Monday, September 30, 2013

The Ethnic Melting Pot of Southern California: The San Gabriel Valley

Now that baseball season is over, it's time for me to figure out a new mid-week feature to replace the Fields of Dreams until next season.  I don't have to look far.

I am a big believer in the concept that the more you get to know people, the more bigotries and prejudices are starved for lack of oxygen. Yes, I love diversity and I love getting to know the different cultures in our world.

Thankfully for me, a good portion of them can be found within 10 miles of my home...the San Gabriel Valley...just east of Los Angeles proper.

Already becoming well know for it's large Asian population, it's also the home to a lot of African Americans, Latinos, and Caucasians that settled this area. Formerly a part of Mexico, at the time of the Gold Rush, many people migrated here from the eastern half of our country. Beyond the four biggest ethnic groups, there are also dozens more in smaller number.

In the recent past, it was known as an industrial land. Factories, gravel pits, landfills, warehouses and more dot the landscape. There's even a city here that is literally called Industry.

Perhaps, because of this, land prices tended to be lower here in years gone by and many immigrants flowed into this basin. 

Not all of the land was cheap, however. Some of the nation's most expensive real estate is also located here. San Marino has long been home to much of the 1%. Pasadena, San Gabriel, and Arcadia all have some grand homes on leafy streets. The foothills above houses what Forbes called the most expensive zip code in the country, Bradbury...which houses Chinese billionaires, rich athletes, top jockeys and trainers, and the youngest female billionaire, Linsdey Torres, owner of the In 'n Out chain...and sits behind a wall and armed guards at the edge of the mountains.

Mostly overlooked by travelers more intent on seeing Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Hollywood, and Disneyland, the residents here know there are some special places we get to enjoy without the traveling hordes.

Santa Anita is one of the world's premiere horse racetracks. The Tournament of Roses Parade and the annual Rose Bowl football game takes place here. The Los Angeles County Fair takes place at the end of each summer on the valley's eastern edge where the NHRA's two biggest races of the year also take place.

The valley is the gateway to the mountains that many locals use to escape the pressure of the city. Thousands of miles of trails lace the San Gabriel Mountains, which form the northern boundary of the valley.

A two century old mission anchors the heart of the valley and, yes, some of the best and most authentic ethnic food can be found withing its confines, thanks to the rich tapestry of its residents' backgrounds.

A foodie can spend weeks here sampling the fares of the world without driving more than half an hour. Recently, we tried to come up with how many different types of ethnic foods we could identify within our little valley.

So far that is is up to 38.  That's right, almost 40 different and unique ethnic foods...many quite authentic and not dumbed down for American tastes...right here.  Maybe we'll find a few more.

Starting this week, we'll be investigating all those different tastes to be found here in the San Gabriel can call it the SGV for short...and running a new weekly feature, The Ethnic Foods of The San Gabriel Valley, here on Wednesdays.

See you then, come hungry!

Copyright 2013 - Darryl
All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 27, 2013


We've been exploring this area here on The World on Wheels for the last week.  Here are some images of this area that straddles some of the most unforgiving, yet beautiful, border area around.  

Civil War re-enactors in Julian, California.  

Infamous canal that created the Salton Sea at the Border, Los Algodones, Mexico

Colorado River separating Yuma, Arizona and Winterhaven, California

Yuma Territorial Prison, Yuma, Arizona

Calipatria, the lowest town in the Western Hemisphere

Date garden near the Salton Sea

The Salton Sea

Anza Borrego State Park, California

Borrego Springs, California

Sunrise over the desert

Offroaders in the desert

Coachella, California

Scottsdale, Arizona

Spring Training, Tempe, Arizona

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Hall of Fame/Walk of Shame

We're now up to 32 stadiums for all 30 teams, 28 of those are current stadiums. Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium have been demolished since we've been there and San Diego has moved into Petco Park from Qualcomm Stadium. Petco is linked below.

In rating the ball parks, keep in mind that our focus is on wheelchair accessibility. Some fans may not like the positions historic Fenway and Wrigely occupy on our list but that's due to the less than great wheelchair accessibility -  newer stadiums are usually better in that regard.

With that said, here is our ever-expanding list of Major League Baseball and minor league stadiums from our best to worst. If there is a link, we’ve reviewed it - click the link to read the review. If not, I have yet to write the review. If it does not appear on this list, we have not been there yet…

1. PNC Park - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

2. AT&T Park - San Fransicso, California
(Old Yankee Stadium would have previously occupied this spot)

3. Kauffman Stadium – Kansas City, Missouri

4. Nationals Park - Washington, D.C.

5. Camden Yards - Baltimore, Maryland

6. Wrigley Field – Chicago, Illinois

7. Fenway Park – Boston, Massechussetts

8. Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota

9. Minute Maid Park - Houston, Texas

10. Miller Park - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

11. Citizens Bank Ballpark – Philadelphia, Pennsyvania

12. Coors Field - Denver, Colorado

13. Busch Stadium – St. Louis, Missouri

14. Tropicana Field - St. Petersburg, Florida

15. Progressive Field – Cleveland, Ohio

16. Great American Ballpark – Cincinnati, Ohio

17. Comerica Park – Detroit, Michigan

18. Chase Field – Phoenix, Arizona

19. PETCO Park – San Diego, California

20. Globe Life Park - Arlington, Texas

21. U.S. Cellular Field – Chicago, Illinois

22. SAFECO Field – Seattle, Washington

23. Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles, California

24. Angel Stadium – Anaheim, California

25. Marlins Park - Miami, Flordia

26. Sun Trust Park - Atlanta, Georgia

27. Rogers Centre – Toronto, Canada

28. Oakland-Alameda Coliseum – Oakland, California

Retired or demolished stadiums we have visited, in order of best to worst:

Yankee Stadium – New York, New York
Jack Murphy Stadium (Qualcomm) – San Diego, California
Shea Stadium – New York, New York
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – Los Angeles, California (Dodgers)

Minor League Stadiums (note...none of these are bad at all but still ranked best to, uh, less best)

1. The Diamond - Lake Elsinore, California

2. Raley Field - Sacramento
3. Surprise Stadium - Surpise, Arizona
4. Tempe Diablo Stadium - Tempe, Arizona
5. Chukchansi Park - Fresno, California
6. The Epicenter - Rancho Cucamonga, California
7. Jay Littleton Ball Park - Ontario, California
8. Sam Lynn Field - Bakersfield, California
9. Recreation Park, Visalia, California

College Stadiums
1. Mazmanian Field - Walnut, California

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS - PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
alpineinc under CC-BY license

And now we have it...the best stadium in Major League baseball. An absolute beauty in every way, although they could have a better team. Admittedly, this could change as we still have seven stadiums left to visit but ,as it stands, this is number one...

PNC Park is the home of Pittsburgh’s Pirates of the National League. It is located across the Allegheny River from downtown Pittsburgh. It's one of baseballs newest and smallest stadiums with the ability to seat just over 38,000 fans...the second smallest in the majors. It only has two decks and wheelchair seating is sprinkled throughout the stadium. You could have just about any kind of accessible seat you want, the view is spectacular from anywhere in the stadium, including the front row.

The only bad thing about the stadium is that the Pirates are an historically terrible team,  but that's all changed this year as they are pretty much unstoppable and are in first place by 2.5 games, tied with St. Louis close to the end of the season behind the phenomenal play of Andrew McCutchen. The team also has some great history. This was the team that brought us the great, late Roberto Clemente. It’s one of the oldest franchises in baseball, dating back to 1887. They played in the first World Series and another one in 1909 behind the pitching of Honus Wagner. Other Hall of Famers to play here include Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, and Ralph Kiner. Besides 1909, the Pirates took the World Series in 1925, 1960, 1971, and 1979.

Maybe, just maybe, this might be their year.

Here are the stats:

Year opened: 2001
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $216 million
Capacity: 38,496
Field dimensions: Left field – 325 ft.; left center – 410 ft.; Center field – 399 ft.; right center – 375 ft.; Right field – 320 ft.
Home team: Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB National League) 2001 – present
Events attended: One game

The first thing anyone notices at PNC Park is the view. The most spectacular of any stadium I’ve ever seen. The park is situated to take in the view of Pittsburgh’s skyline over the Allegheny River with the bright yellow Roberto Clement Bridge thrown in for contrast. It takes your breath away when you see it in person.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Donball09 under CC-BY license

Taking your eyes off of the view, you then notice the cozy feel of the park. Only two decks with the suites all but hidden. It’s one of the smallest parks in the majors and the placement of the press box on top of the stadium makes even the nose bleed seats seem close to the action.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Adam Stone under CC-BY-SA license

Next comes the food. The famous (or infamous) Primanti Sandwich is served here along with 15 inch kosher dogs and Italian sausages festooned with peppers and onions. The stadium used to have an Outback restaurant that anyone could access. Then access was restricted to premium ticket holders, now it’s the Hall of Fame Club where all ticket holders can go on game days and the general public can go to the rest of the time.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Banco under CC-BY licens

Another couple of cool features are the circular rotunda ramps that eliminate the need for huge ramps to mar the outside of stadium and the out of town scoreboard that not only shows you the score, what inning (top or bottom) but also a diagram of the diamond to see how many men are on base and where they're standing.

There are plenty of parking lots next to the stadium and public transit can get you close. Pittsburgh’s downtown subway will drop you off at one end of Roberto Clemente Bridge, you can walk or roll the rest of the way over it (the bridge is closed to traffic at game times). Buses go right to the stadium.

Tickets are easy to come by and range from $7 in the bleachers to $255 behind home plate in the Lexus club. Wheelchairs can sit in the front row along the left field foul line for $35-40 (depending on who they're playing).  Dynamic pricing is the name of the game for grandstand and bleacher seating.

If you’re in the Iron City, be sure to stop by and take in a game in baseball’s best stadium.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Updated for 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: AT&T Park, San Francisco, California

We've reached number 2 on the list of Major League baseball stadium that we've visited. So close to the top, it's the home of the current (and 2010) world champions, it's AT&T Park in San Francisco...

AT&T Park (formerly PacBell Park, formerly SBC Park) is the home of the San Francisco Giants who moved here from cold, windy Candlestick Park when the 2000 season began. In 2002, three games of the World Series were played here when the Giants faced the Angels for the crown. They lost to the Halos in the 7th game of the series in Anaheim.

Finally, nine years later and an eternity away from the Barry Bonds drama, they picked up their first west coast world championship when they beat the Texas Rangers in the World Series.

Over the curse of the Barry, they came back on the back of the beard...Brian Wilson...the closer that helped lead them to another championship last fall.

This year, 2013, they've fallen into the cellar, lost their closer, and are almost 20 games back from the resurgent Dodgers, who now have Brian Wilson and a good shot at the pennant . Over the years, many legendary players have been on this, one of Major League Baseball’s oldest teams. In fact, since becoming a team in 1883, the Giants have won more games than any other team. Willie Mays, Bobby Thompson, Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, and Barry Bonds have all called this team home. In 1989, they played their cross-bay rivals – the Oakland A’s – in a World Series that was interrupted by the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake. After a ten day delay, they were swept by the A’s.

Here are the stats…

Year opened: 2000
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $357 million
Capacity: 41,915
Field dimensions: Left field – 339 ft.; left center – 404 ft.; Center field – 399 ft.; right center – 421 ft.; Right field – 309 ft.
Home teams: San Francisco Giants (National League, MLB) 2000 –present; San Francisco Demons (XFL 2001; California Redwoods (UFL) 2009; California Golden Bears (NCAA) 2011
Events attended: one game

One of the most beautiful parks in baseball with gorgeous views of San Francisco bay. In the park, large sculptures of a baseball glove and a Coke bottle invite kids to come out and play. The bottle has slides that the kids can use – a ramp even lets wheelchair users go to the top of the slide but I don’t know what you’d do once you got there. In right field, big windows open up onto the cove where fans on the sidewalk can get a glimpse of the game being played inside. It’s also the only major league stadium that I know of that uses a woman as a public address announcer.

The playing field has one feature I personally do not like, onfield bullpens. I think it’s dangerous and unnecessary. Other than that, the field is immaculately maintained.

Yes, we were there to rub it in the next year!

The seats in the stadium are canted toward home plate, unless you’re in the wheelchair section where they just point straight ahead. Accessible seating is plentiful here and available on all levels. We sat in the upper deck where wheelchair users and their companions sit in the third row.

Ticketing can be difficult as most games are sold out. Over the phone, we did not have any problem except trying to actually speak to someone. It’s a voice-mail hell when you call the front office and the prompts lead you nowhere. Press “0” (not an option on the voice menu) and you’ll get an operator who can quickly transfer you to someone. Once we did that, we had a friendly ticket seller who promptly sold us the tickets we needed. Ticket prices are demand based and set like a stock market, they can rise and fall with the demand…the team’s website list the current prices on a chart. As of this writing, prices range from a low of $13 to a high of over $250. I don’t know if I like that system.

At the stadium, wheelchairs are ushered to the VIP entrance where disabled fans can use the park’s only public elevator to reach their level. Once we got to the top deck and the usher showed us our seats, no wheelchair locations were to be seen, however, the usher promptly took a wrench out of his pocket and removed a seat, revealing the wheelchair location.

The staff here is very friendly and efficient. One thing I like here is that the ushers do not let anyone take their seat during game play action. You must wait until the ball is dead before you can return to your seat so you don’t block someone else’s view. They are also very good at keeping standing fans out of the wheelchair areas, which is a big problem at a lot of other parks we’ve visited.

The food…simply the best in baseball as you’d expect in such a gourmet’s delight as San Francisco. Orlando’s Caribbean Barbecue in Center Field has delicious island inspired food such as the ChaCha Bowl, filled with jerk chicken, veggies, beans, and rice sprinkled with habanero sauce if you want it.. The basic hot dogs are among the best in the league. A plethora of different beers are on tap, along with a great selection of wines and cocktails. The park is famous for starting the garlic fries revolution among baseball, although I’ve had better in France and at the Date Festival in Indio, California. That East Coast guilty pleasure, fried dough, can be found here…a very good version covered in melted butter, powdered sugar, and cinnamon.

As can be ascertained by the description above, AT&T Park is among the minority of ballparks that serve Coke instead of that overly sweet Pepsi. Prices are on the high side.

The stadium is well served by transit. Muni’s trolleys run right to the stadium after they pick up passengers from the BART subway on Market Street. It’s all accessible but be warned that the meanest, rudest, and “could not care less” transit employees we’ve ever encountered work for these two transit agencies.

So it boils down to great views, good team, fantastic food and drink, good staff, good wheelchair seating, decent transit, challenging ticket policies and pricing. Still enough “pros” to outweight the “cons” and make AT&T our pick for the second best Major League stadium and the best ballpark west of the Mississippi.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
Updated for 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

Moving into the top three of our accessible baseball stadium reviews.  Starting with this week's entry, the top three stadiums are so close to each other that there's just very minor reasons why one is rated above the other. They are also pretty well ahead of the rest of the stadiums on our list as far as comfort, food, and game experience.  We kick off our esteemed top three with...

Kauffman Stadium, on the eastern edge of Kansas City, is home to the American League's Royals.  Built in 1973, it is the sixth oldest stadium in Major League Baseball behind Boston, Chicago (Wrigley), Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Oakland.  The Royals are owned by David Glass, a former president and CEO of Wal Mart.  The stadium hosted the All Star game for 2012.

Sitting 10.5 games behind a red-hot Detroit for 2013 puts the Royals in third place. Once home to one of the best hitters to ever play the game, the roster now consists of decent but lower-priced journeymen and youngsters. One of the nuttier people to ever sit in a broadcast booth, Rex Hudler, now provides color to the bland Steve Physioc on the teams TV broadcasts.

The stadium was given a renovation in 2007 and is one of the minority of professional sports facilities not to have a corporate name...Ewing Kauffman was the former owner of the team.

It has a signature feature, large fountains in the outfield.  Kansas City is said to have more fountains than any city other that Rome, so this is the architect's tribute to the city (funny, in driving all over the city I only saw one fountain).  It also has the third largest video screen in baseball, a high def, portrait-oriented screen with a crown on top that shoots fireworks at various points in the game like team introductions and home runs.

Click on the link to see a video from the game we attended.

Here are the stats:

Opened: 1973
Surface: Grass , bluegrass and rye, 1995 - present
             Astroturf 1973 - 1994
Construction cost: $70 million ($250 million for 2007 renovation)
Capacity: 39,000 (present)
               40,625 (1973)
               38,177 (2009)
Field Dimensions: Left field - 330 ft.; left center - 387 ft.; Center field - 410 ft.; right center - 387 ft.; Right field - 330 ft.
Home Team: Kansas City Royals (American League - MLB) 1973 - present

What a beautiful stadium.  Wheelchair access from every gate with wonderfully plentiful dispersed seating throughout at every level.  What I like about the wheelchair seating here is that it's not concentrated at the top of the levels but is also located down in the middle of each level.   The renovation makes it seem like a brand-new stadium with a retro design.  I really like this park.

The one big knock I have is that the stadium is located outside of downtown and there is no public transit to the complex.  This means driving or taking a taxi.  The parking lot is vast with a lot of disabled spots.  Parking is $10.  There is also a taxi queue after the game at gate D.

Although Kauffman used to have the dreaded "one wheelchair, one companion" policy, they seemed to have dropped that.  We had no problems getting two companion seats.  Just call the ticket office at (800) 6-ROYALS.

There are tons of great seating options here.  You can sit in a deck by the fountains, outfield cheap seats, upper deck, club level, and several field level options.  We chose the dugout box seats, a section on the lower field level right by home plate.  We were only 15 rows back from the field.

Although not "exclusive" seats like in St. Louis, this section had a hidden food court that served about 90% of the food selections of the stadium without having to troop up the stairs (or elevator) to the top of the field level.  A thoughtful touch.  These were absolutely fantastic seats, very close to the action, and only cost $43.  Most stadiums would want three figures for the same seats.  Ticket prices are now dynamic and can range from $7 for outfield bleachers or upper level to $250 to sit in the first few rows right behind home plate.

A great selection of foods from the many hot dogs and sausages available, good KC barbecue, fried chicken in left field, the best popcorn I've ever had at a ball game (Topsy's), and more.  I do have to give a knock on the funnel cake...I couldn't find anyone that could make a decent one.  A great selection of beers including lot's of microbrews on tap.  Prices were reasonable and most of the food was very good.

For the stadium alone, it would have to be maybe the second best we've seen.  Dynamic ticket pricing and no public transit are big knocks so that puts it down a notch to third.  Still, one of the best stadiums in baseball...a classic!

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
Updated for 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

Goodbye to Summer...Yay!

Family stresses have taken a toll and I had to take a week off of the blog. Mostly medical issues…not with Letty, Tim, or myself…but to those close to us. It’s been like that this summer. Family members in the hospital, surprise expenses, other family members losing loved ones…it hasn’t been a real fun season.

It’s Labor Day weekend and all I can think about is getting this summer of stress over with and get back to thinking about travel. Unlike many of you, we tend to avoid too much travel during this season anyway. It took us many years to get Tim through school and, now that we have, like to avoid the time when everyone else is traveling.

We’ll wait till the kids are back in school and the places we want to see are not overrun with tourists.

Besides…it’s just too darn hot.  Yesterday, the temperature peaked at 112 degrees on the patio. Bedtime temperature was 88 and this morning at 5:45am, it was 83 degrees.  All I can think of is sitting in an air-conditioned room with whatever Cocktail of the Week I’m pouring.

I’m crossing my fingers that our loved ones medical adventures will soon come to an end and no new surprises will pop up. We’ve got some good adventures, stories, and projects coming up to spice up the offerings here on this blog.

We thank you for your support, thanks for shopping through our Amazon links, thanks for buying our book, and thanks just for being there.  We hope you stick around to see the new stuff that will be coming up soon.