And we’re off! We left New Jersey around Noon, but Pennsylvania’s annoying construction slowed us down. It was the kind where your backed up for two miles only to run into a quarter mile of cones with no work. So we arrived into Akron around 7, parked and walked downtown into beautiful Canal Park. The city’s done a nice job revitalizing the area, but there are some shady folk when I was walking around taking pictures. The Aeros have a terrific AA facility both inside and out. Loved how they incorporated “Wings Warehouse” into the interior design. Its a bar and restaurant with patio that has a view of the game. Most times I’m not a fan of just single level seating, but it was fine here. The crowd was average and there was a lot of talk about Ohio State’s season opener (Yes, even where there is a D1 football team just down the street, OSU still dominates in this state). My only wish is that Northeast Ohio takes care of their gnat problem, because man they were out in full force (remember the Jake a few years ago?). Unfortunately, it was our sixth straight loss as the Aeros closed out the home slate with a 6-1 loss to Reading. After the game was one of the sweetest fireworks displays I’ve seen yet.
Today hopped over a state into Indiana, where we visited South Bend. It is blistering hot here with the high in the mid 90s…yet another vacation in the heat. We had a great afternoon lunch at Tippecanoe Place (pictured above). It’s cool because this was home of the Studebaker’s and they turned into a restaurant with each room housing eating areas. Its also a pseudo museum which is cool. After that, we checked out the generically named “Center for History”. It was jam packed with stuff and a good overview of South Bend and the St Joseph River Valley. Right next door is the Studebaker Museum, which is all dedicated to cars. Didn’t make it there, but we’ll save it for another time. In the evening, it was part one of our wedding festivities. My good friend is getting married and the bride’s family is Indian. I’ve never been to an Indian wedding and things get started with a Sangeet. This is like a wedding itself, its basically a big party, to kind of meet and greet before things get going. Lots of eating, drinking and dancing. Definitely a great time! Food was different and I first foray into that cuisine, but everything was good and worth second helpings. Tomorrow, we have a ceremony known as Puja, then its off to Notre Dame Stadium!
We started the day by heading back to the Sharma’s for Puja, which was the first part of the Indian wedding ceremony. It was all different to me, but interesting and enjoyable. Around 1:30 it was then off to Notre Dame! (cue fight song). Amazing…an incredible place. I was amazed how easy it was to drive in, park and take the shuttle. They had that down to a smooth operation. We did the requisite Touchdown Jesus photos and I did my touring around the outside, concourse and inside. Its a simple place that oozes history. What really makes Notre Dame Stadium special is the atmosphere. The Irish had so many deflating plays, yet the crowd kept coming back just as loud and energetic as the last play. It was definitely loud and hearing the band play the fight song gave me goosebumps, even though it was 90+ degrees. Speaking of the weather, what an adventure this game was. Two thunderstorms delayed the game at halftime for over two hours and then yet another storm led to another brief delay as this turned into a six hour affair. It was all worth it, I just wish the Irish didn’t have as many mistakes in a game they easily could have won. Sadly, the losing streak is now at 7. Looking forward to doing this review next week as I can’t picture a better football experience. Incredible atmosphere, fans, chants and traditions.
It was wedding day in South Bend as the Indian wedding experience continued. Awesome to experience and if you ever have an opportunity to attend one..go. Lots of food, drinking and dancing. Being in the wedding, we started early to get ready for Baraat and that was an event. Never danced that much ever before in the morning! My buddy Lee, rocked it as he rode in on the horse. The ceremony was exquisite and unique to go through the whole Hindu rituals. After a little break, we regathered with the wedding party, took pictures and went to the reception. Again, amazingly decorated. I didn’t think I would ever get into Indian food, but most things I tried, were worth coming back for seconds. The DJ jammed out the rest of the night with both Indian and American music…and needless to say, I’m exhausted after a long, but terrific night with old and new friends….till tomorrow!
Today we left South Bend, but not before visiting a few places. We went back to Notre Dame in the morning. It felt perfect to stroll around this campus: cool, partly cloudy and breezy. Kind of surprised to see most of the buildings look the same, architecture-wise. What makes ND stand out is the obvious, the golden-domed main building, the stunning Basilica and the inspiring Grotto. After getting some pics of the Joyce Center and Eck Stadium (along with a few more of the stadium), we went back downtown. We were going to take a factory tour of the South Bend Chocolate Company…but it was closed thanks to Labor Day. Settled on getting awesome pumpkin chocolate instead at the shop. Right next door was the soon to be closed and moved College Football Hall of Fame. It was completely empty and I’m sure its losing money. Felt like more of a museum as opposed to a hall of fame as the HOF plaques were generic, non-descripitive and had too many members. The museum stuff was good though and I love the traditions/school spirit type exhibits. We were then off to Chicago! After checking in, it was off to dinner for some classic deep-dish pizza. I’m glad I had it, but I prefer New York style. Tomorrow….its Wrigley!
It feels like the middle of October here in Chicago and the chilly wind keeps blowing off the lake. But its sunny and nice enough to spend most of the day outside, which we did on the North Side. The first part of the day was at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Its free and quite expansive. Lots of walking, but the wife loved it and it did have some good exhibits. We then went further North up to Wrigleyville. First, we met up with Paul Swaney at Stadium Journey. Great to finally meet up and have an opportunity to talk for a little while. Our bar experience in Wrigleyville was at Goose Island, which was a nice choice thanks to Paul and I had a tasty beer and burger. Then it was onto Wrigley. The old ballpark was as good as advertised. Hearing the organ, seeing the ivy and getting that stadium smell in the concourse was awesome. We were seated in the middle of the 200s (the back part of the lower level) and the old stadium has that gentle sloping, so your kind of far back from the field, along with an obstructed view of fly balls. So, we moved upstairs and I liked that view better. Loved seeing an old ballpark design. Only a few disappointments were that you don’t have access to the outfield bleachers. Also, the crowd. I’ve heard so much about the atmosphere, but it was quite blah. I’ll give them a pass, because it was a Tuesday Night in September (with school in session) with the team 100 games back. The Cubs weren’t much help…only one hit through nearly all of the game. Until, Starlin Castro legged out an infield single and completely out of nowhere, Bryan Lahair hit a game tying 2 run homer in the bottom of the ninth. That got the 8,000 or so left cheering and celebrating loudly. Unfortunately, they still fell in the 13th to the Reds by a score of 4-2. My losing streak is now 8. Regardless of the result…it was a special night in a special old ballpark.
We did a lot of Chicago sightseeing today…and what a beautiful city it is. Kind of like a cleaner New York. After strolling on Michigan Ave and the Magnificent Mile, we went up the Hancock Center to the 94th floor observatory. This is a better view then the Sears (now Willis) Tower as you get a great view of the amazing skyline, Lake Michigan and the Northside. Spent a lot of time up there gazing on a perfect visibility day. Back on the ground, we saw the Water Tower, one of the few buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1871. We grabbed lunch at Downtown Dogs and I had my first loaded Chicago-style hot dog. Sorry, I’ll prefer Nathan’s over that. Later, we took to the water for an architecture tour via a boat that went on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Well worth it as the buildings are all so different and striking. It was a great tour, one I would go on again. Before we turned in, we went to the tourist trap, Navy Pier. Just a lot of overpriced stuff there, though the stained glass museum was interesting. We’ll check out more of Chicago the next few days we’re here, though tomorrow we spend some time in Joliet, where we visit Silver Cross Field and the Joliet Slammers.
Got a chance to check out the Loop today, which is essentially downtown or working Chicago. Started at the surprisingly interesting Chicago Cultural Center, which was yet another striking architecture building both inside and out. Speaking of that, we spent time in Millennium Park, with the Bean as the main attraction. I’ve got a ton of pictures (as I do with everything else), but its worth a google of Cloud Gate to check it out. After seeing the Wrigley and Tribune Buildings, we took a break from the city and went about an hour Southwest to Joliet. Both trips on the way there and back were filled with construction and traffic. I feel like the roads here are worse than NYC, at least in terms of construction. Once in Joliet, we spent some time at the historical museum, which did a great job describing the history of this city along the Des Plaines River. After losing money at the nearby Harrah’s, we walked to Silver Cross Field, home of the Slammers. Love the downtown location of the stadium, alongside Union Station. It’s a great design both and in out. Simple seating chart flanked by sloped grassy knolls, with dark green seats in between. I really liked the outfield view with trains in left, the castle-like Joliet High School in right and a building with a Skydome-ish statue of people watching a baseball game near the Right foul pole. Wasn’t impressed with the food options (some stands were closed) and prices were a little high. It was Game 2 of Joliet’s divisional playoff series vs Lake Erie. Only about 800 – 1300 turned out and that was disappointing, but they did make some noise. Weather again played a factor in our trip, but I’m not complaining, most of the game went smooth. A couple home runs held up and the Slammers were up 3-1, then our 30 minute mist turned into a steady rain and the game went to a rain delay in the bottom of the 9th. We didn’t wait it out, as it lasted an hour. Joliet then got the final three and the losing streak is over! As always, I’ll have more Silver Cross Field details will be in the upcoming review, but overall I really liked the ballpark and thought the experience was good. Just one more stadium left on the trip for Saturday.
We slept in a while today and got a late start on our journey. First, we checked out the McCormick Bridge House museum. Small, with just some descriptive posters inside the bridge house, but it was cool being inside one. Then we headed south to Museum Campus, where there are three impressive museums. It also gave me a chance to see Soldier Field. Really funky looking stadium because of the recent renovations. Looks like a spaceship landed on top of a 1920s building. Anyway, the Field Museum was our choice and I wish we spent the entire day there instead of just half. Unbelievable, how much there is to see. From the evolution of life, to fossils, dinosaurs, plants, animals and whales, there was a plethora of displays. After dinner, we called it an early night as we’re off early tomorrow to Akron on our way home and one more stadium to see: InfoCision Stadium, home of the Akron Zips.
Our last day was spent heading home and we stopped half-way again in Akron. Besides the zoo, there seems to be only one touristy thing to do in the city itself, and that is the Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, former home of the Seiberlings, who founded Goodyear. So we stopped there and it was pricey but worth it. Both the house and grounds were interesting to check out. Then it was off to #110 on the list: InfoCision Stadium, home of the Akron Zips. Weird visit. We parked at a downtown lot, where a shuttle brings you to the stadium, since the parking map didn’t show much nearby. It felt like we were the only ones downtown, we were definitely the only ones on the shuttle and the whole experience was empty. Fans that were there talked more Ohio State than Akron and the Zips seemed like a joke. Even though, they are a joke (they lost 41-3 to Temple), it was still the home and conference opener, hope should be in the air, even after a 1-11 season. It’s too bad because they have a beautiful, brand-new stadium. Loved the stadium here as it had some great features, like building it below ground with the lower deck of seats below street-level (makes it more intimate and appealing). Also, they made good use of a steep grassy seating area set in the end zone. Nice job too of having concourse banners, ring of honor and retired numbers. And of course, what would a college football game without me sitting through a lightning delay. Yet another one here lasting about an hour and a half. This is getting tiresome and frusterating, especially as this one was just for the threat as I never saw lightning or heard thunder (it was all legit though as it was in the vicinity). After waiting that out, Temple came back and blew the Zips out.
So that wraps up our trip…it will take me a few weeks, but I’ll have detailed reviews up for each stadium soon. Take care!