So Much for Our Plans…

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Wish we were here

Wouldn’t you know it? Just when we thought we were all set with our travel plans, the world goes and gets a virus. Too flippant? Sorry. It has been a rough couple of weeks.  We last wrote about our trip to New York and Boston that ended on March 8. We were home just about a week and our governor, quite rightly, closed down businesses, schools etc. and we were sequestered to our home.

Thankfully, neither Sue nor I show signs of the Covid-19 virus, but we are both going a bit stir crazy from being inside (yesterday we walked 5 miles, just to be out in the fresh air). Our sense of humor is critical to our mental well being and in response to both working from home, we have developed an imaginary co-worker (Ragnar) who is a total pain in the ass. Every glass left on the countertop, every light left on, every door left open is Ragnar’s fault. I know, it isn’t much, but it keeps us laughing and not complaining about each other.

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or here

We should have been in Houston this week. If you do not recall, we were heading to Houston as the last of our one-week trips to someplace warm (or at least out of Chicago) over the ). Sue’s brother lives there and the grand plan was to show up for her niece’s birthday and catch an early season Mets game (so before they were officially eliminated from the postseason (damn Yankees fan)). The quarantine put an end to that trip.

Sue has a trip scheduled with another niece to Italy to celebrate her high school graduation. That trip is planned for the end of May, but, alas, we both expect that they will need to postpone that until who knows when.

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Or even here…

Finally, our trip to Alaska in July is also looking uncertain. Even if we are granted parole from this quarantine, it seems unwise to board a ship with thousands of other people many of whom may or may not have been quarantined. Who knows if they could still be carriers, which makes it seem especially unwise as we were planning to travel with my mother, who is over 80.

So there we go, or there we don’t go. Whatever. We are shifting our thoughts from our travel plans to our attempts to recover the amounts we have already committed to these trips and sighing heavily for the trips not taken and the fun not had.

I hope this doesn’t come off as complaining. It is a bit, but we are grateful that we are all well and looking forward to the simple joys of seeing our friends, eating out, and being able to find toilet paper at the grocery store.

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or watching this sunset.

Road Trip!

The summer is soon upon us and we are thinking about getting in the car and driving. The Saab is still in good shape (for a 13 year old car) and so we are getting into planning mode. As Sue told you in her last post, I have started a new job where, horrors of horrors, they actually expect me to show up and work. Not sure what I was thinking when I agreed to this. But, I have now been there 2 weeks so it is time to explain to them that every summer I need to be on the road for (hopefully) 3 weeks.

This year, we have to be in Boston in late July for a wedding, so our thought is to drive there via Canada. The outline of the plan is to head for Montreal via Toronto, then to Quebec City to see three great Canadian cities. Then drop south into Maine and visit Acadia National Park. After we hang out with the blue bloods in Bar Harbor (pronounced Bah Hahbah) for a few days, will set our sites on Boston for the wedding.

Thank you SomeEcards for capturing my sentiments perfectly.

While in Boston, we will (hopefully) have time to go to Fenway (and lustily root AGAINST the Red Sox). From Beantown, we will head to the Big Apple (home of the Yankees–the greatest baseball team EVER (he is delusional) and Sue’s team–the Mets!!!!!!!), because we both love that city. From New York, it is pretty much a straight shot westward across Pennsylvania, Ohio & Indiana until we get back home to the Windy City. All in, about 2,500 miles and 42 hours of driving. Sue would to go to Nova Scotia from Quebec City, but that will add another 700 miles and 10 hours of driving, so we will see.

All in, I figure it is a 20-day trip, give or take. That assumes a minimum of 2 days in each city and no driving days of more than 6 hours. We haven’t really started to do the nuts and bolts planning (hotels, what we want to see, odd ball places to stop, etc.–ahem, who’s going to watch that giant beast of a dog?), but I think we will probably start that pretty shortly–once I ask for the time off…

Opening Day!

The spring has arrived. I know this, not because it has stopped snowing in Chicago, but because baseball season has arrived. As Josh & I continue our tour of stadiums, we are attending opening weekend at Chase Field in Phoenix. Number 18 on our tour. We decided to attend the first two games of the year.

Chase Field

For those of you who do not remember or know, I am a die-hard Yankee’s fan while Josh follows the Atlanta Braves. Usually, we would be particularly vested in rooting for either team, but the Diamondbacks were playing the Red Sox, so I was working hard to help them win. The two greatest things in baseball? The Yankees winning and the Red Sox losing.

The first game of the season is always a somewhat special, the stadium is all decked out, both teams are introduced, and awards are presented. Friday’s match up was Porcello (Red Sox) vs. Godley (Diamondbacks) and was a slugfest…for the Diamondbacks. They jumped out to a 14-1 lead by the end of the 6th and it was all over after that. Boston scored a bunch of late runs, but the game was never in doubt. The one great thing about the game
other than a true beat down of the Red Sox with tons of Red Sox fans
is that we got to see a position player pitch. Eduardo Nunez, a former Yankee who now plays for Boston, pitched. This is the first time we have seen that.

Saturday morning we decided to go to Taliesen West, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture school in Scottsdale. The tour took about an hour and was very interesting. They explained lots of his philosophy and how he used the shape and size of space to both move people and create a spaces for people to stay.

Saturday night we went to a second Diamondbacks/Red Sox Game. This one was much closer. The starting pitchers were David Price for Boston and Luke Weaver for Arizona. The score was tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 9th and we were thinking there would be extra innings. However, Eduardo Escobar got a single and then reached 2nd on a passed ball. Alex Avila singled to right and Escobar turned the corner and headed home, but was thrown out at home on a beautiful play by Boston. Avila reached second on the throw. Chris Kelly singled to left and brought Avila home for a walk off single! Great ending to a great baseball weekend.

6 weeks – 4 trips

I have a busy few weeks ahead: four trips scheduled in the next 6 weeks.

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA uptown cityscape.The week after next, I am deserting Sue and travelling to Charlotte, NC, for a business trip. I leave Sunday night and return home Thursday night. I would like to tell you that I really like the city of Charlotte, but truth be told, our offices are outside of the city and so I have never been downtown. I am not sure how many of you have been on business trips, but I do not find them particularly fun.  The routine is pretty simple, have breakfast and bad coffee at a generic hotel, go to the office early, spend all day working, back to the hotel for a couple of hours, dinner either alone or with some colleagues at a random restaurant, back to the hotel to work for a few more hours, watch “The Daily Show” & “Late Night with Stephen Colbert,” go to sleep then rinse and repeat.

I arrive back from Charlotte on Thursday afternoon, spend Friday doing my laundry and packing for the next trip. Saturday morning, we leave for our spring break trip to Costa Rica.  We have booked the flights, hotels and many of the day trips, so those are all taken care of.  In the next week or so, we will look at the map and plan the driving portion of the trip, but I will leave that for another post.

chasefieldWe return from Costa Rica on Sunday, March 31.  On the following Thursday, I am once again abandoning my lovely wife to head to Phoenix with my son, Josh.  We are going to the home opening weekend of the Arizona Diamondbacks (Abi:  that is baseball –yay sports!).  We have tickets for two games, Friday, their home opener, and Saturday.  They are playing the Boston Red Sox.  We hope to see Zack Greinke and Chris Sale pitch.  One more stadium off the tour list.

Two weeks later, Sue and I are going to my sister’s house in PA for the weekend.  The entire extended family will be there.  My sister, her husband and all four of her kids; my brother, his wife and three kids; my mother, son and his wife; and potentially some of the other kids’ partners will all be there. We are not a quiet family, so there will be a ton of noise and general madness. It is always great fun.

After we return from PA, it is a quick 6 weeks or so and school is done.  I guess we need to start planning our summer trip…

 

 

Getting through the Winter

Major Winter Storm Pounds Chicago Area
Chicago

I hate the winter.  Chicago is cold, windy, gray, and snowy. I am miserable from the beginning of November until the spring comes…in July. This year, I have been particularly miserable; I am not really sure why, it hasn’t been very cold, there has been almost no snow and while it has been very gray, the wind doesn’t seem so bad.  But I am still miserable (and I suspect the other one will tell you that I am also insufferable—I don’t have to say it, because he already did).

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Los Angeles

So, my plan is this —go no more than 4 weeks between leaving town—even if just for a weekend. We were in Florida over winter break.  I soaked up some sun and my misery lifted. However, it is now mid-January and I can feel the pull of warm weather. Last weekend, I took the plunge and booked flights to LA for early February. My daughter lives out there, which seems like a good excuse to visit. I figure 4 days of California sunshine will see me through February.

We have a trip to Costa Rica booked for the end of March, but that will

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Costa Rica

be seven—long, dark, cold, and windy weeks after I get back from LA. I think I might need to find somewhere else to go for a weekend. Sue doesn’t have any time off, so it will be hard for the two of us to go anywhere during that time, but I will see what I can come up with. Maybe wrangle a work trip to Charlotte for a few days?  In April, I have two trips. My feelings about this man are darkening.

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Arizona

First, Arizona for opening weekend of the Diamondbacks with my son as we continue our tour of baseball stadiums. I love going to the opening weekend of baseball season. It is absolute confirmation that winter may end sometime in the next four months. Then, we are heading east to PA for a family visit.  While it doesn’t seem like it should be much warmer, I always think it is (and I am sticking with that story —don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up).

That should hold me over to May.

And…hopefully…May will bring warm weather!

It Was a Busy Few Days

milwaukeeLast weekend, as I have previously written, was a baseball weekend with Josh.  On Friday night, we went to Milwaukee and had great seats.  We sat in the third row just off to the third base side of home plate.  We were so close, we could almost reach out and touch the guys in the on deck circle.  The Brewers beat the Giants 4-2.  The game was fairly uneventful until the top of the 9th inning when the Giants’ catcher (Nick Hundley) and manager (Bruce Bochy) were both tossed from the game because they were arguing balls and strikes.  This is the first time on our tour that someone got tossed from the game.  The other interesting thing was that scoreboard showed a batters OPS rather than his batting average.  I didn’t care for it, but I guess I am a dinosaur.  The roof stayed open all night.

chisoxSaturday we went to see the White Sox at Comiskey  err, I mean Guaranteed Rate Field. (Really?  Only the White Sox could manage to move away from US Cellular Field as their name and find a worse one.)  The temperature was 68 degrees, but there was a bitter wind blowing off the lake.  We sat four rows behind the Angels’ dugout.  Trout clobbered two home runs and Ohtani, who was DH’ing, went 2 for 4.  I was surprised at how tall Ohtani is; he is as tall or taller than Trout.  The game was close until the top of the first when Angels’ scored three runs.  The White Sox put up one in the bottom of the first to keep it respectable.   The Angels put up another three in the third and we pulled out our forks because the Sox were done.  In the 9th, the Angels put up another 6 runs to make the final score 12-2.  Ohtani scored one of those runs by coming home on a wild pitch.  The play was close, but he was safe.

While I love to travel with Sue, traveling for work is less enjoyable.  I had a couple of trips this week.  On Sunday afternoon, I drove down to Indianapolis for a Monday morning meeting.  I came home Monday afternoon and then back out to Minnesota on Tuesday night.  I flew to Minneapolis then drove about 2.5 hours southwest to a small town.  I arrived at 9:10 pm and found out that all the restaurants in town were closed by that time.  Oh well, no dinner.  I had meetings all day on Wednesday and then retraced my steps to Minneapolis for an 8 pm flight home.  Back in the house at about 10:30 pm.  A long couple of days of no-fun work travel.

 

September Baseball

MLB-vector-logosYup. Another post about the best game in the world.  Baseball. For those of you who missed the last installment of as the baseball spins, I will bring you up to date. Our intrepid baseball stadium travelers (Josh & Steven) visited Pittsburgh’s PNC Park in August to get to the midway mark in the stadium tour(*). This weekend we are doing a two-fer by visiting Miller Park in Milwaukee and the southern of the two Chicago stadiums.

Now, I know what you are thinking.  You live in Chicago, how is it that you haven’t visited those stadiums already? The answer, my friends, is in the arcane rules of stadium visits as compiled and administered by Chief Rules Officer Josh. Apparently, any stadium visited prior to the official start of the stadium tour in 2013 does not count. So, while we have been to both these stadiums before, because those trips were before the start of the tour, they do not count. Rules are rules and must be followed.

miller parkFriday night we are going to Miller Park in Milwaukee. It is about a 90-minute drive and knowing Josh, we will need to be there 2 hours early in order to wander the stadium. It was 90 degrees here today, but by Friday, the high is expected to be about 70. Since it is a night game…we might be wearing jackets…Oh the winter is upon us! Miller Park is cool. It was one of the first retractable-roof baseball stadiums and the roof is a fan shape, so both sides open/close at the same time. Hopefully it will start out open and then at some point during the game they will close it. They used to open and close it after every game just because it is is cool to watch. We will see if they still do that.

grfieldSaturday night we are going to the stadium currently known as Guarantee Rate field. It used be called US Cellular Park, but everyone in Chicago still calls it Comiskey Park. It is an underwhelming stadium, build in the early 1990s.  The original Comiskey Park was built in 1910, and in the late 1980s the owner of the White Sox convinced Tampa/St. Pete that he would move the team there if they built him a stadium. They built the incredibly awful Tropicana Field, but while they were building it, Chicago agreed to build the new Comiskey and the team stayed here. This led directly to the expansion of baseball with the Tampa Rays (at the time they were called the Devil Rays, but now it is just the Rays).  Either way, the White Sox managed to move into a slightly less awful stadium in Chicago which seems to change names every 10 years.

(*) There is some dispute as to whether we have reached the halfway mark.  There are 30 baseball teams and we have visited 15 stadiums.  However, the stadium in Atlanta was torn down last year, and by a unanimous vote the rules committee (Josh) it was decreed that we must visit the New Atlanta stadium in order to complete the tour. The rules committee is also considering the question of whether the visit to the Nationals stadium for the All Star Game counted as the game played there was only an exhibition and therefore not a real game.  When we have a decision from the committee I will let you know.

All in all, should be a great weekend.  Two baseball games in 24 hours, what more could a person ask for?

 

The Stadium Tour Continues

Last weekend I did my solo road trip to Pittsburgh, another stop in the grand tour of baseball stadiums. 500 miles each way, give or take a bit. I left around Friday noon, looking forward to a sunshine filled afternoon drive to Cleveland. Unfortunately, the weather gods decided to toy with me. It rained on and off, every 45 minutes to an hour, with intermittent sunshine along the way. Every time I stopped to put the top down, the clouds would roll back in and it would begin to rain. Finally, after 3 or 4 times raising and lowering the top, I gave up. Of course, it was then beautiful and sunny for the rest of the day’s drive.

I stayed overnight near the Cleveland airport, got up and did the quick 2.5-hour drive to Pittsburgh and arrived around lunch. The Steelers and the Pirates’ stadiums (stadia?) are in one section of town, and once Josh arrived, we wandered over there for lunch.  We found Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36 (not surprisingly it is near Heinz Field) and had a decent lunch.  The one weird/scary/funny thing about the place is that men’s room is separated from the bar area by a one-way mirror that starts about chest high and goes to the ceiling.  Yes, the mirror side is the side facing the bar, but still, it is somewhat weird to be in the bathroom and look out over the bar.PNC

We went to PNC Park, the Pirates’ stadium, around 6 p.m. to get ready for the Cubs v. Bucs.  We had pretty cool seats.  They were behind home plate, front row on the second deck, above the safety netting.  The game itself was kind of dull. The teams were pitching their fourth and fifth starters, so we weren’t expecting a pitching duel.  The Bucs jumped out to a three-run lead in the second and then held on to win 3-1 behind 7 strong innings from their pitcher, Joe Musgrove.  All in all, it was an unexciting game, but they did have great beer (Souther Tier 2X IPA on draft) and excellent fireworks afterwards.

De Luca'sSunday morning, we decided to go to Deluca’s Diner for brunch.  It is apparently a Pittsburgh tradition and I am pretty sure that the last time it was remodeled was during the Nixon Administration (maybe before that).  I valeted my car down the street and when the guy asked how long I would be; I replied, “Not sure, going to Deluca’s.”

He said, “No problem…figure 4-6 hours.” Eek!  We waited for only about 20 minutes, but the food was worth it. (What, no food porn? What kind of blog is this?)

We were done with brunch by noon and we both hit the road for home.  Josh had a 4 hour drive and mine was about 7.5.  The drive home was beautiful.  Sun was out almost the whole way and temperatures were in the mid-80s.  Perfect weather for driving with the top down.

We have hit the halfway point in the stadiums tour.

Going Solo

….around the world in a rowboat.  Ok, maybe not that far, but I am taking a solo weekend trip (I am so sad –as far as Steven knows) to Pittsburgh in a couple of weeks.  It is part of the baseball stadium tour that I am doing with my son and we’re meeting there for a Cubs v. Pirates game.

My plan is drive out there (about 7 1/2 hour drive) on Saturday morning; catch the game Saturday night, then turn around and drive home on Sunday.   I usually like to be in the city around lunch time, so it might be a very early departure.  The Saab needs a little bit of care before I go.  An oil change (we have done 6,500 miles or so since the last one in June) and I think the wheels need to be aligned as I feel a slight tug on them when traveling on the highways (of course never more than the speed limit–note the part about the New Mexico State Trooper).  I will probably take care of those this week.

I haven’t picked up tickets yet, but I will do that this week.  I want to avoid sitting near the visitors dugout because Cubs fans travel so well.  We made that mistake when we went to Miami earlier this year and saw the Cubs play the Marlins.  Everyone around us was from Chicago,  I will look for seats on the Pirates side of the stadium this time.  I am hoping we will see Jon Lester and Chris Archer pitch; we haven’t been to a real pitcher’s duel in a while.

Usually our plan is to find a nice place for lunch, get to the game early to see batting practice and the pre-game presentations and then hang out for the game.  Since we are both driving, I expect we will have a nice breakfast Sunday morning then hit the road.  If anyone has suggestions for lunch and breakfast places near the stadium, please let me know.