The genesis of our tailgate dates back to 2000, although looking back now, it was a tad embarrassing. We were newly-graduated alumni, and we were roamers – always trying to find a decent spot to set up, and still depending on parents to bring food, etc. We set up for the ’00 and ’01 seasons in the general vicinity of the School of Pharmacy and the Business Building. It wasn’t a bad location – we were close to the stadium and Haley Center, and as long as we got there early enough, a parking place or two.
Our very first attempt at a TV at the tailgate was an old 7” battery operated radio/TV Natan had in his closet. The year was 2000 and we caught a partial game here or there that first season – we were limited to whatever game we could pick up through the static of the VHF/UHF dial. We started bringing the first “corded” television down to the Plains in ’01. It was a black and white 13″ thing of beauty. We used a 50 lb. marine battery and a RadioShack inverter to power the little thing (and in the case of an emergency, a car battery with a butchered extension cord on one end – I do remember that one!), and thought we were the big game around. Our tent was one of those Wal-Mart special, Some Assembly Required, mesh tents that takes about 6 people to put up, if everyone is coordinated. Set up was extremely inefficient and laborious . . . but we had a good time! We were cooking on a tiny little charcoal grill that could fit about 4 burgers at a time on it. Man, it was something to behold.
After a couple of years of tailgating, we all agreed one of the biggest drawbacks to tailgating was the lack of quantity of channels available via antenna and the poor quality of the TV picture. Thus, we began exploring the realm of satellite television and a color TV in ’02 and ’03. This led to 2 more challenges to overcome/factors to consider when deciding where to tailgate: 1. A clear view of the southern sky and 2. More power for more electronics. We learned this the hard way at our new spot…
In 2002, we moved completely across campus to the library (on the side closest to College Street) for a couple of reasons. Parking was a lot easier (we usually got to campus early enough to get spots in the library parking deck), and we had friends in the area. It was a good spot, by most accounts—it was nice and shady, and we had the library bathrooms right next to us. There was also a huge hill (well, huge when you’re 3 years old) where all of the kids tailgating around us would slide down on anything they could find – usually a good cardboard box.
The problems leading to our eventual departure from the area were directly related to the two challenges presented by the introduction of the satellite TV and the increased power requirements: 1) The tree cover was too heavy to get a good satellite signal, 2) In the event our marine battery failed (which happened), we were too far from our vehicle battery back-up plan and 3) It was extremely moist, which made for some really wet/muddy conditions at least one or two games a year and provided a great breeding ground for mosquitoes. We had a bulky, 4-foot tall tripod that was very difficult to level and stabilize, and we were trying to find a signal through the branches of the huge trees around the library.
Toward the end of ‘03, we decided to try and find a better spot for the satellite dish, which led us to our home on the Mell Street side of the library for the next few years.
This was the era when we really started figuring out what we were doing. We got the same spot every week just to the right of the main stairs heading into the library from the Mell Street side. We could see the stadium from our tailgate spot, and had a clear view of the southern sky.
The need for more consistent power and more wattage led to the purchase of a 1000 watt Yamaha inverter generator in 2004. The introduction of the inverter generator really opened the door for our tailgate to expand. We grew from 1, to 2, to 4 tents (still not matching, but hey, we were getting closer!). The available power allowed us to introduce multiple fans to our setup which greatly enhanced the early fall tailgates. We streamlined the satellite dish setup to a less painful process (as painless as a Dish Network setup could be). We also upgraded to a 13″ color television—big time! We acquired a Fire and Ice Grill/Cooler combo unit—this was a cleaner, larger, and more consistent alternative to the small charcoal grill we had previously.
That spot was really good to us. We would most likely still be there today, had we not lost our tailgate spot one week to someone else. Real estate in that area is pretty sought-after, and we were concerned we might not find another spot to fit our needs – especially within hauling distance of our parking spots. But we lucked out, and found what would become our current tailgate home: between Mary Martin Hall, RBD, and Thach Street.
By the end of the 2006 season, we decided we really liked our new spot. The 2007 season was absolutely a blast, except for the task of setting up and breaking down the tailgate. We had managed, over the years, to acquire a ton of tailgating equipment – 4 tents, a big, heavy cooler-grill, coolers, flag poles, chairs, tables, fans and heaters – you name it. We dreaded the setup and breakdown. But from the 9 am start to the 10 pm breakdown, we had a blast!
We got better and better at getting a decent satellite signal, and tweaked our tailgate’s orientation to adjust for our dish needs. We also began making friends with our new neighbors, and really fell in love with the new spot. The only downside was the multiple trips to the cars to load and unload all of our gear. Jason and Amy had been hauling the gear down in their truck, and then minivan. With their expanding family and our expanding tailgate, we were bursting at the seams. The only solution we could think of was some sort of storage trailer to transport all of our gear from Birmingham to Auburn, and somehow drop it close to the tailgate spot. So, this became the task of the off-season before the 2008 season: find a Tailgate Trailer.
Early in the off-season before the 2008 season, Jason and Amy acquired a little 4×7 utility trailer from Amy’s grandfather. It was not in great shape, and took a few months just to get roadworthy, but Jason had grandiose plans for it. By the start of the 2008 season, we were ready to haul all of our tailgating gear down to the Plains in a covered, weather-tight trailer. Setup and breakdown were still pretty laborious, but we were no longer making ten trips to the cars and hauling heavy tents across two blocks of campus.
We made an important decision in the fall of 2008. We decided the tailgate was plenty big enough to feed us and all of our friends, and it was time to stop expanding. We decided to think of ways to become more efficient at what we were trying to do – tailgate smarter, not harder. Every week, we would figure out an easier way to raise/lower the tents, or an easier way to lock things up while we were at the game, and we got much more efficient.
In 2009, we added a more powerful generator to the mix, changed over to DirecTV from Dish Network, and brought in a 32″ HDTV—absolutely awesome. We were in such a rhythm setting up and breaking down that others around us started noticing. We had several people stop by and check out our setup, and by the end of the season, one of our neighbors had built his own tailgating trailer, and another neighbor had begun work on his for the 2010 season. All in all, it was a spectacular year for the tailgate. We had our biggest week ever, with over 30 guests, we had a great HD signal, tons of food, and great neighbors.
But we still felt like there was room for more efficiency . . .
In the off-season this year, we had a new vision for the Tailgate Trailer. While it truly revolutionized our tailgate experience in 2008 and 2009, we noticed its function in 2009 began to shift into a dual role as not only a transport mechanism for our gear, but also as the makeshift centerpiece for entertainment at the tailgate. So, we decided to enhance the entertainment function of the trailer as well as streamline the loading/unloading functionality. Jason has been cranking away at the trailer since the Sunday after the A-Day game, and it is truly impressive. This year, we have continued our push for a more streamlined tailgate. The new 46″ HDTV and electronics are now permanently installed in the trailer, and the gear organization has never been better. We are anticipating our best year ever, and are very excited about it. The kids can now run around without ever worrying about cords or knocking over a satellite dish. We can lock everything up pretty easily with some serious security hardware, and we still have plenty of room for the grill, burgers, dogs, and brats!
Let us know if you want to come by and tailgate with us – we’d love to have you! War Damn Eagle, and War Damn Tailgate!