For most Ravens fans from Harford County heading to New Orleans, this weekend's trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Not for Ron Pieper – he's headed to his seventh Super Bowl, so he should be able to give some pointers to the other Baltimore Ravens fans headed to the Big Easy to watch the Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
Regardless if it's their first or their seventh, Harford's Ravens fans heading to New Orleans say they're so excited, they can hardly stand it.
"I'm ecstatic. It's on our bucket list, but you never anticipate it's going to happen," Tamera Rush, of Forest Hill, said. "I'm shocked that the timing, the financing worked out. It's just everything aligned and it's working out great."
She's going with her husband, Jim, a converted Ravens fans, who until not too long ago cheered for the 49ers.
Krista Kenny, of Jarrettsville, is going to New Orleans with her husband, Steve, and her parents, Kip and Tia White, also of Jarrettsville.
She's going to the game with her dad.
"It feels very surreal. I kind of can't believe it's happening. It's not just like a bucket list item, that I can cross off that I got to go to a Super Bowl, but I get to go to New Orleans, too, at height of Mardi Gras."
Tom Knight, of Baldwin, was supposed to be hosting a Super Bowl party Sunday with his wife, Donna. When he was offered the chance to go see the Ravens in New Orleans, the party was postponed until next year.
"It wasn't really a hard decision," White said. "I wish Friday was here."
Some got their tickets on Ebay, others won them through the Ravens season ticket-holder lottery. Some are good seats, some not so good. But they'll be in the Mercedes Super Dome while everyone else is home watching the Ravens on television.
Rush's daughter told her mom during one of the playoff games last weekend that she would watch her sons, ages 10 and 5, if her parents wanted to go to the Super Bowl.
"By the time the Ravens game was over, we already had our airfare booked," Rush, a vice president for the defense contractor STG, said.
They paid $3,700 for two tickets and $1,000 for their airfare. Rather than stay in a hotel, they're renting a four-bedroom house with friends, which is costing them $650.
It's also in New Orleans and her husband, who she said "is all about the food," already has dinner reservation for Friday night.
"I don't think I would want to go to Indianapolis or New Jersey, where it is next year," she said.
That the game is against the 49ers, her husband's second-favorite team now, makes it even more special.
"It's still a waste of money," Rush joked, "but it's probably one of those once-in-a-lifetime things. I don't think I'll ever go to a Super Bowl again."
With young children, the Rushes only go to one or two games a year, but when we do, "we go crazy," she said.
Rather than just wear her jersey, like usual – she wears Ray Rice's No. 27 – Rush is thinking she has to get even crazier than normal to go to New Orleans.
"I need to step up my game a bit, maybe purple hair, more beads?" she said. "From what I'm hearing, things tend to get a little crazy."
Poured it on thick
Kenny told her father going to the Super Bowl with him would be father-daughter bonding at its best. His name was also drawn from the Ravens lottery.
"I really wanted to go to the game with my dad. I was telling him all the reasons why he should take me more than anyone else," Kenny said.
Her mom isn't that interested in going to the game, Kenny said. She just wants to go to New Orleans and be proud to be from Baltimore. When her mom mispronounced Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti's name wrong, Kenny jumped.
"I used some good sales techniques and got myself in," she said.
The foursome is going a version of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" to get to New Orleans.
They're flying to Houston Friday, then driving to Baton Rouge Saturday and taking a bus from the hotel to the game.
"It's definitely going to be an adventure," she said.
Kenny is also excited she'll be able to see Ray Lewis' last game.
"When I was growing up in Baltimore, there wasn't a football team… and I remember my dad being so excited when we got a football team, I thought it was great," Kenny, who went to a lot of games with her dad while she was in college, said. "I feel like I have been with the team and Ray Lewis since the beginning."
"It's surreal be there at the end; Ray Lewis is the Ravens. I got to see his first games, and now I'm going to get to see his last game," she said.
She is all ready for the game with beads, purple hair spray, a big purple foam finger and black tape for under her eyes to go with her purple eye shadow and purple nails. And her Todd Heap jersey, which is her good luck charm.
"I still feel like it's not enough," she said.
She could be trying to take along an 8-foot by 2 ½ foot wide vinyl "DEFENSE" sign, like Pieper is doing.
"I take it into every game," he said.
Pieper, from Street, also won the Ravens lottery for tickets. He was supposed to take his wife, Nancy, but it didn't work out that way, so instead he is taking his 14-year-old granddaughter, Rachael Higbee.
Last year when the Ravens were in the playoffs, Pieper promised his wife, Nancy, that if the Ravens did something "magical" this year, he would take her to the Super Bowl. But she died of cancer in July, and she wanted Pieper to take their granddaughter, a freshman at Fallston High School.
They're flying down Friday and coming home Monday. This will be Pieper's seventh Super Bowl game. His first was in 2001 when the Ravens beat the New York Giants in Tampa, Fla.
"I'm pretty excited about this. It's been 12 years. To have seen it 12 years ago and see Ray [Lewis] retiring and see this opportunity, it takes us by surprise," he said. "It's a game, but it's a big business, and he's got them motivated to a point that's unbelievable. I can't believe the height of their motivation, the way they're responding. I hope one more time they step up."
Postponed a year
Knight said it didn't really take long to decide whether to go when he was offered the tickets.
His niece won tickets through the Ravens lottery but couldn't go, so she offered them to Knight's brother, Tim, of Perry Hall, who called Knight and asked him to go.
"I thought a couple minutes and said 'Yes, I'll go,'" he said. "My wife said this could be my only chance, it's the Ravens so you better take it."
Knight said he can't wait for the game, and is looking forward to the atmosphere and "rooting the Ravens on."
He's taking three jerseys, one to walk around in Saturday, one for the game Sunday – his purple Ray Rice jersey – and one for "just in case."
Knight has been to New Orleans several times, and every time it's been a party atmosphere.
"I'm really looking forward to all the events for all the Ravens fans," he said.
The only thing he has to do? Bring home something for his niece, who got him the tickets. That he can do. He's also hoping to bring home a win.
"I'm looking forward to the Ravens fans down there and bringing home a victory," Knight said.