It's not as fast or as glamorous, but the convenience is difficult to beat. There are a handful of times each season when Vanderbilt plays road games that are within just a few short hours of Nashville. On those occasions, the team ditches the charter jet for the wheels on a bus.
Kentucky is one of those games where a bus is more suitable than a plane.
So at 10:20 a.m. CT Friday, a convoy of five buses departed Vanderbilt's McGugin Center for Lexington, Ky.
Traveling by bus makes the difficult task of transporting 100-plus individuals more headache free for the team's operations staff. There is no need to go through airport screening and buses are not loaded and unloaded multiple times. Instead, the buses are loaded up once and after the wheels start turning there is no stopping until reaching the team hotel.
The team's travel routine also varies slightly when traveling by bus. Instead of eating an early breakfast, practicing and then eating on the plane, the team eats a continental breakfast early in the morning, practices and then eats a large brunch in the Hendrix Room. Before hopping on the buses, each player grabs a bag filled with a sandwich, fruit, chips and a candy bar. Players also pick up a smoothie before exiting the Hendrix Room. The food and smoothie served as lunch on the bus.
For the players, the few hours on the bus were occupied by sleeping, listening to music or watching a movie. At 1:45 p.m. CT, the Commodores had arrived at the team hotel. There, the team was greeted by a few fans, including Vanderbilt Hall of Fame inductees John Ingram and John Hall.
After arriving at the hotel, the team had two hours to relax before unit meetings began. Unit meetings were followed by a special teams meeting and then a team meeting.
To begin the team meeting, the lights were turned off and the week's motivational video - courtesy of video guru West Whaley - played on the projector screen. The heart-pumping video included footage from the movie "Prometheus" and showed clips throughout this season and last. Needless to say, it drew quite the response from players and coaches.
Following the video, senior tight end Austin Monahan and assistant strength coach Chuck Losey participated in the Friday night "Hotel Share."
Monahan, a sixth-year senior, was the first to speak in front of the team. Using a fair amount of self-deprecating humor in regards to his "old age," Monahan discussed his journey as a Commodore, which began as a freshman in 2007.
The veteran tight end, who has played for three head coaches, drew the loudest laugh from those in the room when he mentioned his little brother and the fact that he had graduated from Georgia last spring. "I just met your younger brother and I couldn't believe he was 10 years younger than you," joked Head Coach James Franklin.
Monahan played in nine games as a freshman and earned the starting job at tight end as a sophomore. However, four games into the 2008 season, he went down with a shoulder injury that cost him the rest of the season.
With his shoulder healed in 2009, Monahan came back as a reserve to Brandon Barden, but this time he tore his ACL in the seventh game of the season.
Before even playing a game in 2010, Monahan tore the ACL in his other knee and was forced to miss all of the season.
"When dealing with the injuries, you ask yourself if you play for the attention or for the love of the game? I love this game and I wouldn't be around here, still, if I didn't," Monahan said.
He since came back and played all of the 2011 season and has been healthy in 2012.
"I decided I was going to play this game as long as I can because you only get a certain number of opportunities to play this game," Monahan recalled. "After a lot of hard work and support from people in here, I was able to come back."
Monahan closed his message by talking about how much he gathered from those experiences.
"Even though I would never wish those experiences even on my worst enemy, I also wouldn't trade a single day of those experiences because I learned so much about myself and about life," Monahan said.
Following Monahan's talk, it was Losey's turn. A former Vanderbilt defensive lineman, Losey graduated from Vanderbilt in 2002 and got his start in coaching at Cumberland University. He then moved on to Tennessee State where he was the Director of Speed, Strength and Conditioning for six years before joining Vanderbilt's staff in 2011.
Losey joked about having seen "just a few more Vanderbilt games" than Monahan and recalled his first start as a freshman in 1998 against LaDainian Tomlinson and the TCU Horned Frogs. "That was quite the experience playing against him, even though we lost in overtime," Losey said.
Losey grew up just outside of Chattanooga wanting to play baseball before deciding on football in high school. He was originally committed to play football at Clemson but switched to Vanderbilt. "I loved Nashville and I loved the coaching staff," Losey said of his decision.
Losey wrapped up his speech with words of encouragement heading into Saturday's game, and challenged each player to give maximum effort on every play.
Before the team broke for dinner, Coach Franklin stood in front of the team and spoke of seizing the opportunity.
"If you want something in life, you go take it," Franklin stated. "You make it happen. You will it to happen. That's why you guys are all going to go on and be so successful.
"That's the one thing I want you to learn from being in this program. You are in control of your own fate. You are in control of your own destiny. You are in control of your lives."