Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Where Did You Come from, Where Did You Go?

Here we go, are you ready for another?
Yes, that's right, it's 1991 2016, and after a winter of overplanning and jumping the gun, Byways is locking down this year's itineraries. We'll see America's least-wanted geographical appendage! Make an unholy number of visits to George Bush Intercontinental! And explore the seams between Pennsyltucky and the Southern Tier. What could be better? And while I'm asking unanswerable questions, how did this anthem of the toothless become a regular baseball-stadium feature?

I'm not making you click on this. And if you want to see it rendered in Czechlish, I can't help you.
For a variety of reasons too tedious to enumerate, we'll kick off a little later than usual this year, with no April trip. (We would have gone to the Hartford Yard Goats home opener, had they bothered to open their home in time.) But May 1 will find us up bright and early to make a day game at Tradition Field, followed by a dense circuit around Florida:

St. Lucie Mets
Brevard County Manatees
Tampa Bay Rays
Clearwater Threshers / Port Charlotte Stone Crabs – two-city doubleheader
Tampa Yankees / Fort Myers Miracle - two-city doubleheader
Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals / Miami Marlins – two-city doubleheader

The two-city doubleheaders are what they sound like: a day game in one place followed by a night game elsewhere. Jupiter and Palm Beach are a special case, in that they share Roger Dean Stadium. We'll see them play each other and cross them both off the list. We're completists, but we're not such masochists as to stay an extra day on the east coast of Florida if we can plausibly not.

A scant three weeks later, we'll return to the south for what I'm thinking of as the BP Special—i.e., a Gulf Coast cleanup. We went to see the Hoover Birmingham Barons in 2007, and Watson joined us on the Redneck Riviera in 2010 to see Bob Feller et al. salute Hank Aaron in Mobile. But in that time MILB has been booming in those parts: the double-A version of the Carolina Mudcats (whom we also saw in 2007) became the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, and the Huntsville Stars finally got the hell out of Huntsville and set up shop as the Biloxi Shuckers. In addition, the Barons got a new stadium, this one actually in Birmingham. Finally, while we did visit iconic Rickwood Field in 2007, there was no baseball being played there at the time. This year, we'll be there for the annual Rickwood Classic. More will be said about this when the time comes. 

Biloxi Shuckers
Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Birmingham Barons (both at home and at the Rickwood Classic)
El Paso Chihuahuas

But wait, El Paso is, what, 1200 miles or so from Birmingham. How is this even going to work? Thank the fine folks at United Airlines who, for reasons known more to them than to us, last year awarded us each an $800 travel coupon, to be used before this August. We discussed a number of outlandish itineraries—New York-Toronto-Tokyo, for example, or New York-Chicago-Vancouver—before realizing that the El Paso Chihuahuas beckoned. With the closest other team 267 miles away (and already seen by us), it was never going to be cheap or convenient or desirable to go to El Paso, so we decided to put our windfall to use here. There's something fitting about this, as we got the credit en route to the equally remote Grand Junction, Colorado.

Finally, after those two relatively compact trips, we'll do a classic long road trip in late July and early August:

Reading Fightin’ Phils
Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs
Harrisburg Senators
Altoona Curve / Pittsburgh Pirates – two-city doubleheader
Erie Sea Wolves
Toronto Blue Jays
Buffalo Bisons
Batavia Muckdogs
Rochester Red Wings
Auburn Doubledays
Binghamton Mets

To our delight, Watson will join us for the Pittsburgh-Buffalo stretch of this. Perhaps she will be able to enlighten us as to what exactly a muckdog is.

Is the end now in sight? Not quite. (Carnac the Magnificent foresees a 2017 trip to Atlanta and the Carolinas, as well as much time on the northern half of the West Coast.) But at this rate, we're going to need a new hobby in 2019.

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