Friday, May 31, 2019

River Cruising Along the Border: Minneapolis, Minnesota - Part 2


We’re waking up in downtown Minneapolis. A quick Marriott breakfast bar meal and it’s off…we’re out of here. At least for the day.

Jumping in the rental Ford Escape, it’s onto Interstate 35 heading north. Almost immediately, we’re crossing the Mighty Mississippi when Tim chimes in…


“Isn’t this the bridge that collapsed?”

Watch the Video!


Ah, yes…yes it is…and thanks for reminding me while I (who already has a bridge phobia anyway) am on said bridge.


It was a tragic day several years ago when the bridge here collapsed during evening rush hour killing 13 people and injuring another 145 due to bad design and too much weight. A little over a year later, the replacement bridge…the one we’re on now…was opened up.

Past that infamous river crossing, we continue north into lake country and head east toward the Wisconsin border. It’s a quiet, scenic road…many lakes, streams, farms, and a herd of buffalo.

It’s not long before we’re in the tiny village of Taylor Falls.

Parking’s easy and the ice cream hits the spot at Schoony’s. Afterward, it’s a short walk under the bridge to get to the office of Taylor Falls Scenic Cruises.  The web site promised wheelchair accessible boats but the river is raging a little today and we’ll have to walk down a road to an alternate loading area.






We get there and there are stairs into the boat. The crew easily handles Tim’s manual chair that he uses for travel but I don’t think it would have worked if we’d had his power chair.




It’s a warm day so Letty and I pull a couple of chairs out from the cabin and set up with Tim on the open-air bow. Since most people want to sit on the upper deck, we pretty much have it to ourselves save for the elderly lady with a cane that occasionally comes out to sit there too.




The paddle wheeler shoves off and we’re on our riverboat cruise of the St. Croix River…Minnesota on the left and Wisconsin on the right.

The first destination is slightly upriver to the “falls,” which after years of floating logs down river have degraded to a short section of rapids. The boat turns around and we head downriver.



The scenery is, in a word, spectacular. The water, the color of tea due to the decomposition of leaves up stream, is clean and inviting.


The crew points out different rock formation as we go through the dells. Kayakers lazily float by wooded islands in the stream.



A bald eagle circles overhead looking for fat fish.


The weather is perfect, the water relaxing, and our batteries are fully charged at the end of the 2 hour cruise.

We spend a little time looking at glacial potholes…deep pockets scooped out of the rocks by ancient glaciers…near the parking lot before moving on.


Downriver we get to the larger town of Stillwater and have dinner at a place we saw on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives…Smalley’s Caribbean Barbecue.

The hostess is a little clueless at first but finally finds us a spot on the outdoor patio by the bar. The server makes up for her by being very gracious and knowledgeable.

We have some jerk wings, ribs, and their smoked jalapenos that come free and unlimited with each meal. They’re great but the reason they’re unlimited is because they are extremely hot and we’re panting all the way back to Minneapolis.


We've got more to see back in the city but that’ll be next time. Be sure to join us again for the next leg of our great Minnesota adventure.

-Darryl

Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2012 – Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

KARA AIELLO SPECIAL GUEST POST: Dog Sledding in Minnesota

Re-running this guest post about a winter adventure in the Great White North of Minnesota...


By Kara Aiello


I love to travel, I always have. Through travel I learn about new cultures and people, challenge fears and prejudices and I do so from the endurance and strength of my wheelchair.  Although I have taken many trips that have excited me beyond the text of a book, there is one trip that I want to share that has been a dream of mine since my relatives in Minnesota took this trip back in the early part of the decade, Back in 2011, with the support of Wilderness Inquiry, an organization that specializes in trips across the globe and makes it possible for all people to travel, including those with disabilities, I flew out to Minneapolis MN to visit my family and embark on a dog sled trip up north near the Canadian border.

The dog sled trip was to be a four day trip with two days of travel through quaint towns and open Minnesota land-scapes.   The two days in between would include dog sledding, hiking and challenging our grit and limbs to the midwest cold, by sleeping outside in 10 degree weather and jumping into a frozen pond before running to the safety of a warm sauna. 

I flew out to Minneapolis on a Wednesday afternoon and met my cousin at the airport who took me to her home to prepare for the trip.  I love staying with these guys as it makes travel all the more easy. I don’t have to worry about dragging gear across country for I get everything I need from them.  Their middle name after all is “outdoors.”  I find that when I stay with them to prepare for a trip, it becomes a night of entertainment with a comic twist that the camera would end up documenting.  One picture taken as we prepared to pack was me wearing an oversized beaver hat and gloves to match.  There was no way I was going to wear this on the trip, but the picture is forever on face book for a good laugh. 

On the day of the trip, my cousin dropped me off at the Wilderness inquiry headquarters where I met fellow participants and crew who would be our guides on this trip.  There were families and singles and people with and without disabilities.  Some of the disabilities were visible to the eye and some were not.  Their experiences were developmental or mental health and taking this trip allowed them a place to challenge themselves in a way that other life experiences may not have offered them.   So we took off on our seven hour trip that allowed us the time to get to know one another and take in the colors and quiet living of the Minnesota landscape.  Once we arrived, we unpacked our gear and headed to our home where we would live for the next four days. 


This trip to our new home was an adventure in itself.  Those of us who used wheelchairs were assisted into a one man sled that was sturdy and comfortable.  Our gear was placed in these sleds for transport as well.  Our guides who would become close friends tied themselves to the sled and would become our human sled drivers and take us to home base.  As we traveled, I felt a sense of excitement and awe at being able to do this. I love feeling the cold wind lap across my face and the smoothness of the ice and snow under the sled.  

We traveled across frozen lakes and when we came to a steep hill going upward, yes upward our human guides ran with all of their might and power up the hill and man did we fly. It was scary and exhilarating all at the same time.  Once we got to the top, I could only imagine how fast they would take us going back down the hill. After all, this was a rush for them as well as us. Once inside, we were introduced to more staff that would prepare our meals and were shown where we would sleep the next few days.  It was a large cabin like structure with a ballroom size mess hall with army style tables and a small fire place with couches and chairs that made for a cozy evening after being out in the cold.  We unpacked our gear, had dinner and then met with the team and two of the dogs who would be taking us on our adventure over the next few days.  

One of the dogs that came in was so friendly and sociable she had to make sure she greeted each and every person that was in the room about four or five times.  The other dog that came in was very shy and kept to herself.  But I was excited to have my picture taken with her even if it was more stressful for her then me.

On Friday began the day of dog sledding and hiking.  Although many opted for the hike, I was one of the few who begged to stay back so I could prepare for the dog sledding.  One group went in the AM and I went in the PM with another group.  It was both exciting and nerve wracking to hear about the AM group’s trip with the dogs.  The hills were steep some said and there were nooks and crannies that could cause the sled to tip over especially if the dogs slowed down.  Now just to give an image, I live with brittle bones from birth and here I was, ready to embark on this trip…am I crazy?  Yes I am but I was up for it.  When it was my turn to go, I was escorted outside and helped into my travel sled to escort me to where the dogs are. 

Once in the sled, my guide would take me down snowy steps with the help of others and I found this to be rather smooth, not rough at all.  Then we embarked up steep snowy white hills that glimmered when the sun hit it just right and helped us to see for miles around. We got to where the dogs are and I transferred into my dog sled and was warmed with blankets and pillows to cushion any hard blows below the sled.  One by one, each dog was attached to the sled and once attached the dogs came to life with excited howls and barking and if not kept under control would have taken off without the rest of the dogs or the guides ready to lead.  


Once all were attached we were ready to embark on our 2 ½ hour journey through the wilderness.

My sled started slow as we began traveling through the woods with the pathway very narrow and steep.  The dogs knew what to do and where to go as my guide directed the speed of our movement which was about 7 or 8 miles an hour.  At times our travels were on flat snowy runways and across large snow covered lakes. At other times we would travel up and down mountainous inclines that felt more like a roller coaster ride.  Nature was everywhere with birds chirping and the son peered through the trees as we traveled.  On one adventurous move, we had to literally jump over a snowy groove in order to get the sled over a mound of snow. I was amazed at how cushioned the jump was and once down we were on our way again.  The trip included moments of comedy too as the dogs would tend to get over excited and get their ropes twisted around one another. When that happened, we would need to take a five minute break and get the dogs untangled.  To end the adventure, we had to tackle a death defying hill that came up just past the cabin and would bring us back to home base.  The hill was so steep that I felt I was looking down at a ski slope as we began to head down the hill.  The guides had to hold on to the dogs hard as we headed down the hill full force. Let’s just say it was a terrifying rush and I’m glad we made it out alive.


In the evening, we settled in for dinner and reminiscing of the days travels.  We also prepared to embark on our next adventure which took us out into the elements to sleep over night in 10 degree temperatures.  In order to survive the night, we wore layers of clothing and had special mats and sleeping bags that kept the heat incased within our own sleeping bags that we took with us.  We also were given candy bars to eat in the night should we become hungry. I never knew that we burned calories when our bodies were cold.  We slept on an open frozen lake near the cabin and our eyes were treated to millions of stars in night sky.   I slept OK for my first adventure but not like I was used to and did not eat like I should have.  The next morning I was starving and also came to see that some of our group became so cold they had to go back inside and sleep in the warmth of the cabin.  I went back inside and devoured a full breakfast of eggs, bacon and anything else I could get my hands on. Yumm.

Later in the day, I was treated to a hike in the afternoon that was a surprise highlight of my trip.  Although I am very independent when back home in my every-day world of accessibility, I had to allow myself to be OK with depending on other’s to assist me when traveling through the deepness of the snow.  But in allowing myself to do this, I also opened myself up to a world that I would never be able to get to with my wheelchair unless I put skis on my wheels.   I was escorted in my sled through open frozen lakes and snowy woods and taken to a part of the woods that felt like a winter wonderland.  We entered a woodsy door that took us into nature at its most raw and beautiful.  There was snow everywhere on trees, logs and ground. We did not know where the ground started and ski ended.  We came across a frozen waterfall and river that was partially flowing and breathtaking.  I felt exhilarated and free as we embraced nature around us.  It was a memory I will never forget.

Our last adventure was one I somewhat participated in.  A group of us went out to where a frozen pond was poking out through the ground and people took turns jumping into the eye opening, jaw dropping icy cold water.  Once out, people would warm up in a Luke warm sauna that was right next door to the pond.  Although I did not dive in with everyone else, I relaxed in the sauna and tried to get warm when the door would open up to the outside and people would come in and spray me with the icy cold water.



On the last day of the trip, people participated in a last day hiking and then we packed our gear and said goodbye to our hosts at the cabin. Once outside we embarked down a steep snowy hill with a speed that felt like 90 miles an hour. We then crossed frozen lakes again which took us back to our cars.  We drove home for seven hours and reminisced about out adventures and once back to home base, said our goodbyes and promised we would meet once again for another Wilderness Inquiry trip in the future.

Story and pictures by Kara Aiello - Used with permission.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Malls, Baseball, and Waterfalls: Minneapolis, Minnesota - Part 1


Behind us is all the fun, food, and beer we had in Milwaukee. The wonderful Ambassador Hotel and the delicious pannenkoeken that we had for dinner last night at Benelux.  Ahead of us lies the drive.

We’re on a wide open interstate in Dairy country. As we make our way out of Milwaukee, it’s nothing but rolling green hills, an occasional rain shower, and lots of cows.  This will be an all day drive so we settle in for the long haul.


Watch the Video!


A few hours out, we hit the biggest vacation destination in these parts, Wisconsin Dells.

I had tried to see if any of their waterparks had any sort of wheelchair access before we went but no luck…not even a pool lift into a lazy river.



It’s touristy…very touristy…as in wall-to-wall tourist traps and curio shops. Even in my wildest dreams I didn’t imagine it would be that bad. For us, it’s just a snack stop along the way where we can get a quick bite to eat, gas up the car, and go to the bathroom.

Just before the border with Minnesota on the St. Croix River, I make one more bathroom stop at a restaurant that also gave out samples of some truly delicious local cheese. Since you needed to be a customer to use the facilities, I got a couple of hunks of cheese and some full-strength, old fashioned milk…the kind that comes in the glass jar and has a thick plug of cream on the top. Those will come in handy later for snacks to go with the summer sausages we picked up at Usingers back in Milwaukee.



A few minutes later, we’re crossing the Mississippi River and easily find our hotel, the Residence Inn at the Depot, in downtown Minneapolis.

Upon checking in, my wife notices a little sign on the counter…like the kind they use to announce conferences and such…except this one says “Welcome Darryl M…The Residence Inn Depot’s Guest of the Day.”



Kind of cool…the manager tells me they pick a guest at random each day for the honor.  I get a little swag bag with a bottle of water and a couple of granola bars.

After unpacking, we have one more trip to make today.


Tim said one thing that we absolutely had to do while here was try a Jucy Lucy.  He saw it once on the Travel Channel and had been dying to have one.

We drive to a neighborhood in the southeast part of the city…one that seems to have seen better days…and find the last place to park at Matt’s Bar.


It’s a dark, narrow, divey place on 35th Street and we squeeze into one of the nominally wheelchair accessible tables. Just in time too…a few minutes later, the place is full with about 20 people waiting to get in.


We all order the specialty…the Jucy Lucy…along with some Grain Belt beers. The Jucy Lucy (yes, that’s the way they spell it) is just a cheeseburger but instead of a slice on top of the meat, the cheese is stuffed into the inside of the patty so when you bite it, hot, melted cheese oozes out.


Here at Matt’s, the cook works in a microscopic kitchen at the end of the bar, churning out dozens of them on a flat top about four feet wide.  The meat is cooked with diced onions and served basically with the burger, onions, and a bun.  It’s up to you to add condiments from there.

We dig in and, yes, they are delicious.  A perfect little welcome meal for a friendly dive here in Minneapolis.



We feel honored…




More to come, stay tuned as we dig deeper into Minnesota’s big city. Will we have fun? You betcha!

-Darryl

Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2012 – Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Miller Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Originally playing in Seattle as the Pilots, the team was bought by used car salesman Allan Selig. Moved to Milwaukee, Selig...better known by his nickname, "Bud"...changed the name to the Brewers due to the city's fame in the beer brewing industry. Bud Selig went on to become the Comissioner of Major League Baseball, a post he holds to this day.



The team was originally in the American League where they Won the pennant in 1982 but lost in the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.  In 1998, the team moved to the National League to make way for expansion teams.  Since then, the team has made it into the postseason as a wild card in 2008 and as the Central Division Champions in 2011 but have yet to make another World Series appearance.




They're not a team filled with big superstars but their left fielder, Ryan Braun, won the 2011 MVP award...under cloudy circumstances.

The stadium is a retractable roof park that is unique in baseball in that the roof folds out from each side like a circular fan instead of just a flat, sectioned roof.  Here are the stats:

Opened: 2001
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $400 million
Capacity: 41,900
Field dimensions: Left field - 344 ft; Left center - 371 ft; center field - 400 ft; right center - 374 ft; right field - 345 ft.
Home team: Milwaukee Brewers (National League - MLB) 2001 - present
Events attended: 1 game

Once you're there, it's easy access at any entrance for wheelchairs.  There are plenty of elevators, and ramps too, for access to the upper levels. Unlike many stadiums, we did not experience a long wait for an elevator.

Wheelchair locations are dispersed throughout every level but there are only a couple in the front row...in the very expensive seats right behind home plate.  Tickets were very easy to get by calling the ticket office at (414) 902-4000. Ticket prices run $11 to $195 and have three tiers of pricing.

Closed captioning is available on the ribbon displays on the front of the second deck. There is also a web-enabled app for smart phones, laptops, and tablets. Go to fancaptions.com/mil for more information on this service.


Sightlines are exceptional here from anywhere in the stadium.  Food is very good, especially sausages as Milwaukee is known for having great tube steaks. In fact, sausages are so revered here that every game features a race between five mascots dressed as the most popular sausages sold in the stadium...bratwurst, hot dog, Italian sausage, Polish sausage, and chorizo.

Mascot Bernie Brewer sits in his treehouse and slides down the slide 
when the home teams hits a home run or wins the game.

Beer selection is average to good and prices are somewhat reasonable.




Tailgating is encouraged and vast swaths of parking lots are populated with thousands of fans celebrating up to game time. There's also a small baseball field in the parking lot where kids can play a pickup game.

Public transit to the park is poor...just a few buses and taxis. If you buy ahead of time, you can save a few dollars in purchasing a handicapped parking space.



There are plenty of lodging options in nearby Milwaukee. We like the Ambassador Hotel which also features free shuttles to and from the game.

While I still have some stadiums I think are better, my wife says this is her new favorite. I do agree you'll have a very good time here.

-Darryl

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2012 - Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved
Updated for 2013

Friday, May 17, 2019

MIDWEST BASEBALL TRIP 2010 HIGHLIGHTS AND LOWLIGHTS

Some of the best things we saw, along with the disappointments along the way...



BASEBALL - Since the theme of this trip was baseball, let's start with the stadiums.  All the stadiums were top notch, but here's how we rate them starting with the best.


KAUFMAN STADIUM, Kansas City, Missouri - Beautiful stadium with awesome fountains in the outfield for their signature feature.  Very little to no overhang from the upper decks means you can see everything.  Great employees and fans and some of the best pricing in baseball.  We got seats just a few rows back from home plate (in the Dugout Boxes) for only $52 including taxes.  The team is not doing well but did win the night we were there, the day after they fired their manager.  The only other knock I'd give it is that it's out in the suburbs and you need to drive there.  I wish it were downtown, but that's ok.  Great wheelchair accessible seating at all levels.  They just renovated the stadium last year and it seems brand new...I can't believe this stadium is around 40 years old!  To my home team, the Angels...this is how you renovate an old stadium and this is how you include wheelchairs in your seating plans, not the Mickey Mouse way you guys did (pun intended).



BUSCH STADIUM, St. Louis, Missouri - Another beautiful stadium.  Big, expansive.  Many different seating levels to choose from.  Many "private" clubs to sit in...we sat in the Infield Redbird Club along third base and had a food court with two full bars and gift shop that was only available to ticket holder of this section.  That meant short lines, a very comfortable indoor area to go to if the weather got bad, and great views of the field from the second club deck where we sat.  Again, accessible seating available at all levels.  Great views of the arch and an easy-to-walk-to downtown location two blocks from our hotel.  The most expensive of all of our tickets at $57 each...still a bargain.



GREAT AMERICAN BALLPARK, Cincinnati, Ohio - Situated downtown on the Ohio River, not quite as easy to walk to as St. Louis but still walkable.  Great pre-game party atmosphere across the river in Newport, Kentucky.  A small looking stadium with great seating at all levels.  Our seats were halfway to third first base from home at the top of the field level deck at $53 each.  Biggest knock was mediocre to substandard food and very little variety of it.


BALL PARK FOOD - Here, St. Louis shines with barbecue, about 10 different sausages to choose from (including bacon-wrapped hot dogs like you'd find here in LA), Asian stir-fry made as you watch, pulled pork, barbecue, dessert bar, and on and on.  Prices are the highest for food and drinks we saw on the trip and the only beer I saw on tap was Bud, Bud Light, Bud Select, which you might expect from a team owned by Anheiser Busch (or InBev now).  Craft brews were expensive and available in the bottle only.


Kaufman in Kansas City comes in second with a huge selection of different sausages and the best popcorn in the bigs from the Topsy's stands.  Their funnel cake however kinda sucks.  Other selections include barbecue (how can you not in KC?), pan-fried chicken, and cheesesteak sandwiches.  Many craft brews on tap at reasonable prices.


In Cincinnati you basically have hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza.  Pre-made grocery store sushi is available but I wouldn't touch it.  Good beer selection at good prices (great happy hour, pre-game prices across the river) and for dessert, only ice cream and candy bars.  Not the best food.



HOTELS - Drury Plaza at the Arch in St. Louis is an outstanding hotel.  A real hotel, with big marble encrusted lobby and a Lewis and Clark Diorama fountain like you'd find in the theme park.  Large and very comfortable two-room accessible suite with a roll-in shower and recliner in the living room.  GREAT service and lot's of extras included such as hot breakfast, lite dinner and three cocktails a day per person, 60 minutes free long distance each night, 15 minutes free international long distance to Mexico or Canada each night, free wifi or ethernet high speed Internet access, and free soda, coffee, and popcorn from 10 am to 10 pm each day.  There's also two reasonably priced upscale restaurants in the hotel if you get tired of the free food, swimming pool, hot tubs (indoors with a view of the river), fitness room, and guest laundry.  Wow! What a hotel at only $150 per night.


At the other end of things, the Residence Inn in Kansas City was a big disappointment.  The roll-in shower was about an inch above the bathroom floor so each time we took a shower, the bathroom flooded.  There were tears in the carpet that housekeeping tried to hide by moving the sofa (we had to move it back to make room to fold out the bed).  Air conditioner that didn't work (but they fixed it).  Pool closed and the coup de grace was the huge, open air rock concert that took place 200 yards from the hotel...make that VERY LOUD, death metal concert which also filled the hotel with its drunk and chemically alterred fans.  We checked out and went to the Drury Plaza in nearby Overland Park which was not as spectacular as the one in St. Louis but still very good and enough to be the second best hotel of the trip.


We also stayed at a very average and just adequate Comfort Suites while in Cincinnati.


Honus Wagner's Jersey and Bat in Louisville

BIGGEST SURPRISES - The Louisville Slugger factory tour and museum.  Awesome, just awesome.  If you have any interest in baseball whatsoever, you need to come here.  It's like visiting the hall of fame...they even let you hold the real bats of legendary players such as 
Mickey Mantle and David Ortiz.











The Truman Library in Independence, Missouri and the Brown vs. Board of Education historic site in Topeka, Kansas are both moving and important places to visit.









BEST FOOD - Gates Barbecue in Kansas City and the Hanover Pancake House in Topeka, Kansas were both extremely delicious.  Five Guys had great hamburgers as well.



MOST INACCESSIBLE NATIONAL PARK (that should be easily accessible) - Jefferson Expansion Memorial Park (the Gateway Arch) in St. Louis.  Chairs cannot go up the elevator (or trolley) to the top.  Debatable as to whether one of the world's top architects should have envisioned that in the 60's, so that gets a bit of a pass BUT able bodied people can walk down a short staircase to the riverfront.  Wheelchairs must make at least a 1/2 mile, unmarked detour to get to the bottom of the stair when a ramp could EASILY be installed on the adjacent hillside.



WORST AIRPORT - Kansas City International (MCI).  I thought LAX was a bad airport...it is...but this one takes the cake.  Usually, you get to an airport and go through the hassle of checking in and dealing with the ridiculous TSA security checkpoints but then you get to relax (if you have time) and have a bite to eat, get something to read, and go to the bathroom before you leave.  Not here.  Once you're through security, you find 3 or 4 small snack stands, no news stand, and a total of 8 toilets (4 for each sex) for hundreds of travelers.  Not bathrooms...toilets.  All the other stuff is outside of security so once you're in, you'll either have to go back outside or just do without.  Most people do the latter.  Awful airport (the picture above is outside the secure zone).

Of the three cities, the most fun was Cincinnati...or more accurately Newport, Kentucky across the river...with it's many restaurants, bars, and attractions including a pretty good version of a German beer garden.  I'd also like to go back and explore Kentucky more which seems like a very interesting state.

Darryl
Copyright 2010 - Darry Musick

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri



Busch Stadium is home to the National League’s Cardinals. The team was formerly owned by Anheuser-Busch, makers of such forgettable beers at Budweiser, Busch, and the various Bud brands. They were bought out in 1995 by a partnership headed by William DeWitt, Jr. of Cincinnati. This is the third stadium to go by the same name. The current stadium opened in 2006 and sits slightly to the southeast of the former stadium…part of the new stadium occupies what was the left field corner of the old stadium. There is a large, vacant lot where the old stadium stood and you can follow the outline of the old park.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Kevin.Ward under CC-BY-SA license

St. Louis is known as a baseball city. Its fans are acknowledged at some of the smartest baseball people around. Cardinal Red is a prominent color in the city. The team has won 11 World Series and is in 2nd place, a mere half game behind the Pirates. Here are the stats:

Opened: 2006
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $365 million
Capacity: 43,975
Field dimensions: Left field – 336 ft; left center – 375; Center field – 400; right center – 375; Right field – 335
Home team: St. Louis Cardinals (National League – MLB) 2006 – present
Events attended: 1 game

Accessible from all sides. There is one stretch outside from center field to right field that is unwalkable (no sidewalks), at least that’s what we were told – we didn’t test it. If so, it’s inaccessible for everybody, not just wheelchairs. There is an adjacent accessible (by ramp) subway station on the first base side of the park so transit access is excellent. It’s in a downtown location, 3 blocks from the Gateway Arch. There are several hotels within easy walking distance.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Matthew Black under CC-BY-SA license

If you want to drive, there is a lot of parking available in the area. Rates seemed to range from $5 to $10.

Wheelchair locations are mostly at the top of each level but there are some that are more midway on the level such as the field level and the upper deck. There are plenty of wheelchair spaces spread across all levels of the park. Getting more than one companion seat was not a problem. Just call (314) 345-9600 for tickets.

There are several “clubs” here where ticketholders have some exclusive access to certain perks such as restaurants and bars. Infield Redbird Club, Home Redbird Club, Homer’s Landing, Leftfield Landing, Legends Club, Bank of America Club, Champions Club, and the Cardinals Club are examples. We sat in the Infield Redbirds Club on the third base line and had access to a private food court and bar area. 

The team has moved to "Dynamic Pricing," where ticket prices fluctuate depending on the demand for a particular game. Current (July 2013) prices range from $5 to $195. Our club tickets cost $57 dollars each, the most expensive tickets of our Midwest baseball tour. That is enough to drop it down a notch on our Fields of Dreams list, behind Denver.

Food selections are vast. Several types of sausages from hot dogs to polish; bacon wrapped dogs to bratwurst; and on and on. There were “sausage bars” where several varieties were grilling and you took your pick. Barbecue, chicken, pizza, salad bar, and a cooked-to-order Asian bar were but a few of the types of food available to us. Beer selection was poor. On-tap selections consisted of several varieties of Budweiser but there is some Sclhafly beer to be found on tap at a few locations. Better selections were available but, mostly, only in bottles. 

Both food and drinks were expensive, the most expensive of our trip.


(See the St. Louis baseball trip report here.)

Overall, the stadium has great access, easy transit, great team, and great lodging close by. The knocks are expensive food and beer and a very limited draft beer selection.

-Darryl
Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick

Monday, May 13, 2019

MIDWEST BASEBALL TOUR - LEG 2: St. Louis, Part 2

UpTake Travel Gem




If you haven’t read Tim’s reports on preparing for this trip (this is his first time planning a trip), be sure to check out what it took to plan and prepare for this trip in a wheelchair.

In Part 1 of this report, we arrive in St. Louis to a fabulous hotel, get frustrated at a very inaccessible national park, and take a cruise on the Mighty Mississippi.  Now, it's game time.

Watch the Video!

It’s a short, two block walk to Busch Stadium from our hotel. Knowing us though, we walk to the part of the stadium furthest from our seats, so we need to walk around it back to home plate to find the Will Call booth to pick up our tickets. We do and head on inside.



Our tickets today are in the Infield Redbird Club. This is a semi-private (meaning anyone can buy tickets to it but only ticket holders have access to it) section next to the press box overlooking homeplate from the first base side to the third base side. It’s the second deck up. We sit on the third base side in the closest accessible seats to home plate. There is an overhang from the deck above but it does not block our view in any way. We have great views of the city, the arch, and our hotel just beyond center field.


The club also has an expansive indoor area with tables and booths. There is a large food court with ballpark staples like hot dogs, beer, and popcorn. There are also more specialty foods like pulled pork, barbecue, salad bar, and an Asian stir-fry bar that my wife took advantage of.
Each end of the food court area features a full bar. Unfortunately as you might expect of a team owned by InBev (and Anheiser Busch), all the tap beer is Budweiser, Bud Lite, Bud Select or some other variety of the town’s most famous product. It all tastes like water to me. They do serve a nice selection of microbrews and other brands, but only in the bottle.


Another knock on the stadium is that the food and drink prices are the highest we’ll encounter on the trip. Knocks aside, this is still a great stadium in one of the great baseball towns. Stadium toured, food and drinks purchased, it’s time to play ball as the Cardinals are hosting the Houston Astros…one of the worst teams in the league right now.





Ryan Ludwick scores in the first inning on a Matt Holliday ground out to give the Cards a quick 1-0 lead. Houston kills the no-hitter hopes in the third as Tommy Manzella gets a single but no runs are scored. Ludwick scores again as David Freese gets an RBI single.

That’s where the game stays until it all comes apart for St. Louis in the 7th. Carlos Lee of the Astros gets on first due to a throwing error. Hunter Pence doubles, sending Lee to third. Starter Brad Penny loads the bases by hitting Houston third baseman Geoff Blum. Two runs score on a Tommy Manzella sacrifice fly to right field. Pinch hitter Cory Sullivan brings Pence home on a single. Sullivan scores when center fielder Michael Bourn bunts a single.

Penny is taken out after this inning and replaced by Jason Motte. While the Cards were able to get another run in the bottom of the 7th, Motte gives up solo homers to Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence bringing the final score of the Cardinals loss to 6-2.

As any fan can tell you, a loss is tough but it’s still better than not being at the game. Being out-of-towners, we aren’t heartbroken and still have a fun time. On the walk back, we see this strange looking truck. A closer look shows there are two (clothed) strippers working a pole. It’s a moving billboard for several local strip clubs.

On a warm morning, fortified from our hotel breakfast, it’s time to explore the city. There’s a riverfront district called Lacledes Landing that looked interesting when we first got into town. We walk to the nearest Metrolink station about 3 blocks from the hotel. Metrolink is the trolley system here in St. Louis. My wife complains that it was just as far to walk to the station as it was to Lacledes Landing. Close, but I still think the trolley was closer plus I wanted to check it out for a future transit report.


Metrolink is 100% accessible. Every station has an elevator or is ramped. Each car has 4 locations where a seat can be folded up and a wheelchair put in its place.

We get day passes for my wife and I. It’s cheaper to buy each ticket separately for disabled riders ($1.10 for the trolley and $1 for the bus vs. $8 for a day pass) for the amount of rides we will take.

At Lacledes Landing, it’s a bumpy, cobblestoned area full of restaurants, bars, and just a few shops. Mostly closed restaurants, bars, and a few shops. I guess it’s more of a late night destination rather than a daytime jaunt.




Back on the trolley, we head to the end of the line at Shrewsbury on the southwest side of the city. By this time it was hot and muggy making the ½ mile walk we took excruciating. We were going to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard shop on the old Route 66.




We’ve heard about this place on many shows on the Food Network and the Travel Network as one of the icons of Route 66. This is particularly interesting to us because we live adjacent to a stretch of the Mother Road.




It’s hot and the custard is good but it’s halfway melted before we find a place to sit and eat it. By the way, Ted Drewes does not have a dining room, a dining area, or anywhere with tables or chairs. There are some bus stop benches on a nearby sidewalk, but that’s it. A bit of a disappointment after coming all the way out here.


On the way back, we stop at Union Station which used to be the massive St. Louis railroad station. It’s still massive and the old train barn is as huge as some of the stations I’ve seen in Europe such as Munich or London. Only thing is, it’s not a train station anymore. Now, it’s a mall with a small man-made lake, some restaurants, and a Marriott hotel. It’s very quiet and not bustling with life at all. It would have been nice if at least one or two platforms could have been saved. Amtrak now stops and a small platform near Busch Stadium.




I’m a bit disappointed in it.

We go back to the hotel, have dinner, and take a swim in the 8th floor pool and call it a leg.




Stay tuned as we head out to leg three of this Midwest Baseball Tour…Kansas City, Missouri.

Darryl
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