Ohio State this season will have five road games, and the places where they will play are as diverse as the teams they will take on. This is the first in a series profiling these destinations and describing some of the more interesting features and attractions for the benefit of potential visitors. For those who have the time and the means, this season might be just as memorable for the travel and tourism as for the events on the field.
The first road trip on the schedule is a visit to Cal-Berkeley (or as some would say, "Berzerkeley") for a
night late afternoon game against the Golden Bears in week three. Last season Cal came to Columbus and battled right to the end, eventually falling to the Buckeyes 35-28. The game this year will be different, if for no other reason that there is a new coaching staff and a new offense with which to contend.
If you are traveling to Berkeley for the game, then you're in for a treat without even doing anything else because you're going to see an entertaining contest. However, if you get there a little early, or stay a few days afterward, then you will have an opportunity to take advantage of some of the unique sites and experiences that the city and the surrounding area have to offer.
AT THE GAME
Getting a ticket for the game is so 21st century! If you want to engage in one of Cal's most venerable traditions, you'll skip the ticket-buying process and watch the game for free from a nearby hillside. Seriously. It's known as "Tightwad Hill" and fans have been hiking up the hill to watch the game from outside the stadium for 80 years.
The hill was formed from the excess dirt left over after Strawberry Canyon was partially excavated in order to build Memorial Stadium back in 1923. The very next year, fans started gathering there for games and they have done so ever since, making this a tradition that is even older than Script Ohio.
The hill features a sign identifying it, a bench that is nailed to the base of a tree just below the main "seating" area (this area is known as "Tightwad Hill Country Club"), trash cans and recycle bins (it is Berkeley, after all), a shovel that you can use to create a "seat" for yourself or maybe some grooves in the hill for your lawn chair, and a lot of crazed yahoos who will make the game a memorable experience. Oh yeah, it also offers a great view of the field and some spectacular views of the bay area.
In 2006, a plan to refurbish the stadium included building some stands inside the stadium that would have blocked the view from Tightwad Hill. A petition drive was launched and the petition with over 1000 signatures was delivered to the university regents asking them to save the hill. The students prevailed, and the renovation left the view from the hill intact. Power to the people and all that jazz. This is Berkeley.
Besides the obvious advantage of not paying for a ticket, viewing the game from the hill allows you to bring your favorite adult beverage or your favorite smoke to enjoy during the game. But the hill has its down sides. For one, hiking up the hill is not for the faint of heart. For another, you can't wear a scarlet OSU t-shirt or you will endure chants of "TAKE OFF THAT RED SHIRT!!!" until you oblige. Also, there's the Cal Victory Cannon that they shoot off every time the home team scores and/or wins a game. From the stadium, it's a distant roar. From Tightwad Hill, it's about 20 feet away. Bring your noise protection.
DURING THE DAY
If you're planning on staying for a few days, you can check out some of the places that make the town unique. One of those places is Telegraph Avenue. During the late 60s, the Telegraph area was the epicenter for riots and confrontations with local authorities, especially around "People's Park". Today, the street is lined with vendors and artisans selling handmade jewelry, clothing, and crafts, many of which are stereotypical icons of hippiedom. You will also find street performers and shops selling everything from Tibetan ritual artifacts to hats. A bit of a warning: it's not the most sanitary place and you only want to come here during the day.
Then there is the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, where you can get your fill of fine art exhibitions and occasional performances. You can also check out artsy films like tonight's feature: The Man Who Fell to Earth starring David Bowie. If you're in the mood to buy some of that stuff, you might want to check out the Berkeley Potters Guild or the ACCI Gallery. Also, the Lawrence Hall of Science has lots of really cool exhibits. If you get hungry, you can survey the Gourmet Ghetto on Shattuck Avenue for quality dining of all varieties.
Assuming you survive your day adventures with funds intact, the city and surrounding area have plenty of things to do at night, whether it involves music or just a drink or two. For starters, there is the Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center. The Ashkenaz has been around since 1973 and it caters to the older set, with a focus on world music, jazz, blues, reggae and the like. From the street it looks like an old wooden shack with an enormous peace sign mounted at the top just under the roof. Joan Baez would be comfy there.
If you're into younger stuff, there is the world-famous 924 Gilman Street club, which caters to the under-21 crowd. The Gilman features mostly punk, hardcore punk, with some doses of grindcore, ska punk, and industrial. The club frowns on any band that makes it big, and will declare a band persona non grata if they sign to a major label. As a result, former members like Green Day are no longer allowed to perform there.
For more traditional fare, jump over to the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, a place that features folk and world music primarily, with an emphasis on regional, ethnic, and cultural fare. For example, if you arrived tomorrow night, you could enjoy a concert from Dogpatch Junction and the Sycamore String Band. You might even see the ghost of Jerry Garcia while you are there.
Of course, no trip to the bay area would be complete without a look at the Golden Gate Bridge, the most photographed bridge in the world and considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the ASCE. While you are in San Fran, you might also want to visit the Coit Tower or the Transamerica Pyramid. Even in Berkeley itself, the Sather Tower offers a magnificent view of the bay and the ocean.
After a few days, you might find yourself wanting to stay longer. Or maybe it will make you nostalgic for the good old Midwest, where you can just go have some sausage at Schmidt's or grab some nachos and ice cream at a Clippers Game. After surveying the surreal world of Berkeley, ordinary might seem refreshing by comparison.