Monday, July 27, 2015

Day 9: Last stop

Some people have the push, the drive, the determination to drive 18 hours in one day to get home.  We are not those people.  We did that once and it was dangerous.  We were driving through Pennsylvania at 4 am, each of us terrified to nap in the passenger seat for fear the other would fall asleep driving, being passed by semis barrelling down the hills.  We slept for an hour in a rest stop and then made it to New Jersey, staring into the sunrise with eyes that we could barely keep open and swore we'd never do that again.

So, remembering that we suck at driving all night, we decided to take two days coming back from Boston.  It worked out that Pittsburgh was about the halfway point and the Pirates were home.  We had something to look forward to after that first day of driving.  More importantly, the kids had a reason to get up early and get into the car: we wanted to be there when the gates opened so we could watch batting practice and hopefully get one more MLB ball.

We were on the road out of Boston by 7:45 am, a minor miracle for us.  With luck, we'd be there by 5:00 and if the construction horror stories we heard about I-80 were true, we'd definitely still make the game.

It was a beautiful drive.  The kids slept for the first 3 hours.  I took adorable pictures of them, but since they are teens, I will respect the fact that they'd be mortified if I shared them.

The drive was beautiful, save the orange construction cones.  We lost about 30 minutes when it went down to one lane for miles and there was no construction in sight.

Driving out east makes you appreciate what a pain it must be to actually build roads out there.  And be grateful that we only have to push around dirt in the Midwest, vs. blowing up mountains.

The camera does a really crappy job of showing you how pretty it really is.  This was my favorite for a sense of the size of the hills. 

In order to get into Pittsburgh from the south, you have to go through the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.  Pardon the bug guts on the windshield, but imagine that, for superstition and fun, you try to hold your breath for the entire 4,225 ft length.  Going less than 55 mph.  We failed.  

We made it to PNC just as the gates were opening.  It was all I could do to get the family to pause for a forced-family-fun selfie before we walked across the Clemente Bridge to the park.  It was no Golden Gate Bridge, but I still got a little emotional.  I am such a weirdo.

We were in the front row, just like Bob Uecker.  The front row of the outfield that is, but it was a fun place to sit.  The kids got to play ring toss with the fun crew that was walking around.  We did not get a ball during BP though.  The Nats just weren't hitting them out, at least during BP.  They hit plenty out during the game.

The Pirate Parrot was giving this Nats fan the what-for.  You can see the Pittsburgh Skyline in the background.  It's a gorgeous park.

View from our seats.  Starling Marte was right there.  The Nats left-fielder, den Decker took a little heat from the Pirates fans for that name of his.  The two Ks got a bit of an education.  (I'm sure they've never heard anything like that at school.)

The Pirates hhold Pierogie races for entertainment.  The night we were there, it was a relay race against the National's Presidents.  That dirty Teddy Roosevelt took out one of the Pierogies.

Although we never did get a ball, nor did the Pirates play well, it was still a fun night at the ballpark.  I will always recommend PNC to people.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Day 8: A Day at the Ballpark

After a long day and late night, we slept in a bit on Friday. We headed out about 10:45 am, hoping to catch the 11:00 tour of Fenway.  (Our hotel was a block and a half from the park.) Of course, the 11:00 and 12:00 were sold out. We got tickets to the 1:00 and walked up to Kenmore Square to shop and have lunch.

After spending way too much time in the Boston University Bookstore, perusing Boston Terrier merchandise, we walked across the street to Eastern Standard for lunch.  The bartender at our hotel had recommended it, so we just had a seat...didn't even look at the menu. That was a mistake, but the kids took it in stride.  They even tried the fried shrimp.  Kyle got a cheeseburger, Kyra got a grilled cheese (both fancy schmancy versions) and we survived a menu filled with unpronounceable food items. This is the server's station, for crying out loud.

The tour at Fenway was worth it.  The history is great as is the fact that they've maintained the stadium.  I didn't realize it was slated to be torn down recently. The blue seats are original from 1934.

It's a nice view of Boston, but I don't think it compares to the view at PNC or Busch Stadium (it pains me to say that.)

Fascinating little tidbit: in the original stadium design, the bleachers were actually a separate building.  Fans had separate tickets and were not actually in Fenway Park.

The other bit of history that I found especially interesting was the single red seat out in right field.  It is there to commemorate the longest home run hit at Fenway, a 502-ft shot by Ted Williams back in 1946, and it hit the guy who was sitting there right to on the head. It's just a normal seat; anyone can sit there.  It was left empty for the remainder of the season after Williams died, in honor of him.  It's stories like that that make me love baseball.  

At the end of the tour, we had the chance to wander through a museum, which among all sorts of Red Sox stuff, houses a collection of baseballs, signed by each World Series Champion team from 1920 through the present.  Can you guess which year this is?

After our Fenway Tour, we decided to just go sit back at the hotel and relax for once. Plus we had to do the dreaded packing up because we needed to leave early on Saturday to make it to Pittsburgh in time for batting practice at PNC.  

We got to Fenway as they were opening the gates. The crowds were crazy.  The streets we filled with people and the random person who was crazy enough to try to drive through there.  It was really a fun atmosphere. We sat out in center field, right next to the Green Monster.  The people around us were friendly and fun. Jason managed to snag a home run ball during batting practice, which made my night. 

Yes, beer is expensive at Fenway ($9 for a 12-oz Bud Lite, or surprise IPA when the concessions lady gets annoyed with the guys in front of you who are trying to buy more beer than they are allowed.). But a helmet of popcorn is $8 with free refills all night, and the souvenir soda also has free refills all night.  And it was good popcorn.   

The Red Sox won it in 11 with a dramatic play at the plate.  It was a good thing too, because it was late.    We walked back to the hotel and I was so glad that we hadn't driven.  It was a zoo.  

We had a great experience at Fenway.  I'm so glad that we can check that one off of the list!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Day 7: Witches, Beaches and Lobstah

It was another day of go-go-go.  We had a lot to fit in, so we were terrible, awful parents and got the kids up early and left about 9:00 am.  (We haven't gotten to bed before 11:30 pm this week, so it's starting to wear on the kids.)

We headed out to Salem first thing.  I navigated, Jason drove, and we only had one minor incident where we ended up going in a circle because Siri wasn't keeping up with us.  Jason even got to experience his first rotary, although I don't think it counts because there were only 4 roads feeding into it.

We got to Salem about 10 and headed to the Visitor's Center.  The lady in there gave us perfect advice and steered us toward the attractions that were not commercialized.  We started with the burying grounds and Witch Trials Memorial.

The Memorial is a small park surrounded by a rock wall. There are benches jutting out, one for each person put to death in 1692.  Each is inscribed with a name, date of death and method of execution.  One man was pressed to death.  Look it up.  It's pretty awful.

As you walk in, the sidewalk is inscribed with quotes from the victims.

After the Memorial, we went to the Salem Witch Museum, which is housed in an old church, of all places.  You go in and sit in a nearly pitch-black sanctuary.  They tell the story of the trials using very dramatic voices and music and life-size dioramas.  It was informative, but creepy as hell,  (No photography allowed inside.  Boo.)

If we'd had more time, we would have explored more about Nathaniel Hawthorne, who made me cry my junior year in high school because he was so boring.  

Here's the house that The House of the Seven Gables is written about.  We didn't go inside.  We needed to get to the beach.

We left Salem and headed to New Hampshire, where my parents spent their college years.  We were a bit perplexed by the sign just over the border.  There was an exit specifically for this purpose.

New Hampshire is beautiful and we drove around the Rye area for a while trying to find a place to park and to get to the beach.

I had to force Kyle to pose for this.  He wanted nothing to do with getting in that chilly water (sharks.)  BUT, I have a photo with our feet in the Pacific, and I wasn't leaving without taking the same photo in the Atlantic.

Kyra was the only one gutsy enough to really get in.  She never fully went under, but she got a few surprise splashes here and there.

After we left Rye, we drove to Durham so that we could see where my dad went to college.  The University of New Hampshire has a beautiful campus!

After a quick drive around campus, where we couldn't find half of the things that my dad wanted us to find, and frustration levels were getting high, we went to Dover to have dinner with Jason's cousin Laura.  Yes, we had lobster (I needed a lesson on how to eat it.)  And hamburgers.  And hot dogs (it was national Hot Dog Day.)  And sweet corn.  And strawberry pie.  

The kids got to swim with Tedy, the black lab.  It was the perfect end to a busy day!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Day 6: How much farther?

The way I see it, there are two kinds of vacations:  relaxing or doing.  We've tried the relaxing kind and we just aren't good at it, so we are here in Boston to do things and see things.  We got up at 8 and made it out of the hotel a little after ten.  We wanted to walk the Freedom Trail and the lady at the front desk encouraged us to use public transportation.  She even told us that we could buy a single week's pass and all use it, one after the other, to get on the T.  Yeah, that didn't work.  We looked like idiots all piled up while it kept flashing at us "ticket already used."  Cheaters!!

After that brief fiasco, we bought three more tickets, got on the T and headed to Boston Common.  I always feel like we've won the lottery when we all end up on the same train headed in the same direction.

Boston Public Garden is home to this studly statue of President Washington, and leads to Boston Common, where the Freedom Trail starts.

We opted to walk the Freedom Trail without a guide.  You see, they sell these handy little booklets for $7.  I thought that was enough.  As we walked, I read the tidbits to my family.  They ignored me and just wanted to know what the next stop was.

This memorial is not part of the official Freedom Trail, but caught my eye.  It's in honor of Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment.  (Matthew Broderick's character in Glory.) 

The sign below makes for good reading about the founding of Boston Common. 

This is the Park Street Church.  It was not a presence in the Revolutionary War, but "America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)" was first sung here.

We stopped by the Granary Burying grounds and paid our respects to Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock and the victims of the Boston Massacre.

Dropped by Sam LaGrassa's for lunch.  It's a Diners, Drive Ins and Dives location.  The line was crazy, it was packed and it was totally worth it!

After Sam's we went around the corner to the Bromfield Pen Shop.  Look at all of these inks!  Jason told me to pick out a new fountain pen for our anniversary next month.  I did, but I won't let myself use it until our anniversary.  I'm weird like that.

So far, so good.  The Freedom Trail is flying by.  The landmarks are all near one another, clearly marked.  It's a beautiful day.  It's so neat to see these historic locations mixed in with modern architecture.  Here's the location of the Boston Massacre.

The massacre took place in front of the Old State House.  It's a really neat old building.  The Declaration of Independence was first read to the people of Boston from that balcony.  And then they tore down and burned the Lion and Unicorn (replicas seen on the roof) as they were symbols of royal authority.  

By now, we are starting to get tired, but no worries.  Faneuil Hall was next with food and shopping.  A refreshing break!  

But now the stops are starting to get more spread out.  Sigh.  But how can you turn back when Paul Revere's house is the next stop?  Never mind the narrow, uneven sidewalks, it's Paul Revere.

You we do one more stop, right?  It's the Old North Church.  One if by Land, Two if by Sea and all that stuff that was beat into your head as a kid.  How can you not visit that church, with the tallest steeple in all of Boston?  It would be unpatriotic.  Plus, maybe you can sit down for a bit. And if you skip it, you'd miss the guy selling Italian Ice, and this stature of Paul Revere that makes George Washington look like a pansy.

The view of the steeple really is awesome and made me happy that we had kept marching on.

After the Old North Church, there are only three stops.  Three!  How can we stop now.  Well, we walked right past Copp's Hill Burying Ground.  So, the British were there right before the Battle of Bunker Hill, but we had more important places to be, like the USS Constitution.

Side note:  the Freedom Trail is marked by red bricks throughout the city.   It is virtually impossible to get lost.  So, I thought it was funny to shout, "I'm lost" in this section that was under construction.  (I guess you had to be there.)

The USS Constitution, in dry dock, so you can barely see it.  You can go on it for free.  Free!  But you have to wait in line and NO ONE in my family had the patience for that nonsense.  ONE MORE STOP! (By the way, did you know that it is still considered "in service?" It has a crew and everything!)

As you leave the USS Constitution, you can see the Bunker Hill Monument,  It's right there, but only it's not.  It's up some hills and down around some corners and past some narrow streets and you think you'll never get there, but, by God, you are going to finish this Freedom Trail.

So, the Battle of Bunker Hill took place on Breed's Hill.  Google it.  It was a victory for the British, but a moral victory for the Colonists.  You can climb the nearly 300 steps to the top if you get there before 4:30.  We got there at 4:45.  (I was kind of glad we were late.)

And then you get to walk back because the Freedom Trail doesn't end anywhere near where it began.  
We walked over 20,000 steps.  And though there were moments when I thought one of us might cheerfully choke another, it was worth it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Day 5: On to Boston

I could not leave Gettysburg without seeing where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. We decided to stop by the Soldier's National Cemetery before leaving town and the 15-minute excursion turned into almost an hour.  But no one complained.  This giant monument sits at the spot where Lincoln gave the address (which was met with very mixed reaction.  I find it beautiful and eloquent, and while some find the brevity offensive, it was probably welcome since the guy who spoke before Lincoln went on for two hours.)

The Union Soldiers are buried in rings that surround the monument.  They are arranged by state.  New York and Pennsylvania had the most casualties.  Illinois only has 6 men buried here.  The section shown below is one of three "unknown" areas. 

Seen in the background below is the monument to President Lincoln.  On the left is the script of the invitation to speak at the dedication of the cemetery.  On the right is the text of The Gettysburg Address.

After the somber visit to the cemetery, we got on the road for the long drive to Boston.  Do you ever get the feeling that Siri likes to mess with you when it comes to driving directions?  Holy cats, the route we took was crazy.  Jason had a ball driving the Saw Mill Parkway though NY.  He said it was like Mario Kart.  As for me, I wore a hole in the floor mat pressing my imaginary brakes.

I was totally amused by the fact that the Massachusetts turnpike signs have Pilgrim hats on them.

We finally arrived at our hotel about 7:45.  We needed to eat, but decided to explore the neighborhood.  Fenway is only about  a block and a half from our hotel.

As we were walking around Fenway, enjoying the complete lack of crowd, we discovered a restaurant/bar called the Bleacher Bar.  (Explanation below.)  You can actually sit there, eat and look out onto the the diamond from center field.  It was pretty damn awesome.

After that, we were all exhausted.  It was a good day.