Friday, August 7, 2009

RVs and Mud Hens

No baseball Monday; no rodeo either. We woke up late and went to bed early. Mel unpacked some boxes at the apartment where Watson and he moved just before we hit the road. I got caught up on blog posts. The only driving was to a late lunch at Kuma's Corner, "bovine genocide" at its most delicious. Good beer too.

The next day (Tuesday, August 4, 2009), I hit the road solo. My first stop was Elkhart, Indiana, and the RV/MH Hall of Fame, "Home of the David Woodworth Historic RV Collection." It's like a car museum but for recreational vehicles and motor homes; everything from pop-ups to motor coaches. There was a genuine curatorial sense to the prototypes, custom built motor homes, and historic models like the first twin axle trailer. I enjoyed it even more than the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame & Museum, which Mel and I visited on the DC-Birmingham trip. Scoff if you must, but I was far from the only visitor. This is the museum's second home and it was clearly built for growth. Ironically, none of the 200 parking spaces set aside for RVs was occupied.

Fifty miles into Ohio, traffic came to a complete stop. When I finally drove past, I saw the back-up was caused by a "fifth wheel" trailer that had caught fire. The charred skeleton was quite the contrast to the pristine models in the museum. I thought the delay was going to force me to miss Tony Packo's restaurant, which has been feeding folks in Birmingham, the Hungarian neighborhood on the east side of Toledo, since 1932. I ordered the Hot Dog Combo #1: a "world-famous" Tony Packo’s hot dog with mustard, diced onions and "drippingly delicious secret sauce;" a bowl of (the again "world-famous") chili; and my choice of side dish, which was German potato salad. I added a side of cucumber salad a la carte. While I waited, I noticed that most folks got the Combo #2 (two wieners) and ordered them with shredded cheese. I also got to check out the considerable collection of hot dog buns autographed by celebrities that decorate the walls. (That's right Pie Lady; I wrote about the restaurant's unique decor. Photo by Kevin Yezbick.)

I was disappointed by the food. Either the kitchen scrimped on the secret hot dog sauce or the onion over-powered it. I thought the Texas-style beef chili (there are also chicken and vegetarian options) was pretty thin gruel. Of course, America wouldn't have all those chili cook-offs if there weren't differences of opinion. The potato salad was too sweet and not briny enough for my taste, in a too-thick dressing that had bacon dust rather than pieces. All around me, however, were nothing but happy people. Tony Packo's seemed like the kind of place you went with family and friends for a good time, not for great food, and a good time was being had by all. I knew I was back in Ohio when a waitress brought the next table a bucket of Schoenling's Little Kings Cream Ale in seven ounce bottles. Speaking of the wait staff, they are really on top of their game.

The delay on the highway still had me behind schedule. I zipped across the river to the stadium. I drove past the $3 parking lot, then the $5 lots, and was starting to double back when I found a spot on the street, right outside the ball park. My lucky day! Only after two players hit home runs out of the park and on to Monroe Street did I realize why that spot was available. Thankfully, I escaped unscathed. Fifth Third Field, one of at least two ball parks sponsored by the bank, is in a warehouse district near downtown. There has been some redevelopment, including an outpost of Tony Packo's, but many of the buildings remain under-utilized.

It was a fun game to watch. There were 31 hits combined, three for home runs, and Toledo set a club record with seven doubles. The starting pitcher for the Mud Hens, Nate Robertson, and reliever Jeremy Bonderman both started rehab assignments from the Tigers. Robertson left one batter after Bison Andy Street tried to smash my windshield, but he might have been on a strict pitch count. Bonderman retired the side in order in the fifth.

Toledo, which started the day in second place but 9.5 games out, dominated Buffalo, who had won only 40 of 105 games. I was sorry to see this since the Bisons are the Triple-A affiliate of my Mets, who need all the help they can get right now. Lance Broadway (3-7), who came from the White Sox in the Ramon Castro deal, allowed nine earned runs in 4.1 innings, bringing his ERA to 5.84. You want Broadway to succeed, if only because he has such a great baseball name. None of the players whose names I know from Mets games--Argenis Reyes, Nick Evans, Chip Ambres--had good nights at the plate. The outfield of Ambres, Jesus Feliciano and Evans had balls hit in front of them and over their heads. Broadway had to run a chopper to first to finish the fourth when no one was covering the bag. On a pop-up in the fifth, there was miscommunication between catcher Rene Rivera (who also took a shot at my car) and third baseman Javier Castillo. Final score: Toledo Mud Hens 10, Buffalo Bison 6. Just one game, but not encouraging to a Met fan.

MiLB Reports: Game Recap Box Score

Fifth Third Field is a great place to see a game. It has a concourse that goes around the field and lots of spaces for groups, including "The Roost," a bleacher section attached to existing buildings down the right field line. There are two scoreboards as well as ribbon displays on the facing of the second deck. Combined, they provide more information than fans usually get at minor league stadiums even as they weren't being used to their fullest capacity. Mel, who had already been here and the old Ned Skeldon Stadium, warned me that the food options were poor, which is why I went first to Tony Packo's. I could only wish for a cream ale. The most impressive find of the night was the "The Muddy Times," the free, 9.5 by 12 inch, color program. Everything you might want can be found in the 112-page journal, including the best scorecard I have ever gotten at a baseball game, major or minor league.

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