| Middle | End
we're in cleveland right
now. lots of stuff coming up, should be hectic.
we left cincinnati after
the game and stayed at a rest stop about 30 miles outside of columbus.
the next day we drove through columbus, ate brunch and hit the road again.
columbus is home of OSU, but isn't all that notable otherwise. we wanted
to see frank lloyd wright's "falling water" before the end of the day so
we hit the road for western pennsylvania. ohio has some lush forested scenery
so it definitely has that going for it. one thing i don't like about ohio,
though, is that they allows smoking in restaurants. eventually they'll
join the rest of civilization, but in the meantime it's an annoyance with
which you have to deal.
it took a little longer
than expected to get to falling water because the roads there are smaller
highways that stop through towns and have sections that are more winding
than normal. we got there just as the last tour was starting so we hurried
down the hill (after paying the excessive $16 fee per person) and joined
the tour which was just getting underway. in addition to the high fee,
the stewards of the property insist that no photography be taken during
the tour. in fact, you can only take outside photos of the property (before/after
the tour) unless you pay $50 for an all-access tour in the morning. i found
their restrictions to be excessive, but i think it was worth it in the
end. it's considered one of the finest pieces of american architecture
and it's a one-of-a-kind building so it was worth $16 to see it. i didn't
necessarily love the space, but i love his vision. for example, i could
have done without the stone floors which i found to work well in theory,
but practical application. they're uneven, cold and hard so they're not
for me. these days it's easy to go with a stone tile and radiant floor
heating, which would eliminate the temperature problem, but that wasn't
an option at the time. i would have preferred some nice quartersawn oak.
as distinct a house as it is, it's still very much a wright design. he
uses radiant heat in the walls, along with built-in furniture along the
walls, the fireplace is large and dominating, the exterior has a very modern
look, and the entire house works about as well with its surroundings as
anything i've ever seen. i've seen homes that build around pre-existing
trees and boulders and the like, but this one stands in its own class.
the home was built for the kaufmann's, who own a chain of dept. stores
in pittsburgh and used the house as a getaway. it was originally slated
to have a $40k budget, but wright swept that aside. total cost: $155k,
which equates to about $4.5 million today. i'll post some pictures soon,
including some interior shots which i took without permission, but you
can probably find better exterior shots on the internet. it was raining
(water was falling at falling water, har har) while i was taking the pictures
so they're underexposed.
fuzzy interior shots,
couldn't use the flash because the photo nazi (tour guide) was watching
after rain drove us away
from falling water we went to the ohiopyle falls. i think both the falling
water house and the ohiopyle falls are on the same river (youghiogheny),
but i'm not certain. the falls are nice enough little things, but they're
not amazing. it started to rain again so we fled for the shelter of the
we left the falling water
region and headed over to pittsburgh. about an hour later we were in pittsburgh
with nothing to do. we find ourselves on the south side and decide to catch
a movie. before the movie we walked down a strip of shops and eateries
and had some ice cream. after the movie we drove to a nearby parking lot
and slept. neither of us can remember anything about where we slept. living
on the road is such a blur sometimes....just remembered - we slept outside
of a lowe's hardware store.
the next day we went to
the carnegie museum of art and carnegie museum of natural history. they're
both located in one rather large building. they've got a good range of
exhibits and we enjoyed our time there. they had exhibits on dinosaurs,
birds, architecture (for a buck more), ancient egypt, insects, modern art,
and plenty more. while there meryl and i argued about the merits of modern
art. below is my contribution to the art form.
this is a meditation on the nature of light and how it can both make and
break a piece of art. when i took this picture i was thinking about how
wonderful an artist i am and how my crappy pictures are going to change
a work by mark tansey,
whose work i thoroughly enjoy. check out "derrida queries deman"
meryl likes this one:
after the museum we went
to the outskirts of town to get a hotel room and watch the ukraine get
destroyed by italy. afterwards we went downtown to watch the pirates game.
pittsburgh is a pretty cool city in that it is large enough to have the
benefits of a large city (from cultural venues to sports teams), but it
never really feels overwhelming because it's so well tucked into the hills
and three rivers on which it's built. additionally, there didn't seem to
be many bad neighborhoods - and we got plenty lost to find 'em, but seldom
did. that's one drawback about the city - it's difficult to navigate, esp.
to newcomers. there are a lot of winding, small roads that lead to small
neighborhoods. many of the roads are dead ends and only a few are long
enough to really get you somewhere. gps definitely came in handy.
meryl mentioned that comerica
was probably an HOK design, but i looked
it up today and found that it wasn't. just a bit of fact-checking for you.
that said, it is very reminiscent of their style. it has the same tall,
slender style lights that they used at great american ballpark (which is
HOK designed) in cincinnati and it had the same green steel and gray concrete
look that they use in camden (also designed by HOK). so, while comerica
isn't an HOK design, it sure does look it. anyway, i've downloaded their
portfolio onto the computer so we can look it up whenever we want. pnc
park in pittsburgh IS an HOK design and it shows. if you look at their
portfolio you see just how many parks and stadiums they have designed,
so it's not just our obsession - they're truly influential in the field
of fields, har har. anyway, i like their designs, but i feel like their
style is a little too easily recognizable. pnc is a nice park with an intimate
feel. it's got a good view of the river (allegheny, i think) as well as
the downtown skyline. it has the word "pirates" cut into shrubs in center
field and the bleachers (where we were) were general admission. it's got
only two levels and the press box is behind home plate as usual, but higher
than the other top tier seats, which i thought was pretty nifty. generally
the press are located between the first and second levels, and most parks
have a third level.
the crowd was into the
game, but not amazingly so. the pirates are called the "bucs" for cheer
purposes and many of the fans seemed understandably upset with pirates
management. the team sucks (although they had just broken a 13(?) game
losing streak in yesterday's game) and they don't show signs of getting
any better. one drunk guy next to me was ranting about these facts and
said something about not being able to stand the "millionaire humanoids"
at the game. he also said the "PNC" in PNC park stood for "Public Not Considered."
he was a bit annoying, but you get good info from drunk fans sometimes.
after the pirates lost, despite showing signs of life late in the game,
we walked across the 6th street bridge and drove back to the motel. traffic
getting out of area wasn't too bad at all, then again, there were only
about 28k people there. oh, during the game they allow the crowd to vote
on which form of entertainment they want in the next inning. they offered
two songs: one by jimmy buffett and one by gnarls barkley and one video
of a squirrel on waterskis. the squirrel won by a landslide. people are
such monkeys sometimes.
view from just beyond
the center field wall, basically the same view as you get from behind the
view from our seat
in the left field bleachers:
pittsburgh is in full swing
for the all-star game. those kinds of things are really big for cities.
the next day we had plans on walking around various parts of pittsburgh
- south side, lawrenceville and mt. washington, but drove through instead.
south side has a strip of shops and the like and mt. washington is situated
on a hill which is good for getting a good shot of pittsburgh. lawrenceville
is the up and coming interior design district. it was replete with street
vendors of all kinds and some studios. having completed the two cent tour,
we hit the road for central ohio; this was yesterday, saturday.
we drove to canton and
visited the football hall of fame. in ohio football is king so it makes
sense that the hall of fame be located somewhere in the area. i had previously
thought that football, in its modern day incarnation was more or less invented
in massillon ohio, but i was wrong. apparently it made its first big impression
here and the first really successful team (with jim thorpe) was in canton
so that's why the hall of fame is where it is. i also found out that the
oldest pro football organization is actually the arizona cardinals. naturally
they've moved, but they're even older than the bears. the football hall
of fame is the least impressive of the halls that we've seen...now i really
wish i had seen the hockey hall of fame in toronto, maybe there will be
another somewhere in the u.s. that said, it's still a good place to visit
if you're a football fan. they have: an exhibit on the evolution of the
nfl, an exhibit on all the teams along with major dates in their history,
etc., video of all the inductees (though they didn't have interactive stats
like the other two halls had), a theater that rotates 180 degrees and shows
some gameday and training camp footage, an exhibit on superbowls (including
the pertinent stats and plays of all 40), an exhibit on nfl players in
uniform which was pretty extensive, and a bunch of interactive stuff downstairs
including: trivia games, madden on PS2, an exhibit on how the balls are
made and a football toss. one room was pretty outdated and could have used
some freshening up, but the rest seemed recent and useful. i was very disappointed
by the lack of two subjects: the evolution of the rules and strategies.
i think that football is the most strategic of the four major sports and
the evolution of the rules played a critical role in the emergence of different
strategies and importance of different positions at different times. my
football encyclopedia does a great job of outlining how different coaches
and players influenced the evolution of different defensive and offensive
formations, from the wishbone to the cover 2 to the nickel, dime, quarter,
3-4, 4-3, etc. a discussion of this should have been included.
we stayed in detroit
with this guy:
massillon, by the way,
is the subject of a good documentary called "go tigers!" about the high
school football team. check it out. the hall of fame area isn't as littered
with sport-related cafes and shops as cooperstown is. after visiting the
hall we drove through akron and stopped outside of town to eat, watch a
movie and sleep.
this morning we drove a
short distance to cleveland. so far all we've done is upload the page,
eat and take care of the laundry. later tonight we'll catch a movie and
find a place to sleep. tomorrow we have a game and the rock and roll hall
of fame. i think the building was designed by either i.m. pei or louis
kahn, but i'm not sure. will find out tomorrow.
went to the rock and roll
hall of fame this morning after a cheap, but good breakfast at some place
that took forever to find. cleveland is short on quality dining, but not
the rock and roll hall
of fame is housed in a very nice structure designed by i.m. pei, which
makes sense since it is similar to the louvre (sp?) addition he did. i
like his work. architecture is interesting because it's an interactive
and ever-changing artform. as you move through a building you can experience
it in different ways. as winter comes and the light changes you experience
the building in a new way. as it gets older you experience it in a different
way. so, for all these reasons, great buildings are pieces of artwork which
you can enjoy for a long time. plus, i'm someone who values utility so
buildings have the advantage of not only having potential as art, but also
as useful places in which to conduct business or live or visit.
the rock and roll hall
of fame is great, but also manages to be a let down at the same time. it's
six floors worth of exhibits and they generally focus on movements, artists
and places. we started with two short films which i thought were well done
and provided a good introduction to the hall. the first film is a montage
of roots type music being performed along with shots of typical rootsy
environs: mountains, railroads, etc. this film serves to lay the groundwork
for the next film which will introduce rock and roll. both films are shown
on three panels with the center panel differing from the other two. the
second film did the same thing as the first, but with rock and with some
interview footage from rock icons like bono and neil young. these sorts
of montages always make me want to rush to my cd collection and start pouring
through all the music that i love.
after the films we worked
our way around the large circular room which featured exhibits on: the
roots of rock from r&b to gospel and blues, different regional sounds
from liverpool and detroit to SF and LA, the 500 songs most influential
to rock, and select rock icons from tom petty and the rolling stones to
jimi hendrix and neil young.
there's a lot to synthesize
and the place is apparently always packed so it's tough to really stay
still and read everything they present. admission is $20 and there were
easily a thousand people in and out of the place in the five hours that
we were there. i found myself wondering quite a bit about where all the
money goes. they have a sizable gift shop that sells cds as well as shirts,
shot glasses, memorabilia, posters and more. clearly this place is pulling
in tens of thousands of dollars a day and i can't imagine they have much
overhead. add to that the fact they probably get a majority of their stuff
donated and it begs the question: where's the money going? oh, they don't
allow photography inside either so that sucked. apparently, though, that's
because several artists would only donate items with that stipulation.
floors two through six
were smaller than the first floor, you'll understand why when you see the
pictures. the other floors had exhibits on the evolution of the radio and
audio equipment which i thought was a good idea. they lauded innovators
such as les paul, sam phillips and alan freed. they also have a nice video
exhibit dedicated to mtv and a two wall exhibit on rolling stone magazine
(including a snotty letter from a member of the rolling stones complaining
about the name of their magazine).
the top two floors were
dedicated to an exhibit on bob dylan which i'm sure john would have loved.
they went over the importance of each of his first eight or so albums and
had listening stations as well. of course they talked about his roots,
his evolution, his choice to go electric, etc. perhaps most impressive
was their inclusion of an extremely rare stereo copy of the freewheelin'
bob dylan on vinyl. if memory serves this record is worth $30k, though
they didn't mention this fact. i guess i should mention that...all the
exhibits were packed with guitars, clothing, records, contracts, etc. that
were signed or used by the people being honored. they even had childhood
drawings from hendrix and a report card of jim morrison. as many bands
and artists as they singled out, there were numerous deserving bands/artists
they didn't mention or have exhibits for. perhaps this is a result of band
non-participation, but they had exhibits on bob seger, tom petty and a
couple other second tier artists, but they didn't have anything for led
zeppelin or black sabbath which i consider pantheon rock groups. all in
all it was a great place, but it barely scratched the surface. it would
have been nice to see some more discussion of various genres like metal
or punk and new wave, but there's just so much to cover.
after the HOF we wasted
two hours driving around looking for a place to get the oil changed. then
we went to the indians game.
jacobs field was funded
in part by some guy named jacobs and the other 48% by a sin tax - a 15
year tax increase on alcohol and tobacco. it has nothing to do with the
park, but it's a quick way of raising $100 million bucks. jacobs field
is one of the nicer parks we've seen. it's bigger than pnc park, but it's
not as huge as skydome - jacobs seats about 42k. we sat in the right field
upper deck and the seats were a bit far, but they weren't awful at all.
when we got there we walked around the park to see it from as many different
views as possible. one thing i definitely appreciated about the park were
the wide concourses. they're so wide, in fact, that there's enough room
for picnic tables and two sets of walkways divided by concession stands.
according to our book, the bleacher area is cordoned off from the rest
of the park, but we were able to walk through that area without any problem
so maybe things have changed. i think they also have the second largest
jumbotron in the league - toronto's looked bigger, but our book said the
indians one was the largest. the book has been wrong in the past though.
the park looks like an HOK design, but it's not as obvious as minute maid
or pnc. the left field wall has a "mini green monster" which is sorta nice.
other than that jacobs field was pretty similar to most of the other modern
view from our seat:
he bounced it to the
plate and looked like a fool in the process...
we went to our section
and the usher asked for our tickets, which i thought was odd since we were
so far up that i doubt anyone would want to sneak into that section. we
were seated in row s, but decided to sit much further down, hoping that
not many people would show up to a monday night game. by the end of the
first half inning, though, we had been moved a couple times and we retreated
up to our actual seats. it was pretty obnoxious and both of us were annoyed
already because of the two hours we had wasted earlier looking for a jiffy
lube type place. the people next to us seemed pretty drunk and started
asking meryl what had just happened because they weren't paying attention.
i got pretty annoyed, but they asked a bunch of questions about the trip
so that put them in meryl's good graces. sometime in the 3rd inning meryl
told me to look at the jumbotron, which was divided into left and right
sections. i looked up and saw something moving on the right so my eyes
gravitated there. it was some stat thing so i turned back to her and asked
why she wanted me to look. by then the reason she had asked me to look
was gone. she had coordinated with the indians to get them to put a message
on the board wishing me a happy birthday, and i missed it. so that put
a damper on things. apparently they told her it was coming in the 4th inning,
and those things come up with out warning and are only up for a few seconds
so i missed it. it really sucked. we sat around for another couple innings
and left because we didn't feel like watching the game anymore.
we headed out for chicago
and watched the fireworks show after the game while we were driving away.
tonight we're going to stay in some high school parking lot in between
cleveland and chicago.
night we parked in the high school parking lot was NOT fun. We fell asleep
around 12:30 or so but were woken up around 2:15 by a HUGE thunderstorm.
When I was little I used to sleep through thunderstorms a lot, and sometimes
I still do, however this time I was not as fortunate. I've experienced
some big thunderstorms living in Texas for a year, but I've got to say
this one was pretty impressive. It rained extremely hard and the thunder
was so powerful it shook the car every once in a while. I finally managed
to fall asleep blocking out the noise, but I woke up pretty frequently
the rest of the night, so that kinda sucked.
woke up in the morning and headed for Chicago. It was Chris' birthday,
but I had attempted to give him one present that didn't work out and given
him his other one the day before, so I didn't have anything else to give.
I figured his present for the day would be me driving the 6 or 7 hours.
We drove for pretty much the entire day besides a little detour to South
Bend in order to see the Notre Dame campus. It looked pretty impressive,
but cars weren't really allowed anywhere near the campus, so we didn't
get that great of a tour. We got back on the road and continued on to Chicago.
We hadn't stayed in a hotel for a while so we found a Super 8 motel about
30 miles outside of Chicago around 3:45 or so and decided to stay there.
We watched the end of the Italy/Germany game which was pretty dissapointing
because I was REALLY going for Germany. They played really well, but seemed
to be on the defensive most of the game, so it was really only a matter
of time before Italy scored. It kinda sucked because I REALLY didn't want
Italy to win. At the same time, I wouldn't have wanted a semifinal match
to end in penalty kicks, so I guess seeing it end in OT was better than
seeing it end in PKs. After the game was over we hung out around the hotel
room trying to figure out what to do. It was too late to go into Chicago
because everything would probably be closed, not to mention it was the
fourth. We looked online (we were high rollers this time, our hotel had
wireless internet) to see what movies were playing. Chris and I have seen
nearly every movie out (with the exception of Cars and Prairie Home Companion)
so it was a little difficult trying to find a movie. We found a second
run theater that was playing The Sentinel and neither of us had seen it
so we decided it would be better to drive the 30 minutes than stay in the
hotel all night. I've heard mixed reviews on the movie, but I was entertained
enough for the $5 we each paid.
woke up this morning and got a later start on the day than we anticipated
(mostly because I take too long to get ready, oh well dammit I enjoy my
shower every three days). When we got into Chicago I was in a serious state
of crankiness and so it took us a while to figure out what to do. We finally
decided on a $20 double decker guided tour because my knee was really bothering
me. It turns out for the amount of time we had we made a pretty good choice.
The tour took us around the downtown area and some of the surrounding neighborhoods
(Chris took lots of notes on the tour, so I'll leave it to him to fill
you in on the details). After the tour we headed back to the car to eat
a little snack, have some water, change, etc. before the game. We found
the Metra with relative ease and arrived at US Cellular field around 6:15.
We walked around the field a bit, but were pretty unimpressed. It's not
like the field sucks, it's just really not anything special. After seeing
great classic ball parks (Fenway) and great new ones (Citizens Bank) it's
starting to take more and more to impress. We walked around a bit more
and then found our seats. Now, until this point our best seats have been
the ones the Mets gave us (directly behind homeplate about 20 rows back)
but this game has that beat. My dad was able to snag us seats from a friend
of his in Chicago and they were AMAZING. We were about one section over
from homeplate and 5 rows back. It was QUITE a good view, and excellent
distance for me to boo AJ Pierzynski when he was in the on deck circle,
so I was a happy camper. The White Sox scored 4 runs in the first inning,
but didn't produce the rest of the game. The Orioles scored 1 in the 3rd
and 1 in the 9th, so they sadly lost. I was pretty dissapointed, something
about the White Sox fans rubbed me the wrong way, so I was rooting for
the Orioles. SPEAKING of White Sox "fans," there was an AWFUL excuse for
a female at the game. Sometimes I really am ashamed to be a woman, and
the sight of this chick was one of those times. Right before the start
of the game a stripper and her pimp walked down the aisle and sat in seats
about 4 rows ahead of us. The stripper (I'll call her Candi) and her pimp
(I'll call him Jeffrey) giggled and pointed in the White Sox dug out while
they drank beers for a few innings. Even though everyone had SWEATSHIRTS
on, Candi was dressed in pants that revealed her panties, a shirt that
was tied behind her so that it showed her entire stomach from her bra line
down, had a slit cut down the front of her shirt so you could see her leather
cleavage, and to top it off, she was wearing a hat that said "Poll Katz."
I was COMPLETELY disgusted. After about the 3rd inning an usher came over
and asked for Candi and Jeffrey's tickets and told them to leave when they.....SHOCKER......were
not sitting the right seats. She claimed she "didn't know" where her seats
were. I saw the two later on in the game, they had moved down to close
seats again, but this time she had a baseball with her, no doubt she prostituted
herself for a foul ball. But back to baseball.....although I was sad the
Orioles lost, it was one of the better games we've seen, so that made it
fun, and our seats were fabulous, so there's no way you could have a bad
time with seats like that.
the game we drove to a place Chris had heard about called "Wiener's Circle"
for a snack before we got back on the road. It was pretty tasty and the
wait staff was humorous. i had seen this place on the insomniac
show on comedy central and heard of its reputation for curt, curse-laden
service. e.g., "what you want mutha fucka?" "gimme some fries and burger
and make it quick, bitch" "a'ight, that'll be five bucks you asshole..."
i guess it was hammed up a bit for the television show, and it probably
wasn't late enough for the bar crowds. the two ladies who helped me were
certainly unprofessional (one was on her cellphone) and both were gossiping
about something while slinging profanities. that said, they weren't unprofessional
enough for me. i would have liked a bit more cussing and rudeness, oh well.
now we're on the road headed for Kansas City. The next few days will be
FULL of driving. I'm a little nervous how my knee will hold up because
after yesterday's day full of driving I was pretty uncomfortable today.
Hopefully a little ice and cruise control will be enough to not bother
it too much. Darryn (at work) will be proud of us as we've fit in a Cardinals
game (sometime next week, I think next Wednesday), and we've also moved
stuff around to fit in a Rockies game as well. While the next 2 weeks will
be full of driving, we'll also be seeing a TON of games, so that will be
birthday was pretty uneventful,
which was a nice change. it basically played out as a day off before the
stretch of non-stop driving. we're in iowa right now. iowa is home of slipknot
which kinda makes sense since only a state as boring as this could produce
a band like that. well, not really, but iowa's fairly mundane. i'd like
to talk with some of the farmers because i agree with jefferson on the
issue of farmers.
south bend was a disappointment
because we didn't really get to see the entire campus.
chicago is pretty great.
somehow i didn't really realize that the first time i went there. it's
noisy and the traffic is obnoxious, but the great skyscrapers (which create
one of the best skylines i've seen) aren't as imposing as they are in nyc
and there seem to be a greater distribution of parks around the city. like
nyc or la, it's got a great arts and culture scene with museums, film,
music and theater covering something for everyone.
some tidbits from the tour
and other sources: first hilton hotel is in chicago. 12 million people
live on the coast of lake michigan. chicago gets its drinking water from
lake michigan. the chicago river flows backwards, thanks to a project from
the army corps of engineers to better the quality of the water. there are
a crap load of condos near the lake, many of which have gone up relatively
recently. richard daley jr. is mayor and has been since 1989; his father
was mayor for the previous 21 years. the navy pier is the #1 tourist attraction
in illinois. chicago is home of the first ferris wheel. george ferris built
it to compete with the popularity of the eiffel tower. "devil and the white
city" was a book that was recommended by one of the guides as a great history
of chicago. north michigan ave during the "magnificent mile" stretch is
the equivalent to nyc's 5th avenue. no zoning laws in the city. house of
blues first founded in chicago. there was a story about a guy who built
the civic opera house to support his wife's amateur opera career. didn't
catch the guy's name, but clearly this is reminiscent of citizen kane.
the "el" went up in 1892 in anticipation of the world's fair. apparently
the sears tower is the largest occupied office building in the world. there
are the petronas towers and the taipei 101 which i thought were office
buildings, but maybe the guide's information was dated, or perhaps those
buildings aren't considered office buildings because they're dual-use or
something. whatever, i've seen the largest free-standing building in the
world already so i refuse to be impressed. oh, one reason the skyline in
chicago is less obscured than it is in nyc is because of a measure they
passed which required buildings to cut in "y" number of feet for every
"x" number of feet high they are; thus the sears tower doesn't seem as
impressive as the wtc, yet it's taller. la salle blvd. is equivalent to
nyc's wall street; it's also where many films in chicago have been shot.
home of the largest public library in the u.s, named after their first
some of the more interesting
pieces of architecture: the chicago tribune building (1925), hancock tower
and sears tower (designed by same person), house of blues and its hotel,
millennium park building designed by frank o. gehry, 94 story trump tower
(in construction), federal reserve building, mcdonald's replica - four
times as large as the original - built to celebrate the 50th anniversary,
thompson center, and many more.
trump tower in the
foreground is currently under construction. in the background are two honeycomb
style parking structures which i like.
the building on the
right is the chicago tribune office building, in the center is a bit of
a bridge that crosses the chicago river, not sure about the building on
the left, but i like it.
john hancock building:
me looking at the art
institute of chicago
soldier field, aka
the mistake on the lake:
greatest human advances,
according to chris (in no order): wheel, electricity, film, steel, antibiotics,
agriculture, written language, internet, seinfeld, printing press.
why do you always see places
that serve breakfast all day, but not dinner? there are lots of people
who want steak at 7am, we call them brits. seriously though, i think restaurateurs
are a bunch of mealists.
forgot to mention that
we went to white castle on my birthday because i'd never been there and
the beastie boys reference them in at least two of their songs: "from white
castle to the nile" and "white castle burgers only come in one size" anyway,
white castle burgers suck so i don't know why harold and (mostly) kumar
were so intent on going there.
meryl pretty much covered
the game below. the seats were great and the game was pretty good. the
fans around us weren't all that exciting, but that probably had more to
do with the seats than white sox fans in general.
"hey dipshit, look
i've been shooting
in manual mode more lately so some of the pictures are a bit unbalanced.
any tips, johnny?
right now we're about 2.5
hours from kansas city and we have a game scheduled pretty quickly after
last night (thursday) we
went to kansas city to see the royals beat the blue jays; a rare occurrence.
the royals have a pretty unique little park, which actually seats over
40k. they're a small market team and the park is separate from the rest
of the city (think arco arena). the most notable features are the vertically
curved exterior wall and the fountains (which spray in many different configurations)
beyond outfield. the latter was not liked by meryl. i would have liked
it more if they had some seating beyond the outfield wall, but didn't feel
it was enough to keep me from liking the park. i liked that it was a unique
looking park, i liked the fountain (even though it means a lack of outfield
seats), and i like small market teams like the royals. the fans were generally
pretty laid back and didn't offer much entertainment as a result. they
reminded me most of the tampa bay fans who will get into the game at critical
points and generally seem to know baseball, but aren't as animated as,
say, mets fans.
curved upper deck makes
the park look smaller and more open.
around home plate:
we got there about an hour
before the game and the place was more empty than i have ever seen at a
sports venue. by game time the lower level looked semi-crowded, but was
still depressingly empty. attendance was a paltry 10,848. more than anything
i felt sorry for the royals organization. the field was pockmarked with
spots of brownish grass and the entire affair just felt like a minor league
game. i liked it, but i felt bad for them. the pregame festivities were
pretty limited. we saw some people tailgating and playing washers, but
it was pretty dead other than that. a lot of the concession stands were
closed and there just wasn't much going on. it was eerily quiet for a ballgame.
there weren't many vendors yelling "programs here" or "get your peanuts
here." those things are an essential part of the ballgame experience and
they were basically absent. one really cool thing they did before the game
was have two groups of parachuters land on the field. the first group were
two canadian guys and the second group were seven american guys. afterwards
the plane that dropped them did a fly by and that was impressive as well.
the second canadian guy who landed had a pretty rough landing. there were
two americans who came in on top of each other - one guy standing on the
other's shoulders. i also liked the fact that they had a real organ and
organ player at the stadium.
the game itself was fun
enough. redman had a nice outing - he went 8 1/3 and only allowed two runs.
there was some drama in the 8th inning when a man apparently fell down
near an tunnel a couple sections over from us. paramedics were on the scene
and were relatively calm for a while, but then i saw them start cpr and
clear the area of onlookers. after a couple minutes of cpr i saw them bring
a portable defibulator and then they hurried to put the man on a stretcher
and carry him out. around this time i saw an ambulance arrive from the
road past center field. over the course of the next inning another ambulance
and two fire trucks arrived on the scene. it seemed odd that they would
need so many emergency response vehicles. if he was dead then there wouldn't
be a rush, if he was alive i'd think they'd just use one vehicle and rush
him to the hospital. perhaps monique can illuminate the situation for me.
after the game meryl asked about the incident and an usher said that, last
he heard, the man was alive and breathing.
after the game we drove
for a couple hours to get a jump on today's long drive to denver.
i've been seeing a lot
of casinos around the country. it's a pretty disturbing trend. i generally
don't hold casinos in high regard. i think they're a blight on the community
in spite of the revenue and jobs they produce. i see them primarily as
a quick fix.
when we went to the reds
game we got free barry larkin bobble heads. he won mvp in 1995 while batting
.319 and hitting only 15 hr, 66 rbi, and recording 36 steals. it's amazing
that you could be mvp with those stats back then. in 1996 he became the
first 30/30 shortstop.
kansas is reputed to be
an extremely flat state, but we've encountered a rolling landscape. our
drive through iowa was just as flat as kansas. kansas has a bevy of kitschy
attractions like the dorothy (of the wizard of oz) museum or the site that
features a 36 inch donkey, a six-legged steer, and the largest prairie
dog in the world (8,000 lbs, supposedly). some town along the way even
tried to attract tourists by proclaiming itself as the birthplace of arlen
specter and bob dole. that's like trying to pick up chicks by telling them
you have a raging case of hemorrhoids. sexy.
after several hours of
driving yesterday we arrived in colorado springs where we got a much needed
oil change. while waiting in the pricey (and slow) jiffy lube we read magazines.
after a couple minutes a woman customer walked into the waiting room and
saw something on the television (which was playing fox news) and started
talking about how we should bomb the hell out of north korea because they
"don't get it." the other two guys in the room were two plumbers who were
having their truck serviced and one of them joined in on the conversation.
the two of them went back and forth about how america hasn't made it clear
enough to the world that we're in charge and missile testing won't be tolerated.
fragments like "we should just bomb the hell out of them" and "we should
turn them into a desert" were highlights. the woman was particularly vocal
and went on to proclaim that we'd have done it already if it weren't for
the democrats making bush jump through so many hoops before he went to
war. she also mentioned that there were indeed weapons of mass destruction
in iraq, but the liberal media wasn't reporting on it. she added: "fox
is the only one that's about half way decent, the rest are crap." she's
one of the more vile, pathetic, ignorant and stupid people i've had the
displeasure of listening to recently. if i thought it would help i might
have piped up with a bit of wisdom, but it would have fallen on deaf ears,
so i didn't. what do you say to someone that blinded with hate and with
that level of disregard for humanity?
after the oil change we
went to a place called conway's red top which is a local burger chain that
was mentioned as a model chain in fast food nation. i had made note
of it some time ago when i read the book and finally got a chance to go
there. they're famous for making large quality burgers with ethics. it
was more of a good food, fast type of place than a fast food place. if
you ever find yourself in the area check them out. the nevada street location
was the first.
it took us about 90 minutes
to get to coors field because of some traffic, but we got there with time
to spare and found a cheap parking spot. the tickets were pricey, but we
drove about nine hours to get there so we weren't going to be denied. we
bought some upper level tickets which were basically in the same location
as the blue jays game (third deck, behind home plate), but were more than
twice as much ($24 vs. $11 canadian). after 3-4 innings it started raining,
then it started pouring, then the wind started blowing and then the game
was postponed. we sat around getting wet (despite being under the overhang)
and contemplating our options (and our shitty luck) for a while. then the
wind died down a bit so we weren't getting wet from the horizontal rain
anymore, but the field was getting plenty drenched still. all told we waited
about 75 minutes hoping that the rain would subside so we could watch the
rest of the game, but it didn't so we left. we hit the road and it rained
pretty much the entire two hours that we drove. we spent the night in a
flying j truck stop.
the next morning we learned
that the game did continue, after a three hour delay, and ended with the
same score (4-3). we had mixed feelings about that. if we didn't have over
1000 miles to drive before the game at 1pm tomorrow (plus the hour lost
to the time zone change) then we would have been two of 2,000 fans to stay
for the end of the game. anyway, the schedule called so we had to do what
we had to do. our luck has been fairly shitty in the weather department.
coors field is pretty nice.
it's supposed to have a great view, but i think you have to be in right
field to really see the rockies. plus, the visibility wasn't very good
because the smog or haze or something was thick. so, from our seats, with
the visibility as it was, the view was nice, but not spectacular. the park
itself is very nice, but too large. there's a second and third deck in
right/center field and it just makes the place look too big. it's especially
bad considering it's a baseball-only facility. rfk has a third deck in
outfield, but it's a dual-use facility so it's expected. i would have though
HOK would have urged denver away from this attribute. apparently the high
attendance while the rockies played at mile high was a factor in expanding
their original design (which called for a capacity of 43k instead of 50k).
they sold out a bunch of games for the first few years, but not anymore.
this is the typical story. it seems that cities should go the way of pittsburgh
and build a smaller stadium. it's more intimate, builds demand and excitement.
of course this only works when you have a team worth watching so i guess
the pirates are half way there...anyway, coors field has a lot of activities
on the main concourse - stuff like a pitch speed game and a couple batting
cages, the usual stuff, but more of it. the food looked pretty good and
they seemed to have a good range of it. on the upper deck they have a row
around the entire stadium which indicates the mile high marker with purple
seats. beyond the outfield wall they have a waterfall feature with some
trees. this is right next to the bullpens. overall i liked the place, but
thought it was too big and too expensive.
rain delay didn't phase
today we're just driving
so there's nothing to report. we've gone through cheyenne, lincoln, omaha
and des moines so that's three more capital cities that we've been to.
i finished the al franken book this morning so we're running low on reading
material. that's all.
we drove about 14 hours
yesterday and another 1-2 hours today. the route from denver to milwaukee
isn't all that notable. there are some cities in between the two, but nothing
really that wonderful. we drove through madison, but didn't get to visit.
i've been there before and i thought it was pretty nice. we have a few
days off now because of the all-star break so we might be able to visit
milwaukee and madison more extensively. we also have dyersville, ia on
the list because field of dreams was filmed there and meryl loves that
movie. we'd also like to spend more time in chicago. the next few days
are subject to change.
today was all about the
milwaukee game. it was a day game, but we got there really early because
we didn't have tickets and heard good things about the tailgate scene.
we were there about three hours early and there were still plenty of people
in the parking lot firing up the grills and getting an early jump on the
excessive drinking. it was definitely a good scene and it really is infectious
and conducive to the game day experience. in other places the atmosphere
is so much more family oriented and as such there isn't much of a tailgating
scene. there were a lot more cubs fans than brewers fans, which was a bit
of a surprise, and the game ended up being sold out - except for the standing
room seats. we looked around for an atm hoping that we'd come across a
scalper, but the only atm in the vicinity was in the park and you need
a ticket to get in. so we went to a different box office window and asked
again if there were any seats. while she looked i explained that we just
wanted to get into the park and that we were on a cross-country trip, etc.
long story short she sold us a couple tickets which were previously reserved
for handicapped people. they turned out to be pretty good seats so we were
happy that the 16 hour drive wasn't for naught.
we both really liked miller
park. it's got a retractable roof that closes in two parts. inside it's
full of activities like a skeeball game, a basketball game, a giant inflatable
slide and a couple baseball games on xbox. everything was free, unlike
coors field. they also have various drinking related areas and services.
they offer a taxi service after the game, they have margarita bars, they
don't seem to mind tailgating, their mascot is some drunken brewer and,
of course, it's sponsored by an alcohol manufacturer. it's a big field,
like coors, but it feels smaller because the roof makes the whole park
seem more enclosed. the game itself wasn't anything special. that said,
the best play of the game was a suicide squeeze which came (i think) in
the fourth inning. those are always exciting. during the seventh inning
i ran down to the restaurant bar that they have in left field and watched
the end of the world cup game. it was disappointing and this world cup
didn't do much to increase the interest of the american audience. there
wasn't much parity, too many games were decided with penalty kicks and
there was a definite lack of scoring (which americans, for better or worse,
tend to like). i can't claim to be a soccer fan, but i'm a sports fan so
i watch anything that's big or on while i'm flipping around, but i don't
think most americans who gave this world cup a chance would have been won
me watching some kids
play mlb 2006. later i played one of them (i was the dodgers, he was the
brewers). we played three innings (because his damn mom told him to go)
and we tied 1-1.
murals like this one
were all around the park concourses:
leaving the stadium turned
out to be more of a pain than it should have been. there were signs directing
traffic to the major nearby freeway, but the signs guided everyone on an
excessively long path to the freeway entrance. the freeway itself is a
mere quarter mile from the park, the entrance that we were guided to was
a couple miles from the park. since everyone was taking the same path the
traffic was ridiculous.
i think there was a bunch
more stuff to address, but i've forgotten it all.
this morning we left our
motel 6 (the first in five days) and went to the milwaukee museum of art.
they have a nice, but not stellar collection with a decent range. the most
impressive part of the place is the main entrance which is an unusual piece
of architecture which seems very nautical to me. it fits, though, since
the museum is on the lake. they had a special exhibit on comic book art,
but it would have set us back another $12 so we didn't check that out.
not being rich apparently has its drawbacks.
not a very good picture,
wish i had more lenses for this camera.
right now we're on our
way to madison. one of these days i'll visit green bay, but it doesn't
look like today's going to be the day. we have to upload the page and do
some laundry. sometime tonight we plan on driving to dyersville so we can
take care of the field of dreams thing in the morning.
i'd like to go on more
factory tours. so far we've only gone to the mint and the jacksonville
i'm not looking forward
to finding a job after all this is done.
last night there was an
epic storm that swept in shortly after we got to the motel after the game.
that was one bit of luck that we've had. not only had we schedule to stay
at a motel last night, but we got inside before the rain started.
far the theme of our trip has been rain and never believe doctors (more
on that later). It seems like nearly 1 out of every 3 days of our trip
we have seen rain, which I've got to say for a BASEBALL trip, totally blows.
After getting to Dyersville last night we drove to the Field of Dreams
movie site just to see where it was. It was about 9:15 and we didn't really
have anything to do, so we drove around looking for a place to park for
the night. Dyersville has 2 main streets that are each about 5 or 6 blocks
long, that said, it wasn't too difficult to find a place to sleep for the
night, we settled on the National Farm Toy Museum. Because it was so early
we set up the laptop and watched a couple episodes of the Office (both
the British and American versions). We both decided that the British version
was far superior.
woke up this morning at about 6 am because of a HUGE storm. It had gotten
pretty cold (which was actually nice because we're both pretty tired of
being extremely hot when we sleep). What sucked though was that LOTS of
our stuff had gotten wet because we had the windows opened a crack. We
rolled up all the windows, but everything still got wet because of the
moisture in the air. I couldn't fall back asleep for another hour and a
half or so, mostly just because I was too stressed out about whether or
not we were going to get to go to the Field of Dreams movie site or not
(yes, I AM that big of a loser). After I finally fell back asleep we woke
up around 9 to no rain. I was QUITE excited. Chris started driving while
I sat in the back and moved everything from the passenger seat to the back
because we didn't want to waste anytime in case it started raining again.
When we got there we pulled into one of two parking lots (we later learned
the lot we pulled into is owned by some private investor in Milwaukee).
We walked over to the field and read all the billboards they had about
the location. It turns out the family that owned the house when it was
chosen for filming (the Lansings) have lived on the property since 1906
and still live in the house that was featured in the movie. They own most
of the farm land that the field is on except left field and a portion of
center (this is the area the private investors purchased from their neighbors).
Both sets of field owners have souvenir stands and info on the movie, but
we decided to stick to the Lansing's side of the field as they pay out
of pocket for the upkeep of their side of the field. The house still looks
almost completely the same, although the field is a little run down. Chris
and I walked around the field a bit and made our way to the Lansing's souvenir
stand and bought a shirt for me and some post cards. Near the stand they
had some cool facts about the field, the only one I unfortunately remember
is that they get about 55,000 visitors every year from April-November while
they are open. After we bought our souvenirs we headed back to the car
to do the cliche thing and get our gloves. Like the Field of Dreams fan
I am I was pretty happy getting to play catch with Christopher on the field,
however we only got to play for about 10 minutes before it started raining
again. Chris grabbed the camera and we took a picture of me coming out
of the corn because I'm that corny (pun intended). After getting soaked
by the rain we ran back to the car for safety.
about 45 minutes at the field we headed back to town to find a place for
breakfast. We drove down 1st Street and found the Dyersville Family Restaurant
and went in for breakfast. The food was good and it was CHEAP, which was
nice considering we went about $65 over budget last week because of all
the driving we did. Right now we're on the road to Rockford, Illinois and
then down to St. Louis. We've tooled around this area quite a bit going
back and forth so we're taking a little longer way just to go on a different
road. By the end of today we should be in St Louis and then we'll stay
there for the next 2 days (we have a game Thursday night) and then drive
up to Chicago for the Cubs game on Friday and spend another 2 days there.
After that it's off to the Twin Cities for the Twins, and then about 2
weeks touring around Yellowstone, the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, and Canada.
pretty amazing to me that I get the chance to visit all these great places
and see all the ball parks in the majors. The trip is pretty tiring and
at some points stressful, but I've got to say I'm having an fabulous time
and am pretty sad thinking about when it will all be over. I've been trying
to think of all the art projects I can do once the trip is over which is
getting me pretty excited too. I've been collecting all the tickets (games,
museums, movies, etc) and brochures we've gotten to include in it. I think
once it's finished it will break the world record for the largest scrapbook
of all time. I've also been recording the path we've taken all around the
country and I want to make a painting of the US and draw our path on the
painting including the cities we stop in for games, national parks, etc.
I think with all my art projects I'll be extending the trip another year
thing that's not so exciting is my knee. I've always been one to not trust
doctors after my stupid orthodontist told me I'd only have to wear my retainer
for 12-18 months. My parents would argue I never wore it to begin with,
however I assure you I wore it up to the 18 month mark. after that point,
i felt he was a quack and I refused to wear it anymore. Afterwards he told
me I needed braces, I told my parents he could shove it, I wasn't getting
braces. My brother was only supposed to have retainers for 2 years or something
and the orthodontist made him have retainers, braces, and then retainers
again. So, word to the wise, if you need braces or retainers, DON'T go
to Dr. Brennen. Anyway, I've been in a pretty depressed state about my
knee lately. Of course, sitting in the car for 3 days would make anyone
feel cramped up, but when we went to the museum a few days ago (the first
time we really walked around in a while) it was hurting pretty badly. At
this point I'm more uncomfortable than I was before surgery and am thinking
it wasn't really worth it. According to my doctor and physical therapist
I made a quick recovery at first (even being told I wouldn't have to be
in physical therapy for the full 3 weeks), but then I seem to have hit
a plateau, and have even gone backwards now. It blows and makes me hate
doctors even more.
funny how "blows" and "sucks"
mean the same thing. same goes for "hot" and "cool" and "bad" and "cool."
i'm all for self-sufficiency
- i avoid asking for help as much, if not more, than the next fellow. and
generally, i'd rather suffer through things on my own than ask someone
for the easy answer. that said, i think technology is making this too easy
these days. whereas twenty years ago i might call a friend or family member
about a question, nowadays i can just get that information online. we all
know this is valuable because it levels the informational playing field
for those who previously found getting certain information difficult. for
example, we can easily do research on home/car maintenance/purchasing so
that mechanics, dealers and real estate agents can no longer hold their
informational advantage over our heads. sure, we still enlist their services,
but they can't as easily lie to you about the cost of products/services,
and this information lowers prices for the consumers. but it also has the
aforementioned disadvantage which ultimately limits our human contact.
we don't need each other as much which feeds the already bloated idea of
individualism which in turn, i think, detracts from our compassion for
our fellow wo/man. in other words, technology has the effect of making
us less dependant upon each other, which, in turn, isolates individuals
more. ideas like universal health care and loving thy neighbor become less
accepted because we're more focused on ourselves. talking with people to
find out information is one way we connect with our family, friends and
community members. if we eliminate that then we're one step closer to isolationism.
i'm not saying we'll one day all live in pods and inter-personal communication
will be a thing of the past, but we shouldn't become islands either. ironically,
the internet is something that brings all our ideas together, yet it could
have the effect of separating us in the real realm. then again, that brings
up the issue of planes of existence and the relative nature of reality.
for example, we could all create personalities online and exist within
the online world and who's to say that our interaction online isn't as
real as the fake friends we make at work, or in the neighborhood, out of
convenience? anyway, i'm sure this is mostly a bunch of crap so onto more
important topics like: is ken lay really dead? no. did tom and katie actually
have a child? yes, watch rosemary's baby or the omen for the full story.
i've always used Dubuque,
IA as an example of a town in the middle of nowhere e.g., "that band sucks
so bad they've only been able to get gigs in places like dubuque." so it
was nice to finally go there and see it. it's not much of a town and i
feel justified in continuing to use it in this context.
correction: i stated earlier
that coors field has a capacity of 52k, in actuality capacity is only 50k.
these figures, by the way, are always according to "the ultimate baseball
road-trip" dist. by lyons press, so it's not a primary source, but the
figures are as accurate as we can get while in the car. report errors to
the car got relatively
damp last night because of the "driving rain" (good song by beta band,
by the way). both our seats were damp so now i have a soggy bottom, too
bad i'm about 15 years too old to be a soggy bottom boy (from "o brother
where art thou"); i'm also not quite a man of constant sorrow. i feel compelled
to write that i realized the coen brothers' reference in the title to their
film before my dad did. "o brother where art thou" is the title of the
film within the film "sullivan's travels" - one of my dad's top ten of
i think more filmmakers
should remake crappy or middling films and books instead of good ones.
ideally you take a book or film that was originally poorly conceived, but
had a few redeeming qualities - a great character, plot, theme, etc. and
then you do it well. unfortunately, people tend to take really good work
and make a middling version of it. this is not only lazy (because anyone
can see a polished diamond), but also self-defeating (because, chances
are, you're not going to make a great film even better). i think it's more
impressive, and more to your advantage (because you're not setting yourself
up for failure), to take a diamond in the rough and polish it up. naturally
there are exceptions, i'm speaking in generalities. i'm also speaking about
things from an artistic and entertainment perspective, rather than a fiscal
one. economically it makes perfect sense to take a successful and well
done picture like the poseidon adventure and simply swap out the stars,
repackage it, and sell it again.
last week marked the first
week that we went over budget. that 1,000 mile drive a few days ago likely
had something to do with it. this week we've resolved to be under budget
by a couple hundred bucks. so, this week we'll be boiling our boots for
protein soup and adding ketchup packets to boiling water for tomato soup.
i'm not sure why dane cook
is considered so funny. daniel tosh and jim gaffigan are both ten times
we've taken approx. 1600
pictures on the trip so far, it's pretty crazy. big thanks to my mom for
the camera for my birthday, it's certainly getting used to the fullest.
yesterday i had one of
the best burgers i've ever had. it was from a place called the old-fashioned
in madison, wi. they had a two for one deal so we both got burgers and
shared an order of fries. they had a really good garlic sauce spread that
they put on the it and the burger was well-seasoned and the bun was buttered
and perfectly toasted. we're working on a "best of the trip" list which
will have meal highlights as well as a plethora of baseball stadium-related
awards. anytime i hyphenate "related" i think of bush's silly "weapons
of mass destruction program-related activities" which he referenced in
his state of the union address a couple years ago. what a doofus.
after dyersville and the
field of dreams movie site we drove to springfield, il; another capital
city. springfield smells, st. louis does as well. springfield isn't all
that interesting, but we killed some time by looking for a watch for me
and watching a movie at a second-run theater. tickets were just $2.50/each
so that's a bargain.
after the movie we left
for st. louis. i don't remember where we slept that night. the next morning
we drove into st. louis and went to forest park, which is actually larger
than central park by a few hundred acres. i know that philly also has a
park that's larger than central park, but somehow central park gets all
the glory. forest park is quite nice. it's very accessible by car and has
plenty of free parking, unlike central park on both accounts. inside the
park there are plenty of the usual park things and open spaces, as well
as an art museum, zoo and more. those attractions are free so we figured
we'd check them out and kill some time. the last couple days it had been
raining and hot so it was pretty miserable outside. meryl's knee wasn't
feeling good and she was in a shitty mood so we did the quick tour of the
art museum and read in the parking lot afterwards.
after forest park we went
downtown to find a wi-fi spot to upload the page, check e-mail and be inside.
we ended up going to the visitor's center first and didn't get much information.
afterwards we went into the grand hotel and used their wi-fi. after going
to the visitor's center and looking through our guide book we decided that
st. louis was fairly boring. it continued to rain on and off throughout
day so we basically resolved to just waste time as cheaply as possible.
we originally had planned on watching the new pirates movie and then grabbing
some dinner. the movie part went well, but finding a good bbq place proved
difficult. when we asked the people at the visitor's center about a good
bbq place earlier they only knew of one place and they had to look in their
guide for that. i'd think that, for a place known for its bbq and ribs,
the visitor's center staff would have that answer more readily available.
the place they recommended was far from where we had seen the (crappy)
movie so we decided to use the gps to see what bbq places it had. the first
place we went wasn't a bbq place anymore and the second place we went was
a $25/plate kinda place so, after being seated and looking at the menu,
we left with our tail between our legs. we were both hungry and i was starting
to get delirious, so we high-tailed it to the most reliable place we found
on the gps: t.g.i. friday's. in the end we didn't mind missing out on st.
louis' local flavor.
TGI Fridays we sat in the car for a bit and tried to figure out what to
do. We were parked in a lot with a Walgreen's so we decided to go in for
some reason I can't remember and waste time. Because we're both idiots
(but mostly me because I was the driver at the time) we locked BOTH our
sets of keys in the car. After thinking that we had to be one of the dumbest
two people we went to the Walgreen's to get a hanger to try and get our
keys out ourselves. After trying for about 15 minutes without any luck
we realized that against all hopes, we couldn't do it ourselves and we
had to call AAA. After waiting for not too long the guy came out and unlocked
the car pretty quickly. After the detour it was pretty much time to go
to bed so we drove around and found a strip mall that looked like it was
okay to sleep in. So far the night in New Orleans and the night in Boston
have been the worst, but I think we crowned a new "Most Horrible Night
of Sleep." It was WAY too hot and WAY too muggy to sleep at all. Chris
was up most of the night and I drifted in and out of sleep. It's weird
because I'm much more cranky than Chris if it's hot during the day, but
for some reason at night the heat doesn't affect me as much and I'm able
to sleep better than he is.
got up in the morning and weren't really sure what to do with ourselves.
We felt like it was pretty late in the day because the heat was already
unbearable, but it was only 7:45. We dragged ourselves to the Kinko's that
was in strip mall we slept at and wasted a good 90 minutes there. We wandered
over to the Borders and looked through all the books we wanted to buy.
I've started making a list of all the books I need to buy once the trip
is over and I have money I can spend again. I headed over to the magazines
and Chris wandered off to the reference section and we wasted another 90
minutes or so reading. After, we made our last stop at REI so Chris could
get a watch because his broke some time ago and so he's been needing a
new one. After finding one that suited him we had no idea what to do with
ourselves. We found St. Louis to be a city we didn't really like. It reminded
me of Detroit in that so much of it is run down. But, at least Detroit
has a reason for being pretty empty, and it's doing a lot to bring itself
back. Once outside of the immediate downtown area of St. Louis it seems
like every other building is empty. It stunk too which didn't make our
unhappiness to be there any better. We came to the sad conclusion that
if we wanted to say cool we were going to have to go to a mall. We found
a pretty upscale one and wandered around a bit and went to a noon showing
of Cars. It was pretty far down on my list of movies I wanted to see, but
at this point, there's pretty slim pickings. Before we went to the movie
we hung out in the food court for a bit and watched CNN. It was actually
a pretty cool area. They had a really nice lounge with couches and nice
chairs with a large TV that had CNN on. We watched the unfortunate news
about Israel and Lebanon and then went ot the movie. It was actually a
decent movie, especially considering it was a children's movie, so i wasn't
too dissapointed. After the movie we were getting pretty hungry so we thought
it would be in our best interest to not support local business and eat
at the chinese stand in the food court. It wasn't too bad, and it was cheap,
so that was nice.
i have to add that monsanto
is based in st. louis which certainly doesn't help. too bad that building
lunch it was time to go over to Busch Stadium to get tickets for the game.
We had tried to buy some online about 2 weeks ago and again the day before,
but found out that there were only standing room tickets left. We hoped
maybe that they had released more tickets that day like most parks do,
but they didn't. We decided to try a scalper first and see if we could
get upper level seats, and if we couldn't we'd head back to get standing
room. Upon crossing the street a man came up to us and asked if we were
looking for seats. We said yes and he started taking us down an alley.
We were a little hesitant to follow a man we'd never met down some side
alley, so we hung back a bit. His friend and he starting walking back towards
us with tickets, so we figured it was fine. They didn't have the kind of
seats we were looking for so he started taking us around to more people
he knew. We told him about our trip and that we were on a fixed budget.
He turned out to be an extremely nice guy, and we probably had the best
30 minutes in St. Louis when we were walking around with him trying to
find tickets. He asked us about some other places that we'd gone and started
talking about the new stadium. Apparently, it was built in only a year.
He said pretty much once the last game of last season ended they started
working 24/7 to get the new park up. He said he didn't really like the
new park because the old one had a lot of character, but the new one looked
very manufactured. It was interesting to get local opinions, especially
considering that most of the time you hear great things about new parks.
He took us around to a bunch of different people all around the stadium
area looking for tickets for us that wouldn't bust our bank. One guy tried
to sell us standing room seats for $40 each. We told him that we could
still get them for face value ($13) at the box office. It kinda sucked
that because the games are sold out all the scalped tickets (even so high
up) are so expensive. We finally decided it would probably be best just
to go get some at the box office and find a seat to sit in later in the
game when we had an idea of what sections were empty. We said good bye
to our new friend and gave him a tip for helping us out in trying to get
tickets. It was actually pretty neat to see how many people tried to give
us tickets through him. We figured he must have been a sort of broker or
something, getting a portion of the money that a ticket sold for when he
brought someone customers. It was interesting to see who he worked with
and who he didn't. We would come up to a corner sometimes and every scalper
there was someone he knew and he would look through all the tickets for
us. And other times he would just walk by people and not even give them
a glance. All in all, he was a pretty cool guy. He saw us later on, after
we had bought our box office standing room seats, and asked us if we were
able to get seats, nice guy.
busch, not quite complete:
old busch stadium:
game. at this point i just see it as a good opportunity to move down a
few rows...i'm over the whole "trying to stay dry" thing.
originally we had secured
a metered spot right in front of the park, but when we returned from having
purchased our tickets, we saw a sign that said the spot was reserved for
a "police emergency." total bullshit.
we got into the stadium and walked around a while, I came to the conclusion
that I didn't really like the park too much. I did like that you could
see the Gateway Arch and some of the downtown skyline past the outfield,
but that was really the only plus. It was once again an HOK design and
certainly fit the mold. I'd have to say, that if I had not see all the
other new parks I'd probably like this one, but after seeing 6 or 7 new
ball parks that look pretty much exactly the same, I wasn't too impressed.
The walking areas around the field were blocked off, so you couldn't see
the field from the concourse which was a downer (many of the newer parks
have the field visible from the concourse). There was also a LOT of construction
still going on. From our standing room seats we could see a lot of construction
materials tucked underneath overhangs and other sections that didn't look
all the way complete. Later in the game we found 2nd deck bleacher seats
in left field and planted ourselves there for a few innings and couldn't
see most of left field. They didn't do much to design seating that allowed
you to see all of the field, at least from the outfield. Of course, to
go along with the theme of our trip, it started raining. We were booted
from our first set of seats when the real occupants came back from where
ever they were and decided to sit down a little lower and deal with the
rain. It wasn't coming down too hard, so we figured it wouldn't be that
bad. However, I got a mysterious liquid accidentally spilled on me from
the upper deck and my scorebook was getting pretty soggy, so I headed up
to the covered concourse for shelter while Chris stayed in his seat. After
an inning or so of trying to keep score among the crowd standing around
me, I finally said screw it and stopped. I've kept score every single game
so far, but between the rain, the crowds, people looking over my shoulder
to see what I was doing, and not ever being able to leave my seat I finally
couldn't take it anymore. I had not been keeping score for too long when
some guy in his late 50s or so started chatting with me. At some point
our trip came up and I told him about it and he was quite excited to hear
about all the details. We talked about the trip for a while and then he
mentioned something about Austin. It turns out he was born in Houston,
grew up in Austin, and then moved to Fairfield, CA for work. I thought
that was pretty cool that he grew up where I have lived for the past year,
and lived right by where Chris and I went to school. Coincidences like
that with total strangers are always funny. After chatting for 30 minutes
or so it had stopped raining so I went to where Chris had migrated to and
watched the game from seats that someone had cleared from. It turns out
that St. Louis might have been a city we didn't like too much, but it ended
up being probably the best baseball game we've been to so far. It was tied
2-2 into the 9th and went into extra innings. Both teams had done a pretty
poor job of driving runners in throughout the game, including into the
extra innings. But, finally, in the 14th inning with 1 or 2 outs Albert
Pujols came up to bat. I commented on how excited St. Louis fans get whenever
he's up and Chris said something like "Well, at any point he has the capability
of winning the game for you." Pretty funny he said that because about 2
pitches later he drove a LONG ball into center field and won the game for
the Cards. Chris and I had been rooting for the Dodgers (Chris being from
LA and me just hating the Giants) so that kinda sucked, but it was an exciting
finish. We also saw a great Jim Edmonds catch that was sure to be a Web
Gem. An Albert Pujols homer and a great Jim Edmonds catch, you can't define
Cardinal's baseball any better that that.
the new busch stadium is
nice enough for people who haven't seen many parks, but since we've seen
so many, we viewed it as just another HOK park in a long line of them.
they have so many similar characteristics and busch stadium doesn't really
separate itself in any meaningful way, so i think we were both disappointed.
the experience with the scalper was definitely a fun one and it was interesting
to get a blue collar guy's opinion on the stadium and to walk around the
area with someone who knows the neighborhood, but isn't a tour guide. i
wish i could have given him more money for his time, but our budget is
after the 14 inning game
we needed to get to chicago asap because the cubs game was at 1:20p the
next day. we hit the road and i was only able to drive for about 90 minutes
before i got too tired. meryl was in the back sleeping at this point so
she definitely couldn't have taken the next shift. we stopped at a rest
stop and slept until about 8am. we left for chicago the next morning hoping
that we'd be able to get the 3 hours of driving done without hitting chicago
traffic. we planned on parking somewhere on the outskirts of town so we
could park for cheap and ride to wrigley on the subway. wrigley is on the
north side and we were coming from the south so that left us looking for
parking on the south side of chicago. you don't need to be a local to know
what that means. so, we drove all the way through chicago to the north
side and looked for parking around wrigley. like fenway, wrigley was hardly
built with cars in mind so the area surrounding the park has random parking
lots placed by local businesses. many gas stations even rent out space
during the game. the upshot is that it's anywhere from $25-40 to get parking
within a few blocks of the park. basically, you're a fool or a rich person
if you're driving to wrigley. but we persevered as we did at fenway when
we got a spot for only $.75. about 40 minutes before the game we finally
found a free, non-permit required spot about 3/4 of a mile from the park.
we left for the park in
a hurry and opted to forego the application of sunscreen. i figured that
it was cloudy enough that we wouldn't need it. i also posited that, with
our luck, if we didn't wear sunscreen it would mean we'd get sunburned,
but that that would necessitate the sun be out which would then eliminate
the chance of rain. as it turned out we were under an overhang so it did
rain. god loves us that much. i think we've been to 18 games and 7 of them
have had some rain, 4 of them have had actual delays. before the trip i
had never been to a rain delayed game and i had never locked my keys out
of my car and i had never had a flat tire. so, around the 5th inning there
was a 45 minute rain delay which was fine by me because it meant that we
got more time at wrigley. it's a fun place to watch a game because it's
packed, the people know their stuff, they're there to have a good time
and you can imagine the thousands of people before you who have enjoyed
losing season after losing season of cubs baseball in those very seats.
wrigley is one of the top three places in the country to catch a game because
of the pre/post game activities and the game time fun. i also have to say
that mets fans are easily the best fans we've encountered so far. any time
we see a game that they're in (at shea, in toronto, in philly, and in chicago)
they bring an uncanny enthusiasm that always livens up the atmosphere.
we walked to the park quickly
and soaked up a bit of the pre-game crowd before going inside. the blocks
around wrigley are teeming with people and bars. so far it's been the most
active area surrounding a baseball park that we've seen. fenway is also
full of places around the park that cater to baseball game attendees. without
context or emotion one might look at wrigley and be unimpressed, but to
view it without either of those would be inane. wrigley's got more baseball
history and character in its facade than pacbell, busch, or any other new
park have on their entire plots of land. wrigley park is strictly business.
when you go inside it's clear what the purpose of the place is baseball.
when you go into other parks, which are admittedly beautiful and fun, you
get a mixed message because the building is about doing more than just
providing a place to watch ball. it's nice to have a place like miller
or citizen's bank where the entire family can go to have a good time for
a few hours. at places like that you can goto a restaurant and then get
in some batting practice or read about the history of the franchise or
play some mlb 2006 on a game console and head over to the souvenir shop,
etc. at wrigley it's just about baseball. sure, they've got small areas
to buy concessions and souvenirs, but they don't have credit card signup
booths (like at most stadiums), there aren't places where you can signup
for at&t long distance (like at busch), they don't have kitschy food
stands or any of that other fluff. as far as the field goes: there's the
famous ivy on the outfield walls, the bullpens are near the dugouts, and
there isn't anything real fancy about it. left and right field are quite
long, 355ft, and the power alleys are only a bit further than that, so
that's in stark contrast to the short right field of yankee stadium and
the 310ft that most stadiums seem to have at their foul poles (which should
really be called fair poles). there's no jumbotron, but there are three
slender screens that give basic stats on the player at bat. two are in
left/right field and the third is under the center field scoreboard which
is manually operated. beyond outfield are the infamous rooftop bleachers.
various buildings surrounding the stadium have installed actual bleachers
so fans can watch the game from afar. there are basically three levels
at wrigley and they all extend pretty far back so if you're on the first
or second level the overhang is pretty bad. you'll see a pop fly as it
comes off the bat and as it comes down, but not while it's in the middle
of its flight. we had 500 level seats so we were at the very top, one row
from the back, but near home plate. that said, the seats were damn good.
the only other complaint one might have about the seats and their sightlines,
would be the steel posts that support the upper levels and the overhang.
second level, with
bad overhang in back:
shot from our seats,
press box is about 40 feet to our left:
shot taken through
my binoculars as well as 3x zoom on camera:
this guy ran onto the
field to provide us some entertainment, but then he had to pay the price:
after the game it took
us a while to get out of wrigleyville (actual neighborhood name) and to
our motel. we spent the rest of the night watching tv and not being productive.
drummers outside of
wrigley after the game:
this isn't supposed
to be funny:
expensive gas and cigarettes:
the next day we went to
a park and ride near o'hare airport which only cost $2 for 12 hours. we
took the subway into town and planned on just walking around, catching
a movie at the gene siskel theater and checking out millennium park. that's
exactly what we did. the gene siskel theater is in downtown and has two
screens. we saw a contemporary documentary instead of watching a film by
frank tashlin. in retrospect that was the wrong decision. the documentary
wasn't bad, but i think watching a tashlin film would have been a better
choice. after the film we walked to gino's on rush, as opposed to gino's
east. gino's on rush turned out to be closed for remodeling which is too
bad because a friend of meryl's said it's the bomb-diggity. so we walked
to gino's east and got a deep dish pizza. it was pretty much the same as
the deep dish at pizzeria uno that i had when i first went to chicago.
i guess i'm not much of a deep dish pizza kind of guy because the deep
dish pizza at chains like roundtable and numero uno appeal to me more.
the crust at the authentic places is just too crumby, rather than doughy.
by this time a lot of the touristy places were closed and we weren't going
to return the next day so we hit the road for green bay. i like chicago
and wish we had gotten more time there. it's got a lot of culture and i
wanted to see the museum of science and industry, but we didn't have time
or money so... c'est la vie.
theater across the
street from the gene siskel cinema:
on the way to green bay
we stopped in fond du lac, which johnny cash mentions in "i've been everywhere."
it's a nice little town with a thriving bar scene and a nice enough downtown.
we made it to green bay around bed time so we stopped at a 24 hour market
the next day (sunday, today)
we woke up early and drove down the street to lambeau field. since i'm
a 49ers fan i'm not really supposed to like the packers, but i really really
do. i have nothing but respect for the organization and brett farve in
particular. i love the fact that they're the only publicly-owned franchise
in the four major north-american pro sports leagues. lambeau is great and
the $295 million renovation doesn't seem to have diminished its appeal
at all. it's still got 60k+ bleacher seats and it's still, like wrigley,
just about the game. there are a few advertisements around the jumbotrons,
but that's it. inside there are also a few sponsors like coke and miller,
but, again, it's not as imposing as it is at most places.
lambeau field is great.
we took the tour and it covered the history of the field and the team very
well. some tidbits from my notes: packers presidents are required to retire
by age 70, 30k people have requested tickets to the recent stockholders
meeting which will take them through the locker room (an unusual practice),
the original acme packers team outscored their opponents 565-12 in their
first season, in 1922 they joined the nfl for $250, the texans joined the
nfl a few years ago for $800 million, the year before lombardi was the
coach they went 1-10-1 with many of the same players (including starr),
in his first year lombardi went 7-5 and never had a losing season, during
the $295 million renovation none of the first 60 rows of bleachers were
touched, there are over 160 luxury boxes ranging from $66k-130k/year, season
tickets are nearly impossible to get - capacity is 72k+ and last year only
30 people gave up their season tickets 7 the year before that and 0 the
year before that, scalping is legal, but you can expect to pay $150-300/ticket,
during the renovation they increased the number of handicap seats from
56 (worst in the nfl) to 765 (best in the nfl), they use a kentucky bluegrass
blend for the field, they repaint the numbers on the field every week and
cut the grass every other day, the crown of the field is 10" vs. 17" on
the dallas field (which i thought had a roof so i'm not sure why they need
such a steep crown...), lambeau was built in 1957.
walking out of the
the field is extremely
close to the first row of bleacher benches:
green bay is a nice enough
little city. i was surprised that there weren't more packers flags and
bumper stickers, but i think the crowds and paucity of tickets speak for
themselves. it's a city of 100k and they sell out the 72k seat stadium
on a routine basis.
indiana seems to take july
4th seriously. i forgot to mention how many fireworks we saw (and could
smell) while on the freeway going back to IL.
quote of the week was from
me regarding the recent goings on in israel/lebanon: "what the fuck is
wrong with these people that they can't just eat a cookie instead of firing
rockets at each other?"
after green bay we went
to bloomington which houses the mall of america. it's a behemoth which
is probably better forgotten. afterwards we went to st. paul and ate at
mickey's a diner that's been around since the 30s. it's got great food
and a reasonable cost. the strawberry shake may have been the best strawberry
shake i've ever had. after stuffing ourselves we went to the capitol building.
we both thought it was a pretty nice one. the old capitol building in baton
rouge is nicer and the capitol in harrisburg is also quite nice and unique,
but this one's up there. right now we're in minneapolis waiting for a movie
to start. it's very hot here (mostly because of the humidity) and we want
to be inside. we found a budget theater so it looks like another $2 movie
night. sadly, there were only two movies that we've yet to see: RV and
into the wild. so we're going to check out RV in the hopes that barry sonnenfeld
(cinematographer for many coen brothers projects) elevates the limited
meryl gets annoyed
by the heat in front of the capitol building in st. paul:
st. paul and minneapolis
both look nice enough so far. i remember minneapolis being a better than
average city, but we won't fully explore it until tomorrow. then we have
a game at 7p.
yesterday in minneapolis
turned out to be fairly uneventful. turns out that all the places we wanted
to go are closed on mondays, so no art or history museums for us. we saw
the sculpture garden and wandered downtown a bit, but spent most of our
time in the burbs. we saw a movie, ate lunch and wandered a few stores.
not very notable overall, which is unfortunate because minneapolis is kind
of a nice city.
sign reads: 100s of
beautiful girls and 3 ugly ones
church slogan in minneapolis:
some other good ones i've
the best vitamin for
a christian: B1
(found near a sonic
fast food joint): hungry? we serve food for the soul
after killing most of the
day we drove downtown and bought some cheap seats (actual section name)
for the twins/devil rays game. the best part of the game day experience
was outside of the dome, both before and after the game. pre-game festivities
included several booths and tents set up outside the park to entertain,
feed and sell to the crowd. there was a quiz booth setup where they had
four contestants answering sports-related questions (most of which focused
on baseball or minnesota). the first group included four really drunk guys
who were pretty funny to watch. the second group included some kid, a nerdy
older guy, a special guy who apparently had all the questions from previous
games memorized, and me. i didn't win and i didn't lose, pretty much the
story of my competitive life.
the game itself was decent,
but wasn't at all engaging. the stadium is a multi-use indoor field which
means baseball suffers. many of the seats aren't angled toward the action
in a baseball game, though they probably line up just fine for a football
game. the turf is ugly and probably makes for some odd bounces, the infield
lacks dirt and the echo of the stadium makes the entire affair sound alien.
it makes theoretical sense to construct a multi-use stadium like this,
but, practically speaking, it just doesn't work. there was far too much
advertising (including commercials on the jumbotron in the middle of the
innings) and the whole thing felt too manufactured and inorganic. the crowd
was pretty engaged which is always a nice thing. i also found it difficult
to follow the path of the ball off the bat. some of that can surely be
attributed to the white ceiling. apparently this is a problem for fielders
as well. overall, the metrodome isn't a good place to catch a baseball
game. the ceiling is made of thin fiberglass which is apparently held in
place by air pressure, which give the dome its bubble appearance. while
inside i didn't sense any change in air pressure, but when you leave you
definitely do. there were only a couple doors open at the exit that we
took and the air pressure literally pushes you out the door, hard. it's
pretty cool to walk through the doors and have a gust of wind, as powerful
as you've likely felt outside, push you out.
this shot doesn't show
the roof which looks like a bloated honeycomb
after the game there were
a couple drummers putting on a show.
they had a good rhythm going and they did a good job of getting the crowd
into it; at one point they passed out tambourines to kids who were in the
semi-circle watching them. they did a good job overall and it got me thinking
a bit (more) about the economics of street performance. they easily made
$100 each, they could do that for 81 home games, plus playoff games, plus
8 home football games, plus any other sports events or concerts, etc. then
they could do it on friday/saturday night in highly trafficked areas. add
a part-time job to the mix and you're living quite well for not very much
work, and it's a pretty fun form of work and it's untaxed income. so long
as you don't get carpal-tunnel you're pretty well set for your young life.
a street performer in boston said that he thinks his show is worth $5 (it
was), but that you could give whatever you wanted. he added, "$5 is about
how much you paid to park your car, so if this was as entertaining as that
then please contribute that amount." the thing about street performers
and the scalper escort we encountered in st. louis is that they have to
work for their money. generally speaking, the better they do their job,
the more they get paid. it's too bad it's not like that in real life. it's
also unfortunate that these people, who contribute to society in a less
traditional way, don't get the benefits of many jobs - job security, guaranteed
hours, 401k, insurance, etc.
i've been seeing a proliferation
of advertising in general, but one area that really disturbs me is the
urinal ad. they do it everywhere, but it's common in places that are having
trouble generating revenue - stadiums and movie theaters are the two that
come to mind. if i had a stadium or theater, or if i was responsible for
the advertising in these arenas, i would advertise something about the
team or some bit of movie/sports trivia and have it brought to you by so
and so. it's more informative and less obnoxious than the current form.
that, of course, assumes you must invade a person's more personal moment
with a glossy sign advertising a steakhouse or anti-balding medication.
after the game and the
drumming circle, we hit the road for pierre, the badlands, mt. rushmore
and wind cave n.p. we drove for about an hour and slept at a rest stop.
the next morning i talked with a guy from alaska who was going to ohio
to visit his family for the first time in 21 years. he mentioned that he
had driven through canada most of the way over here and thought it was
beautiful. he recommended banff and i told him we were on our way. looking
forward to that. right now were about 40 miles from sioux falls, sd.
south dakota is a pretty
depressing place because the history is so marred with american imperialism
and native american slaughter. wounded knee, leonard peltier, etc. aside,
it's still sad because the present is so bleak. on the pine ridge reservation,
for example, unemployment is 70-80% and life expectancy is 48/52 for men/women
- lower than it is in bangladesh. so, this is a scar on the country's present,
as well as its past. i doubt gale norton did much to help. it's all pretty
fucked up. read al franken's chapter on jack abramoff in "the truth (with
jokes)" for more on how some native americans are still getting it in the
rear. it documents how bush, abramoff and others screwed the tigua tribe
pierre capitol building:
we gained an hour because
of the time change and the next week is going to be packed, so we plan
on visiting mt. rushmore tonight (it closes at 10p) and doing the badlands,
etc. tomorrow. that way we can get a jump on the long drive to yellowstone.
we'll hit the 13k mile
mark tomorrow. we originally thought it would be around 16k miles, but
we added two ballparks (st. louis and denver) which added about 2k miles
because of when we had to fit those in (going from kansas city to denver
and then doubling back to milwaukee instead of going to denver while on
the way to yellowstone). between here and seattle we're looking at another
yesterday, after several
hours of driving, we made it to mt. rushmore. it's an impressive feat from
an engineering standpoint, but i have mixed feelings about its being there.
on the con side there are the feelings of the native americans who might
think it an in your face type of decision, then there's the environmental
issue (should we leave the mountain as is or make something else out of
it? is this a dangerous precedent?). overall, i don't really have a problem
with it, though i do have the aforementioned reservations. i don't think
it set much of a precedent since this is clearly an exceptional case.
pardon the underexposure
on this one:
we found a nice little
hotel in custer, sd which was far enough from mt. rushmore, wind cave and
badlands to not be prohibitively expensive. it turned out to be our best
value thus far. it was a small, family-owned place with internet and a
mini-fridge. it's the first place we've gone that didn't have something
wrong with it, so that was a nice change.
early this morning we had
breakfast and left for wind cave national park. that was new for me. now
i've been to about 23. this cave was different from the one i saw in the
mammoth lakes area and the lewis and clark caves and the carlsbad caverns.
it doesn't have the usual stalactite and stalagmite formations, instead
it has boxwork formations which are quite rare in caves. apparently 95%
of the world's boxwork is in the wind cave area. it was the 7th national
park (behind yellowstone, yosemite, crater lake, king's canyon and two
others that i can't remember) created and it's the 4th largest cave system
in the world (behind mammoth caves in kentucky, jewel cave [also in south
dakota], and some cave in the ukraine). alvin macdonald was the one responsible
for really exploring the cave in the late 19th century. even yesterday
they found newly discovered rooms which already had string left by macdonald
so he could find his way out. the ranger pointed out that it was first
discovered in 1881 by white settlers, which i thought was an important
distinction. it's got a lot of popcorn and frost calcite formations, but,
because the water seeps, rather than drips, it doesn't have the stalactites/stalagmites
that you generally see. it's just south of custer state park, which is
full of plains and forest land inhabited by wildlife like prairie dogs,
deer, bison and pronghorn.
inside custer state
right now were in the pine
ridge reservation. we just drove through oglala. check out "incident at
oglala" by michael apted ("up" series) which documents the leonard peltier
gps said that the wounded
knee massacre site was here:
Chris said, right now we're driving through Pine Ridge, and I've got to
say, it's the most depressing place I've ever been to in the United States.
The landmark for Wounded Knee is mangled metal and garbage (including dirty
diapers and broken liquor bottles). Many of the houses through the reservation
have graffiti on them, garbage piles in front of them, broken out windows,
and broken down cars parked on the lawn. Driving through the area makes
me want to cry. I think it's incredibly unfortunate that our school systems
don't really do much to educate young children about Native Americans.
We all learn about how "great" Christopher Columbus was, however they only
touch upon how savagely the Europeans treated the Native Americans. I loved
my 8th grade teacher for teaching us as much as he could about Native American
cultures and beliefs and how Columbus actually didn't discover America.
The fact that that is still being taught in school is pretty ridiculous.
I took 2 Native American Studies classes while I was at UCDavis and I remember
watching a video about the Pine Ridge Reservation, but it really did nothing
to show the true poverty these people live in. The only other area I've
ever been in that was worse than this area was a barrio just outside Santiago,
Chile where the neighborhood was LITERALLY built from trash. Homes built
from cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, you name it. Chris and I worked hard
to save our money so that we could take a trip like this, it's amazing
to think that sleeping in our car and staying at a hotel every 3 or 4 days
is a luxury.
more driving ahead...we're
getting a jump on the 10 hour drive from badlands to yellowstone. hopefully
we'll be able to fit in a half day at yellowstone tomorrow. i also really
want to be able to see a bit of grand teton. i'm also looking forward to
yellowstone, passing through calgary, and finally seeing jasper and banff.
wish we had more time for this leg of the trip.
if someone could do some
research on the differences (legally, politically, and otherwise) between
national parks, forests, monuments, preserves, historical parks, etc. then
i'd really appreciate it. i'm pretty sure that national parks are run by
the national parks service (which is part of the dept. of the interior)
and national forests are run by the department of agriculture, but i don't
know much beyond that. i'd be interested in knowing how each form of preserved
land gets set aside, how each are funded, what the common restrictions
are for each, etc. i figure that national parks probably have the greatest
and that they're also probably the most strictly preserved, while national
forests sometimes have private land within them and are more liberal with
camping, fossil collection, and other restrictions.
anyway, badlands is behind
us now. it's a nice park, but can be done well enough in a half day. i'm
happy that we got a lot done today.
one of the many things
i enjoy about my trips is learning about the delicate balance that nature
has come to over the years. learning about how prairie dogs and bison in
the badlands serve to spread the seeds of wildflowers or dig up the dirt,
thus exposing fresh topsoil to grass seeds. they also create burrows which
are used by ferrets. of course this isn't anything new, it's something
we've heard about since the first time someone told us about honey bees,
but it never ceases to amaze me. seemingly insignificant prairie dogs are
this important within their ecosystem, yet humans are essentially useless
to anything other than themselves; and sometimes not even that. that is,
a bison, just through existing might benefit several different significant
species (not to mention the bacteria which may live in/on it). when i think
about human civilization, though, i'm hard-pressed to see how our existence
benefits other species. you might make the argument for a proliferation
of the common pigeon in our cities or certain viruses/bacteria which have
done well as a result of our existence, but not much else. actually, you
could give us "credit" for introducing non-native species of fish and plants
to the everglades or other such ecosystems. only problem is, usually those
non-native species thrive at the cost of the native species. all this goes
without even mentioning the hundreds of species which we have made extinct
through no real life benefit to us. even when we do do something to preserve
natural habitat or nurse a species to a healthy level (like the bald eagles
or bison), it's generally just us undoing something we did earlier. we're
like a tapeworm that lives off its host's food, but doesn't know when to
stop consuming and eventually kills its host, and itself, in the process.
so, st. louis was almost
a total bust, but there was one promising museum which we didn't go to
for some reason - the CCC museum. some facts from the brochure from the
visitor center: "the ccc restored 3,980 historical structures and developed
over 800 state parks. there were over 4,500 ccc camps located in every
state plus hi, ak, puerto rico, and the virgin islands. through the efforts
of the ccc, soil erosion was ultimately arrested on over 20 million acres.
they stocked over one billion fish and spent 4,827,426 man days surveying
and mapping millions of acres and hundreds of lakes, they built 46,854
bridges and 4,622 fish rearing ponds. the ccc installed approx. 5k miles
of water supply. they improved 3,462 beaches, transplanted 45 million trees
and shrubs for landscaping and planted over 3 billion trees where forests
were logged and burnt off. they spent 2,094,713 man days razing undesirable
structures and built 63,256 buildings plus 8,045 wells and pump houses.
the ccc spent 6,000,258 man days in the operation of tree nurseries, they
built 7,622 impounding and large diversion dams. they erected 405,037 signs,
markers, and monuments. they collected 13,632,415 pounds of hardwood tree
seeds and 875,970 bushels of cones. they developed 6,966 miles of wildlife
steams and built 28,087 miles of foot and horse trails, and 8,304 foot
and horse bridges. they built 32,149 wildlife shelters, 1,865 drinking
fountains and 204 lodges and museums. they also built 3,116 lookout towers.
the ccc built 27,191 miles of fences and 38,550 vehicle bridges. it's a
real shame these sorts of projects are farmed out to private interests,
if they're done at all. somewhere along the line projects like this being
done by the state was construed as communism.
that reminds me of an ann
coulter moment...coulter and franken were on stage and being interviewed
by some guy who asked the following question: "if you could be one person
in history, who would you be?" coulter went first and explained that there
are two ways of approaching the question: you can be someone awful and
make sure they don't do what they did, in which case she said she'd be
FDR so she could make sure none of the new deal programs were ever enacted.
the other way to approach the question, she said, was to be someone great
so you could be a part of a great movement, in which case, she said, she'd
be senator joseph mccarthy. franken said he'd rather be hitler so he could
avoid the holocaust. i think that's all you really need to know about ann
after the badlands and
pine ridge (the largest (in terms of indian population) of the indian reservations)
we made some headway towards yellowstone and slept in the national forest
that surrounds the park. it was a winding highway that had very little
traffic so it made for some good sleeping.
we left very early the
next morning to maximize our two allotted days in grand teton and yellowstone.
we drove through cody, wy - home of the everyday rodeo. two days, by the
way, is near criminal as the yellowstone area, in my estimation, deserves
at least a week. but, we're on a budget and we have mariners tickets for
the 26th so we have to make things quick on this leg of the trip. we came
in through the east entrance and there was a 10 minute delay due to some
road construction. my favorite park in the country is yellowstone and,
to this point, meryl's favorite park was the everglades, so i felt bad
that this was her first introduction to the crown jewel of national parks.
at any rate, it turned out to be the only construction delay while we were
there so it wasn't an issue. we drove through the west and south part of
the park on our way to grand teton, stopping only to pick up some information
at the west thumb visitor's center. we attended a short ranger talk about
some of the highlights of grand teton so we knew how to focus the rest
of our day. we drove counter-clockwise through the park loop, detouring
twice for jenny lake and a lookout opportunity. along the way we gawked
at the jagged teton mountain range and saw two moose feeding about 100
yards off the lookout road. after doing the drive we took care of some
laundry and went back into yellowstone. we weren't sure where we were going
to camp earlier so we weren't able to secure a backcountry permit before
they closed, so we were forced to go with the far inferior, paid camping
option. not only do you have to pay for the camping areas near the visitor
center, you also are packed in with all the lame people who are (generally
speaking) too lazy to hike a mile or two into the backcountry campgrounds
(which are generally barren because of this). anyway, it was a day with
a lot of driving, a new national park for both of us (24th for me, 10th
and 11th for her), and we were both tired so we retired on the earlier
(for us) side. some tetons footage.
a poor man's zoom -
binoculars in front of a digital camera...moose in grand teton
visibility wasn't great
yellowstone is such a great
place. sure, it's the first national park in the world and it has the tallest
geyser (giant geyser) in the world, the most well known geyser in the world
(old faithful), the largest wild bison herd in the world, the greatest
concentration of geothermal features in the world, etc. but it's not any
one superlative, or first, that makes it so great. it's that so many things
are in one place. and i'm not just talking about geology, biology and other
sciences. there are human histories here that are equally fascinating.
early in the park's history fishing decimated the cutthroat trout population.
this mismanagement and focus on recreation, rather than preservation, led
to the decline in the population of 42 species within the park - from pelicans
that fly up here from mexico during the summer to bears to otters to osprey
and many others. the cutthroat is extremely important to at least 42 species
in the area and, thus, many more which are dependant upon those 42. they
made changes (eliminating fishing in key spawning areas, restricting the
use of barbed hooks, etc.) and the cutthroat (endemic to this area only)
made a comeback. until, that is, some moron(s) introduced a non-native
species: the lake trout. it has no natural predator (other than man), eats
other fish (and the cutthroat is the only other fish in yellowstone), and
can consume 1500 fish in its lifetime. that's 1500 cutthroat that won't
be able to lay 1000 eggs...you get the picture. again, because of humans,
the cutthroat - and dependent species - went on the decline. in the 90s,
when the lake trout were found, the park service again took actions to
preserve the species. today they catch and kill thousands (40k so far this
year) of the invasive, non-native lake trout. pelicans have returned and
the cutthroat population is at a healthy level. this sort of story is just
as interesting to me as the natural science in the park. but that's the
thing - yellowstone seemingly has it all, in spades.
i love going to national
parks because they're an escape, life is different. life is slower and
nicer. people say hi to each other when they pass one another on a trail.
traffic jams (almost always caused by animals on the road) don't elicit
honking and rage, but picture taking and smiling faces. the rules here
are different. the parks are places where people (more often anyway) will
pick up after themselves, will appreciate their surroundings, and reflect
upon our role in this world. the city environment just isn't conducive
to this though process or this frame of mind. the way yellowstone, in particular,
is set up indicates all this and more. the animals have the run of the
place. geologic features aren't conveniently placed, wildlife isn't penned
in, dangerous features aren't sanitized or eliminated, fallen trees aren't
picked up to make the terrain look better (though sometimes they may be
cleared for fire management reasons)...all these things contribute to the
wildness of the experience. we're used to a world where things have their
place. animals are in zoos, parks are kept clean - lawns mowed, leaves
raked, etc. in other words, we like our nature to be clean and well-kept,
but the park service (generally) understands, and fosters, that.
quote of the week came
while we were walking along a lookout trail in grand teton which is reputedly
a good spot to see wildlife: man (to wife): "guess what." wife: "nothing?"
man: "yeah. (huff) like i'm looking at a fucking desert." this is what
i mean...some people hear that wildlife hangs out in a certain spot and
they expect it to be there; they're used to the zoo, not the real world.
back to the plot...the
next day we woke up early in an effort to see as much of yellowstone in
a day as possible. my plan was to go to ranger talks non-stop. i've always
liked ranger talks because they're informative, they offer the opportunity
to get questions answered and i retain information better when i hear it
versus when i read it. our first ranger talk was at 9a so we made our way
over to the meeting spot and went on the walk with ranger chris brown (not
the singer). it was scheduled to be a 1.5 hour walk and it turned out to
be three. he was one of the best rangers/guides i've ever had. he was informed,
well-spoken, had a dry sense of humor, mixed cold facts with perspective
and anecdotes. i talked with him quite a bit about the park service, the
forest service, the current administration, the science of the park, becoming
a park ranger, his background, etc. i could go to ranger talks all day,
every day, for the rest of my life. like zarathustra, my cup needs filling
and park rangers do it well. he told us about a disease some of the bison
have called something abortis (forgot the first part) [brucella abortus,
07-30-06]. anyway, they originally got it from cattle, but ranchers are
really worried that, when the bison migrate to lower elevations during
the winter, they'll pass it on to the cattle. what they started to do was
simply shoot the bison on the park border in order to protect their cattle.
recently an agreement was reached whereby the park service will try to
scare the bison back into the park boundaries and if the bison still go
beyond the boundary they'll be tested for the disease. the disease is only
communicable via the afterbirth, but males are still tested. any bison
carrying the disease is slaughtered. it's a bullshit compromise, if you
ask me. last year 1,000 bison were killed as a result. fucking goddamn
ranchers. there's an insane amount of poor decisions being made as a result
of politics and, specifically, money in politics.
meryl asking a question
(a noteworthy event)
chris brown, our first
some little cowboy-hat-wearing
girl made this cross and put it in the ground, much to her mother's delight.
then a little boy came by and knocked it down, much to the delight of secularists
around the world.
apparently the newest assistant
to the secretary of the interior (or the asst. to the director of the park
service, i can't remember) is the former governor of idaho and his stated
policy is anti-wolf in yellowstone and one of more recreation, rather than
preservation. from what i understand, many of the upper level people are
appointed rather than hired or selected by a board. then again, if the
president is going to hand over foreign relations in the form of ambassadorships
to his cronies, then he may as well hand over the future of our parks as
well...anyway, the yellostone wolf story, in case you hadn't already heard
it: wolves were in great supply before white men came around. as an aside,
rangers (rightly) make the distinction between whites/native americans
when saying "this cave was first discovered in 1881." it's not so much
an issue of race, as much as it is giving proper credit. we don't know
when the indians discovered yellowstone or wind cave, but we do know when
europeans discovered it. while it's notable to say that the cave was discovered
by whites in a certain year, it's important to acknowledge that it was
discovered by other humans earlier. yellowstone was established as the
world's first park in 1872 and the stewards at the time felt people would
visit the park to see elk, not bears or wolves, so they actively tried
to eliminate the undesirable species. with the wolves gone the elk population
soared into the tens of thousands and the land started getting so overgrazed
that the park had to start slaughtering elk. many years later (60s/70s)
wolves were reintroduced when the park realized its faux pas. turns out
(duh) that nature had already struck a balance and things were fine the
way they were. as wolves grew in numbers, the elk declined and order was
restored. today there are only about 120 wolves in the park. there was
a den that was in the area of our hike and he showed us a path that was
closed as a result. at first they kept the path open, but insisted that
people stay on the path. people started wandering off the path looking
for the wolves so they had to shut down the path entirely. i hate people.
speaking of which...he
also imparted an anecdote about a guy in texas (naturally) who set up a
website where users could hunt wildlife online. robotic guns could be remotely
controlled by the user and if s/he got a kill they'd get a set of antlers
in the mail. i remember jon showing me a site where you could control a
robot online several years ago, but i didn't imagine that technology would
ever be used like this. the good news is that the site was, according to
the ranger "shot down." see? there's his dry sense of humor.
he also imparted an anecdote
about how smart grizzly bears are (apparently even smarter than dogs).
a woman he knows was hiking and was "treed" (chased up a tree) by a bear.
the bear left and she came down, but the bear returned, this time with
another bear. she waited a long time, they left, she waited some more and
came down. this time she gathered herself quickly, looked over the ridge
to see the two bears returning. this time, though, they brought a beaver.
at the end of the hike
we were returning to the parking lot when we saw a few dozen bison on the
path ahead. we stopped and waited for them to cross the path and the road
which was parallel to us at this point. bison, by the way, can run 35mph,
jump 6 feet high and will turn around in a snap. they're generally pretty
easy-going, but you don't want to fuck with them. the ranger imparted another
anecdote, this one regarding elk, bison and wolves. he saw, through a scope,
a pack of wolves go after some elk, but before they could get anything
some bison ran through the area and scared off the wolves. the wolves returned
and the bison ran them off again. it's a pretty amazing little story.
bison road block:
we took a bit of a breather
and went onto our next ranger talk. this one was a short one about cutthroat
trout and was given by laura, who was a ranger at olympic, yosemite and
the everglades before coming to yellowstone. she was also very informative.
fire management is a big
issue in the parks. 90% of the fires in yellowstone are one acre or less
and are simply allowed to burn so long as they don't threaten life or property.
the 1988 fire was immense. there were actually 11 fires that burned hundreds
of thousands of acres. eight were started by lightning and were made worse
by the drought. but one that burned over 300,000 acres was started by a
cigarette. smartly, fire management these days essentially entails monitoring,
occasional clearing of dead wood and not much else. as much as possible,
they want to ensure that fires are allowed to burn so that new lodgepole
pines (the cones of which require fire to open and release seed) can grow.
lodgepoles, by the way, have a shallow root system ideally suited for some
of the poor, sandy soil in yellowstone. about 80% of the trees in yellowstone
are lodgepole pines.
on our first ranger tour
there was a family from jersey (why can you say "jersey" for new jersey,
but not "york" for new york?) that talked with us a bit. we told them about
the trip and commented on the fact that we wanted to see the everglades
while they were still there. he said that he went diving on the west coast
of florida a long time ago and saw some reefs or other ocean structures
which were beautiful, but are essentially gone now. "see it while you can"
he said. i have the same advice for you.
this brings me to the preservation/recreation
debate again. in their charter the national park service states that their
goal is preservation and recreation, the national forest service has different
goals. to what extent should preservation be sacrificed for recreation?
should their be river rafting, unlimited fishing, hiking, off-road driving,
hunting, etc. in our national parks? these are forms of recreation and
they are all loved by different people in the country. the parks are for
us, after all, shouldn't we be allowed to use the resources for recreation
as we want? there aren't that many national parks in the country and many
of them were formed over the course of hundreds of thousands or millions
of years. to me it's a no-brainer - these parks should be preserved and
we should take every reasonable precaution to ensure their long-term survival.
hunters, snowmobilers, atv-ers, etc. can find other places for recreation.
yellowstone, and most of the other parks, are delicately balanced ecosystems
which should be preserved in the most natural state that we can manage.
this is a major complaint of mine with regards to people, and americans
specifically - we value freedom too much. actually, that's not altogether
true. we don't mind sacrificing civil liberties in the name of "security,"
but that's another essay... generally, though, it seems we see limitations
on our recreation as impugning upon our god-given freedom to dominate the
landscape. there would likely be an uproar if yellowstone limited rv size
or restricted fishing, for example. people are too short-sighted, ignorant
and selfish to take one for the team. somehow, in this context, these policies
would likely be construed as fascist. just as universal health care is
somehow communism, rather than caring about your countrymen. why is patriotism
supporting our fascist president, but not our natural habitats and the
indigent? because too many of us are stupid sheep...which brings this full
circle. ranger chris brown imparted an anecdote about a grizzly bear that
single-handedly killed 200 sheep in one night. it ran up on a group of
sheep and they all ran off a cliff...one after the other. so, let's be
smarter than that and preserve a few small pieces of habitat, history and
speaking of snowmobiles...this
is another controversy that has been big in yellowstone for a while (the
daily show even did a funny story on the issue). by the way, 3 million
people visit yellowstone each year and only 100k come during the winter.
the law and policy has changed a couple times, but now there's a new winter
use program in place. there's a limit on the number of snowmobiles that
can operate in the park (720/day, i think) and they now are required to
be guided. what this has done is to bring private enterprises into yellowstone
during the winter. private companies rent out the snowmobiles and accompany
people while in the park. there are a few issues surrounding the debate.
privatization is one. pollution (air and noise) are the other two big ones.
since there is a thermal inversion in yellowstone in the winter the polluted
air basically stays at ground level, instead of rising and blowing away.
the noise pollution probably isn't great for the animals and is annoying
for the visitors. i'm sure there are erosion issues as well, but i didn't
ask about that one.
i asked a ranger what s/he
thought was a current mistake the park was making and s/he said that (otr)
s/he thought there was too much flip-flopping on policy - from the snowmobile
issue on down. i also got the sense that the entire enterprise should be
less politicized, less influenced by money (those go together, i suppose)
and a greater ability to make decisions.
another theme that emerges
when you go to a park like yellowstone or glacier or the everglades is
the interconnectedness of everything. globalwarming effects glacier, land-used
and global water levels affect the everglades and all sorts of things effect
yellowstone. for example, those pelicans from mexico might not return to
yellowstone if the mexican government didn't work to preserve their winter
habitat. i know it's cliche as hell, but nature doesn't know boundaries.
another ranger we had later in the day brought to our attention a current
resolution to establish a 15 mile buffer zone around yellowstone that would
prevent private companies from drilling into areas which are believed to
contain the extended pipework which feeds geysers like old faithful. i
think it would be a shame if a company drilled a well or something and
it happened to damage the underground network of water and gas chambers
that is responsible for the geysers in the park.
laura, our third ranger
(we left the second tour early) who talked about cutthroat trout told us
that she's seen people get frustrated by bison caused traffic and bump
the bison thinking the bison will move. speaking of which, 100 large animals
are killed a year by cars.
our last ranger talk of
the day took place near old faithful and was guided by mr. watson, a former
school principal at american schools abroad. he was very informative and
we talked with him quite a bit as well. tectonic hot spots shape the yellowstone
landscape and are responsible for the geysers and hot springs as well.
johnny will surely set me straight if i'm wrong on any of this... from
what i have gathered from reading and talking with people like johnny and
mr. watson is that hot spots stay in one place and the plates move over
them and affect the landscape above. this is how the islands of hawai'i
were formed - the plate moving over a hot spot which deposits volcanic
rock which then comprise the islands. at any rate, read a book if you want
to know more. we saw old faithful do its thing, but, more impressive than
that, we saw grand geyser do its thing. it's the largest predictable geyser
in the world. the largest geyser in the world is giant geyser, also in
yellowstone, but its eruptions are extremely sporadic. it last erupted
one year ago. we also saw a geyser erupt that has erupted for 38 hours
straight. so, the geysers here run the gamut in height, type (fountain,
cone and a couple others whose names i've forgotten), duration of eruption,
and eruption interval. perhaps the most important element of the geysers
is their inclusion of cyano bacteria and other thermophiles. cyano bacteria
are used in dna indentification. the existence of thermophiles (which i
think were first discovered in yellowstone) is key to understanding the
possibility of life on other planetary bodies (especially jupiter's moon,
europa) as well as the possible origin of life on earth. for a long time
it was believed that life without sunlight was impossible. it was also
believed that life began in primordial tidal pools on the surface. these
thermophiles have proven that life can exist even at temperatures in the
high 100s (f) and more recent discoveries of life in the deep sea present
the possibility that life began near deep sea thermal vents.
grand geyser, bigger
than old faithful:
kid playing gameboy
while grand geyser (which has a three hour prediction window) erupts:
this one erupted for
38 hours on one occasion
nova and national geographic
digressions aside...mr. watson also informed us that bison near the geyser-heavy
portion of the park have it easy in the winter because grass is easier
to find and it's warmer. that said, the calcite (i think it was calcite)
in the geyser water (and thus in the grass) are bad for the bison, esp.
their teeth, so they generally live 1-2 years less than the other bison.
a grizzly, by the way, can do the 100 yard dash in 6.9 seconds. i think
that o.j. simpson's time at usc was 9.7. they don't really run the 100
yard dash anymore, but they do run the 100m.
should have used the
at night we drove to mammoth
springs to see the falls there, but didn't see much. at this point it was
pretty dark. we hit the road for glacier and slept in helena.
some podunk town in
montana has a bug problem:
right now we're about 30
mins from the west entrance of glacier.
this point my favorite national park had been the Everglades, but Yellowstone
has it beat now. Chris had told me a lot about Yellowstone in the days
leading up to our arrival. I was a little nervous about seeing it myself,
after it being built up so much I didn't want to be disapointed, but I
don't think there is any way Yellowstone could dissapoint you. It sucked
that we could only spend 1 day there, but I think we maximized the time
we had. Our three ranger guides were GREAT and the cool thing was we took
each one at a different area of the park to get a more rounded view. I
wouldn't really be able to say which program was my favorite, but I'd have
to say it was between the first and the last. All of our tour guides however
were, like Chris said, amazingly well informed and funny as well. I especially
found Mr. Watson funny when Chris and I would ask him questions between
stops along the tour. I had made a comment about the stupid kid playing
gameboy while Grand Geyser was going off and he chuckled and told us about
a 6 year old kid who was playing along the boardwalk next to the geyser
a few weeks ago. His parents weren't paying attention to him and he slipped
and fell into the 1 inch deep 180 degree water and got 1st and 2nd degree
burns. The nearest hospital is 130 miles away, so they had to airlift him
in a helicopter and his parents had to pay something like $8000.
thing Chris and I observed through our entire day in Yellowstone was kids
obsession with "DUNG!," as they would say. Each tour we took the kids kept
on pointing out all the animal pooh, it was pretty humorous. It didn't
matter that it was all over, kids still felt the need to tug on their parents'
or ranger's sleeve and let them know that there was a big pile of shit
right next to them. And it didn't matter how many times Chris and I heard
it, it still cracked us up.
was pretty sad to leave Yellowstone after our wonderful day there. It's
a place I would really like to go back to one day and spend A LOT more
time at. We made it to Glacier National Park around 2 or so and took the
main road through the park and admired the scenery. It was a shame that
we didn't have enough time to get out very much and hike around or participate
in a ranger activity. While we were driving up the road through the park
the scenery was pretty spectacular. The glaciers varied in size and shape,
and the trees around the area were pretty thick. The sad thing is, it's
depressing to think of how much damage is being done to this park. We stopped
at a visitor center at one point and asked a ranger a few questions and
she told us that it's estimated that the glaciers will be gone by 2020,
which is COMPLETELY insane. What is even more pathetic is the disrespect
for the park, by rangers and patrons alike. I was amazed at how many people
were using the lake for water activities. My dad has a boat, I understand
that it is a lot of fun to go out on a boat and hang out for the day, however,
I don't think a lake in the middle of a national park is the appropriate
place to do it. Boats, especially shitty ones, pollute the air A LOT and
as we learned from the Everglades, motor boats kill an incredible amount
of wildlife each year. It seemed like, on a whole, people were at this
park to lay out in the sun and use the parks natural resources for their
recreation, which I really think is a shame. Rangers also don't seem to
do their part. It was the first time at a park that I didn't really notice
very many rangers walking around seeing if you had any questions or needed
any help. At one point, Chris and I found 2 rangers standing talking to
each other so we walked up to ask them a few questions about the park.
Although we were standing right next to them they didn't really acknowledge
our presence or ask us if we needed anything. There were a few silent pauses
between them when it almost seemed like they were fishing for something
to say so they wouldn't have to talk to us. It might sound spoiled to think
that a ranger should be aware of someone around them who might ask a question,
but to me, that is the POINT of being a ranger. You are there to do your
park in educating people, making them aware, and answering their questions.
When one of them finally did answer to Chris' "excuse me?" he wasn't too
helpful. And in fact, as we were walking away, I heard his little homie
say, "Oh, they're dog is off leash, they're not supposed to be, but I'm
not going to say anything." I'm really glad the rangers really believe
in their park and are passionate about what they do.
got to say, I love Canada. We just passed the border into Alberta and the
border patrol lady was friendly and didn't give us any shit. Our last trip
into Canada was easy as well. So far, the one time we've had it rough was
coming back into the United States. I might have to get a nerdy shirt with
a big Canadian flag on it.
glacier is a relatively
depressing park, so is everglades. it really seemed like the rangers at
glacier were the jv squad and, of course, the realities of global warming
are depressing as well. i think one important change i would make to the
park service would be a mandatory 5 minute video that all visitors would
watch upon entry to the park. this video would go over the basics of park
care, maintenance and etiquette. here visitors would learn what they can/cannot
do and why. e.g., you can't feed wildlife because habitualizing them to
humans is bad for them (they become dependent upon the easy food and die
when visitors aren't around) and is bad for visitors (because it leads
to more wildlife-human encounters). a simple video outlining these issues
would go a long way to preserving the parks for everyone. of course, people
wouldn't have to view the video at every park. once you complete etiquette
training once you receive a card or sticker or something that would indicate
that you've already completed it. logistics might be difficult, especially
at high-traffic parks, but i think it would be worth it.
after glacier we drove
to calgary. the calgary area is famous for its cattle industry, but it's
also got a healthy presence in technology and oil. open range and unforgiven
are two westerns which were shot in calgary. both had very good cinematography.
unforgiven is mandatory and open range is pretty good, esp. since it's
a costner directed pic. calgary also has the highest number of americans
living outside of the u.s. on the way to calgary i noticed a decent sized
wind power farm. we drove through calgary a bit looking for a place to
eat. finally we settled on some place which happened to have chairs upholstered
in an americana motif - stuff like route 66 signs and the hollywood sign.
i had a burger which was made from calgary area beef and thought it tasted
different, but good. afterwards we drove around the city a bit more and
ended up watching a crappy movie that surprisingly had potential.
calgary sunset, 9:56pm
this morning we drove less
than an hour and made it to banff. banff and jasper are two large parks
a few hundred miles north of the border. there are four other parks (kootenay,
yoho, mount revelstoke and glacier) that are also either attached or near
by. somehow, though, jasper and banff are the two most well-known. banff
was formed first (1885) and jasper was next. two main highways cut through
banff and one through jasper, so i think those two factors are why jasper
and banff are the most well known.
we went through banff and
jasper, but not the other parks in the area. banff and jasper are quite
large so they presented us with plenty of driving. banff and jasper town
anchor the south and north ends of the parks. both are relatively built
up. there's a high school in banff, along with a gap, starbucks, etc. it
seems that, with these two parks anyway, the definition of park is more
literal than it is at american national parks. recreation rules in these
parks and i consider that unfortunate. we went to the visitor center in
banff and asked a ranger where we could get information on the park - its
history, geology, wildlife, etc. the knowledgeable ranger told us about
a few museums and self-guided trails that would be good for getting that
kind of information, but, honestly, she seemed surprised by the question.
most of the museums cost extra (beyond the park admission) and everyone
else who talked with the rangers seemed more concerned with hotel accommodations
and places to canoe, hike, bike, camp, etc. we were both a bit disappointed
at this point. the lack of exhibits outlining the fire management policy,
the wildlife challenges, the global warming issue and how it has affected
the glaciers, etc. were all absent. we drove to another part of the town
to see a building that was built in 1803 and walked around the premises.
a pair of rangers were at a table and had a few pelts and fossils. they
greeted us and we talked with a ranger named alix about (er, aboot) our
concerns. he echoed the same concerns and listed some others. he said it
was frustrating how much of a hold the commerce had on the area. he told
us that the speed limit was 90 km/h and the average speed was 117 km/h.
he also told us about the high roadkill count and that they built a fence
to cut down this. it's helped - a 95% drop since installation - but it's
made migration more difficult. they've built underpasses and overpasses
to combat this issue. the underpasses didn't work, but the overpasses have
seen good success. we talked for a few more minutes before he was relieved
of his shift. he patted me on the back and left. turned out that he was
the only ranger we encountered who seemed truly concerned with preservation
issues. he did tell us that banff and jasper are the exceptions to the
canadian park system, so that's good to hear.
this train transporting
sulphur rode through the park disturbing countless wildlife and visitors
we got back on the four
lane highway that cuts through the park and drove to lake louise. on the
edges of the lake there seemed to be some dirty water, but i had no way
of telling if it was natural or caused by humans. the color of the lake
is stunning and most reminiscent of waikiki. all of jasper and banff is
full of great scenery which is hampered a bit by the crowds (though it
was a sunday) and the lack of ranger education. throughout the parks there
are informational tablets, but rangers are largely absent and ranger-led
programs, so far as we could tell, were non-existent. lake louise is beautiful,
but it's got a huge hotel on the north (i think) end that sticks out.
outside of lake louise,
after lake louise we hit
the road for peyto lake. peyto lake is an amazing green color that really
blew me away. with the glaciers in the background, the thick forests, and
the steep mountains it's probably the most picturesque scene in the parks.
next we drove to the columbia
icefield/athabasca glacier. we hiked up a steep hill to walk on the slippery
glacier a bit, which was novel.
rock would have been a good spot for a ranger to give a lesson on the power
of the athabasca glacier:
standing on the athabasca
after the athabasca glacier
we drove down river to the athabasca falls
with regards to waterfalls,
i'm most interested in how the water shapes features like this:
...and this, which
has a circular shape cut into it from swirling water, as well as a major
fracture, likely from the freeze-thaw cycle.
canadians use military
time and i appreciate that.
one thing i read at the
jasper info center said that one study found it only takes 60 people a
month traveling on a path to scare away some wildlife.
just 22 more days left,
we slept in kamloops, bc
last night. this morning we went to a holiday inn and acquired some free
continental breakfast. we've done this a few times now. days inn has the
best stuff, but they make it difficult to acquire without having a room.
they give you breakfast slips that you turn into the chef and he makes
breakfast items to order. most other places just have donuts, muffins,
toast, cereal etc. out for the taking.
we've got about four hours
to go before we arrive in vancouver. the "seat belt required" signs in
canada are more simple and for a more educated populace. they have picture
of a person with a seat belt on and one word underneath: "compulsory."
i'd venture a guess that most u.s. high school grads don't know what that
related observation i've made is the (possibly excessive) use of the words
"eh' and "right." generally they act as punctuation at the end of the sentence.
in many instances the latter makes a statement into a quasi-question. "i
went to the store, right?" "and then i bought some cereal, right?" it's
like saying "are you with me?" or "you got that?" but it's usually part
of a statement so it changes the tone of the sentence at the last possible
moment. it adds a layer of deference to statements. you could say "you're
a damn asshole," add "right" to the end, and somehow it would make it almost
okay. "eh" can be used in a greater range of situations so i'm not going
to touch that one.
was pretty disapointed by Banff and Jasper National Parks. They were both
amazingly beautifully to drive through and explore, but it was pretty sad
to see how built up both the towns were inside the park and how little
the people seemed to care about actually preserving it. Alix seemed to
be the only person we encountered who was concerned with preservation instead
of shopping at the Gap. It was pretty pathetic that along the main road
in the town of Banff where you could go shopping at Banana Republic, Starbucks
and other stores there were more people than within the ACTUAL park. More
people went to a National Park to check the price on a pair of khakis than
they did to explore, hike, and educate themselves. As Chris and I drove
around the park I was really amazed at the fact that park rangers were
absent. Even as we were leaving the park and we went to a visitor center
to ask questions, the ranger there seemed to think it was weird that I
would ask why there were no rangers throughout the park. He seemed frustrated
when we asked him about fire management and if they had any informational
brochures (all the brochures they had OUT were about white water rafting
or helicopter or boat tours). Besides Alix, I was pretty dissapointed in
the park staff and thought they could have done a lot more to educate the
public, but like Alix said, at this park, people come first. Very sad.
although the staff was disapointing, the park was AMAZING. The colors of
the lakes and rivers seemed unnatural. The vivid blues and greens were
incredible to look at, and the glacier was really cool. The little trek
to make it up to the glacier really knocked the wind out of you - it was
incredibly steep and about 15-20 degrees cooler once you got to the top
with icy wind gusts. The highlight of the visit to the park for me was
getting to go on the glacier itself. It amazed me that they didn't have
a park ranger there for safety, just a few cones outlining the area you
could walk on. Of course, because humans are stupid, they were not staying
within the boundaries and instead walking all along the glacier, including
by the streams and rivers that were running along side it. I was nervous
that someone would slip and fall and no ranger would be there to help.
I've got to admit, I was pretty scared to get on the glacier, as much as
I liked it, it terrified me. It was really slippery and the streams running
along the top of it especially freaked me out. Chris tried to comfort me
by telling me that Johnny did it all the time, but when I could see the
water running underneath through the ice, it was a bit much for me. Once
we got off I was put at ease. As much as I was scared while being on it,
I still was excited that I had gotten to walk on a glacier.
got to say, Canadians seem a lot friendlier. A little while ago while on
our way to Vancouver we hit some construction and were stopped for about
15 minutes. People began getting out of their cars and a couple who looked
to be in their 50s and were in front of us asked us where we were headed
(a California plate in the middle of Canada does stick out). We started
chatting with them until the construction was cleared and ran into them
again at a gas station down the line about 30 minutes later. The husband
talked with Chris while we filled up on gas and told him where nice clean
facilities and good ice cream were. He was pretty interested in our trip
and seemed to enjoy the curtains we had made that we put down when we sleep
at night. He gave Chris a little pat on the back when he left the gas station
too, it seems to be a friendly gesture here. I like that. One thing I've
noticed in the US is that people are kind of afraid to be close to each
other or touch someone. If you ride a bus, people will more often stand
up that sit next to someone they don't know. It think that's pretty retarded,
so I enjoy the people being friendly and open here. As Chris has recounted
numerous times, Jim Gaffigan makes a good observation in relation to encounters
with strangers. If an incredibly ugly person smiles at you walking down
the street, you think, "ohhh, that guy's a weirdo, creep." However, if
an attractive person were to smile at you, you may think, "ohhhh, that's
so nice, what a nice person." I really can't say anything because I know
if I ran into a man with his pants on backwards, a patch over his eye and
a ponytail on top of his head and he smiled at me, I'd get a little freaked
out. If I ran into Mos Def and he smiled at me, well, that would be a completely
different story. Why is that?
after jasper and banff
we made the long drive to (the much ballyhooed) vancouver. vancouver routinely
ranks among the top cities in the world in which to live and, lately, has
been ranked above toronto among best canadian cities. by most accounts
it's a very fine city, but i didn't feel it was better than toronto. it
is probably a bit more picturesque - between the waterfronts and the hills
to the north - but i found toronto to be a more down to earth and exciting
city. the crime and homelessness seemed to be more prevalent in vancouver
as well. we saw one guy getting carted off in the paddy wagon and a few
bikers performing wheelies and nose-stops on the streets; posers. i think
vancouver is probably a more culturally hip city than toronto, but that
has no bearing on my personal ranking. it probably gets plenty of points
over toronto in the weather department, but i despise rain more than snow
so i'd probably rather live in toronto for that reason as well. although
we didn't compare housing costs, i'd guess (based upon the cost of other
things) that vancouver is a more expensive place to live than toronto as
well. toronto has an nba, nhl and mlb team so it's got that going for it
as well. overall, i found vancouver to be nice, but i still think toronto
is better. aesthetically, vancouver reminded me of miami a bit.
while in vancouver we went
to their fisherman's wharf area which, especially for a monday, was quite
active. there are several artisans who have shops in which to peddle their
(over-priced) wares. carpenters, glass-blowers, pottery makers, etc. are
all represented well. we found some great looking stuff, but most of it
would be equal to a month's salary.
i find that the wave doesn't
go over so well on the lower, field level decks. generally the wave begins
in the bleachers or upper decks and the lower level is last to pick up
on it. as usual, i see it as a class issue. the working class people start
the wave and the upper class people (who are seated in the lower levels)
are too good for such commonplace activities as the wave so they forego
participation. i think the wave has a stigma attached to it, but i'm not
real sure why.
most clever motel name
so far: Dew Drop Inn
so i finally settled on
my anti-bonds saying. for a while i was thinking it would be: Milken says:
I'll sell you some junk, Bonds. but just the other day i settled on: Milken
will sell you some junk, Bonds. i think it incorporates the two meanings
of "junk" and "bonds" effectively, while remaining pithy. i'm happy with
it. meryl got it printed on a shirt yesterday.
we had planned on going
from vancouver to victoria, but the exchange rate sucks and the prices
are ridiculous with a car. even if you stay in the car you still have to
pay for the people so it would have been about $60 to ferry ourselves to
victoria. then it would have been about the same amount to go to the u.s.;
pretty lame. so we decided to skip victoria (which is home of the best
milkshake i've ever had) and go to north cascades national park. it has
the greatest number of glaciers in the u.s., outside of alaska. it's a
nice enough park. it's actually split into two parks with a riverside highway
that cuts east-west between them. along the road/river is a recreation
area so technically you have to hike to get onto park property. the staff
was helpful and knowledgeable. there was an extremely cheesy video introduction
that easily beats out fort mchenry for worst video at a national park.
too bad. other than the bad video, i liked the place. there were some nice
vistas and waterfalls and the staff was good.
north cascades park:
this tree was creaking
quite a bit in the wind. it was rotten inside, looked chewed up and was
leaning quite a lot.
on our way back west from
the park we stopped and watched a movie. afterwards we went to whidbey
island to stay with two friends of meryl's mom. whidbey is right next to
anacortes, which i commented on in my first trip to washington so it's
strange i hadn't heard of it until recently. actually, i may have heard
of it and just forgot about it. my memory's crap so it's entirely likely.
at any rate, our hosts were very nice and they even gave us a free ferry
voucher back to the mainland so that saved us some time/money.
we made it to seattle in
the afternoon and didn't have much planned. we got meryl's shirt made and
went to the pike place market which is famous for the fish throwing antics.
we walked around there a bit, but going to those places without being able
to buy some of the quality fish and produce is like a castrated guy going
to a strip bar, or something. the rest of the day we really didn't do anything.
we wandered around a bit and made our way to safeco field, parked the car
and wandered around a bit more. the pre-game festivities are basically
relegated to stands selling candy, peanuts and hot dogs. we bought some
peanuts and went into the park two hours early. we walked around the park
a bit and settled down in the "hit it here cafe" which is located in right
field. meryl had the $11 chicken sandwich and i had the $13 steak tacos
which were small and featured the toughest meat i've ever had. our absent
waitress got a $1 tip and i gave the water boy a $2 tip. all in all it
was a shit experience. i wish i had lots of money. the kid who came by
to fill up our water was nice and seemed to be kicking ass, but i suspect
he goes largely unappreciated throughout his day. if i was warren buffet
or bill gates i could have rewarded him in a more commensurate fashion.
after the "dinner" we found
our seats in the left field power alley. we had a blind spot in outfield
which ended up not being a factor. the seats were angled in such a way
that we were looking at a space between the third baseman and left fielder;
it was odd. another odd thing about the park is the retractable roof. it
acts more as an umbrella than a roof, which is pretty cool, but it also
cost $200 million, this according to our baseball road-trip book. according
to them games in boston, baltimore and new york have a greater chance of
getting rained out than in seattle. furthermore, if you assume there would
have been 20 rainouts a year for the next 30 years the roof essentially
cost them $333,333 per rainout. what's more is they installed a drainage
system that can hold up to 25 inches of rain in 24 hours. so...seattle
seems to have taken it in the rear on that one.
the park itself is nice.
since i didn't have to foot the bill, i liked the roof. the open concourses
open up the park well. the bullpens are essentially open to foot traffic
- you're on the same level as the relievers - which is pretty cool. the
foul territory seemed pretty large in the infield. there's the usual amount
of advertising, field dimensions are relatively standard and center field
has a little dead area, sorta like new busch. there were some nice art
installations throughout the park, which i appreciated. our game experience
was a pretty good one. the game itself had some slow moments, but it looked
like the blue jays were going to make a comeback late in the game so that
added some drama. the people in front of us were from vancouver and were
rooting for the blue jays. we talked a bit with them and they were pleasant.
the people to our right were in the military so they were from all over
and we chatted with them a bit. the group of kids to our left were speaking
french and were funny to watch. they were often far more concerned with
their hair and taking pictures of themselves, than the game. the guys behind
us were kinda drunk and were laughing at the kids along with us. we talked
briefly about lambeau field.
can scrap art:
view from out seats:
stupid kids posing:
after the game meryl drove
for about 1.5 hours, then went in the back and slept. then i drove for
about 1.5 hours, found a rest stop and also slept. woke up this morning,
got some breakfast at a holiday inn and hit the road. we're about 15 minutes
from crater lake right now.
we're in the bay area now.
and by bay area i mean the san francisco bay area, as opposed to the chesapeake
on our way from washington
to sacramento we stopped by crater lake to check it out. it wasn't a great
day for visibility, but we still got a good view of the lake. at 1,943
feet, it's the deepest lake in the u.s. and the 2nd deepest in the western
hemisphere, but the 7th in the world. baikal lake in siberia is over 5,000
feet deep. what makes crater lake exceptional is that it's a closed ecosystem
- there aren't any rivers leading in or out of crater lake. while there
are two species of introduced fish, there isn't much else in the water
to muck it up. as a result of it being so pure and deep, the blue color
of the lake is amazing. it was caused by what is believed to be the most
powerful eruption of the last 10k years. mt. mazama was ten times more
powerful than krakatoa which erupted in 1883. we saw quite a bit of ice
and snow remaining which made it all the more picturesque. our park ranger
talk was given by dave henderson (not the ball player) and he did a good
job. the story of crater lake is pretty typical of the cascades, so if
you know about subduction then you know all you need to know.
after crater lake we made
our way to sacramento. we skipped lassen, one of only a couple national
parks in california i haven't seen; the channel islands park is the other.
i wanted to get to sacramento on the early side, though, so i had forego
the opportunity. we stayed with john and emily in sacramento and watched
a dvd on the dudesons, who predate the jackass crew. they're crazy.
freeway entrance in
dunsmuir. this is where vern and i jumped on a train that eventually derailed.
after the train derailed
we begged a nice girl to give us a ride out of this rest area:
the next morning we went
to davis and visited tower. justin and christo were there, but no one else
from my era was around. it was good to see the guys again and visit the
old place. after a nostalgic stop at in and out with john, we left for
meryl's grandpa's. we chatted a bit and had a great lunch, but had to leave
for the game.
the coliseum isn't too
bad for a dual-use facility. i had been once before (also with meryl, also
when they played the bluejays), but this time was very different because
of the park experience i have now. the foul territory is one of the more
notable attributes of the field. it's the largest foul territory in the
league which probably makes it more of a pitcher's park. the bullpens are
in the foul territory, the field is symmetrical and well-maintained. there
were quite a few giveaways on the day that we were there. they even gave
away a new car. the concourses aren't very open and it's not much to look
at, but it's not a bad place to watch a game. they've recently closed off
the top deck which means fewer seats, but it also means that the worst
seats are better than they used to be. strange how that works. one of the
less attractive elements of the dual-use design is that many of the seats
aren't angled towards the action. ideally you're angled towards the batter/pitcher.
we sat in very good seats near first base that were well-angled for football,
but were probably 15-20 degrees off for baseball. it's not a big deal,
but it's definitely something you notice. one of these days an engineer
will come up with a design that allows for easily movable seats and sections.
until then the single-use park will remain as the preference of cities
looking to build new ones. in the bottom of the 4th the power went out.
that was a new experience. i forgot to mention that there were two fights
during the game, also firsts for the trip. meryl had all but promised a
fight in oakland, and a few hooligans delivered.
the last day and a half
we've basically just stayed at meryl's parents place. yesterday family
came over for dinner. today we visited berkeley briefly. tomorrow we have
a giants game.
brucella abortus is the
name of the disease i referenced in my yellowstone section on bison. thanks
to my grandma for the follow-up on that one.
| Middle | End