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  Heat Up the Bandwagon and Full Steam Ahead

By Tony Kornheiser
Washington Post Columnist
Monday, January 20, 1992; Page C1

Tony Kornheiser ELKHART, IND. -- Where were you? Did you forget to set your alarms? When The Bandwagon pulled out the least I expected was a cheering throng. If it wasn't for Man About Town Chip Muldoon who won The Lucky Fan Contest -- by using 25 words or less to say why he wanted a ride to Minneapolis (Chip's winning entry was: "I've got nothing better to do for the next three days") -- The Bandwagon would have been as empty as Buddy Ryan's calendar.

Anyway, we're mobile. So sing it, Willie! Off the road again. Just can't wait to get off the road again. All my life is playing the cross-country License Plate game with my friends. And I can't wait to get off the road again.

With Minnesota natives Harry Lanenberg and Scott Stenbeck taking turns at the wheel, we headed out from 15th and L, and didn't stop until . . . a gas station on Massachusetts Avenue.

"How many gallons does this baby hold?" I asked.

"I don't know," Harry said after consulting with Scott.

"How many miles per gallon?"

"Six," Harry said confidently.

"Six!" I said. "We'll have to fill up 40 times just to get to Cleveland."

It was at this point that Chip suggested we bag the Super Bowl trip, and go instead to Hershey Park. "I love the Krackle bar," Chip said.

Notwithstanding Chip, we pressed on, and in no time at all were at the Beltway. There, we pulled alongside a woman in a white Volvo, who smiled at The Bandwagon and called out, "Go Skins!"

"Follow us," we said. "We're going to Minnesota."

"Can't," she explained. "I'm allergic to wind chill."

The ride out I-270 was especially gratifying as cars and trucks honked at us with delight, expressing solidarity with The Bandwagon and the spunky Coach "Joe" Gibbs. Some drivers even held up official Bandwagon Bumper Stickers -- which they were apparently too embarrassed to affix to their cars. We had to stop before Frederick, Md., so Chip could call his father to say, "Uh, Dad, I forgot to turn off the water in my bathtub. Could you go over and do it?"

Cruising easily, we hit Pennsylvania in about two hours, and at the world-famous Breezewood truck stop (318 Gas Stations! No Waiting! "The Las Vegas of South Central Pennsylvania" according to road warrior Chip) we saw a motel advertising "touch-tone phones." I commented to Chip how that was a strong selling point.

As you know, Pennsylvania and Ohio have toll roads. But Chip said not to worry. "We won't have to pay," he predicted. "They'll wave us through. We're America's Team." Twenty-nine dollars later, Chip sheepishly recanted. "Maybe if we had John Brandes with us," he mused.

About 90 miles west of Pittsburgh we saw our first snow squall. This reminded Scott of the weather in Minneapolis. "What I don't like," Scott said, "is when the weathermen say, 'Don't go outside with any portion of your skin exposed, or you'll get frostbite in 30 seconds.' " I must say that wasn't particularly reassuring.

The road can quickly become rather tedious -- even with the excitement of going to a Super Bowl. So to alleviate the boredom we played the "Dead or Alive?" game. Our first heated debate was Victor Borge.

"Alive!" Chip insisted. "I saw him on '60 Minutes.' "

"Dead!" I countered. "Taped show."

Going past Pittsburgh we encountered our first angry fan, who stuck his fist out of his car and shook it at us. He looked suspiciously like Bubby Brister.

By this time our drivers were getting hungry. Rest-stop food being readily available, Scott inquired, "What do you want for lunch?"

"Thai?" I suggested.

"Ethiopian," Chip demanded.

We settled for McDonald's just inside the Ohio line, near Youngstown. When I exited The Bandwagon, I was amused to find the temperature was so low every one of my 206 bones began to rattle at once. But my discomfort was eased by a sight for sore eyes. Coming into the restaurant was a woman in a Redskins T-shirt! This was a Major Moment In Travel History, rather like Stanley greeting Livingstone. It was Sandy Schimler of Springfield, Va., on her way to visit her father in Ohio. Sandy had seen The Bandwagon and rejoiced, "You passed us, and I said to my husband, 'I'll bet that's The Bandwagon!' " Not to put too fine a point on it, Sandy, but what else would it be with 30-foot long drawings on both sides of a Winnebago exclaiming "I'm On The Bandwagon"? A Ridgewell's truck? Seeing Sandy and Ed got us nostalgic for the Redskins, so all of us gathered together and chanted Ravin Caldwell's name in the parking lot before moving on.

I must confess to a slight disappoinment as we passed Cleveland. I'd hoped Art Modell might be there to greet us. I wanted to borrow that great camel's hair coat. I mean, what does he need it for? He's not going to the Super Bowl. He's got nothing better to do this week than meet with Bernie Kosar to decide what to put on the side of the Browns' helmet. Alas, Modell was nowhere to be seen, and we pressed on through Ohio and into Indiana. Stopping for gas one last time, in Howe, Ind., we had another Great Moment in Travel History as Michelle Whitney of Kensington pulled up behind us and breathlessly said, "I've followed The Bandwagon in the paper all season, and I'm thrilled to be following it on the highway."

The Bandwagon (copyright Anthony I. Kornheiser, U.S. Copyright Office 270707680) is proud to welcome Michelle. And some others too: Carter Cromley, Skip Strobel and Claude Balzac, who offered sage copyrighting advice, arriviste Brian Ronholm, Jeff Dorman and Vicky Rhinesmith Dorman, who have a Bandwagon freight car in case The Bandwagon needs a tow, Joseph W. Gallaher, songmeister C. Perry, Allan Schlosser, Hershel Minsky, Gains B. Hawkins Jr., Jessica Poole, Scott Bevan and Bill Kassy, Mickey Robertson, Alice Junkin and Susan Scanlan, who offers to prepare a special Minneapolis menu of tuna-liver hotdish, Velveeta coconut bars, congealed carrot salad and yellow snowball cake -- plus a range of dirty Swedish jokes all involving the word "herring."

Before signing off, let me tell you of The Bandwagon's truly national clout. Checking into the Signature Hotel in Elkhart, we found -- to our delight -- that the hotel had made me the VIP of The Day, and had put my name on the message board in the lobby! Top billing over its welcome to Combined Insurance Co. Of America. As VIP of The Day, I was entitled to "complimentary fruit in the room." I opened the door to find one apple. I shall carry it with me now, frozen as a rock, proudly.

© Copyright 1992 The Washington Post Company

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