Dec 312010
 

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After more than 3,000 miles of driving, Toby reached his ultimate destination this afternoon – the home of the Orange Bowl! We scouted out the stadium where we’ll be throwing our tailgate. Now we can form our battle plans for Monday’s operation!

We’re on our way to the South Beach hotel where we’ll hang out waiting for the lots to open at 11am on Monday!

Dec 312010
 

Toby pulled into Kissimmee, Flordia, around 11pm yesterday. We’d made a reservation several hours earlier through Hotels.com (owned by Expedia) for the Ramada Heritage Park and after some more battling with Google’s bad directions (it’s really, really obvious that they’re based in California when trying to get directions from them out here in FL!) we located the hotel. If any Google Maps people are reading this blog, please fix your New Orleans and Florida maps. They desperately need it.

After arriving at the hotel, we learned that Hotels.com/Expedia had not forwarded our reservation to the Ramada. Chris, the guy working at the front desk, was very patient as we called the Hotels.com number and talked to their customer service people, who then called him and eventually faxed over our reservation number.  As we waited for the fax to come through, a Latin American family arrived only to find their reservation missing as well – and none of them spoke English, nor did Chris speak any Spanish.  It was reaching 11:30pm and we couldn’t just leave them stranded with no way to get help, so Brian called Hotels.com again, this time on the Londonos’ behalf and translated for them since apparently Hotels.com doesn’t provide customer service  in Spanish! Way to neglect a huge and growing customer base! As this call progressed, Chris told us that there was another problem with our booking. Apparently when you book through one of these travel sites, they don’t give the actual hotel your credit card number. Instead, they keep your money and give the hotel a different credit card number to charge, linked to one of their own accounts. In our case, Hotels.com’s credit card number was being declined. Meanwhile, we’re still on hold with them trying to get the Londono’s reservation fixed, and Chris is dealing with other guests trying to check in as well.

We learned from Chris that he’d had four reservations that day from Expedia (and/or Hotels.com) and all of them had been screwed up just like ours. He did say that they’d worked with Expedia for years and this had never happened before, so hopefully it’s just a fluke occurrence perhaps related to a surge in transactions for New Year’s. Regardless, if any of you have an upcoming reservation that you made through Expedia or one of the subsidiaries like Hotels.com, you should call your hotel directly and confirm that the reservation made it to the hotel’s system! Eventually the Hotels.com credit card number went through and we were able to get our room keys, but the Londonos were still stuck waiting for the fax from Hotels.com to arrive. We explained the situation to them and left our phone number with Chris in case there were further problems. After getting our stuff into our room, Wade went back to check on the situation and learned that Hotels.com had first tried to fax to the Ramada’s front desk phone line, then sent a fax to the right number but with the wrong reservation information. Finally they got it right and the Londonos were able to get their room keys just after midnight. We were glad to help them out, as we’ve always found people to help us out while traveling in foreign countries and trying to communicate.

With our good deed for the day taken care of, we worked on the blog, uploaded pictures to Facebook and enjoyed the highlights of the Stanford Women’s Basketball win over UConn before heading to bed.

Dec 302010
 

As we wind our way down the Florida Turnpike towards Orlando, we’re reflecting on Toby’s year so far. As many of you already know, we’d been talking about a tailgating van since fall 2009, and had actively started looking to buy one in April with disappointing results. Most of our friends and family were sure it wasn’t going to happen when the calendar reached August and we still didn’t have a van.

Fortunately, the four of us still believed. When Wade found the Craigslist post with The Van That Would Be Called Toby for sale, everyone dropped their plans to come see it. An hour-long inspection and $2500 in cold hard cash later, the van was ours. Toby quickly took on a life of his own, and the project rapidly grew beyond our formidable expectations.

One of the catalysts that kicked Toby into top gear was the unexpected early success of our marketing efforts. Brian had contacted Jim Young, the Senior Assistant Athletic Director shortly after Toby’s debut at the Sacramento State game, and Jim told his contacts at ESPN about Toby. The ESPN crew got in touch with us on the Wednesday before the Wake Forest game and said that they would come by our tailgate to do some filming. We’d only just begun Toby’s modifications at that point, and we wanted to make the best possible impression on ESPN in case the footage hit national TV.

Suddenly we were ordering Stanford Fathead decals and beer system parts with overnight shipping and frantically preparing. Brian, Ryan, Mike and Wade worked on Toby from 6pm Friday until 3:30am Saturday morning getting Toby ready for what we hoped would be his TV debut. While ultimately ESPN didn’t broadcast any of the Toby footage, we never really lost the momentum from that marathon night of work. Thanks to tremendous support from all of you, we kept growing and building our operation until we peaked with over one hundred people attending our tailgate before the Stanford-Arizona game – and we expect to rival or even surpass that number on Monday in Miami!

We know that a lot of people think that we’re crazy to put this much time and money into a tailgating project, especially at a school like Stanford which is not a traditional football powerhouse.  The effort we’ve put into Toby, however, is not just about tailgating and Stanford Football.  Of course, if we weren’t passionate fans of both, this project would never have happened.  However, it has become more about the people involved – both the four members of the Toby crew working together on a shared goal and also the people attending Toby’s tailgates and following Toby from afar.  It’s been a great way for all of us to reconnect with friends we haven’t seen in a while and to make entirely new ones – people we would have never met if it had not been for this project.  That has been an amazing experience for all of us, and it’s why we strongly encourage anyone and everyone to come out and attend Toby’s tailgates, whether you know any of us or not!

As we spend our last night on the road before our arrival in Miami, we want to thank all of our friends, old and new, for their help in making Toby’s first season such a memorable one.  We have ambitious plans for next year’s football season as well as plenty of plans for the off-season, including collaborating with the Stanford Women’s Basketball team.  The Toby that kicks off next year’s football schedule on September 3rd against San Jose State will be bigger and badder than ever before, and even more fun for us and for our guests. When you participate in the Toby experience in any way, it makes all the labor worthwhile for us.  Whether you’ve driven from San Antonio to Miami for the Orange Bowl like Lorene Juarez (class of ’77), written a fantastic blog post for the Alumni Association like Glenn Garvin (class of ’75), or done something as simple as commenting on our blog or Facebook page, you are making the Toby experience unforgettable for all of us.  Thanks, and see you in Miami in 2011!

Dec 302010
 

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As far as we can tell, Toby’s trip to Miami is the third-longest possible road trip that anyone could make this year between their school and bowl game, and we think it’s likely that it is the longest that anyone is actually doing!

Toby wouldn’t want to claim this title unfairly, so tell us if you or anyone you know is making a longer one. Here’s the comparison with some other potential trips fans might be making, BCS bowls first:

Stanford to Orange Bowl: 3,006 miles
Virginia Tech to Orange Bowl: 889 miles

Wisconson to Rose Bowl: 1,968 miles
TCU to Rose Bowl: 1,405 miles

UConn to Fiesta Bowl: 2,608 miles – very respectable, or it would be if any UConn fans were actually going to this game
Oaklahoma to Fiesta Bowl: 1,028 miles

Ohio State to Sugar Bowl: 921 miles
Arkansas to Sugar Bowl: 611 miles

Oregon to National Championship: 1,220 miles
Auburn to National Championship: 1,817 miles – will be reduced to 0 when Auburn has to vacate the 2010 season

And here are the two possible longer trips:

Boston College to Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (in SF): 3,101 miles – anyone making this trip? Let us know!

Tulsa to Hawaii Bowl: 3,829 miles – this only counts if you drive to the West Coast and then take a boat to Hawaii. If you’re crazy enough to do this, Toby will respect you.

Dec 302010
 

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For breakfast this morning we hit up Cafe Du Monde’s takeout line in a quest for the best beignets in New Orleans. For the uninitiated, a beignet is basically a quarter cup of powdered sugar served with a side of fried dough. They were fantastic, and it’s a good thing we didn’t eat them in Toby because it would have looked like we’d spilled drugs all over the place.

Before the sugar high had a chance to fade we were back on the road in our quest to reach Orlando for the night.

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