July 14, 2013
First, a little background. We had thought about going to the Caribbean with friends for our spring vacation but decided we’d try something a bit different. Casey had shown me an article where a bus tour for retirees was going to start near our home town and take two weeks to see 10 baseball games. While we couldn’t take the two weeks vacation necessary and we aren’t retirees, the idea of going to baseball games at multiple parks was intriguing. So…. I planned the trip and we went on it. After planning and going on this trip, I have found three things that are undeniable:
- Google Maps is amazing! We took no paper maps and used our phones with Google Maps and were never lost.
- Google Maps is truly amazing! I found all the places to stay using the Google Maps “nearby” feature and the comments left by others who stayed at those places.
- Stubhub is a great way to get major league baseball tickets. You even get a preview of what view you get from the seats you choose.
With those out of the way, on to the descriptions!
We packed up Casey’s car and took off after work. We wanted to get a head start on our first destination, Pittsburgh. We drove to Danville, IL, about 4 hours from home in order to make the next day’s drive a bit easier. It was an uneventful drive, as was most of the trip.
Got up and headed for Pittsburgh, which is about a 7 hour drive. This day was my only error in the trip; I had neglected the fact that we would change time zones and “lose” an hour. This kind of pressed us when we actually got to Pittsburgh as it gave us less time. Instead of getting into Pittsburgh with 2-3 hours before game time, it was 1-2 hours before game time. We easily found the bed and breakfast I had selected, The Parador Inn. We were kind of down as it was raining when we came into town and checked in, but about 30 minutes before the game it stopped and the sun came out.
The Parador Inn was selected because of its proximity to PNC Park. The walking distance according to Google Maps was 1 mile – an easy walk. And we found it to be a nice walk after driving so much that day. PNC Park is one of the newer baseball parks that is designed to look like an older ball park; none of the “cookie-cutter” stuff that was so popular 20-30 years ago. The shape of the playing area is not symmetrical and has small idiosyncrasies. And it truly is a beautiful baseball park. The Pirates beat the Brewers that night and it was free t-shirt night! Our seats were great, probably the best seats of the entire trip and definitely the least expensive. They were called “Outfield Box Seats”, but we were in the first section past the Pirates dugout in row L. Awesome!
After the game we were surprised that there were very few places open, especially considering it was a Friday night. We wanted to get something to eat but there was only one place open. We went to Benjamin’s, just down the street from our B&B. The burgers were great.
This morning we got up knowing that we had a short drive of 4 hours or so. We had a later breakfast (excellent, I might add) and packed up and departed Pittsburgh headed for Baltimore. Once again, the drive was uneventful. Google Maps took us right to our destination, the Holiday Inn Express Baltimore at the Stadium. Again, this was selected due to its proximity to Orioles Park at Camden Yards, which Google Maps told us was just under 1 mile. Due to construction, the sidewalks were closed on this route so we found another walking path that was actually a bit shorter.
We went down to the Inner Harbor, which was very close to Orioles Park and had some dinner and just walked around. For some reason I was hitting the wall… just really tired. We went back to the hotel and made an early night of it.
Once again, we were worried about the ball game. When we got up, we went down to eat breakfast and saw it was raining outside. Oh no! We really didn’t go anywhere due to the rain. We walked across the street to a Royal Farms, a convenience store, and got our lunch there. Hey – it was raining! The good news is that the rain finally stopped about 2 hours before game time. Until then we pretty much lolled around the hotel room napping and reading.
Oriole Park at Camden Yard is another of the newer ball parks that is designed to look like an old ball park. One interesting feature is that when you walk in you are at gangway level. In other words, you walk in at the top of the lower level seating. And they have a “street” of shops and restaurants between the train station and the ball park. We found that if it’s your first time at the ball park you can get a “first timer’s” packet. We also got a free t-shirt as one of the local auto dealers was having a t-shirt giveaway. The Orioles beat the Yankees that night. Our seats were Terrace Box seats down the right field line, row 9. All in all an excellent night at the ball park!
Travel day, and the worst one of our trip. Nothing really bad happened, it was just the worst travel day for us. Google Maps took us up the New Jersey Turnpike. We have an I-Pass that we can use in Illinois in the Chicago area to cover tolls. It works easily and we don’t have to stop and pay. In New Jersey, and many states in the northeast, they use EZ-Pass. I was told by a friend and happily found that the I-Pass worked in all the EZ-Pass toll collection booths. We found out later just how much they charged us on the turnpikes and were kind of shocked; how can anyone drive these roads consistently and afford it? Another thing that was kind of shocking was that in New Jersey, there are no self-service gas stations. They don’t even want you to leave your car!
The real reason it was the worst day of travel is that once we got off the New Jersey Turnpike, we were on the New York Turnpike. Ugh. We went across the George Washington Bridge and then took the Cross Bronx Expressway… at about 4pm. (Why is it called “rush hour” when everyone drives so slow?) I don’t know why they call it an expressway – we averaged about 30 mph. The day was supposed to be 6 hours of travel but was closer to 7.5 hours. However we made it to Boston and to our bed and breakfast, the Adams Bed and Breakfast.
Again, this was selected for its proximity to Fenway Park; it was only .7 miles. It was also selected because the T-rail station was even closer and we wanted an easy way to get downtown. What I didn’t realize is that it was very close to the Boston Pops Symphony Hall and the Berklee School of Music. Kind of in a campus town area.
Since the game was in the evening, we decided to do some exploring. We took the T downtown and went to Durgin Park for lunch, recommended by a co-worker. We weren’t disappointed as the food was excellent. We then walked the Freedom Trail. It’s a very sombering experience, looking at the monuments and headstones and reading about the sacrifices our Founding Fathers made for us. All in all, the Freedom Trail was about 2.5 miles long, but we definitely walked farther than that. A short T ride back to the B&B, we rested for an hour or so before heading to Fenway Park. We decided to eat dinner before going in to Fenway and ate at the Lansdowne Pub, right across Lansdowne Street from Fenway. Great place, decent prices for the location and good food.
Fenway Park was the “goal” of this trip. Neither Casey nor I had ever been there, and with the age of the park who knows how long it will be open? Our seats were very good. We were near Pesky’s Pole in the “short porch” area of right field. The seats were the easiest seats to get to of any of the ball parks. We walked through an entrance chute and then down to row K. The Red Sox beat the Padres. All in all another great night at the ball park!
The “extra day” in Boston? What to do? Well, we hopped on the T and went to the Sam Adams Brewery and took the tour. It was an interesting tour, with the most interesting thing being that it was free. They ask for two donations, both go to local charities in Boston. At the end of the tour we got a nice etched glass to drink three samples and keep. We then went to Doyle’s Cafe for lunch, a recommended place at the brewery AND they offered a free trolley ride there. Doyle’s is a pub featured in such movies as Mystic River, 21, My Best Friend’s Girl and Celtic Pride. The place is a kind of throwback to neighborhood pubs; very cool and lots of history displayed on the walls there. We then took the trolley again fully expecting to go back to the brewery and then walk to the T, but the trolley took us directly to the T! Very nice!
Getting back to our B&B neighborhood, we did a little walking around and shopping. We were just a few blocks from the Prudential Center Plaza, which is a pretty good sized mall. We didn’t actually buy anything but we did walk around quite a bit there. On our way back we went through the First Church of Christ Scientist. No, it’s not scientology, it’s the church that publishes the Christian Science Monitor. Really a nice place with a HUGE reflection pool, a nice walk area, a fountain where the kids were playing in the water and plenty of trees with places to sit under them.
Later, we went to a small shop called Junk Yard Dogs for burgers and topped it off by going to JP Licks for some ice cream. Knowing we had a big travel day for the next day, we decided to turn in early.
This was the longest travel day of the whole trip. Boston to Cleveland. While the trip was uneventful, it was LONG! It took us about 10.5 hours to make the trip. With quick stops along the way for lunch and restroom, we made it about as quick as we could. Once again, Google Maps was a real champ. We were easily routed directly to our hotel, the Hampton Inn Cleveland – Downtown. Again, this hotel was selected for its proximity to Progressive Field which was only .5 miles away. The added bonus is that it is only .5 miles the opposite direction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
Seeing how it was July 4 and we wanted to see some fireworks, we walked to the 9th Street Pier on Lake Erie, which was right next to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We got there about 9pm and the fireworks didn’t start until 10pm, but it was a great fireworks show. Plus, we could see other fireworks shows up and down Lake Erie.
Got up kind of early and we wanted to see how far it was to the ball park so we walked up 9th Street. We found it was very close! We were impressed with the local architecture of many of the buildings and saw that many had construction/restoration crews working. Nice to see that Cleveland is trying to keep it’s heritage. We then walked down and marveled at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. It’s a very cool monument for all the fallen Armed Forces people from Cleveland. We also went to The Arcade, which is a really cool looking old-style shopping mall. The detail and setting took us back in time.
In the afternoon, we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One word: WOW! We got there between 12:30 and 1pm. It closes at 5:30pm and we were there until closing time. There is so much to see and do there. If you are a fan of rock and roll, ANY flavor of rock and roll, I’d highly recommend the Rock Hall. I can’t begin to describe all of the displays of instruments, sheet music, clothes, posters, etc that are there.
After a quick stop at the hotel, we then went to the ball game. Progressive Field is very nice. Our seats were the first row in right-center field. EXCELLENT seats! The game? Well, it was the only one of our games where the home team lost. Detroit beat Cleveland that game. And afterwards there was a fireworks display!
What can I say? We were up early, got breakfast drove home. It was an uneventful drive on I90 and I80. The only bad part was it took about 8 hours.
April 30, 2012
Vacation was EXCELLENT! Again, we went to Cozumel. We stayed at the same resort as we did last year, the Iberostar Cozumel. But this year we were “armed” with our knowledge gained from our experiences last year. It definitely worked to our advantage this year.
On Friday, we drove to Des Moines and stayed with Zach and Jessie instead of getting a Park-Sleep-Fly. Definitely better to stay with them than some hotel! We left after work and got there some time after 8pm. While it wasn’t that late, we were pretty tired from packing and traveling there so we just visited for a bit and then went to bed.
Saturday morning at 5:30am, Jessie and her dad Jim drove us to the Des Moines Airport to begin our journey. No bad weather this time. We flew US Airways this time and the connecting flight was in Charlotte, NC. All in all the flight there was pretty uneventful. We landed at the Cozumel Airport on time and got through customs without any issues. I asked the driver of the van to drop me off at Rentadora ISIS, where I had reserved a rental car for this stay – no scooter this time! The driver dropped me off there and I spoke with Magarita, the owner of Rentadora ISIS. She had the car waiting. Got the car and headed to Iberostar Cozumel, the same resort we stayed with last time. Here, we met with friends Corey and Andrea who had the trek to this resort the day before; they were there with Corey’s parents Ken and Elaine. Basically, the rest of the day was loll around the beach and the pool recuperating from the uneventful trip.
Sunday, Casey and I went to breakfast the the others but we had plans. We went to Punta Sur (South Point), an eco-park on the southern tip of the island. Basically, you go to the Rasta Bar and turn south. The road there was plenty bumpy and going was slow but we did get to the beach. Had a wonderful morning snorkeling. Each time I go back I’m amazed at how clear the water is there; five feet of water looks to be a few inches because of how clear the water is. After a morning of snorkeling, mostly by Casey, we decided it was time to go. On the way back we went by the lighthouse Faro Celarain. We actually went up the 128 steps to the top of the lighthouse and took some amazing pictures there. Leaving the park, we took the “scenic route” around the island instead of going straight back to the resort. Lots of work has been done on the road on the east coast, but it’s still pretty much the same.
Sunday night, the whole group went to the city San Miguel. Casey and I had been told the locals have live bands on the town square by friends Tom and Dawn. They were more than right. The band was very good. There was dancing and a lot of people just hanging out listening to the band and having a good time. We enjoyed that very much. But, as it got later our tiredness got the best of us so we went back to the resort.
Monday, I took Corey and Ken on a “guys day” over to the east side of the island. We stopped at the Rasta Bar and had a beer and visited there. We all agreed that it was a great place to have a beer and watch the waves. Then we went up to Coconuts, a bar farther north. Again a good beer and great view; Coconuts is up on a bluff so you have a great view for miles over the Caribbean. Rough weather came up, though, and soon we were leaving Coconuts due to sand being blown up in our faces. Yuk. The ride back to the resort was uneventful. We spent the rest of the day just hanging around the pool and at the swim-up bar.
Tuesday, Casey and I returned the rental car and did some shopping. Got some really nice silver from a place recommended by Tom and Dawn: Sergio’s. It’s off the beaten path and both Casey and I felt we got a fair price for the stuff we bought. Later, back at the resort, we spent the rest of the day reading around the pool and swimming in the pool (and going to the swim-up bar!) and just taking it easy.
Wednesday and Thursday were pretty much carbon copies of each other. We did a bit of snorkeling and laying around the beach in the morning, and a bit of swimming (well, maybe wading) in the pool and going to the swim-up bar in the afternoon. Evenings we got the group together and played cards after we ate; of course, making sure we all had drinks!
Friday we were up and packing early. After packing, we had plenty of time to get to the airport. The flight home was uneventful. The only bad part was customs in Charlotte. I think the Marx Brothers created that mess. The lines were long and not fast-moving and the officials there seemed to always create another zig-zag lane making it seem like we were moving but all we were doing was walking down the newly formed lane and not really making headway. Finally, though, we got through customs. We ate in the airport there and then boarded our plane to Des Moines. Uneventful trip there as well.
All in all a GREAT vacation filled with sun, sand, water and good friends. Couldn’t ask for more!
January 23, 2011
Yeah, we all know them. Referees. They are blind, stupid homers, right? And its only been in the last few years that its been so bad, right? Well…..
I was going through my Mom’s stuff with three of my brothers when we moved her from her senior living apartment to the nursing home where she is now. One thing I came across was rather interesting. It was a program from the 1945 Iowa Boys State Basketball Tournament. My Mom graduated from Muscatine High School in 1945. The teams involved in the state tournament that year were: Storm Lake, Dowling (West Des Moines), Ottumwa, Muscatine, Geneseo Township (Buckingham), Sioux City Central, Ames and Waverly. Muscatine ended up losing to Ames in the championship game 35-33.
But something else in that program really caught my eye. It was a poem by R.J. Finn of Harlan, IA, called “Foul Play, or, Soul in Agony”. Here it is:
I think that I shall never see
A fairly treated referee.
He has to be o.k.’d by all,
To work a game of basketball.
His shirt must be in prison stripes,
To furnish gags for people’s gripes.
He nods and smiles to show he’s square,
To act too wise – he wouldn’t dare.
The game begins and all is set,
He hasn’t called a foul as yet.
But soon a boy has charged or blocked,
And for that foul he then is socked.
This time the crowd is full of joy,
Because it’s not a home town boy.
The game gets warm, the pace is hot,
Our whistle tooter’s on the spot.
Right underneath the home town’s goal,
Someone has pushed – and bless my soul –
Our striped friend, with whistle shrill,
Has called a foul on our star, Bill.
And fans go mad – they’re all agog,
And shout, “You need your seeing dog,”
“Where are the other two blind mice?”
“You’re not a louse – you’re almost lice.”
The ball drops in, the score is tied,
The heat’s on full, he’s being fried.
Now up the court, now back with speed,
The boys, all moving fast indeed.
To watch their feet, their hands, their hips,
And toot that whistle in his lips
Is one big job – at last – the bell,
The half-way mark it’s surely – well,
He needs a rest perhaps a smoke,
To referee is not a joke.
The coaches seek him out to say,
“Watch that big boy” or “Watch that play.”
He says, “O.K.,” but thinks, “You dope!
At home I could have heard Bob Hope.”
Three minutes more – the die is cast,
He vows this game will be his last.
The second half now starts, twelve all,
For just a minute there’s a pall,
That settles o’er the entire crowd,
That soon will be in cheering loud.
Up goes the ball, the tension’s high,
The ball is watched by every eye.
Of course each line of vision true,
Is not the same for me and you.
The guy downstairs, he hollers, “Boo!”
The guy upstairs says, “Give him two.”
The fan at one end hollers, “No!
He hit the ball, I’ll betcha dough.”
While at the other end afar,
Some fan explodes, “A thief you are.”
And in the middle of the gym,
Sit mammas, papas, fat and slim.
They gasp, they scowl, they frown, they shout,
“He roughed my Johnnie – put him out.”
And on the bench across the hall
The coaches scowl, the players call,
“Why don’t you call ‘em? Now see there!”
Some wave their arms, some shout and swear.
The ball is changing hands so fast,
‘Tis hard to tell who had it last.
It’s nip and tuck and nip,
Two points far out, two in by tip.
The score is tied, now in it goes,
The crowd is standing on its toes.
A long shot hits the net – Oh gee!
It’s tied again, two three, two three.
The time is getting short, ’tis now
A foul called would cause a row.
One minute left – but now, “Time out.”
That poor official – scared no doubt!
I don’t believe I’ll stay to see
Who wins this game – it’s clear to me,
That our poor man in stripes so bright,
Is really in for one bad night.
Just think it o’er – if this were you –
Hell if you don’t hell if you do.
He’s out here trying, hoping too,
Some boy gets hot to see him through.
Perhaps he’s having one bad night,
We all have them and well we might.
For games are worked by men like ME,
Quite as fallible as You and HE.
Now playing: Halestorm – It’s Not You