Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Baseball Tour Day 10, and alas, Day 11

Monday, July 30 & Tuesday, July 31. I started Monday well with another Hyatt swim. This time the roof was open-I love swimming under the open sky! I called the Museum of Fine Arts and learned that I could check my luggage there, greatly simplifying my travel. So I checked out of the Hyatt and took an Uber to the Museum. It was outstanding! Just the structure alone is huge and amazing to see. You definitely need the map and plenty of hours to see everything. In my three hours there, I'd say I saw maybe half of it. My favorite thing was the whole room devoted to Monet paintings, including two of my favorites, Water Lilies and The Water Lily Pond. The variety of art is amazing. I saw Egyptian mummies and a huge hanging sculpture made from, I kid you not, "styrofoam cups and hot glue." Gaugin, Renoir, Van Gogh, Homer, along with sculptures, stained glass, and painted porcelain. It was well worth the steep price of admission, $25, which is so typical for everything in Boston. 

Mid-afternoon I called an Uber to go to the airport and was blessed with a driver wearing a Cubs World Series ball cap who was born in the Dominican Republic, source of many current and past great players in the Majors. Needless to say, a lively baseball discussion ensued. All went well at the airport and on my flight to Houston until we landed 45 minutes late. With a terminal change required and well over a mile of scampering, I missed my flight to Wichita, the last of the day. GRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!! Of course, United would accept no responsibility, so I got an extra night of vacation at the airport Marriott for the United discount price of only $140!!!! GRRRRRRR!!!!!! I was so mad, I was in tears (as well as exhausted and sore from a 4-hour flight in the middle seat between two large men). I did get a few hours of sleep.

Tuesday... My 9:25 flight was late (why couldn't that have happened last night????), but finally, I'm home!!!!!! Plans are to avoid United in the future as much as possible. Overall, an outstanding vacation. GO, CUBBIES!!!!!!!!
Thanks for reading about my adventures!!!!
     Leta, the baseball nut

The Styrofoam Cup Sculpture

Monday, July 30, 2018

Baseball Tour Day 9--Quack Quack

Sunday, July 29. I slept in past 8:00, magnificent. Even more magnificent for my travel-weary body was a swim in the Hyatt's lap pool. After showering, dressing, and blogging, I called an Uber for a ride to the Boston Museum of Science. There I caught my ride on the Boston Duck Tour. The duck I was on was an original land-and-sea vessel from WW2, modified for tourists, of course. Touring the famous streets of Boston, our guide was equal parts full-of-shit, historian, and good teller of bad jokes, wearing farmer's overalls even. When it came time for the duck to go in the water, the driver simply drove down a concrete ramp into the Charles River, the propeller started up, and off we went for great views of the Boston and Cambridge skylines. We got out of the river via the same ramp. I'm not sure the tour was worth the money, but it was a novelty I had not experienced before.
After the Duck Tour, I took off walking toward Little Italy and the Freedom Trail (a walking tour of Boston's historical sights). I saw TD Garden where the Boston Celtics and Bruins play. I had a great time roaming around the many stalls of the Boston Public Market, purchasing a couple of snacks for later. Humidity and hunger won out over history (no surprise, I've never liked history much), so I walked to Little Italy and settled on Pagliuca's Restaurant. There I enjoyed great Italian bread and excellent eggplant Parmesan with a side of spaghetti with red sauce. That fortified me enough to walk by Paul Revere's house, but there was a big line, and the entrance was blocked so I couldn't even see the house. Geez. So I called an uber and returned to the Hyatt, to rest up for the Cubs-Cardinals evening game. Cubs won, after midnight, due to a rain delay.
Tomorrow... the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and (yippee!!!) back home.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Baseball Tour Day 8 Fenway

Saturday, July 28. From Albany, we headed out about 9am for Boston, arriving just after noon. I enjoyed a quick lunch with tour buds at the Boston Beer Works adjacent to Fenway. As soon as I saw it on the menu, I knew I had to have the New England classic--clam chowder. That and a local IPA made a great lunch. 
We then met our Fenway tour guide at the HUGE Red Sox team store. He was a super guide, full of history and funny stories. Today happens to be a game day honoring military, so every seat has an " I salute ____________" sign for folks to fill out and display in unison at a designated point during the game. Cool!!! We saw Fenway Farms, a giant rooftop garden supplying the ballpark. We got to sit on top of the Green Monsta (Boston pronunciation). It was erected to block free game watchers across the street, and also to stop home runs from breaking windows in the new car lots over there. We went by the giant press box (second in size only to Yankee Stadium) and the single red seat in center field where Ted Willams landed a 510' homer, the longest ever measured inside Fenway. We didn't get to go to field level or the dugout because of it being a game day. Great tour, nonetheless. 
We checked into our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Cambidge (passing the lovely MIT campus) with some time to settle in and relax before heading back to Fenway at 5:30 for the Sox-Twins game. 
The bus dropped us off outside Fenway and a bunch of our group decided to walk around the outside before going in. The atmosphere around Fenway is very much like Wrigley on game day--loads of people eating, drinking, shopping for souvenirs, bands playing, great merriment. The Fenway delicacy I chose was an Italian sausage with sautéed onions and peppers, quite yummy. We got to our seats in time for an honoring on-field of 500+ family members of deceased military. We were in the outfield on the right field side. We saw two homers, one of which went over the Green Monsta. There was plenty of action in the Red Sox 10-4 win over the Twins. The goofiest thing was the fan-ritual singing in the 8th inning of "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond. I hate that song, but the fans surely were entertaining and enthusiastic. 
Alas, this was the last night of the tour, so when we returned to the hotel, we said our goodbyes to a great bunch of baseball fans and new friends we hope to see on future baseball tours. This tour was some of the best money I ever spent, and I would go on another Triple Crown Baseball Tour again in a heartbeat. Still to come... two more days of Boston fun... 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Baseball Tour Day 7--Hall of Fame

Friday, July 27. We left NYC (great joy on my part) and headed to Cooperstown. The countryside of NY is so much like Pennsylvania where I grew up that it was like a "little bit of home." Beautiful rolling hills, farms, trees, flowers, quaint little towns. Along the way we watched on the bus the heart-warming baseball movie, The Rookie. 
We arrived in Cooperstown just after noon. It is a gorgeous small town with a lively Main Street that was all set for Hall of Fame Induction weekend. Yep, we hit Cooperstown at the perfect time. The HOF is way more awesome than I could have ever imagined. Three floors of exhibits about how baseball started, well over 100 years of history, every record imaginable, displays for each team, baseball artworks, and then a great hall and rotunda with all the individual Hall of Fame plaques. I spent over four hours roaming and could have easily spent a couple more. The "icing on the cake" was a movie about baseball with many of the greats of my lifetime. It epitomizes why I love baseball so much, and I walked out of it in tears, as did many others. I'm thinking that the HOF was the pinnacle of the tour. 
I wandered around town and had a pizza lunch, shopped, and later sat and enjoyed an ice cream and talked with one of the street vendors. There are loads of vendors on the streets for Induction weekend. To my great delight, I found a Life-Is-Good store and could not pass up a Cooperstown-baseball Life is Good shirt--it's totally me. There was a huge lazing Golden Retriever in the store, making me homesick for Dusty, but alas, the dog was not for sale. Several of my fellow tour buds saw former players around town--Darryl Strawberry, Pete Rose, Dale Murphy--but I missed them. 
We left Cooperstown around 6pm, and drove to our overnight stop in Albany. About a third of our group of 52 went out to a sports bar for supper. It has really been a fun group and we had a lot of laughs, especially with Bobby, our host from Australia. Yep, he's that big of a fan, to travel halfway around the world to do these tours. 
Another day in paradise!!!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Baseball Tour Day 6--NYC Goals Accomplished

Thursday, July 26.  After a long, glorious night of sleep, I showered, dressed in Royals garb, and went out to the Starbucks in the next block that I had scoped out from the bus. It's amazing when I say that I'm going to Starbucks for a "cheap" breakfast, but that's NYC. 

I met up with two tour buds and we headed for the subway to take us to the 9/11 Memorial. After successfully navigating the subway ticket purchase, we boarded, rode south to our stop, then used our phones to navigate to the Memorial. Along the way, I got to touch the big Wall Street bull. They went off to use their pre-purchased museum tickets, and I stayed outside to tour the Memorial. It's pretty amazing, two huge square pools with perfect waterfalls on all sides, and ledges on all sides with the names of the folks who died in association with the attack. 


Next, I made my way toward the subway, and with the help of a NY subway official and my phone, took a train that got me near McSorley's Old Ale House, the pub that has NY's longest-continuous-open claim to fame. My Wichita friend, Deb Goin, has been there MANY times, and raves about it, so how could I pass up the chance to go there for a beer?!?! I arrived right at 11am when they open (beer for breakfast, why not?!?!), and had fun talking with the bartenders who in fact know Deb quite well. Beer choices are dark or light ale. I chose dark, a fine brew. I also had the lentil soup--very good, and at $4 a bowl, a steal in NYC. A local couple sitting next to me kindly guided me to the subway station I needed to get back to the hotel. I made a stop for a to-go salad, and went back to the Hyatt to relax and watch the Cubs, prior to the evening's Royals-Yankees game. 

Thank God for bus drivers who can handle big city traffic. The drive to Yankee Stadium was both crazy and interesting. We drove most of the way up Madison Avenue, going from the la-dee-dah of ultra-expensive designer stores to the grodiness of Harlem. We passed the magnificent St. Patrick's Cathedral. At times I think we were going at least 40 mph on the city street. The bus squeezed thru the stadium traffic with inches to spare. I roamed around two full levels of Yankee Stadium. I watched the Royals lose in an embarrassing way. For a relatively new stadium, there is nothing impressive about it. It's like they took the worst features of old stadiums and put them in the new one. I'll grant you, I'm not a Yankee fan, to put it mildly, so maybe I'm prejudiced. Actually, the best part of the evening was a conversation with a fellow solo traveler about how much we dislike NYC. It was a lovely serendipity that sat us together, because our conversation relieved a lot of city-based stress for both of us. Meanwhile, the Cubs came from behind (again!!!) and won with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 9th. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Baseball Tour Day 5--Mostly Dry

Wednesday, July 25.  We left our Philadelphia hotel around 8:45, and had a dry drive to NYC. Just as we were nearing Citi Field, the Mets stadium, a downpour started. Geez! It all worked out well that there was a slight delay to the start of the game, because our bus driver had to make a huge, slow circle around the stadium to get to the bus parking lot. This was the first time we had covered seats, so of course, there was no rain during the game. We even saw some sunshine! My somewhat unusual ballpark food was a soft pretzel, not in the usual pretzel shape, but rather a long braided shape. I love dough, so it was a good choice. We watched a very speedy game which the Mets won (over the Padres) 6-4. 
Then our bus took us to our two-night hotel, the Grand Hyatt NYC. My room on the 24th floor is quite nice. I've only been in NYC for a few hours, and I am already reminded of what a hassle everything is here. Too many (annoyed) people, too much traffic, a hassle to get around, everything ridiculously expensive. I'm staying in tonight to rest up from our very late night last night. Oh yes, and to do laundry. I was told by our tour host that there were do-it-yourself laundry facilities here, but alas, no, only the kind you hand-wash in your own room. 
By the way, for those of you who know about Melt, I have been doing both hand and foot treatments at least twice a day. They are saving me from a lot of achiness. 
Also, Citi Field brings my stadium bucket list up to 15, halfway to completion. 

Baseball Tour Day 4--Big Wet and Long

Tuesday, July 24.  I begin writing after the Camden Yards tour. While my photos don't show it well, it was pouring rain the whole time. Paul, our tour guide, did a mostly good job of keeping us out of the rain. He was a fine guide, with lots of history, comical stories and hope for the Orioles for next year. We saw the expensive fan boxes, press boxes, communication center, and the O's dugout. While on the service level, we saw a couple of the Red Sox players, so I'm told, though I didn't recognize them. Additional rain on my parade was a credit card fraud alert, handling of which caused me to miss some of the tour info and lose that card's use for the rest of the trip. 
We headed late morning to Philadelphia by bus. The last 45 minutes or so were actually partly sunny. I kid you not, the minute our bus parked, a downpour started. It was brief, but then as my lunch buds and I headed for the Red Owl Tavern, we were drenched. I had a lovely sandwich-and-two-IPA lunch with two fun couples from Oklahoma, one celebrating their 20th anniversary, the other newlyweds. An added bonus is that one couple are die-hard Cubs fans like me. On the way back to the bus we stopped to see the Liberty Bell. 
We checked into our Courtyard Marriott, and shortly thereafter headed to the Phillies-Dodgers game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. (Note that this one was already on my bucket list.) We had only a couple times of brief, light rain through 9 innings. The Phillies came from behind to tie the game 4-4. We made it through 12 at the ballpark. The Phils finally won it through lots of rain in 16 innings with a walk off 3-run homer. Very long day!! 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Baseball Tour Day 3--Big Wet

Monday, July 23.  Before moving to the first tour hotel today (big step up), the Marriott staff kindly agreed via phone call to store my luggage till later check-in. However, when I delivered my bag, a room was already available, so I was checked in and in my room by 9am. Super charmed life! 
The National Aquarium at Baltimore Inner Harbor was my morning adventure. Excellent place! I really like museums that are set up with a directional flow to keep folks moving and ensure one sees everything, and the NA is set up that way. There is a real whale skeleton, 65 ft long, hanging in the middle of the NA. I went to a 4D dolphin movie, very cool. The 4th D was water sprayed on us, seats shaking, a poke in the back, and a brush on the leg from under the seat. It was quite clever, and you can bet there were lots of screaming kids. I touched a ray and a jellyfish. It is always good to be reminded of the whole other universe lying below the water's surface. The NA's theme: Water connects all living things.
After the Aquarium, I stopped at the Pratt Street Ale House for a beer and a salad. Here I experienced a first... I ordered a $13 salad, no meat, and they charged me 75 cents for the extra dressing I requested. Geez! 
I lazed the afternoon away (code for "nap"), then met up with the tour hosts, Darren and Bobby, and picked up my game tickets for the week. Around 6:00 I made my way over to Camden Yard, home of the Orioles, and enjoyed a walk all the way around the park, taking in the sights, smells, and brew selections. I got a beer and my most unusual ballpark food so far... Crab Chipper. That's spicy potato chips loaded with crab meat, cheese sauce, green onions, Old Bay seasoning and herbs. Yummy. I enjoyed meeting some other folks on the tour from Texas and Oklahoma. Alas, after 2 2/3 innings and two pouring rain delays, I bailed and headed back to the Marriott. Not a great start, hopefully there's no way to go but up! 

Baseball Tour Day 2

Sunday, July 22.  No alarm to wake me, what a treat! I leisurely planned my adventures for the day: Walters Museum of Art, the Baltimore Basilica, and a late lunch at a local restaurant named Maisy's. All located within a half-mile of my hotel. Uphill from my hotel, I might add.
I can't say enough good stuff about the art museum. It was outstanding in both the quality and variety of exhibits. Ancient Egyptian, Buddhist, Roman (extraordinary jewelry), armor and weapons, Impressionist paintings, those are just a few of the things I saw. There was a "Wonders" room, similar to how wealthy folks would display their collection of things unusual or interesting. I include a photo here of the "Wonders of Nature" display case, wherein you can see an armadillo, nowadays way more pest than wonder! In the Collector's Study, the explanatory sign said, "where a nobleman... might spend leisure time studying beautiful objects." I'd say that nowadays we spend way too little time doing that. The "icing on the cake" of my visit was getting to see two Monet paintings. Those truly make my heart sing! 
The tour guide at the Basilica referred to it as the first cathedral in America and the "mothership" of Catholicism in the U.S. It is very different from most cathedrals I have visited--no stained glass, limited statuary, very plain and simple by comparison. It was completed and dedicated in 1821. Alas, due to the builders' mistake, not the architect's, it was built on sand. (Doesn't the Bible mention building on sand as a problem???!?) It wasn't until 2004 during a 30-month restoration project that the potential collapse of the cathedral was averted by installing a proper foundation. Mother Theresa visited here in 1996, and there is a powerful and moving statue of her and a child in the sanctuary. The church is beautiful. The most glorious thing I noticed there, however, was the diversity, in every way, of folks leaving mass before the tour started. 
After the Basilica tour, I walked a few blocks back toward my hotel and had a late lunch at Maisy's. Starting with a great local IPA, I enjoyed the best Maryland crab cake and sweet potato fries I have ever had. Then it was back to the hotel to listen to the Cubs-Cardinals game (Cubs won), and rest up for Monday's aquarium adventure and the official start of the East Coast Baseball Tour. 

Baseball Tour Day 1--Charmed Life

Saturday, July 21.  My oft-repeated mantra is "I lead a charmed life, especially when traveling." I attribute my good fortune when traveling to equal parts my smile, my gray hair, and my very intentional pleasantness. Because so many travelers are so stressed, I make it a point to be a spot of courtesy, good manners, and peace. 
Leaving on my baseball trip today, I had to work hard at not being nervous. I had originally reserved flights with comfortably sufficient connection time allowed. Due to flight changes by United, I ended up with only 45 minutes to connect in Chicago to my Baltimore flight. After I had checked in, I noticed that I had been placed in a seat at the back of the plane. That would waste valuable time just waiting  to deplane. So when the gate agent arrived, I politely asked for a seat closer to the front. She gave me 1A. In the small plane to Chicago, that was a single seat right at the front, and Mike, the flight attendant, stowed my carry-on bag up front in the crew's bag closet. Mercifully, the flight arrived about 15 minutes early. As soon as we parked and the door opened, I was the first one off the plane.  I made my connection with about 20 minutes to spare. Whew! Charmed life.
The flight to Baltimore was successful, but delays in taking off made our arrival time around 9:30pm. The flight was rather rough due to pouring rain in the Baltimore area. I took an uber to my downtown hotel and with great relief, settled in for the night. 
By the way, my little carry-on bag was a piece of cake to lift into the overhead bin, so I can't say yet if it passes the under-the-seat test.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Traveling Lightly

     I love the ongoing challenge between the airlines and passengers over baggage. The airlines charge for checked luggage, so folks stuff everything into carry-on bags. Now some airlines are charging for overhead bin space, so under-the-seat bags are becoming the rage. While I absolutely can afford it, it irritates me to no end to pay baggage fees on top of the steep ticket prices. So I am now the proud owner of a pretty-damn-small under-the-seat bag. As you can see from the photos, it is just a bit bigger than a standard-size binder.
     I am leaving on a 10-day trip later this week. I am employing several strategies to pack this small bag. My husband packs for the Bike Across Kansas each year and gave me this helpful tip... put clothes in a zip-lock bag, sit on it and seal it. Voila, vacuum-packed! Fortunately, I don't need fancy clothes, so shorts and t-shirts will satisfy my needs throughout, along with one pair of good walking shoes. I learned that the hotel we are staying at midway through the trip has laundry facilities, which I will use. I don't need much jewelry or a lot of make-up or hair products. Those that I do bring are quite small. I'm also very healthy, so I don't have any drugs or medical equipment to carry. I'm very low-maintenance.

     I will be reporting on my trip here on the blog. I have a bucket-list mission to see a baseball game in every major league ballpark. As of right now, it's 13 down, 17 to go. My upcoming trip is devoted to this mission. It's a died-and-gone-to-heaven tour. I fly into Baltimore, where I've given myself an extra day to explore on my own. Once I join the group for the bus tour, we begin with a game and tour at Camden Yards. Then we go on to Philadelphia for a Phillies game. The next move is to New York City for two days to see both the Mets and Yankees, along with some free time in NYC. My two NYC tourist goals are the 911 Memorial and McSorley's Old Ale House. The "icing on the cake" of this trip is a day at Cooperstown for the Baseball Hall of Fame. We finish up in Boston where we get both a game and a tour at Fenway, plus I'm staying an extra day to explore Boston on my own. This will add four more stadiums to my bucket list, as I had previously been to a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park.
     I am going solo on this trip. I don't know anyone who is as nuts about baseball as I am, nor willing to spend that kind of money for baseball, baseball and more baseball. The advantages of this group trip are many. Transportation in unfamiliar cities is taken care of. We have great seats and nice hotels that I probably would not have treated myself to had I planned it myself, which would have taken an extraordinary amount of my time. There will be lots of ground covered with no driving by me! The tour company (Triple Crown Travel) can take advantage of group rates and packages. I have traveled many times in my life on group tours, and I love meeting new folks, which on this tour will be extra-fun because we will all be baseball nuts. However, being the introvert that I am, I will be very happy to retreat each night to a hotel room all to myself. Can you tell I am excited?!?!?!
     More fun to come...

Friday, July 13, 2018

My Hip is in my Head.

     I have been living with a sore, tight and achy left hip for at least five years. While something in me knew it is probably arthritis, I have resisted that label since the hip is the only place on my body where I experience any sort of discomfort. I am a firm believer in our body's ability to heal itself, so I believed that my body would eventually do just that. Along the way, I've done various things to support the healing, such as regular chiropractic, massage and yoga. MELT Method techniques have been particularly helpful in enabling me to stay active and keep the ache at a tolerable level with very little need to take pain relievers of any sort.
     Investigation of another possible healing modality (prolotherapy--look it up) led my new doctor (previous doc retired) to require x-rays of the hip to see what is truly going on in that joint. I will congratulate him on his bravery, for he is the one who finally pronounced to me that it is arthritis with bone-on-bone contact in the joint. Did I mention that I hate being medically labeled? I swear my hip has become more achy since that pronouncement.
     My doctor said, "You can have that joint replaced. It is just a matter of when you decide that it is affecting your quality of life." So now, my hip is in my head.
     First of all, I am frustrated that I was not able to heal myself. Not that I've ever had that miraculous ability! I know I can't convince myself that I can re-form the bone and rebuild the joint tissue. Where is Jesus when I need him? I do believe that someday humans will be able to heal themselves, but we just aren't that evolved yet. I fully realize that this is a dumb reason to be annoyed with myself.
     Next, in my mind, arthritis equals old. I'm not old in my head, so it aggravates me to be old in my body. Since I am so generally healthy, I like to think that I am immune to illness and declining with age. So a likely hip replacement is a wake-up call that the more years I spend on the planet, the more I may run into assorted health challenges. I am grateful that this one is rather easily fixed.
     The pros for having the hip replaced are many:

-I'm weary of the nearly constant ache that often interferes with sleep
-The arthritis and bone-on-bone contact are not going to improve
-I'm limping
-I don't want to mess up other parts of my body by continuing to compensate for this hip issue
-I want to be able to walk long distances comfortably on my many upcoming travels
-I can get this one and only thing fixed and then I'm good to go for a long time (I hope!)
-I do not like feeling handicapped or saying "I can't...." because I am hurting
-It is making it harder for me to do and teach yoga and to walk for more than a couple miles
-Maybe the surgeon can fix the life-long discrepancy in the length of my legs
-I have a good window of time in the fall to get it done.

     The cons are just big scary monsters in my head:
-I might die on the operating table
-I'll go nuts if I can't swim for several weeks
-What if it doesn't "work" and I'm still in pain
-They cut off the top of the leg bone--YUCK! (Though I am going to ask if I can have it as a souvenir)
-I know someone who went in for a "simple knee replacement" and had so many complications that he ended up many months later with a leg amputation

     Clearly, I can scare the sense out of myself if I'm not mindful of my thoughts! I know several folks who have had successful hip replacements and they are ready and willing to support me. There are good surgeons locally in Wichita that have plenty of experience with the procedure. I am very motivated, especially by my desire to travel, to recover well and quickly. Ultimately this will be just a small "blip in the action" which is my life.
      Now that I have mentally "opened the door" to the hip replacement option, I know that the knowledge, support and resources to make it happen are coming to me. I can hardly wait to hear myself say, "I'm so glad I did it!" 
      Stay tuned...