Baseball, Midwest

Great American Ball Park

Great American Ball ParkA major goal of our only full summer living in the Midwest is to catch games at a bunch of the Midwestern ballparks. Today we went to Cincinnati to see the Colorado Rockies play the Reds in the Great American Ball Park. We had great seats – four rows up in left field. It’s a well-designed ballpark – seemingly not a bad seat in the house – though a bit generic (other than the fascinating riverboat feature in the outfield).

River Boat Deck in Great American Ball ParkIt was brutally hot – every fan in the stadium was just wilting. The kid in front of us kept complaining to his dad about how hot it was, and the dad’s creative response was, “Hey – shut up.”

The game wasn’t particularly exciting – which was actually a good thing, because a lack of runs makes a game go faster.

About halfway through the game, we got up to escape the sun, and took a walk in the shade of the concourse. Unfortunately that was when the Rockies decided to score – we missed the only run of the game. We strolled over to the area behind center field to the misters, only to find that they weren’t misty enough to really cool things off. We found ourselves standing in a spot only slightly more humid than the rest of the air, and decided it wasn’t worth it.

We had a good time anyway. After the game, we cooled off at Rock Bottom in downtown Cincinnati (is it inappropriate to call it “Cincy”? Do people from there hate the nickname like San Franciscans hate “Frisco”?), then went looking for a Skyline Chili in which to have dinner, as we had been instructed.

Kentucky borderAmusingly, as none of the Skylines in downtown Cincy (see, there, I did it) were open on a Sunday evening, we ended up driving across the river to Kentucky to have dinner at a suburban Skyline Chili. At least we had our authentic Cincinnati chili experience.

On the way home, we decided to play chicken with our gas tank. We figured we had just enough gas to get us to Indianapolis, where we knew there was a truck stop selling gas for $2.59. The gas tank counted down to 0 miles left in the tank, when we were just 10 miles outside of Indy. So we had to stop and put in 1.61 gallons (at $2.84/gal) to get us to the cheap gas. But we didn’t get stranded on the side of the road, outta gas. So we’ll call that game of chicken a draw.

Family Adventures, Midwest

Chicago with Minimal Walking

Dave’s parents came to visit us in Champaign, and we quickly ran out of things to show them here, especially since Dave’s mom can’t do a lot of walking (knee problems). So we spent today in Chicago, where we fortunately had a nice, sunny, not-too-hot-and-humid day.

We have just about perfected our parking strategy in Chicago. Since parking can be something like $4 for the first 20 minutes, and $26 for two to 12 hours, it seems to make the most sense to just park the car in the most convenient garage and leave it there for the day. Normally we would then just walk or take the El everywhere, but today we taxi’d everwhere.

We had lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern, made famous by Saturday Night Live, and also by the Cubs’ curse of the billy goat. It’s actually a good place to grab a quick bite to eat, despite being in the netherworld underneath the Magnificent Mile.

Then we went to the Willis Tower – more famously and formerly known as the Sears Tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the third tallest structure in the world. The wait to get up to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor was about an hour, but the way they have it designed, the wait is actually quite tolerable. Visitors stand in lines in various different waiting areas, which are all packed with factoids and exhibits. They even showed a 10 minute movie in the last area before we got on the elevator to go up to the main event. The view of course is spectacular, though today it was rather hazy and we couldn’t see four states as one can on a clear day. The most novel thing is an addition called “the ledge”, which are four windows that protrude out of the building so you can actually stare straight down to the street nearly 1700 feet below. I thought it was pretty cool, but the guy right in front of us sure looked like he was going to lose his lunch.

After that, we took a 90 minute architecture river cruise / tour, sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The cruise starts just off Michigan Avenue and goes up the Chicago River, veering off to the North Branch, then the South Branch, then back down by the Navy Pier, then back again. The woman narrating the tour was a volunteer docent, and she really knew her stuff. Chicago is, of course, well-known for its excellent and varied architecture, so the tour was really a treat. Plus it was a beautiful day (though perhaps a bit sunny to be on the deck of a boat for that long without sunscreen), so it was a nice way to be out-and-about without walking.

We had dinner at a place called Bijan’s Bistro, where the food, the atmosphere, and the service were all top-notch, while still being casual enough that we didn’t feel out of place wearing shorts and T-shirts. If you’re in Chicago looking for something other than deep dish pizza, this is a good choice.

After dinner we retrieved our car and drove around the city a bit (no trip to Chicago is complete without at least a few minutes on Lakeshore Drive), then headed out to Oak Park for a spin around Frank Lloyd Wright’s old neighborhood (though Dave’s mom is mad at him, after having read a book about his mistress) and to pick up some Starbucks before heading home.

So, if you’re ever wondering if there’s a way to spend an entire day in Chicago with someone who can’t really walk around much, I can testify that it can be done enjoyably.