No, not a Timothy Leary '60s kind of trip, mind you, but a trip through America's Heartland, the Midwest.
This was my fifth trip with Sports Travel and Tours (sportstravelandtours.com) and every one of them has been fantastic.
We started on Saturday (7/25) in Kansas City. Kauffman Stadium just underwent a major remodeling -- $400 million worth -- and it is a beautiful place to see a game. We were treated to a rare Royals win. Right next door to the home of the NFL Kansas City Chiefs, the complex is easy to get to. I made some points with the group when I told them that the International Space Station & Space Shuttle would be visible almost directly overhead that night. Sure enough, just as we were getting off the bus at the hotel (9:36 pm CDT) there it was.
The next day we had an all-to short visit to the National Negro Baseball League Museum, and then back to Kauffman. Fortunately, our seats were in the shade (granted, the weather was perfect - temps in the mid 80s - but the sun was very bright). Included in our tour group were two couples from Bolonga, Italy (they play in a softball league and are very knowledgeable about our national pastime). One of the men caught a foul ball! After the game, as we were boarding the bus, he proudly displayed his prize walking down the aisle. I told him "You know, you're going to have to declare that in customs." At first he was somewhat baffled, but after everyone started laughing, he caught on.
The next morning we were off on our longest driving leg, a nine hour sojourn to the home of Mary Richards, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mile after mile of Iowa cornfields did little to keep one's eyes open. When we finally reached the larger of the twin cities, we encountered major construction (we had a Minnesota native in our group, and he told me, "there are two seasons in Minnesota; winter and street repair.") We had about 30 min to check-in before hoofing the half mile to the Metrodome. A perfect place to see a game -- that is, of course, providing the game is football. Our seats faced directly to the space between center and right field, so we had to twist about 80 degrees to the right so we could see the pitcher and batter.
After about 15 hours in Minneapolis, we were on the road again, this time heading into Wisconsin (the 37th state I've been in) and a date with the Brewers.
However, before that was my Peep Meet with Dragonflies, and our brief encounter at Milwaukee's Safe House (this was after the photo op with The Fonz).
Miller Park is another great place to see a game. I was surprised (well, maybe not) to see so many beer vendors plying the aisles (Dodger Stadium prohibits the sale of beer in the seating area). Another member of our little troup was Andrew, a 14-year old avid fan of the hapless Washington Nationals. The Nats happened to kick the Brewers butts, so we had a very happy teenager the rest of the trip.
After Milwaukee was a fairly short trip south to the Windy City - Chicago - and our appointment with a game at the Friendly Confines. I've been to 27 major league stadia in my travels, and there are no fans like the fans at Wrigley Field. They're crazy (but in a good way). The fact that the Cubbies won 12-0 did little to discourage normal behavior from the faithful.
The next morning we had a city tour, but it went all too fast (plus the fact that we used our same bus -- I made the suggestion that city tours should use the open top-double decker type bus that most tours have). However, the best part was my second Peep Meet; this time with the lovely Dakota.
Our meeting was disrupted by the World's Rudest Resturant Manager. We were sitting at a table outside of a Subway shop that was next door to some other local bistro. After a couple of minuets this woman yells out from the door "those tables aren't for Subway people!" OK, but there were four empty tables, plus another table occupied by a single diner quietly munching on her Subway six-inch Spicy Italian...
Not wanting to anger her neighbor, Dakota suggested that we retreat to her stoop two doors down, where we finished our chat.
That night we headed over to the home of the White Sox, US Cellular Field. I wanted to see the marker showing the location of home plate for old Comiskey Park. Our tour host directed us to it, in the parking lot near gate 5. I snapped a couple of pictures, in honor of the 50th anniversay of the Dodgers World Series win at that very spot. The evening started out rather gloomy, as we had to sit through a 64 minute rain delay (the only bad weather during the entire trip). However, that was more than made up for when the Pale Hose rallied in the ninth to beat the Yankees 3-2. Oh happy Day! (My baseball philospphy is quite simple: any day the Yankees lose is a good day.)
During our stay in Chicago, the hotel was home to some serious lawyer-in-training torture. The Loyola Law School was conducting interviews for students to enter their Patent Law program. Prospective Patent Lawyers had to sit in chairs placed in the hall outside of rooms -- looking for all the world like miscreant fifth graders waiting to see the Principal. Granted, I'm all for lawyers suffering, but this was close to unconstitutional misery.
The final leg got underway early on Friday morning, as we headed back south, eventually returning to the Show Me State and Busch Stadium, St. Louis. I spotted the Gateway Arch about four miles from the mighty Mississippi River. Our hotel was across the street from the ballpark - a distance of maybe 70 feet wall-to-wall. Cardinal fans are without a doubt the most knowelable and appreciative fans in all of baseball, so I wanted to honor them. I went to the team store about 4 hours before gametime and purchased several items (though I did focus on All Star Game memorabilia). I wore red to the game, another thrilling win for the home team as the Cards beat the Astros 4-3.
My flight home was at 8:40 am, which meant a 6 o'clock shuttle pickup for the airport. I booked my flights through Orbitz, and got a decent first class fare - but had to endure two layovers (St. Louis to Denver; Denver to Salt Lake City; Salt Lake City to L.A.), finally getting home about 5 pm PDT (13 hours after boarding the shuttle).
Vacations are great fun (for the most part) but getting home is the best part.