtesy of Brenda

After our guests left, it was the Mathis family just relaxing and having a good time. In addition to all the food we had bought at the place we stopped at before coming to campus, Brenda (mother-in-law) had also brought along a bunch of snacks that we enjoyed as well. With no shortage of drinks either, our tailgate was a lot of fun. However, the main event awaited us. With about 45 minutes to go until kickoff, we all headed toward Memorial Stadium.

A photo of us guys (L-R: Jon, John Henry, Mr. Sid, Out of Place Guy Wearing Louisville polo).

A photo of us guys (L-R: Jon, John Henry, Mr. Sid, Out of Place Guy Wearing Louisville polo). – Photo courtesy of Brenda

In an electric atmosphere, two of the best college football teams squared off in one of the best games of the college football season thus far. It was a high scoring, back-and-forth affair that went down to the wire. However, even though it was a nail biter and even though I ate myself silly at the campground and at the tailgate, I still visited the concession stand during the game. I got myself peanuts and a large dish of cookie dough Dippin’ Dots.

I took this photo as the teams warmed up prior to the 8 p.m. kickoff.

I took this photo as the teams warmed up prior to the 8 p.m. kickoff.

Watching two of the best quarterbacks in the nation compete was exhilarating. Inside the stadium you could just sense the magnitude of the game. The crowd showed up early, stayed during halftime, and of course remained in the stands through the thrilling finish. When the Cardinals came up just yards short of a last second victory, the celebration was on in Death Valley as the students stormed the field.

A photo of Sid and I enjoying the game.

A photo of Sid and I enjoying the game.

With the game on national television combined with the amount of points scored it made for a long game. By the time the Tigers improved to 5-0 with a 42-36 victory, it was close to midnight. We all went back to the tailgate area and waited about an hour for traffic to thaw out a little bit. The eight of us then piled back into the vehicle and went back to the parking lot where we split off. We arrived back at the hotel around 2:30 a.m. and by the time I laid down in bed it was 3 a.m. It had been a long and amazing day.

The next morning, the four of us got back in the car to head home. Steph/Jon/Court/John Henry were about an hour behind us. We stopped in Columbia to eat lunch, this time opting for Texas Roadhouse. We arrived back in Myrtle Beach around 5 p.m. When Mr. Sid and Brenda dropped us off at our house it was a little sad to say goodbye, even though they live just a couple minutes away from us and even though we had spent the whole weekend with them. But that just explains what a great time we had.

Thanks to the Mathis family for a wonderful weekend. I can’t wait to do this again one of these days. Don’t Blink.

Singing “Happy Birthday” at Restaurants

I have never worked in the restaurant industry as a server. Because of this I don’t personally know the hardships of serving ten tables at once, putting up with entitled and snotty customers, or dealing with the aftermath of a table party that decided to get up and leave without paying. However I feel that if I ever did find myself as a waiter I would jump at doing those things ten times over instead of something I see all servers painstakingly doing at every single restaurant I go to:

Singing “Happy Birthday.”

About 95% of the time when I witness restaurant wait staffs serenading a customer with the song (or whatever variation they choose to sing) I watch them perform it with as much enthusiasm as if they were about to watch paint dry and with as much authenticity as a WWE wresting match. The whole experience is painful and miserable to watch.

When I would go out for birthday dinner with my family back in the day I made it clear that the ultimate birthday gift of all would be for them NOT to tip off the restaurant staff that it was my birthday. While it is painful and miserable to watch such a dog and pony show it is those two things plus embarrassing and mortifying to have it directed at you. Last thing I want is to minimize the enjoyment of my special meal because I am dreading the half-hearted singing and clapping cacophony that is about to come.

But enough about my disdain for such a train wreck. While I have to avoid it just once a year I genuinely feel bad for the servers across the nation who must perform silly songs multiple times a day. The nightmare varies from restaurant to restaurant. Some restaurants just opt for a mildly embarrassing rendition of the birthday song and that is it. Other establishments such as a Texas Roadhouse perform full out choreographed routines. Some restaurants use props, others use actual instruments.

Let’s face it, there is a reason why “funny people” like to go to a restaurant and slyly tell the server that it is their friend’s birthday when it really isn’t. No, it is not for the free ice cream or piece of pie. It is to bring upon as much embarrassment and humiliation as possible. Right from the start these things are jokes.

But then again, what do I know? As I mentioned above I have never as much brought out water glasses to a table before. I don’t know the first thing about serving. So let me open this discussion up to my friends in the industry and ask for their opinions on recognizing the birthdays of customers. What does your restaurant do for birthdays? Do you verify birthday claims with an I.D.? Must the whole restaurant wait staff participate in the birthday recognition? Do you feel like a complete fool?

If you take the time to answer any of these questions on my Facebook page I will send you one of my Don’t Blink pens so you have something really cool to write with when taking orders. Silly birthday songs aside I really do appreciate the work of restaurant servers. It is definitely a skill with extreme patience and multi-tasking involved. With so much already on the “plates” of servers I don’t think they should be required to add “serenader” to their list of duties. Don’t Blink.

Overeating at Texas Roadhouse

I like to think I am a strong-willed person. I try not to fall into temptation and I try to practice discipline at all times, especially when it comes to my body. But I am all too human and sometimes I fall off the wagon. One of my more frequent lack of will-power offenses is the tendency to overeat.

There is absolutely no shred of victory when one overeats (unless you win a competitive eating contest). The sick, painful feeling you experience in your stomach when you chow down too much is awful; the feeling in your conscience that you betrayed your body and took a step back from the hard work you have completed in the gym is even worse. It is so easy to become victimized by this. You work up a large appetite or find yourself in a situation where eating large amounts of food is acceptable and encouraged and you are pretty much doomed. You can go into a meal with the best intentions but come out feeling like a big ol’ fat pig.

I usually eat myself to death in three situations. The first occurs at holiday dinners. The holidays are fun, joyous times where people cook giant meals that have a whole bunch of love and calories poured into them. I look forward to my mom’s Thanksgiving dinner all year long so naturally when that day in November comes along, I go all in. A year of build up turns into a half hour of absolute bliss and then it transforms into a night of stomach pains and self-guilt. I also feel like the most unhealthy person in the world after I visit a buffet. When you go to a buffet, there is just no way not to go overboard. The whole premise of these places is to challenge your “all-you-can-eat” threshold and do all you can to come out ahead of the restaurant by eating more than what you paid for. I plan to do a post someday on the buffets I have conquered/been conquered by and the culture that predominates at these places. Whether it was a traditional buffet, Chinese buffet, pizza buffet, brunch buffet, etc., I have gone in hungry and come out sick.

The final situation where I always find myself overeating in comes by way of the special occasion family night out dinner. This dining experience provides the “perfect storm” for overindulgence because it combines portions of the first two examples I provided above: You have the happy, feel-good component of a special event that makes you more susceptible to eating more than necessary and you have the eating out aspect that also tells your brain that it is acceptable to go a little harder than usual. This situation is where I fall victim to most.

Last night we celebrated my dad’s 55th birthday by traveling to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. We arrived to the resort town on a scorching sun-drenched day and walked up and down their main downtown strip. We checked out the many shops that dotted the area and then cooled off at one of the popular nearby bars. The walking, the weather, and the couple drinks consumed at the bar had me ready for my dad’s birthday dinner.

At my dad’s choosing, we ate at Texas Roadhouse. If you have never eaten at this well-known chain, just notice the first word in the restaurant’s name (“Texas”) and you probably have a decent idea about their portion sizes. Specializing in burgers, chicken, and steak, you better be hungry when you arrive. With all the extras you get at Texas Roadhouse combined with the relative inexpensive menu prices, the chance of overeating is quite high.

My dad, mom, and myself got to the restaurant but my sister and her husband had yet to arrive so we went straight to the bar where my consumption crusade began. We ordered beers and immediately started eating peanuts from the giant tin tubs they have lining the bar. If you know anything about me, you know I can eat more peanuts than an elephant. At baseball games I buy a whole bag and finish every nut in usually less than two innings. Feeling rejuvenated in the awesomely air conditioned restaurant while watching the Yankees-Red Sox baseball game with a cold, tall beer right in front of me, I started cracking shell after shell after shell. About fifteen minutes later my sister arrived and we were seated at a table.

Waiting for us at our dinner table? Two more tin buckets of peanuts! Shortly thereafter, we were brought the famous Texas Roadhouse rolls. Doused in butter, sweetly seasoned, and served with a spread that has to be 100% fat, they tasted like a little piece of heaven. We all devoured several rolls. Because it was a special occasion we had to get an appetizer as well. We settled on their cactus blossom, a deep fried onion snack that is analogous to Outback’s blooming onion. By the time we got our appetizer, all of us were already starting to get a little full by way of the beer, peanuts, and rolls. When our cute little waitress brought out the cactus blossom she took our entrée order. I ordered the pulled pork dinner. It came with bread AND two sides. I got steak fries and seasoned rice.

By the time my pulled pork dinner arrived, I always almost too stuffed to even dig in.

When our entrees arrived, I had already had enough. But you can’t just give up on the main course. I forked through the giant mound of pulled pork, making a modest dent in it. I ate a few of the steak fries. I ate almost the entire cup of rice. By the time I could see the bottom of the cup of rice, I threw in the towel, but it was already too late…I felt like garbage. Everyone else at the table looked defeated too. We messed with Texas and Texas won.

Driving the fifty minutes back to Spokane sucked. I felt like the fattest person on the planet. I pretty much swore I would never eat again (that oath was broken at 5am this morning). I groaned. I scolded myself. Once again I lacked the necessary self-control that would have enabled me to look at myself in the mirror with my shirt off that night. I felt like a loser.

Just like drinking or gambling, when it comes to eating we all need to put limits on ourselves. For me with eating, I sometimes struggle. No matter how bad the feeling is after I overeat I seem to have way too short of a memory because I always let it happen again down the road. Well, today I pledge I will never overeat again…until at least my mom’s birthday on August 2. Don’t Blink.