Week 9 - Montclair, New Jersey
to Leesburg, Virginia
Day 57 - Thursday, August 6th
Locating the Metropark long-term parking garage that was recommended in a travel article I
had read, I ditched the Rodeo and set off to "do" the Big Apple. The NJ Transit express train
deposited me at Penn Station and I started my walking tour of the city. Past
Madison Square Garden, up to the top of the
Empire State Building, through
Times Square and its infinite things
to see, and into Central Park. I then
proceeded to hike the entire 51-block length of the park, seeing lots of rollerbladers, softball
games and sunbathers (but no JFK Jr.) enjoying this amazing enclave in the heart of the concrete
jungle known as Manhattan.
Continuing northwest, I visited the imposing Grant
National Memorial to finally lay to rest the world's worst riddle. The park ranger laughed
heartily when I asked him how many times a day he gets asked "Who's buried here?"
I finally boarded the famous New York subway system, going another 100 blocks north into the
Bronx to visit Peg Jonas, the friend and former neighbor that I missed seeing last week when I
got snarled in traffic. We had a nice time reminiscing about my childhood days and watching the
wall-to-wall Lewinsky coverage on CNN.
Not being willing to fork over Manhattan's larcenous hotel room rates, I looked in to the
local hostels. Most of them were packed, but I managed to scrounge a room at a YMCA on 23rd
Street. At $51, it will be the third most expensive night of the trip - and I didn't even get my
Day 58 - Friday, August 7th
I rose early to continue my walking tour, southeast through Greenwich Village, SoHo and
Little Italy, along FDR Drive on the East River, out to the middle of the legendary
Brooklyn Bridge and back,
and into the financial district. I waited in line for the free tour of the
New York Stock Exchange, with its observation platform above
the amazing main trading pit. The wildest thing was seeing the incredible security measures that
they have in place. Not only is each delivery truck subjected to a bomb-sniffing dog, but there
is a special area behind the building where the countless takeout food orders being delivered
must be passed through an x-ray scanner!
Next up was Battery Park and the ferry to the Statue of
Liberty and Ellis Island. I didn't have the time or patience to wait in the huge lines to
climb the statue, but it was impressive to see it up close, and the views of Manhattan from out
on the islands are otherworldly.
I had planned to see the Yankees' game at 7:35 this evening, but it turned out that they were
making up an early season rain-out by playing one of those fan-gouging "day-night"
doubleheaders, so I decided to see the afternoon game instead. I took the #4 subway directly
from Battery Park to the famous
Yankee Stadium, settling into my $20 upper deck seat (everything is inflated in New York)
just before the first pitch.
It could be said that the primary objective of my trip was completed today, since Yankee
Stadium was the last of the 30 current Major League ballparks that I had yet to see a game at.
Fenway Park is still on the agenda to complete the entire circuit in two months, but I had
already made that pilgrimage back in the early 90's, the heyday of my Red Sox fandom.
Back on the subway, I disembarked at Grand Central Station (what a maze!) and took one more
15-block walk through the crush of taxis and people that represented the end of another
Manhattan workweek. I got back to my car in New Jersey at about 6 pm, headed northwest along the
base of the Catskill Mountains, and called it a night at a motel near Binghamton New York.
Day 59 - Saturday, August 8th
The town of Cooperstown is the ultimate
destination for baseball fans and players alike. The town is said to have been the original site
of organized baseball in the mid 1800s and the
Baseball Hall of Fame has been here since 1939. There are extensive exhibits tracing the
game's 150-year history, countless mementos of famous games and accomplishments right up to the
present, and an overall sense of history that surpasses the other Halls of Fame in my mind. The
adjacent Doubleday Field is the site of the annual Hall of Fame exhibition game, which I only
missed by about a week.
After several hours at the Hall of Fame (I think I could have spent a couple of days), I
continued on my northwesterly course through New York. This area of the state is known as the
"finger lakes region", thanks to a series of extremely long, narrow lakes. At the northern end
of one of these lakes is the town of Seneca Falls, the site of the
National Women's Rights
Historic Park that I visited in honor of my mother. Seneca Falls played a vital role in the
initial organization of the women's suffrage movement, which got its official start in 1848 at a
meeting in the building preserved on this site. In this day and age, it is difficult to believe
that it took almost 75 years from that date for women's voting rights to be fully realized in
the United States. There are also many other exhibits concerning gender equality issues that
still plague our country today, many of which my mom has tirelessly championed for most of her
life - before, during and after feminism's glory days. Believe it or not, I've been paying
attention mom - and I love and respect you more than you could ever know.
Backtracking slightly, I arrived at the site of my final minor league game in Auburn New
York, where the Class A Doubledays (and their mascot Abner) were hosting the Watertown Indians.
The step down from the upper levels of the minors is definitely noticeable, from the meager
attendance of 1100 to the fact that there were just 2 umpires covering the whole field to the
cheesy "that foul ball was brought to you by Joe's Auto Body" announcements over the P.A.
system. The game was well played, but the hometown kids (most of the players are just out of
high school) got beat 5-2.
Minor League Box Score (A)
After the game, I hopped on I-90 and made it nearly all the way to Buffalo before bedding
down at one of the turnpike rest areas.
Day 60 - Sunday, August 9th
I cruised through an empty downtown Buffalo and crossed into Canada on the Peace Bridge, on
my way back to Toronto to see "The Rocket" go for his
10th straight win (I know I'm nuts, OK?). After walking around downtown Toronto a bit, I got to
Skydome as the gates were opening.
There have been a few close calls, but in the more than 30 games and over a dozen batting
practice sessions I've been to on the trip, I've yet to have a chance to make a play on a batted
ball (fair or foul). So, until today, I haven't regretted leaving my baseball glove in the car.
If I had brought it in today, I would most likely have taken home 3 batting practice home run
balls. As it was, they all bounced off my fingertips and were chased down by various kids
nearby. Take my word for it, catching a 370-foot line drive barehanded is tougher than it looks!
I found myself almost instinctively positioning my hands to catch the ball in the pocket of my
non-existent glove - inches below where they needed to be.
BCG (Bonus Clemens Game)
I made the easy 90-mile drive back to the U.S., making my 10th and final international border
crossing (see Day 50 for details on the 2 quirkiest ones). Just over the border in Buffalo, the
trip passed the 20,000-mile mark. Retracing my path on I-90, I continued on to Syracuse before
settling in at a Motel 6 and checking out Jerry Sienfeld's HBO special.
Day 61 - Monday, August 10th
Leaving Syracuse this morning, I passed a large contingent of picketing Bell Atlantic
workers. I took I-90 to Albany, then the scenic secondary roads through
southern Vermont. I stopped at the top of Hogback
Mountain to admire the killer view, which they say can extend up to 100 miles (it was a little
too hazy for that today).
In Massachusetts, I ran into a nasty traffic backup that turned out to be caused completely
by rubber-neckers. No matter how many times I see it happen, it still dumbfounds me how an
accident that doesn't block any lanes can bring three lanes of traffic to a virtual standstill
for over 4 miles.
Once past that mess, I crossed into Rhode Island and checked off state number 48 to complete
the trip's second major goal - visiting all the contiguous United States. I stopped in
Providence for a walk along Benefit Street,
billed as the largest concentration of preserved and restored historical homes, many dating back
to the 1700s. It is a little hard to fathom that some of these houses have been here longer than
this country has existed!
I got my last motel room of the trip in a little town called Seekonk Massachusetts.
Day 62 - Tuesday, August 11th
As I set out at about 8 am to tour Cape Cod and
coastal Massachusetts, it began to rain steadily. Soon, I was driving through an intense
downpour (a "nor'easter" perhaps?) that continued for over 2 hours. In my humble estimation, I
saw more rain in this morning's storm than in the previous 61 days of my trip combined! I was
beginning to get a little worried that the field at Fenway Park would be unplayable for
tonight's game when the rain finally tapered off at around 11 am. Obviously, I didn't get to see
as much of Cape Cod as I would have liked, but I did cruise past the Kennedy compound in
Hyannisport and I think I picked up the resort-like flavor of this island playground for the
rich and famous (the really rich and famous take the ridiculously-expensive ferry out to
Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket).
Back on the mainland, I headed up the coast to Plymouth, a quaint little seaport with the
requisite focus on tourism, for a look at that famous rock.
Plymouth Rock sits under
its own stone portico, protected from all the boneheads chipping off their own little "piece of
the rock" that had nearly destroyed this piece of American lore before the tourists were roped
off. Now everyone just pitches pennies down onto the rock, trying to keep them from bouncing
off. It gives it the look of those mall fountains and makes me wonder if, were it not kept under
glass, idiots would just go up and sign their own names to our Declaration of Independence.
Also in Plymouth, I visited
Cranberry World, a
marketing-heavy (but free) set of exhibits about the large cranberry growing industry that I had
no idea was centered here in New England. I also had no idea that they harvest the berries
underwater in what are known as "cranberry bogs". I did greatly enjoy the free samples of
cranberry cake and about 10 different varieties of Ocean Spray cran-whatever juice.
When I got to Boston around 2 pm, the rain was completely gone. Knowing that parking for
Fenway was notoriously difficult and/or expensive, I decided to find a spot early and do some
walking. I parked for free just over the Charles River, right next to the campus of
MIT. I walked through the campus, but didn't make it up the
road to its even more famous neighbor, Harvard.
Perhaps I'm irretrievably biased, but after seeing every other ballpark in the country this
summer, I still think Fenway Park is the cream of
the crop in terms of atmosphere, tradition and uniqueness. The streets around the park even
smell more like baseball than any other place in the country (even Wrigley). I paid $15 for
a bleacher seat from a scalper, avoiding a huge line in which I may or may not have been able to
get a ticket for today's game.
The residual adrenaline from the game's fantastic finish carried me down into Connecticut,
where I stopped to grab a few hours shut-eye before making the final push homeward.
Day 63 - Wednesday, August 12th
I got off at about 6 am and, other than a brief tussle with the beginnings of New York City
rush hour traffic, made excellent time through the 6 states that led me back to my humble abode
and the attendant real world. Not wanting to let said real world intrude on any part of my trip,
I eschewed the route suggested by my trusty computer mapping program because it sent me down
along the familiar DC commuter arteries known as the Beltway and the Dulles Toll Road. Instead I
cut west on I-70 out of Baltimore, crossed the Potomac at scenic Point of Rocks, and slipped in
the back way to the house I hadn't laid eyes on in 2 months. It was just before noon.
More precisely, I was gone 63 days or 1491 hours or 89,262 minutes and put 21,196 miles on
the trusty Rodeo while seeing 36 baseball games (33 Major and 3 Minor League), visiting all 30
Major League ballparks and all 48 contiguous states, plus Mexico and 4 Canadian provinces. I
can't believe that it's really over.