As I mentioned in my last post, I was participating in a small road-trip with my parents throughout a portion of the midwest. The idea behind the trip was to stop at a few carefully selected Major League Baseball stadiums, as my dad is on a quest to visit all of them (after this trip he only has five more to go). Our itinerary was the following:
Day 1: Depart Harrisonburg, VA, arrive Corydon, IN
Day 2: Depart Corydon, arrive St. Louis, MO
Day 3: Depart St. Louis, arrive Kansas City, MO
Day 4: Depart Kansas City, arrive Minneapolis, MN
Day 5: Minneapolis
Day 6: Depart Minneapolis, stop in Madison, WI, arrive Milwaukee, WI, take ferry to Muskegon, MI
Day 7: Depart Muskegon, arrive Detroit, MI
Day 8: Depart Detroit, arrive Harrisonburg, VA
As you can see, this trip required quite a bit of driving in order to stay on schedule. We had four stadiums to visit and couldn’t afford to loose any time. Our stops included the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, and the Detroit Tigers.
Now, I do not have a lot of experience or knowledge concerning the Midwest and I was kind of dreading long boring drives along sightless roads. There were a few chunks of time when that was the case, however, we had a lot of fun breaking up the driving-baseball routine by stopping at various locations along the way.
To start things off, we spent the first night in Corydon Indiana. It was just a random little town on the way to St. Louis but turned out to have a very cute historic downtown area. And if you know my family at all you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that we stopped at a brewery for dinner. Point Blank Brewery was a cute little place downtown and had a vast selection of beer to choose from.
To begin with, St. Louis is awesome. The arch, the Gateway to the West, is incredible and I would highly recommend taking a ride to the top. It’s 630 feet tall, making it the tallest man-made monument, 3 times as tall as the Washington Monument and even taller than Mount Rushmore! It’s also 630 feet wide from one end of the base to the other. The park surrounding the arch is currently under construction and will look absolutely beautiful upon completion. There is even access to the Mississippi River shoreline from the park. From the top you have views of the entire city, nearby Illinois across the river, and the Cardinal’s stadium. To get to the top you just hop in a little “5-person” trolley (I think getting 5 fully grown adults in one of those would be a huge accomplishment) and ride up to the viewing bridge. It’s truly an amazing architectural feat.
Also the baseball game was cool too. Not literally of course, as it was 99 degrees, but it was a nice stadium with a beautiful view.
On our way across the great state of Missouri, we took a detour and decided to go on a small hike in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, just outside of Columbia, Missouri. We stopped here because we wanted a chance to do something outside but didn’t have a lot of time for an extensive excursion. We hiked the Devil’s Icebox trail, a 0.5 mile hike on a complete artificial path made of wooden planks. The trail leads to a set of stairs down to a cave- from the top of the stairs you are suddenly hit by a wave of cold air coming up from the cave, hence the name Devil’s Icebox. The difference in temperature was incredible as it was in the high 80s that day and in the space of a few feet a blast of 60 degree air provides instant relief from the heat. The cave is rather small, minus the long tunnel at the back that requires a helmet and was where I immediately turned around due to many small, narrow places.
We finished the hike (it was really more of a stroll) and went on our way to Kansas City. Let me just say it now, it. Was. Hot. Like 100+degrees hot in the middle of the country with no air circulation or coastal breezes. In addition to the stifling heat, our hike, going up in the arch, AND the fact that the power went out in our St. Louis hotel and I didn’t get to shower after walking around all day there, where it was also quite hot, the three of us were not very comfortable. Add in the fact that the Royal’s stadium is not even in the city but on the outskirts, causing us to have to walk across a very busy highway to get to the game, we were very much unimpressed with KC and ready to move on with our lives.
Heading up North to Minneapolis was not something we were opposed to. There was a noticeable change in the weather and our location within the city made a big difference in our general attitude. Minneapolis has a lot of history and culture as it was formerly an industrial center and now has many old flour mills and factories that are being renovated into new apartments and office space. There is a park nearby and a walking trail around the river, giving the whole area a really nice outdoor environment to hang out in. There are also theaters, murals, and cultural exhibits all over the town, making it a really fun place to walk around. I really enjoyed the city, and the baseball game- it was a just a really cool atmosphere.
From Minneapolis we continued on towards Wisconsin, where we took a ferry from Milwaukee across to Muskegon, Michigan. We only had a few hours to spend in Milwaukee so we did not get to explore a great deal; however, on a previous trip that also featured a baseball theme, Milwaukee was a stop and we spent got to tour the city then. Despite that, I would love to go back and spend some more time there as we all agreed it is a wonderful city, and even from the brief amount of time we spent there during this trip, it was easy to see that it has a lot of character.
While Milwaukee was not a priority this time around, we did make a stop in Madison. One of my former roommates currently lives in Madison, and upon learning that we would be driving right by, we were lucky enough to have a quick lunch with her before driving on to catch our ferry. Madison was another very cute little city in Wisconsin that I wouldn’t mind spending more time in. It must be something about all the cheese curds and beer that really makes us want to stick around these places.
If you’ve been reading my story for a while, you’ll know that my family has previously traveled via ferry. The last time was in December going from Malta to Sicily and back again. While this boat was a bit smaller, it was a similar experience, except this time we got to drive our car onboard as well. This boat was not quite as nice as the trans-Mediterranean vessel we rode in, but it was high-speed. In fact, going to the upper deck was kind of terrifying and I actually choose to stay inside and do thesis work. It was a fun way to travel while giving us a break from driving and all in all, I would recommend a ferry for transportation whenever the opportunity is there.
Arriving in Muskegon, we had gone across a time zone, so it was much later than we realized by the time we got to our hotel, and the only place open for us to eat dinner was a Buffalo Wild Wings. That’s fine and all but we really tend not to eat at chain restaurants, particularly while traveling. However, we also know that traveling requires flexibility, so it is what it is. Muskegon has a B-dubs and that is all I know.
Detroit was fun. I didn’t know what to expect based on the things I’d heard about the city- abandoned buildings, poor employment rates, high levels of homelessness, bad education systems, and high crime rates- and while yes, much of that is true, the city isn’t dead. It’s very much still living on, full of art and music and culture and people trying to make a difference. The very first place we stopped was The Heidelberg Project, an indoor and outdoor museum and artistic environment that was created in the 80s as a way to revamp the neighborhood and draw attention to the deteriorating situation that the people who lived there faced. The creator, Tyree Guyton, started by painting the houses bright colors and patterns and hanging salvaged material on the sides of the buildings. It slowly evolved over time as neighborhood children contributed to the project, transforming the whole street into a place that owners were proud of and visitors came to see. It now includes an arts center, community garden, and amphitheater, and even won a silver medal for the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence in 2005.
It’s this exact kind of movement that has helped to keep the city alive and that helps to preserve the spirit and character of the area. My favorite picture from the street sums it up pretty well:
The game we saw at Comerica Park was the last on our list and featured the best view, as we had front-row seats, perfect for up-close action and attempting to scoop up foul balls.
Leaving the game and walking back to our hotel, we passed a large group of people gathered in the streets, playing very loud music and dancing around. The best part was that everyone had a bike, some of them paints bright neon colors or wrapped up in lights, and they were getting ready to go on a night-time ride. Cool things are happening in that city.
Detroit was the last stop on our trip and after that we headed home. The drive was long and uninteresting. We were exhausted from the constant driving and moving from place to place, not to mention all the fun! The one notable mention for the ride home was when we stopped to get some food and happened across the Weiner Mobile and the Mr. Peanut car. The level of excitement in the parking lot was a little bit excessive to be honest, and of course we had to document the encounter.
One more quick stop in Pennsylvania featured cluelessly walking up and down aisles as we pretended to know how to shop for fireworks. After being dazzled by such names as “Golden Rain” and “Jungle Fire” we were back on the road and headed for home.
We finally made it home after driving thousands of miles and seeing an entire region of the country that I previously had no knowledge of. All the places we went were full of interesting stories and character, good beer and baseball, and lots of fun.