They say life is a journey, and not a destination. But for Sam Czura’s eight-man crew, which was trying desperately to get to Lincoln, Neb., for the Gophers vs. Cornhuskers game this past weekend, that adage was almost too literal.
There was plenty of journey. And at times, they doubted they would make it to the destination. It started around 2:30 p.m. Friday, when Czura, a couple of his friends, a few of their dads, and a couple of their dads’ friends climbed into a 1970s Dodge motor home and hit the road.
The plan was to get to Nebraska that night, get some rest, get up early and tailgate. But the motor home had other plans.
“Bill Baron, who was driving, said something is wrong. It’s sputtering,” Czura, 26, said. “We pull over, and check it out. We’re not sure exactly what is going on, but it feels OK, so we get going again. Then we have issues again. Bill is swapping out parts, we’re cleaning stuff out of the engine.”
They hit the road again, and things were smooth … until they got about 35 miles west of Des Moines. They pulled over in the small town of Dexter, and the motor home wouldn’t start up again. A local mechanic tightened a hose, and they got the beast running again … for half an hour, when it died again.
Luckily, they could get it to a truck stop, where a mechanic ran a diagnostic test and found they had a bad alternator. The good news? If they waited until morning, Baron figured, they could take a chance and try to make it because they wouldn’t need to run the headlights. So they stayed the night in Iowa, got up at 5 a.m. and were able to roll into Lincoln.
There, Czura and his group dropped the vehicle at Jerry’s Automotive Service, which was still several miles from Nebraska’s campus. They tried to get a cab to the game, but it was “impossible,” Czura said.
“We started walking down the street. We’re with our dads, they’re in their 60s. Our dads were like, ‘back in our day, we hitchhiked everywhere.’ So we tried that,” Czura said. “We struck out a couple of times, but then a guy drives by in a red pickup truck. We told him we’d make it worth his while. He asked us if we had any beer. So the final price was $20 and two beers and he’d drive us to the stadium.”
They even made it in time for the pregame booster festivities with the Gophers Goal Line Club, where Czura gave a fiery speech and the group took a picture with Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague.
“If I could award a fan MVP of the weekend,” Teague said Monday, “it would be Sam and his crew.”
The perseverance, of course, was rewarded when the Gophers pulled out a 28-24 victory.
“Especially knowing how the game went, if we hadn’t been there, we would have been pretty distraught,” Czura said.
With the motor home fixed, they made it home without incident after the game. But as much as they appreciated the journey, one trip in the old vehicle was enough, Czura said.
“Now we’re planning our trip to Madison — and we are not bringing the motor home this time,” he said.