Friday, August 16, 2019

Game Day #6, Oakland Coliseum

(Note: FYI, the baseball vacation postings start with the Friday, Aug. 9 post.)
     Our last day started out with a tour of Oracle Park, home of the Giants. We had an outstanding tour guide who was thrilled to have a whole group of devoted baseball fans, as opposed to disinterested tourists. We went on the warning track, offering a great view from field level. DON'T get on the grass!

     The traditional batter's eye in center field is actually a working vegetable and herb garden, the produce of which is used in the stadium's food service. Willie Mays is the all-time hero of the place, and his retired number was 24, and they use 24 everywhere. There are even 24 palm trees surrounding his statue in the Willie Mays Plaza. 

     The highlight of the tour for me was the visitors' clubhouse. We were treated to stories by the clubhouse manager, including the celebration after the Cubs beat the Giants in the 2016 NLDS. As a Cubs fan, and certainly not a Giants fan, I was in hog heaven. 
     Upon returning to our hotel, I went out on a quest for ice cream. I went to a Ghiradelli shop and enjoyed two scoops while sitting in the nearby park and basking in the beauty of the bay and brilliant sunshine. There were folks swimming in the bay, and I expect that water was quite cold. 
     Evening time found us, after a long, slow bus ride, at Oakland Coliseum for the Athletics-Astros game. 

Tour host Bobby and me

Stomper, the mascot
     The main adjective I'd use for the stadium is "old." It's not the worst I've seen (Yankee Stadium is), but it is not memorable in any way. The video boards are way up high above the highest seats. The neighborhood is trashy at best. The concourses were fairly roomy, but I think that's because the crowd was so small. Many vendors weren't open because of that. Unlike the ridiculously high beer prices at Oracle Park, food and drink prices in Oakland are way more reasonable, so I sprung for a $12 beer. (That beats $19.25 at Oracle.) 
     It was a beautiful evening and we had great seats on the first base side. There were ten (yes, 10) home runs hit during the game, which the As won 7-6. Given that many of us had to catch very early flights, we were really glad it did not go into extra innings. 
View from our seats
     Back at the hotel, we said our goodbyes to the group, bus driver and hosts, completing another excellent tour by Triple Crown Baseball Tours. 
     Ready to go home,

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Game Day #5, Oracle Park

(Note: FYI, the baseball vacation postings start with the Friday, Aug. 9 post.)
     We completed the bus trip up the coast, going directly to Oracle Stadium for the Giants-Athletics cross-town rivalry game. (Think Yankees-Mets or Cubs-White Sox.) I did my traditional trek all the way around the stadium to check it out, and also to locate a delicacy that had been recommended to me by a Giants fan/friend. In my roaming, I discovered a new high price for beer at a stadium:

Don't strain your eyes, I'll tell you... $19.25 for "craft beer." Given that I can get a dozen really fine beers at home for that price, it was easy to pass on the "craft beer" there. It was hot for these folks, in the mid-80s, and the video board kept posting warnings about staying hydrated, especially "older people." Luckily us older people had seats in the shade just past third base. It is a lovely stadium, but the concourses are narrow and therefore uncomfortably crowded. I went out during the game for both food and toilet breaks, and it felt like half the crowd was on the concourses. I learned the technique of getting behind some big, fast-moving guys who served as blockers for me.
     It is the setting of Oracle Park that makes it special, sitting on McCovey Cove. There were several boats awaiting home run balls, but none of those went out of the park. There is a counter on the wall in right field for "Splash Hits," currently resting on 80.

     It was another game with a lot of action, and the Athletics won 9-5. The aforementioned food delicacy was the Cha Cha Chicken Bowl consisting of Jerk chicken, rice, black beans and pineapple salsa. Not your average ballpark food, it was quite tasty, and even reasonable at $11.25. But then the accompanying bottle of water was $5.75. Can you tell I miss my hometown cost-of-living?!?!
     Even though our hotel was only four miles from Oracle Park, in rush hour, it took us almost an hour to get to the Marriott. The introvert in me was ecstatic to have an evening locked away in a room all to myself with a happy-hour beer, snacks and the Cubs game. Alas, the Phillies slaughtered the Cubs, but it's now a new day for more baseball.
           Onward to Oakland,

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

No Game Day #4, Up the Coast

(Note: FYI, the baseball vacation postings start with the Friday, Aug. 9 post.)
     Tuesday was spent mostly in the bus, driving up the coast, heading toward San Francisco. We stopped for lunch in Solvang, an adorable Danish-themed town, i.e. tourist trap. If you are a shopper, it's heaven. I am not a shopper. I did, however, enjoy beers and a light lunch with fellow travelers. We appreciated being able to sit outside and relax in the shade while conversing and imbibing.
     The real highlight of the day was a mini-tour of the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. It's on top of a mountain on the coast with a magnificent view of the ocean and mountains. The houses (yes, there are several) are spectacular, with antiques and art brought from Europe nearly 100 years ago. There are indoor and outdoor swimming pools that I would be overjoyed to lap-swim in. The history of the place is fascinating. The Hearst extended family still uses the place, even though it's a state park. Our excellent guide told us about a family wedding there recently. The views, gardens and statuary are magnificent. You may even have a personal connection to the estate. Grass-fed cattle are raised over the approximately 250,000 acres and are eventually sold to Whole Foods.

     On to San Francisco, Oracle Park and the Giants game...

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Game Day #3, Angels Stadium

(Note: FYI, the baseball vacation postings start with the Friday, Aug. 9 post.)
     Monday started out in fine fashion with calling my (much) older brother to wish him a "Happy 80th Birthday!" He's working hard at reversing a declining health situation, and I'm so grateful for him and his efforts.
     We left the hotel late morning (yes, I got myself out of the magnificent bed) and headed for Huntington Beach. WOW, there are miles of really wide, beautiful, clean beach. I walked to the end of the pier on an ice cream quest. Ruby's Diner did not disappoint--probably the best malt I've ever had. I spent time watching the surfers and then a seal playing with a school of fish and enjoying the occasional one for brunch. I walked down the coast a bit, found a place to sit under the clearing skies, and enjoyed people-watching. Seeing all manner of diversity in our human family in one area makes my heart happy. Alas, I arrived at the volleyball nets just a bit too late to watch several quite handsome young men in action. 
     After a short break back at the hotel, the bus took us the short distance to Angel Stadium. 

     I was reluctant to think that any stadium could bump Kauffman (Royals) Stadium off my #2 best spot (Wrigley Field forever being #1), but this one did. It is beautiful! It has wide, open, airy concourses with excellent food and beer choices. The rock waterfall beyond center field is stunning. The digital scoreboard and video boards are quite gigantic and cool. We had good seats beyond third base, eight rows up. The only downside is that the Angels have not extended the protective netting past the dugouts, so we were in prime foul ball territory and had to really pay attention to the game. Of course, that's the point of being there. Once again, we saw several home runs, and the Pirates won 10-2. It was glorious to enjoy the evening's cool temperatures knowing that it had reached 100 degrees earlier in the day back home. 
     After a very short night's sleep, we are heading up the coast.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Game Day #2, Dodger Stadium

(Note: FYI, the baseball vacation postings start with the Friday, Aug. 9 post.)
     We left San Diego and drove straight to Dodger Stadium for the Sunday afternoon game against the Diamondbacks. On last year's tour, I became friends with fellow solo-traveler, David, who lives in LA, and he had arranged with Darren (our tour host) to get a ticket for this game to visit with Darren, Bobby (our other tour host) and me. As the bus pulled into the parking lot, I saw David sitting in the shade at the edge of the lot. Joyful reunion!

Me, David, Darren & Bobby

The Jackie Robinson statue in front of Dodger Stadium
     David did a fine job of touring me around the stadium. Dodger Stadium is the third-oldest major league ballpark behind Wrigley and Fenway. It looks it. The concourse is dark and small, ceilings are low, and unlike the newer parks, you can't walk all the way around. On each level, you can walk from right to left field around home plate, and that's it. David warned me, "If you see something you want to eat or drink, get it, because you may not find it on another level." There is a lovely view of the surrounding hills in the outfield. We had great seats in the shade just up from first base. There were numerous home runs and the Dodgers won 9-3. I will say that there did not appear to be many Dodger fans in our group. I made my preference well known by wearing a Cubs shirt.
     We left post-game for Anaheim and the Marriott Suites Hotel. Note to friends and family: I'm never leaving. The bed swallows you whole so that you never want to get out, and there is a Starbucks right in the hotel lobby. Plus I have a luxurious two-room suite. I think there is a pool, too, but I haven't been out of the bed long enough to find it.
     Another solo traveler and I went to the pizza joint across the parking lot and had a get-to-know-each-other supper. We are both rabid Cubs fans, she lives in downtown Chicago (my favorite city besides Wichita), and her sister lives about a half-mile from our home in Wichita. What are the chances? Meeting new folks is a great side benefit of these tours.
     OK, I'll get out of the bed for the Angels game.
         Ahhhhhhhhh, this is the life,

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Game Day #1, Petco Park

(Note: FYI, the baseball vacation postings start with the Friday, Aug. 9 post.)
     After lazing with coffee, reading and writing, Saturday got off to a great start with an Uber ride to the Little Italy Farmers' Market. It is many blocks long with vendors on both sides of the street. Besides magnificent fresh produce and flowers, there were vendors featuring jewelry, clothing, cosmetics, juices, and all manner of healthy and not-so-healthy food options. I can attest that the red raspberries are outstanding!

     I walked through Little Italy and seemingly dozens of cafes and restaurants to Ballast Point Brewing Company (whose beer we get in Wichita) and enjoyed an outdoor lunch of fish tacos and beer.
     I feel it is important to have some sort of routine while traveling, so I returned to the hotel for my afternoon nap, napping being a hobby to which I am extremely dedicated. 😀 At the appointed time, I met up with tour hosts Darren and Bobby to get my game tickets, a fun reunion. I eventually walked the couple of blocks to the stadium and roamed around. It's a lovely stadium. There is a huge grassy hill beyond center field where you can watch the game or a concert on the stage behind the left center field wall. There are cool statues of Tony Gwinn and Trevor Hoffman, as well as a Padres Hall of Fame. This stadium may have the broadest range of good beers of any ballpark I've been in so far, as there are dozens of micro-breweries in the area. I made my way to my seat, ten rows up from the field on the third base side. Nice!

I'm including the Eric Hosmer shots for Kansas City fans who are especially fond of him, including me.  The poster of Hos with the puppy is pure melt-down. It was a great game, lots of action and several home runs. The Padres won 8-5 over the Colorado Rockies.
     To use an official baseball term... HOLY COW!!! Watching the video board between innings, I thought "that looks like my Cubs shirt," and I looked up at the face and it was me! A nanosecond of my 15 minutes gone, how fun! I guess that means it pays to be in the "good" seats. That was a "first" for me and a great bonus on the first game day.
     On to Dodgers Stadium...

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Unlikely to Top This

(Note: FYI, the baseball vacation postings start with the Friday, Aug. 9 post.)
     It is such a joy to relax in the morning with coffee and spend time in a comfy hotel bed reading and writing.
     Friday's adventure started with an Uber ride to Balboa Park. I arrived a bit before 10:00 when the museums open, so I roamed a bit to get my bearings and look at sculptures. At 10:00 I went into the San Diego Museum of Art and had a lovely couple of hours exploring there. I consciously noticed the change in myself in the presence of great art--focused, peaceful, in a state of wonder that leaves any worldly cares drop away. I'm guessing that's why I love art museums so much. As no museum visit is complete to me without seeing a Monet, finally, in the last room, there was his "Haystacks at Chahilly."
     I roamed the grounds, seeing the Alcazar Garden and the Old Globe Theater. I settled into a seat on the Plaza de Panama with an iced coffee and a couple cookies to enjoy the surrounding flowers, magnificent sunny blue sky and perfect temperature. Next I went through the Timken Museum of Art, advertised as "always free." "Free" does not show up in a big city very often. That museum boasts the only Rembrandt in San Diego, "Saint Bartholomew."
     As I began roaming the park again, I heard live classical violin music so I decided to check out the source.

I watched them for about an hour and asked a lot of questions. These five children are siblings, ages left to right being 17, 15, 13, 9, 10. Instruments left to right are violin, viola, cello, small bass, violin. They have been playing together about seven years. They all started playing at ages 2-3. They play at the park 3-4 times a week. They played classical music and traditional fiddle tunes. Note there is no sheet music anywhere. When one piece ended, they started right in on the next one. They had a watering can set out for tips, along with a sign that said "Thank you for supporting our conservatory music lessons." These children are genius material. The passion they play with is extraordinary. I cried tears of joy and hope seeing and hearing their brilliance. I can't imagine anything on this trip, even as much as I love baseball, that can possibly top this performance, one that I just happened upon. As I've always said, "I lead a charmed life, especially when traveling."  
     I took an Uber back to my hotel. Fortunately I had a talkative driver with whom I could share the extraordinary musical performance I had just witnessed. I took my usual afternoon nap, then enjoyed a Happy Hour supper at Meze Greek Fusion, a restaurant I highly recommend. Not being a night owl, I roamed back through the Gaslamp District and got into baseball mode watching the Cubs game, alas, another road loss. 
     The tour officially begins with the Saturday evening Padres game at Petco Park.
            Play ball!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Let the Baseball Vacation Begin!

     On Thursday, I made my way to San Diego, where this year's California baseball tour begins ( Apparently the storms in the Wichita area delayed the Southwest Airlines flight into my home town, but I was still able to make my connection in Phoenix. The flights across the southwest were interesting, going from the rich, vibrant-green, rolling-prairie farmlands of Kansas to the desert lands of the southwest with loads of empty space, brown and mountains. Let me just say once again: our planet is magnificent in its diversity.
     I elected to come to San Diego a couple days before the actual start of the tour, because why not? It's August, and the high temps are mid-70s and the lows are mid-60s. Every day on the weather app says "Patchy fog then sunny." My flight was relatively on time, and my luggage arrived at baggage claim at the same time I did. Unlike last year's tiny bag, I brought the big one this year, because of flying on Southwest Airlines, which does not nickel-and-dime you to death (I love Southwest!).
     I can stress myself out with "what if?" and "how do I?" when I travel, so I promised myself to ask for help, a lot. I have learned that airports typically have a central location for Uber pickups, so I asked at the Information Desk and was directed to that spot, which I would have been most unlikely to find on my own. The Uber ride to the hotel gave me a good tour of the waterfront and the area around my hotel, the Hotel Indigo Gaslamp Quarter.
     I feel enormous gratitude for my smart phone and the knowledge to use it. I am staying in the midst of one of the most vibrant areas of San Diego, loaded with restaurants, bars, shops and people. Turning left from the hotel entrance enables me to look straight into Petco Park, the Padres stadium, two blocks away. I walked about 100 yards and ended up at Half Door Brewing Company for a lovely supper of shepherd's pie and their "Back At It West Coast IPA." Then I roamed a bit around the area and stadium, enjoying the cool evening (compared to high 90s and gross humidity of Kansas). The two-hour time difference finally did me in and I returned to the hotel.
     The tour officially begins on Saturday evening, so I have a couple of days to play around San Diego. Woohoo!
     Lovin' life and baseball,