From left, Andrew Kampel, Michael Austin, Jeff Albaneze and Itai Raz are ready to hit the road to Pasadena. / Karl Etters/Democrat
For many, the way to Pasadena, Calif., to see Florida State take on Auburn in the BCS National Championship is dotted with long waits in airport terminals while reading magazines and eating overpriced food.
But for eight Florida State students, the trip to Pasadena will be an epic five-day journey.
On Wednesday, seven Florida State Theta Chi fraternity brothers set off from their house on Heritage Grove Circle across from the Publix on Ocala Drive in a rented RV. Over the next five days, they'll be stopping in Dallas to pick up another fraternity brother, followed by stops at the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Joshua Tree National Park and Los Angeles. The entire trip will be around 2,700 miles.
The brothers decided that for the same price as flying, they could make the trip itself something to look forward to.
"The two options were either to fly out there or do the RV. Flights we saw ranged up to $550, $600," said FSU marketing and professional selling major Jeff Albaneze, 22. "When it comes down to what we're paying in rental and gas, it'll be about that."
The eight friends will spend a night out on the town in Las Vegas and will camp in Joshua Tree.
"We tried to pick some spots that we wanted to go to anyways, that's why all our stops are exciting places to be," said Albaneze, who will be joined by fellow Theta Chi's Michael Austin, 22, Itai Raz, 21, and Andrew Kampel, 22, and four other students.
When they arrive in Pasadena on Sunday night, they'll be heading out on the town with other friends, but on Monday morning, their RV will be the unofficial site of the Florida State student tailgate.
"We're going to rent this, might as well make the most of it," Albaneze said. The group started organizing a student tailgate through friends going to the game. Eventually the word spread. Now, the tailgaters will chip in to cover the $250 cost of renting an RV space outside of Rose Bowl Stadium.
"There's such a scatter of people who actually got tickets that everyone's kind of connecting within their network to find something to do before the game," Albaneze said.
"Most people don't have a home base once they get to the Rose Bowl," Albaneze said, standing outside the RV New Year's Eve. "Depending on how the tailgate turns out, we should be expecting a good majority of the student body there."
"We thought it'd be cool to have a central point for anybody from FSU or anybody really," Raz added.
Each member of the group was fortunate to get one of the 1,000 much-sought-after student tickets FSU was allotted for the big game. Raz was almost left out.
"I was out of the country. It wouldn't let me log on at all," Raz remembered of trying to request his ticket online. He was able to frantically reach a friend to request the ticket on his behalf just in the nick of time.
"A minute after he got me the ticket through my name, they were sold out," he said.
Besides their main stops in Dallas, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and California, Raz hopes to carve out time for a special place.
"We're driving through Albuquerque, which is home to the 'Breaking Bad' house," Raz said of the AMC drama. "I'm a huge fan."
Between their stops, the hours will be spent listening to music, with ukulele and guitar performances from the crew on board.
"We'll jam a bit," Raz said. "Just find cool stuff along the way to do."
Their trip won't get in the way of the real reason for heading west. The group plans on brushing up on their Florida State football history.
"A lot of football-related activities for sure," Albaneze said. "Whatever makes the time go by quicker."
Food won't be a problem with a refrigerator, freezer and microwave on board, they'll be cooking up Hot Pockets and chicken tenders .
Albaneze does have one Los Angeles food stop in mind.
"Definitely, In-N-Out Burger," he said of the popular West Coast chain.
The day after the game they'll have a free day to sight see in LA, including the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The group's trying to do the whole trip on the cheap, that's where their night in Las Vegas may benefit them.
"I'm trying to make some money in Vegas to pay for all this. We'll see how that goes." Albaneze. "For me it's roulette. I'll probably torture myself at the blackjack table a little bit."