Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jacks (And Beer!)

Day 12

We left our hotel in Utica early Tuesday, Day 12 morning (creating the reason for delayed blog posts) and headed south towards Cooperstown NY, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was about an hour’s drive through misty rain which was due to end around noon. Luckily the internet said parking was a short walk through Cooperstown to the Hall of Fame.

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Fran is just left of center in the pink shirt.

The rain was mostly stopped by the time we arrived but Rosie was sulking.

”I will get wet, Dad. I don’t like wet,” she groused.

”It’s ok, Rose. You will dry. Your fur doesn’t hold water long.”

”Hair, not fur, Dad. Do we need to have that discussion again?”

”No, please don’t. Boy, you are sure touchy today, aren’t you?”

”Only because you are criticizing me all morning.”

“Oh look, the Baseball Hall of Fame. Let’s find a place to park and go wait for it to open,” I said, changing the subject and looking to Fran for some help.

”We just passed a parking lot,” Fran said. “Make a U Turn and it will be on the left.”

Sure enough, there was the big “P” for park sign, just a couple of blocks from the Hall. I let Rosie out of the car and held a small umbrella over her, while I walked in the light rain. Fran had purchased online tickets on Monday, Day 11, plus had senior discounts and saved $10 each, plus because we had E-tickets we could enter with the baseball teams prior to the general admission tickets. We snuck Rosie in under my arm. No one paid any attention to her. Luckily, she was still in a snit over being criticized and wasn’t talking, just muttering under her breath.

The Hall of Fame was everything we wanted. Plaques of our hero’s past and present. Wisdom of those who eat, breathe and sleep the game. Those who live for the game of baseball.

 

Fran’s takeaway phrase from the Hall was, “In a baseball radio broadcast you watch the game with your ears,” and its true. We listened to a broadcast for a few seconds and the announcers description conveyed exactly what was happening on the field and both of us could see it in our minds eye. I didn’t ask Rose.

My takeaway phrase, as best as I can remember it was, “Baseball is easy, if you are a ball player.” I believe it was Ted Williams who said that. Feel free to correct me. You can succeed at whatever you do. Choose whatever you wish to do and commit to it. Totally. You can do it.

Any talk of baseball greats would be incomplete without a tip of the hat to one of our BD39A7B1-4768-465B-A293-8A15A75400EAforever-favorites, Jose Fernandez, Miami pitcher who tragically died in a boating accident. We have never witnessed a ball player who enjoyed the game to the fullest and committed himself so totally to excellence. Its a shame his life and career was cut so short. Fran and I still mourn his loss.

We spent several hours viewing the 3 floors of displays and taking pictures before we left for lunch at the Cooperstown Cafe. (Try their 1/4 lb kosher hotdog. Outstanding! I also had a Yankee Ale. Meh.)

We left Cooperstown in another rainstorm, travelled some back roads heading toward Albany. One of my favorite people in the world, one of my childhood heroes lives in a senior residence in Bennington VT and I had been unsuccessfully calling her every hour all day to see if we could stop and see her. She never answered. I had her address so decided to drive over. It was only 2 hours and 107 miles. Maybe we could just drop in on her.

I remember almost 50 years ago she came to visit our family at our cottage on Lake Dunmore. She drove up in her new Saab (I subsequently had 6 Saabs over the years) listening to a Laura Nyro cassette. (You remember cassettes? You remember Laura Nyro?)

On our way, we drove through a single lane covered bridge. There aren’t many of them left around. I had to stop and take a picture.

We followed “the bitch” through backstreets and interstates and when we were almost convinced she was lost, we found the residence where Aunt Marge currently lives. I walked into the reception desk and asked if she was around and the woman said, “Yes, she is right over there, and pointed to the lobby area.

I walked over to her and after her initial shock she smiled wide and was so pleased. She couldn’t believe we just dropped in on her. I told her she doesn’t answer her phone very often and she said, “I don’t spend much time I my room. I like to walk and come visit in the lobby. Just keep trying and eventually I will answer it.”

“That didn’t work so we decided to just come see if we could find you. And we did!”

Aunt Marge is one of the most independent, intelligent, strong people I have ever known. We talked about the past, her present. She asked about Grace, my writing and Rosie. We laughed about all the things our family has done and all the fun we had.

She told me she is now the oldest of her siblings. She was the third to the youngest of 7, five girls and two boys. My mom was the oldest.

I asked her how old she was and asked, “93?”

She said, “No, I am 96.”

I told her she didn’t look a day over 93 and she laughed thinking that was so funny. Aunt Marge is still so sharp and witty. She makes up jokes filled with irony and puns. She is amazing and still one of my heros.

Lanie sent me some scanned pictures of all our aunts. While perhaps not totally politically correct I am proud to say these women are strong, intelligent and beautiful.

Too soon we had to leave. We still had a few hours to drive today. We would be at the same cottage on Lake Dunmore tonight. The same cottage Aunt Marge drove her Saab with the Laura Nyro cassette tape to visit us so long ago.

Before we left Aunt Marge said, “You have made my month.”

She doesn’t know the influence she had on my life.

There’s Someplace Like Home

Day 11

We left John and Liz after lunch on Monday, Day 10 and drove the short distance (for us now) to Utica NY in about 150 miles and 3 hours east. We checked in and dropped our luggage at our hotel then drove (what felt like next door) 45 minutes to Cousin Lanie’s house. Rain found us for the first time on our Journey. We were driving through the low hills and foothills north of Utica and the sky’s opened. Other than driving a bit slower, much to the chagrin of those behind me, all the rain did was to wash some of the dead bugs off the car.

img_5426My cousins name is Elaine, but those of us who have known her for at least 6 decades can call her Lanie. By coincidence and good fortune her brother, Alan, (oddly known as Alan) and his wife Peggy were up from down south visiting and we had a mini family reunion. Lanie’s next door neighbor Kim rounded out the party.

Rosie took one look at Lanie’s huge yard and took off running large loops and figure 8’s yelling back, “Whoo hoo! Be back in a while!! Have a nice visit,” and was gone.img_5439

After some very welcome XOXO’s the evening progressed much like the previous with a lot of catching-up-with and wacha-been-doin talk (and laughs.)

DEC01F19-A86C-48D5-B424-0C414482672AAgain, too early we had to say goodbye. We really wanted to be back at our hotel before dark and the impending stronger thunderstorms.

John and Liz

Day 10

“Who are these people we are visiting today, Dad?”

“They are friends from college, long ago, Rose,” I told her.

“How long ago, Dad, like a year ago?”

“Much longer than that, Rosie. Let me tell you a little about them before you meet them. Maybe it will help you understand.”

Our anniversary is in September, right after Labor Day. As it happens, so often in my life, our meeting was not by chance. We were assigned adjacent rooms on the 3rd floor of Hamden Hall at Western New England College in Springfield, MA. As bad luck would have it my assigned roommate, John, was a slob, smoked like a chimney (in the room) and slept through his first class every day. And, as bad luck would have it, John’s roommate, Mike, started off as a straight A student, then started smoking, if you get what I mean.

John and Dave 1973 – Backpacking Tripo

“No, I don’t know what you mean. I don’t see many people smoking cigarettes any more and I am glad,” said Rosie. I started to reply that they weren’t “cigarettes” but decided to let it go.

Aside from being a black belt in karate for nearly 60 years. the one thing that impressed me about John was his determination. (Fran calls that stubbornness when talking about me.) John had a life plan, whereas, I planned my next hour, if coerced. John wanted to be an attorney, like his father, maybe not in the same field, but an attorney none the less. John and Liz wanted to marry, which was apparent from the start. In our sophomore, no, our junior year, John and Liz married and returned to WNEC, to live off campus. (After a particularly bad flu season where everyone was dropping like flies and most schools in the area closed, our college was nicknamed We Never Ever Close.)

“So how did you stay in touch? It’s not easy. I don’t know anyone from my past anymore,” Rose said.

Rosie never talks about her past so I took this opportunity to find out more about our Rosalita, before she came to us, but she avoided the question by saying, “We are talking about you now, Dad. We are not talking about me.”

”But you never talk about what happened to you before you came to us, Rose. We would like to know.”

”A dog’s past, is past, Dad. What happened before makes a dog what they are, but it stays in the past.”

”Ok, well then back to John and me.”

After graduation John attended law school in Ohio before returning home. We stayed

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John and Dave After Some Adult Beverages

in gentle-touch, mainly Christmas cards, every year. I remember John’s handwriting being as bad as mine, so I suspect the cards were thanks to Liz. On the other hand, mine were all computer-geek generated address labels and envelopes.

“Did you ever meet again, until today, I mean,” Rose asked.

”Twice. We had fun times.”

I believe it was in the early ’00’s when I visited John and Liz. I had a business trip in Rochester and managed to book a hotel close to their house. John picked me up in his pickup truck, drove into one of his orchards near their home, opened the windows and we picked and ate apples directly from the tree. Outstanding! We talked and reminisced all afternoon and into the evening. Mainly, we laughed.

“So you are smarter now, after college, right?”

”Smarter? I am no so sure. We were pretty smart back then. We were so young when we met, 50 years ago. That’s a half a century, Rose.  We are older and perhaps wiser, or at least more aware of life now.”

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Day 10 – On the Shore of Lake Ontario

We met two of John and Liz’s children and two of their grandchildren. It was no surprise they were as warm, friendly, talented and fun as their parents and grandparents. What a great family. The rest of John and Liz’s family was off camping in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, up the PCH to the Tetons. Great trip! We hope to meet them next time.

John and Liz live on the shore of Lake Ontario where (Captain) John does a lot of scuba

Dawn at Lake Ontario

diving searching for wrecked ships. There are a LOT of ship wrecks in the Great Lakes.

After lunch on Day 11 we sadly said goodbye and headed towards Utica, NY.32325D09-8108-443C-AAD1-33B3042A3DB1

Cleveland Rocks!

Day 9

It’s true. A day at the Rock &Roll Hall of Fame will convince you it’s true. Walk around downtown and see all the clubs, pubs and restaurants and you will believe it too. Cleveland rocks!

“Dad, why do you go out walking so early in the morning?” asked Rosie. “We could be sleeping. ”

“You have plenty of time to sleep, Rose. Early morning is the perfect time to explore a new place. There aren’t many people around to bother you and Mom can sleep later.”

“Mom likes me to sleep with her,” Rosie objected.

“Yeah. Until you stick your nose in her ear.”

“Once I did that, once! Maybe twice, three times max, and it was a pee emergency. You were off walking or more probably golfing.”

“Don’t you blame me. I walk you before I leave. Now be quiet and let’s explore downtown Cleveland.”

We stayed at the Residence Inn on Prospect, right in the middle of the gentrified img_0259 section. The adjacent Euclid and Colonial Arcades were developed in the 1890’s to house shops and boutiques with tables and trees lining each side to protect patrons from the sweltering summers or frigid winters. They were updated and modernized, while maintaining the original intent of use, but weren’t open this early.  The historical pictures are probably better anyway.

Our breakfast room was lined with small stained glass windows. The center one says Colonial Hotel displaying what is presumably their coat of arms (before logo days.) Beautiful.

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Several street were blocked forming mini pedestrian malls. The main streets were lined with steak houses, sushi bars and bar bars. It is a very nice renovated mixed use neighborhood.

Cleveland is a thriving convention location and tourist destination. Go figure!img_5378

Now, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a don’t miss opportunity. Six floors of displays, videos, movies and exhibits. Take your time and do them all. The theaters are great, well produced and display varied talents and history of Rock & Roll. Ice Cube said it best in his induction speech: “Rock & roll is not an instrument, rock & roll is not even a style of music. Rock & roll is a spirit. It’s a spirit.”

Induction Plaques of various favorite artists.

Interior shots of the R&R HoF and the only picture of hand written lyrics that were worth posting. “The Waiting is the Hardest Part” – Tom Petty. There were many more but cleverly encased in glass that reflected the spot lights illuminating them,

Oh! And watch Prince do the lead and solo to George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Awesome talent (both.) Prince enters at the 3:30 mark: 

 

Chicago to Cleveland

Day 8

My apologies to anyone living in Gary, Michigan City or South Bend. There are probably very interesting things to see and do in those places, just not on I-90. (Someday, ask me about my trip to Michigan City in the late 1970’s.)

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The only interesting view along our drive today

As dull as today‘s post title, the drive from Chicago to Cleveland was just as exciting.

We left almost on schedule, (10 minutes early) and managed to not lose our way leaving Chicago.

Once on I-90 and away from Chicago,  Rosie complained, “Dad, this is boring. Aren’t there any animals to look at? Even big ones? I am not afraid of big animals if I am in the car with you and Mom.”

“Sorry Rosalita. This is the country’s rust belt. Not much to see here, just lots of old, abandoned industry and infrastructure.”

“Any mountains Dad? I would like to see more snow in July. That was fun. This is boring.”

“Go back to sleep, Rose. It’s a short drive today, only 6 hours.”

Fran bought Stubhub tickets for the Indians vs Yankees game for that night and wanted to arrive at the Progressive Field in time for batting practice. Also, the stadium has over 40 draft beers on tap so I would have something to do while Fran and Rosie watched BP.

Rosie continued to sleep, this time in Fran’s large pocketbook. Luckily there was only a cursory bag inspection at the stadium gate.

I discovered two amazing things when we arrived at the stadium. One is they have $2 beers from 5:30 to 7:30, the second is they have $1 hot dogs (limit 6.) No problem for me, my img_5362limit is much lower than 6.img_5359

As it turned out, according to a stadium staff member, the $2 beer was ‘almost’ stale Bud and Coors Lite that the companies don’t want to stock on retail shelves. For me, that is 3 strikes (Bud, Coors and Stale) and instantly I am over at Great Lakes Brewing, directly across the stadium from the Block Party cheap beer. Great Lakes’ actual brewery is located just across the Cuyahoga River, about 2 miles away. Their beer is NOT stale.

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Great Lakes has a huge variety of beers. Among those on tap were Elliot Ness Amber and Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. The names are nearly as good as the beer. I always start tasting with the “lighter” beer so had the amber first. It was a smooth well balanced ale with a very nice, nutty flavor. One amber and 2 hot dogs made an excellent traditional baseball game dinner. The porter was outstanding, with smokey overtones of chocolate and coffee. Perfect for dessert, plus I made it back to my seat in time for “first pitch.” Interestingly, two beers at $12 each plus 2 hot dogs at $1 each was less expensive than one beer and a sandwich at ATT Park where we watch the SF Giants play.0ECCCBB2-60C3-4AE9-A219-4595DAD7841A

We stayed through Giancarlo’s homer in the top of the 9th and heard the cheers of the winners as the Indians turned a double play on the next batter. That’s why they are #1 right now. The stadium provided a fireworks show right after the game. We heard it on our walk back to our hotel. I was asleep before it was over.

 

Tomorrow is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Can’t wait!

My Kind of Town

Day 7

You should have seen Rosie in her little doggie life vest. The only way the tour line would let her go is if she wore it. We were on an architectural tour of Chicago by river. It was well worth the money, even if they don’t have senior discounts.

I was about to take a picture of her, she was so cute, and she snarled, “You take that picture and you will have one big problem on your hands.”

”Big,” I said, surprised. “You don’t even weigh 20 pounds. What kind of “big” problem could you be?”

”We are about one quarter of the way through our journey now, right? How many times have I peed in the car, or better yet the hotel room? You know that deposit you have to give for me to stay there? Have you smelled the inside of a car after 3 weeks of dog pee accumulating in the back seat?”

I pointed the camera away. Have you ever been in a vindictive dog fight? Take my advice, avoid them.

We walked down by Riverwalk, about a block from our hotel, planning to buy tickets for a later tour. It turned out a tour was leaving in 20 min so we decided to take ours now. We chose the architectural tour as Chicago has a varied collection of old and new architecture. It’s also the home of Frank Lloyd Wright, however we found none of his buildings reside downtown along the river, although some of his students designed various buildings seen on the tour.

The tour is about 90 minutes long and goes on the Main, North and South branches of the Chicago River. We had an excellent volunteer docent, a teacher by profession who spends his summer leading these tours and describing the buildings and their history to tourists.

Many of the buildings exhibit amazing imagination as they were designed to fit the lot 5E7C79FB-593F-4EED-85D6-134BF9952414they occupied, or reflect their environment. Several were clad in blue or blue-green glass to represent the Chicago River. Some were curved to flow alongside the bank of the river.
One was located on a narrow strip of land forcing the base to taper down smaller than the width of the building. The glass on the angled windows of the base reflected an image of the tour boats as they passed. (Center picture)

After looking left and right a few times and craning her neck to look up, Rosie muttered, “Modern, Post-Modern, Neo-classical and what they call Art Deco. If they want Art Deco they should visit Miami, or better yet, my home, Havana. I think I will take a nap.”

The rusty Chicago Style bridges we passed under looked old but apparently still functioned. They are known as trunnion bascule bridges. Think of them as two see-saws meeting at the middle of the river. Counterweights are pushed on or off the end of the bridge to raise or lower it. (Right picture shows understructure of one bridge.)

If you look closely at the bottom left corner of the right picture you can see Rose, asleep at the wheel. Just kidding.

After the boat tour we headed towards the Art Institute of Chicago. We had decided to 96507DBF-E141-402F-9963-090E2764FF2Ehave a light lunch before visiting the Art Institute so stopped by Millennium Park for a traditional Chicago lunch – a real Chicago Sausage sandwich with jalapeños. When I picked it up the basket was soaked in oil. What could be better, plus it stays with you all day and well into the night!

We were amazed at the paintings in the Art Institute. Works you only read about or see in books, Renoir’s, Chagall’s, Grant Woods’ American Gothic. I never knew the woman was Woods’ sister and the man was their dentist. (I might shop around.) Learn something new every day. Probably Rosie could have told me that.

After a brief rest at home we went to Lou Malnatis restaurant on Wells for a traditional 5D1BE2D9-1D03-427B-BD33-3B78661DC21Fdeep dish Chicago pizza with butter crust. Being an easterner I have trouble with this as a pizza, but as a great tasting Italian dish, no problem at all. I just realized I called the hotel “home.” After another week or two of travel I will think of the Prius as home.

We walked the 17 blocks from Lou’s to the CIBC theater to attend our first performance of “Hamilton.” Everyone else in our family (Neil & Maureen, Daniel & Frances) have seen it at least once, this was our first time. We decided to attend in Chicago as the Stubhub tickets were half the cost of Broadway’s. We ended up 6th row, center. Not bad at all. Fran won’t  tell me how much they cost. It was an excellent show. The acting, singing, dancing and set were all amazing.

We walked the 10 blocks back to the hotel and decided our 1½ day R&R in Chicago was well worth it. Tomorrow morning we leave for Cleveland and an Indians vs Yankees game tomorrow evening. It’s only a 6 hour drive so we have our ½ day of rest before we leave.

 

Mr State Trooper, Please Don’t Stop Me!

Day 6

“Time to wake up,” I said, gently shaking her butt. “C’mon, we have a long drive today.”

7CAD8F89-806C-4042-9591-0A3FD15D1609She opened one eye and looked at me with disdain, bordering on disgust.

“We are leaving Albert Lea and driving all the way to Chicago today.”

“Ok, ok. Just give me a minute,” she groused.

I then walked over to Fran and gently woke her up too.

While Fran was in the shower I took Rosie out for her morning walk. The gas tank was already filed and the cooler was filled with fresh ice and stored it in the car.

Thus far on our journey we stayed in Choice Hotels. This is the chain we used on our last cross country trip, and again, they were rewarding frequent stayers with a $50 gift card for every 2 stays. When you are on the road for almost a month, they add up. Plus breakfast is included in the hotel rate. Over the past two years either the hotel chain degraded significantly, or the breakfast was less enticing (not nearly as good as memory made it) or our tastes and expectations changed. Plus the rooms are twice as expensive as last time (due no doubt to the same faulty memory on my part) with noisy air conditioners. I will say without exception the hotel staff was friendly and helpful which almost made up for the lack of quality. We will be changing chains for the third half of our journey.

Eventually we left Albert Lea and headed east on I-90. Chicago was 400 miles east and D49F75F2-9656-4D77-AE7E-EA728427A54FGoogle Maps, affectionately known by those who use her as “the bitch” told us it we would arrive in 6 hours and 11 minutes, or 3:22 PM.

”Dad? “ asked Rosie. “Will there be any big animals today? You know I don’t really like big animals.”

”No, Rose. There probably won’t be any animals at all.” (We did actually see 2 deer killed by cars on the highway and I saw one in a stand of trees a dozen yards off the road.) “Today is just driving. You can go back to sleep and we will be in Chicago before you know it.”

Through South Dakota most of the highway was straight and flat. Once we crossed the Minnesota border the terrain added some character as it started winding through a few low hills. We even passed a ski area, albeit a small one, even by eastern standards.

”Are we there yet, Dad? Rose asked. “You said we would be there before I knew it, and I know it now. Are we there?”

Falling back on old reliable I answered, again, “No Rosie, we are never there, we are always here.”

Unsatisfied, she persisted, “Not funny, Dad. You use that all the time and its wearing thin. Try coming up with something new and pithier.”

”Pithier?” I shot back. “A dog is suggesting I be a bit pithier?”

”Don’t blame me. You made me what I am today.”

We stopped for lunch at a Fuddruckers. The one we used to frequent in South Florida closed 20 years ago and despite some less than stellar Yelp reviews of this one we decided to give it a try, if only for old times sake. Surprisingly, it was about as we remembered. Nothing great but not bad either.

We resumed the trip around 2PM and I noticed the bitch had added an hour to the trip, we would now arrive around 4:22. Part of the reason was the “Road Work” sign that informed us there would be 42 miles of one lane 55 mph interstate ahead.  Also, there is a $10,000 fine and 14 years in prison for hitting a road worker. Luckily, for 42 miles I didn’t see a single road worker working. Eventually the road “no-work” was over and we sped back up to 80 mph (sorry officer if you are reading this, I meant 70 mph.)

39 miles from out destination the bitch told me we had 1 hour and 33 minutes left. A moment later we were stuck in a traffic jam. As usual, she was right, to about the minute. Large city traffic, you don’t have to love it, you just have to live with it.

Note to self: leave during non-rush hour time, if there is one.