Tuesday, 3:30 p.m. It's very sunny and 91 degrees.
At the end of a long school day, which included a test, I made my way through the hundreds of tents set up in Raiderville. I estimated more than 200. It was pretty quiet, and most of the tents looked abandoned. A small group of guys tossed the pigskin, and I saw a couple of people sitting in lawn chairs focused on their cell phones.
The first person I talked to was Mason Schwartz, a Raiderville first-timer. The sophomore from Flowermound said he's holding down the fort for his fraternity. At this time, the business administration major had been set up for about 24 hours. He said every night he goes home and gets his bedding to make his "homemade sleeping bag" before crashing in the five- to eight-person tent with about 10 other people.
Monday night, Mason got around 30 glorious minutes of sleep.
The problem wasn't the weather or trying to get comfortable, it was the immense school spirit of the Raiderville population.
"There are a lot of "Raider power' chants that go on," he said, "even at 5 a.m. in the morning when everyone is waiting in line to get their IDs scanned."
Schwartz is luckier than many students camping out because his Tuesday classes don't start until noon, so staying up until 4 a.m. to be accounted for and secure his seat at the game isn't too rough. He said he made it to all of his classes Tuesday, but he probably wouldn't do too well on his quizzes this week.
"I realize I'm sacrificing sleep for good seats, and probably (sacrificing) grades, too," he said with a laugh.
The area Schwartz was camped out in Tuesday afternoon didn't have electricity at the time, but he said a friend was supposed to bring a generator soon.
"We're going to bring a PlayStation and get some NCAA football going, and get geared up for Saturday," he said enthusiastically.
Later, I found a group of guys and one young woman hanging out by the Raiderville flag. Little did I know, these were the experienced, veteran residents of Raiderville.
Zach Kilborn, a graduate student from Midland, said this is his fifth year at Raiderville. He set up Tuesday morning before his classes. Kilborn, who is studying forensic sciences, said being in graduate school gives him an advantage this year.
"It's fewer hours and (my classes) are at random times, so it's not just 15 hours solid," he said. "I only had classes from 9:30 a.m. to 12 this morning."
Contrary to what students might think, it's actually easier to go to class during the week of the Texas game, said Kilborn.
"A lot of people ask if we go to class and I say "Yeah, it's easy,'" he said with a chuckle. "If you're sleeping on campus and you don't go to class, you're just lazy. There's no excuse."
He's only missed three classes in his five years of living in Raiderville.
Kilborn said he has met a few of his best friends while camping out for the games over the years; and then he introduces me to Drew Gardner, one of two mayors of the "town."
It's Gardner's fourth year to camp out for the football games, and the senior said he's seen it all, including portable toilets being so full that they're useless to the residents of Raiderville.
I start to feel like one of Raiderville's own as Gardner and Kilborn swap stories of years past.
Of all the issues Raiderville campers may face, weather could possibly be one of the harshest. The temperatures haven't been the only weather problem over the years, Gardner said. He's camped out for games in snow, freezing rain, six-degree weather, thunderstorms and winds up to 85 mph.
Kilborn groaned when Gardner mentioned the wind and felt the need to give me a quick rundown of his lost inventory: three tents, a brand new TV, two coolers, a DVD player, a canopy and six lawn chairs were all lost in the wind storm of 2007 during A&'M week.
"The wind was so bad that year ...we had an Xbox and a DVD player that we took in the tents with us every night," Kilborn explained. "But I decided to leave the TV outside. Well, it's West Texas and the wind was 30 or 40 miles per hour. We had cinderblocks tied to the tent, and it blew over and took everything with it."
Tuesday afternoon, Gardner estimated a little over 900 students staying at Raiderville.
Tuesday, 8:20 p.m. 79 degrees and dark.
I returned to Raiderville, and was underwhelmed by the crowd. A few groups were setting up, and people were mostly just eating free food that was donated by Cane's, Jason's Deli and Chili's. It was difficult to maneuver my way in between all the tents, estimated by "Mayor" Gardner to be about 400 by this time, and not trip over any ropes staked into the ground.
I talked to sophomore Tyler Leach, a business major, and he said he and his friends had been playing games to keep busy since they arrived Monday afternoon.
"We're going to be playing poker later," he said. "Last night there was a ping pong tournament going on."
Leach, from Houston, said he camped out for the A&'M game last year, and he came back for the good experience of bonding with friends.
"It's just an awesome time hanging out with everyone," he said. "And of course it's huge that we get to sit in the front row at the game."
Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. 73 degrees and breezy.
As I made my way toward Raiderville on my way to class, the sound of lawn mowers and weed trimmers filled the air. I wondered if the hustle and bustle was waking up those camping out. Once in the town of tents, I noticed every trashcan was overflowing and trash covered much of the grass.
When I looked closer, I saw 30 packs of Keystone by a trashcan and some cans of Coors Light rolling on the ground. So much for the no-alcohol policy, eh?
I could see students sleeping in many of the tents, one guy sitting in a lawn chair was eating a Pop-Tart, and the faint sounds of alarms going off seemed to stir no one. The Raiderville population sign read 1,570 from the official count around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.
I found Macy Lopez, a sophomore public relations major from Lubbock, putting on her makeup inside her tent.
She got about three hours of sleep in the early hours of Wednesday morning, she said. She stayed up until check-in time, and got in line to have her ID swiped at 3:45 a.m.
"We waited in line for an hour and a half and finally got signed in," she said, looking exhausted. "Then we came in and fell asleep. I got about three hours. Now I'm going to class."
Lopez and her friends doubted that they would be able to camp out all week at first.
"My friends did it last year," she said. "I figured this was a big enough game to try it. At first, we were hesitant, but I'm glad we came now."
Going without sleep isn't the only sacrifice Lopez said she's making.
"We're not using those Port-a-Potties," she said. "I walked to the honors dorm thinking it was like other dorms and I could get in the lobby, but apparently they lock it. I'm going on hours of not peeing."