Friday, September 16, 2011

Outlander! Outlander! We Have Your Woman!

Day One. 7:52pm. The day is over. Well at least the driving part. The Mini Cooper is parked in the lot and the football game is on the TV. It’s novel to have channels to choose from after 9 months of not having cable. It reminds me of when my mom finally caved and had cable installed in the house the summer before I left for college. Soooooo many choices filled with such bad T.V.

Any who. The Hampton Inn and Suites in wonderful Cedar Rapids, Iowa isn’t a bad hotel (for a non-Starwoods property. Shout out to my big, sis!). There is a decent number of sports bars around and the hotel offers free wireless internet along with the NFL channel. Excellent!

The history of Link/Chief (that’s me!) road trips date back to college. The first was an epic ride in a Dodge Neon from Saint Leo, FL to Cranberry Township, PA to Baltimore, MD one Christmas break. There was gambling (RIP video slots in South Carolina), a dashboard that didn’t work, a race to a gas station without a clue how much gas was in the tank due to the non-working dashboard, $0.65 a gallon gas, a picture of me freezing my ass off by a bridge, cows standing on the side of a hill, a Steelers game which led to Link’s mom swearing like a sailor and an epic game of “Name That Athlete” that lasted the entire stat of Georgia.

This trip wouldn’t be as epic. For one thing we’re not in our 20’s anymore. At the restaurant, when Link mentioned it was my birthday, the waitress responded with the “Oh it’s your 29th , right? ” in that “wow, I know you‘re older than my dad, but I want to make you feel good so you’ll tip me better” voice that I remember from my days in a restaurant.

Another difference is the technology. We weren’t flying blind, getting our directions from a paper map and by reading highway signs. Nope, Link had his GPS and I had printed out step-by-step directions from Mapquest in case of catastrophic satellite failure or solar flares. Along with serving as a navigator, Pitt’s biggest fan also closed a few deals, e-mailed a few proposals, played a couple rounds of Words-With-Friends and checked the weather.

The dashboard worked, but gas was not $0.65 a gallon.

The trip was delayed a bit due to Link’s “aborted landing” at Midway. I guess Southwest felt the need to give their passengers a little more time in the air as they bailed out on their initial landing and circled around again. After that bit of delay we were underway with Howard Stern on the radio and sports talk flowing back and forth. In case you were wondering:

1. Steelers got old fast, Link’s expecting a bad team to be saved somewhat by a weak schedule.
2. Crosby will be out at least half the season
3. Pitt is not a good college football team
4. Nobody cared about the Pirates once they started losing and football started

As I was the driver I kind of commandeered the route out to Iowa and since we were staying in Cedar Rapids I managed to chart a northerly route through the great state of Iowa. Why northerly? Well because it would take us to a certain Iowa shrine that I had an itching to visit since I’m not sure how many times I’ll revisit this fine state.

What I didn’t count on was visiting the home of one of the greatest Civil War generals (and one of the greatest drunks) and former president Ulysses S Grant. There was a statue of his wife. We took pictures. She was a…ummm..handsome woman. If I would have remembered my USB cable you would see a picture here:

If you want to visit it yourself drive to Galena, Illinois. You can’t miss it.

After that brief detour it was off to Dyersville, IA. What the hell is in Dyersville? Well, a lot of cows. A lot of corn. Some chickens standing by the side of the road. Most of all, the Real Field of Dreams. That’s right for the low, low cost of nothing you can play ball on the same field as Ray Liotta and Kevin Costner. They even have the white house with the swinging bench on the porch.

Picture of white house that is on my camera that you can’t see.

It is pretty much exactly what you would think it would be. The dimensions are a little smaller than a regulation field and it looks like they had a bit of gravel around home plate, but the bases were 90 feet apart, the mound 60 feet 6 inches away and there were people playing ball on the field. Not an organized game, but more a glorified batting practice.

There were a couple of kids, some elderly folk running around the outfield and a bunch of middle aged guys acting like kids. A kid took a picture of his dad and granddad by the cornstalks in right field and a girlfriend cheered on her man as he took a mighty swing and miss at an offered pitch. If his shoulder wasn’t bothering him I’m sure I could have talked Link into taking a swing or two and possibly launching one into the cornfields, instead he stood on the side and talked a little football with some Iowa locals.

And here would be the picture of the guy fielding grounders at short with a beer in his hand.

I took a couple of calls from my folks and Saint Leo Mike and then snapped a photo or two before hitting the small gift shop. That’s right Hamel, you have something on its way soon! If you’re a baseball fan, there is some kind of special feeling in the air, there probably would have been more if it hadn’t been a chilly, damp afternoon. But, still it felt like a place baseball fans should visit. Heck don’t be ashamed to grab your glove and shag a few grounders either.

After picking up our goodies we were back on the winding roads (isn’t Iowa supposed to be flat) to Cedar Rapids. A decent dinner at the Fieldbox (OMG they have Moose Drool on tap!) and then back to the hotel for football and phone calls to loved ones. Oh yeah, that’s something else that has changed since the college road trip. Road trips are nice, but so is having someone to go home to at the end of it.

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