Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 22: Objectivity gives way to Braves and Real Beds

No goofy roadside stuff today, as we are both staying with our folks in the ATL. If you want to know about fun stuff in Atlanta, then, uh, check the internet. Here. This looks promising.

So, after things like free food, naps, laundry, and other sundry facts of life, we took our dads (and Joe and his dad) to Gwinnett to see the Braves AAA team.
If you read our Rome review, you probably have a pretty good idea of how this review is going to go as well, but here are the highlights:

1. The most brutal, mocking videos after Charlotte outs. We were first tipped off to this when Gwinnett recorded its first strikeout. Imagine hearing this every time you do something wrong at work.
2. Celebrity appearance from Martin Prado. On rehab from staph infection, he got 2 singles, a walk, and an RBI. We like Martin.
3. An error that wasn’t. You can only be charged with an error if you touch the ball and then blow the play. If 3 different players converge on a pop up, all thinking that someone else will catch it, and then let it drop, it counts as a hit and is charged against the pitcher.
4. Coach interference. A Knights’ runner ran smack dab into his 3rd base coach and the coach seemed to try to stop him from going home. Result: runner out. It looked like Prado was the one who pointed it out, too.
5. Zach gets a T-Shirt from an air gun. Ben would’ve gotten it, had he seen it before it careened through his haplessly extended hands.
6. Braves Win. G-Braves, at least. The A-Braves still have Scott Proctor on their team.
7. Yet another Throw The Cheese Colored Beanbags on the Burger Colored Tarp promotion.
8. Promotion was about something called 12Stone. It was a church thing that I’m too lazy to look up.
9. Lastings Millege played in the game. Not often we see someone who has 5 years major league experience playing down here when not on a rehab assignment. Although Ben did see Dontrelle Willis in Norfolk earlier in the spring.
10. Best Mullet Ever. Sucker was below the shoulder. And you could see the guys gut protruding from under his shirt. Alas, our hands were full of hot dogs and beer and no one could take a picture.
11. Fireworks again! There were loud noises and shiny, colored lights. You know the deal.
12. Chopper the Groundhog had the biggest rictus smile we’ve seen. He also got into an argument with a fan that wasn’t clapping with him, badgering him with personal claps and eventually flicking his stub tail at him.
13. Tomahawk Chop was in abundance. Still not as robust as a comeback at the Ted, but whatcha gonna do.
14. Tyler Flowers, the guy the Braves traded to Chicago for a year of Javier Vasquez, was abysmal behind the plate, with ugly stops and a throwing error. Zach’s most used heckle of the trip: Your job is CATCHER! From the English: TO CATCH!.
15. Still no one laughs at Zach’s “DEBIT” or “CASH ONLY” cries after the “CHARGE” theme. Kudos to Meg in Chicago, the only person in the history of ever to be amused by the joke.
16. Ratty grounds keeping makes the infield grass look like it has mange. This is good bonus points for “diversity”
17. Snazzy, new park. No troughs.
18. What is it with foamy beer in Georgia? We held up the hot dog line, because we kept getting trapped gaseous particles instead of a beverage. C’mon Georgia Kegs!
19. We were surprised to see that a majority of Gwinnett’s roster was actually older than us. We haven’t kept precise numbers thus far, but we’re willing to bet that this hasn’t happened more than a couple of times before.
20. Other ex-Braves included Diory Hernandez, Brandon Hicks, and Ruben Gotay. Career minor leaguer JC Boscan was present and did not play. Nor did we see Julio Teheran or Mike Minor, just measly old Erik Cordier.

Biased Metrics
Beer: 5 points, give or take. We weren’t really in the mood to do actual math.
Concession Item: 6 points. And another for having both a Braves Dog and a Georgia Dog.
Minor League Personalities: 6 points Local Celebrity (Martin Prado), Minor League Diehard (we count now, right?), Major League Fans (clearly, given the reception Prado got), Drunkard, Teenagers on a date, Families (uh, I guess we count for this one too?)
Bloggers Free Seats: No, but, again, Braves.
Tailgating: 4 points. Not St. Paul, but there did seem to be grass spots specifically designed for tailgating.
Funniest Name: 3 points. I guess Lastings Milledge. But he’s been high profile, so it’s not as funny.
Promotion: 2 points. It existed.
Diversity: 1 point. Pasty white crowd. Lousy grounds keeping.
Men’s Room: 3 points. Surprisingly better than Rome.
Bonus Points: 90 for name recognition. 70 for the old players. 1 point for each foam particle they poured from our beer. 878709879 for the Chop. 413231421342 for Mullet Man. 13487094317 for Just Read the Highlights so I don’t Have to Type Everything Else Out.
Final Score: Lots. Go Braves.

Well, that concludes the road trip. Stay tuned for some sort of summary of the trip in the next few days. Stay Scrappy.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 21: Rome Braves; Rome, GA. Don't You Mean the Wigsphere? And the Scrappy Journeymen Feel Rome, Rome on the Range

Today, the Scrappy Journeymen headed home. It's not the end of our trip just yet; still the Gwinnett Braves to come tomorrow. But instead of shelling out the money for another night of hotels or campsites, we decided to head back toward Atlanta today. Which is perfect, because we wanted to hit up our favorite team's Low-A Affiliate, the Rome Braves.

We left Lexington around noon after hitting up a local Waffle House and at least stopping by Legends Field to take a look at the stadium. It looked real pretty, but it's impossible to know how good the game experience would've actually been. Regardless,  I insisted on stopping there to get a sweet Legends T-shirt with their mustachioed mascot on it, which I'd planned to buy during the prior day's game.
Dang that's a sweet shirt. And what's even sweeter? They had it in purple! In my size!

After that we headed south, forsaking the Colonel Sanders museum for a much more important destination: Knoxville! Knoxville! Knoxville! Both Ben and I concurred. Why Knoxville, you might wonder? Remember the 1982 World's Fair, and that sweet Sunsphere? Well, I had to see it. Why again, you ask?
I was expecting less well-kept tourist attraction and more dilapidation, wigs, and Al Gore.

Naturally, I had to indulge my inner Nelson and chuck a rock at it. Unfortunately, my arm was not as effective as Nelson's, as I was unable to bring the tower down in one shot.
Remember, everyone: we're parked under the Sunsphere.

Despite this most ignominious failure, we continued plowing south through Tennessee, where we encountered a most curious sign on a vending machine at a rest area.
Now, much like the Swedish chainsaw that warns you not to stop it "with your hands or genitals," the question that pops to my mind is: Someone had to try this - and complain - to cause this warning to be posted. Right?

At first I thought this was simply a sign put up by one of the "If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for you" type-folks, but Tennessee is a surprisingly cosmopolitan state. They even list distances on some roadsigns in kilometers.

Anyway, we arrived in Rome just in time for first pitch!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 20. Lexington, KY: In Which Our Heroes Exchange One Small White Ball for Another, OR God Taketh Away (Baseball), And Giveth Back (Mini Golf), OR How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mini Golf

If it's one thing religion is really useful for, it's as a scapegoat to abdicate your own responsibilities. So, God punished the Scrappy Journeymen today by causing Zach to forget - in and amongst the hundreds of details you have to work out to make a roadtrip like this click smoothly, it turns out - to check the time of the game in Lexington today.

Consequence: we left Elyria (25 miles west of Cleveland) right as the Legends game was starting. Since the technology for teleportation doesn't exist yet, this was a problem.

Yet when Allah closes a door, he/she/ze/it is supposed to open a window, right? So over lunch at a Wendy's, Ben and I decided to check over the Roadside America maps for Ohio and Kentucky between our location and the hotel we'd already booked in Lexington. What we saw caused us to salivate even more than my lunch.

We drove 2.5 hours to stop outside Waynesville, OH at the Silver Spur Western Shop, where I donned my cowboy hat and went inside to take a look at the biggest collection of western boots and huge Texas belt buckles I'd ever seen. But what we really came for was outside the store: one of the best advertisements I've ever seen:
When I die, I want my ashes to be carried in either this or a clown car to whatever cannon you guys are going to fire them out of.

We then doubled-back across I-71 to the even littler town of Blanchester for a visit to the World's Largest Horseshoe Crab. It's outside a creationist church and is supposed to represent the overwhelming evidence against evolution. I mean, c'mon, it looks exactly like a trilobite! Therefore, evolution NEVER HAPPENED, doy.

Say what you want about their beliefs, there's no denying that is one big goddamn crab.

You can take a nap inside the crab. Really nice on a hot day like this one.

The structure was part of a larger Scripture Garden.

I'll give them this: they're proud of their status. And they appeared in Twilight: Eclipse! So, to recap: evolution, bullshit. Vampires and werewolves? Toooootally legit.
YES! What would a creationist scripture garden be without DINOSAURS?!

We then made the burn for Lexington, where we saw an indication that Lexington might be the biggest party town ever.
To be fair, it would be better if their water tower were a red Solo cup. But still.

Then we checked into our hotel and jetted across town for the highlight of today's activities, and a true gift from Providence: Bible-Themed Mini-Golf!!!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day 19. In Which Our Heroes...Take a Break?

OK, folks. After working the holidays, we've decided we deserve a vacation. So, for the first time in 19 baseball.

Consequently, I'm keeping this post short. Of course, we spent our day off resting. By which I mean we woke up at 8am and went to Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH, the self-proclaimed "Roller Coast of the U.S." Where we spent almost 10 hours walking around in 90-degree heat, waiting in lines in 90-degree heat, and riding coasters in 90-degree heat.

There were indeed some impressive coasters. We rode them. Nothing I can say about them will do them justice.

Many of them were rough. I got a headache. If you go, RIDE MAVERICK. Ride Millennium Force if the line isn't too bad. Iron Dragon is a novel design, but it does not earn its supposed thrill rating of 4 out of 5. RIDE RAPTOR (protip: it's at the start of the park, so if you curl back late in the day there's virtually no line). If you ride Magnum, do NOT push the lap bar down too tight, as it'll kill your thighs. Ride Gemini and Blue Streak. Do NOT ride Mean Streak unless you hate your spine/love your local spine surgeon. Ride Mantis. There, I'm done.

Then we had Italian food for dinner.

And watched this week's Tosh.0.

Then I wrote two blog posts.

Now I'm going to bed.

Tomorrow, on to Lexington, KY, then home to Rome and Lawrenceville, GA to close out our journey on a couple of our favorite team's farm squads. Looking forward to it!

Day 18. Lake Erie Crushers; Avon, OH. What do IHOP Waiters, Baseball Players, and Fireworks Techs All Have in Common?

Oh, justice will be served and the battle will rage:
This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage.
An' you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A.
'Cos we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way.

Hey, Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list,
And the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist.
And the eagle will fly and it's gonna be hell,
When you hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell.
And it'll feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you.
Ah, brought to you, courtesy of the red, white and blue.

-Toby Keith, Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue

These were the words that were (regrettably? awesomely?) stuck in my head when I woke up this morning. By which I mean they were the words I was belting out in the shower this morning. And that I had on the radio in the car as we drove from Toledo to the (not-so-)little town of Elyria 25 miles west of Cleveland, where my friend Tricky and his family awaited us with a generous offering of shelter.

Before taking advantage of that, though, we had to take advantage of another great American tradition: IHOP. Only because there was no Waffle House, of course. But still. Thanks for working the holidays, guys! I'd hope you got double-time for that, but I know there's no use.

Anyway, we headed on to Elyria, where I immediately set to work re-paying Tricky's family with my (in?)famous Binney Burgers, an ancient family recipe handed down for generations from our first American ancestors in Boston in the 1600s.

By which I mean I accidentally stumbled on the recipe while drinking heavily at my friend's lakehouse in 2006. Tomato, tomahto. Regardless, I grilled up a batch (well, if you can call propane "grilling"...but the sign of a great chef, and indeed a great man, is to work with what you have) and I believe his family agreed they were tasty. I was just happy to take advantage of any chance to play with fire on the 4th. Shout out to Tricky's sister, Marin, for some delicious patriotic cupcakes after the game (strawberries, whipped cream, and blueberries!) and his mom, Sheila, for some superb potato salad and beans.

After dinner 7 of us piled in his family's van for the short drive out to the Lake Erie Crushers game. So, without further ado...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 17. Toledo Mud Hens; Toledo, OH. In Which Our Heroes Find the Sketchiest Ice Cream Truck Ever, Root for Jamie Farmadillo, and Zach Changes His Tune.

Thanks to another long night courtesy of Independence Day and the urge it raised after that to kill more aliens, we got a bit of a late start today. That barely left us time to make the burn to Toledo before first pitch, but we squeezed in just under the wire. Good thing, too; the game was nearly a sellout. More on that later!

In our one meaningful pit stop at a Speedway for gas, something awesome happened without any outside interference for me:

I celebrated by purchasing the lunch of champions: A Coke Cherry Zero, Jamaican Jerk Slim Jim, Milky Way, and a lotto ticket.

Anyway, then we got to Toledo. And I gotta say, my first impression of this town was a little sleazy. But really I'm just basing that on their ice cream trucks. Which all had large red signs saying "Watch Children." Well, all except this guy, who just took it to the next level.
My mom always told me not to accept free candy from strangers. But if I buy it from this guy, that's totally legit, right?
Yeah, that's right, run! We can still see it says "Watch for Kidz" on the back.

Anyway, we carefully avoided all vans and made it to the stadium, which was walking distance from our hotel. How convenient, Toledo...

Before I get on to the actual baseball, I just want to give big ups to the three generations of fans in front of us - C.J., Javian, and Justin - for taking time to give us their thoughts on the stadium and the team. We always appreciate an opportunity to get locals' takes on their parks here at Scrappy Journeymen. Even though we know we already have all the answers.

To the game!

Day 16. Joliet Slammers; Joliet, IL. In Which Our Heroes Commit Crimes, Go to Jail, and Discover a True American Treasure of the Encased Meats Variety.

Our final day in Chicago began innocently enough, as we rousted ourselves after a night of playing Halo and drinking 'til 3am for a trip to a true Chicago institution, Hot Doug's. If you've never been and live in Chicago, shame on you. The owner - Doug, of course - is a master of the art of the encased meat. He's the Emperor of Encasings, the Sultan of Sausage, the Baron of Bratwurst, the Archduke of Andouille, the a Guru of Gourmet Hot Dogs.

How gourmet can hot dogs get, you ask? Well, highlights of our trip included the duck sausage dog with foie gras, the rattlesnake sausage, and a turducken sausage with brie and bleu cheeses on top. Oh, and the fries cooked in duck fat. My hot dogs have a new first name, and it's D-O-U-G Doug.

Of course, we had to wait in line for 90 minutes to get them. In 90-degree heat. With no water. Or at least until an enterprising ice cream truck operator just planted himself outside the line. Brilliant, and most welcome! I had a Mega Missile pop, the only correct popsicle to eat this time of year.

Oh, did I mention our whole meal was free courtesy of Megan's bravery? She has gotten the Hot Doug's logo tattooed on her body. Like, for reals, guys. Which means she and her friends eat free for life. Doug, you're my hero once again.

After this, we picked up my friends Evelyn, Fix, and Loranne and all 6 of us packed into my Corolla for the hourlong trip to Joliet. I'm sure it felt longer for those in the back, but if it's any consolation, guys, I was really entertained. Really should've done some donuts in the Wal Mart parking lot, though.

Post-game we headed back to Chicago to watch our favorite scenes from the greatest movie of all time while drinking copious amounts of appropriate Irish and Mexican beverages. It was glorious, but it's making the grind out I-80 for Toledo today just a bit less pleasant.

Anyway, to the game!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 15. Kane County Cougars, Kane County IL. Classic Chicago Cuisine and Baseball at Comic-Con

Well, we saw our 3rd KC team this evening. It was even a Royals affiliate, and their logo was so similar (though green) that we can only assume that the Royals sought out Kane County simply because of their initials.

But before that, I got introduced to Chicago’s famous Harold’s Chicken. Fried Chicken fresh from the pot with Mild and Hot Sauce and salt and pepper does a number on one’s sinuses. Paying for it across bulletproof glass just added flavor to the meal.

Subsequently we did laundry, but you aren’t reading this blog to hear about things you can do in your own home, so imagine that it was super-amazing laundry with laser guns and dinosaurs and giant ape statues.

The game, though, involved none of those things.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 14. Windy City Thunderbolts; Midlothian, IL. In Which the Gang Totally Doesn't Start a Fire, Finds Shelter From the Storm, and is Reminded How Much We Love DAAAAAAAAA BEARS.

Sweet Home Chicago! There isn't too much to report from the road today, except that if anybody is looking for a business opportunity, try opening up a Wendy's in rural Illinois. That's what we wanted for lunch, and we had to drive over 50 miles for one. And when we got there, the line was out the door. I'd never seen that! Wendy's, you clearly haven't saturated the Illinois market or the arteries of its citizens. Get on that.

We continued on to Chi-city, where Ben and I killed a couple hours at Powell's Books on 57th Street. If you've never been, and you like...y'know, books, you should go. It's epic. And they have three shelves dedicated to baseball. WAHOO!

I decided to play the Walgreen's game (for those of you not familiar, going to a drug store and buying the wackiest combination of items you can to confuse the cashier) at Powell's. So I bought a book about end-of-life care (a take on the Terri Schiavo case from a law professor, specifically), a Thomas Pynchon novel, and a Philip Roth novel. Draw your own conclusions.

Then we dropped our stuff off at my friend Megan's place and proceeded south to the suburb of Midlothian for that night's game.

The game was cut short due to rain, but the 'Bolts were up 6-1 after 6 innings, so that's a victory. We left when they rolled out the tarp, and it was a good thing, too. 'Cause the lights went out about 15 seconds after we hit the road.
Meh, no one cares about traffic lights in Chicago, anyway.

We almost got washed off the road, then it started hailing like a mother right as we were a few blocks away from Meg's place. We took shelter under a bridge, then ditched the car on 53rd Street and took shelter in a most reputable neighborhood establishment. 

The beer is up to $7.25 a pitcher now (I can't keep living this rock 'n roll lifestyle, man), and Ray no longer tends bar, but I still love the place. The lights were on, and we ran into my old drinking buddies Other Megan and JP there. I can't tell you how good it felt to run into my old haunt out of a hailstorm on a random Thursday 3 years after I leave town and find 2 friends there drinking like old times. Glad some things never change.

Now, back to reminiscing about the game.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 13: Quad City River Bandits; Davenport, IA. In Which Our Heroes Disprove Linear Time, Find Jesus Twice Simultaneously, and Gamble Away Their Gas Money

There are two main things we learned today. First, Minnesota has nothing in it except awesome independent baseball.

Second, Iowa is on the way to everywhere. We have now officially entered and/or exited Iowa six times, at least once from each cardinal direction. We tried not to stop here, but since gambling is legal Zach forced us to.

On a related note, we're pretty fried. Over the past three days there has been a lot of driving: over 24 hours' worth. Ben finished rereading Suetonius’s biographies of the Julio-Claudians and the Flavian dynasty of Roman Emperors. Zach napped. That's why we're so glad to be hitting the road for just 3 hours today before spending 3 glorious days in my adopted hometown of Chicago. Let us know if you're in the area!

Now, as a result of all this driving, we did get to see some awesome things. For example, we got to see the world’s largest frying pan. It is exactly what it is. A big frying pan. Worth seeing but not describing.
There. Worth seeing.

Unfortunately, we're just a bit early for the event of the summer there in Brandon.

We also saw the Czechiest diner ever when we stopped for breakfast in New Prague, Minnesota. Just check our their SWEET jukebox.
Czech out that sweet polka collection. Beat that, any other bar or restaurant or bowling alley in the world. And the best part? It's ALL FREE!

Much more awesomely, we got to see the future birthplace of Captain James Tiberius Kirk. If you don’t believe the recent-ish movie, you probably know that the captain of the Enterprise (or in this case, the Riverside, due to small Iowa towns not wanting to pay royalties to Paramount) will be born in Riverside, Iowa in 2233. There is a model of the Enterprise (excuse me, U.S.S. RIVERSIDE), a plaque behind a barbershop that's supposed to become the actual birthstone, and a Kum ‘n Go at which we got much needed gasoline. We can only hope a woman in Riverside actually has a kid and names him James Tiberius Kirk in 2233.
Guys, it's not the Enterprise. That would've cost $40,000.

Screw linear time. Linear time killed my family way back in 2027.

We continued on via some fun state and county roads to Davenport, Iowa. There, the ballgame happened. After St. Paul, the rest of the world of MiLB just seems a little...duller, though, frankly, a little warmer. Minnesota camp sites are chilly even in late June.

After the game, I (Zach) decided to gamble away the trip's gas money. Fortunately, thanks to a video poker full house that won $50 and 10 or 11 (I lost count) straight dealer busts at the Blackjack table, I was up a hundred bucks. Which I promptly spent on alcohol and front row seats for the Georgia Force arena football league team. Man, I love gambling.

Anyway, back to the deadliest game of all.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 12. St. Paul Saints; St. Paul, MN. Train, Karaoke With a Real Japanese Guy, and Justin Bieboar Combine for the Best Overall Fan Experience Yet

We drove from Lincoln, NE to St. Paul, MN today, our longest pure burn of the trip. For those of you from the Midwest, you know this pretty much took up the entire early part of the day. But that's totally OK, because this will still be our longest post of the trip courtesy of the greatest all-around fan experience to date.

I should note, though, that we stopped at a Culver's for lunch. This was Ben and my first time at one of these establishments, which it turns out is, according to Ben, a low-rent Friendly's. I call it the illegitimate lovechild of a Hardee's and Dairy Queen, but either way it's pretty epic.

Also, Iowa has the best rest stops ever. Free wireless, a clean energy theme for some reason (oh right...ethanol and wind, 'cause if it's one thing Iowa has its corn and empty spaces), and vending machines that function as an oasis after three verdammten states of PepsiCo.

Coke Cherry Zero? And I don't even have to get off the highway? Iowa, I'd drive through you to get to my real destination that's not in Iowa any day. 

I will also say this for Minnesota: there are a lot of lakes. And even in June, the weather feels bizarrely pleasant, like October in Atlanta. So that's been a nice break.

Also, huge ups to my friend Sarah, her stepbrother Dan, and especially his colleague Chelsea (as well as the entire Saints organization) for hooking us up with an amazing night neither Ben nor I will forget for awhile. Many of the tidbits under the highlights section were courtesy of Chelsea's guided tour.

Day 11.2. Lincoln Saltdogs; Lincoln, NE. WOOOOOOOOO! Indeed, and Never Call Nebraska Conventional.

After our first game of day 11 in Omaha, Ben and I decided to take U.S. 6 instead of I-80 back to the hotel in Lincoln for a rest before the second part of our doubleheader. Now, we took U.S. 6 because there's something up there that has no earthly business in a Maine hayfield. By which I mean, no earthly business anywhere in Nebraska. Which is more than a thousand miles from any meaningful water source requiring this entity's presence.

I'm pretty sure Nebraska isn't any Native American dialect's word for “land with any non-river water source whatsoever.”

But it provided some amusement and a good photo-op, so I'll allow it. We then headed back to our hotel for an uneventful three hours until the Lincoln Saltdogs and Gary Railcats that night. And man am I glad we rested up.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 11.1: Omaha Storm Chasers, Omaha, NE. In Which the Storms Are Chased, and the Fat Lady Sings.

Like the scrappy journeymen we are, we made up for yesterday by taking in two games in different Nebraska cities today. At least I think it was two different cities. I dunno, Nebraska pretty much looks the exact same for 400 miles. What follows is an account of the first, and a later post will recap our night in Lincoln.

There's not a ton to talk about aside from the game, as we pretty much woke up and jetted off to Omaha for a 1205p start. But in case of any of you were wondering why the game didn't happen yesterday, this would be why:

Tornado watch.
Baseball watch.

Oh, and for any of you wondering, don't worry. The levels of radiation from that flooded nuclear plant north of Omaha are only enough to give us superpowers, not cancer.

Anyway, to the game!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 10. Omaha, Nebraska, sorta: Rain Ruins Everything and We Get Some Sleep.

Up at 6 to make the 6 hour drive to Omaha. Normally a 3 hour drive, but apparently I-29 is flooded and will be for some time. I can’t imagine what would happen if they up and said “You can’t use 85 between Atlanta and Greenville until mid-July”. But everyone in the (Mid)West has been really friendly so far, so I imagine they’re pretty chill about this as well.

Anyway, we make the 2 o’clock start for the Omaha Stormchasers with plenty of time to spare and found our seats with a beer and sandwich apiece. Then we got back up and took cover in the concourse as a rain delay started. The club was nice enough to broadcast the Royals game on the Less-Than-Jumbotron, so we at least got some entertainment. We kept checking the weather on Zach’s Futurebox and kept seeing the archipelago of storm cells draw out and linger and never really go away. Anyone who knows Zach’s penchant for adverbs can probably imagine his commentary on the proceedings.

After an hour and 20 minutes or so, they called the game and rescheduled it for noon tomorrow. We exchanged our tickets for then and moved on to Lincoln for the night. Foresight did us straight and we now sit in a comfy motel room, rather than a KOA campground, as thunderstorms and tornado watches swarm around.

We’ll have a more thorough review tomorrow (weather permitting), but here are some quick highlights from the Stormchasers non-game.

I (Ben) got to hi-five the mascot that wasn’t a tornado. He was kinda fuzzy.

Zach saw a Dolphins fan and a Braves fan. We’re now giving points to fans for each 1000 miles away from their home team.

Turns out Omaha’s first season was in 1969. Their first manager was Jack McKeon. The same Jack McKeon who has just been named interim manager of the Florida Marlins.

Saw a Sarah Palin t-shirt. Not to get political, but here was our discussion after the sighting.
Ben: Is being a Palin supporter like being a fan of the Yankees if they were unpopular?
Zach: Maybe kind of like having Melky Cabrera as your favorite player? Can’t be the Yankees because they win anyway.
Ben: The Mets then.
Zach: Not evil enough.
Ben: Like hell they’re not evil enough.
Zach: They’re bad guys, but not evil. They’re incompetent. They’re like Dr. Evil.
Ben: Remind me why Sarah Palin is evil.
Zach: She steals millions of dollars from her supporters who buy into her bullshit.
Ben: And the Mets…
Zach: … steal millions of dollars from their supporters who buy into their bullshit.

And, uh, the stadium kept us dry for the most part? Not really that much more to say about today. Double Header tomorrow in Omaha and then back in Lincoln.

Day 9. Kansas City T-Bones; Kansas City, KS. In Which the Gang Comes Un-Henged, and Kansas Demostrates the Dictionary Definition of Juxtaposition

 I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but before this morning Ben and I had not yet stopped by a Waffle House during our journey. This morning, after breaking down our rain- and mud-soaked tent (again) – and, relatedly, making the call that tonight we'll stay at a hotel – I am happy to report we rectified that.

Then we drove an hour up north of Kansas City to a little town called Smithville and its local park for what was encouragingly termed “Woodhenge.” After getting to the park where it supposedly was and asking the gate attendant and a park ranger where it was, we took 15 minutes to finally stumble across the sign indicating its presence. Excitedly, we marched along the path.

Alack and Alas, what it amounted to was a bunch of stakes in the ground, possibly due to it being a historical sight under rehabilitation. BOOOOOOOOO.
Worst. Henge. Ever.

Fortunately, the day got much, much better very quickly. We sped off for Topeka, where an hour later we saw both Truckhenge and Boathenge. Both are creations of a – I won't call him a hero, but sometimes there's a man – named Ron Lessman. As he describes it, Truckhenge came about after the county came knocking on his door for having dilapidated trucks on his property. When they asked him to pick them up, his response was:
Ron: They told me to pick 'em up, so I *insert rude gesture* picked 'em up!

We were both thrilled with the result, and Boathenge was no slouch, either!

Ron is much more than just Truckhenge, though. The guy's an artist and museum curator rolled into one. Take, for example, his “Boxcar Full of Bones,” or his many sculptures of beer bottles:
The Beergloo. Now that's a living arrangement I can get used to.

And he's painted the entire floor of his house, as well as many blankets.

And the man's sense of humor is top-notch. Take, for example, the world's largest ball of Christmas lights:
Me: That's the world's largest ball of Christmas lights?
Ron: You know of another one?
Me: *Blank stare* Fair enough.

Ron also keeps 3 dogs and an indeterminate number of peacocks on his property. He kindly let us have a feather and a piece of petrified wood. In return, I bought a Truckhenge T-shirt and left a pair of old hiking/work boots up in one his trees for his latest installation, the Tree of Lost Soles.

Musicians, take note: Ron loves to hold heavy metal concerts at Truckhenge, and they tend to come with 100-yard long bonfires. You guys want the most bad-ass venue you'll ever play? I don't know how you could top this.

University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt Judges, take note: WHY THE HELL DID WE NOT GO HERE DURING THE 2007 KANSAS ROADTRIP? I have lost whatever shred of faith I may have had left in you. Ron would love to host us one year, so please, get some teams down to Topeka, k?

As if Ron had not given us a clear enough example of the state's renowned niceness, on our way back down the Kansas Turnpike KDOT decided to thank us for our patience in construction zones with slogans on overpass billboards such as “We Know It's a Pain to Travel in Just One Lane” and (I'm paraphrasing) "We're Really Sorry, but This Road Just Has to be Re-Paved." Oh, Kansas. We love you, too.

After Truckhenge, we hurried back to Kansas City for some Arthur Bryant's BBQ (thanks, Scav Judges!) and Kansas City T-Bones baseball!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 8: Kansas City Royals, Kansas City, MO. In Which Our Heroes are Irradiated, Detoured by Flooding, Almost Crushed by Rob Riggle, and Nigh Immolated by Post-Game Fireworks

Ben and I would like to hereby lodge our official petition to have Missouri re-named the Out-To-Get-Me State. It's been a lot of fun, really, but this state has been full of borderline toxic situations. To wit, day 8.

We began by bidding a fond sod off to our host of the past 3 nights, Jason. We then hit the road west and, a half hour later, stopped off at the Weldon Spring Site Remedial Action Project (known by the smooth-flowing acronym WSSRAP or its name on Roadside America, the Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail). This is, in a nutshell, a site where the army took over and dismantled 3 towns during WWII, displacing its residents and putting in their place an explosives manufacturing plant (primarily DNT and TNT).

Then in the '50s and '60s the DOE repurposed the site to refine the ever-loving shit out of thousands of tons of uranium ore.  In 'Nam it was almost used for Agent Orange manufacturing. Then in the mid-80s someone was like, whoa, maybe we should Superfund that ho?

From the early 90s til 2001, they basically tore everything down and folded thousands upon thousands of tons of contaminated soil, water, and sludge into a giant "containment cell" which looks like a huge mountain of rocks (but is actually spectacularly engineered).

Anyway, for some incomprehensible reason, you can totally climb all over the containment cell. For reasons even less comprehensible, we totally did. It was...well...

Zach surveys the New World Order from atop The Cell

So as if that wasn't dangerous enough, we then went to Jack in the Box for lunch. Then, baseball.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 7: River City Rascals, O'Fallon Missouri. Yes yes yes yes yes yes! Ben and Zach Scratch an Item Off Their Bucket List

Much like Xenu (I'm guessing?), we began our seventh day with a nice long rest. We figured we deserved a sabbath after spending the previous 6 days building a universe. By which I mean spending an extended period of time the night before drinking and gambling into the wee hours of the morning. To be fair, though, the game had many amusing moments, like this deal (completely unstaged) of 7-card stud.

We also had a nice Texas flop of 6-6-6. Good omens just abound on this trip.

Anyway, we finally got rolling around 1p and grabbed some lunch at Panera (or for you old-schoolers, as it's still known around here, the St. Louis Bread Company). We then hit the road to St. Clair, MO to see the town's two famous water towers. Yes, two. Why two, you ask?

Well, obviously.

We then proceeded down Missouri Hwy 30 to the little town of Dittmer, MO, where it turns out another one of my cousins resides in discarded auto parts form. Unfortunately, his metal ass is decidedly tarnished rather than shiny. Also, he's apparently a hippy?

Check out my shoulder for some sweet farmer's tan action and proof of my love for Futurama. All Glory to the Hypnotoad.

After Dittmer we zoomed back across St. Louis to the town of Alton, IL for a pit stop at the World Famous Fast Eddie's Bon Air, whose claim to fame is not changing their food prices since the mid-80s. Ben had some 29-cent shrimp, and I went for the 12 (admittedly small) cajun wings on a skewer for a meager $2.99. Delicious.

But as usual, the day was stolen by our baseball experience. Tonight's stop was another independent professional Frontier League team, the Gateway Grizzlies' crosstown rivals the River City Rascals.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 6: Gateway Grizzlies, Sauget, IL. Consuming Doughnut Burgers, Hitting the Hippie, and Ghost Riding the Whip

We got a late start to the day thanks to Ben's job interview and - more to the point - my supreme laziness after sitting up drinking and chatting with J until 3am. But we started it off with a bang, hitting up Pappy's Smokehouse BBQ here in St. Louis for lunch. It was sublimely delicious, and we received BBQ recommendations for Memphis (where we'll likely be later). Highlight aside from the food was a picture of Willie Nelson holding up one of the restaurant's shirts that said "Yeah...We Smoke."

Then we went to the City Museum. For any of you who don't know about the City Museum, it's essentially what a bunch of mad artists and engineers decided to do with all the crap left over after you build a city. Result: a giant adult playland.

But tonight's game blew all that out of the water.

Day 5. St. Louis: More Bourbon, Rescuing Maggie, and Watching the Cardinals Plummet

This one’s a bit short, due to the notable absence of Minor League Baseball. But, whatever.

Woke up, spent 9 minutes at the Jim Beam distillery to get our passports stamped, and then took the best of the free tours at Heaven Hill. Not quite as fun as Turkey, but the price was right and we got bourbon liquor and bourbon balls at the end.

Then Zach wanted to play mini-golf. He'd discovered an old orange Putt-Putt in Louisville randomly as he was traveling back from Chicago a couple months ago, and we proceeded to wait behind a group of 3 girls between the ages of 2 and 8 and their polite and tired mother as we played their toughest course (the ominously named No. 3). Nevertheless, we got in our 18 holes with an approximate score of Zach +20 to Ben +985.

 Zach’s giddiness did not end there, however, as we discovered a Simpsons Arcade game in the lobby. Neither one of us had played this game in about 10 years, but it quickly came back to us. 5 bucks worth of tokens and two sticky joysticks later (get your mind out of the gutter!), we beat the final form of Mr. Burns and rescued Maggie.

We decided to celebrate by getting in the car and driving 5 hours across 2 states to get to St. Louis. In the rain. Again.

After stashing our stuff at Zach's friend Jason's house, we made for Busch Stadium, which is, it turns out, a very large baseball stadium. Also, it has a Hardee's. And a ton of military hardware, including an Osprey, hanging out front. Thank you, Marine Week.

We got the pitching duel we expected from Roy Halladay and the incomparable Kyle McLellan (batting 8th! Thanks, Tony). Of course, then the bullpen happened. With a 1-run lead, St. Louis gift wrapped the game to the Phillies in the 8th. Lineout, Single, Walk, HBP, HBP, Strikeout, Single, Walk, Walk, Single, Single, Single, Flyout. Suddenly it’s a blowout and we’re in the parking garage coasting down a ramp tighter than the rings on a barber pole.

On the bright side, Jason Motte became just the 10th pitcher in MLB history to hit the only two batters he faced in a game…

The evening concluded with frozen custard and learning recipes from the cashier at Target. Recipes that she was sharing with the people in front of us. Instead of ringing them up and letting us check out.

No scores for today. Hard to judge big league parks with the same standards as minor leagues. And I’m sure you can find other reviews of Busch Stadium elsewhere.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 4. Louisville Bats; Louisville, KY. Zach Reinflates, Our Heroes Drink Delicious Bourbon, and We are Reminded This is a Minor League Roadtrip.

Well, I'm alive and writing the bulk of my first blog post since Day 1 (Ben and I collaborate on the post, but usually one of us takes the lead in writing it up). I no longer fear death, so if anyone's up for some skydiving or bear-baiting or whatever when we get back to Atlanta, let me know.

Also, before I open up this blog post, huge props to Tim Hudson of the Major League Braves for single-handedly laying down an ass-whuppin' on the Toronto Blue Jays. 8 scoreless innings of 2-hit ball with only 1 walk, 8 Ks, and he drove in the game's only 2 runs on a homer. Now that's a well-rounded player. Take your curtain call, Tim. In fact, take two. Bra-freakin'-vo.

Anyway, back to us: we began our day innocently enough with breakfast at the Pink Cadillac Diner at 8am after breaking down our soaked and muddy tent and rain fly. There we were, minding our own business as always, when suddenly...we were attacked by some sort of giant ape, possible a royal member of the Kong family. All was well when Zach recognized him as just another one of his cousins, though. We hope to run into many more of Zach's cousins (read: giant ape statues) on this trip.

Breakfast was delicious. The 5.5 hour drive down I-64 to Lexington, KY less so. Mostly because of one of the top 5 rainstorms I've ever had the pleasure of driving through. We finally decided to give up and ride it out in the shoulder after we saw a Kentucky State Trooper who decided it was too dangerous and did the same. But we live to almost die another day.

We quickly sped to our first main stop of the day: the Four Roses Distillery along the Bourbon Trail. We pretty much stopped long enough to get our passports stamped (if you get all 6 distilleries, you get a T-shirt! We're now 4 down, only 2 to go). We'll have them done tomorrow.

Then we hit up our main stop for the afternoon: the Wild Turkey Distillery. As many of you may know, Wild Turkey is my poison of choice. I tried to buy a T-shirt that encouraged people to “Shoot the Bird” but was thwarted by it not being in my size. After a tasting following our tour, I decided to buy myself a consolation gift of some Wild Turkey rare breed, a 108.2 proof mix of 6, 8, and 12 year-aged bourbon. No words. Should've sent...a poet. Anyone who gives us a place to crash can have a taste!

Ah, right, the ostensible purpose of this blog: baseball.

Day 3. Lynchburg Hillcats: Pitchers of Balls, Pitchers of Beer, and Neofoamic Druids

After staying in the UVA Presidential Mansion's Guest Cottages (thanks, John!) for the evening and seeing much Thomas Jefferson memorabilia (including his Wii), we scuttled from Charlottesville to Lynchburg amidst scattered precipitation. The Lynchburg Hillcats, High A affiliate of your Atlanta Braves, play at Calvin Falwell Field. Since we had just disembarked from Jerry Falwell Highway, we were curious as to the character of the ballpark's patron.

Any concerns we had were quickly assuaged by easily the best ballpark experience we've had thus far.

After the game, we made sure to stop by Foamhenge in Natural Bridge. Built in 6 weeks by Marc Cline and “4-5 Mexicans,” it is a full scale replica of Stonehenge made out of foam. It looks fantastic and even has a life-sized Merlin atop one of the megaliths. Zach and I used to the opportunity to play catch with our new Father's Day balls, though without gloves. This is fun because Zach's hands still burned from being Stupid the evening before.

As for the game...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 2: Richmond Flying Squirrels. Zach Pops, Jimmy Buffet, and Parker the Rally Pig.

Upon leaving Hampton Roads, we made a quick stop to visit the Beach Dude Gorilla Statue near the Virginia Aquarium. This would be the first excuse of the day for Zach to get out his Hawaiian T-Shirt.

Zach visits his cousin on the way out of town:

In Newport News, we discovered the Virginia War Museum. Not wanting to spend the money to walk around in air conditioned comfort, we trotted around the the outside examining tanks, mortars, torpedoes, and atomic cannons. Yes, cannons that shoot nukes. Really really far. Like, far enough that they won't kill the artillery crew. Cool.

Conveniently, the War Museum's tanks were positioned right next to a playground for an easy start to our New World Order.

The heat played havoc with our attempts at shenanigans, as Zach attempted a reenactment of Slim Pickens crowning moment from Dr Strangelove. Torpedoes which sit out in the sun all day tend to be rather warm to the touch and Zach was only just able to straddle it for a picture. This would be the first excuse of the day for Zach to burn himself for a really childish reason.

We arrived at Richmond around 5 and meet John at a place called Caliente for the Man Vs Food Stupid Wings Challenge. Rules were laid out: Zach must eat 8 Stupid Wings in 30 minutes with 1 napkin, no other food or drink until he finished them, and must not puke for the duration of the stay. We had two radically different perspectives on the events that transpired there, so we each give our accounts.

Ben: I have the utmost confidence in Zach as he signs the legal waiver after ordering. He is all smiles and excitement and grins when they put a bubbling plate of lava colored lumps in front of him. After one wing he is breathing heavily, tears in his eyes. After a couple more, the shakes start, his fingers and mouth are covered in sauce, and his sole focus seems to be on exhaling. He finishes the plate about 10 minutes into the time, at which time he consumes 4 glasses of water and begins the first of his four cartons of milk. His whole chin is dyed red from the sauce. Syllables come from his mouth, but are never more than “Milk” or “Water”. His whole face is red as a beet and we had to remove his hat for him. I make trips to the restroom to wet paper towels and put them on his face. His eyes are glazed and teary, his shakes come and go with consistency and we know there are no words we can offer to ease the searing pain he is enduring. The waitress is nonchalant, as she's seen this many times. The woman behind the bar keeps throwing milk at me when I ask. Snot trickles in streams from Zach's nose, but his focus seems entirely on respiration and keeping a constant stream of cooling liquid down his throat. We offer encouragements of “Champ” and “Big Guy” and “Badass”, but we see only glimmers of comprehension in his responses.

Zach: I can say with confidence – and no hyperbole – that I no longer fear death. This was pain unlike any I've ever experienced, including when I snapped my leg in half when I was 9. The physiological response to the spice was unprecedented: I actually went into shock. I lost feeling in the tips of my fingers. I couldn't speak, my eyes couldn't focus, and it was impossible for me to eat the wings any faster than I did. My body would not allow it. It was terrifying. I'm glad I did it; that said, I will never ever attempt anything like that ever again.

Now, baseball.