Sunday, July 8, 2018

Day 1: Jumbo Shrimp Biscuits and other 'Gulf' Fare

Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp vs Montgomery Biscuits

What happens when Zach, Ben, Pat, and Ray get together? No, not the beginning of the Apocalypse. It’s the start of another Scrappy Journeymen road trip. Without the threat of hurricanes and storms to stop us this time, we make our way to the south east for a Gulf tour. Our first stop; The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, because that’s on the Gulf right? This year the LAZY metrics return with a vengeance, seeping into our overall schedule. I.E. we only have four stops this year.

Taking a detour to a Putt-Putt course in Fernandina Beach allowed us to get on I-16. What’s so special about I-16 you ask? Nothing. But one can drive its entire length in only a few hours. So we did. Someone pointed out that technically we only drove the entire length of I-16 East and that we should turn around since we were already there and hit the whole thing. The desire to actually see some baseball and that pesky LAZY mentality won out and we continued to Fernandina Beach.

Our usual wagers were in place for our first course of the trip. Last place buys first place two drinks and third place buys second place a drink and keeps score next time. Ominous clouds loomed in the distance, but we weren’t deterred. We managed to squeeze in both course just before the skies opened up. Ray finished first in both courses, but would soon come to regret it (see Thirsty Thursday highlight).
You wouldn't believe how many putts got "pushed from wind" on this course.
Tonight’s game pit the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp against the Montgomery Biscuits.

1. The Double A stadium in Jacksonville had a strange layout requiring a lot of going up and down stairs to get where you needed to go. With some random stairwells that lead directly out of the stadium and Thirsty Thursday beer specials, it’s easy to imagine at least a few people accidentally found themselves outside the gates. 

The "I don't want to pay attention and not get a concussion" net extended fairly far down the line.

2. Speaking of Thirsty Thursday, $2 twenty four oz. Budweiser products is a heck of a deal, except when you factor in there were only two locations to obtain said specials. And it was Budweiser. They also had $1 twelve oz. beers, but it seemed almost wasteful to spend that much time in line for a regular sized beer. The Journeymen are resourceful however, and still managed to procure close to 100 ounces each. A feat that left Ray’s head swimming the entire day after.

3. While there was no way to do a full lap inside the park, the stadium wasn’t all bad. It did have some positive aspects, such as having the kid’s zone out in home run territory, away from everything.

4. There were ample food and drink locations for non-Thirsty Thursday fare. What do you do when you can’t decide between getting pizza or a burger? The Jumbo Shrimp have you covered with the Pizza Burger. A massive beef patty sandwiched between two pizzas. They claim it feeds four, but Zach was positive he could take one down on his own. On the other hand a quarter of the concoction was enough to give Ray the meat sweats.

How is this not a thing everywhere!?

5. Ben procured another unique food option in the Shrimp and Pork Nachos. Be warned, you better really like shrimp if you get it. Even the chips taste… shrimpy. This tasty(?) fare may have also been the impetus for Ben searching for seafood served in a helmet for the rest of the trip.

6. It was Teacher Appreciation night at the park, so the rest of us were finally obligated to appreciate Ben for his services. Though, the Jumbo Shrimp appeared to just be paying lip service, as there was no clear indication of how teachers were being appreciated.

7. In-between inning shenanigans included a Bacon Battle. Two persons enter, both leave after having whacked each other with pillow sized strips of bacon. We were also a bit surprised when a couple of boys came out in tutus during another between inning promo. It was the home run derby where they each hit a ball off a tee from wherever it previously landed until one of them hits it over the wall. The surprise was that we hadn’t realized Jacksonville was progressive enough to promote cross dressing. Good on you Jacksonville.

8. The game was a pitcher’s duel from the get go. The visiting Montgomery Biscuits had a knuckleballer on the mound, J. D. Martin, who has had a long and storied career that took him briefly through a Korean league.

9. While there were a couple hits, we missed most of them standing in one of the two previously mentioned Thirsty Thursday lines. During one of these trips, Ray and Zach had enough beer in them to briefly mistake a running, screaming crowd as a monster attack of some sort. However it was our good friend the storm cloud from Putt-Putt catching up to us.

One might recognize this cloud from Independence Day.

10. By the fifth inning, we each had a full beer, and we could only sit and watch the rain fill up the field. The announcer was quite amusing during the delay, showing “Dancing Homer” and “Who’s on First” on the big screen and commenting how the light drizzle wouldn’t deter us.

11. Though they did finally call the game , the Journeymen did not give up so easily (did I say something about storms not stopping us?). We sat our ground, finishing our beers and closed the place down. At one point Ben attempted to use his Teacher status to get Ray on the field after they had commented that the tarp looked like a giant slip and slide. It was only after the police started making their way through the park that we decided to call the Lyft.

Tell me that doesn't look like a giant Slip 'N Slide.

12. With the long drive down and all the aforementioned Budweiser products in our system, we forgot to look for a program. Couple that with the long wait times in line and only five innings of ball and we failed to catch any interesting player names.

13. There was no mention of crowd size, though according to google the Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville holds 11,000.  Just eyeballing it, it may have been a third to half full before the rain hit.

Booze addled, rain soaked, Lyft waiting.

It was an inauspicious start to this year’s journey, with more hours spent in the car than hits on the field. Final score after four and a half innings; Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp 0, Montgomery Biscuits 0. We were offered free tickets to the double header the next day, but we had another beach town to be at. Up next, Pensacola.

LAZY Metrics

6/10. Confusing layout, lack of actually appreciating teachers, and rain shortened baseball colored Jacksonville a little negatively. It was still a fun experience with enthusiastic between-baseball activities and a good crowd vibe. If you plan on coming to a game, check the weather. Also, if you value your life, don’t (do?) get the Pizza Burger.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Day Last: Tennessee Smokies defeat Jackson Generals 5-4. The only Ten I See is Legos.

This was supposed to be the longest and worst day of the trip, what with having to drive from Bluefield to Knoxville, then watch a whole game, then drive from there back to Atlanta to our exhausted beds.  But bad weather worked in our favor by giving us an earlier start time in Knoxville due to it being a make-up game from an earlier rainout.  Plus it was a double header, so we got to watch the entire 7 inning game before heading home. 

The only problem was that they were a Cubs affiliate and boy did they ever look like one.

LAZY Metrics:  0/10.  Cubs.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Day 7, West Virginia Power: Please, Make the Animal Puns Stop!

We began our day awakening in Morgantown, just in time to see the sun rise across the ballpark a few hundred feet away. Then we spent several hours lounging around and debating where to get breakfast (Zach’s insistence of Buffalo Wild Wings was nixed 3-1) before finally settling on Bob Evans. Now if you’ve never been to a Bob Evans, it’s effectively a Cracker Barrel. If you’ve never been to Cracker Barrel…good job, actually.

Anyway, we all agreed that the Bob Evans seemed to have better food than Cracker Barrel, and we were marginally less certain of its right-wing lunacy. Ben and Pat got eggs shaped like a bowl filled with sausage and cheese and ‘taters, which were solid. Zach got a bacon cheeseburger with an egg and some sriracha mayo whatnottery, which was quite good. Ray got something with vegetables that’s not worth commenting upon.

After this your journeymen decided to undo some of the damage by swinging over to Cooper’s Rock State Park, where we walked out on a big rock and faced another huge hole (gorge) that Ray refused to jump in because whatever.

Why you don't you just go HOME? That's your HOME! Are you too good for your HOME, Ray?

We then did a mile and a half hike up and down cliffs and over some rocks that Zach did with sandals and everyone but Ray did without water because we are alpha males, and gray wolves don’t use sandals or water bottles, do they?

We then decided to combat our dehydration with some Coal Country Mini Golf in the blazing sun. Ray pulled out a late victory, but that’s not important. The holes were all built in and around coal mining machinery, with educational plaques explaining what each one was. The course definitely seemed to prioritize incorporation of the equipment over playability. Oh, and also most holes were on a steep grade because the thing was built into a mountain.

Why you don't you just go HOME? That's your HOME! Are you too good for your HOME, ball?
P.S. That fan was rotating, and if you hit the were pretty much chopped. 

Then we got into Charleston, checked into our hotel, and walked through the first finishers of a 5K to Appalachian Power Park, home of the West Virginia Power.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Day 6: The West Virginia Black Bears Take On Our Namesake

West Virginia Black Bears vs Mahoning Valley Scrappers

With over half the trip under our collective belts, we packed up and hit the road again.  After a brief stop at the International House of Pancakes, Zach found us a Putt Putt course on the way to West Virginia.  Turns out this Putt Putt has a wacky course in addition to their two standard courses.  With Pat on his short game, he won the day, with Zach also coming out ahead in beers owed (our new road trip currency since Pat won’t share his Kroner).  Ray almost needed a trip to the ER courtesy of the IHOP breakfast and the heat of the day star, but, not wanting to tarnish the name his first year, he scrapped through.

Zach used the weather vane direction to play the wind perfectly on this shot.

Since we had some spare time, Zach talked up The Beehive CafĂ© in Pittsburgh that was pretty much on the way.  Regaling us with stories of antique pinball machines, we braved the Pittsburgh traffic, many bridges, and crazy road designs, only to find the store had downsized since he was last there.  Alas, with no pinball to soothe their weary spirits, the Journeymen found a delicious taqueria to refuel and continued to West Virginia.  This was Ray’s first time being in both Pennsylvania and West Virginia which prompted a retelling of everyone’s state checklists (Zach proved to be the most well-traveled of us at 46!). 

Pat had his Pinball Wizard soundtrack all set too. Thanks a lot Beehive, you made Pat sad.  
Just before the hotel we saw the future of mass transit (of course it was shut down for repair though) in Morgantown, West Virginia.  The Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit system shuttles people around in small pods to their chosen destination along tracks.  Heartbroken we didn’t get to experience it, we made our way to the hotel, which was a very nice Courtyard Marriot. Thank you West Virginia cost of living! The best part, though: we were right across the street from Monongalia County Park (ask Zach and Ben how to pronounce that) and had a great view of the stadium from our rooms. We still left for the dangerous journey across the parking lot to the game, though.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Day 5: Akron Rubber Ducks beat Erie Sea Wolves 6-5: You done messed up A-Akron!

Having gotten our fill of Major League Baseball, we left Greater Cincinnati (population: approx. 2 million), drove through Greater Columbus (population: approx. 2 million) and finished up just south of Greater Cleveland (population: approx. 2 million) in the bouncy little city of Akron, OH.  In Columbus, Zach took his gambling methadone swig and drove us into a casino, where we all wiled away the minutes surrounded by the type of people that go to a casino at 11AM on a Wednesday. 

The, as we had a bit of time to kill, we hit up some World’s Largest Things.  The former headquarters of the Longaberger Basket Company is shaped like a giant picnic basket, though it looks as though it’s been picked clean.  At the Longaberger Homestead, there is the largest apple basket, which is made from actual basket instead of concrete.  The apples, however, were less real than we had hoped.

The basket is almost as big as the pothole this man cheerfully drove us through on the Longaberger homestead

From the designated viewing area, the handles look like the McDonalds golden arches.  Mmm, McDonalds (give us advertising money?)

This picture says less about the basket and more about Pat

And if we weren’t basket cases enough, we decided to go completely cuckoo by visiting the world’s largest Cuckoo Clock in Sugar Creek, OH.  On the half and on the hour a small mechanical band comes out of the doors and plays for the little Dutch girl to dance circles around the boy.  The Sugar Creek area also had the highest concentration of Amish that we have seen on any trip.  If only they would make the Amish Independent Baseball League.

We took an Uber to the ballpark and were regaled with the down low about every strip joint and prostitution motel in the Akron area.  At first we thought the driver was being tongue-in-cheek and was poking fun at a recent fare he had picked up.  But as the ride continued, it seemed more like he was advertising for these establishments.  He kept on waiting for enthusiastic agreement when he made comments like “Women shouldn’t play football unless it’s in lingerie” despite Zach educating us all on various legitimate women’s professional football leagues he’s encountered in his work.

But enough of gender politics.  Time to see some fit, athletic young men get economically exploited by their bosses for the entertainment of the detached masses.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Day 4, Cincinnati Reds: Bible Golf and also Major League Baseball

On the seventh day, the Lord rested. On the fourth day, the Scrappy Journeymen played mini-golf. We set out from Lexington with the singular purpose of playing fifty-four holes of Bible-themed mini-golf at Lexington Ice Center and Miniature Golf, possibly holiest (and hole-iest) golfing facility in the country. But first, that we may feed our bodies as well as our souls, we headed to Waffle House. And lo, there were waffles, bacon, and hash browns (scattered, smothered, and chunked), and it was good. Even burdened with so many carbs, we arrived at mini-golf fifteen minutes early and milled about forlornly until they opened. We also worked out stakes, as gambling on sports is holy in the eyes of the Lord.

Each of the three courses has its own theme -- Old Testament, New Testament, and Miracles -- and each hole is inspired by a specific Bible verse which is posted by the tee. The interpretations range from the fanciful to the extremely literal, including a three-foot-tall "Mount Sinai" that you must shoot into the top of, and a walk-on "Noah's Ark" that your ball must board via a ramp to reach the hole inside. Despite the unusual theme, it's a very well-done set of courses, with a variety of obstacles, chutes, water features, and slopes. For the most part these manage to be challenging but fair, though we did have some trouble with our tee shots bouncing out of the course, and in some cases miraculously bouncing back onto the course. I should also mention here that yours truly won two of the three courses, earning myself three free beers (a trinity?) in the process.

Ray and Ben wait to take their shots at Mt. Sinai.
The front ramp and cabin of Noah's Ark.

Jonah's Whale with the lookout tower in the background.
The, er, high point of the New Testament course is a small church-like building with a tower that overlooks the whole facility.

With the Lord's work done, we headed on to Cincinnati for our trip's only major-league interlude. After passing by the famous "FLORENCE Y'ALL" water tower and crossing the Ohio River into... Ohio, we parked and ambled along the river to Great American Ballpark. They even let us in, courtesy of some absurd chicanery involving my phone being out of storage and the MLB ticket site not handling "+" characters in email correctly -- anyway, the tickets got onto my phone in the end, so no harm was done. From the upper deck behind home plate, we had a gorgeous view of the river and the John A. Roebling Bridge, and a tolerable view of the action on the field. That action turned out to be fairly lively, as The Reds and the Brewers combined for seven home runs in an 8-6 win for Cincinnati. Billy Hamilton led off the first with a rare home run, just his second of the year, and Adam Duvall hit one of his own as the Reds jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Milwaukee responded in kind, scoring five runs off of three homers in the second and third, but the Reds tied it at 5 in the bottom of the third and then took the lead for good on Joey Votto's two-run shot in the fifth. Along the way, we were treated to some minor-league-quality baserunning. In the top of the 1st, Scott Schebler and Devin Mesoraco both found themselves trying to occupy second base after the throw home went awry on Mesoraco's RBI single. Schebler gave himself up after a short, confused rundown, which you can see here.

Great American seems fairly well laid out, with wide concourses offering more views of the Ohio River and downtown Cincinnati, though somewhat limited views of the field. Beer selection was good, with a number of unique local brews, though at absurd prices. This is a major-league park after all. Food options were a little less varied than we've come to expect from an MLB stadium. It trades heavily on Cincinnati's reputation as "Porkopolis". I had a bratwurst that was quite good, Ben ate something called a "hot mett" which he found acceptable, and Ray's barbecue pulled chicken was too dry -- a disappointing showing this close to the South. On another note, the Reds seem to put an emphasis on parents of young children, with a well-marked changing area and a special fan club for expecting mothers. We guess it can't hurt to get fans on board early -- from birth, if need be. All told, while Cincinnati may not quite make it into the top tier of MLB parks, it's still a great place to watch a game.

If you look closely, this Reds batter is missing his bat. Can you find it?

Final Score: N/A, not in our jurisdiction. What do we look like, some guys who go on a road trip to rate fancy expensive baseball?

Zach caught this string of coal barges heading slowly upriver during the game. It's a metaphor for something probably.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Day 3, Lexington Legends: Mammoth Cave, Mammoth Beer, Mammoth Tebow BS

Our day began with a slow start in Bowling Green since we couldn’t pass up a chance to see one of the nation’s most popular National Parks, Mammoth Cave, nor could we get a tour earlier than 12:45. So we bummed around eating the largest spread for a free hotel breakfast I’ve ever seen before taking a quick 45-minute spin to the Cave.

If you’ve never been, it’s definitely worth it. It’s a cave. A big cave. 405+ miles of which are mapped but many more of which are unknown. With pretty formations. And it’s an awesome break from summer (seriously, approaching the entrance the air temperature must drop 20 degrees). Definitely in the running with Carlsbad Caverns for best caves in the country. 10/10, would shelter during the upcoming nuclear apocalypse again.

On the way out. I don't know why we ever left.

We went on the Historical Tour, which imparted knowledge in the domain its name suggests. We all felt the fact that the original (modern) cave guides were all slaves was a little, uh, whitewashed with just a souciant of “isn’t it wonderful how well respected these slaves were!” Well, uh, Mr. Ranger, sir, it would’ve been a lot more wonderful if they weren’t, y’know, enslaved.

Anyway, the game. Loyal readers of our blog will recognizethe Lexington Legends from season 1, when Zach prevented him and Ben from going to the game by forgetting day games are a thing. Zach did still manage to get his Legends T-shirt, which due to a logo change now legally qualifies as a throwback.

They're practically twins! You know, in the Danny DeVito-Arnold Schwarzenegger sense.

So without further ado…

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Day 2, Bowling Green Hot Rods: The case of the Stolen Home

Day 2 started off much earlier than any us could truly appreciate due to an unexpected early first pitch.  The Hot Rods had a few games rain out recently, and today was a double header to try and recapture those lost games.

We almost had Ben convinced to trade his hybrid for this baby!

With a quick exit from Chattanooga the Scrappy Journeymen made a brunch stop in Nashville.  Pat had found a highly reviewed brunch spot right in downtown Nashville called The Southern Steak & Oyster.  We opted to forgo valet parking (yes it was that fancy), bypassed the $20 parking garage, and found a lot across the street.  Once we discovered the open lot was charging $14 an hour, we decided Steak & Oyster just wasn’t in the cards for us.  Apparently no one told Nashville about the recession.
As we drove around aimlessly, Pat came through in the clutch and directed us to Pinewood Social and their free parking.  As we walked in to the nondescript building we quickly realized this was hipster central in Nashville.  The space was a renovated factory with exposed bricks and ceilings, the music playlist was curated by Wonder Woman (we didn’t see her but we suspected she worked in the back somewhere), and what hipster brunch spot wouldn’t be complete without a bowling alley.  Zach was pleasantly surprised at its existence, but made it clear that had we come here to bowl and discovered it was also a restaurant, it would not be okay.  They even had an outdoor pool with “Dive-in” movies like The Never Ending Story and The Goonies.  Zach got a coffee/soda hybrid and everyone except Ray got the Chicken and biscuits (he’s new to the Journeymen, he’ll learn).  The food was delicious enough to make Ray slightly regret all the pot-shots he took at Hipster culture.

Even though we had a tight window, we stopped over for some mini-golf on the way.  It was a Purists’ course, no frill, just geometry and skill.  Again stakes were high, as the loser had to buy the winner 2 rounds, and to make it interesting for everyone, third place had to buy second place a round as well.  It was a very tight game with good shots all around and plenty of hole in one’s, but ultimately Ray and Pat prevailed on the last hole to the dismay of Zach and Ben.

We pulled into Bowling Green with minutes to spare, found some free parking made our way to the ticket office.  As deliberation raged as to which tickets to go with, Ray happened across a Family Fun Package that got us 4 tickets, a free program that has a pretty good scorecard, and $20 stadium “cash” to spend.  The teller paused for an instance, likely debating if we really were family, but who’s to say we are not all brothers (I mean obviously Ray would be adopted), but he thought better and we procured our tickets.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Day 1: Chattanooga Lookouts beat the Pensacola Blue Wahoos 3-2 (or Why Names Matter)

Welcome back to the blog!  It’s scrappy journey number 6 and we continue to increase our membership by bringing along our good friend Ray for his maiden voyage into scrappiness.  This year is to be the best yet, exploring the swamps of Florida, sampling the Cajun take on baseball in New Orleans, perhaps making a quick stop at Disney, and finally finding out which of us made a mistake in our youth at the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp’s “You Might Be the Father” Night.

Or, we were going to do all those things, but then it started raining.  Ben may have a hybrid, but the nice gas mileage precludes it from being amphibious.  So we went the other way and began our trek in sunny Chattanooga, where we saw the Lookouts beat the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. On the way, we solved a murder mystery escape room, got baffled by Tennessee’s time zones, and played a couple of rounds of minigolf at Sir Goony’s family fun center.

Then we joined most of the city at AT&T Field (not AT&T Park; we have not gone back to California) for Star Wars Night and one of the best finishes we’ve seen on these trips.  Highlights are below:

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Day 9: Junction City Brigade, Junction City, KS. Informative Bathroom Trips, Light Coors Heavy, and New Scrappiest Scrappers to Ever Scrap.

After a restful 3 days in the Denver area, we left early for the first of two days of brutal drives to get back east to Atlanta in 3 days. Our original target was the Topeka Train Robbers of the Pecos League, but we realized the day before that that entire League had changed its schedule since we planned our route, leaving us with no game in Topeka. We tested out a dozen different routes and alternative stops, but every one was either an unacceptably long drive or the team was out of town (thank you, all of Oklahoma). Then Ben had the bright idea to Google “baseball” “Topeka” and we discovered the summer collegiate Topeka Golden Giants were playing a game against the Junction City Brigade but an hour west of Topeka. While summer collegiate baseball isn’t normally our top choice (more of a schedule fill-in as necessary), we decided this was our best option. We were not disappointed. More on that in a moment.

Our day was mostly driving, but we did decide to stop for breakfast at the IHOP/Truck Stop in Limon, Colorado. We had to wait forever for our food, but we got a “policemen” 50% discount as an apology, so that was cool. The most notable piece may have been Zach’s trip to the bathroom, which was not only relieving, but also informative and educational.

My God, we had no idea! Also, Zach would like to note that this is one of those rare acceptable photos to take with your pants down and share unsolicited.

After that we drove to Kansas. Then we drove in Kansas. Then we drove in Kansas some more. Seriously, this drive was boring. Worse than West Texas. Miles after miles of flat prairie and the occasional farm. And one sign for the Horse Motel Bed and Breakfast which read “Pretty Good Horses for Sale.” We respect truth in advertising.

When we couldn’t take it anymore we stopped in Salina to play a quick round of minigolf at Jumpin Joe’s Family Fun Center, which we were not convinced was a.) open or b.) not going to result in our abduction and live flaying. But we decided to risk it anyway and Zach emerged victorious once again when a furious comeback by Pat was short-circuited by a confusing and impossible to miss (?) 18th hole that seemed to require you to shoot the ball about 10 feet into a large shack which then dumped the ball into a pit of standing water.

This is more or less my plan for the Zombocalypse.

Jumpin' Joes was not exactly, ah, jumpin'.

Then we drove in Kansas some more before reaching Junction City just a couple minutes after first pitch.