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September 28th, 2011

If you’ve taken a look at the map of my trip progress, you might have noticed a strange southern loop from Wisconsin down into Alabama and back into Indiana.  That wasn’t accidental; instead, it was a byproduct of my strong desire to go to Rose-Hulman‘s homecoming on September 24.

Cheerleaders for R-O-S-E at the homecoming football game

I got my BS in Electrical Engineering from Rose in 2004, and I’d been back for homecoming three times in the intervening years: 2005, 2006, and 2008.  It seemed time to make another appearance.

Why do I go back?  It’s not really to see the school.  Rose-Hulman is great, and it means more to me than my other alma mater (Stanford), but the real reason I go back is to visit with my fraternity brothers.  OK, OK — the homecoming bonfire put on by Rose is fun, too.

The bonfire is fueled by hundreds of railroad ties stacked in something resembling a log cabin configuration.  Back in my day (get my cane!), the fire was better because we used actual creosote-soaked ties, but even with the recent years’ untreated lumber, the fire is pretty entertaining.

A few hours after a great speech by noted physicist Michio Kaku, the school put on a rousing display of fireworks before igniting the blaze.  Thousands of alumni, students, and hangers-on flooded the IM soccer fields to watch the spectacle.

A sea of people watch the bonfire blaze

A few daring people even ran up to the extremely hot fire to tag some of the unburned wood.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they singed their hair, as it was nearly impossible to spend any length of time within 100 ft. of the blaze.

One guy did plan ahead.  He made what looked like a proximity fire suit out of foil (sort of), got a roasting stick, and browned some marshmallows in no time flat.

Roasting marshmallows the quick way

Back at the fraternity house, the mood was festive.  For context, you should know that my chapter’s house sits on about 23 acres of wooded land about a mile down the road from the college campus.  The space provides the opportunity to have a bunch of buildings, several fire trucks, and some big bonfires of our own.

I stood around the bonfire chatting with my Brothers, new and old.  We told stories, laughed at past misadventures, and pondered the future.  It had been 10 years since I first spent a homecoming at the house, and it was jarring to see how much older than the actives my classmates looked.  I could see the passage of time in my face, too, and that made me all the more glad that I chose to do this trip before I aged even more.

A photo from 2000: me (as a freshman) and the rest of the guys in Alpha Eta class

There were no ice arenas within 70 miles of Rose-Hulman, so I had played in Indianapolis the Friday before Homecoming.  That left me with nothing on my to-do list except to reminisce and have fun.

That said, part of the appeal of Homecoming is that it ends before it wears out its welcome, and this one was no exception.  Sunday morning came, and that saw me departing for more hockey, seven hours away in West Virginia.

  1. Jamie
    September 29th, 2011 at 10:00 | #1

    From Minnesota, and always have been a big Rose fan. Good luck to you with the rest of your trip!

  2. Chad
    September 29th, 2011 at 11:07 | #2

    I run a D and an I league in Fort Worth Texas area, contact me we can feed you and get you a game for sure.

  3. September 29th, 2011 at 14:08 | #3

    I’m a hockey writer in Ottawa. I cover the Senators. Saw the story on puck daddy. Any idea when you might be in/around Ottawa? I would like to talk to you. Cheers. And good luck

  4. Janet
    September 29th, 2011 at 14:47 | #4

    Looking forward to seeing where you play in WV as that’s where I live. Hope you don’t have too much trouble finding a game – hockey’s not a big sport here!

  5. Jeff
    September 29th, 2011 at 18:54 | #5

    @Jamie Thanks! Go Engineers!

  6. Jeff
    September 29th, 2011 at 18:55 | #6

    @Chad Thanks for the offer! I’ll follow up with you when I get closer to DFW.

  7. Jeff
    September 29th, 2011 at 18:55 | #7

    @ken warren I should be in the Ottawa area this coming Wednesday. I’ll follow up with you via e-mail.

  8. Jeff
    September 29th, 2011 at 18:56 | #8

    @Janet The good news is that I was able to find hockey in Charleston, WV. The bad news is that I’m a bit behind on my writing, so the blog post describing West Virginia (and Kentucky) might still be a few days away. Keep watching!

  9. Brett
    September 29th, 2011 at 21:22 | #9

    I saw a brief write up of your trip on the yahoo news feed……..very cool idea and great blog. If things don’t work out in Waterloo, come down to Hamilton, Ontario. (about an hour south). I’m a firefighter here and we have a 7 team firefighter league that plays every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. I’m sure I could get you in for a game.
    Good luck and safe Travels,

  10. September 29th, 2011 at 22:41 | #10

    jeff: give me a call if you have time. charley walters, st. paul pioneer press, 651-683-0746. thx

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