Monday, July 4, 2022

MIDWEST BASEBALL TOUR - LEG 2: Kansas City, Part 3

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 our time in Kansas City, we saw where President Truman lived, had a meal at the City Market, and got frustrated with the hotel and our fellow guests at the Residence Inn.  Part 2 was the Royals game at Kauffman Stadium and moving out of our hotel when it turned in Delta House.

All the baseball is now over, time to spend our last day of the trip...

Oh, what a peaceful night of blissful sleep we had at the Drury Inn.

Watch the Video!

What a difference from the last night at the Residence Inn near downtown Kansas City.

It’s getting down to the wire. We’ve seen all the baseball we’ve come to see. Been to several states and three major American cities. Our last full day on the tour and we’re ready to add one more destination to our list. Letty and Tim have never been to all but two of the states on this trip. Same for me, except I’d already been to Kansas. We slept over the state line from Kansas City but it still feels like we’re in Missouri so today, we’re going to experience The Wheat State.

It’s just an hour or so to the capitol of Topeka. After a ride on highway 10, a freeway that runs most of the way there from our hotel, we shift over to the 70 which is a toll road here. It costs all of 75 cents for that last leg into the capitol

Our first destination is Monroe Elementary School, a few blocks southeast of the capitol building. In 1954, Oliver Brown sued the board of education to allow his daughter to attend a white school. Topeka schools were segregated then. Even though Monroe by all accounts was a model school, the argument that segregation alone was enough to nullify the equal portion of the “separate but equal” policy of the day. Backed by the NAACP, Brown vs. the Board of Education went all the way to the Supreme Court who used it to overturn legal segregation.

Now a National Historic Park, the small schoolhouse…historic and interesting in itself…is broken into two main areas…a space that details what led to the case, the legal strategy involved, and the litigation; and another that documents events that have followed up since that time.

It’s a moving and important display. My wife was wracked with sadness at it all but I think we should look at it as a turning point where we started to have the self-awareness to start addressing these wrongs.

Heading over to the capitol, we drive around the being-renovated building to find a spot free of scaffolding to take a picture. About a mile away is the Bobo Drive-In that we saw on the Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives show but being a Sunday, it was closed. In fact, in this Bible-Belt Kansas town, not much was open so we head back to a coffee shop we saw earlier, the Hanover Pancake House.

It’s packed with after church diners but we only wait about five minutes for a table. We get pancakes, French toast, hash browns, the ever present biscuits and gravy, and Tim has chicken strips with mashed potatoes. What a revelation this place is. Some of the best comfort food I’ve had. The pancakes, perfect with just a hint of crunch on the outer skin, fluffy and light, no mealiness at all. Crunchy and delicious hash browns, some superb sausage gravy over those biscuits, and the mashed potatoes tasted like they were half cream.

Incredibly delicious.

UPDATE: One more pic of the Pancake House, as per requested in the comments below. This is the only other pic I have so this makes all the pictures we have of this wonderful restaurant.

After eating, we head a few miles west to the Kansas State Museum, which acts of a kind of Smithsonian for Kansas history. It’s another interesting stop as the expansive displays take you through history from the pre-U.S. native days, the settling of the frontier, Bloody Kansas and the Missouri Compromise, ranching, farming, railroads, and modern life. Definitely worth a stop.

I take my wife to a nearby park where she can find a rock (she collects rocks from everywhere we visit) and then it’s back to the hotel.

We break out some wine, the cheese, fruit, and bread we bought yesterday. I grab some popcorn and soda from the Drury Inn lobby, and we settle in to watch our beloved Cowboys finish second to Dan and Jordan on The Amazing Race before getting one more night of good sleep.

In the morning, we pack up, make a stop at the huge Cabela’s sporting goods store, and then have lunch at the Five Guys burger joint adjacent to the Kansas Speedway. The burgers are delicious.

I’d usually end here but one more thing…

We get to the airport in Kansas City. Go through the lines and finally get through security only to find out that all the amenities…new stand, good restaurants, most of the bathrooms…are on the outside of the secure zone. Waiting with about a thousand other travelers, we find only a couple of sparsely supplied snack bars and a total of 8 toilets…4 for the men and 4 for the ladies.

Just an incredibly outdated airport.

It was a great trip, we just had a few bobbles to overcome, but the weather cooperated for the games, we found some surprising gems, and one heck of a hotel chain. Thanks for coming along!

By the numbers:

Stadiums Visited/Games Attended: 3

Stadium total: 20 for Tim, 21 for Darryl and Letty (we went to a game at Oakland once without Tim)

States Visited: 7

New States Added: 4 for Darryl, 5 for Letty and Tim

Length: 11 days

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 3, 2022

THE COCKTAIL HOUR - Paso Robles Beer Tasting

While the Paso Robles area is justifiably famous for its vineyards, wineries, and wine, one of America's most popular microbreweries resides here.  Firestone Walker, makers of the Double Barrel Ale (DBA) has a decent sized operation south of town.

They also have a restaurant to the south in Buellton, but we're just here to taste the beers.

Watch the Video!

Here at the brewery, they have a nice tasting room with 14 taps (just installed the day before we were here). For $6 you can taste 4 of their brews.


We taste the DBA, Solace...a wheat beer, a hefeweizen, a porter, a honey blonde, and IPA, and a red ale.  While we enjoyed the DBA, Solace, and the honey blonde, the rest were average to a bit heavy for us.

So we're kind of indifferent to Firestone Walker. The beers in Denver were much better as was Sierra Nevada up north in Chico, which also serves a vast variety of tastes at no charge...but wait...what's that across the street?

Watch the video above as we find a very nice ringer, right across the street from the FW premises.



Friday, July 1, 2022

MIDWEST BASEBALL TOUR - LEG 2: Kansas City, 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 our time in Kansas City, we saw where President Truman lived, had a meal at the City Market, and got frustrated with the hotel and our fellow guests at the Residence Inn.  Now it's game time...

Watch the Video!

Before reading on, you have to know that the player I most despise in the major leagues is one Jose Guillen. A hothead and clubhouse cancer, his temper and subordination caused the Angels to fire him (and his admittedly strong bat) one week before entering the playoffs. It was that important to them that he be off the team that they’d rather take their chances of losing the playoffs (they did) than have Guillen around poisoning the team’s chemistry…

About 4 miles from downtown Kansas City, along Interstate 70, is the Truman Sports Complex consisting of Arrowhead and Kauffman Stadiums. Football’s Chiefs play at Arrowhead, baseball’s Royals of the American League play at Kauffman.

Our tickets, in the Dugout Boxes section, allow us to enter through the VIP entrance behind home plate. Along the way, a utility cart was driven by with two Royals players sitting on the back. Yes, there within spitting distance is the man I love to hate, Jose Guillen. While I’d love to let him have a few pieces of my mind, I let it go lest I be denied admission to the park.

It’s nice being treated like celebrities going in through the nice entrance but we find out that they don’t have any of the night’s giveaway…a Royals shirt for the women…here and we have to go back out of our way to the regular entrance at first base to get one for my wife.

Our seats are spectacular. About ten rows back, just a hair off of home plate on the third base side. Close enough to see the bags under the players’ eyes. I walk a few feet and get this shot of Chicago White Sox manager, Ozzie Guillen (no relation to Jose, I hope). Absolutely no overhang, wonderfully wheelchair accessible, and our section comes with two giant snack bars that server about 95% of the food offerings in the park along with giant plasma TVs so you don’t miss any action while standing in line.

The stadium, around 40 years old, had a refurbishment done before last season. It looks like a brand-new stadium with retro 70s touches. The signature features are the many fountains in the outfield and the crown shaped video board in center field. Food choices range from hot dogs, many gourmet sausages from Scimeca’s (Polish, brats, Italian, and Sheboygan), KC barbecue, pan fried chicken, and more. Two higher end restaurants are in the outfield, one in left and one in right. There is a wide selection of beers on tap and the best popcorn I’ve ever had at a baseball game is being popped at one of the several Topsy’s stands at only $4 for a good sized bag or $8 for a giant tub. It’s always fresh popped and they butter it to order. Food prices are very reasonable.

All this and the seats are only $43…the cheapest of the trip!

OK, food and drink in hand, it’s game time.

The Royals, the worst team in the league at this point, had fired their manager, Trey Hillman, the day before this game. Former Brewer manager, Ned Yost, is taking over. Yost was working in the Royals front office until this point.

The visitors are the Chicago White Sox. Taking the mound is Gil Meche for the Royals, Mark Buerhle will be the arm for Chicago. Meche has a no-hitter going into the 4th inning when right fielder Mark Kotsay breaks that up with a single. Meche then strikes out the next two batters to end the inning.

Hits start coming for the White Sox in the fifth and Omar Vizquel scores on a single by the Sox catcher, A. J. Pierzynski. In the bottom of the fifth, Buerle picks off a snoozing Jose Guillen at first base. The guy didn’t move an inch. Oh, what sweet justice, even though we are rooting for the home team.

The Royals tie it up on a solo homer by shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt in the bottom of the sixth. The Royals are first to use the bullpen when Dusty Hughes replaces Gil Meche in the top of the seventh. Other than a single by Vizquel, the side is retired.

It comes apart for Buerhle and the White Sox after the stretch when the first five batters single and drive in three runs. Tony Pena takes the mound after Buerhle is knocked out of the game. Two batters later, catcher Jason Kendall singles in third baseman Alberto Callaspo. Pena is out of the game to be replaced by Randy Williams.

A throwing error by Sox third baseman Mark Teahen (a much loved former Royal) scores another run. Two batters later, manager Ozzie Guillen makes a now familiar walk to the mound, replacing Williams with Scott Linebrink. Linebrink induces a ground out from first baseman Billy Butler to stop the carnage and end the inning. This will end the scoring and the final score is 6-1, Royals win.

An after-game fireworks show puts a nice cap on our last game of the trip. The only knock I have on the Royals ballpark is that it is not located downtown, necessitating a short drive to the suburbs. Traffic flows well and we’re out of the parking lot in five minutes. Kauffman gets the nod as our favorite stadium on the tour, just edging out Busch Stadium which is just a notch better than Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

It’s back to the hotel. The next day, there is a yellow slip of paper stapled to a note that was slipped under our door. It says that due to Rockfest, we will need to put the yellow slip of paper on our dashboard to keep our car from being towed away. We also notice that the hotel is filling up with people, many with spiked hair, leather jackets, studs, and drinking heavily. It’s time to visit the front desk.

“What is this Rockfest you’re telling us about?” I ask the friendly girl at the counter. It turns out that it is an outdoor, heavy metal concert starting in just a few minutes and going on through the evening in a park 200 yards from the hotel. We tell her about the noise last night and she tells us that if we thought that was bad, “just wait until tonight! I’m glad I’m off at 3pm.”

“Even if it’s after 12pm, can I check out with no penalty?” I ask. No problem. I tell her to just give me an hour and I’ll be out. While we’re packing, the concert begins and it’s blisteringly loud. We get everything in the car, I use the hotel’s wifi to find another hotel (Drury Inn just a few miles away!) return the keys, and leave. Most of the adjacent streets are closed. Cars are double-parked and thousands of fans are streaming into the concert…just dodged a bullet there!

Don’t get me wrong, I hope they had fun and have nothing against the metal heads and partiers. It’s just not what we were looking for and I wish the hotel would have let us know what was going on. To their credit, the staff at the Residence Inn was gracious in letting us leave without penalty. Still, that and the other problems we had there…the noise, the broken A/C, the torn carpet, and the roll-in shower that was an inch above the bathroom floor causing flooding…kill any good feelings I have. I cannot recommend this hotel.

We had plans to see the Federal Reserve money museum and the World War I museum but this killed that, plus both are located in the very park the concert was happening at so I doubt they were even open that day.

About a half-hour later, we pull into the Drury Inn & Suites Overland Park, Kansas…a suburb of Kansas City. The girl at the counter is very friendly and gives us the keycards to our spacious, two-room accessible suite on the third floor. Just like in St. Louis, we have a gorgeous, quiet room. Dinner, drinks, soda, popcorn and hot breakfast are free, among other things. I almost feel like I’m back home, in a familiar place. I think we have a new contender for hotel chain of the year.

Dinner tonight is a celebration of escape at the Overland Park branch of the Hereford House, one of Kansas City’s upscale steak houses where we are wined and dined with a succulent, prime, Kansas City strip.

There's more to come, stay tuned for the trip finale!

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 27, 2022

MIDWEST BASEBALL TOUR - LEG 2: Kansas City, Part 1

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.

Finally, we're driving to the final destination of this tour.  It seems like we've been on the road for a month, but it's just been a week since we landed in Cincinnati.

It’s not nearly as long a drive as we took from Cincinnati to St. Louis. 247 miles as opposed to 384, so this day will be much shorter with only a planned bathroom, gas, and lunch break half way in Columbia, home of Ole Mizzou.

Watch the Video!

On the way in, we pass Kauffman Stadium, our goal for this leg of the trip, and then into downtown to find our hotel. It’s not hard to find as we climb up the hill by the Liberty Monument with it’s not-so-eternal Eternal Flame. Our home here will be the Residence Inn by Marriott on Union Hill.

We check in and find the hotel’s only wheelchair accessible room, a downstairs unit in a cave-like outdoor hallway. The room is spacious and roomy, with a king-size bed against the wall, a roll-in shower in the bathroom, a full kitchen next to a work desk, and a living room with a sofabed. The sofa is too close to the TV to unfold it for a bed so I scoot it back a bit, revealing many tears in the rug repaired with duct tape.

I look for and find the thermostat for the air conditioning, try to set it, and find out that it does not work. That will not be a problem on this chilly day but if the weather takes a turn to hot and muggy…as it did in St. Louis…it will be. We leave the room to walk to dinner and let the front desk know that the A/C needs fixing, which they promise to do.

A two block walk up Main Street leads us to Gates Barbecue, whose motto is “hi, can I help you?” I would think you’d get that motto at a lot of places, but if it helps, why not? We order at the cafeteria-style counter. I can see the smoker a few feet back, open, with many pieces of perfectly smoked meat. Our eyes grow big. I want to try a burnt ends sandwich. My wife wants a full rack of ribs. Tim will share with us along with beans, bread, and salad.

The meat is perfect, delectable, and juicy-tasty. There are three sauces to try, mild, regular, and hot. We get all three and stuff ourselves silly. We still have over half of our food left, which the waitress in the dining room helps us pack to take back to the hotel. That fridge in the full kitchen will come in handy.

In the morning, after the hotel’s perfectly adequate breakfast (I think I’ve been spoiled by the
Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at the Arch
), we had a day to explore before tonight’s game. It’s a short drive over to Independence, home of one Harry S. Truman.

At the visitor’s center, we are informed that both the Truman home and farm are closed to visitors at this time because of ongoing refurbishment. We’re welcome to look from the outside and take pictures, but that’s it. The Truman Presidential Library is open, so we’ll stop by there in a little while.

At the end of the block is Clinton’s Soda Fountain. We go here to get some ice cream. We also go because this is where young Harry Truman got his first job, working after school. It’s not in the original location; a ranger tells us the original building burned down and it was moved here afterward.

The ice cream is good and the service Missouri friendly.

A few blocks away is the Truman home, which we walk around and snap a few pictures before moving on. A couple of blocks from here is a huge building with a spiraling steeple. We drive over to see what it is.

In 1831, Mormon pioneer Joseph Smith declared that the plot of land near the courthouse square was to be the new temple for New Jerusalem, the spot where Christ would come back to earth. The Mormons were eventually driven from the area but many returned and built the temple. The giant we now see is a newer version serving the Community of Christ branch of the Latter Day Saints.

Continuing on, we head over to the Truman Library. It’s eight dollars to get in ($12 in 2022 - Ed). A short movie about Truman’s life is shown, then you head out into the museum where you walk through different stages of his presidential career…taking over for the deceased FDR, the decision to drop the bomb on Japan, recognition of Israel, the Korean War, the firing of Douglas MacArthur, “Dewey Defeats Truman,” and the economic and civil rights laws he pushed for.

There is a peaceful courtyard, overseen by a life-sized statue of the man where an eternal flame burns near the graves of Harry Truman, his wife, daughter, and her husband. Behind that, you can see the office where Truman spent days after the presidency working here at the library which is next to the research room. It’s a very worthwhile stop when you’re in the area.

Back at the hotel, we turn in for the night. Soon, I here shouting outside and I take a look. There is a couple getting to know each other VERY well in the porch across the way and several of their friends are running in and out of the room along with others laughing and causing a general noisy mess in the parking lot. We have a full-blown hotel party going on next door.

I ask them several times to be quiet and am summarily ignored. It does quiet down. Next, around midnight, a group checks into the room above ours, being noisy. Then, just stomping across the floor all night. This is never stopped. We have a very bad night.

Frustrated with the noise, we skip breakfast, not wanting to see anybody else from the hotel. Instead, we head downtown to the City Market where each weekend they have a fresh farmer’s market along with the shops and stalls that are there every day.

Most of the farmers today just have vegetables. Very little fruit except for strawberries. I taste some, but they are very bland. There’s a table that has a lady with baked goods and we try her cinnamon rolls. Very delicious, so we take some to share and head to a trailer at the end that’s making coffee and breakfast. We get some joe and a breakfast sandwich to share and head to some nearby picnic tables to eat. It’s all very good but while we’re there it starts to rain. Not heavy, but steady.

After eating, we head over to the walkway around the perimeter of the market that is covered and browse the shops and stalls. Delicious looking meat is being grilled at an Italian deli. A friendly gentleman is giving away many samples at the Bloom Bakery. After trying some of his mouth-watering morsels, we head in for more and get some cupcakes, danishes, and some bread for later.

Tim and I share a sausage from the grill and it’s delicious.

We get some cheese for later (the Amazing Race finale will be on Sunday night so we plan some snacks and wine in our room) in the deli. Many everyday produce stands are here with fruit, so we get some to help with our deficient vacation nutritional needs. The market is busy, friendly, happening, and a fun place to spend a day.

Back at the Residence Inn, we note that the A/C is now working and we rest up for tonight’s game.

Stick around, part 2 and the game is coming very soon!

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Cocktail Hour - Cincinnati Pub Crawl

Kicking off our Midwest Baseball Tour last year, we started with an impromtu pub crawl along the Ohio River.  The "Cincinnati" part of the title is a bit misleading, it's actually in Newport, Kentucky at the Levee District, just across the river from The Great American Ballpark, home of the Reds.

Watch the Video!

We started before the baseball game going on that night so we got a lot of the pre-game party flavor.  We didn't go to the game that night (our tickets were for the next day), so we stayed behind at a bar called Bulldogs, watching the game on TV.  That was a bit surreal, the actual game was a thousand feet away.  We could hear it both from the stadium and on TV.

So here is the crawl.  We start off at a place called the Beer Sellar, which sits on a floating barge in the river that it shares with Hooters.  There's a large patio crowded with baseball fans getting ready for the game with their two-dollar Huddy Light specials.  They will soon depart for the game on a ferry that leaves right from the barge.

Next, it's over to a branch of Munich's famous Hofbrauhaus, just up the street, where we sample their delicious beers in about as authentic of a German beer garden you'll find in the states.  It's not quite up to Munich quality but darn good for over here.  We sample the hefeweizen, dunkel, and meibier.

Ending up the crawl, we're at Bulldog's where we try the Shafly wheat and rasberry ale from St. Louis and the house brand light beer, pretty good and a deal during the game at $2.50 for a 24 oz. mug.

We enjoyed them all, probably the Hofbrau brands the best.  Enjoy the video.

Rated #1 Consumer Reports

Copyright 2010

Friday, June 24, 2022


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.

UpTake Travel Gem

Now that the planning and booking is done, it’s time to go. We start off at Ontario Airport, about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. It’s a 6:55am departure meaning we wake up at 4am and rush to get going. We arrive at the airport at 5:30am.

Watch the Video!

After check in (at the curb) and security, we head to the gate. I ask the gate agent if there are any better seats available on the plane, we’re in row 19 of the Continental 737, and none are available. Waiting at the gate to pre-board, the crew that would have to take Tim to his seat balk at having to transport him to row 19 and says they will load the plane first, then us.

Really? Row 19 is that bad? I’ve had airlines sit us in the back of the plane with no complaints, but…

This gets us bulkhead seats when they kick the people assigned there out (not my idea, theirs) but in this day and age of paying for every piece of luggage, being last means the overheads are full and everyone seethes as it takes time for us to get seated. A friendly flight attendant puts our bag up in first class…it’s important to have on the plane because it has medication and bathrooming gear we’ll need on the flight…and off we go.

(Note: Continental Airlines has since been merged with United Airlines since the report was originally written-Ed)

We change planes in Houston and have no problems pre-boarding on the second flight to Cincinnati. The flights themselves are fine, comfortable, and on time but I did not care for the minor boarding fiasco at Ontario. Note to self: do not use Continental (soon to be part of United) out of Ontario anymore.

We arrive at the Cincinnati airport, which is actually in Kentucky, at 5pm local time, pick up our rental car (Ford Escape), and head to our hotel, the Comfort Suites in Newport, Kentucky…just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.

The room at the hotel is a “studio” suite, which means a larger room but not really a suite. There’s a king-size bed, sofa bed, and accessible restroom with bathtub and portable shower chair provided by the hotel. A hot breakfast (waffles, biscuits and gravy) is provided but it’s just adequate. In fact that word describes the hotel…adequate. Not great but not bad. It’s a bit expensive for that at around $150 per night.

After settling in, we walk to the nearby area of shops and restaurants known as the Levee at Newport. It’s a very lively area and we find a real gem, a branch of Munich’s Hofbrauhaus with a real German beer garden out back.

It’s small by Munich standards and the sausages are good but not quite on par with Germany, but here we go…an honest-to-goodness German beer garden three blocks from our hotel with its own brewery producing real Hofbrau beer, served in the liter sized glasses just like in Munich.

This is the perfect way to end a long day of travelling so we walk over to the riverfront and head back to the hotel.

It’s a Saturday and our tickets to the ball game are for Sunday so we take a drive to Louisville to see the Louisville Slugger Museum and take the factory tour. A 90 minute drive, we pass the Kentucky Speedway and a mysterious sign that states “site of fatal bus crash. May 14, 1988.”

It turns out that on that date, the worst bus accident in the country’s history took place when a drunk driver hit a church school bus. 27 people were killed, 24 injured, and several of the victims banded together and eventually formed Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.

Once in Louisville, we pass a minor league stadium for the Louisville Bats, an affiliate of the Reds. You’d think they’d be called the Sluggers, but no. The stadium is named Louisville Slugger Stadium, however.

Not hard to find, just head to the riverfront, turn left, and look for a giant bat sticking up over the skyline. Park in the structure in the back and head into the Hillerich and Bradsby Company, better known as the makers of that necessary piece of sporting wood, the Louisville Slugger.

Inside is paradise for baseball fans. A long, narrow lobby from the front to the back of the building includes a room for special exhibits, the bat vault (where every major leaguer has a template bat locked up…the “Fort Knox” of baseball), sample bats made to major league player specifications that you can test swing, a batting cage (10 pitches for a dollar) where you can try out a major league players bat, a current league standings board, a gift shop, and that giant bat out front.

All very interesting but the main attraction is what you actually have to pay for, the museum and factory tour. It’s ten dollars for adults ($18 in 2022-Ed) and you get to enter the museum and take an informative and entertaining tour of the factory (no cameras allowed on the factory floor).

Entering the museum, the first thing to see is one of the very first bats made by Bud Hillerich for Pete Browning, one of baseball’s first professional players, in 1884. Browing quickly got three hits with it in the next game and christened it the “Louisville Slugger.” Next is an area where you can hold a game-used bat. Gloves are mandatory. Tim held David Ortiz’s bat. Me? I went with Mickey Mantle.

Several other artifacts are on display. Honus Wagner’s jersey and bat; Joe Dimaggio’s bat; Babe Ruth’s bat; and on and on. The factory tour shows each step of the process, from lathing the wood, burning in the insignia to lacquering the bat. We are informed that players are very particular about their bats. For example, Ted Williams had one person make his bats and they had to have eight lines of grain per inch. With the highest batting average on record, Williams must have known what he was talking about.

At the end of the tour, everybody gets a small wooden bat to take home as a souvenir. One of the best 10 bucks I’ve ever spent.

On our way out of Louisville, we go by Churchill Downs…a week to the day after the Kentucky Derby…but couldn’t find any parking so we left town and went back home.

For dinner, we head down the river to the Beer Sellar. We thought it was a restaurant, but it’s just a bar so we have a two dollar, pre-game beer special and chat with some of the fans getting ready to go to tonight’s game. We’re not going until tomorrow, but we have some fun talking and then watching them depart by boat from the adjacent dock to go to the stadium across the river.

Actual food is found at Bulldogs, just around the corner, where we have some delicious fish and chips while watching the game going on across the river on TV. It’s interesting when someone hits a home run, you can hear the fireworks coming in through the windows and on the television. You can also hear the cheers coming from all the numerous bars in the area and from the stadium across the water.

Sunday…Game Day. This trip is all about baseball and the main attraction is the game. It’s Mother’s Day and we’re going to see the Reds host the Chicago Cubs. It’s about a mile walk to the game. Over the bridge to Ohio, then along the riverfront to the stadium.

Behind the stadium is an art installation of a giant paddle wheel, along with a couple dozen posts that vent steam on a random basis. There are also speakers in the posts where you can hear people on river boats.

We are behind the stadium in center field and there is no accessible entrance here. We have to walk around, 2 blocks, to home plate to go to the Will Call booth, pick up our tickets, and enter.

Great American Ball Park is a smallish feeling stadium (42,000 capacity) overlooking the Ohio River towards Covington, Kentucky. As you would expect, Red is the dominant color scheme. There is a faux river boat in the outfield and fireworks shoot out of its smoke stacks at the beginning of the game, when a Reds player hits a home run, and upon a Reds victory. Steam comes out when the home team pitcher strikes out an opponent.

The food choices here are basic and mediocre. Hot dogs, pizza, and burgers are mostly it, with ice cream and candy for dessert. There is pre-made sushi at a little convenience store by home plate, but we don’t want any sushi that’s not made in front of us. The tap beer selection is vast and reasonably priced. Since we’re walking home, we take full advantage of it.

Our seats are at the top of the field level deck, about 2/3 the way from home plate to first base. There is a slight overhang from the club deck above but it does not block our view in any meaningful way. The price for this seat is $47 for this premium game against the Cubs. If you go to see a less meaningful opponent, say the Marlins, it would be five dollars less. There is accessible seating throughout the stadium, from the bleachers to the nosebleeds, along with the more premium seating on the field and club levels. The lowest price is $5 going up to $235 for the first five rows behind home plate. We had no problems getting more than one companion seat.

Ryan Dempster steps on the mound for the Cubs to start the game. There’s no score until the second inning when Dempster gives up an RBI double to Johnny Gomes. The Reds, led by pitcher Mike Leake, have the game in hand until Leake goes wild in the 7th inning, giving up a run on an errant pitch. The Cubs will go on to take the lead by one but the Reds take it back in the bottom of the inning on a Joey Votto 3-run homer. The Reds win the game 5 to 3.

We decide to walk around the area of the stadium to see what festive activities we can find. The answer? None. It’s dead quiet in downtown Cincinnati so we head back across the bridge to Newport to find a lively atmosphere and settle in at an Irish Pub for dinner.

And that’s a wrap for Cincy. The highlights were the baseball game, of course; the fascinating and fun Louisville Slugger museum and tour; and the Kentucky side of the river across from Cincinnati is a lively and fun entertainment district. This leg of the tour left me with a strong desire to visit Kentucky again and explore it a little more fully.

Stay tuned as we head out to leg two of this Midwest Baseball Tour…St. Louis, Missouri.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Classic Post: Tim's Trip Planning 101 – The Final Chapter

Our Midwest baseball trip is coming together at a fast and furious pace.

(Note, current 2022 prices have been calculated and are updated below, where necessary - Ed)

We have now booked a rental car, which we will pick up in Cincinnati and use for the duration of the trip, which will finish in Kansas City. We’ve also booked hotel rooms at a Comfort Inn in Cincinnati, a Drury Inn in St. Louis and a Marriott Residence Inn in Kansas City. While the rental car and hotel reservations are an important part of a trip, they are not the only important element. The car, a full size, one-way rental, is costing $693.  I used a discount code that I found for Walmart shoppers that I found at Car Rental Savers that got me a bigger discount than my dad's AAA card.

As of last Friday, the baseball tickets have been purchased. For all three games, I tried getting accessible seating as close to home plate as possible for one wheelchair and two companion seats. The surprising thing was unlike Angel Stadium, it was very easy to get more than one companion seat without any hassle at all. I just called each stadium and they were more than ready to help me out. Being an Angel fan, I can’t help thinking my own team screws me every time I want to buy seats there.

In Cincinnati, we will be going to a day game against the Chicago Cubs. We will be sitting along the first base side behind the Reds dugout, very close to the field. There will be a Mothers’ Day scarf giveaway that day. In St. Louis, we will be going to a game against the Houston Astros. We will be sitting in the Infield Redbird Club, which includes access to the Redbird Club, which seems to be a private restaurant and bar for this area. It’s kind of like sitting in a large suite, as I can gather. There will be no giveaway for that game. In Kansas City, we will be going to a game against the Chicago White Sox. We will be sitting in a dugout box very close to home plate. There will also be a women’s T-shirt giveaway as well as a postgame fireworks show, so it should be fun.

The most expensive ticket was $57 for the Redbird Club in St. Louis. This compares to the $60 I spent on pretty lousy seats at Seattle a couple of years ago so the baseball games…all with great seats…seem to be a bargain.

In addition to the games, we are also planning on seeing the Louisville Slugger Museum in Kentucky and the Indianapolis Raceway where the Indy 500 takes place.

Now everything is in place. The only thing left to do is go. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and that it helps you to see how to plan your own trip. Don’t let your disability get in the way of seeing the world, I don’t and I enjoy every minute I’m on the road.

So, how does it all stack up to our original plans and budget?

Airfare: original budget $975 flying from LAX to Lousiville, KY. Final price: $861 flying from Ontario, CA to Cincinnati, OH. $106 under budget.
(Airfare would be about double in 2022 - Ed)

Hotels: original budget $1,130. Final price: $1,328. $198 over budget but each hotel includes a full breakfast and evening cocktail hour so we’ll make up the difference there.
(Hotels would be about $2,300 in 2022 - Ed)

Train tickets: $78 (from St. Louis to Kansas City). Will not be using the train. $78 under budget.

Rental Car: $693. Not in original budget but would replace flying from Cincinnati to St. Louis and the train plus it gives us a means of transportation at each location.
(Rental car would be about the same in 2022 - Ed)

Baseball tickets: Original budget $180. Final price: $400. Was originally planning on buying cheap tickets but since I was able to get such premium seating at good prices, I decided to splurge a bit here.
(Baseball tickets would be about $450-500, prices are variable because of dynamic pricing used by Major League Baseball today - Ed)

The total cost, for three people over 11 days, is $3182 (not including food).  That works out to less than $100 per day for each person.
(In 2022, the total would now be about $5,300, about $160 per day per person - Ed)

Thanks for joining me. I’m now very excited…this trip can’t come fast enough! 

Copyright 2010 – Timothy Musick

Monday, June 20, 2022

Classic Post: TRIP PLANNING 101 - Part 4

NOTE: Tim is in charge of planning our next big trip.  It's a baseball stadium tour working towards his goal of visiting every major league park.  This trip will add three to his already big list.  

Today I bought the plane tickets for our trip. My dad has confirmed that his vacation time was approved so now we start to nail everything down. I went online and did a search at Expedia, Southwest, and Frontier. The closest Southwest came to Cincinnati was Columbus. Frontier went to Dayton. But I found a flight right to Cincinnati for less on Expedia, on Continental connecting through Houston.

(Note: Continental Airlines has since been merged with United Airlines since the report was originally written-Ed)

The flight home was just a little bit cheaper on Southwest from Kansas City, but since Southwest doesn’t charge baggage fees, we’ll save around $100 for the entire flight cost plus, since we board first, we should be able to get bulkhead seats coming home. We will be leaving from Ontario, California…which is a much easier airport than LAX.

Entire flight cost is $861, including taxes, for three people. We already booked seats together for the Continental flights.  Both sites, Southwest and Expedia, let you arrange for your aisle chair and transfer online.

Now it’s time to book the hotels. The best room for the best price I could find in Cincinatti was the Comfort Suites at $131 per night a little less than a mile from the ballpark. It's a wheelchair accessible studio with a king bed and sofabed.  I booked it. It has no cancellation fees if cancelled at least 1 day prior to arrival.

I found a 2-room suite at the Drury Inn in St. Louis next to the arch for $157 per night. Finally, in Kansas City I booked the Residence Inn by Marriott near downtown. Both of these hotels let you cancel with no penalty up until the day of arrival and both are also accessible suites.

Now that we’re guaranteed rooms, I can keep a lookout for lower rates and if I find them, cancel the original reservations to save money.

We’re now good with air tickets and hotel reservations. Next up, need to find a rental car to drive from Cincinnati to St. Louis…and maybe to Kansas City. Also, I need to get tickets to the games.

(Note: We'll be updating these prices for 2022 in the last post of this series, stay tuned - Ed)