Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 11-12 Combined (St. Louis)

 I can combine these two days because hopefully not much will happen on day 12 as it is a travel day. As someone on the trip said, “as long as the plane doesn’t crash, it’s been a great trip.” I am writing this from O’Hare International in Chicago, so we’re almost home.

Day 11 was busy but great. Our first stop was the St Louis Arch, or as it is properly called, “The Jefferson Expansion Project.” At 630 feet tall, it is the tallest tower type structure in North America. We took the tram like thing to the top, and had amazing views. Having said that, I was happy to get back down on the ground. As the theatres and museum parts were all underground, it reminded me a bit too much of the World Trade Centers pre- 9/11.  Near the arch we did a one hour Mississippi River boat cruise which was not a highlight, but was enjoyable. The entire riverfront area is beautiful and the heart of downtown St Louis except for…Busch Stadium, home of the Cardinals.
 The ball game was super. Fans around us were friendly, and as I’d heard, Cardinal fans do not stream to the food lines after each inning. When they are at the park to watch the game, that’s what they do. The end of the game marked the end of our baseball tour. We took a vote about extending the tour a couple more days. Seems like there were more of us who voted to stay, but here we are at the airport. Go figure.

Our drive to Chicago was quite nice. Acre after acre of dry corn and wheat fields are evidence of the draught that the Midwest is experiencing.  We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare, and await boarding, Starbucks in hand…

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 10 - A Four State Day (St. Louis)

Driving from Louisville to St. Louis we crossed through four states today: Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and ending up in Missouri.  The big highlight was an hour long stop in Santa Claus, Indiana. Yes, it really does exist. About 1800 people live there in a cute little community. There are two industries: a fairly decent amusement/water park with a large roller coaster, and of course Santa. We spent time in the biggest Christmas store. It’s 102 degrees outside and air conditioned inside complete with trees, the REAL Santa himself, and every decoration imaginable. Of course x-mas carols are the only music allowed to be played. I asked one of the workers, a girl about 19 or so, if she ever got tired of Christmas. I was hoping she’d say something like, “ Of course not, here in Santa Claus, Indiana.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

    We like to think it’s Christmas everyday.” But instead she looked around to make sure no one from the town was looking, and then looked at me with a look that said, “ Are you crazy- of course I do!!” Kind of ruined the atmosphere for me.

At any rate, we got to St. Louis, and found our hotel was 40 feet from the Jones Dome, where the NFL Rams play, and about a 8 block walk to Busch Stadium, where we will go tomorrow night. Pam and I took a walk to the downtown area. Right away we walked by the Arch. If you’ve seen it in pictures, you can’t believe how big it is in person. Looking forward to going up it tomorrow. Walking around the ballpark was neat. There was a game last night as well so Cardinal fans were everywhere. As in most of the cities we have been to, there is very little to do downtown in the evening except for the sports parks. But on game nights, there are people everywhere. On non-game nights, downtown seems like a ghost town. We ate dinner at Joe Bucks’, a famous announcer who has his own restaurant. Pretty darn good. The beer was served in a glass etched with the St. Louis skyline. Pam wanted to take the glass home, but I made her leave it in the restaurant. Silly girl.

Big day tomorrow - up to the top of the Arch, an hour ride cruise on the mighty Mississippi River, and then the game at seven. Unfortunately, it’s off to Chicago and home tomorrow night.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Day 9 - Columbus, Cincinnati and Louisville

This was the finish of our most hectic 24 hours of the trip. We had a short sleep last night and got away by 9:30 to get to Cincinnati and a 1:00 game.  The boys grumbled, but when we offered to leave them in Ohio to get home without us, they decided to get in the car. We got to Cincinnati around 11:45. Once again, the ballpark is right downtown, so we got a small taste of that area. Parking was cheap again ($7), and we had a short three-block walk. It was a hot one, which was a change from the last couple days of only 70 degree plus weather. Today, at least 95 with humidity. Greg and Chris moved higher up in the stadium to get some shade, while the two of us basked in the sunshine.

The neat thing at this park is the concession stands provide unlimited free cups of ice at any time. The ballpark is about 11 years old, everything is red (what else for the Cincinnati Reds?) and once again 95% of the fans were dressed in team colors. They take their ball seriously in the mid-west.  The game was a pitchers’ duel for a change, with the Reds winning 2-1.

While we didn’t get any post game fireworks, we did get free 10-inch pizzas each because Reds pitchers struck out 10 batters in the game. We found the pizza chain offering the pizza just over the border in Kentucky, and it was very good. We were in Ohio at the park; we could see the Ohio River just past right field. When we drove across the river we were in Kentucky.

Our hour and a half drive to Louisville was completed about 7 pm. We decided to treat the kids to their own room at the hotel, so the family of four was broken up for an evening. We ate together at Applebee’s, and hit the hay around mid-night. Tomorrow it’s a 10:30 getaway for a four-hour drive to St. Louis, where we have two days before heading home.

Day 8 - On to Pittsburgh

We had a two and a half hour drive today into Pennsylvania from Ohio for an evening game at PNC Park. The cool thing about this park is that it is small, with only 39,000 seats, and most fans walk over a bridge to the game which gets shut down to vehicle traffic on game days. We did a couple touristy things in the afternoon before going to the game. 

The first was a tram-like ride to the top of a large hill, which provided a great view of Pittsburgh. It is a neat city, with three rivers joining right downtown. From our viewpoint, we could count at least 18 bridges going every direction. The downtown core is fairly small, and we found a great place for lunch where we had sandwiches that were huge, partially because the French fries are grilled right into the sandwich. Amazingly it works!

We also toured the Senator John Heinz History Center, which was a fairly decent museum focusing on Pennsylvania history and a lot of Penn sports. We were able to park downtown for $5 all day (try to do that in Vancouver) and walked to the park across the bridge. A beautiful park with real baseball fans that are almost all dressed in Pirate black and yellow, they looked like 39000 killer bees. The home team won 5-1, and everyone went home happy. 

One of the interesting things about the park is they sell a bucket of delicious chicken wings for $33. No, we didn’t try them; we saw a lot of people who did. And wouldn’t you know it, there were post-game fireworks again tonight. They were shot off from the river behind the stadium, which was cool, and they were good, but nowhere near as good as last night. We have a busy stretch over the next 24 hours. After the game tonight we are driving a couple hours to Columbus, Ohio, where we will have a quick sleep before getting up and driving the last hour and a half to Cincinnati where we will watch the Reds in an afternoon game. A cool thing about our drive tonight? For about 10 miles we will even pass through West Virginia before returning to Ohio. What an education these boys are getting!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 7 - Cleveland

As I said yesterday, there is only a few things Cleveland has going for it: Canton, the Rock Hall of Fame and the ballpark. We did find a fourth; a shuttle bus driver by the name of Jan. She took us to the Rock Hall today, and she was a treat. She thought Greg was awesome. I think she just had a lot of energy and liked people. She was very impressed that Greg knew that the Atlanta Braves beat the Cleveland Indians in the 1995 World Series. She was originally from Atlanta but works in Cleveland. Both boys met up with her again tonight for photos, and they have all promised to become Facebook friends.

The Rock hall was fantastic. Pam and I both spent five hours there, and we could have spent more. Even the boys spent three hours there each, and enjoyed themselves. The ball game was a blow out unfortunately, as the home team lost 10-2. Nice Park for a sixteen year old one, and we changed seats after four innings and had really good seats. The highlight of the night was the post-game fireworks show. Set to the music of The Beatles, the boys thought it was either the best or second best firework show they had EVER seen. Even someone like me, who is pretty jaded when it comes to fireworks, was pretty impressed. And since we were a 5-minute walk to the hotel, the evening was just about perfect.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 6 - The Mistake by the Lake (Cleveland)

No, it’s not my nickname for Cleveland, but it does fit. Cleveland has three things going for it: 1) it’s an hour from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 2) the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is here, and 3) there’s pro baseball. Luckily for us, those are the only reasons we are here, because from what we can see there isn’t much else. We were challenged trying to find a decent place to eat last night.

 Our hotel is in an excellent location- only a half block from the baseball park, but eating establishments for  families are few and far between. Lots of construction and road closures all over. Not really an attractive city to look at, although there are some amazing beautiful old churches between our house and downtown. The drive from Detroit was a good one, even hit a bit of rain.

An hour south of Cleveland is Canton, home of the football Hall of Fame. Sort of a small town Cooperstown clone, the Hall is the big attraction in town. And it is very good. We spent about three hours there, with a stop at the souvenir shop at the end.  We’ll see if the area livens up tomorrow  around game time. They are expecting a big crowd because there is fireworks after the game, so we’ll see. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 5 - A Trio State Day (Detroit)

We checked out of our hotel today, and said goodbye to Chicago. Driving in big US cities really isn’t difficult. There may be a lot of traffic, but each road has 5 or 6 lanes going one way, and with lots of signs it’s pretty hard to go wrong. If you aren’t sure where to go, just pick a lane and go slow, other cars have plenty of ways to go around you. Update on Pam’s ankle. Seems to be slowly improving, although she made some remark about holding out hope for an attractive first aid attendant to “check her over”.

About an hour outside of Chicago we stopped at South Bend Indiana, the home of Notre Dame University. We spent a couple hours walking around the campus, the football stadium, and then had lunch at Legends, a sport bar by the stadium. A very old, tradition filled campus; it made me feel good about my Catholic roots once again. The one-hour planned stop extended into two, so we had to high tail it to Detroit to make up for lost time.

Got to the ball game with about 20 minutes to spare. Pleasantly surprised by how nice the park is. 12 years old, but looks brand new, with great sight lines and excellent food. I guess it helps the quality of the in house pizza when the owner of the pizza company owns the ball club.  LA Angels scored in the first, but the Tigers won going away, 7-2. The ball park is right downtown about 10 blocks from our hotel, and right next to Ford Field where the Lions play NFL football. Temperature tonite a beautiful 80 degrees, almost perfect. Had great conversation tonight with big hockey fans from the area who told us about watching Gordie Howe play in the old days in Detroit. The same owner of the tigers owns the Red Wings now. Our new friend was telling us about how when the owner bought the Red Wings attendance was so poor he would give away a new car every home game to entice fans to come out. Times sure have changed. 

For all a person reads about how dirty and crime filled Detroit is, we have been pleasantly surprised.  People are friendly, down town is super quiet and very clean. As long as my car is there in the morning I will have to give Detroit two thumbs up.

Next is a short drive to Cleveland. No game tomorrow, but we will be taking a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so it should be a good day. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 4 - Chicago (Injury #1)

Day 4- Chicago (Injury #1)

After an excellent evening strolling and eating (and drinking) at an outdoor restaurant a few steps from our hotel, Pam and I got up early and went for a run down on the shores off Lake Michigan.  There are running trails for miles along the coast, and we could easily have run right downtown. Of course by 9 am it was pretty humid, so we were only out 45 minutes or so. After breakfast the four of us took the transit (called the “L” for elevated) towards downtown. We walked downtown around Millennium Park for awhile and then made our way to Navy Pier.  One of the major tourist attractions in Chicago, it is a long area jutting out into Lake Michigan complete with an amusement park, Ferris wheel, shopping, and lots of places to eat. The boys ate at Bubba Gump’s’, from the movie Forrest Gump, while Pam and I continued our quest to eat at every Margaretville on earth and went there. Both restaurants were great quality and the surroundings were enjoyable as well.

We did have our first and hopefully only injury to report today. You might think it would have been one of the boys who were guilty of gazing at something when they should have been paying attention. Or you might think it was Paul who was guilty of staring at one of Chicago’s famous attractive women, but you would be wrong. The injured one is Pam, who unfortunately fell off a curb. Not sure what really happened, but she did a pretty good pratfall. Fortunately she was not holding the camera at the time, so it is fine. Two skinned knees, and a mildly sprained ankle later she was fine. Still limping a bit, and she did take advantage of a friendly first aid attendant at Wrigley who wrapped it for her.

The ballpark was next. Wrigley Field is 98 years old, and is a gold mine for every business around the park, but in reality it is a dump. It looks 98 years old in parts, but they do a great job to make it look like a major league park, and it clearly is still popular, with crowds of 35000 at least every night.  We got there just after the gates open to watch batting practice and to soak up the atmosphere, because that’s what you do when you only get there once every seven or eight years. Greg actually got a ball hit into the stands during batting practice, which is also one of the main reasons for getting there early. The game itself had a bit of everything. A big lead by Miami early, with the Cubs rallying late to make it a bit close, but ultimately Miami prevailed 9-5.

The other highlight was that Jim Belushi threw out the first pitch and led the crowd in the singing of “ Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, a Wrigley tradition. A short ride back to the hotel and the day was done. But of course we had to go back to our favorite outdoor restaurant for the daily special and a cool drink. Even with Pam’s sprained ankle she had no trouble getting there for last call.
Tomorrow we are on to Detroit.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 3 - Chicago


After leaving the Lynnwood hotel 30 minutes late (it’s tougher to say goodbye to everyone when we are taking someone else’s kid, and leaving one of our own), we got to the Park n’ride at the airport in plenty of time. The flight was a brisk 3 and a half hours long, but it was a uneventful flight, which is the best kind. I guess the highlight was having the flight attendants announce that “Eric” recently won a coveted flight attendant award and we all were to congratulate him at the conclusion of our trip. We of course did that.  After we got our luggage I was walking near the stewardess, when I asked her exactly what he had done to get the award. She replied, “ nothing. I made it up. It just means he has to buy the beer for us tonite.” Seems like flight attendants have a fun filled life.

After getting the car, we had a 30 minute car ride to our hotel, which is in a great part of town called Lincoln Park. The hotel is fine, except for the $24 a night parking fee, but that’s Chicago.  And of course what else would we do with two teenagers? We found a great outdoor bar for dinner. Like most bars, it had cold, cheap beer, and hot cheap food, so it fulfilled all of our requirements. Tomorrow we are off to Navy Pier and the Magnificient Mile downtown, and then out to Wrigley Field for the Cubs game at 7 tomorrow.

Day 2 - Seattle


We awoke to a windy semi-wet morning which made us feel like being back home in November. The males were off to another game at the ballpark this morning, while the women had a full day of shopping planned. Not sure which was the real reason they came down for the trip. The game was less than exciting today, as the Mariners lost 4-0 today. But the rain stayed away.  The girls were more successful shopping, as all returned with bags, and smiles, and seemed ready to go again tomorrow if the opportunity presented itself.  Dinner at Red Lobster tonight, along with a revenge game of Caps. This time we allowed the youngsters to win so they can see how we handle losing.  Energy was a bit lower tonight, which is a concern as 4 of us have 10 more days left in the trip, so we better get a good night’s sleep. Off to Seatac in the morning for a 1 pm flight. The real excitement will start when we get to Chicago. Will write again tomorrow night from our hotel in downtown Wrigleyville.

Day 1 - Seattle

By Pvonmatt61  

Day 1- Seattle.
Arrived this morning and met up with our friends the Kocsis’ and Henderson’s as we do every July. We always stay at the Lynnwood Hampton Inn, and spend our time shopping and attending Mariners games. 

Today was an exciting game at the ballpark as the Mariners won 7-0, which in itself was a surprise. Our family was the other big winner today, as we somehow were upgraded in the hotel and given a big suite and kitchen. Therefore, we were the party room tonight, and now that the 7 kids are in their mid to late teens, it seems they know all the drinking games that we played in our university games. And some of them (Carissa) seemed to know even more rules than we knew existed! It was pretty interesting as we played adults against the kids, with of course the adults winning. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Whitecaps Drop Another Heartbreaker to Toronto FC

In the short year and a half of the Vancouver Whitecaps time in the MLS they have played at BMO Field four times. Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, they have came away with four loses. The latest of the losses came Wednesday when Toronto FC had a come from behind 3-2 win.

The winning goal happened in extra time when Toronto FC got a corner. The ball came into the box and the ex Vancouver Whitecap Terry Dunfield headed home the winner in dramatic fashion. For as bad of a year has been for TFC, this along with beating the Caps for the Canadian Championship was one of their best moments of the year so far.

As fitting as it is, Toronto’s two best moments of the year have been against there Western rivals from Vancouver. Since the Whitecaps inaugural 4-2 win at Empire Field last year, the rivalry has been extremely one sided.  Since then, they have played seven times. Toronto FC has won four, there have been two ties and one game abandoned because of rain. In addition, the game that was abandoned, Vancouver was leading 1-0 at the time in the 62nd minute.

It’s safe to say that the soccer gods are with Toronto when these two combatants hook up. Despite Toronto FC directing more shots on target then Vancouver, the Whitecaps managed to have possession of the ball 59% of the game. Even more frustrating was the fact that Vancouver opened the scoring in the 50th minute but gave it right back eighteen minutes later. This is the second time they have done that type of thing this year. The first time was in San Jose when they went up 1-0 in the second half to lose 3-1 at San Jose. There’s two points at least right there they could have had that they might need at the end of the year.

In the 90th minute Darren Mattocks second goal of the game tied the game at 2-2. The goal was not only a relief at the time for White Caps fans but also for Y.P. Lee. In the 85th minute Lee had a wide-open net but he rung one off the post. It was just one out of many chances for both teams that shaped the roller coaster game and in the end a heartbreaker for Vancouver.

Everyone says how competitive the Whitecaps are, but really, there only competitive against the lower tear teams in the MLS. Aside from the 2-1 win at B.C. Place against San Jose, Vancouver has failed to get wins from top teams. They lost 3-1 to Real Salt lake, 4-1 to New England, 3-0 to the L.A. Galaxy and so on and so on. For the Whitecaps to make winning a habit, they have to win these games. It’s not enough just to win at home and take a vacation at times on the road. Too many times still the Whitecaps lose games they should tie and tie games they should win.

The Vancouver Whitecaps next game is Saturday when they travel to Chicago to take on the Fire. The game starts at 5:30 and can be seen on Sportsnet Pacific.