Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Destination #8: New York, NY (Queens)

Well the 4:00 AM bedtime the night before allowed for an afternoon wake-up on Friday.  I started the day with a walk over to Central Park where I met up with Bri - we spent some time walking around the park where there were at least 3 million where enjoying the absolutely perfect sunny, 80-degree weather (just as in St. Louis I had to ask myself what these people do for a living).  Bri had stopped at a bakery on the way (can't remember the name) and brought the best cookie I have ever eaten.

Since our entire group was spread throughout the city during the day, we all made a plan to meet on the platform for the 7 train at Grand Central Station.  We somehow all - myself, Melissa, Jeremy, Roberto, Vince and Jeremy's friend Mariette - found each other easily and we were off to Queens to take in a game at Citi Field.  We had the opportunity to watch a Subway Series game - Yankees vs. Mets.

Overall, I thought this two-year old stadium was much more enjoyable than the two-year old Yankee Stadium.  We entered through the main stadium gate and into the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.

Since this is obviously a popular game for New York, these were the hardest tickets to come across - we sat in the upper deck area but the seats and view were fantastic.  I sat next to two girls who had never been to a major league baseball game as they were visiting from Austria.

During the game, we headed to the outfield to grab some food at the famous Shake Shack - after a 30 minute wait in line (thanks to Melissa who bought us beer while we waited!), I grabbed the cheeseburger and cheese fries.  The food was great, but I have to say In-N-Out has got them beat. 

The game was low scoring (Yankees won 2-1), but the crowd was very enthusiastic.  By the sound of the cheering - you could not tell who was the home team and who was visiting.  You would frequently hear "Let's go Yankees!" immediately followed by a "Yankees Suck!" and the cheering for Derek Jeter was quickly muffled by all of the booing.  One thing to say is that all of the fans, regardless of who they were rooting for, are passionate about their team...including these guys: 

One other unique thing the stadium featured was orange foul poles:

Following the game, there was really only one option for a post-game drink - a bar attached the stadium called McFadden's (sound familiar?....Philly).  We hurried over to the bar as the Sharks' game was just heading into overtime (now wishing I didn't have to watch that).  

We walked back to the subway station to return to Manhattan - a few of us grabbed a quick drink in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood but then called it a night.  Get a little break before the next game, but next stop is San Diego...

Stay tuned for a recap of the last couple of days in New York City.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Destination #7: New York, NY (The Bronx)

eremy, Roberto, and I checked-out of our DC hotel and headed to Union Station to board Amtrak for a trip into Manhattan.  After a few hour ride and couple of stops at the bar car, we arrived at Penn Station.  Luggage was dropped off and we waited for Vince's arrival.  Once he arrived, it was time to get the pre-game festivities started.  We all boarded the subway (like we were locals) and stopped at a bar - Kinsale Tavern - on the Upper East Side.  We had a couple drinks as we waited for Melissa (my roommate for the next few days) to get off of work and meet up with us.  We jumped back on the subway and made our way into the Bronx to the new Yankee Stadium - it was exciting to see the completed construction as I attended a game at the old Yankee Stadium when I visited Melissa a couple of years ago.

Once we got inside the stadium, we headed to our seats - this is when things got interesting!  Our tickets were in the first row of the outfield bleachers - yes, having the first row is awesome, but being in the bleachers is an experience in itself.  Let's just say the fans were pretty vocal with their opinions for the Tampa Bay Rays. 

We were directly above Rays' dugout, so not only were the outfielders getting an earful but so were all the pitchers.  To accompany all of the beer consumption and yelling, there were a good number of fights and police activity (don't worry, still not worse than a Niner/Raider game).

All in all it was a great experience and definitely a fun game to be apart of!  The Yankees did fall short and the home team record fell back to 4-3.

There were a couple unique things to note - the first was the grounds crew's performance of the YMCA following the sixth inning (I recall them doing this a couple of years ago too).

Secondly, prior to the playing of  "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch they had everyone stand as they played Dean Martin's rendition of "God Bless America".  I really thought that was terrific - and yes, the entire crowd of 45,000 was respectful and singing along. 

After surviving the trenches of battle in the bleachers, we had to find our local post-game spot.  We stumbled across a bar called The Dugout which was under the train tracks directly outside the stadium.  The man outside the front door could tell it was our first time and walked us to their back bar where we could get the $3 beers - surprisingly it was good beer and we all got 16-oz. Rolling Rocks (cheers to you Harvey). 

After finishing a couple of beers it was back to the subway and into Manhattan.  We stopped in the Upper East Side to get Melissa home (she unfortunately had to work in the morning), and then we wall ducked into a bar to grab a quick drink near her apartment.  Well that quick drink turned into multiple pitchers while Vince and I dominate the Beirut table inside Jack Russell's Pub.

We then made one last stop at a bar in Midtown called Ashton's - thank goodness for this picture as none of use remembered the name of the bar in the morning.

Good old New York City kept us out until 4:00 AM on our first night town.....and the adventure was just beginning.  Next stop is still in New York, but out to Queens...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Destination #6: Washington, D.C.

Wednesday's destination was great as we did not have to travel very far from the hotel.  Jeremy, Roberto, and I took advantage of being in our nation's capitol and spent most of the day walking around the historical area.  I last visited Washington, DC with my dad, grandpa, and brother when I was in seventh grade so it was great to revisit some places and take in a few new sites.  We didn't spend any time inside any of the museums or buildings, but did get the opportunity to walk several miles and snap a few pictures (Colson - no judging my photography skills). 

Since we were warned that the area around the new Nationals' stadium doesn't offer much entertainment, we decided to take advantage of the complimentary happy hour at the hotel.  We then caught a cab to make it to the stadium for game time.  Jeremy's friend Sumaya met up with us to attend the game, along with Lynn and Thomas who had a pair of tickets for the evening.  The ballpark as a whole was amazing and by far the best stadium I have seen yet - this brand new structure had quite a few amenities and features that make it stand out above the rest.

After a little help from the friendly (yet toothless) usher Randall, I made my way to the most conformable stadium seat.  Our tickets for the night were in the Centerfield Lounge which was connected to a restaurant/bar with an additional rooftop bar to watch the game.  There was about six feet between our row and the row in front of us so there was plenty of room to stretch the legs.  On top of all that, the ticket included $20 worth of food/drink credit.  It was another fantastic outfield view and I certainly enjoyed game.  The Nationals prevailed over the visiting New York Mets to improve my home team record to 4-2.

The in-stadium photographer took our photos and gave us a website to view.  We found only polite to take her picture and give her this website:

Another piece of in-game entertainment was the Presidents Race - it was four mascots of former US Presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR):

Following the game we discovered a post-game party that was the place to be immediately outside the stadium's gate - basically it was a giant tent, couple of bars, a band, and a few port-o-potties (reminded me of the Jack Daniels' tent at the Reno Rodeo).  It was enough to draw a good size crowd to celebrate their home team's victory.

We weren't quite ready to call it a night and wanted to see some more monuments, this time when they were all lit up at night.  Our first stop was the Jefferson Memorial which I had never been and was a magnificent site at night. 

Only Jeremy and I could rally beyond that and revisited the Lincoln Memorial with a walk back down the National Mall. 

Finally made it back to hotel to order some late night pizza and call it a night.  Next stop, New York City...

Destination #5: Baltimore, MD

Let's just say Tuesday morning did not exist - definitely slept in past noon after the Philadelphia adventure. The day started out by meeting up with Bob, Dana, and Lynn Ferguson - Bob and Dana were in town visiting Lynn so we planned to get together for lunch. We drove into Virginia and ate lunch at Whitlow's On Wilson - the hamburger and beer hit the spot. From there we drove to Fort Meyer to visit where Thomas works and see some of the Army Base - it was very interesting to see some of the responsibilities of the Army's Old Guard.

Following the afternoon in Virginia, Lynn dropped my off at the hotel where I joined up with Jeremy and Roberto.  It was back to the train station to catch a commuter train to Baltimore - it was an easy trip as the final stop of the train was Camden Yards. 

When we first arrived in Baltimore, we did a walk around the stadium and could easily determine where the local pre-game party spot.  Directly across from the first base gate was a strip that contained three bars all serving cold beer.

Here's a note for all you marketing majors - I'm not sure what you learned in school but I think this guy has got an effective campaign:

After enjoying some "cheap ass beer" and chicken wings, we headed into the Orioles Park at Camden Yards for the Orioles vs. Royals game.  This game certainly reminded me of the Bay Area - first, the stadium is very, very similar to AT&T Park.  Second, the attendance made me think I was in Oakland - there were less that 10,000 people at the game on the cold Tuesday evening.  I guess this helps explains how we were able to get such good tickets - we sat in the front row of the center field section (actual seats, not bleachers like AT&T).  It is actually quite a good spot to watch the game and we got very close to some of the action a couple of times.  We even created our own activity when Roberto dropped his new t-shirt over the outfield wall - there is a double wall so it actually did not go into the field of play.  Nonetheless, our usher - David Day - was very accommodating and arranged for it to be retrieved.   Roberto repaid his by purchasing him a hot dog and you would have thought he gave a million dollars as he could not have been more appreciative. 

The game actually went into extra innings - the first extended game of the trip.  The Orioles rallied in the bottom of the 10th inning where they loaded the bases and finally scored to win.  The home team is now 3-2 on my trip.  I guess I also spoke prematurely yesterday as Orioles Park also had the stacked bullpens in the outfield. 

Following the game, we returned to Pickles Pub to grab some more beer and watch the Sharks' game on television - that turned out to be terrible.  Following that ugly defeat, we headed to train station to make our way back to DC.  Jeremy decided to share his climbing abilities as we waited on the platform:

We safely made it back to DC to get rested up for the next day's adventures - next stop: Washington, DC....