Baseball and Walt Disney World

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Back when Disney bought CapCities/ABC, my contention was that what they really wanted was ESPN, but to get it, they had to buy all of ABC. Not only were they already in the Cable TV business, but there was a lot of synergy they could get out of a Disney/ESPN match up. Just look around Walt Disney World, and you see ESPN everywhere! From the ESPN Club at our resort, to various ESPN themed areas, all the way to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex. (Oh, by the way, there is an ABC Commissary at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but the cafeteria on the 2nd floor of 1330 was a better place!)

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ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex contains what they call a Baseball Quadraplex (4 professional sized baseball fields) that host several tournaments and training programs, Marathon Sports Fields (17 manicured fields) that can host soccer, football, or lacrosse, the HP Field House (4 different basketball courts under one roof), The Softball Diamondplex (6 softball fields, all equipped with lights), a Tennis Complex (featuring 10 clay courts), the Visa Athletic Center (a multi sport facility that houses cheerleading and dance, basketball and volleyball courts, and more), and then, a world class Track and Field complex! It’s also the home of Champion Stadium, which at present is the Spring Training home of the Atlanta Braves.

After I retired at the end of January, 2016, we came down for a couple of Spring Training games, and one of them was the Mets vs the Braves at Champion Stadium. More because of Disney than the Braves, it’s a very well run stadium, and your experience is closer to a major league park than we experienced when we saw the Mets later that same week, in Port St. Lucie. When we were planning this trip, I discovered that the Mets were once again playing the Braves during our stay, and I got tickets. Today was our ballgame day at Walt Disney World!

As we walked into the complex from the parking lot, we were treated to a concert by the Atlanta Braves Philharmonic Saxophone Quartet just outside the main gate. We’d see them again in the field before the game, and during the 7th Inning Stretch!

As the game started, we realized that these were the Unknown Mets playing today. With the exception of Matt Harvey, who pitched the first two innings and Zack Wheeler who pitched one inning, we’d never heard of any of the players. Well, that’s not quite true…Tim Tebow did take 2 at bats, but did nothing really. It was a beautiful day for a ballgame (well it was, once the sun went behind the building and we were in shade…before then, it was HOT), and the seats were great. Although the score went back and forth a couple of times, in the end the Mets came out on top, by adding 3 runs in the top of the 9th, after getting 2 outs, to beat the Braves 6 to 4. Oh, and yes, if you’re interested, they still do the f**king chop, which is perhaps the most annoying thing that happens when you watch the Mets and Braves play!

Matt Harvey, Tim Tebow and the rest of the “Mets”

After a short drive back to the Boardwalk, we dried off and came back to life in the air conditioning of our room. It was a good day, and honestly may be the one and only time we get to watch the Mets play baseball live this year.

Late in the day, after we felt alive again, we took the boat to Epcot and walked the World.

Dinner was Fish and Chips from the Great Britain pavilion.

And then there was some shopping! Susie got a hat and a Minnie windbreaker, and I got a Mickey hat…got to use that 35% Cast Member discount!

Then there was a boat ride back to the Boardwalk, where we watched one of the nightly boardwalk shows….

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Before heading home, we stopped to see Allen at the Bellevue Bar for our nightcaps, where we discovered tonight he is involved with Boy Scouts, so we had plenty to talk about!

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Another Magical Day at Walt Disney World!

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Day Fourteen

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Day fourteen finds us in Loveland, Colorado. After breakfast this morning in Craig, we headed east for our only attraction of the day, Rocky Mountain National Park! I had so wanted Susie to see this and to cross the Continental Divide (yeah, I know), and because of how we planned our trip, visiting the Rockies necessitated a jog back east. We have now reached our eastern most area of the trip, until we officially start heading back east, which will be after we visit Vegas next weekend. From today till Vegas, we either head south or west.

First off, Happy Labor Day Weekend 2016! I was very concerned when I realized that our drive through Rocky Mountain National Park would be on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend! I envisioned bumper to bumper traffic, and parking lots at scenic views full of cars. It turns out that we were going through the park west to east, and most people seem to go the other direction, so we passed more cars coming at us than were traveling in our direction. The scenic turn outs were crowded, but there always seemed to be space at the ones we wanted to stop at. Turns out that my concern was unfounded.

The road through Rocky Mountain National Park is called Trail Ridge Road, but in reality it is US Highway 34. US Route 34 runs for 1,122 miles from Granby, Colorado (where we got on it) and it ends in Berwyn, Illinois at Historic Route 66. The road through the park was built between 1929 and 1933, and is closed from fall to the spring, so in a couple of months, we couldn’t have done today’s drive. In addition to crossing the Continental Divide, our route today reached an elevation of 12,183 feet, making US Route 34 the highest paved through highway in the United States!

We started our trip at Granby, and stopped at the first Visitor Center we saw, which was before the entrance booth of the park. A dark cloud had descended over us, and when we stopped it was raining and the temperature was in the 50s! After a brief stop at the bathroom and the information counter, we were on our way back to the car when a moose came out of the woods, and was munching of a tree behind the center! Susie got a picture with her phone and then we moved on to the park.

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We pulled up to the entrance gate, and I handed the ranger my Senior Pass and driver’s license, and we gained admission! The best $10 I will ever spend. Lucky for us, the dark cloud moved away, and the weather for 90% of our drive on Trail Ridge Road was sunny, but cool. At the highest elevation the temperature dropped to the high 30s! There were a lot of curves, and a lot of switchbacks as we climbed into the clouds. At one point Susie said, “Hello God..we’re in your world now”, and indeed we were! To say that the sights we saw were breathtaking would be an understatement (some of the curves on the road took my breath away, but then that’s a different story!). I really can’t describe adequately what we saw, so here are a selection of some of today’s best pictures, and believe me when I tell you that they don’t do justice to what we saw!

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We exited the park in Estes Park, Colorado and the town was jumping, befitting the Saturday of Labor Day weekend! As we continued on to the hotel, we saw cabins, motels, lodges, and hotels all with “No Vacancy” signs out front! I guess we were lucky to have made tonight’s reservation about a month ago. We’re staying in Loveland, Colorado in a Comfort Inn, one of our favorite types of hotels we’ve discovered on the trip.

The last time we had anything that resembled Italian food, was the Pizza, fried zucchini sticks, and Encaldo salad from Mineola Pizza, that we had on Saturday, August 20th. I said in a recent blog, that we really haven’t seen a lot of Italian restaurants in our travels, and tonight when Susie was doing research on dinner places, she found one that sounded promising. She showed me the menu, and I agreed, so tonight we headed to Biaggi’s Italian Restaurant, just about 10 minutes down the road. It was a good find, and we no longer have a craving for good Italian! Susie had Lasagna Bolognese, I had Rigatoni Bolognese with Sausage, and we washed it down with one of our favorite Proseccos, Mienetto. All that was great, but the star of the night was our appetizer, Calamari Friti – Agrodolce. Oh my God, was it fantastic! When we saw sweet garlic chilly sauce and red peppers, we expected the kind of sauce that is like a duck sauce with hot peppers, but it was so much more. Here’s the description from the menu:

Sweet Garlic Chili Sauce, Sautéed Cabbage, Onions and Red Peppers, Pine Nuts

It was sooooo good!! The cabbage and the onions, mixed with the peppers, and then the fried calamari…what a great combo!!


Random Notes…

I said a couple of days ago, that we had only seen the aftermath of two accidents in our time on the road.  Well today, make that number 3!  Like in Yellowstone last week, there are folks who think that the road signs with pictures of hairy curves, and a 20 MPH suggested speed limit are not for them.  Today, as we were leaving the park, we saw what that kind of thinking can lead to!

I was very happy to have taken my barber with me, and last night at the Best Western Hotel in Craig, Colorado I got a trim. Susie has been cutting my hair since we got married (which will be 37 years later this month), so I am all set for the trip. She is disappointed that she couldn’t take either her hair dresser or manicurist with her! Perhaps she can get both items taken care of in early October when we join Kenny on the Liberty of the Seas for two weeks!

We find that almost every day we either learn something, or make a discovery on our own. Today’s discovery had to do with ice for our cooler. We left NY with a case of water in the car, which we have been drinking all along. As we’ve almost finished all the bottles, the other day in Rock Springs at Walmart we bought a new case. Tonight when we checked into the hotel, we noted that our room refrigerator had a freezer. Susie said, “Hey, why don’t we freeze some of our water bottles and dump them into the cooler instead of buying ice tomorrow?” A simple but brilliant idea that not only gives us ice for the cooler, but also as they melt, gives us icy cold water! I was so lucky back almost 37 years ago when this lady said “I do” to me!!!

Tomorrow, Denver and a Rockies game…not our Mets, but when in Rome, right?!

On the Road Again

So, just to update everyone, we are once again on the road heading north on I-95.  As we write this, we are in a Quality Inn in Ridgeland, South Carolina.  We left our home for 5 days, Disney’s Port Orleans, French Quarter, yesterday imagemorning.  Our first stop was Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie to watch our second NY Mets Spring Training game.  Yesterday they played the St Louis Cardinals, and our seats just to the first base side of home plate, put us squarely in Cardinals’ territory, but the fans were nice, and we had a good time.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Mets won the game 7-2, so our Spring Training record is 1-1!  It was fun to see the Mets play at their home Spring Training venue, but we have to admit that Disney does do it better (big surprise), as the stadium and everything else was better at the Braves Walt Disney World/ESPN home base.

Once we finally got out of the parking lot…no offense, but there were 6000 people there yesterday, about half of them left before the game was over,  and we have less trouble getting out of Citifield when there are 40,000 fans in attendance…we headed up the coast, to visit with Frank’s cousin Jeanne and her husband Walt.  Jeanne is the daughter of Frank’s Mom’s younger brother Bill, and she is just a couple of years older than him.  But, because she grew up in Chicago and Frank in New York, they were not really close cousins.  But, thanks to the Internet, they re-connected and continued a relationship that really hadn’t been active since Jeanne and Walt came to our wedding 36+ years ago.  Honestly, we think the GPS was getting back at us for ignoring some of the directions she’d given us during the previous week, but eventually she did route us in the right direction, and we got to their house in Bare Foot Bay, Florida.  Can you think  a better name for a town in Florida?  Sounds very Jimmy Buffettish to us, and a perfect name!

We had a great evening with them, just talking and exchanging ideas and thoughts, and had a great home cooked steak dinner, which is always nice in the middle of a road trip. We all sat around the dinner table talking way into the night, but with some drinks, and good food, and the feeling of family, it was a wonderful night. Frankly, we got up this morning, and just continued the gab fest, and didn’t leave till almost noon.  It was a great visit (thanks Jeanne and Walt) and we can’t wait to see them again, but next time in Ocean City!  That will be after they take their own road trip, as they are going to their home base in Connetecuit, via Texas and Route 66 starting in May.

imageSo here we are, about 21 miles into South Carolina, and we figure about 12 hours from Mineola.  We just had a really great Southern dinner on the back porch of restaurant just across the parking lot called Jasper’s Porch (now we can say we have had collard greens), and it was a great night. We will have a couple of vodkas now, as imagewe watch a little TV, and then it will be off to bed.  Tomorrow is another day, and we will travel through South and North Carolina, and up into Virginia.  We figure one more night on the road, then it’s Chinese take out, Grey Goose Vodka, the last episode of Downton Abbey, and our couch in Mineola!

Its been a great trip, and we’ve relearned some things that we will definitely use again on our big road trip of the USA this summer.  One thing we’ve definitely learned, we still love being together 24/7, and love car trips!  Let the adventures continue!!!