boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
free: (adjective) provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment.

7/30/06

vaca recap...

Well, I never really was able to find internet access on the trip. And now, to recount everything at once would be tedious. Besides, most of what happens on a trip is the kind of stuff where "you had to be there." So, I'll just give you a few bites, a few pictures, and maybe I'll write a couple more detailed reflections later. First, the vital statistics:
  • 6 days, 2418 miles round trip, 1 new state visited (New York)
  • 7 times filling up the gas tank
  • 3 audio books listened to-- The Intuitionist, by Colson Whitehead, interesting though ultimately unsatisfying; To Have and Have Not, by Ernest Hemingway, very good but not what you would call "uplifting"; and a live reading performance at Carnegie Hall by David Sedaris, highly recommended
  • 2 state parks camped in-- Dillon S.P. in Ohio and Glimmerglass S.P. in New York, both more than satisfactory
  • 2 halls of fame visited-- Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH (we didn't go in, just took pictures outside) and of course, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY
  • 8 hours spent in the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • 17 hours-- longest single drive, from Cooperstown to Chicago; including a detour to see Niagra Falls and about 500 continuous miles of torrential rainfall from just west of Buffalo, NY to just east of Chicago

The whole point of the trip, besides just getting away, was to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, and it was worth it; it definitely lived up to my expectations. First of all, the only person who really knows me well enough to know this is my wife, but I get teary-eyed and choked up at the drop of an emotional hat. So, just walking into the building, with the sense of nostalgia and shared cultural/emotional investment, I was definitely on the verge of embarassing myself. I don't think the girl who sold me my ticket could tell, but who knows. Anyway, the first exhibit I walked into was a gallery of artwork inspired by the Negro Leagues, and that really got to me. Though the Negro Leagues are an amazing part of American history, the thought of them always makes me rather sad. It is not just for the injustice of segregation, or the struggles of the individuals involved, but also for the loss of the beauty and glory that would have been witnessed in the competition between all players from that golden era of baseball's history. No one really knows whether Babe Ruth or Josh Gibson was a better home run hitter. People can only wonder if Oscar Charleston might be the greatest center fielder of all time. The possibilities and conjectures go on and on. Well, to sum it up, it was a good start to the day. The art was good too, and I took some pictures, but none of them turned out well enough to do it justice.

The coolest part about the museum was the "timeline of baseball", which was essentially the entire second floor taken up with equipment, uniforms, and other artifacts and memorabilia that mark the history of the sport and its place in cultural history. Baseball has been played in a relatively organized and professional way since the 1870's, so there's a lot to that history. Again, since all of the stuff was behind glass, none of my pictures do justice to the objects except to remind me of what I saw. But here is a list of the top 5 cool things I saw at the hall of fame:

  1. the glove Willie Mays was wearing when he made "the catch" of a Vic Wertz fly ball in the 1954 World Series; it was rather small, about the size your average pre-teen little leaguer would wear today
  2. the baseball from the last out of the 1889 World Championship Series; I think it was the oldest thing I saw
  3. the letter sent by president Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942 to baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis advising him that, in the president's opinion, it would be in the best interests of the country to keep Major League Baseball operating during the war in order for the country to have a means of recreation during a time of difficult and diligent work
  4. the shoes worn by and the baseballs hit by Hank Aaron to tie and break Babe Ruth's then record 714 home runs in 1974
  5. the last ball thrown in the World Series of 1903, recognized as the first modern championship, striking out Honus Wagner no less
There were some other cool sections to the museum. The third floor had an assortment of artifacts from old stadiums and various important events and individuals from baseball history. It also had the "records room" with toteboards of the current and all-time leaders in various important statistical categories. Then there was the continuous video reel of Laurel and Hardy's "Who's on First" skit, with a baseball blooper reel shown in between each playing. "Who's on First" is hilarious if you're willing to go with it, but tedious and enfuriating if you're not--I am. (The version I linked to on YouTube isn't the best one, but it was the only one I could find without trying too hard.) And finally, there was the actual "Hall" of fame, with plaques for all the players inducted as the best in baseball's history. Today was actually induction day. Bruce Sutter, of the Cardinals and others, entered the hall, along with 17 former Negro League players and executives, including one woman. That nearly doubled the previous 18 Negro Leaguers who were already in the Hall. For some unknown reason, Buck O'Neil was not voted into the Hall, though he has long been well worthy. Not only was he a great player, was a long time scout, coach, and manager, as well as ambassador for the game. He was the shining star of Ken Burns' famous and outstanding "Baseball" documentary on PBS. He was also one of the driving forces behind the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, which I hope to visit some day.

One of the bright spots of the trip was the town of Cooperstown itself. It wouldn't be much without the Hall of Fame, but it's a nice little town, situated next to a lake, with quaint shops tucked in amongst the memorabilia stores, and plenty of restaurants to choose from. Suzanne has no interest in baseball, so she spent the day browsing the shops and reading a book down by the lake. So, if you are part of a couple or a family that doesn't have a unanimous passion for baseball, I'd still recommend taking a shot at making the trip because those who aren't into baseball may still find something fun to do. We were camped at a state park on the other side of the lake that had swimming and a big playground and some hiking trails that we didn't get to explore.

Okay, how 'bout some pictures and quick-hit captions.

Here's where we camped our first night in Ohio. Actually, it was the next morning.

Maybe on another road trip, I'll actually get to go in.

Here I am ready to enter the sanctuary and view the relics that were the pursuit of my pilgrimage.

One of the few drawbacks to Cooperstown was the unfriendly librarians who went into a frenzy when Suzanne wanted to sit in the library and read while she charged our cell phone. Here she is in front of the library doing her best imitation of them.

This was the lake of Glimmerglass state park, with Cooperstown off the distant shore. It was a really pretty park and we'd like to go back some day with more time to explore and enjoy the nature of the area.

Always leave yourself enough time to take a detour from the direct route when on a road trip. We decided to head north of Buffalo to see Niagra Falls, and I guess it was worth the trip. Actually, it was very beautiful and glorious in the power of the falls.

And yet, despite having the resource of one of the most magnificent natural wonders of the world, the people in charge of tourism at Niagra Falls find it necessary hire some dopey local teenagers to put on bear costumes and act as mascots for the falls. While I disagree with their perspective, I had to get a picture.

Suzanne being a rebel. (hint, read the sign)

4 comments:

W Sofield said...

Looks like great fun.

jeremy said...

welcome back, from me and rachel. now, when are you guys coming over for a drink (or smoothie), perhaps some Scrabble and yarn talk?

nickg said...

w sofield, it was tons of fun, I'd rank it up among my favorite vacation trips ever

jeremy, welcome back to you (to the blog world); we're ready to come over any time, especially to meet the future Mrs.; let's get in touch via e-mail

Mark said...

Seeing those pictures actually makes me happy.

G.K. Chesterton...

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."