NATCHITOCHES, La. -- What I saw yesterday was a lot of asphalt. I set out from Daytona Beach in the early morning, around 4 a.m., and drove 650 miles west. I made it to New Orleans by 5:00 pm Central time, exactly 20 minutes before my rental car was due back. That was the silver Chevy Cobalt I rented last Monday after I flew in from Indianapolis; it had to return to its home after seven days, as per the rules of the rental location.
I dragged my luggage across the rental return road from Avis to Budget, stood in line for an hour, and picked up my car for the next leg of my journey. It's a Nissan Versa, which goes from zero to 60 in more time than a VMI possession, and it has no auxiliary jack for an iAnything. At least it has comfortable seats, which is an improvement over the Cobalt, which became the standard-issue rental car of the late 00's despite being initially marketed as "Corvette's little brother." And then there were 267 more miles to go in order to get myself to Natchitoches, Louisiana, home of Northwestern State University. The Demons aren't impressed with my mileage; they're starting out on a 14,000-mile itinerary, which is pretty much the same amount as I'll travel. I won't be going to Hawaii, however.
This town of Natchitoches, located just south of the spectacular gambling capital of Shreveport, has perhaps one of the most-mispelled and mispronounced names in Hoops Nation. It's "NACK-a-dish," not "NAG-a-doach-iss." The other one (Nacogdoches, Texas) is a Southland Conference outpost too; it's where current league champion Stephen F. Austin is located. There's a story about why the towns are named so similarly.
Twin sons were born to an old Caddo Indian chief living on the banks of the Sabine River. Natchitoches was swarthy with black hair and flashing black eyes. Nacogdoches was fair with yellow hair and blue eyes.
As their father neared the end of his days, he called his sons into his presence to receive his final blessings.
He commanded that, upon his death, Natchitoches should gather his wife and children, turn his face to the rising sun, and after traveling three days he should build his home and rear a tribe.
Nacogdoches was instructed to face the setting sun, walk three days with his family, and establish a new home where he, too, would rear his children and his children's children. Thus, the twin tribes of Nacogdoches and Natchitoches were born 100 miles apart--one in what would become Texas and one in the place we know today as Louisiana.
The two tribes were located a sufficient distance apart to prevent friction over their hunting grounds, so they remained on friendly terms as the decades passed.
The friendship and trade beat out a well-traveled path between the two tribes, a route that eventually became a highway known as El Camino Real by Spanish travelers.
And, as you can probably guess, that story is a load of crap.
Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin will fight it out later this year in conference play to decide which of the "Nac" towns have the better basketball team. For now, Game No. 18 on Tuesday will pit the Demons (2006 Southland champions and vanquishers of Iowa) against Houston Baptist (1984 Trans-America champions, non-D1's for over a decade, and current Great West members).
Hit this! Tonight's game will be played in somewhat historic Prather (PRAY-ther) Coliseum, a miniature airport hangar on the outskirts of Northwestern State's campus. For a while, Prather had the distinction of being one of the very few Division I gymnasiums with a sideways logo on the court.
While that was changed several years ago when the school redid the floor, some things about Prather remain the same. When the Demons run out on the court tonight, they'll get pumped up by this inflatable tunnel.
Houston Baptist has started out its season 0-4, and features some of the worst shooting in the country. Northwestern State was 3-13 in the conference last year, and is coming off a 94-75 guarantee-game drubbing at Texas Tech. One thing is for certain. Tonight, one of these teams is going to get forked.
Awesome Bally Picture of the Moment: As you probably know, I refuse to do radio interviews, but I will make an exception. If I can get an awesome Bally pic out of the deal, I'll go on the air at halftime and say whatever you want.
Drake of the Missouri Valley was in Daytona over the weekend. It was a chance to catch up with and color commentarian and Bulldog legend Dolph Pulliam, who gave the greatest interview in the history of this website. He and play-by-play man Larry Cotlar are friends of the orange guy!
Kyle's Basketball Travel Tip: If you're like me, and you drive to a lot of basketball games while trying to maintain a presentable and respectful appearance, your suits get wrinkled up quickly. Even if you carry two of them (the standard dark blue and black combo), doing things like spending entire weekends at mid-major hoopathons will make you start to smell like a barnyard, and the olfactory always outweighs the visual.
Constant motion rarely allows for the kind of time required for a standard dry-cleaning turnaround. That's why new advances in fake dry-cleaning are so welcome to those of us who live on the road. For about ten bucks
These products go by names like "Dryel" and "Drycleaner's Secret." It doesn't really make a difference, they both operate under similar principles. There's a cloth that contains the magic stuff. With Dryel, there's a bag you put the garments in, and with DCS, the dryer's the bag. Either way, you can pull into any truck stop in America, throw the suits into the dryer while the other clothes are in the wash, and be done with the whole laundry experience in the standard 75 minutes. Your clothes will be clean, and your suits will smell like fresh lemons too.