LOS ANGELES – The trek from Augusta to the Rose Bowl stadium is around 2,300 miles.
Plenty of Georgia fans from all parts of the state created their own adventures in making the trip to Pasadena, Calif., all with the hopeful goal of watching the Bulldogs top Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl today.
Fans clad in red and black could be seen in downtown Los Angeles hotels, at Santa Monica Pier for a fan event Sunday, and throughout the vast city walking the streets and soaking in their time in California. Phones and cameras were out along the gates and parking lots surrounding the stadium as fans got their first look at the historic facility in the days leading up to the game.
Marc Smith, a Georgia fan from Atlanta who previously lived in Los Angeles, found joy in seeing Bulldog colors on the streets of his former city.
“When I lived here, it was one of those things where if you saw someone with a Georgia license plate or gear on, you were definitely going to have a conversation with them,” said Smith, who donned a black No. 7 jersey while walking downtown. “Now that there’s this many people wearing Georgia stuff, it’s just a treat to see somewhere else.”
Fans made their way across the country in various ways, from planes to charter buses to piling into vans with strangers.
Georgia apparel became a common sight on planes, including a family of five decked out in red and glued to Rose Bowl pregame programming on the plane’s monitors on a Friday flight.
Smith flew out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport after facing for a couple weeks the challenge of finding a reasonably-priced flight. He said the Atlanta airport was “swarmed” with Georgia fans, and he also found a few in Denver during a six-hour layover before arriving Saturday night.
“It was just a confluence of good things,” he said. “I found a flight after trying for a couple weeks and just couldn’t find one, and finally one popped up that was reasonable to an extent but within the budget. We obviously haven’t been here since 1943, so there’s only so many opportunities to get to go to the game. I had some friends that were going, too, so things just lined up.”
A group of five, brought together quickly for a cross-country trip, let out screams of joy upon seeing the Rose Bowl stadium for the first time Saturday. It was the final stop on an once-in-a-lifetime adventure that had the group of four teachers and a stay-at-home mom traveling from Georgia in a van and making memorable stops along the way.
“We basically got tickets and started winging it,” Shannon Barnes Mann said.
Mann and Lynn Aldridge Carswell teach at Blue Ridge Elementary School, and another passenger, Jolene Bryant, is from Evans. Mann said her students and friends were astounded that she planned to make the trip, but a passion for life and Georgia made the adventure come together.
“It’s basically five strangers getting in a car and coming to Pasadena to see the Bulldogs,” she said. “We wanted to see America.”
Robyn Littlefield McCann taught Georgia receiver Terry Godwin at Callaway Elementary School in LaGrange, Ga. They stay in touch and she proudly wears Godwin’s No. 5. Godwin began to retweet McCann’s tweets chronicling her trip to Pasadena, and one went viral.
“It’s overwhelming,” McCann said. “I haven’t been able to stay off my phone. I can’t keep my battery charged. And Terry retweeted it. We’re over the moon.”
Mann and McCann echoed the thought that their passion for the trip came from a love for Georgia, but also an educator’s love. That showed in McCann’s impact on Godwin and a continued connection that has the teacher set to watch the student in the biggest game of his life today.
“They respect her as an educator,” Mann said. “We’ve meant so much to their lives as educators. That’s why we do what we do. We’re all teachers. We’re rich in happiness from our love for our kids and the Georgia Bulldogs.”