2007 COOPERSTOWN ROAD TRIP Day 17: The Voyage Home

10 Jul

Despite getting back to our hotel around midnight, Blake and I both woke up early to continue our packing.  We realized that if we were going to be bringing home twelve bottles of Yuengling and four cans of Ballentine’s, we would need something else in which to carry them.

Since our plan was to head back to Little Italy to get cannolis to bring home, we located an open shipping supply store in Little Italy to purchase boxes and packaging tape.   Ferrara opened at 8:00 AM, and we purchased several small cannoli shells and a few tubes of frozen cannoli cream.

On our walk back to the subway, Blake noticed a bar with a neon Schaefer Beer sign on in the window, and commented, “I can’t remember the last time I had a Schaefer!”  Just then, he noticed through the window two men sitting at the bar, turned to me and asked, “Do you think they’re open?”  We poked our heads inside and sure enough, they were indeed open.  So Blake and I sat down at the bar at 8:15 AM and each had a pint of Schaefer on tap!

We returned to Hotel 31, finished packing and headed out to LaGuardia to fly home.  Fortunately, if we forgot to buy anything, I would be returning to New York a week later for a gig at Lincoln Center.

Interestingly, after over two weeks of baseball, we would be missing the MLB All Star Game from AT&T Park in San Francisco as we would be in the air for most of the game.  We landed at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to change planes and learned that Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki had hit an inside-the-park home run.  We also learned that our connecting flight was delayed, as weather conditions in the Midwest were rather severe.

We eventually arrived at John Wayne Airport, very late, very tired, and ready for our own beds at home.  Still, this trip was one for the ages.  I’m not sure when or if we’ll be able to take another trip of this magnitude, but Blake and I certainly had an epic time.

Without a doubt, Pittsburgh was our favorite stop of the entire trip.  Not only was it the best stadium experience of our journey, but they had the best bang-for-your-buck hot dog at PNC Park, Primanti Bros. offered us the most unique dining experience, Church Brew Works gave us the most unique microbrewery experience, and the people there were just delightful.  Originally, the plan had been to take Amtrak everywhere on this trip, but had we done so, we would have spent an entire day on a train between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and would have missed out on exploring such a great town.

We definitely want to revisit all these great cities, spend more time in Cooperstown, and in particular, see the new stadiums in New York and Washington DC once they are built.  Thank you for joining us on this adventure!  We hope that you have been entertained by our travels and invite you to follow our adventures in the future!

 

 

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2007 COOPERSTOWN ROAD TRIP Day 16: The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY

9 Jul

FINALLY!  The big day was here.  The culmination of 2 weeks of traveling was our visit to baseball’s Mecca:  Cooperstown.

Surprisingly, this was our first time renting a car during the entire trip.  After grabbing a quick bagel from the corner market across the street from our hotel, we picked up our rental car in Midtown.  Now normally, I’m a pretty laid back kind of guy, but when I got behind the wheel of our rental in Manhattan, I immediately assimilated to my surroundings.  I became as ornery as your stereotypical NYC driver, using my horn, yelling at people, etc.  It was the strangest phenomenon.  It was as if I was possessed.  And quite frankly, it scared the bejesus out of Blake.  In fact, when he politely offered to drive, I snapped back with, “No!  I’ve got this!”  What was even more strange, was that once we got through the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey, I was back to normal!

Our drive to Cooperstown was actually very delightful.  Blake and I traded driving shifts a few times.  We were both pleasantly surprised to find that New York had some of the cleanest rest stops we had ever seen.

When we finally arrived in Cooperstown, it was early afternoon.  We had about 3 hours to see everything, as the Museum closed early that day and we had to have our rental car back by midnight, or else we would not only be charged for an extra half day, but we would have been responsible for paying for parking in Midtown Manhattan for approximately 8 hours.

Blake is the right person with whom to visit a museum, as he takes the time to view everything in detail, rather than moving through quickly.  Unfortunately, there is just so much to see in Cooperstown.  The National Baseball Hall of Fame is not something you can see in 3 hours.  You really need a few days in Cooperstown to take it all in.  I made sure to monitor our time so that we could see as much as we could in our limited time.

We began on the second floor, which had rooms dedicated to the origins of baseball in the 19th Century, a 20th Century timeline, Babe Ruth’s career, women in baseball, African-Americans in baseball, and today’s game.  In the photo above, I am pictured with the bat the Babe used to hit his 714th home run.  In the picture to the left, I am pictured with the Angels’ locker in the Hall of Fame containing a number of items from the 2002 World Series including a pair of thunder stix, a Troy Glaus jersey, and Scott Spiezio’s bat from Game 6.

We ended up having to rush through the third floor in order to make it to the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery with enough time to view it and spend some time in the gift shop.  Again, three hours just wasn’t enough time for us to see everything the way we would have liked.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before a return visit.

After the Museum closed, we found a local gift shop that had “Cooperstown Road Trip” t-shirts.  We each purchased one, then grabbed some food for the road because we were going to attempt to find White Castle before we headed home to California.

The drive back was rather peaceful.  As we got closer to Manhattan, it became imperative for us to find a gas station in New Jersey to not only have a full tank, but also to avoid the high prices in the city.  It took a little bit of doing, but we finally found one.

Next came the task of finding White Castle in Harlem with enough time to return our rental car by midnight.  As it turned out, we had come within a block of it the day before.  When we finally found White Castle, it was 11:30 PM.  Fortunately for us, there was a drive-thru, and no one was in line.  Unfortunately for me, because of my behavior behind the wheel while in Manhattan that morning, Blake wouldn’t let me enjoy my fresh White Castle burger until we returned the car.  At least at 11:35 PM, there was no traffic in Manhattan and we were able to get from Harlem to Midtown in ten minutes.  We returned our rental car with fifteen minutes to spare, and I was finally able to sink my teeth into that first White Castle burger.

Before turning in, we began packing for the trip home, including bubble-wrapping twelve individual bottles of two varieties of Yuengling, and four cans of Ballentine’s . . .

 

2007 COOPERSTOWN ROAD TRIP Day 15: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium

8 Jul

Since it was a Sunday, I decided to let Blake sleep in while I went to morning Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  When I made it back, we grabbed some lox and bagels from the corner market across the street from our hotel before getting on the subway to head up to the Bronx.

When our train stopped on the Upper East Side, who happened into our car but the father and son Angels fans who sat across from us on our flight.  This was apparently the kid’s first trip to New York because he immediately started talking smack about the Yankees on a train full of Yankee fans.  Blake and I just kept our mouths shut, but the kid kept rambling on about Ervin Santana’s prowess.  When I heard that, something told me that Santana was going to get lit up.

This game gave us a different perspective, in more ways than one.  First of all, we were seated in the left centerfield bleachers, which was a nice angle to watch the game.  But as I feared, the match-up of Ervin Santana and Chien-Ming Wang proved to be very one-sided.  Santana only lasted 3 innings, serving up bombs to Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano, accounting for 5 of 9 earned runs allowed.  In the 4th inning, the hit parade continued with Alex Rodriguez hitting a 3-run blast off of Angels reliever Chris Resop.  In contrast, Chien-Ming Wang was dominant for 6 1/3 innings.  When the smoke finally cleared, the Yankees put a 12-spot on the board and shut out the Halos going into the All-Star Break.

We decided to lick our wounds by drowning our temporary sorrows in comfort food.  We knew that there was a White Castle somewhere on the east side of Harlem, so we tried exploring on foot to find it, only coming up empty.  After a quick stop at our hotel to change back into our civvies, we headed out for some grub.

Our opening parlay was appetizers at Gonzalez y Gonzalez, which admittedly was a stop for sentimental reasons as I had dined there a number of times with an ex-girlfriend.

But we left room for our main course which was Lombardi’s Pizza in Little Italy, the first pizzeria in America.  Lombardi’s is on my must-do list whenever I’m in New York.  Thanks to our buddy Philip Clinton for the recommendation.

Dessert was also a Philip recommendation, as we headed a few blocks away to Ferrara for cannolis.  Of course, the cannolis we had were far from enough for us, so we made plans to return before flying home on Tuesday.

Before turning in, we stopped off at the corner market by our hotel and picked up a few bottles of Yuengling and cans of Ballentine’s to help us unwind before the drive to Cooperstown the next morning . . .

 

2007 COOPERSTOWN ROAD TRIP Day 14: Paul’s 36th Birthday, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium

7 Jul

After a night of very little sleep, Blake and I awoke on the morning of my 36th birthday and caught a JetBlue flight to New York.  I was hoping to at least get a little shut-eye on the plane, but alas, there were two Angels fans in the seats directly across the aisle, and Blake and I needed as many allies as possible when heading into hostile territory.

I had been to Yankee Stadium twice before, the first time with an ex-girlfriend in 1997 where I was subjected to taunts in the right field bleachers for wearing Angels gear in a game the Angels narrowly lost on a walk-off in the bottom of the 9th.  The second time was a game against the White Sox in 1999.

It was a day game at Yankee Stadium, and apparently it was Oldtimers’ Day, but Blake and I missed the Oldtimers’ Game and arrived in time for first pitch of John Lackey vs. Roger Clemens.  Our seats were in the upper deck, down the 3rd base line, about halfway between 3rd and the left field foul pole.

As we got into our row, the Yankee fan on the aisle opened with, “Angels suck!” to which I replied, “Who has the losing record going into the All-Star Break and who is the only team that has OWNED you since Joe Torre took over?”  That shut him up.

Blake and I ended up seated next to two Yankee fans—a father and son—who initially weren’t all too thrilled to be seated next to a couple of Angels fans.  We were treated to a pitchers’ duel between Lackey and Clemens, and as the game progressed, they warmed up to us do to our entertaining call-outs for the Angels players as well as Blake’s charm.  They were impressed that I remembered all the starting position players from the 1986 Yankees squad, and enjoyed me regaling them with the story of a Yankee fan throwing a knife at Wally Joyner in August of 1986 which led to an Angels fan holding up a sign at a home game against the Bronx Bombers that read:  “If you can’t beat ’em, knife ’em.”  Blake was even able to get them to yell, “G.A. in da house!” each time Garret Anderson came to bat.

Both Lackey and Clemens went deep into the game, each only surrendering a single run.  But the outcome of the game was in the hands of the bullpens who continued the duel admirably.  In the end, the game was decided by a couple of costly errors by the Yankees’ Miguel Cairo, and after 13 innings, the Angels stood victorious 2-1.

Concession-wise, Yankee Stadium was sub-par, by our standards.  Like Shea, Yankee Stadium offered Nathan’s Hot Dogs, however, the Nathan’s dogs at Shea tasted much better than those at Yankee Stadium.  The one saving grace for Yankee Stadium concessions was that we were treated to an attractive beer girl in the stands who served none other than Pilsner Urquell.

Since we got little sleep the night before, we decided to make it an early night, but not before grabbing dinner and beer at Heartland Brewery in midtown.  We figured we could do more celebrating the next night.  All said, it was one very enjoyable 36th birthday.

2007 COOPERSTOWN ROAD TRIP Day 13: A Day Off in Boston

6 Jul

Blake and I finally had an opportunity to sleep in, and it was much needed.  By this time though, the scruff on my face had grown too annoying for me, so I finally had to shave it off.  And it definitely felt much better.

On our way to an early lunch, I had to snap a quick photo in front of Boston Garden.  It made me think of that episode of Cheers where Kevin McHale is obsessed with counting the screws in the floor of the Garden.

Of course, our second priority in Boston after baseball was none other than the Samuel Adams Brewery.  We had visited some great microbrews on this trip and partaken of many fine malted adult beverages, but we were definitely looking forward to the Samuel Adams Brewery Tour.

Samuel Adams has put a lot of thought not only into their beers, but also into their merchandise.  Take for example their beer glass known as “The Perfect Pint”:  the bubble at the top of the glass is to aid in delivering the aroma of the beer to the drinker’s nose.  The outward-turned lip at the top of the glass is to deliver the beer to the front of the tongue.  There is a bead inside the rim that is supposed to create turbulence in the beer, unleashing aromas and flavors as the beer enters the mouth.  The narrowing of the glass above the bubble near the top is supposed to retain the hop aroma and sustain the head.  The thinner walls and rounded shape supposedly help the beer to maintain proper temperature longer.  And at the bottom of the glass is a laser-etched ring to create nucleation bubbles.

We spent quite a bit of time in the tasting room before heading back into town.

Blake and I decided to have an early dinner since the next morning was another early travel day, so we grabbed some seafood along the harbor before heading back to the hotel.

Now remember I had said that Storyville still exists at our hotel.  While it is no longer a jazz club, it is in fact a night club.  As it happens, the entrance to the club was on the street just a few floors below our hotel room.  But the coup de grace was that since the Copley Square Hotel is an older hotel, the window to our room didn’t do much of a good job of keeping the outside noise from coming in.  All night we heard patrons yapping on the street as well as the vehicles picking them up, and that was while wearing ear plugs!  At some point before 3:00 AM, I was finally able to doze off.  Unfortunately, that nocturnal state of bliss didn’t last long, as at 3:00 AM EDT, my phone rang with a birthday greeting from my dear friend in California, Scott Pruzinsky who always calls me at midnight on my birthday . . .

2007 COOPERSTOWN ROAD TRIP Day 12: Tampa Bay Devil Rays vs. Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park

5 Jul

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Because we wanted to spend the 4th of July in our nation’s capital (because how often do you get to do that?), we had to plan for a busy travel day on the 5th, being the last game of a Sox home stand at Fenway.  After very little sleep and an early-morning shuttle, Blake and I caught our flight to Boston.  We landed around 10:30 in the morning and caught the T into town.  Blake had Pricelined us a room at the Copley Square Hotel and fortunately they let us check in early.  The legendary Boston jazz club Storyville used to be located on the ground floor of the hotel.  It still bears the name of “Storyville” but is no longer a jazz club.

First stop after checking in was the exterior location of Cheers.  After a pre-lunch pint and a visit the gift shop to purchase Cheers memorabilia, it was time for us to wander the town and kill time before heading over to Fenway Park.

While wandering around town, we happened upon Berklee College of Music, a school I once considered attending, but couldn’t afford.  I at least had to run into the bookstore and get a T-shirt.

We eventually made our way over to Fenway for the game, and took a bit of time to soak the atmosphere on Yawkey Way.  Over the years, I have had a number of not-so-pleasant interactions with Red Sox fans, and from what I witnessed at Fenway, it was easy to see why.  I have no problem wearing my Angels gear at Yankee Stadium, but would probably incite a physical altercation at the Fens were I to don my Halo garb.  I really felt for the lone fan in his Devil Rays jersey, who had to endure constant taunts from the Fenway faithful, as well as some projectiles.

Of course, there really was no reason for the Sox fans to mistreat the Devil Rays fan as the game was a blow-out for the Sox, 15-4.  Coco Crisp hit a 1st inning grand slam off of JP Howell, and Mike Lowell hit a 3-run home run in the 2nd inning, putting the Devil Rays away early.  At the end of the game, there was a light rain, but that didn’t stop me from getting a picture next to the Pesky Pole.

When it came to the concessions at Fenway, I wasn’t impressed with the hot dogs, although the traditional New England bun was definitely a change of pace.  I also took advantage of the fact that Legal Seafood was selling chowder at the yard, but still I was not impressed by it.

Despite the experience of dealing with a stadium filled with Sox fans, it was nice to visit such a historic park.  As it turns out, the seats that Blake and I were sitting in were some of the oldest seats in the stadium.

2007 COOPERSTOWN ROAD TRIP Day 11: The Fourth of July in Washington DC

4 Jul

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We slept in again, so when we finally headed into the city, it was around lunchtime . . .

We emerged from the Federal Triangle Metro Station to the sounds of Tito Puente, Jr. and his Orchestra.  I was always a huge fan of his father.  Junior does a good job of following in his father’s footsteps.  We listened to a few tunes and realized we had other stuff to do in town.

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After leaving the Ronald Reagan building, we caught the tail-end of the Independence Day Parade.  Since it was so hot outside, we ducked into the Museum of Natural History to take advantage of the air conditioning.  Apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea as the place was packed . . .

washington-monument.jpgOnce we had enough of all the people in the museum, we decided to explore the Mall and check out what was going on . . . a few days earlier, we had seen a sign that read “FREE FEAST” near a canopy on the Mall . . . as it turned out the free feast was being put on by the Hare Krishnas . . .

We decided to head down towards the Lincoln Memorial since that is where the best view of the fireworks is supposed to be.  Rather than walk, we hopped on the Metro to Foggy Bottom.  As we were walking down to the Licoln, we decided to grab a sandwich as buying food on the Mall wasn’t going to be very cost-effective.  When we got down to the Lincoln, we found security evacuating the Mall . . . apparently there was a “severe weather system” headed our way, and the Mall was on tornado watch . . . those people who had staked out their fireworks spots since the morning had to give them up.  Supposedly our Fourth of July experience in DC was a wash . . .

We had two choices:  1. head back to the hotel in Arlington until further notice, or 2. wait out the storm somewhere in town.  It was then that I had the brilliant idea to head over to Capitol City Brewing–after all, if we were going to wait it out, why not wait it out with beer . . . unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones with that idea–the wait for a table was over an hour-and-a-half.  However, Blake had his own stroke of brilliance and asked if certain tables were designated as part of the bar . . . we pounced on one just as a couple of people were finishing their beers . . . By this point, the sky had opened up and the rain was coming down pretty hard.

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Once we finished with dinner, we headed back towards the Washington Monument, and fortunately for us, they were beginning to let people back in.  All the lawn spots were pretty much taken, so we decided to sit right in the middle of 14th Street.  Other people followed suit.  For us this worked out great as we had a fantastic view of the fireworks behind the Washington Monument.  For others in the street, it wasn’t the most ideal situation, as three times during the course of the fireworks display, they had to move for emergency vehicles driving down the street.

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Getting back to Arlington was the challenge . . . apparently that evening, over half a million people rode the Metro.  The line to get into the Federal Triangle Metro Station was insane.  We were able to bypass part of the line by taking the stairs, and then found out that the line was so slow because the escalators weren’t working.  Down in the station, Blake and I got separated, both riding packed trains back to Arlington . . . Blake got to Arlington one train after I did.

Fortunately for us, there was an open Burger King just walking distance from our hotel.