Baseball Trip of 2006
Beginning | Middle | End
7-2-06 (15:28)
  • we're in cleveland right now. lots of stuff coming up, should be hectic.
  • we left cincinnati after the game and stayed at a rest stop about 30 miles outside of columbus. the next day we drove through columbus, ate brunch and hit the road again. columbus is home of OSU, but isn't all that notable otherwise. we wanted to see frank lloyd wright's "falling water" before the end of the day so we hit the road for western pennsylvania. ohio has some lush forested scenery so it definitely has that going for it. one thing i don't like about ohio, though, is that they allows smoking in restaurants. eventually they'll join the rest of civilization, but in the meantime it's an annoyance with which you have to deal.
  • it took a little longer than expected to get to falling water because the roads there are smaller highways that stop through towns and have sections that are more winding than normal. we got there just as the last tour was starting so we hurried down the hill (after paying the excessive $16 fee per person) and joined the tour which was just getting underway. in addition to the high fee, the stewards of the property insist that no photography be taken during the tour. in fact, you can only take outside photos of the property (before/after the tour) unless you pay $50 for an all-access tour in the morning. i found their restrictions to be excessive, but i think it was worth it in the end. it's considered one of the finest pieces of american architecture and it's a one-of-a-kind building so it was worth $16 to see it. i didn't necessarily love the space, but i love his vision. for example, i could have done without the stone floors which i found to work well in theory, but practical application. they're uneven, cold and hard so they're not for me. these days it's easy to go with a stone tile and radiant floor heating, which would eliminate the temperature problem, but that wasn't an option at the time. i would have preferred some nice quartersawn oak. as distinct a house as it is, it's still very much a wright design. he uses radiant heat in the walls, along with built-in furniture along the walls, the fireplace is large and dominating, the exterior has a very modern look, and the entire house works about as well with its surroundings as anything i've ever seen. i've seen homes that build around pre-existing trees and boulders and the like, but this one stands in its own class. the home was built for the kaufmann's, who own a chain of dept. stores in pittsburgh and used the house as a getaway. it was originally slated to have a $40k budget, but wright swept that aside. total cost: $155k, which equates to about $4.5 million today. i'll post some pictures soon, including some interior shots which i took without permission, but you can probably find better exterior shots on the internet. it was raining (water was falling at falling water, har har) while i was taking the pictures so they're underexposed.

  • fuzzy interior shots, couldn't use the flash because the photo nazi (tour guide) was watching me:

  • after rain drove us away from falling water we went to the ohiopyle falls. i think both the falling water house and the ohiopyle falls are on the same river (youghiogheny), but i'm not certain. the falls are nice enough little things, but they're not amazing. it started to rain again so we fled for the shelter of the car.

  • we left the falling water region and headed over to pittsburgh. about an hour later we were in pittsburgh with nothing to do. we find ourselves on the south side and decide to catch a movie. before the movie we walked down a strip of shops and eateries and had some ice cream. after the movie we drove to a nearby parking lot and slept. neither of us can remember anything about where we slept. living on the road is such a blur sometimes....just remembered - we slept outside of a lowe's hardware store.

  • the next day we went to the carnegie museum of art and carnegie museum of natural history. they're both located in one rather large building. they've got a good range of exhibits and we enjoyed our time there. they had exhibits on dinosaurs, birds, architecture (for a buck more), ancient egypt, insects, modern art, and plenty more. while there meryl and i argued about the merits of modern art. below is my contribution to the art form.

  • "meryl, overexposed" this is a meditation on the nature of light and how it can both make and break a piece of art. when i took this picture i was thinking about how wonderful an artist i am and how my crappy pictures are going to change the world.

    a work by mark tansey, whose work i thoroughly enjoy. check out "derrida queries deman"

    meryl likes this one:
  • after the museum we went to the outskirts of town to get a hotel room and watch the ukraine get destroyed by italy. afterwards we went downtown to watch the pirates game. pittsburgh is a pretty cool city in that it is large enough to have the benefits of a large city (from cultural venues to sports teams), but it never really feels overwhelming because it's so well tucked into the hills and three rivers on which it's built. additionally, there didn't seem to be many bad neighborhoods - and we got plenty lost to find 'em, but seldom did. that's one drawback about the city - it's difficult to navigate, esp. to newcomers. there are a lot of winding, small roads that lead to small neighborhoods. many of the roads are dead ends and only a few are long enough to really get you somewhere. gps definitely came in handy.
  • meryl mentioned that comerica was probably an HOK design, but i looked it up today and found that it wasn't. just a bit of fact-checking for you. that said, it is very reminiscent of their style. it has the same tall, slender style lights that they used at great american ballpark (which is HOK designed) in cincinnati and it had the same green steel and gray concrete look that they use in camden (also designed by HOK). so, while comerica isn't an HOK design, it sure does look it. anyway, i've downloaded their portfolio onto the computer so we can look it up whenever we want. pnc park in pittsburgh IS an HOK design and it shows. if you look at their portfolio you see just how many parks and stadiums they have designed, so it's not just our obsession - they're truly influential in the field of fields, har har. anyway, i like their designs, but i feel like their style is a little too easily recognizable. pnc is a nice park with an intimate feel. it's got a good view of the river (allegheny, i think) as well as the downtown skyline. it has the word "pirates" cut into shrubs in center field and the bleachers (where we were) were general admission. it's got only two levels and the press box is behind home plate as usual, but higher than the other top tier seats, which i thought was pretty nifty. generally the press are located between the first and second levels, and most parks have a third level.
  • the crowd was into the game, but not amazingly so. the pirates are called the "bucs" for cheer purposes and many of the fans seemed understandably upset with pirates management. the team sucks (although they had just broken a 13(?) game losing streak in yesterday's game) and they don't show signs of getting any better. one drunk guy next to me was ranting about these facts and said something about not being able to stand the "millionaire humanoids" at the game. he also said the "PNC" in PNC park stood for "Public Not Considered." he was a bit annoying, but you get good info from drunk fans sometimes. after the pirates lost, despite showing signs of life late in the game, we walked across the 6th street bridge and drove back to the motel. traffic getting out of area wasn't too bad at all, then again, there were only about 28k people there. oh, during the game they allow the crowd to vote on which form of entertainment they want in the next inning. they offered two songs: one by jimmy buffett and one by gnarls barkley and one video of a squirrel on waterskis. the squirrel won by a landslide. people are such monkeys sometimes.

  • view from just beyond the center field wall, basically the same view as you get from behind the plate:

    view from our seat in the left field bleachers:
  • pittsburgh is in full swing for the all-star game. those kinds of things are really big for cities. the next day we had plans on walking around various parts of pittsburgh - south side, lawrenceville and mt. washington, but drove through instead. south side has a strip of shops and the like and mt. washington is situated on a hill which is good for getting a good shot of pittsburgh. lawrenceville is the up and coming interior design district. it was replete with street vendors of all kinds and some studios. having completed the two cent tour, we hit the road for central ohio; this was yesterday, saturday.
  • we drove to canton and visited the football hall of fame. in ohio football is king so it makes sense that the hall of fame be located somewhere in the area. i had previously thought that football, in its modern day incarnation was more or less invented in massillon ohio, but i was wrong. apparently it made its first big impression here and the first really successful team (with jim thorpe) was in canton so that's why the hall of fame is where it is. i also found out that the oldest pro football organization is actually the arizona cardinals. naturally they've moved, but they're even older than the bears. the football hall of fame is the least impressive of the halls that we've i really wish i had seen the hockey hall of fame in toronto, maybe there will be another somewhere in the u.s. that said, it's still a good place to visit if you're a football fan. they have: an exhibit on the evolution of the nfl, an exhibit on all the teams along with major dates in their history, etc., video of all the inductees (though they didn't have interactive stats like the other two halls had), a theater that rotates 180 degrees and shows some gameday and training camp footage, an exhibit on superbowls (including the pertinent stats and plays of all 40), an exhibit on nfl players in uniform which was pretty extensive, and a bunch of interactive stuff downstairs including: trivia games, madden on PS2, an exhibit on how the balls are made and a football toss. one room was pretty outdated and could have used some freshening up, but the rest seemed recent and useful. i was very disappointed by the lack of two subjects: the evolution of the rules and strategies. i think that football is the most strategic of the four major sports and the evolution of the rules played a critical role in the emergence of different strategies and importance of different positions at different times. my football encyclopedia does a great job of outlining how different coaches and players influenced the evolution of different defensive and offensive formations, from the wishbone to the cover 2 to the nickel, dime, quarter, 3-4, 4-3, etc. a discussion of this should have been included.

  • we stayed in detroit with this guy:

  • massillon, by the way, is the subject of a good documentary called "go tigers!" about the high school football team. check it out. the hall of fame area isn't as littered with sport-related cafes and shops as cooperstown is. after visiting the hall we drove through akron and stopped outside of town to eat, watch a movie and sleep.
  • this morning we drove a short distance to cleveland. so far all we've done is upload the page, eat and take care of the laundry. later tonight we'll catch a movie and find a place to sleep. tomorrow we have a game and the rock and roll hall of fame. i think the building was designed by either i.m. pei or louis kahn, but i'm not sure. will find out tomorrow.

  • 7-3-06 (22:46)

  • went to the rock and roll hall of fame this morning after a cheap, but good breakfast at some place that took forever to find. cleveland is short on quality dining, but not potholes.
  • the rock and roll hall of fame is housed in a very nice structure designed by i.m. pei, which makes sense since it is similar to the louvre (sp?) addition he did. i like his work. architecture is interesting because it's an interactive and ever-changing artform. as you move through a building you can experience it in different ways. as winter comes and the light changes you experience the building in a new way. as it gets older you experience it in a different way. so, for all these reasons, great buildings are pieces of artwork which you can enjoy for a long time. plus, i'm someone who values utility so buildings have the advantage of not only having potential as art, but also as useful places in which to conduct business or live or visit.
  • the rock and roll hall of fame is great, but also manages to be a let down at the same time. it's six floors worth of exhibits and they generally focus on movements, artists and places. we started with two short films which i thought were well done and provided a good introduction to the hall. the first film is a montage of roots type music being performed along with shots of typical rootsy environs: mountains, railroads, etc. this film serves to lay the groundwork for the next film which will introduce rock and roll. both films are shown on three panels with the center panel differing from the other two. the second film did the same thing as the first, but with rock and with some interview footage from rock icons like bono and neil young. these sorts of montages always make me want to rush to my cd collection and start pouring through all the music that i love.
  • after the films we worked our way around the large circular room which featured exhibits on: the roots of rock from r&b to gospel and blues, different regional sounds from liverpool and detroit to SF and LA, the 500 songs most influential to rock, and select rock icons from tom petty and the rolling stones to jimi hendrix and neil young.
  • there's a lot to synthesize and the place is apparently always packed so it's tough to really stay still and read everything they present. admission is $20 and there were easily a thousand people in and out of the place in the five hours that we were there. i found myself wondering quite a bit about where all the money goes. they have a sizable gift shop that sells cds as well as shirts, shot glasses, memorabilia, posters and more. clearly this place is pulling in tens of thousands of dollars a day and i can't imagine they have much overhead. add to that the fact they probably get a majority of their stuff donated and it begs the question: where's the money going? oh, they don't allow photography inside either so that sucked. apparently, though, that's because several artists would only donate items with that stipulation. oh well.
  • floors two through six were smaller than the first floor, you'll understand why when you see the pictures. the other floors had exhibits on the evolution of the radio and audio equipment which i thought was a good idea. they lauded innovators such as les paul, sam phillips and alan freed. they also have a nice video exhibit dedicated to mtv and a two wall exhibit on rolling stone magazine (including a snotty letter from a member of the rolling stones complaining about the name of their magazine).
  • the top two floors were dedicated to an exhibit on bob dylan which i'm sure john would have loved. they went over the importance of each of his first eight or so albums and had listening stations as well. of course they talked about his roots, his evolution, his choice to go electric, etc. perhaps most impressive was their inclusion of an extremely rare stereo copy of the freewheelin' bob dylan on vinyl. if memory serves this record is worth $30k, though they didn't mention this fact. i guess i should mention that...all the exhibits were packed with guitars, clothing, records, contracts, etc. that were signed or used by the people being honored. they even had childhood drawings from hendrix and a report card of jim morrison. as many bands and artists as they singled out, there were numerous deserving bands/artists they didn't mention or have exhibits for. perhaps this is a result of band non-participation, but they had exhibits on bob seger, tom petty and a couple other second tier artists, but they didn't have anything for led zeppelin or black sabbath which i consider pantheon rock groups. all in all it was a great place, but it barely scratched the surface. it would have been nice to see some more discussion of various genres like metal or punk and new wave, but there's just so much to cover.

  • after the HOF we wasted two hours driving around looking for a place to get the oil changed. then we went to the indians game.
  • jacobs field was funded in part by some guy named jacobs and the other 48% by a sin tax - a 15 year tax increase on alcohol and tobacco. it has nothing to do with the park, but it's a quick way of raising $100 million bucks. jacobs field is one of the nicer parks we've seen. it's bigger than pnc park, but it's not as huge as skydome - jacobs seats about 42k. we sat in the right field upper deck and the seats were a bit far, but they weren't awful at all. when we got there we walked around the park to see it from as many different views as possible. one thing i definitely appreciated about the park were the wide concourses. they're so wide, in fact, that there's enough room for picnic tables and two sets of walkways divided by concession stands. according to our book, the bleacher area is cordoned off from the rest of the park, but we were able to walk through that area without any problem so maybe things have changed. i think they also have the second largest jumbotron in the league - toronto's looked bigger, but our book said the indians one was the largest. the book has been wrong in the past though. the park looks like an HOK design, but it's not as obvious as minute maid or pnc. the left field wall has a "mini green monster" which is sorta nice. other than that jacobs field was pretty similar to most of the other modern day parks.

  • view from our seat:

    he bounced it to the plate and looked like a fool in the process...
  • we went to our section and the usher asked for our tickets, which i thought was odd since we were so far up that i doubt anyone would want to sneak into that section. we were seated in row s, but decided to sit much further down, hoping that not many people would show up to a monday night game. by the end of the first half inning, though, we had been moved a couple times and we retreated up to our actual seats. it was pretty obnoxious and both of us were annoyed already because of the two hours we had wasted earlier looking for a jiffy lube type place. the people next to us seemed pretty drunk and started asking meryl what had just happened because they weren't paying attention. i got pretty annoyed, but they asked a bunch of questions about the trip so that put them in meryl's good graces. sometime in the 3rd inning meryl told me to look at the jumbotron, which was divided into left and right sections. i looked up and saw something moving on the right so my eyes gravitated there. it was some stat thing so i turned back to her and asked why she wanted me to look. by then the reason she had asked me to look was gone. she had coordinated with the indians to get them to put a message on the board wishing me a happy birthday, and i missed it. so that put a damper on things. apparently they told her it was coming in the 4th inning, and those things come up with out warning and are only up for a few seconds so i missed it. it really sucked. we sat around for another couple innings and left because we didn't feel like watching the game anymore.
  • we headed out for chicago and watched the fireworks show after the game while we were driving away. tonight we're going to stay in some high school parking lot in between cleveland and chicago.

  • 7-5-06 (23:36)

  • The night we parked in the high school parking lot was NOT fun. We fell asleep around 12:30 or so but were woken up around 2:15 by a HUGE thunderstorm. When I was little I used to sleep through thunderstorms a lot, and sometimes I still do, however this time I was not as fortunate. I've experienced some big thunderstorms living in Texas for a year, but I've got to say this one was pretty impressive. It rained extremely hard and the thunder was so powerful it shook the car every once in a while. I finally managed to fall asleep blocking out the noise, but I woke up pretty frequently the rest of the night, so that kinda sucked.
  • We woke up in the morning and headed for Chicago. It was Chris' birthday, but I had attempted to give him one present that didn't work out and given him his other one the day before, so I didn't have anything else to give. I figured his present for the day would be me driving the 6 or 7 hours. We drove for pretty much the entire day besides a little detour to South Bend in order to see the Notre Dame campus. It looked pretty impressive, but cars weren't really allowed anywhere near the campus, so we didn't get that great of a tour. We got back on the road and continued on to Chicago. We hadn't stayed in a hotel for a while so we found a Super 8 motel about 30 miles outside of Chicago around 3:45 or so and decided to stay there. We watched the end of the Italy/Germany game which was pretty dissapointing because I was REALLY going for Germany. They played really well, but seemed to be on the defensive most of the game, so it was really only a matter of time before Italy scored. It kinda sucked because I REALLY didn't want Italy to win. At the same time, I wouldn't have wanted a semifinal match to end in penalty kicks, so I guess seeing it end in OT was better than seeing it end in PKs. After the game was over we hung out around the hotel room trying to figure out what to do. It was too late to go into Chicago because everything would probably be closed, not to mention it was the fourth. We looked online (we were high rollers this time, our hotel had wireless internet) to see what movies were playing. Chris and I have seen nearly every movie out (with the exception of Cars and Prairie Home Companion) so it was a little difficult trying to find a movie. We found a second run theater that was playing The Sentinel and neither of us had seen it so we decided it would be better to drive the 30 minutes than stay in the hotel all night. I've heard mixed reviews on the movie, but I was entertained enough for the $5 we each paid.
  • We woke up this morning and got a later start on the day than we anticipated (mostly because I take too long to get ready, oh well dammit I enjoy my shower every three days). When we got into Chicago I was in a serious state of crankiness and so it took us a while to figure out what to do. We finally decided on a $20 double decker guided tour because my knee was really bothering me. It turns out for the amount of time we had we made a pretty good choice. The tour took us around the downtown area and some of the surrounding neighborhoods (Chris took lots of notes on the tour, so I'll leave it to him to fill you in on the details). After the tour we headed back to the car to eat a little snack, have some water, change, etc. before the game. We found the Metra with relative ease and arrived at US Cellular field around 6:15. We walked around the field a bit, but were pretty unimpressed. It's not like the field sucks, it's just really not anything special. After seeing great classic ball parks (Fenway) and great new ones (Citizens Bank) it's starting to take more and more to impress. We walked around a bit more and then found our seats. Now, until this point our best seats have been the ones the Mets gave us (directly behind homeplate about 20 rows back) but this game has that beat. My dad was able to snag us seats from a friend of his in Chicago and they were AMAZING. We were about one section over from homeplate and 5 rows back. It was QUITE a good view, and excellent distance for me to boo AJ Pierzynski when he was in the on deck circle, so I was a happy camper. The White Sox scored 4 runs in the first inning, but didn't produce the rest of the game. The Orioles scored 1 in the 3rd and 1 in the 9th, so they sadly lost. I was pretty dissapointed, something about the White Sox fans rubbed me the wrong way, so I was rooting for the Orioles. SPEAKING of White Sox "fans," there was an AWFUL excuse for a female at the game. Sometimes I really am ashamed to be a woman, and the sight of this chick was one of those times. Right before the start of the game a stripper and her pimp walked down the aisle and sat in seats about 4 rows ahead of us. The stripper (I'll call her Candi) and her pimp (I'll call him Jeffrey) giggled and pointed in the White Sox dug out while they drank beers for a few innings. Even though everyone had SWEATSHIRTS on, Candi was dressed in pants that revealed her panties, a shirt that was tied behind her so that it showed her entire stomach from her bra line down, had a slit cut down the front of her shirt so you could see her leather cleavage, and to top it off, she was wearing a hat that said "Poll Katz." I was COMPLETELY disgusted. After about the 3rd inning an usher came over and asked for Candi and Jeffrey's tickets and told them to leave when they.....SHOCKER......were not sitting the right seats. She claimed she "didn't know" where her seats were. I saw the two later on in the game, they had moved down to close seats again, but this time she had a baseball with her, no doubt she prostituted herself for a foul ball. But back to baseball.....although I was sad the Orioles lost, it was one of the better games we've seen, so that made it fun, and our seats were fabulous, so there's no way you could have a bad time with seats like that.
  • After the game we drove to a place Chris had heard about called "Wiener's Circle" for a snack before we got back on the road. It was pretty tasty and the wait staff was humorous. i had seen this place on the insomniac show on comedy central and heard of its reputation for curt, curse-laden service. e.g., "what you want mutha fucka?" "gimme some fries and burger and make it quick, bitch" "a'ight, that'll be five bucks you asshole..." i guess it was hammed up a bit for the television show, and it probably wasn't late enough for the bar crowds. the two ladies who helped me were certainly unprofessional (one was on her cellphone) and both were gossiping about something while slinging profanities. that said, they weren't unprofessional enough for me. i would have liked a bit more cussing and rudeness, oh well. Right now we're on the road headed for Kansas City. The next few days will be FULL of driving. I'm a little nervous how my knee will hold up because after yesterday's day full of driving I was pretty uncomfortable today. Hopefully a little ice and cruise control will be enough to not bother it too much. Darryn (at work) will be proud of us as we've fit in a Cardinals game (sometime next week, I think next Wednesday), and we've also moved stuff around to fit in a Rockies game as well. While the next 2 weeks will be full of driving, we'll also be seeing a TON of games, so that will be quite fabulous.

  • 7-6-06 (14:45)

  • birthday was pretty uneventful, which was a nice change. it basically played out as a day off before the stretch of non-stop driving. we're in iowa right now. iowa is home of slipknot which kinda makes sense since only a state as boring as this could produce a band like that. well, not really, but iowa's fairly mundane. i'd like to talk with some of the farmers because i agree with jefferson on the issue of farmers.
  • south bend was a disappointment because we didn't really get to see the entire campus.
  • chicago is pretty great. somehow i didn't really realize that the first time i went there. it's noisy and the traffic is obnoxious, but the great skyscrapers (which create one of the best skylines i've seen) aren't as imposing as they are in nyc and there seem to be a greater distribution of parks around the city. like nyc or la, it's got a great arts and culture scene with museums, film, music and theater covering something for everyone.
  • some tidbits from the tour and other sources: first hilton hotel is in chicago. 12 million people live on the coast of lake michigan. chicago gets its drinking water from lake michigan. the chicago river flows backwards, thanks to a project from the army corps of engineers to better the quality of the water. there are a crap load of condos near the lake, many of which have gone up relatively recently. richard daley jr. is mayor and has been since 1989; his father was mayor for the previous 21 years. the navy pier is the #1 tourist attraction in illinois. chicago is home of the first ferris wheel. george ferris built it to compete with the popularity of the eiffel tower. "devil and the white city" was a book that was recommended by one of the guides as a great history of chicago. north michigan ave during the "magnificent mile" stretch is the equivalent to nyc's 5th avenue. no zoning laws in the city. house of blues first founded in chicago. there was a story about a guy who built the civic opera house to support his wife's amateur opera career. didn't catch the guy's name, but clearly this is reminiscent of citizen kane. the "el" went up in 1892 in anticipation of the world's fair. apparently the sears tower is the largest occupied office building in the world. there are the petronas towers and the taipei 101 which i thought were office buildings, but maybe the guide's information was dated, or perhaps those buildings aren't considered office buildings because they're dual-use or something. whatever, i've seen the largest free-standing building in the world already so i refuse to be impressed. oh, one reason the skyline in chicago is less obscured than it is in nyc is because of a measure they passed which required buildings to cut in "y" number of feet for every "x" number of feet high they are; thus the sears tower doesn't seem as impressive as the wtc, yet it's taller. la salle blvd. is equivalent to nyc's wall street; it's also where many films in chicago have been shot. home of the largest public library in the u.s, named after their first black mayor.
  • some of the more interesting pieces of architecture: the chicago tribune building (1925), hancock tower and sears tower (designed by same person), house of blues and its hotel, millennium park building designed by frank o. gehry, 94 story trump tower (in construction), federal reserve building, mcdonald's replica - four times as large as the original - built to celebrate the 50th anniversary, thompson center, and many more.

  • trump tower in the foreground is currently under construction. in the background are two honeycomb style parking structures which i like.

    the building on the right is the chicago tribune office building, in the center is a bit of a bridge that crosses the chicago river, not sure about the building on the left, but i like it.

    john hancock building:

    me looking at the art institute of chicago

    soldier field, aka the mistake on the lake:
  • greatest human advances, according to chris (in no order): wheel, electricity, film, steel, antibiotics, agriculture, written language, internet, seinfeld, printing press.
  • why do you always see places that serve breakfast all day, but not dinner? there are lots of people who want steak at 7am, we call them brits. seriously though, i think restaurateurs are a bunch of mealists.
  • forgot to mention that we went to white castle on my birthday because i'd never been there and the beastie boys reference them in at least two of their songs: "from white castle to the nile" and "white castle burgers only come in one size" anyway, white castle burgers suck so i don't know why harold and (mostly) kumar were so intent on going there.
  • meryl pretty much covered the game below. the seats were great and the game was pretty good. the fans around us weren't all that exciting, but that probably had more to do with the seats than white sox fans in general.

  • "hey dipshit, look over here"

    i've been shooting in manual mode more lately so some of the pictures are a bit unbalanced. any tips, johnny?

  • right now we're about 2.5 hours from kansas city and we have a game scheduled pretty quickly after we arrive.

  • 7-7-6 (11:33)

  • last night (thursday) we went to kansas city to see the royals beat the blue jays; a rare occurrence. the royals have a pretty unique little park, which actually seats over 40k. they're a small market team and the park is separate from the rest of the city (think arco arena). the most notable features are the vertically curved exterior wall and the fountains (which spray in many different configurations) beyond outfield. the latter was not liked by meryl. i would have liked it more if they had some seating beyond the outfield wall, but didn't feel it was enough to keep me from liking the park. i liked that it was a unique looking park, i liked the fountain (even though it means a lack of outfield seats), and i like small market teams like the royals. the fans were generally pretty laid back and didn't offer much entertainment as a result. they reminded me most of the tampa bay fans who will get into the game at critical points and generally seem to know baseball, but aren't as animated as, say, mets fans.

  • curved upper deck makes the park look smaller and more open.

    interesting design around home plate:
  • we got there about an hour before the game and the place was more empty than i have ever seen at a sports venue. by game time the lower level looked semi-crowded, but was still depressingly empty. attendance was a paltry 10,848. more than anything i felt sorry for the royals organization. the field was pockmarked with spots of brownish grass and the entire affair just felt like a minor league game. i liked it, but i felt bad for them. the pregame festivities were pretty limited. we saw some people tailgating and playing washers, but it was pretty dead other than that. a lot of the concession stands were closed and there just wasn't much going on. it was eerily quiet for a ballgame. there weren't many vendors yelling "programs here" or "get your peanuts here." those things are an essential part of the ballgame experience and they were basically absent. one really cool thing they did before the game was have two groups of parachuters land on the field. the first group were two canadian guys and the second group were seven american guys. afterwards the plane that dropped them did a fly by and that was impressive as well. the second canadian guy who landed had a pretty rough landing. there were two americans who came in on top of each other - one guy standing on the other's shoulders. i also liked the fact that they had a real organ and organ player at the stadium.

  • the game itself was fun enough. redman had a nice outing - he went 8 1/3 and only allowed two runs. there was some drama in the 8th inning when a man apparently fell down near an tunnel a couple sections over from us. paramedics were on the scene and were relatively calm for a while, but then i saw them start cpr and clear the area of onlookers. after a couple minutes of cpr i saw them bring a portable defibulator and then they hurried to put the man on a stretcher and carry him out. around this time i saw an ambulance arrive from the road past center field. over the course of the next inning another ambulance and two fire trucks arrived on the scene. it seemed odd that they would need so many emergency response vehicles. if he was dead then there wouldn't be a rush, if he was alive i'd think they'd just use one vehicle and rush him to the hospital. perhaps monique can illuminate the situation for me. after the game meryl asked about the incident and an usher said that, last he heard, the man was alive and breathing.
  • after the game we drove for a couple hours to get a jump on today's long drive to denver.
  • i've been seeing a lot of casinos around the country. it's a pretty disturbing trend. i generally don't hold casinos in high regard. i think they're a blight on the community in spite of the revenue and jobs they produce. i see them primarily as a quick fix.
  • when we went to the reds game we got free barry larkin bobble heads. he won mvp in 1995 while batting .319 and hitting only 15 hr, 66 rbi, and recording 36 steals. it's amazing that you could be mvp with those stats back then. in 1996 he became the first 30/30 shortstop.
  • kansas is reputed to be an extremely flat state, but we've encountered a rolling landscape. our drive through iowa was just as flat as kansas. kansas has a bevy of kitschy attractions like the dorothy (of the wizard of oz) museum or the site that features a 36 inch donkey, a six-legged steer, and the largest prairie dog in the world (8,000 lbs, supposedly). some town along the way even tried to attract tourists by proclaiming itself as the birthplace of arlen specter and bob dole. that's like trying to pick up chicks by telling them you have a raging case of hemorrhoids. sexy.

  • 7-8-06 (16:54)

  • after several hours of driving yesterday we arrived in colorado springs where we got a much needed oil change. while waiting in the pricey (and slow) jiffy lube we read magazines. after a couple minutes a woman customer walked into the waiting room and saw something on the television (which was playing fox news) and started talking about how we should bomb the hell out of north korea because they "don't get it." the other two guys in the room were two plumbers who were having their truck serviced and one of them joined in on the conversation. the two of them went back and forth about how america hasn't made it clear enough to the world that we're in charge and missile testing won't be tolerated. fragments like "we should just bomb the hell out of them" and "we should turn them into a desert" were highlights. the woman was particularly vocal and went on to proclaim that we'd have done it already if it weren't for the democrats making bush jump through so many hoops before he went to war. she also mentioned that there were indeed weapons of mass destruction in iraq, but the liberal media wasn't reporting on it. she added: "fox is the only one that's about half way decent, the rest are crap." she's one of the more vile, pathetic, ignorant and stupid people i've had the displeasure of listening to recently. if i thought it would help i might have piped up with a bit of wisdom, but it would have fallen on deaf ears, so i didn't. what do you say to someone that blinded with hate and with that level of disregard for humanity?
  • after the oil change we went to a place called conway's red top which is a local burger chain that was mentioned as a model chain in fast food nation. i had made note of it some time ago when i read the book and finally got a chance to go there. they're famous for making large quality burgers with ethics. it was more of a good food, fast type of place than a fast food place. if you ever find yourself in the area check them out. the nevada street location was the first.
  • it took us about 90 minutes to get to coors field because of some traffic, but we got there with time to spare and found a cheap parking spot. the tickets were pricey, but we drove about nine hours to get there so we weren't going to be denied. we bought some upper level tickets which were basically in the same location as the blue jays game (third deck, behind home plate), but were more than twice as much ($24 vs. $11 canadian). after 3-4 innings it started raining, then it started pouring, then the wind started blowing and then the game was postponed. we sat around getting wet (despite being under the overhang) and contemplating our options (and our shitty luck) for a while. then the wind died down a bit so we weren't getting wet from the horizontal rain anymore, but the field was getting plenty drenched still. all told we waited about 75 minutes hoping that the rain would subside so we could watch the rest of the game, but it didn't so we left. we hit the road and it rained pretty much the entire two hours that we drove. we spent the night in a flying j truck stop.
  • the next morning we learned that the game did continue, after a three hour delay, and ended with the same score (4-3). we had mixed feelings about that. if we didn't have over 1000 miles to drive before the game at 1pm tomorrow (plus the hour lost to the time zone change) then we would have been two of 2,000 fans to stay for the end of the game. anyway, the schedule called so we had to do what we had to do. our luck has been fairly shitty in the weather department.
  • coors field is pretty nice. it's supposed to have a great view, but i think you have to be in right field to really see the rockies. plus, the visibility wasn't very good because the smog or haze or something was thick. so, from our seats, with the visibility as it was, the view was nice, but not spectacular. the park itself is very nice, but too large. there's a second and third deck in right/center field and it just makes the place look too big. it's especially bad considering it's a baseball-only facility. rfk has a third deck in outfield, but it's a dual-use facility so it's expected. i would have though HOK would have urged denver away from this attribute. apparently the high attendance while the rockies played at mile high was a factor in expanding their original design (which called for a capacity of 43k instead of 50k). they sold out a bunch of games for the first few years, but not anymore. this is the typical story. it seems that cities should go the way of pittsburgh and build a smaller stadium. it's more intimate, builds demand and excitement. of course this only works when you have a team worth watching so i guess the pirates are half way there...anyway, coors field has a lot of activities on the main concourse - stuff like a pitch speed game and a couple batting cages, the usual stuff, but more of it. the food looked pretty good and they seemed to have a good range of it. on the upper deck they have a row around the entire stadium which indicates the mile high marker with purple seats. beyond the outfield wall they have a waterfall feature with some trees. this is right next to the bullpens. overall i liked the place, but thought it was too big and too expensive.

  • rain delay didn't phase these three:
  • today we're just driving so there's nothing to report. we've gone through cheyenne, lincoln, omaha and des moines so that's three more capital cities that we've been to. i finished the al franken book this morning so we're running low on reading material. that's all.

  • 7-9-06 (21:10)

  • we drove about 14 hours yesterday and another 1-2 hours today. the route from denver to milwaukee isn't all that notable. there are some cities in between the two, but nothing really that wonderful. we drove through madison, but didn't get to visit. i've been there before and i thought it was pretty nice. we have a few days off now because of the all-star break so we might be able to visit milwaukee and madison more extensively. we also have dyersville, ia on the list because field of dreams was filmed there and meryl loves that movie. we'd also like to spend more time in chicago. the next few days are subject to change.
  • today was all about the milwaukee game. it was a day game, but we got there really early because we didn't have tickets and heard good things about the tailgate scene. we were there about three hours early and there were still plenty of people in the parking lot firing up the grills and getting an early jump on the excessive drinking. it was definitely a good scene and it really is infectious and conducive to the game day experience. in other places the atmosphere is so much more family oriented and as such there isn't much of a tailgating scene. there were a lot more cubs fans than brewers fans, which was a bit of a surprise, and the game ended up being sold out - except for the standing room seats. we looked around for an atm hoping that we'd come across a scalper, but the only atm in the vicinity was in the park and you need a ticket to get in. so we went to a different box office window and asked again if there were any seats. while she looked i explained that we just wanted to get into the park and that we were on a cross-country trip, etc. long story short she sold us a couple tickets which were previously reserved for handicapped people. they turned out to be pretty good seats so we were happy that the 16 hour drive wasn't for naught.
  • we both really liked miller park. it's got a retractable roof that closes in two parts. inside it's full of activities like a skeeball game, a basketball game, a giant inflatable slide and a couple baseball games on xbox. everything was free, unlike coors field. they also have various drinking related areas and services. they offer a taxi service after the game, they have margarita bars, they don't seem to mind tailgating, their mascot is some drunken brewer and, of course, it's sponsored by an alcohol manufacturer. it's a big field, like coors, but it feels smaller because the roof makes the whole park seem more enclosed. the game itself wasn't anything special. that said, the best play of the game was a suicide squeeze which came (i think) in the fourth inning. those are always exciting. during the seventh inning i ran down to the restaurant bar that they have in left field and watched the end of the world cup game. it was disappointing and this world cup didn't do much to increase the interest of the american audience. there wasn't much parity, too many games were decided with penalty kicks and there was a definite lack of scoring (which americans, for better or worse, tend to like). i can't claim to be a soccer fan, but i'm a sports fan so i watch anything that's big or on while i'm flipping around, but i don't think most americans who gave this world cup a chance would have been won over.

  • me watching some kids play mlb 2006. later i played one of them (i was the dodgers, he was the brewers). we played three innings (because his damn mom told him to go) and we tied 1-1.

    murals like this one were all around the park concourses:
  • leaving the stadium turned out to be more of a pain than it should have been. there were signs directing traffic to the major nearby freeway, but the signs guided everyone on an excessively long path to the freeway entrance. the freeway itself is a mere quarter mile from the park, the entrance that we were guided to was a couple miles from the park. since everyone was taking the same path the traffic was ridiculous.
  • i think there was a bunch more stuff to address, but i've forgotten it all.

  • 7-10-06 (13:59)

  • this morning we left our motel 6 (the first in five days) and went to the milwaukee museum of art. they have a nice, but not stellar collection with a decent range. the most impressive part of the place is the main entrance which is an unusual piece of architecture which seems very nautical to me. it fits, though, since the museum is on the lake. they had a special exhibit on comic book art, but it would have set us back another $12 so we didn't check that out. not being rich apparently has its drawbacks.

  • not a very good picture, wish i had more lenses for this camera.

  • right now we're on our way to madison. one of these days i'll visit green bay, but it doesn't look like today's going to be the day. we have to upload the page and do some laundry. sometime tonight we plan on driving to dyersville so we can take care of the field of dreams thing in the morning.
  • i'd like to go on more factory tours. so far we've only gone to the mint and the jacksonville budwieser brewery.
  • i'm not looking forward to finding a job after all this is done.
  • last night there was an epic storm that swept in shortly after we got to the motel after the game. that was one bit of luck that we've had. not only had we schedule to stay at a motel last night, but we got inside before the rain started.

  • 7-11-06 (12:25)

  • So far the theme of our trip has been rain and never believe doctors (more on that later). It seems like nearly 1 out of every 3 days of our trip we have seen rain, which I've got to say for a BASEBALL trip, totally blows. After getting to Dyersville last night we drove to the Field of Dreams movie site just to see where it was. It was about 9:15 and we didn't really have anything to do, so we drove around looking for a place to park for the night. Dyersville has 2 main streets that are each about 5 or 6 blocks long, that said, it wasn't too difficult to find a place to sleep for the night, we settled on the National Farm Toy Museum. Because it was so early we set up the laptop and watched a couple episodes of the Office (both the British and American versions). We both decided that the British version was far superior.
  • We woke up this morning at about 6 am because of a HUGE storm. It had gotten pretty cold (which was actually nice because we're both pretty tired of being extremely hot when we sleep). What sucked though was that LOTS of our stuff had gotten wet because we had the windows opened a crack. We rolled up all the windows, but everything still got wet because of the moisture in the air. I couldn't fall back asleep for another hour and a half or so, mostly just because I was too stressed out about whether or not we were going to get to go to the Field of Dreams movie site or not (yes, I AM that big of a loser). After I finally fell back asleep we woke up around 9 to no rain. I was QUITE excited. Chris started driving while I sat in the back and moved everything from the passenger seat to the back because we didn't want to waste anytime in case it started raining again. When we got there we pulled into one of two parking lots (we later learned the lot we pulled into is owned by some private investor in Milwaukee). We walked over to the field and read all the billboards they had about the location. It turns out the family that owned the house when it was chosen for filming (the Lansings) have lived on the property since 1906 and still live in the house that was featured in the movie. They own most of the farm land that the field is on except left field and a portion of center (this is the area the private investors purchased from their neighbors). Both sets of field owners have souvenir stands and info on the movie, but we decided to stick to the Lansing's side of the field as they pay out of pocket for the upkeep of their side of the field. The house still looks almost completely the same, although the field is a little run down. Chris and I walked around the field a bit and made our way to the Lansing's souvenir stand and bought a shirt for me and some post cards. Near the stand they had some cool facts about the field, the only one I unfortunately remember is that they get about 55,000 visitors every year from April-November while they are open. After we bought our souvenirs we headed back to the car to do the cliche thing and get our gloves. Like the Field of Dreams fan I am I was pretty happy getting to play catch with Christopher on the field, however we only got to play for about 10 minutes before it started raining again. Chris grabbed the camera and we took a picture of me coming out of the corn because I'm that corny (pun intended). After getting soaked by the rain we ran back to the car for safety.

  • After about 45 minutes at the field we headed back to town to find a place for breakfast. We drove down 1st Street and found the Dyersville Family Restaurant and went in for breakfast. The food was good and it was CHEAP, which was nice considering we went about $65 over budget last week because of all the driving we did. Right now we're on the road to Rockford, Illinois and then down to St. Louis. We've tooled around this area quite a bit going back and forth so we're taking a little longer way just to go on a different road. By the end of today we should be in St Louis and then we'll stay there for the next 2 days (we have a game Thursday night) and then drive up to Chicago for the Cubs game on Friday and spend another 2 days there. After that it's off to the Twin Cities for the Twins, and then about 2 weeks touring around Yellowstone, the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, and Canada.
  • It's pretty amazing to me that I get the chance to visit all these great places and see all the ball parks in the majors. The trip is pretty tiring and at some points stressful, but I've got to say I'm having an fabulous time and am pretty sad thinking about when it will all be over. I've been trying to think of all the art projects I can do once the trip is over which is getting me pretty excited too. I've been collecting all the tickets (games, museums, movies, etc) and brochures we've gotten to include in it. I think once it's finished it will break the world record for the largest scrapbook of all time. I've also been recording the path we've taken all around the country and I want to make a painting of the US and draw our path on the painting including the cities we stop in for games, national parks, etc. I think with all my art projects I'll be extending the trip another year and half.
  • One thing that's not so exciting is my knee. I've always been one to not trust doctors after my stupid orthodontist told me I'd only have to wear my retainer for 12-18 months. My parents would argue I never wore it to begin with, however I assure you I wore it up to the 18 month mark. after that point, i felt he was a quack and I refused to wear it anymore. Afterwards he told me I needed braces, I told my parents he could shove it, I wasn't getting braces. My brother was only supposed to have retainers for 2 years or something and the orthodontist made him have retainers, braces, and then retainers again. So, word to the wise, if you need braces or retainers, DON'T go to Dr. Brennen. Anyway, I've been in a pretty depressed state about my knee lately. Of course, sitting in the car for 3 days would make anyone feel cramped up, but when we went to the museum a few days ago (the first time we really walked around in a while) it was hurting pretty badly. At this point I'm more uncomfortable than I was before surgery and am thinking it wasn't really worth it. According to my doctor and physical therapist I made a quick recovery at first (even being told I wouldn't have to be in physical therapy for the full 3 weeks), but then I seem to have hit a plateau, and have even gone backwards now. It blows and makes me hate doctors even more.

  • (15:35)
  • funny how "blows" and "sucks" mean the same thing. same goes for "hot" and "cool" and "bad" and "cool."
  • i'm all for self-sufficiency - i avoid asking for help as much, if not more, than the next fellow. and generally, i'd rather suffer through things on my own than ask someone for the easy answer. that said, i think technology is making this too easy these days. whereas twenty years ago i might call a friend or family member about a question, nowadays i can just get that information online. we all know this is valuable because it levels the informational playing field for those who previously found getting certain information difficult. for example, we can easily do research on home/car maintenance/purchasing so that mechanics, dealers and real estate agents can no longer hold their informational advantage over our heads. sure, we still enlist their services, but they can't as easily lie to you about the cost of products/services, and this information lowers prices for the consumers. but it also has the aforementioned disadvantage which ultimately limits our human contact. we don't need each other as much which feeds the already bloated idea of individualism which in turn, i think, detracts from our compassion for our fellow wo/man. in other words, technology has the effect of making us less dependant upon each other, which, in turn, isolates individuals more. ideas like universal health care and loving thy neighbor become less accepted because we're more focused on ourselves. talking with people to find out information is one way we connect with our family, friends and community members. if we eliminate that then we're one step closer to isolationism. i'm not saying we'll one day all live in pods and inter-personal communication will be a thing of the past, but we shouldn't become islands either. ironically, the internet is something that brings all our ideas together, yet it could have the effect of separating us in the real realm. then again, that brings up the issue of planes of existence and the relative nature of reality. for example, we could all create personalities online and exist within the online world and who's to say that our interaction online isn't as real as the fake friends we make at work, or in the neighborhood, out of convenience? anyway, i'm sure this is mostly a bunch of crap so onto more important topics like: is ken lay really dead? no. did tom and katie actually have a child? yes, watch rosemary's baby or the omen for the full story.
  • i've always used Dubuque, IA as an example of a town in the middle of nowhere e.g., "that band sucks so bad they've only been able to get gigs in places like dubuque." so it was nice to finally go there and see it. it's not much of a town and i feel justified in continuing to use it in this context.
  • correction: i stated earlier that coors field has a capacity of 52k, in actuality capacity is only 50k. these figures, by the way, are always according to "the ultimate baseball road-trip" dist. by lyons press, so it's not a primary source, but the figures are as accurate as we can get while in the car. report errors to me asap.
  • the car got relatively damp last night because of the "driving rain" (good song by beta band, by the way). both our seats were damp so now i have a soggy bottom, too bad i'm about 15 years too old to be a soggy bottom boy (from "o brother where art thou"); i'm also not quite a man of constant sorrow. i feel compelled to write that i realized the coen brothers' reference in the title to their film before my dad did. "o brother where art thou" is the title of the film within the film "sullivan's travels" - one of my dad's top ten of all-time.
  • i think more filmmakers should remake crappy or middling films and books instead of good ones. ideally you take a book or film that was originally poorly conceived, but had a few redeeming qualities - a great character, plot, theme, etc. and then you do it well. unfortunately, people tend to take really good work and make a middling version of it. this is not only lazy (because anyone can see a polished diamond), but also self-defeating (because, chances are, you're not going to make a great film even better). i think it's more impressive, and more to your advantage (because you're not setting yourself up for failure), to take a diamond in the rough and polish it up. naturally there are exceptions, i'm speaking in generalities. i'm also speaking about things from an artistic and entertainment perspective, rather than a fiscal one. economically it makes perfect sense to take a successful and well done picture like the poseidon adventure and simply swap out the stars, repackage it, and sell it again.
  • last week marked the first week that we went over budget. that 1,000 mile drive a few days ago likely had something to do with it. this week we've resolved to be under budget by a couple hundred bucks. so, this week we'll be boiling our boots for protein soup and adding ketchup packets to boiling water for tomato soup.
  • i'm not sure why dane cook is considered so funny. daniel tosh and jim gaffigan are both ten times as funny.
  • we've taken approx. 1600 pictures on the trip so far, it's pretty crazy. big thanks to my mom for the camera for my birthday, it's certainly getting used to the fullest.
  • yesterday i had one of the best burgers i've ever had. it was from a place called the old-fashioned in madison, wi. they had a two for one deal so we both got burgers and shared an order of fries. they had a really good garlic sauce spread that they put on the it and the burger was well-seasoned and the bun was buttered and perfectly toasted. we're working on a "best of the trip" list which will have meal highlights as well as a plethora of baseball stadium-related awards. anytime i hyphenate "related" i think of bush's silly "weapons of mass destruction program-related activities" which he referenced in his state of the union address a couple years ago. what a doofus.

  • 7-14-06 (10:40)

  • after dyersville and the field of dreams movie site we drove to springfield, il; another capital city. springfield smells, st. louis does as well. springfield isn't all that interesting, but we killed some time by looking for a watch for me and watching a movie at a second-run theater. tickets were just $2.50/each so that's a bargain.
  • after the movie we left for st. louis. i don't remember where we slept that night. the next morning we drove into st. louis and went to forest park, which is actually larger than central park by a few hundred acres. i know that philly also has a park that's larger than central park, but somehow central park gets all the glory. forest park is quite nice. it's very accessible by car and has plenty of free parking, unlike central park on both accounts. inside the park there are plenty of the usual park things and open spaces, as well as an art museum, zoo and more. those attractions are free so we figured we'd check them out and kill some time. the last couple days it had been raining and hot so it was pretty miserable outside. meryl's knee wasn't feeling good and she was in a shitty mood so we did the quick tour of the art museum and read in the parking lot afterwards.

  • after forest park we went downtown to find a wi-fi spot to upload the page, check e-mail and be inside. we ended up going to the visitor's center first and didn't get much information. afterwards we went into the grand hotel and used their wi-fi. after going to the visitor's center and looking through our guide book we decided that st. louis was fairly boring. it continued to rain on and off throughout day so we basically resolved to just waste time as cheaply as possible. we originally had planned on watching the new pirates movie and then grabbing some dinner. the movie part went well, but finding a good bbq place proved difficult. when we asked the people at the visitor's center about a good bbq place earlier they only knew of one place and they had to look in their guide for that. i'd think that, for a place known for its bbq and ribs, the visitor's center staff would have that answer more readily available. the place they recommended was far from where we had seen the (crappy) movie so we decided to use the gps to see what bbq places it had. the first place we went wasn't a bbq place anymore and the second place we went was a $25/plate kinda place so, after being seated and looking at the menu, we left with our tail between our legs. we were both hungry and i was starting to get delirious, so we high-tailed it to the most reliable place we found on the gps: t.g.i. friday's. in the end we didn't mind missing out on st. louis' local flavor.

  • 7-15-06 (20:05)

  • After TGI Fridays we sat in the car for a bit and tried to figure out what to do. We were parked in a lot with a Walgreen's so we decided to go in for some reason I can't remember and waste time. Because we're both idiots (but mostly me because I was the driver at the time) we locked BOTH our sets of keys in the car. After thinking that we had to be one of the dumbest two people we went to the Walgreen's to get a hanger to try and get our keys out ourselves. After trying for about 15 minutes without any luck we realized that against all hopes, we couldn't do it ourselves and we had to call AAA. After waiting for not too long the guy came out and unlocked the car pretty quickly. After the detour it was pretty much time to go to bed so we drove around and found a strip mall that looked like it was okay to sleep in. So far the night in New Orleans and the night in Boston have been the worst, but I think we crowned a new "Most Horrible Night of Sleep." It was WAY too hot and WAY too muggy to sleep at all. Chris was up most of the night and I drifted in and out of sleep. It's weird because I'm much more cranky than Chris if it's hot during the day, but for some reason at night the heat doesn't affect me as much and I'm able to sleep better than he is.
  • We got up in the morning and weren't really sure what to do with ourselves. We felt like it was pretty late in the day because the heat was already unbearable, but it was only 7:45. We dragged ourselves to the Kinko's that was in strip mall we slept at and wasted a good 90 minutes there. We wandered over to the Borders and looked through all the books we wanted to buy. I've started making a list of all the books I need to buy once the trip is over and I have money I can spend again. I headed over to the magazines and Chris wandered off to the reference section and we wasted another 90 minutes or so reading. After, we made our last stop at REI so Chris could get a watch because his broke some time ago and so he's been needing a new one. After finding one that suited him we had no idea what to do with ourselves. We found St. Louis to be a city we didn't really like. It reminded me of Detroit in that so much of it is run down. But, at least Detroit has a reason for being pretty empty, and it's doing a lot to bring itself back. Once outside of the immediate downtown area of St. Louis it seems like every other building is empty. It stunk too which didn't make our unhappiness to be there any better. We came to the sad conclusion that if we wanted to say cool we were going to have to go to a mall. We found a pretty upscale one and wandered around a bit and went to a noon showing of Cars. It was pretty far down on my list of movies I wanted to see, but at this point, there's pretty slim pickings. Before we went to the movie we hung out in the food court for a bit and watched CNN. It was actually a pretty cool area. They had a really nice lounge with couches and nice chairs with a large TV that had CNN on. We watched the unfortunate news about Israel and Lebanon and then went ot the movie. It was actually a decent movie, especially considering it was a children's movie, so i wasn't too dissapointed. After the movie we were getting pretty hungry so we thought it would be in our best interest to not support local business and eat at the chinese stand in the food court. It wasn't too bad, and it was cheap, so that was nice.
  • i have to add that monsanto is based in st. louis which certainly doesn't help. too bad that building isn't empty.

  • After lunch it was time to go over to Busch Stadium to get tickets for the game. We had tried to buy some online about 2 weeks ago and again the day before, but found out that there were only standing room tickets left. We hoped maybe that they had released more tickets that day like most parks do, but they didn't. We decided to try a scalper first and see if we could get upper level seats, and if we couldn't we'd head back to get standing room. Upon crossing the street a man came up to us and asked if we were looking for seats. We said yes and he started taking us down an alley. We were a little hesitant to follow a man we'd never met down some side alley, so we hung back a bit. His friend and he starting walking back towards us with tickets, so we figured it was fine. They didn't have the kind of seats we were looking for so he started taking us around to more people he knew. We told him about our trip and that we were on a fixed budget. He turned out to be an extremely nice guy, and we probably had the best 30 minutes in St. Louis when we were walking around with him trying to find tickets. He asked us about some other places that we'd gone and started talking about the new stadium. Apparently, it was built in only a year. He said pretty much once the last game of last season ended they started working 24/7 to get the new park up. He said he didn't really like the new park because the old one had a lot of character, but the new one looked very manufactured. It was interesting to get local opinions, especially considering that most of the time you hear great things about new parks. He took us around to a bunch of different people all around the stadium area looking for tickets for us that wouldn't bust our bank. One guy tried to sell us standing room seats for $40 each. We told him that we could still get them for face value ($13) at the box office. It kinda sucked that because the games are sold out all the scalped tickets (even so high up) are so expensive. We finally decided it would probably be best just to go get some at the box office and find a seat to sit in later in the game when we had an idea of what sections were empty. We said good bye to our new friend and gave him a tip for helping us out in trying to get tickets. It was actually pretty neat to see how many people tried to give us tickets through him. We figured he must have been a sort of broker or something, getting a portion of the money that a ticket sold for when he brought someone customers. It was interesting to see who he worked with and who he didn't. We would come up to a corner sometimes and every scalper there was someone he knew and he would look through all the tickets for us. And other times he would just walk by people and not even give them a glance. All in all, he was a pretty cool guy. He saw us later on, after we had bought our box office standing room seats, and asked us if we were able to get seats, nice guy.

  • busch, not quite complete:

    old busch stadium:

    another rain-soaked game. at this point i just see it as a good opportunity to move down a few rows...i'm over the whole "trying to stay dry" thing.
  • originally we had secured a metered spot right in front of the park, but when we returned from having purchased our tickets, we saw a sign that said the spot was reserved for a "police emergency." total bullshit.

  • Once we got into the stadium and walked around a while, I came to the conclusion that I didn't really like the park too much. I did like that you could see the Gateway Arch and some of the downtown skyline past the outfield, but that was really the only plus. It was once again an HOK design and certainly fit the mold. I'd have to say, that if I had not see all the other new parks I'd probably like this one, but after seeing 6 or 7 new ball parks that look pretty much exactly the same, I wasn't too impressed. The walking areas around the field were blocked off, so you couldn't see the field from the concourse which was a downer (many of the newer parks have the field visible from the concourse). There was also a LOT of construction still going on. From our standing room seats we could see a lot of construction materials tucked underneath overhangs and other sections that didn't look all the way complete. Later in the game we found 2nd deck bleacher seats in left field and planted ourselves there for a few innings and couldn't see most of left field. They didn't do much to design seating that allowed you to see all of the field, at least from the outfield. Of course, to go along with the theme of our trip, it started raining. We were booted from our first set of seats when the real occupants came back from where ever they were and decided to sit down a little lower and deal with the rain. It wasn't coming down too hard, so we figured it wouldn't be that bad. However, I got a mysterious liquid accidentally spilled on me from the upper deck and my scorebook was getting pretty soggy, so I headed up to the covered concourse for shelter while Chris stayed in his seat. After an inning or so of trying to keep score among the crowd standing around me, I finally said screw it and stopped. I've kept score every single game so far, but between the rain, the crowds, people looking over my shoulder to see what I was doing, and not ever being able to leave my seat I finally couldn't take it anymore. I had not been keeping score for too long when some guy in his late 50s or so started chatting with me. At some point our trip came up and I told him about it and he was quite excited to hear about all the details. We talked about the trip for a while and then he mentioned something about Austin. It turns out he was born in Houston, grew up in Austin, and then moved to Fairfield, CA for work. I thought that was pretty cool that he grew up where I have lived for the past year, and lived right by where Chris and I went to school. Coincidences like that with total strangers are always funny. After chatting for 30 minutes or so it had stopped raining so I went to where Chris had migrated to and watched the game from seats that someone had cleared from. It turns out that St. Louis might have been a city we didn't like too much, but it ended up being probably the best baseball game we've been to so far. It was tied 2-2 into the 9th and went into extra innings. Both teams had done a pretty poor job of driving runners in throughout the game, including into the extra innings. But, finally, in the 14th inning with 1 or 2 outs Albert Pujols came up to bat. I commented on how excited St. Louis fans get whenever he's up and Chris said something like "Well, at any point he has the capability of winning the game for you." Pretty funny he said that because about 2 pitches later he drove a LONG ball into center field and won the game for the Cards. Chris and I had been rooting for the Dodgers (Chris being from LA and me just hating the Giants) so that kinda sucked, but it was an exciting finish. We also saw a great Jim Edmonds catch that was sure to be a Web Gem. An Albert Pujols homer and a great Jim Edmonds catch, you can't define Cardinal's baseball any better that that.

  • 7-16-06 (12:55)

  • the new busch stadium is nice enough for people who haven't seen many parks, but since we've seen so many, we viewed it as just another HOK park in a long line of them. they have so many similar characteristics and busch stadium doesn't really separate itself in any meaningful way, so i think we were both disappointed. the experience with the scalper was definitely a fun one and it was interesting to get a blue collar guy's opinion on the stadium and to walk around the area with someone who knows the neighborhood, but isn't a tour guide. i wish i could have given him more money for his time, but our budget is tight.
  • after the 14 inning game we needed to get to chicago asap because the cubs game was at 1:20p the next day. we hit the road and i was only able to drive for about 90 minutes before i got too tired. meryl was in the back sleeping at this point so she definitely couldn't have taken the next shift. we stopped at a rest stop and slept until about 8am. we left for chicago the next morning hoping that we'd be able to get the 3 hours of driving done without hitting chicago traffic. we planned on parking somewhere on the outskirts of town so we could park for cheap and ride to wrigley on the subway. wrigley is on the north side and we were coming from the south so that left us looking for parking on the south side of chicago. you don't need to be a local to know what that means. so, we drove all the way through chicago to the north side and looked for parking around wrigley. like fenway, wrigley was hardly built with cars in mind so the area surrounding the park has random parking lots placed by local businesses. many gas stations even rent out space during the game. the upshot is that it's anywhere from $25-40 to get parking within a few blocks of the park. basically, you're a fool or a rich person if you're driving to wrigley. but we persevered as we did at fenway when we got a spot for only $.75. about 40 minutes before the game we finally found a free, non-permit required spot about 3/4 of a mile from the park. score.
  • we left for the park in a hurry and opted to forego the application of sunscreen. i figured that it was cloudy enough that we wouldn't need it. i also posited that, with our luck, if we didn't wear sunscreen it would mean we'd get sunburned, but that that would necessitate the sun be out which would then eliminate the chance of rain. as it turned out we were under an overhang so it did rain. god loves us that much. i think we've been to 18 games and 7 of them have had some rain, 4 of them have had actual delays. before the trip i had never been to a rain delayed game and i had never locked my keys out of my car and i had never had a flat tire. so, around the 5th inning there was a 45 minute rain delay which was fine by me because it meant that we got more time at wrigley. it's a fun place to watch a game because it's packed, the people know their stuff, they're there to have a good time and you can imagine the thousands of people before you who have enjoyed losing season after losing season of cubs baseball in those very seats. wrigley is one of the top three places in the country to catch a game because of the pre/post game activities and the game time fun. i also have to say that mets fans are easily the best fans we've encountered so far. any time we see a game that they're in (at shea, in toronto, in philly, and in chicago) they bring an uncanny enthusiasm that always livens up the atmosphere.
  • we walked to the park quickly and soaked up a bit of the pre-game crowd before going inside. the blocks around wrigley are teeming with people and bars. so far it's been the most active area surrounding a baseball park that we've seen. fenway is also full of places around the park that cater to baseball game attendees. without context or emotion one might look at wrigley and be unimpressed, but to view it without either of those would be inane. wrigley's got more baseball history and character in its facade than pacbell, busch, or any other new park have on their entire plots of land. wrigley park is strictly business. when you go inside it's clear what the purpose of the place is baseball. when you go into other parks, which are admittedly beautiful and fun, you get a mixed message because the building is about doing more than just providing a place to watch ball. it's nice to have a place like miller or citizen's bank where the entire family can go to have a good time for a few hours. at places like that you can goto a restaurant and then get in some batting practice or read about the history of the franchise or play some mlb 2006 on a game console and head over to the souvenir shop, etc. at wrigley it's just about baseball. sure, they've got small areas to buy concessions and souvenirs, but they don't have credit card signup booths (like at most stadiums), there aren't places where you can signup for at&t long distance (like at busch), they don't have kitschy food stands or any of that other fluff. as far as the field goes: there's the famous ivy on the outfield walls, the bullpens are near the dugouts, and there isn't anything real fancy about it. left and right field are quite long, 355ft, and the power alleys are only a bit further than that, so that's in stark contrast to the short right field of yankee stadium and the 310ft that most stadiums seem to have at their foul poles (which should really be called fair poles). there's no jumbotron, but there are three slender screens that give basic stats on the player at bat. two are in left/right field and the third is under the center field scoreboard which is manually operated. beyond outfield are the infamous rooftop bleachers. various buildings surrounding the stadium have installed actual bleachers so fans can watch the game from afar. there are basically three levels at wrigley and they all extend pretty far back so if you're on the first or second level the overhang is pretty bad. you'll see a pop fly as it comes off the bat and as it comes down, but not while it's in the middle of its flight. we had 500 level seats so we were at the very top, one row from the back, but near home plate. that said, the seats were damn good. the only other complaint one might have about the seats and their sightlines, would be the steel posts that support the upper levels and the overhang.

  • second level, with bad overhang in back:

    shot from our seats, press box is about 40 feet to our left:

    shot taken through my binoculars as well as 3x zoom on camera:

    more rain:

    this guy ran onto the field to provide us some entertainment, but then he had to pay the price:
  • after the game it took us a while to get out of wrigleyville (actual neighborhood name) and to our motel. we spent the rest of the night watching tv and not being productive.

  • drummers outside of wrigley after the game:

    this isn't supposed to be funny:

    expensive gas and cigarettes:
  • the next day we went to a park and ride near o'hare airport which only cost $2 for 12 hours. we took the subway into town and planned on just walking around, catching a movie at the gene siskel theater and checking out millennium park. that's exactly what we did. the gene siskel theater is in downtown and has two screens. we saw a contemporary documentary instead of watching a film by frank tashlin. in retrospect that was the wrong decision. the documentary wasn't bad, but i think watching a tashlin film would have been a better choice. after the film we walked to gino's on rush, as opposed to gino's east. gino's on rush turned out to be closed for remodeling which is too bad because a friend of meryl's said it's the bomb-diggity. so we walked to gino's east and got a deep dish pizza. it was pretty much the same as the deep dish at pizzeria uno that i had when i first went to chicago. i guess i'm not much of a deep dish pizza kind of guy because the deep dish pizza at chains like roundtable and numero uno appeal to me more. the crust at the authentic places is just too crumby, rather than doughy. by this time a lot of the touristy places were closed and we weren't going to return the next day so we hit the road for green bay. i like chicago and wish we had gotten more time there. it's got a lot of culture and i wanted to see the museum of science and industry, but we didn't have time or money so... c'est la vie.

  • theater across the street from the gene siskel cinema:
  • on the way to green bay we stopped in fond du lac, which johnny cash mentions in "i've been everywhere." it's a nice little town with a thriving bar scene and a nice enough downtown. we made it to green bay around bed time so we stopped at a 24 hour market and slept.
  • the next day (sunday, today) we woke up early and drove down the street to lambeau field. since i'm a 49ers fan i'm not really supposed to like the packers, but i really really do. i have nothing but respect for the organization and brett farve in particular. i love the fact that they're the only publicly-owned franchise in the four major north-american pro sports leagues. lambeau is great and the $295 million renovation doesn't seem to have diminished its appeal at all. it's still got 60k+ bleacher seats and it's still, like wrigley, just about the game. there are a few advertisements around the jumbotrons, but that's it. inside there are also a few sponsors like coke and miller, but, again, it's not as imposing as it is at most places.

  • lambeau field is great. we took the tour and it covered the history of the field and the team very well. some tidbits from my notes: packers presidents are required to retire by age 70, 30k people have requested tickets to the recent stockholders meeting which will take them through the locker room (an unusual practice), the original acme packers team outscored their opponents 565-12 in their first season, in 1922 they joined the nfl for $250, the texans joined the nfl a few years ago for $800 million, the year before lombardi was the coach they went 1-10-1 with many of the same players (including starr), in his first year lombardi went 7-5 and never had a losing season, during the $295 million renovation none of the first 60 rows of bleachers were touched, there are over 160 luxury boxes ranging from $66k-130k/year, season tickets are nearly impossible to get - capacity is 72k+ and last year only 30 people gave up their season tickets 7 the year before that and 0 the year before that, scalping is legal, but you can expect to pay $150-300/ticket, during the renovation they increased the number of handicap seats from 56 (worst in the nfl) to 765 (best in the nfl), they use a kentucky bluegrass blend for the field, they repaint the numbers on the field every week and cut the grass every other day, the crown of the field is 10" vs. 17" on the dallas field (which i thought had a roof so i'm not sure why they need such a steep crown...), lambeau was built in 1957.

  • walking out of the packers' tunnel:

    the field is extremely close to the first row of bleacher benches:
  • green bay is a nice enough little city. i was surprised that there weren't more packers flags and bumper stickers, but i think the crowds and paucity of tickets speak for themselves. it's a city of 100k and they sell out the 72k seat stadium on a routine basis.
  • indiana seems to take july 4th seriously. i forgot to mention how many fireworks we saw (and could smell) while on the freeway going back to IL.
  • quote of the week was from me regarding the recent goings on in israel/lebanon: "what the fuck is wrong with these people that they can't just eat a cookie instead of firing rockets at each other?"

  • (21:04)
  • after green bay we went to bloomington which houses the mall of america. it's a behemoth which is probably better forgotten. afterwards we went to st. paul and ate at mickey's a diner that's been around since the 30s. it's got great food and a reasonable cost. the strawberry shake may have been the best strawberry shake i've ever had. after stuffing ourselves we went to the capitol building. we both thought it was a pretty nice one. the old capitol building in baton rouge is nicer and the capitol in harrisburg is also quite nice and unique, but this one's up there. right now we're in minneapolis waiting for a movie to start. it's very hot here (mostly because of the humidity) and we want to be inside. we found a budget theater so it looks like another $2 movie night. sadly, there were only two movies that we've yet to see: RV and into the wild. so we're going to check out RV in the hopes that barry sonnenfeld (cinematographer for many coen brothers projects) elevates the limited looking screenplay.

  • meryl gets annoyed by the heat in front of the capitol building in st. paul:
  • st. paul and minneapolis both look nice enough so far. i remember minneapolis being a better than average city, but we won't fully explore it until tomorrow. then we have a game at 7p.

  • 7-18-06 (09:34)

  • yesterday in minneapolis turned out to be fairly uneventful. turns out that all the places we wanted to go are closed on mondays, so no art or history museums for us. we saw the sculpture garden and wandered downtown a bit, but spent most of our time in the burbs. we saw a movie, ate lunch and wandered a few stores. not very notable overall, which is unfortunate because minneapolis is kind of a nice city.

  • sign reads: 100s of beautiful girls and 3 ugly ones

    church slogan in minneapolis:
  • some other good ones i've seen:

  • the best vitamin for a christian: B1
    (found near a sonic fast food joint): hungry? we serve food for the soul
  • after killing most of the day we drove downtown and bought some cheap seats (actual section name) for the twins/devil rays game. the best part of the game day experience was outside of the dome, both before and after the game. pre-game festivities included several booths and tents set up outside the park to entertain, feed and sell to the crowd. there was a quiz booth setup where they had four contestants answering sports-related questions (most of which focused on baseball or minnesota). the first group included four really drunk guys who were pretty funny to watch. the second group included some kid, a nerdy older guy, a special guy who apparently had all the questions from previous games memorized, and me. i didn't win and i didn't lose, pretty much the story of my competitive life.
  • the game itself was decent, but wasn't at all engaging. the stadium is a multi-use indoor field which means baseball suffers. many of the seats aren't angled toward the action in a baseball game, though they probably line up just fine for a football game. the turf is ugly and probably makes for some odd bounces, the infield lacks dirt and the echo of the stadium makes the entire affair sound alien. it makes theoretical sense to construct a multi-use stadium like this, but, practically speaking, it just doesn't work. there was far too much advertising (including commercials on the jumbotron in the middle of the innings) and the whole thing felt too manufactured and inorganic. the crowd was pretty engaged which is always a nice thing. i also found it difficult to follow the path of the ball off the bat. some of that can surely be attributed to the white ceiling. apparently this is a problem for fielders as well. overall, the metrodome isn't a good place to catch a baseball game. the ceiling is made of thin fiberglass which is apparently held in place by air pressure, which give the dome its bubble appearance. while inside i didn't sense any change in air pressure, but when you leave you definitely do. there were only a couple doors open at the exit that we took and the air pressure literally pushes you out the door, hard. it's pretty cool to walk through the doors and have a gust of wind, as powerful as you've likely felt outside, push you out.

  • this shot doesn't show the roof which looks like a bloated honeycomb

  • after the game there were a couple drummers putting on a show. they had a good rhythm going and they did a good job of getting the crowd into it; at one point they passed out tambourines to kids who were in the semi-circle watching them. they did a good job overall and it got me thinking a bit (more) about the economics of street performance. they easily made $100 each, they could do that for 81 home games, plus playoff games, plus 8 home football games, plus any other sports events or concerts, etc. then they could do it on friday/saturday night in highly trafficked areas. add a part-time job to the mix and you're living quite well for not very much work, and it's a pretty fun form of work and it's untaxed income. so long as you don't get carpal-tunnel you're pretty well set for your young life. a street performer in boston said that he thinks his show is worth $5 (it was), but that you could give whatever you wanted. he added, "$5 is about how much you paid to park your car, so if this was as entertaining as that then please contribute that amount." the thing about street performers and the scalper escort we encountered in st. louis is that they have to work for their money. generally speaking, the better they do their job, the more they get paid. it's too bad it's not like that in real life. it's also unfortunate that these people, who contribute to society in a less traditional way, don't get the benefits of many jobs - job security, guaranteed hours, 401k, insurance, etc.
  • i've been seeing a proliferation of advertising in general, but one area that really disturbs me is the urinal ad. they do it everywhere, but it's common in places that are having trouble generating revenue - stadiums and movie theaters are the two that come to mind. if i had a stadium or theater, or if i was responsible for the advertising in these arenas, i would advertise something about the team or some bit of movie/sports trivia and have it brought to you by so and so. it's more informative and less obnoxious than the current form. that, of course, assumes you must invade a person's more personal moment with a glossy sign advertising a steakhouse or anti-balding medication.
  • after the game and the drumming circle, we hit the road for pierre, the badlands, mt. rushmore and wind cave n.p. we drove for about an hour and slept at a rest stop. the next morning i talked with a guy from alaska who was going to ohio to visit his family for the first time in 21 years. he mentioned that he had driven through canada most of the way over here and thought it was beautiful. he recommended banff and i told him we were on our way. looking forward to that. right now were about 40 miles from sioux falls, sd.
  • south dakota is a pretty depressing place because the history is so marred with american imperialism and native american slaughter. wounded knee, leonard peltier, etc. aside, it's still sad because the present is so bleak. on the pine ridge reservation, for example, unemployment is 70-80% and life expectancy is 48/52 for men/women - lower than it is in bangladesh. so, this is a scar on the country's present, as well as its past. i doubt gale norton did much to help. it's all pretty fucked up. read al franken's chapter on jack abramoff in "the truth (with jokes)" for more on how some native americans are still getting it in the rear. it documents how bush, abramoff and others screwed the tigua tribe in texas.

  • pierre capitol building:

  • we gained an hour because of the time change and the next week is going to be packed, so we plan on visiting mt. rushmore tonight (it closes at 10p) and doing the badlands, etc. tomorrow. that way we can get a jump on the long drive to yellowstone.
  • we'll hit the 13k mile mark tomorrow. we originally thought it would be around 16k miles, but we added two ballparks (st. louis and denver) which added about 2k miles because of when we had to fit those in (going from kansas city to denver and then doubling back to milwaukee instead of going to denver while on the way to yellowstone). between here and seattle we're looking at another 2,400+ miles.

  • 7-19-06 (12:54)

  • yesterday, after several hours of driving, we made it to mt. rushmore. it's an impressive feat from an engineering standpoint, but i have mixed feelings about its being there. on the con side there are the feelings of the native americans who might think it an in your face type of decision, then there's the environmental issue (should we leave the mountain as is or make something else out of it? is this a dangerous precedent?). overall, i don't really have a problem with it, though i do have the aforementioned reservations. i don't think it set much of a precedent since this is clearly an exceptional case.

  • pardon the underexposure on this one:

  • we found a nice little hotel in custer, sd which was far enough from mt. rushmore, wind cave and badlands to not be prohibitively expensive. it turned out to be our best value thus far. it was a small, family-owned place with internet and a mini-fridge. it's the first place we've gone that didn't have something wrong with it, so that was a nice change.
  • early this morning we had breakfast and left for wind cave national park. that was new for me. now i've been to about 23. this cave was different from the one i saw in the mammoth lakes area and the lewis and clark caves and the carlsbad caverns. it doesn't have the usual stalactite and stalagmite formations, instead it has boxwork formations which are quite rare in caves. apparently 95% of the world's boxwork is in the wind cave area. it was the 7th national park (behind yellowstone, yosemite, crater lake, king's canyon and two others that i can't remember) created and it's the 4th largest cave system in the world (behind mammoth caves in kentucky, jewel cave [also in south dakota], and some cave in the ukraine). alvin macdonald was the one responsible for really exploring the cave in the late 19th century. even yesterday they found newly discovered rooms which already had string left by macdonald so he could find his way out. the ranger pointed out that it was first discovered in 1881 by white settlers, which i thought was an important distinction. it's got a lot of popcorn and frost calcite formations, but, because the water seeps, rather than drips, it doesn't have the stalactites/stalagmites that you generally see. it's just south of custer state park, which is full of plains and forest land inhabited by wildlife like prairie dogs, deer, bison and pronghorn.

  • inside custer state park:

  • right now were in the pine ridge reservation. we just drove through oglala. check out "incident at oglala" by michael apted ("up" series) which documents the leonard peltier incident.

  • gps said that the wounded knee massacre site was here:

  • Like Chris said, right now we're driving through Pine Ridge, and I've got to say, it's the most depressing place I've ever been to in the United States. The landmark for Wounded Knee is mangled metal and garbage (including dirty diapers and broken liquor bottles). Many of the houses through the reservation have graffiti on them, garbage piles in front of them, broken out windows, and broken down cars parked on the lawn. Driving through the area makes me want to cry. I think it's incredibly unfortunate that our school systems don't really do much to educate young children about Native Americans. We all learn about how "great" Christopher Columbus was, however they only touch upon how savagely the Europeans treated the Native Americans. I loved my 8th grade teacher for teaching us as much as he could about Native American cultures and beliefs and how Columbus actually didn't discover America. The fact that that is still being taught in school is pretty ridiculous. I took 2 Native American Studies classes while I was at UCDavis and I remember watching a video about the Pine Ridge Reservation, but it really did nothing to show the true poverty these people live in. The only other area I've ever been in that was worse than this area was a barrio just outside Santiago, Chile where the neighborhood was LITERALLY built from trash. Homes built from cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, you name it. Chris and I worked hard to save our money so that we could take a trip like this, it's amazing to think that sleeping in our car and staying at a hotel every 3 or 4 days is a luxury.

  • (18:58)
  • more driving ahead...we're getting a jump on the 10 hour drive from badlands to yellowstone. hopefully we'll be able to fit in a half day at yellowstone tomorrow. i also really want to be able to see a bit of grand teton. i'm also looking forward to yellowstone, passing through calgary, and finally seeing jasper and banff. wish we had more time for this leg of the trip.
  • if someone could do some research on the differences (legally, politically, and otherwise) between national parks, forests, monuments, preserves, historical parks, etc. then i'd really appreciate it. i'm pretty sure that national parks are run by the national parks service (which is part of the dept. of the interior) and national forests are run by the department of agriculture, but i don't know much beyond that. i'd be interested in knowing how each form of preserved land gets set aside, how each are funded, what the common restrictions are for each, etc. i figure that national parks probably have the greatest funding and that they're also probably the most strictly preserved, while national forests sometimes have private land within them and are more liberal with camping, fossil collection, and other restrictions.
  • anyway, badlands is behind us now. it's a nice park, but can be done well enough in a half day. i'm happy that we got a lot done today.

  • badlands pics:

  • one of the many things i enjoy about my trips is learning about the delicate balance that nature has come to over the years. learning about how prairie dogs and bison in the badlands serve to spread the seeds of wildflowers or dig up the dirt, thus exposing fresh topsoil to grass seeds. they also create burrows which are used by ferrets. of course this isn't anything new, it's something we've heard about since the first time someone told us about honey bees, but it never ceases to amaze me. seemingly insignificant prairie dogs are this important within their ecosystem, yet humans are essentially useless to anything other than themselves; and sometimes not even that. that is, a bison, just through existing might benefit several different significant species (not to mention the bacteria which may live in/on it). when i think about human civilization, though, i'm hard-pressed to see how our existence benefits other species. you might make the argument for a proliferation of the common pigeon in our cities or certain viruses/bacteria which have done well as a result of our existence, but not much else. actually, you could give us "credit" for introducing non-native species of fish and plants to the everglades or other such ecosystems. only problem is, usually those non-native species thrive at the cost of the native species. all this goes without even mentioning the hundreds of species which we have made extinct through no real life benefit to us. even when we do do something to preserve natural habitat or nurse a species to a healthy level (like the bald eagles or bison), it's generally just us undoing something we did earlier. we're like a tapeworm that lives off its host's food, but doesn't know when to stop consuming and eventually kills its host, and itself, in the process.
  • so, st. louis was almost a total bust, but there was one promising museum which we didn't go to for some reason - the CCC museum. some facts from the brochure from the visitor center: "the ccc restored 3,980 historical structures and developed over 800 state parks. there were over 4,500 ccc camps located in every state plus hi, ak, puerto rico, and the virgin islands. through the efforts of the ccc, soil erosion was ultimately arrested on over 20 million acres. they stocked over one billion fish and spent 4,827,426 man days surveying and mapping millions of acres and hundreds of lakes, they built 46,854 bridges and 4,622 fish rearing ponds. the ccc installed approx. 5k miles of water supply. they improved 3,462 beaches, transplanted 45 million trees and shrubs for landscaping and planted over 3 billion trees where forests were logged and burnt off. they spent 2,094,713 man days razing undesirable structures and built 63,256 buildings plus 8,045 wells and pump houses. the ccc spent 6,000,258 man days in the operation of tree nurseries, they built 7,622 impounding and large diversion dams. they erected 405,037 signs, markers, and monuments. they collected 13,632,415 pounds of hardwood tree seeds and 875,970 bushels of cones. they developed 6,966 miles of wildlife steams and built 28,087 miles of foot and horse trails, and 8,304 foot and horse bridges. they built 32,149 wildlife shelters, 1,865 drinking fountains and 204 lodges and museums. they also built 3,116 lookout towers. the ccc built 27,191 miles of fences and 38,550 vehicle bridges. it's a real shame these sorts of projects are farmed out to private interests, if they're done at all. somewhere along the line projects like this being done by the state was construed as communism.
  • that reminds me of an ann coulter moment...coulter and franken were on stage and being interviewed by some guy who asked the following question: "if you could be one person in history, who would you be?" coulter went first and explained that there are two ways of approaching the question: you can be someone awful and make sure they don't do what they did, in which case she said she'd be FDR so she could make sure none of the new deal programs were ever enacted. the other way to approach the question, she said, was to be someone great so you could be a part of a great movement, in which case, she said, she'd be senator joseph mccarthy. franken said he'd rather be hitler so he could avoid the holocaust. i think that's all you really need to know about ann coulter.

  • 7-22-06 (09:13)

  • after the badlands and pine ridge (the largest (in terms of indian population) of the indian reservations) we made some headway towards yellowstone and slept in the national forest that surrounds the park. it was a winding highway that had very little traffic so it made for some good sleeping.

  • slept here:
  • we left very early the next morning to maximize our two allotted days in grand teton and yellowstone. we drove through cody, wy - home of the everyday rodeo. two days, by the way, is near criminal as the yellowstone area, in my estimation, deserves at least a week. but, we're on a budget and we have mariners tickets for the 26th so we have to make things quick on this leg of the trip. we came in through the east entrance and there was a 10 minute delay due to some road construction. my favorite park in the country is yellowstone and, to this point, meryl's favorite park was the everglades, so i felt bad that this was her first introduction to the crown jewel of national parks. at any rate, it turned out to be the only construction delay while we were there so it wasn't an issue. we drove through the west and south part of the park on our way to grand teton, stopping only to pick up some information at the west thumb visitor's center. we attended a short ranger talk about some of the highlights of grand teton so we knew how to focus the rest of our day. we drove counter-clockwise through the park loop, detouring twice for jenny lake and a lookout opportunity. along the way we gawked at the jagged teton mountain range and saw two moose feeding about 100 yards off the lookout road. after doing the drive we took care of some laundry and went back into yellowstone. we weren't sure where we were going to camp earlier so we weren't able to secure a backcountry permit before they closed, so we were forced to go with the far inferior, paid camping option. not only do you have to pay for the camping areas near the visitor center, you also are packed in with all the lame people who are (generally speaking) too lazy to hike a mile or two into the backcountry campgrounds (which are generally barren because of this). anyway, it was a day with a lot of driving, a new national park for both of us (24th for me, 10th and 11th for her), and we were both tired so we retired on the earlier (for us) side. some tetons footage.

  • tetons

    a poor man's zoom - binoculars in front of a digital camera...moose in grand teton

    visibility wasn't great

  • yellowstone is such a great place. sure, it's the first national park in the world and it has the tallest geyser (giant geyser) in the world, the most well known geyser in the world (old faithful), the largest wild bison herd in the world, the greatest concentration of geothermal features in the world, etc. but it's not any one superlative, or first, that makes it so great. it's that so many things are in one place. and i'm not just talking about geology, biology and other sciences. there are human histories here that are equally fascinating. early in the park's history fishing decimated the cutthroat trout population. this mismanagement and focus on recreation, rather than preservation, led to the decline in the population of 42 species within the park - from pelicans that fly up here from mexico during the summer to bears to otters to osprey and many others. the cutthroat is extremely important to at least 42 species in the area and, thus, many more which are dependant upon those 42. they made changes (eliminating fishing in key spawning areas, restricting the use of barbed hooks, etc.) and the cutthroat (endemic to this area only) made a comeback. until, that is, some moron(s) introduced a non-native species: the lake trout. it has no natural predator (other than man), eats other fish (and the cutthroat is the only other fish in yellowstone), and can consume 1500 fish in its lifetime. that's 1500 cutthroat that won't be able to lay 1000 get the picture. again, because of humans, the cutthroat - and dependent species - went on the decline. in the 90s, when the lake trout were found, the park service again took actions to preserve the species. today they catch and kill thousands (40k so far this year) of the invasive, non-native lake trout. pelicans have returned and the cutthroat population is at a healthy level. this sort of story is just as interesting to me as the natural science in the park. but that's the thing - yellowstone seemingly has it all, in spades.
  • i love going to national parks because they're an escape, life is different. life is slower and nicer. people say hi to each other when they pass one another on a trail. traffic jams (almost always caused by animals on the road) don't elicit honking and rage, but picture taking and smiling faces. the rules here are different. the parks are places where people (more often anyway) will pick up after themselves, will appreciate their surroundings, and reflect upon our role in this world. the city environment just isn't conducive to this though process or this frame of mind. the way yellowstone, in particular, is set up indicates all this and more. the animals have the run of the place. geologic features aren't conveniently placed, wildlife isn't penned in, dangerous features aren't sanitized or eliminated, fallen trees aren't picked up to make the terrain look better (though sometimes they may be cleared for fire management reasons)...all these things contribute to the wildness of the experience. we're used to a world where things have their place. animals are in zoos, parks are kept clean - lawns mowed, leaves raked, etc. in other words, we like our nature to be clean and well-kept, but the park service (generally) understands, and fosters, that.
  • quote of the week came while we were walking along a lookout trail in grand teton which is reputedly a good spot to see wildlife: man (to wife): "guess what." wife: "nothing?" man: "yeah. (huff) like i'm looking at a fucking desert." this is what i mean...some people hear that wildlife hangs out in a certain spot and they expect it to be there; they're used to the zoo, not the real world.
  • back to the plot...the next day we woke up early in an effort to see as much of yellowstone in a day as possible. my plan was to go to ranger talks non-stop. i've always liked ranger talks because they're informative, they offer the opportunity to get questions answered and i retain information better when i hear it versus when i read it. our first ranger talk was at 9a so we made our way over to the meeting spot and went on the walk with ranger chris brown (not the singer). it was scheduled to be a 1.5 hour walk and it turned out to be three. he was one of the best rangers/guides i've ever had. he was informed, well-spoken, had a dry sense of humor, mixed cold facts with perspective and anecdotes. i talked with him quite a bit about the park service, the forest service, the current administration, the science of the park, becoming a park ranger, his background, etc. i could go to ranger talks all day, every day, for the rest of my life. like zarathustra, my cup needs filling and park rangers do it well. he told us about a disease some of the bison have called something abortis (forgot the first part) [brucella abortus, 07-30-06]. anyway, they originally got it from cattle, but ranchers are really worried that, when the bison migrate to lower elevations during the winter, they'll pass it on to the cattle. what they started to do was simply shoot the bison on the park border in order to protect their cattle. recently an agreement was reached whereby the park service will try to scare the bison back into the park boundaries and if the bison still go beyond the boundary they'll be tested for the disease. the disease is only communicable via the afterbirth, but males are still tested. any bison carrying the disease is slaughtered. it's a bullshit compromise, if you ask me. last year 1,000 bison were killed as a result. fucking goddamn ranchers. there's an insane amount of poor decisions being made as a result of politics and, specifically, money in politics.

  • meryl asking a question (a noteworthy event)

    chris brown, our first ranger

    some little cowboy-hat-wearing girl made this cross and put it in the ground, much to her mother's delight. then a little boy came by and knocked it down, much to the delight of secularists around the world.
  • apparently the newest assistant to the secretary of the interior (or the asst. to the director of the park service, i can't remember) is the former governor of idaho and his stated policy is anti-wolf in yellowstone and one of more recreation, rather than preservation. from what i understand, many of the upper level people are appointed rather than hired or selected by a board. then again, if the president is going to hand over foreign relations in the form of ambassadorships to his cronies, then he may as well hand over the future of our parks as well...anyway, the yellostone wolf story, in case you hadn't already heard it: wolves were in great supply before white men came around. as an aside, rangers (rightly) make the distinction between whites/native americans when saying "this cave was first discovered in 1881." it's not so much an issue of race, as much as it is giving proper credit. we don't know when the indians discovered yellowstone or wind cave, but we do know when europeans discovered it. while it's notable to say that the cave was discovered by whites in a certain year, it's important to acknowledge that it was discovered by other humans earlier. yellowstone was established as the world's first park in 1872 and the stewards at the time felt people would visit the park to see elk, not bears or wolves, so they actively tried to eliminate the undesirable species. with the wolves gone the elk population soared into the tens of thousands and the land started getting so overgrazed that the park had to start slaughtering elk. many years later (60s/70s) wolves were reintroduced when the park realized its faux pas. turns out (duh) that nature had already struck a balance and things were fine the way they were. as wolves grew in numbers, the elk declined and order was restored. today there are only about 120 wolves in the park. there was a den that was in the area of our hike and he showed us a path that was closed as a result. at first they kept the path open, but insisted that people stay on the path. people started wandering off the path looking for the wolves so they had to shut down the path entirely. i hate people.
  • speaking of which...he also imparted an anecdote about a guy in texas (naturally) who set up a website where users could hunt wildlife online. robotic guns could be remotely controlled by the user and if s/he got a kill they'd get a set of antlers in the mail. i remember jon showing me a site where you could control a robot online several years ago, but i didn't imagine that technology would ever be used like this. the good news is that the site was, according to the ranger "shot down." see? there's his dry sense of humor.
  • he also imparted an anecdote about how smart grizzly bears are (apparently even smarter than dogs). a woman he knows was hiking and was "treed" (chased up a tree) by a bear. the bear left and she came down, but the bear returned, this time with another bear. she waited a long time, they left, she waited some more and came down. this time she gathered herself quickly, looked over the ridge to see the two bears returning. this time, though, they brought a beaver. har har.
  • at the end of the hike we were returning to the parking lot when we saw a few dozen bison on the path ahead. we stopped and waited for them to cross the path and the road which was parallel to us at this point. bison, by the way, can run 35mph, jump 6 feet high and will turn around in a snap. they're generally pretty easy-going, but you don't want to fuck with them. the ranger imparted another anecdote, this one regarding elk, bison and wolves. he saw, through a scope, a pack of wolves go after some elk, but before they could get anything some bison ran through the area and scared off the wolves. the wolves returned and the bison ran them off again. it's a pretty amazing little story.

  • bison road block:
  • we took a bit of a breather and went onto our next ranger talk. this one was a short one about cutthroat trout and was given by laura, who was a ranger at olympic, yosemite and the everglades before coming to yellowstone. she was also very informative.
  • fire management is a big issue in the parks. 90% of the fires in yellowstone are one acre or less and are simply allowed to burn so long as they don't threaten life or property. the 1988 fire was immense. there were actually 11 fires that burned hundreds of thousands of acres. eight were started by lightning and were made worse by the drought. but one that burned over 300,000 acres was started by a cigarette. smartly, fire management these days essentially entails monitoring, occasional clearing of dead wood and not much else. as much as possible, they want to ensure that fires are allowed to burn so that new lodgepole pines (the cones of which require fire to open and release seed) can grow. lodgepoles, by the way, have a shallow root system ideally suited for some of the poor, sandy soil in yellowstone. about 80% of the trees in yellowstone are lodgepole pines.
  • on our first ranger tour there was a family from jersey (why can you say "jersey" for new jersey, but not "york" for new york?) that talked with us a bit. we told them about the trip and commented on the fact that we wanted to see the everglades while they were still there. he said that he went diving on the west coast of florida a long time ago and saw some reefs or other ocean structures which were beautiful, but are essentially gone now. "see it while you can" he said. i have the same advice for you.
  • this brings me to the preservation/recreation debate again. in their charter the national park service states that their goal is preservation and recreation, the national forest service has different goals. to what extent should preservation be sacrificed for recreation? should their be river rafting, unlimited fishing, hiking, off-road driving, hunting, etc. in our national parks? these are forms of recreation and they are all loved by different people in the country. the parks are for us, after all, shouldn't we be allowed to use the resources for recreation as we want? there aren't that many national parks in the country and many of them were formed over the course of hundreds of thousands or millions of years. to me it's a no-brainer - these parks should be preserved and we should take every reasonable precaution to ensure their long-term survival. hunters, snowmobilers, atv-ers, etc. can find other places for recreation. yellowstone, and most of the other parks, are delicately balanced ecosystems which should be preserved in the most natural state that we can manage. this is a major complaint of mine with regards to people, and americans specifically - we value freedom too much. actually, that's not altogether true. we don't mind sacrificing civil liberties in the name of "security," but that's another essay... generally, though, it seems we see limitations on our recreation as impugning upon our god-given freedom to dominate the landscape. there would likely be an uproar if yellowstone limited rv size or restricted fishing, for example. people are too short-sighted, ignorant and selfish to take one for the team. somehow, in this context, these policies would likely be construed as fascist. just as universal health care is somehow communism, rather than caring about your countrymen. why is patriotism supporting our fascist president, but not our natural habitats and the indigent? because too many of us are stupid sheep...which brings this full circle. ranger chris brown imparted an anecdote about a grizzly bear that single-handedly killed 200 sheep in one night. it ran up on a group of sheep and they all ran off a after the other. so, let's be smarter than that and preserve a few small pieces of habitat, history and science.
  • speaking of snowmobiles...this is another controversy that has been big in yellowstone for a while (the daily show even did a funny story on the issue). by the way, 3 million people visit yellowstone each year and only 100k come during the winter. the law and policy has changed a couple times, but now there's a new winter use program in place. there's a limit on the number of snowmobiles that can operate in the park (720/day, i think) and they now are required to be guided. what this has done is to bring private enterprises into yellowstone during the winter. private companies rent out the snowmobiles and accompany people while in the park. there are a few issues surrounding the debate. privatization is one. pollution (air and noise) are the other two big ones. since there is a thermal inversion in yellowstone in the winter the polluted air basically stays at ground level, instead of rising and blowing away. the noise pollution probably isn't great for the animals and is annoying for the visitors. i'm sure there are erosion issues as well, but i didn't ask about that one.
  • i asked a ranger what s/he thought was a current mistake the park was making and s/he said that (otr) s/he thought there was too much flip-flopping on policy - from the snowmobile issue on down. i also got the sense that the entire enterprise should be less politicized, less influenced by money (those go together, i suppose) and a greater ability to make decisions.
  • another theme that emerges when you go to a park like yellowstone or glacier or the everglades is the interconnectedness of everything. globalwarming effects glacier, land-used and global water levels affect the everglades and all sorts of things effect yellowstone. for example, those pelicans from mexico might not return to yellowstone if the mexican government didn't work to preserve their winter habitat. i know it's cliche as hell, but nature doesn't know boundaries. another ranger we had later in the day brought to our attention a current resolution to establish a 15 mile buffer zone around yellowstone that would prevent private companies from drilling into areas which are believed to contain the extended pipework which feeds geysers like old faithful. i think it would be a shame if a company drilled a well or something and it happened to damage the underground network of water and gas chambers that is responsible for the geysers in the park.
  • laura, our third ranger (we left the second tour early) who talked about cutthroat trout told us that she's seen people get frustrated by bison caused traffic and bump the bison thinking the bison will move. speaking of which, 100 large animals are killed a year by cars.
  • our last ranger talk of the day took place near old faithful and was guided by mr. watson, a former school principal at american schools abroad. he was very informative and we talked with him quite a bit as well. tectonic hot spots shape the yellowstone landscape and are responsible for the geysers and hot springs as well. johnny will surely set me straight if i'm wrong on any of this... from what i have gathered from reading and talking with people like johnny and mr. watson is that hot spots stay in one place and the plates move over them and affect the landscape above. this is how the islands of hawai'i were formed - the plate moving over a hot spot which deposits volcanic rock which then comprise the islands. at any rate, read a book if you want to know more. we saw old faithful do its thing, but, more impressive than that, we saw grand geyser do its thing. it's the largest predictable geyser in the world. the largest geyser in the world is giant geyser, also in yellowstone, but its eruptions are extremely sporadic. it last erupted one year ago. we also saw a geyser erupt that has erupted for 38 hours straight. so, the geysers here run the gamut in height, type (fountain, cone and a couple others whose names i've forgotten), duration of eruption, and eruption interval. perhaps the most important element of the geysers is their inclusion of cyano bacteria and other thermophiles. cyano bacteria are used in dna indentification. the existence of thermophiles (which i think were first discovered in yellowstone) is key to understanding the possibility of life on other planetary bodies (especially jupiter's moon, europa) as well as the possible origin of life on earth. for a long time it was believed that life without sunlight was impossible. it was also believed that life began in primordial tidal pools on the surface. these thermophiles have proven that life can exist even at temperatures in the high 100s (f) and more recent discoveries of life in the deep sea present the possibility that life began near deep sea thermal vents.

  • grand geyser, bigger than old faithful:

    kid playing gameboy while grand geyser (which has a three hour prediction window) erupts:

    mr. watson

    this one erupted for 38 hours on one occasion
  • nova and national geographic digressions watson also informed us that bison near the geyser-heavy portion of the park have it easy in the winter because grass is easier to find and it's warmer. that said, the calcite (i think it was calcite) in the geyser water (and thus in the grass) are bad for the bison, esp. their teeth, so they generally live 1-2 years less than the other bison. a grizzly, by the way, can do the 100 yard dash in 6.9 seconds. i think that o.j. simpson's time at usc was 9.7. they don't really run the 100 yard dash anymore, but they do run the 100m.

  • should have used the tripod here:
  • at night we drove to mammoth springs to see the falls there, but didn't see much. at this point it was pretty dark. we hit the road for glacier and slept in helena.

  • some podunk town in montana has a bug problem:
  • right now we're about 30 mins from the west entrance of glacier.

  • (16:03)
  • Until this point my favorite national park had been the Everglades, but Yellowstone has it beat now. Chris had told me a lot about Yellowstone in the days leading up to our arrival. I was a little nervous about seeing it myself, after it being built up so much I didn't want to be disapointed, but I don't think there is any way Yellowstone could dissapoint you. It sucked that we could only spend 1 day there, but I think we maximized the time we had. Our three ranger guides were GREAT and the cool thing was we took each one at a different area of the park to get a more rounded view. I wouldn't really be able to say which program was my favorite, but I'd have to say it was between the first and the last. All of our tour guides however were, like Chris said, amazingly well informed and funny as well. I especially found Mr. Watson funny when Chris and I would ask him questions between stops along the tour. I had made a comment about the stupid kid playing gameboy while Grand Geyser was going off and he chuckled and told us about a 6 year old kid who was playing along the boardwalk next to the geyser a few weeks ago. His parents weren't paying attention to him and he slipped and fell into the 1 inch deep 180 degree water and got 1st and 2nd degree burns. The nearest hospital is 130 miles away, so they had to airlift him in a helicopter and his parents had to pay something like $8000.
  • One thing Chris and I observed through our entire day in Yellowstone was kids obsession with "DUNG!," as they would say. Each tour we took the kids kept on pointing out all the animal pooh, it was pretty humorous. It didn't matter that it was all over, kids still felt the need to tug on their parents' or ranger's sleeve and let them know that there was a big pile of shit right next to them. And it didn't matter how many times Chris and I heard it, it still cracked us up.
  • I was pretty sad to leave Yellowstone after our wonderful day there. It's a place I would really like to go back to one day and spend A LOT more time at. We made it to Glacier National Park around 2 or so and took the main road through the park and admired the scenery. It was a shame that we didn't have enough time to get out very much and hike around or participate in a ranger activity. While we were driving up the road through the park the scenery was pretty spectacular. The glaciers varied in size and shape, and the trees around the area were pretty thick. The sad thing is, it's depressing to think of how much damage is being done to this park. We stopped at a visitor center at one point and asked a ranger a few questions and she told us that it's estimated that the glaciers will be gone by 2020, which is COMPLETELY insane. What is even more pathetic is the disrespect for the park, by rangers and patrons alike. I was amazed at how many people were using the lake for water activities. My dad has a boat, I understand that it is a lot of fun to go out on a boat and hang out for the day, however, I don't think a lake in the middle of a national park is the appropriate place to do it. Boats, especially shitty ones, pollute the air A LOT and as we learned from the Everglades, motor boats kill an incredible amount of wildlife each year. It seemed like, on a whole, people were at this park to lay out in the sun and use the parks natural resources for their recreation, which I really think is a shame. Rangers also don't seem to do their part. It was the first time at a park that I didn't really notice very many rangers walking around seeing if you had any questions or needed any help. At one point, Chris and I found 2 rangers standing talking to each other so we walked up to ask them a few questions about the park. Although we were standing right next to them they didn't really acknowledge our presence or ask us if we needed anything. There were a few silent pauses between them when it almost seemed like they were fishing for something to say so they wouldn't have to talk to us. It might sound spoiled to think that a ranger should be aware of someone around them who might ask a question, but to me, that is the POINT of being a ranger. You are there to do your park in educating people, making them aware, and answering their questions. When one of them finally did answer to Chris' "excuse me?" he wasn't too helpful. And in fact, as we were walking away, I heard his little homie say, "Oh, they're dog is off leash, they're not supposed to be, but I'm not going to say anything." I'm really glad the rangers really believe in their park and are passionate about what they do.
  • I've got to say, I love Canada. We just passed the border into Alberta and the border patrol lady was friendly and didn't give us any shit. Our last trip into Canada was easy as well. So far, the one time we've had it rough was coming back into the United States. I might have to get a nerdy shirt with a big Canadian flag on it.

  • 7-23-06 (23:08)

  • glacier is a relatively depressing park, so is everglades. it really seemed like the rangers at glacier were the jv squad and, of course, the realities of global warming are depressing as well. i think one important change i would make to the park service would be a mandatory 5 minute video that all visitors would watch upon entry to the park. this video would go over the basics of park care, maintenance and etiquette. here visitors would learn what they can/cannot do and why. e.g., you can't feed wildlife because habitualizing them to humans is bad for them (they become dependent upon the easy food and die when visitors aren't around) and is bad for visitors (because it leads to more wildlife-human encounters). a simple video outlining these issues would go a long way to preserving the parks for everyone. of course, people wouldn't have to view the video at every park. once you complete etiquette training once you receive a card or sticker or something that would indicate that you've already completed it. logistics might be difficult, especially at high-traffic parks, but i think it would be worth it.

  • ex-glacier park:

  • after glacier we drove to calgary. the calgary area is famous for its cattle industry, but it's also got a healthy presence in technology and oil. open range and unforgiven are two westerns which were shot in calgary. both had very good cinematography. unforgiven is mandatory and open range is pretty good, esp. since it's a costner directed pic. calgary also has the highest number of americans living outside of the u.s. on the way to calgary i noticed a decent sized wind power farm. we drove through calgary a bit looking for a place to eat. finally we settled on some place which happened to have chairs upholstered in an americana motif - stuff like route 66 signs and the hollywood sign. i had a burger which was made from calgary area beef and thought it tasted different, but good. afterwards we drove around the city a bit more and ended up watching a crappy movie that surprisingly had potential.

  • calgary sunset, 9:56pm
  • this morning we drove less than an hour and made it to banff. banff and jasper are two large parks a few hundred miles north of the border. there are four other parks (kootenay, yoho, mount revelstoke and glacier) that are also either attached or near by. somehow, though, jasper and banff are the two most well-known. banff was formed first (1885) and jasper was next. two main highways cut through banff and one through jasper, so i think those two factors are why jasper and banff are the most well known.
  • we went through banff and jasper, but not the other parks in the area. banff and jasper are quite large so they presented us with plenty of driving. banff and jasper town anchor the south and north ends of the parks. both are relatively built up. there's a high school in banff, along with a gap, starbucks, etc. it seems that, with these two parks anyway, the definition of park is more literal than it is at american national parks. recreation rules in these parks and i consider that unfortunate. we went to the visitor center in banff and asked a ranger where we could get information on the park - its history, geology, wildlife, etc. the knowledgeable ranger told us about a few museums and self-guided trails that would be good for getting that kind of information, but, honestly, she seemed surprised by the question. most of the museums cost extra (beyond the park admission) and everyone else who talked with the rangers seemed more concerned with hotel accommodations and places to canoe, hike, bike, camp, etc. we were both a bit disappointed at this point. the lack of exhibits outlining the fire management policy, the wildlife challenges, the global warming issue and how it has affected the glaciers, etc. were all absent. we drove to another part of the town to see a building that was built in 1803 and walked around the premises. a pair of rangers were at a table and had a few pelts and fossils. they greeted us and we talked with a ranger named alix about (er, aboot) our concerns. he echoed the same concerns and listed some others. he said it was frustrating how much of a hold the commerce had on the area. he told us that the speed limit was 90 km/h and the average speed was 117 km/h. he also told us about the high roadkill count and that they built a fence to cut down this. it's helped - a 95% drop since installation - but it's made migration more difficult. they've built underpasses and overpasses to combat this issue. the underpasses didn't work, but the overpasses have seen good success. we talked for a few more minutes before he was relieved of his shift. he patted me on the back and left. turned out that he was the only ranger we encountered who seemed truly concerned with preservation issues. he did tell us that banff and jasper are the exceptions to the canadian park system, so that's good to hear.

  • banff:

    this train transporting sulphur rode through the park disturbing countless wildlife and visitors alike:
  • we got back on the four lane highway that cuts through the park and drove to lake louise. on the edges of the lake there seemed to be some dirty water, but i had no way of telling if it was natural or caused by humans. the color of the lake is stunning and most reminiscent of waikiki. all of jasper and banff is full of great scenery which is hampered a bit by the crowds (though it was a sunday) and the lack of ranger education. throughout the parks there are informational tablets, but rangers are largely absent and ranger-led programs, so far as we could tell, were non-existent. lake louise is beautiful, but it's got a huge hotel on the north (i think) end that sticks out.

  • outside of lake louise, oops:

  • after lake louise we hit the road for peyto lake. peyto lake is an amazing green color that really blew me away. with the glaciers in the background, the thick forests, and the steep mountains it's probably the most picturesque scene in the parks.

  • next we drove to the columbia icefield/athabasca glacier. we hiked up a steep hill to walk on the slippery glacier a bit, which was novel.

  • this glacier-scarred rock would have been a good spot for a ranger to give a lesson on the power of the athabasca glacier:

    standing on the athabasca glacier
  • after the athabasca glacier we drove down river to the athabasca falls

  • with regards to waterfalls, i'm most interested in how the water shapes features like this:

    ...and this, which has a circular shape cut into it from swirling water, as well as a major fracture, likely from the freeze-thaw cycle.

  • canadians use military time and i appreciate that.
  • one thing i read at the jasper info center said that one study found it only takes 60 people a month traveling on a path to scare away some wildlife.

  • 7-24-06 (09:43)

  • just 22 more days left, that's depressing.
  • we slept in kamloops, bc last night. this morning we went to a holiday inn and acquired some free continental breakfast. we've done this a few times now. days inn has the best stuff, but they make it difficult to acquire without having a room. they give you breakfast slips that you turn into the chef and he makes breakfast items to order. most other places just have donuts, muffins, toast, cereal etc. out for the taking.
  • we've got about four hours to go before we arrive in vancouver. the "seat belt required" signs in canada are more simple and for a more educated populace. they have picture of a person with a seat belt on and one word underneath: "compulsory." i'd venture a guess that most u.s. high school grads don't know what that means.
  • another linguistically related observation i've made is the (possibly excessive) use of the words "eh' and "right." generally they act as punctuation at the end of the sentence. in many instances the latter makes a statement into a quasi-question. "i went to the store, right?" "and then i bought some cereal, right?" it's like saying "are you with me?" or "you got that?" but it's usually part of a statement so it changes the tone of the sentence at the last possible moment. it adds a layer of deference to statements. you could say "you're a damn asshole," add "right" to the end, and somehow it would make it almost okay. "eh" can be used in a greater range of situations so i'm not going to touch that one.

  • (11:15)
  • I was pretty disapointed by Banff and Jasper National Parks. They were both amazingly beautifully to drive through and explore, but it was pretty sad to see how built up both the towns were inside the park and how little the people seemed to care about actually preserving it. Alix seemed to be the only person we encountered who was concerned with preservation instead of shopping at the Gap. It was pretty pathetic that along the main road in the town of Banff where you could go shopping at Banana Republic, Starbucks and other stores there were more people than within the ACTUAL park. More people went to a National Park to check the price on a pair of khakis than they did to explore, hike, and educate themselves. As Chris and I drove around the park I was really amazed at the fact that park rangers were absent. Even as we were leaving the park and we went to a visitor center to ask questions, the ranger there seemed to think it was weird that I would ask why there were no rangers throughout the park. He seemed frustrated when we asked him about fire management and if they had any informational brochures (all the brochures they had OUT were about white water rafting or helicopter or boat tours). Besides Alix, I was pretty dissapointed in the park staff and thought they could have done a lot more to educate the public, but like Alix said, at this park, people come first. Very sad.
  • Still, although the staff was disapointing, the park was AMAZING. The colors of the lakes and rivers seemed unnatural. The vivid blues and greens were incredible to look at, and the glacier was really cool. The little trek to make it up to the glacier really knocked the wind out of you - it was incredibly steep and about 15-20 degrees cooler once you got to the top with icy wind gusts. The highlight of the visit to the park for me was getting to go on the glacier itself. It amazed me that they didn't have a park ranger there for safety, just a few cones outlining the area you could walk on. Of course, because humans are stupid, they were not staying within the boundaries and instead walking all along the glacier, including by the streams and rivers that were running along side it. I was nervous that someone would slip and fall and no ranger would be there to help. I've got to admit, I was pretty scared to get on the glacier, as much as I liked it, it terrified me. It was really slippery and the streams running along the top of it especially freaked me out. Chris tried to comfort me by telling me that Johnny did it all the time, but when I could see the water running underneath through the ice, it was a bit much for me. Once we got off I was put at ease. As much as I was scared while being on it, I still was excited that I had gotten to walk on a glacier.
  • I've got to say, Canadians seem a lot friendlier. A little while ago while on our way to Vancouver we hit some construction and were stopped for about 15 minutes. People began getting out of their cars and a couple who looked to be in their 50s and were in front of us asked us where we were headed (a California plate in the middle of Canada does stick out). We started chatting with them until the construction was cleared and ran into them again at a gas station down the line about 30 minutes later. The husband talked with Chris while we filled up on gas and told him where nice clean facilities and good ice cream were. He was pretty interested in our trip and seemed to enjoy the curtains we had made that we put down when we sleep at night. He gave Chris a little pat on the back when he left the gas station too, it seems to be a friendly gesture here. I like that. One thing I've noticed in the US is that people are kind of afraid to be close to each other or touch someone. If you ride a bus, people will more often stand up that sit next to someone they don't know. It think that's pretty retarded, so I enjoy the people being friendly and open here. As Chris has recounted numerous times, Jim Gaffigan makes a good observation in relation to encounters with strangers. If an incredibly ugly person smiles at you walking down the street, you think, "ohhh, that guy's a weirdo, creep." However, if an attractive person were to smile at you, you may think, "ohhhh, that's so nice, what a nice person." I really can't say anything because I know if I ran into a man with his pants on backwards, a patch over his eye and a ponytail on top of his head and he smiled at me, I'd get a little freaked out. If I ran into Mos Def and he smiled at me, well, that would be a completely different story. Why is that?

  • 7-27-06 (10:44)

  • after jasper and banff we made the long drive to (the much ballyhooed) vancouver. vancouver routinely ranks among the top cities in the world in which to live and, lately, has been ranked above toronto among best canadian cities. by most accounts it's a very fine city, but i didn't feel it was better than toronto. it is probably a bit more picturesque - between the waterfronts and the hills to the north - but i found toronto to be a more down to earth and exciting city. the crime and homelessness seemed to be more prevalent in vancouver as well. we saw one guy getting carted off in the paddy wagon and a few bikers performing wheelies and nose-stops on the streets; posers. i think vancouver is probably a more culturally hip city than toronto, but that has no bearing on my personal ranking. it probably gets plenty of points over toronto in the weather department, but i despise rain more than snow so i'd probably rather live in toronto for that reason as well. although we didn't compare housing costs, i'd guess (based upon the cost of other things) that vancouver is a more expensive place to live than toronto as well. toronto has an nba, nhl and mlb team so it's got that going for it as well. overall, i found vancouver to be nice, but i still think toronto is better. aesthetically, vancouver reminded me of miami a bit.

  • vancouver

  • while in vancouver we went to their fisherman's wharf area which, especially for a monday, was quite active. there are several artisans who have shops in which to peddle their (over-priced) wares. carpenters, glass-blowers, pottery makers, etc. are all represented well. we found some great looking stuff, but most of it would be equal to a month's salary.
  • i find that the wave doesn't go over so well on the lower, field level decks. generally the wave begins in the bleachers or upper decks and the lower level is last to pick up on it. as usual, i see it as a class issue. the working class people start the wave and the upper class people (who are seated in the lower levels) are too good for such commonplace activities as the wave so they forego participation. i think the wave has a stigma attached to it, but i'm not real sure why.
  • most clever motel name so far: Dew Drop Inn
  • so i finally settled on my anti-bonds saying. for a while i was thinking it would be: Milken says: I'll sell you some junk, Bonds. but just the other day i settled on: Milken will sell you some junk, Bonds. i think it incorporates the two meanings of "junk" and "bonds" effectively, while remaining pithy. i'm happy with it. meryl got it printed on a shirt yesterday.
  • we had planned on going from vancouver to victoria, but the exchange rate sucks and the prices are ridiculous with a car. even if you stay in the car you still have to pay for the people so it would have been about $60 to ferry ourselves to victoria. then it would have been about the same amount to go to the u.s.; pretty lame. so we decided to skip victoria (which is home of the best milkshake i've ever had) and go to north cascades national park. it has the greatest number of glaciers in the u.s., outside of alaska. it's a nice enough park. it's actually split into two parks with a riverside highway that cuts east-west between them. along the road/river is a recreation area so technically you have to hike to get onto park property. the staff was helpful and knowledgeable. there was an extremely cheesy video introduction that easily beats out fort mchenry for worst video at a national park. too bad. other than the bad video, i liked the place. there were some nice vistas and waterfalls and the staff was good.

  • north cascades park:

    this tree was creaking quite a bit in the wind. it was rotten inside, looked chewed up and was leaning quite a lot.
  • on our way back west from the park we stopped and watched a movie. afterwards we went to whidbey island to stay with two friends of meryl's mom. whidbey is right next to anacortes, which i commented on in my first trip to washington so it's strange i hadn't heard of it until recently. actually, i may have heard of it and just forgot about it. my memory's crap so it's entirely likely. at any rate, our hosts were very nice and they even gave us a free ferry voucher back to the mainland so that saved us some time/money.
  • we made it to seattle in the afternoon and didn't have much planned. we got meryl's shirt made and went to the pike place market which is famous for the fish throwing antics. we walked around there a bit, but going to those places without being able to buy some of the quality fish and produce is like a castrated guy going to a strip bar, or something. the rest of the day we really didn't do anything. we wandered around a bit and made our way to safeco field, parked the car and wandered around a bit more. the pre-game festivities are basically relegated to stands selling candy, peanuts and hot dogs. we bought some peanuts and went into the park two hours early. we walked around the park a bit and settled down in the "hit it here cafe" which is located in right field. meryl had the $11 chicken sandwich and i had the $13 steak tacos which were small and featured the toughest meat i've ever had. our absent waitress got a $1 tip and i gave the water boy a $2 tip. all in all it was a shit experience. i wish i had lots of money. the kid who came by to fill up our water was nice and seemed to be kicking ass, but i suspect he goes largely unappreciated throughout his day. if i was warren buffet or bill gates i could have rewarded him in a more commensurate fashion.
  • after the "dinner" we found our seats in the left field power alley. we had a blind spot in outfield which ended up not being a factor. the seats were angled in such a way that we were looking at a space between the third baseman and left fielder; it was odd. another odd thing about the park is the retractable roof. it acts more as an umbrella than a roof, which is pretty cool, but it also cost $200 million, this according to our baseball road-trip book. according to them games in boston, baltimore and new york have a greater chance of getting rained out than in seattle. furthermore, if you assume there would have been 20 rainouts a year for the next 30 years the roof essentially cost them $333,333 per rainout. what's more is they installed a drainage system that can hold up to 25 inches of rain in 24 hours. so...seattle seems to have taken it in the rear on that one.
  • the park itself is nice. since i didn't have to foot the bill, i liked the roof. the open concourses open up the park well. the bullpens are essentially open to foot traffic - you're on the same level as the relievers - which is pretty cool. the foul territory seemed pretty large in the infield. there's the usual amount of advertising, field dimensions are relatively standard and center field has a little dead area, sorta like new busch. there were some nice art installations throughout the park, which i appreciated. our game experience was a pretty good one. the game itself had some slow moments, but it looked like the blue jays were going to make a comeback late in the game so that added some drama. the people in front of us were from vancouver and were rooting for the blue jays. we talked a bit with them and they were pleasant. the people to our right were in the military so they were from all over and we chatted with them a bit. the group of kids to our left were speaking french and were funny to watch. they were often far more concerned with their hair and taking pictures of themselves, than the game. the guys behind us were kinda drunk and were laughing at the kids along with us. we talked briefly about lambeau field.

  • license plate/soda can scrap art:

    the safe:

    view from out seats:

    stupid kids posing:
  • after the game meryl drove for about 1.5 hours, then went in the back and slept. then i drove for about 1.5 hours, found a rest stop and also slept. woke up this morning, got some breakfast at a holiday inn and hit the road. we're about 15 minutes from crater lake right now.

  • 7-30-06 (17:06)

  • we're in the bay area now. and by bay area i mean the san francisco bay area, as opposed to the chesapeake or something.
  • on our way from washington to sacramento we stopped by crater lake to check it out. it wasn't a great day for visibility, but we still got a good view of the lake. at 1,943 feet, it's the deepest lake in the u.s. and the 2nd deepest in the western hemisphere, but the 7th in the world. baikal lake in siberia is over 5,000 feet deep. what makes crater lake exceptional is that it's a closed ecosystem - there aren't any rivers leading in or out of crater lake. while there are two species of introduced fish, there isn't much else in the water to muck it up. as a result of it being so pure and deep, the blue color of the lake is amazing. it was caused by what is believed to be the most powerful eruption of the last 10k years. mt. mazama was ten times more powerful than krakatoa which erupted in 1883. we saw quite a bit of ice and snow remaining which made it all the more picturesque. our park ranger talk was given by dave henderson (not the ball player) and he did a good job. the story of crater lake is pretty typical of the cascades, so if you know about subduction then you know all you need to know.
  • after crater lake we made our way to sacramento. we skipped lassen, one of only a couple national parks in california i haven't seen; the channel islands park is the other. i wanted to get to sacramento on the early side, though, so i had forego the opportunity. we stayed with john and emily in sacramento and watched a dvd on the dudesons, who predate the jackass crew. they're crazy.

  • freeway entrance in dunsmuir. this is where vern and i jumped on a train that eventually derailed.

    after the train derailed we begged a nice girl to give us a ride out of this rest area:
  • the next morning we went to davis and visited tower. justin and christo were there, but no one else from my era was around. it was good to see the guys again and visit the old place. after a nostalgic stop at in and out with john, we left for meryl's grandpa's. we chatted a bit and had a great lunch, but had to leave for the game.
  • the coliseum isn't too bad for a dual-use facility. i had been once before (also with meryl, also when they played the bluejays), but this time was very different because of the park experience i have now. the foul territory is one of the more notable attributes of the field. it's the largest foul territory in the league which probably makes it more of a pitcher's park. the bullpens are in the foul territory, the field is symmetrical and well-maintained. there were quite a few giveaways on the day that we were there. they even gave away a new car. the concourses aren't very open and it's not much to look at, but it's not a bad place to watch a game. they've recently closed off the top deck which means fewer seats, but it also means that the worst seats are better than they used to be. strange how that works. one of the less attractive elements of the dual-use design is that many of the seats aren't angled towards the action. ideally you're angled towards the batter/pitcher. we sat in very good seats near first base that were well-angled for football, but were probably 15-20 degrees off for baseball. it's not a big deal, but it's definitely something you notice. one of these days an engineer will come up with a design that allows for easily movable seats and sections. until then the single-use park will remain as the preference of cities looking to build new ones. in the bottom of the 4th the power went out. that was a new experience. i forgot to mention that there were two fights during the game, also firsts for the trip. meryl had all but promised a fight in oakland, and a few hooligans delivered.

  • crazy george:
  • the last day and a half we've basically just stayed at meryl's parents place. yesterday family came over for dinner. today we visited berkeley briefly. tomorrow we have a giants game.
  • brucella abortus is the name of the disease i referenced in my yellowstone section on bison. thanks to my grandma for the follow-up on that one.


    Baseball Trip
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