For some Auburn fans road to Pasadena runs through Las Vegas and San Diego

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 3, 2014 

PASADENA, Calif. — Just like their beloved Auburn football team, many Tiger fans have had to scramble to find a way to Monday night’s BCS title game in Pasadena.

The unexpected cost of a West Coast trip, securing tickets and lack of affordable and direct plane flights has caused many fans to look for unconventional ways to the game.

One of the solutions is going to Pasadena through Las Vegas.

Jeremy Armstrong, a Phenix City criminal defense attorney and 1993 Auburn graduate, opted to book his trip to the BCS title game by taking the Vegas option.

“It was all about cost,” Armstrong said. “We saved about $2,000 going that route.”

That is significant when the entire trip — airfare, hotel, tickets, rental car and meals — will cost in the neighborhood of $4,200, Armstrong said.

“We are going to be in Vegas, and there is nothing wrong with that,” Armstrong said.

There are multiple options to get to Pasadena from Las Vegas. There are more than two dozen charter buses carrying fans back and forth on the nearly five-hour one-way trip. The bus trips are running about $125 per person, leaving at 6 a.m. PST and returning to Las Vegas about 20 hours later.

“We did consider the charter bus,” Armstrong said. “But we decided to rent a car, take our time. We also have the option of staying somewhere on the road on the way back.”

Kenny Hopkins, who owns American Eye Care in Columbus and lives in Harris County, will find himself in Vegas this weekend, awaiting a Monday trip to Pasadena where the Tigers will face Florida State for the national championship. But he will take a quicker route from Vegas to Los Angeles — he and his wife, Karen, will fly.

“We found a Delta shuttle to LAX for $100 a person,” Hopkins said.

Though Hopkins did not attend Auburn, his entire family has degrees from the school. His wife, a member of the Harris County Board of Education, was Miss Auburn in 1979. All three of their daughters have graduated from Auburn: the youngest, Sara, earning her degree last month.

“This has been affordable because we were able to use our American Express points,” Hopkins said.

Karen said they had been saving the points for a 20th anniversary trip, but decided to cash them in for this.

“I am so excited,” Karen said. “I am more excited about this one more than any trip we have taken recently.”

And she notes that the Vegas option is both exciting and practical.

“It is definitely cheaper to go into Vegas — the hotel rooms, everything,” she said. “We get to fly in a little earlier — and it is cheaper. That is not bad.”

Armstrong is one of those who battled with the “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity that has now come along two times in four seasons. Auburn won the BCS title in 2010, beating Oregon in Glendale, Ariz. Armstrong was one of the many Auburn fans who made that journey because it had been more than a half century since the Tigers won a national championship.

The next opportunity came around much quicker than Armstrong and other Auburn fans expected.

“I thought I never would see it again in my lifetime,” Armstrong said.

When it happened, he quickly began to make travel and ticket plans.

“There was no doubt I was going,” Armstrong said.

Raymond Jackson, an Auburn attorney who graduated from the university in 1992, was one of those making last-minute travel plans. He did not secure his tickets until a couple of days before Christmas, so he didn’t have a lot of options on flights. “I ended up flying into San Diego on game day,” he said.

Jackson found an affordable non-stop flight from Atlanta that will get him into San Diego about noon California time. That will leave him about five hours to get to Pasadena for the kickoff. The drive, depending on traffic, is about two hours.

“The key thing for me was finding a non-stop flight,” Jackson said. “Because I was flying on the day of the game, I didn’t want to take any chances on missing connections.”

Jackson did not make the trip to Glendale, which was a factor in his decision to go this year.

“It definitely is not something that is cheap, but it is something that I really wanted to do,” Jackson said. “And part of that is because I didn’t go in 2010.”

The Auburn-Oregon game was a tough ticket. Jackson and others say this appears to be a much easier ticket. Jackson got his ticket at face value from a friend of a friend. The tickets face value are between $325 and $385.

“I have noticed after I got my ticket there seem to be a lot more tickets available,” Jackson said. “Once I got my ticket, I got a call on more tickets.”

Armstrong, who is traveling with his girlfriend, Jennifer Curry, sums up the feelings of most Auburn fans making the cross-country trek.

“I am just ready to get out there,” he said.

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