Saturday, June 8, 2013

NFL Road Trip 2013 - New and Improved

I have been very quiet on the blog for the past three weeks because there has been little going on worth writing about. With the Leafs out of the playoffs, I’ve stopped following the NHL, and the NBA hasn’t been as exciting as claimed, with the few Game 7s being blowouts and the finals predictably featuring the top seeds from each conference. The Blue Jays are terrible and baseball’s newest scandal threatens to blow up the game. Perhaps the most exciting event in the past month was Canada’s rugby team beating Fiji in Ottawa as part of the Pacific Nations Cup.

Of course, there is more to my silence than a relatively slow period in my sporting world. My last post was on the NFL Road Trip that I am seriously considering taking and I wanted to leave that as the landing page for some time to see if it would get some more coverage (it didn’t). Meanwhile, I have been tinkering with the actual plan. The one posted last month had a total of 20,000 highway miles, which was the best I had ever developed. But I still wasn’t satisfied, there was too much backtracking.

A “perfect” NFL trip would entail about 11,500 highway miles (these are the miles between stadiums) to complete the round trip, assuming that you return to your starting point. That route includes no backtracking; you visit the next closest city every time that would prevent you from reversing direction. For example, starting in Denver, you would go KC, Minneapolis, Green Bay, Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and so on, finishing with Arizona, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, and Seattle before returning to Denver. There is a bit of room for adjustment in the north east perhaps, but doubtful that you could get much under 11,000 miles. So 20,000 was a bit less than double the ideal route.

I decided to revisit my assumptions to see if I could find a trip with less driving. Every hour on the road is one hour less to visit a city or write an update, not to mention about $8 in gas. If I could cut the number of miles down, it would make the trip just that much easier.

I decided to do three things. The first was remove the link between St. Louis and Kansas City. Every trip I planned had both cities being visited on the same weekend, necessitating a 500 mile backtrack as you would head west to KC and then return east for the following game. The second fix was to break up the seven-city southern trip into two bits. The original plan had all four NFC South teams along with Tennessee, Miami, and Jacksonville visited consecutively. But the game order was not good, with a lot of backtracking, particularly having to go to Miami between Atlanta and Dallas. The final adjustment was to eliminate as many Monday night games as possible, at least where a long drive was necessary.

The first casualty was the Bengals Week 2 Monday game. With the Sunday game in Baltimore and the following Thursday game in Philly, going to Cincinnati would cost over a thousand miles roundtrip. I slotted Cincy into week 5, where Cleveland hosts the Thursday game. This meant the NFC North journey would be pushed back, but things worked out well there too.

First, I noticed a Tampa Bay/Jacksonville/Miami combo in Weeks 8 and 9 with two Thursday games. Unfortunately, the Sunday Jacksonville game is in London, but New Orleans is a reasonable alternative, although there is a lot of backtracking. But it does allow me to skip the tough Sunday/Monday night combo in New Orleans and Tampa in Week 10 and opens up Green Bay/Minnesota/Chicago around the same time, with the Packers hosting the Bears on Monday in Week 9 while the Vikings have the Thursday night tilt in Week 10. Chicago then hosts Detroit on the Sunday.

The only negative is getting from Miami to Green Bay over three days. That’s 1600 miles, or just over 500 miles a day, well within acceptable limits.

As well, with Kansas City no longer tied to St. Louis, the Chiefs slot in nicely between Atlanta and Dallas on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, a much better alternative than traveling to Miami for that Sunday game.

The resulting schedule has 19,000 highway miles, about a thousand less than the previous plan. It may not sound like much, but it will make a huge difference in the pace of the trip, particularly early on. The worst parts of the trip are those where there are 3 games in a week, and I was starting with two of those back-to-back. Now I can relax and spend more time in Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Here is the updated trip.

Thu Sep 5    Baltimore at Denver 6:30
Sun Sep 8    Oakland at Indianapolis 1:00
Mon Sep 9    Philadelphia at Washington 7:10
Thu Sep 12   NY Jets at New England 8:25
Sun Sep 15   Cleveland at Baltimore 1:00
Thu Sep 19   Kansas City at Philadelphia 8:25
Sun Sep 22   Chicago at Pittsburgh 8:30
Thu Sep 26   San Francisco at St. Louis 7:25
Sun Sep 29   Chicago at Detroit 1:00
Thu Oct 3    Buffalo at Cleveland 8:25
Sun Oct 6    New England at Cincinnati 1:00
Sun Oct 13   Cincinnati at Buffalo 1:00
Sun Oct 20   New England at NY Jets 1:00
Mon Oct 21   Minnesota at NY Giants 8:40
Thu Oct 24   Carolina at Tampa Bay 8:25
Sun Oct 27   Buffalo at New Orleans 1:00 
Thu Oct 31   Cincinnati at Miami 8:25
Mon Nov 4    Chicago at Green Bay 7:40
Thu Nov 7    Washington at Minnesota 8:25
Sun Nov 10   Detroit at Chicago 1:00
Thu Nov 14   Indianapolis at Tennessee 7:25
Sun Nov 17   Arizona at Jacksonville 1:00
Mon Nov 18   New England at Carolina 8:40
Thu Nov 21   New Orleans at Atlanta 8:25
Sun Nov 24   San Diego at Kansas City 12:00
Thu Nov 28   Oakland at Dallas 3:30
Sun Dec 1    New England at Houston 3:25
Sun Dec 8    St. Louis at Arizona 1:25
Sun Dec 15   Kansas City at Oakland 1:05
Sun Dec 22   Oakland at San Diego 1:25
Mon Dec 23   Atlanta at San Francisco 5:40
Sun Dec 29   St. Louis at Seattle 1:25

I can’t imagine a better trip given this year’s schedule. Amazingly, New England is the road team 4 times. I do get Buffalo twice on the road as well, including their trip to New Orleans, which should be fun. Denver does not make a road appearance, meaning I see them in the season-opener and never again.

The ultimate point of this post is to encourage you to take your time when planning a big sports road trip and keep trying different options. Sometimes you make assumptions that are not necessarily valid, which adds unnecessary time and cost.

Check back in a month or so when the final decision on whether this trip will happen or not will be made.