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Football practice was over at Portland State, and the players spread out, laying on the turf, wearing dark glasses, eyes to the sky. Any film study session could wait — there was a solar eclipse to watch.

“It was the exact response I remember seeing when we visited Alcatraz,” coach Bruce Barnum says. “I remember seeing it when we went through the Temple last year. The kids were like, ‘Wow.’

“They saw something else besides the classroom and the football field.”

Eclipses? Visits to Alcatraz in San Francisco and Temple Square in Salt Lake City? Is this pulled from a travel agency brochure?

Welcome to Barnyball, the Americana Tour. That’s what Barnum calls his strategy when his Vikings are off to away games.

There are some things we need to know about Bruce Barnum. He’d rather bus than fly to an opponent’s place any ol’ day. And he wants his players to experience something besides a football game.

“They expect it every time we travel. They go to school for education, that’s my philosophy,” he said. “My dad was in the service. Five years were the longest we ever stayed anywhere. My mom and dad would load my brother and I in that Buick LeSabre, and we’d start driving. Whether it was the Black Hills in South Dakota or Booger Hollow in Arkansas or the biggest ball of twine, he was always showing us something.”

In his first two seasons at Portland State, Barnum’s team put in 9,300 bus miles. That’s a lot of interstate passing by the window. Still, there was time for a Las Vegas show, a stop to see Wildlife Safari in Oregon and a tour of Alcatraz in San Francisco, which would have been a perfect visit had the equipment manager not accidentally been left behind.

When the Vikings upset Washington State in 2015, Barnum figured his team had karma on its side. So on the bus ride back, he pulled into a truck stop to buy a lottery ticket.

He won the game, but not the lottery.

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More than simple wanderlust is at work here. Bussing helps the athletic budget, to be sure. This is FCS, not Alabama. And Barnum strongly believes sequestering his players on the same bus for hours on end can be a vitamin shot for team chemistry.

“Here’s what happened on the bus,” he said, talking about his first season in 2015. “It started out, this team doesn’t like each other, so let’s make them sit next to one another. The best thing that happened that first year, we went to Pullman, I had to lie to the kids. I put water in front of the plugs they used for charging, and about halfway into the trip, their cell phones ran out. All of sudden they started talking to each other, ‘Hey, where you from?’ Then I saw cards break out, then guys were playing dominoes on the floor.

“They got mad at me, because next trip they discovered the plugs, but by that time, they’d gotten to know each other. We took a trip to Eastern Washington, it was only about 5 ½ hours. When we got to the field, they were like, ‘Are you kidding me, we’re already here?’ They were disappointed we got there so quick.”

The miles worked their magic. Portland State went from 3-9 in 2014 to 9-3, and Barnum was national coach of the year. Injuries and youth led to a 3-8 record last season.