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Playing The Oregon Trail with UVa Coaches

We're still weeks away from football season and still suffering through the doldrums of the sports-free summer. What on Earth is a blogger supposed to do for entertainment? Clearly, play a classic computer game and throw some UVa coaches in as the characters.

Let's imagine the University of Virginia athletic department decided to send an expedition across the country in 1848. Let's also imagine they chose a group of five modern coaches to form this gang of explorers. Solid premise, right? Join me on the adventure:

Our first major decision: Be a banker from Boston, carpenter from Ohio, or farmer from Illinois? Well only one of those is ACC country and I assume the VAF support resembles that of a 19th century banker, so we're going with that.

Who's going to lead this group of coaches? Clearly we could go with National Champion Brian O'Connor, but my trust lies in Tony Bennett.

We're packlining our way to the Pacific.

I've encountered my first obstacle: character limits in names. "Tony B." it is then. I also realize that "Tony" alone is sort of a weird name. Tony. One of those words you use all the time that sounds/looks funny when you take a step back, like "dog." Tony. Tonyyyy. Ok I'm done. Let's go with "T. Bennett."

O'Connor is clearly second in command. In fact, if you won a National Championship last year, you're coming. George Gelnovatch. Brian Boland. Gosh, three is a lot of championships for one year. We've only got one coach left to flesh out our traveling team. While there are plenty of amazing options in Charlottesville to choose from: Starsia, Julie Myers, or Steve Swanson would all be great choices...but for entertainment's sake, we're clearly taking Mike London. Iron sharpens iron. Everyone in the wagon.

Our next decision: when to leave? March through July. We go with April rather than "ask for advice" because we're impatient, April is the second choice, and first is the worst - second is the best. For supplies, we buy the recommended amounts, but a little extra food, having played this game before. Plus, I'm not confident about my squirrel-shooting skills. 2 pairs of clothes for a cross country wagon trip seems light, but we assume it's moisture-whisking athletic apparel and go with the recommended amount. We leave the store with just under $1,000 in VAF donations. Almost a third of the way towards being allowed to buy a JPJ season ticket.


The 8-bit version of "Yankee Doodle" starts playing and we're off. Rations: filling. Pace: boring (just kidding, clearly Bennett's leading us with a "steady" pace).

We make it to the Kansas river. It's 636 feet across, but only 4.6 feet deep in the middle. Bennett checks his pillars of teamwork and decides to caulk the wagon and float it across. This turns out to be a TERRIBLE decision. The wagon tips over and we lose 894 pounds of food. Thankfully, just the food is lost. 800+ pounds of easy mac is now floating down the Kansas River.

We get out with 82 miles to go until the next river, but only 200 pounds of food left. It's clearly time to shoot stuff. But before we get the chance: BRIAN BOLAND has a fever. This isn't a good sign so early in the trip. Maybe squirrel meat will help him feel better.

We send Gelnovatch and his rifle out into the woods and GOOD LORD GEORGE WHAT DID YOU DO

oregon trail hunting

1962 pounds of meat...but he can only carry 100 back to the wagon. Someone hasn't been keeping up with his crossfit, clearly. A little less murder and a little more deadlifts, Gelnovatch.

We reach the Big Blue River (go ODU!) and it's much smaller than the first one. 232 feet across, only 2.7 feet deep. We're fording this mother lover.


Supplies got wet? That's a vague reason to lose a day. We can't dry them out while we're on the road? I assume this means it's our iphone that got wet. Oh well, at least the squirrel meat survived.

A day later: Broken Wagon Axle. We're unable to repair it. 5 grown men and no one brought any duct tape. But hey, we brought spare parts. A few days later, we find an abandoned wagon and loot it for its 42 bullets. Only 121 pounds of food left, so let's put those bullets to work! Some bushes get in George's way and we end up with only 3 pounds of squirrel meat. Great. Not a big deal though, as we fill up at Fort Kearney a few days later. Being a banker has its benefits, as we only spend 1/3 of our remaining cash on an absurd amount of food. What could go wrong?

Next stop, Chimney Rock! On the way, we shoot another buffalo. We buffalo a lot of buffalo. The weather is warm our health is good. AND THEN GELNOVATCH GETS DYSENTERY. Ugh. Gross. Considering our pace is only "steady," we don't adjust.

The next day, a thief comes during the night and steals 68 bullets. That's an oddly specific amount, considering we have way more. I guess it's all he or she needed. By early May, the weather is still cool, our health is "fair" and we've made it to Chimney Rock. We do not look around, we've got places to be.

On the way to the next fort, we encounter "inadequate grass" frequently. We're unfamiliar with such problems back home in the land of Dave Matthews. We then stop to look at a gravestone:


Voland was a creepy dude, I gather. Our water is running low, but we make it to Fort Laramie. Our supplies are in great shape and the various diseases seem to be in check, so we move on. Immediately an oxen is injured. We're told it's a "moderate lower extremity" issue and that there's no timetable for his return. Dozens of "very little water" and "bad water" warnings pass. A wagon wheel breaks. We make it to Independence Rock. Considering the water issues, we rest for three days.

Immediately thereafter, we "lose trail" and lose 4 more days. We blame Apple Maps. Further grass and water issues persist, but we make it to the South Pass division in the trail. Do we head towards the Green River or Fort Bridger? Considering our bad luck with rivers and plenty of remaining cash, Tony Bennett suggests we take the safe route. Along the way, we find some fruit and kill a disturbing amount of wild animals.



We make it to Fort Bridger and notice our health status has been upgraded to "good." Nice to hear that the dysentery has cleared up. We fill up on food and leave the fort. It's early July and it's hot out.

GELNOVATCH HAS TYPHOID. For goodness sake, man - stop touching things!

July 10th, 1848. An oxen dies. We grieve.

Passing through Soda Springs, we make it to Fort Hall. Our health has gone down to "poor" and back up to "fair." How are you doing, today? Someone at the fort, asks. "Fair." We say. "Weird answer," they think. We move on. A wagon tongue breaks. We didn't know wagons had tongues, but we brought spares. An impassible trail loses us 9 days, but the break gives us a bit of a boost in health. And time to shoot a bear.

August 3rd, 1848. A thief has come during the night and stolen 8 sets of clothing. There are now 2 total sets of clothing for 5 people. Things get uncomfortable. Another oxen is injured. This is the low point in our trip, though George might disagree. Inexplicably, we take the wrong trail and lose 3 days. However, we make it to the Snake River and seem in good shape - all things considered. The river is 1000 feet across and 6 feet deep. We're not confident in our caulking abilities and would prefer to not lose anymore clothing, so we hire an Indian to help. The Shoshone guide asks for 3 sets of clothing. Of course he does. We can't pay him, but the next guy only asks for 2 sets - so we head across the river - completely naked as a group.

Other than the mental anguish, we make it across with no issue. There was a lot of giggling. 113 miles to Fort Boise, we decide to make things less awkward by shooting some more nature.


Considering we've got no clothes, that's quite the awful looking sunburn. Another oxen dies. Animal death is becoming a theme. That, and nudity. After some fog costs the group a day of travel, Mike London breaks his arm without explanation. BUT WE KNOW IT WASN'T FROM CALLING TIMEOUTS - HEYOOOO. We make it to Fort Boise, check out their ugly football field, and immediately buy some clothes and oxen.

It's September. It's cool. Our health is fair. We make it to the Blue Mountains. We consult the map for our next destination.


"The Dalles" sounds fun. Unsure of what a Dalle is, we head that way, occasionally stopping to shoot more animals. Gelnovatch has a fever, because of course he does. We break an axle again, but somehow coach it up to repair itself and slap it on the ass. Get back in the game, axle.

Brian Boland has the measles. Apparently his parents were anti-vaccers. Brian O'Connor has exhaustion - YEAH WE'RE ALL TIRED, COACH. The team's health is poor. The weather is rainy.

It is October 2, 1848. We shoot our first bunny. They're harder to hit than bears. Gelnovatch has cholera. Gelnovatch is starting to piss me off.

Just before we make it to the Dalles, Coach Boland breaks his leg. Things are getting out of hand.


So apparently this is what The Dalles are. Greeeeeeat. We discover a toll road alternative to floating down the Columbia river, but we didn't get this far by being BORING did we?

We head to the river.

We caulk the wagon to float.

We read the instructions, consult the map, and find our arrow keys on the keyboard.

We're ready to steer our team to safety along the Columbia River.

We quite literally hit the first obstacle in our path.


Oh dear.

That's a lot of carnage. We're out of wagon tongues! Tony Bennett and the walking pile of diseases that is Coach Gelnovatch push on down the Michigan State Basketball of rivers.


We made it! 2 coaches in poor health, a wagon, and 4 remaining oxen. 724 points, which apparently is not enough to qualify for the Oregon Top Ten. An eventful trip, nonetheless. Sorry about all the death, everyone!