Geoff Folsom

Geoff Folsom in front of the Triple XXX Family Restaurant.

It had been nearly two years since I attended a college football game, so my wife and I decided to get back on that horse over Labor Day weekend.

The Oregon State Beavers were playing at Purdue. We rooted for all the Pacific Northwest Pac-12 Conference teams when we lived in Washington state and Oregon, so we thought it would be nice to see the Beavs play again.

We’d also seen Oregon State play in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in March in Indianapolis, upsetting Tennessee on its way to a surprising appearance in the Elite Eight. So seeing a football game along with that basketball game meant we could really rub it in the faces of my wife’s Oregon State fan family members, who because of Oregon COVID-19 regulations haven’t been able to watch their teams in person since shortly after we left there in early 2020.

When I go to a college football game, I like to see if I can park away from the stadium and take a shuttle to the venue. When I’ve done that in the past at other stadiums, it’s been free to park and then between $5 and $12 for the round trip on the bus.

I checked Purdue’s website, and it said the bus was free and didn’t say anything about a charge for parking, so I figured that would be free, too. Then we pull up to the parking lot, and the sign says it’s $30 to park.

I knew my wife would not be happy if I kept driving around looking for a place to park, so I grudgingly paid for it.

Many people were surprised that they had to wear masks on the bus. This was strange because Purdue sent out an email saying you have to wear masks in all indoor spaces, plus many of the people on the bus brought kids, who are required to wear masks on the school bus by federal law. The bus driver took advantage of this by selling masks for a dollar to those who didn’t bring one. I hope he got to keep the profits.

We made it into the stadium just before kickoff.

For a while it looked like the Beavers, who haven’t reached a bowl game since 2013, might have a chance. They raced down the field in three plays to take a 7-0 lead.

But after a shaky start, Purdue scored its first touchdown with 3:43 to play in the first quarter. They had some cool effects with a train horn and the stadium lights flashing on and off to celebrate the touchdown.

It was great to be back at a college football game. My last game was at Oregon State in 2019. Unlike that game, Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium was nearly packed, and it was clear the fans were fired up, loudly booing any time the referees made a call against the Boilermakers. I’d looked at the stadium online before the game, and it didn’t look like much. But in person and full, it was a cool-looking horseshoe. They also have a new 150-foot-wide video board that was amazing.

Although the game was fairly close, it looked like the Beavers weren’t going to have what it takes to win. Plus, the fans around us were getting more rowdy, and with them consuming more alcohol, I doubted the atmosphere would get more pleasant.

And most importantly, a hamburger stand we’ve long wanted to try in downtown West Lafayette, The Triple XXX Family Restaurant, was set to close for the night at 10 p.m. Triple XXX, which opened in 1929, was featured on the first season of our favorite show, Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” in 2007, so we really wanted to go there.

So we left at halftime. We wanted to stop by the team store and get a magnet. But first, we walked outside the stadium to get photos in front of the boilermaker statue and the arch for the Tyler Trent Student Gate. Trent was a Purdue student who died of bone cancer in 2019 but not before being named an honorary team captain and inspiring a victory against No. 2 Ohio State two months before he passed. Seeing the gate nearly brought tears to my eyes.

It turned out, you could only enter the store from inside the stadium during the game, and since we walked outside, we couldn’t go back in the store. It’s always amazing when people don’t want to take my money.

Then we waited 20 minutes for the bus to show up, which made no sense because it’s about a eight-minute round trip to the parking lot.

We finally got back to the car and hit nearly every red light on the 3-mile drive to Triple XXX.

We arrived about 9:40 p.m., and finally luck started to go our way. We were the last customers to get in for the night.

We both ordered Boilermaker Pete burgers, which feature American cheese and grilled onions. The burgers, as well as my Triple XXX Root Beer, were excellent.

The only disappointment was the largest-sized T-shirt they had for sale was size extra large. How can a place called Triple XXX not have 3-XL shirts?

It was nearly 10:30 p.m. Eastern when we left West Lafayette, but we decided to try to drive home that night. Luckily, I was able to listen to the Big 40 Countdown on SiriusXM’s ’80s channel, which gave me the momentum to make it home. The 1985 countdown brought me back to my summer spent at my grandmother’s house in Syracuse, New York, where my cousins and I watched MTV all day while my mom and grandmother were visiting my ailing grandfather in the hospital.

It was nearly 3 a.m. our time when we got home, but after listening to Tears for Fears and Indiana’s own John Mellencamp, I could have driven another five hours.