Friday, June 24, 2016 kind of town

This is going to be a bit of a travelogue. My wife and I took off on an extended road trip to Chicago two weeks ago and spent 10 days exploring the Midwest, checking out Presidential museums and visiting ballparks.

I had hoped to post from the road but a number of things got in the way, primarily the disappearance of a folder from my Picasa web storage. So I've been largely absent from the blogosphere.

The reason for our trip was the fact that my daughter was getting her Masters from the University of Chicago. We were proud to see that ceremony and happy that she is going straight to work in her field for a social services agency in Chicago. We decided to turn the trip into our vacation by driving and making many stops along the way, both coming and going.

Our first stop out of Houston was the Clinton Library in Little Rock. It's one of the newer presidential museums and it's quite beautiful, spacious with a wide open feel.

There were some sports related items on display.

Next day it was on to St. Louis and a whirlwind tour courtesy of my best friend Sam. I've been to St. Louis before but it was all new to my wife. We had Italian food on The Hill and a 'concrete' at Ted Drewes. Good stuff.

The Cards were out of town but the new Busch Stadium is easy to check out from street level.

The Fox entertainment complex there contains the Cardinals' Hall of Fame.

We hit Springfield the next day and toured a couple of the Lincoln sites including the Presidential Museum and Library as well as the old train station that is currently housing an exhibit of items from the Spielberg Lincoln film of a couple of years ago.

Next stop was Chicago and four days of fighting traffic and cramming lots of stuff into too short a time. It wasn't my first trip there but it was my first visit to Cellular Field (which I always call Comiskey, I'll never get used to it not being Comiskey).

We had great seats behind first base, the weather (in the 60s!!) was perfect for baseball. I loved every minute of it...from the 'Hey...Texas!?!' greeting we got from the tailgaters we parked beside to the easy egress after the game from a loaded lot.

They were handing out all kinds of freebies on the way in so we grabbed all we could. There were the promotional packages of 2016 Topps cards (yes, Cubs were in each pack!):

These next cards have some sort of local grocery coupon on the backs:

I loved getting a Kittle. I need to send this to him to sign.

Apparently mascot birthdays are now a thing. This marks the third one been witness to in the last few months.The Sox marked the occasion with over-sized (5 x 7) cards of Southpaw.

When I bought a pin and program the guy gave me some Sox schedules.

I loved that the Sox were wearing their 80s era throwbacks.

And I had to visit the Billy Pierce statue of course. I have to admit I got a little emotional posing with it. RIP Billy.

Chicago was also hosting a Copa America game involving Argentina so Messi jerseys were everywhere and we stumbled into the America's Cup practices at Navy Pier. I didn't know they were still doing this race. It used to be a big deal.

Leaving Chicago we took a ride down the old Route 66 through Illinois as far as Springfield. It was an all day affair but well worth it. Where else would you see so much kitchy Americana?

Back in Springfield we made a visit to the Tomb of Abraham Lincoln that we had skipped over on the way up. It was awe inspiring. Pics don't do justice to the feeling one gets inside that monument.

We headed across Missouri and stopped in Independence for a visit to the Harry Truman Library. It's one of the older presidential museums but what it lacks in the modern interactive displays it makes up for with extensive history lessons.

That night we hit Kaufmann Stadium which was just a few exits down the interstate from Independence. Another first time visit for us although when my son was at Nebraska he made some trips to see baseball there. 

They had a much better beer selection that Comiskey and the place was very pleasant overall. The Royals beat the Indians with a late Sal Perez homer but my wife and I were pretty worn out by this point in our trip and coupled with the brutal heat we decided to make a rare early (7th inning) exit from a ballpark. 

But on the way out we toured the outfield section to check out the fountains and statues.

Leaving the KC area the next day and heading for Hot Springs Arkansas we were routed by Google along the Arkansas 7 Scenic Byway. 32 miles of absolute white-knuckle driving. Twists, turns, narrow bridges and oncoming semis through the Ouachita Mountains. A forty five minute trip that felt (to me driving) like five hours. It didn't help that five minutes in the car in front of us drove off the road, took out a sign and nearly flipped over. Next time, I'll go the long way, thanks.

Hot Springs was OK. It's seen better days as a tourist town but we found a nice place to eat and the next morning we visited the seven preserved spas that take up a couple of blocks and are now one of the nation's smallest National Parks. It's known as Bath House Row. The area saw plenty of ballplayers who visited when many clubs held spring training there back in the day. Hot Springs was also a favorite of some shady characters in the 20s and 30s and one building downtown houses a 'gangster museum'.

The next day we were headed home and after 10 days and almost 2700 miles I was glad to be there. It was a great trip but the next time I go to Chicago I believe I'll fly.


  1. Did you not do the Lincoln home tour? That's free and interesting.

    Cubs' fans rip Comiskey, but the fact that you can get out of the parking lot in 10 min or so beats the snot out of what they call parking up north. Plus the park isn't falling apart, and knows what it's like to have a world champion call it home.

    Surprised you didn't hit the Hoover museum.

    Granted, it's about 3.5 hours west of Chicago. One day I'll stop by that.

    1. Next trip we plan to do Hoover and a game in Milwaukee. Brewers were home while we were there but my wife had this funny idea that we needed to see my daughter. Go figure

  2. Nice trip and good timing with those cards at Comiskey (I don't think I'll ever like ballparks being called Cellular or Corporate whatever even if they're new versions of classic ballparks)...

  3. Looks like a great trip... I love the roadside attractions and the cards (of course), but Lincoln's hat just made me pause and say "Wow". It's such an iconic object that it just stopped me in my tracks (so to speak). I honestly never gave any thought to whether there were any still in existence, and then I was further surprised to find that there are only three remaining.

    1. My reaction to seeing that hat was the same. At first I figured it was just a replica since the museum had a lot of dioramas and reproductions of period clothes. But when I got close and saw it was something he actually wore, I was awed. The 'worn' spot where he would tip it to