We are about to start the month long stretch away from Athens that will make or break our season and our first stop on this road trip is Columbia, SC. A few quick facts about Columbia, it is our closest SEC foe, the hottest damn city on earth and boast more preseason SEC Championships than Alabama. Now I will give credit were credit is due, they have the best and most loyal fans. Yes they are loud and obnoxious but do not miss a football game. From the end of 1997 to Quincy Carter’s 2000 game, Carolina went 1-24 but still packed the parking lots and the stands and after that game I have never seen a happier fan base. So despite the fact that they are the perpetual snot nosed little brother who has Spurrier for a coach, I always enjoy this trip.
Who: University of South Carolina
Where: Columbia, South Carolina
Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium, seats 80,250, natural grass
Distance: 166 miles from Sanford Stadium
How to get there: I-20 to US-1 all the way to the state capital, then hang a right on Assembly, stadium will be on your left if you ever make it through the traffic.
Along the way: Now if you are into mid nineties rock Cowboy Mouth is playing at Boarder Bash in Augusta Friday night but this being a night game I would recommend catching an early lunch Saturday at Freeman’s BBQ just across the river from Augusta in Beech Island, SC then hopping back on the Bobby Jones Expressway and finishing the trip. And while you’re there try the hash. Here’s what a good friend living in enemy territory has to say about it.
“Freeman’s is exactly what a bbq joint should represent. Cinderblock building, red and white table clothes, and plenty of white loaf bread! The place is filled with old original Master’s memorabilia. The chicken and ribs are good but the que’ is excellent, moist and smokey. I am more of a brunswick stew kind of guy, but their hash is the best in the area. They use a vinegar base sauce and if you ask they have a special hot sauce in the back. Sconyer’s gets all of the attention, but Freeman’s is the real deal and has the best bbq in the CSRA!”
In Columbia: Now to the important stuff. USC east is a city where the University is a separate entity. Not an afterthought like Knoxville but still a city that has a life outside of the college. This is great for visiting fans because we can find some great bars and areas that aren’t one in one out and packed with 20 year olds. My first recommendation would be the Flying Saucer downtown near the capital. Huge beer list and a great patio to hang out on but it will get crowded. While you’re downtown, it’s worth a walk around the capital. There are some really nice memorials to everything and everyone who has anything to do with South Carolina, including a really nice Police Memorial. But the most interesting thing to me are the bronze stars all along the outside walls of the capital. Each star marks where a union cannon ball hit and was purposely never repaired. Now back to beer, World of Beer is also good and has an awesome beer selection. Pearlz is a good spot for oysters and drinks. Tin Roof is a happening spot but can get packed and take a while to get a drink. I’m not as familiar with the 5 points area but I’ve been to Jake’s several times and supposedly it’s owned by a UGA grad. For food, Blue Marlin is a more high end seafood place. Liberty Tap room is a solid food option and a good place for drinks. It’s right at downtown and has their own line of micro beer brewed outside Charleston. And finally Palmetto Pig is about the best BBQ I’ve found in Columbia but the chopped pork can get a little dry.
As for the game and tailgating, I have not found a way to beat the traffic in and out of Columbia. Normally there is plenty of parking along George Rogers at the railroad tracks leading to the stadium and there will be plenty of dawg fans to team up with.
This year the South Carolina state fair is going on at the same time so things may be a little more crowded. Along the walk to the stadium make sure you walk by the Cockabooses lining the opposite side of the stadium from George Rogers. These people aren’t LSU but they know how to tailgate. When you leave I’ve found traffic to be about the same if you head back to downtown or opposite to I-77. If I’m wrong or you have a suggestion please let me know in the comments. For anyone who’s making the trip, travel safe and Go Dawgs.