If you are considering going to the Super Bowl, please read this first.

I've been a Patriots season ticket-holder for 45 years. I've been to three Super Bowls - 1987, 1997 and 2002. Coincidentally, each was in New Orleans.

Those three trips included all of the following:

Six sets of game tickets, two visits to the French Quarter police station, a ruined 20th anniversary celebration, being pickpocketed, two six-hour car drives, broken-down buses, an interview with NFL security, a terminally ill friend on his last trip, conversations with several shady ticket scalpers, crappy hotel rooms, crooked ticket brokers and a person in my section dying of a heart attack just before game time - and finding out later I knew him.

And, that's just some of the crazy stuff.

My first trip was at the end of the 1986 season. There were only about 15,000 season ticket-holders back then, so every one of us had the chance to buy Super Bowl tickets. They were $75 each - I still have mine hanging on my mantle.

I flew out with three friends, but had to go into Houston. The morning of the game, we rented a car and drove to New Orleans. We had no time for sightseeing, getting there just a short time before kickoff
We were all fired up for the franchise's first Super Bowl. The Patriots jumped out to a 3-0 lead, and we were really into it.

Then the Bears scored 46 unanswered points. After the blowout, we immediately drove back to Houston. The next morning, we heard the Space Shuttle had tragically exploded.

In 1997, I wanted to go see the Pats play the Packers in the Super Bowl. But I had to find a way to talk my wife into sanctioning another trip.

Our 20th wedding anniversary was coming up. I slyly suggested we make the Super Bowl trip an anniversary present to each other. The two of us, a weekend in New Orleans, nice dinners, the game - how could she resist?

She couldn't, and we booked a package, including tickets, through a reputable travel agent. We checked references, paid our money and got ready to celebrate.

But when the bus taking us from our cheap motel room in Baton Rouge to New Orleans broke down at a Popeye's restaurant, we started expecting trouble. Then came the news - the ticket broker our agent used had absconded with both the money and the tickets.

We were now stuck in New Orleans with no tickets to the big game. Happy Anniversary.

So I tried scalping tickets, figuring I would eventually get my money back. I wound up buying some from a gentleman of questionable appearance, doing my level best to make sure they were real.
They got us inside the stadium. We got to our seats, and quickly discovered four other couples had exactly the same tickets. One set was real - and it was not ours.

That led to a visit to the police station. They took our information, then we headed back to the stadium. We found the officials who had helped us after the seat fiasco, and they were sympathetic. Taking pity on us and our anniversary disaster, they offered to sell us yet another set of tickets. I had to run some distance to an ATM o get the cash, and by the end of the first quarter we were in our seats - watching the Pats lose again.

Five years later, my wife was incredulous that I wanted to go again. But I was selected in the season ticket lottery, and knew this might be my last chance.

One of my good friends had just discovered he had terminal cancer. We were devastated. After talking it over, we decided to ask him to go with me to the game. Another friend helped with his expenses, and we were off once again to - yep, New Orleans.

Our trip there was uneventful. The people at the hotel desk warned us not to leave the game tickets in our room. I packed them carefully into my pocket, and we went out to Bourbon Street.

And we had a ball - right up until the moment I realized the tickets were no longer in my pocket. I had been pickpocketed. I wound up back at the same French Quarter police station.

Now I had a terminally ill friend, no game tickets, and a lot of explaining to do to my wife. I fearfully called home.

Amazingly, she simply sprang into action. After an initial few choice words, she got on the phone to a ticket agent friend of ours. Soon she had it arranged for me to meet him and pick up two tickets, albeit at an expensive price. My friend and I were able to get into the game.

I know your next question: Was it worth it? All the money, the time, the aggravation? Having seen two losses and one win, would I do it all again?

My answer is - in a heartbeat.

When Adam Vinatieri's kick sailed through the uprights to give the Pats their first-ever world championship - well, it was one of the most memorable moments of my life. It validated decades of devotion to a team that had never done it before. Years of sitting on cold aluminum benches in a second-rate stadium. Being laughed at by fans of teams that had experienced actual success.
And, I shared it all with my good friend, who passed away just three months later.

So my advice to those considering making the trip? Go, if at all possible. Take the chance. There's a lot that can go wrong, but the possible reward is better than can you ever imagine.

Just look around the plane first and make sure I'm not there. That would be a bad sign.

Bill Gouveia is a 45-year Patriots season ticket-holder and cursed traveler. He can be emailed at aninsidelook@aol.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.