We’re not worthy!

Day 5 of our vacation brought about as much hero worship as a baseball fan can cram into one day. First stop: the Baseball Hall of Fame, of course.

We found some familiar faces: the Founding Fathers …

… the Hawk …

… the Wizard …

… the greatest closer of his generation …

… and the man who teed off on him twice in a game to cement his own reputation. 🙂

We also found Eddie Gaedel’s uniform …

Johnny Evers’ glove …

his famous partners

… and a man whose voice rises and falls in the background of virtually every summer memory I have from the time I was 7 until the time I moved out of my parents’ house:

There was plenty more, of course, and I could have spent the whole day in there, but I had a real, live Hall of Famer waiting for me in Allentown, Pa., so we reluctantly left the museum and made our way back to the car in the early afternoon so we could make it to Coca-Cola Park in time for the first pitch.

The Phillie Phanatic showed up to entertain the crowd that evening at the ballgame:

Unfortunately, his visit was cut short when he was hit by a foul ball and taken to the hospital. He was OK, but he was out of the game for the rest of the evening.

We spent our first evening at The Coke with the guys from Noise Nation, who are basically Lehigh Valley’s answer to Wrigley Field’s famous Bleacher Bums. Honestly, they would have been worth the trip out there all by themselves. They lead cheers (most notably, “Gimme a K!” every time an IronPigs pitcher gets two strikes on somebody), dance during the seventh-inning stretch, ring cowbells, and just generally have a good time. Photos below are from our last evening in town, when Dan, Dean, and Jimmy T. signed the Dreamcar:

Over the winter, the guys put together a really nice charity cookbook, which you can buy here. It has all kinds of recipes in it from current players, former players, a rival or two, and fans.

Noise Nation hangs out behind the bullpen a lot, which is fun. The guys like to rattle the opposing pitchers and shout encouragement to any IronPigs within earshot. They have a running joke about Mike Schwimer’s curly hair. When Schwimer pitches, the guys all put on Afro wigs and shout, “Phear the ‘Phro!” in a nod to Giants closer Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson. It’s pretty hilarious.

That’s Mike Zagurski warming up. He was one of three IronPigs chosen to play in the upcoming AAA All-Star game. He deserves it; he’s a damn good closer. Schwimer and catcher Erik Kratz are the other two All-Stars in Allentown this year. Good choices all around, IMO.

More IronPigs photos coming soon; stay tuned. 🙂


Deco and giants

Day Four of our journey took us along the Lincoln Highway to Hellam before we veered off the old road to pay a visit to Cooperstown, N.Y. Highlights:

Bedford, Pa., has two of the best-known attractions on the road. The first, as you approach from the west, is the World’s Largest Coffee Pot.

The second is Dunkle’s Gulf, a full-service, gloriously Deco service station still operating in the middle of town. The Dreamcar got the royal treatment here:

Weirdly, I had an intuition that the gas from this place would give us the best mileage of our trip. It actually set a record for the Dreamcar: 44.02 mpg. No kidding. We got all the way from Bedford, Pa., to Oneonta, N.Y., on one tank. It was awesome.

We stopped for brunch at the Molly Pitcher Waffle Shop in Chambersburg, where I tried chicken and gravy over waffles for the first time. Yowza. Just … yowza. Behold:

Another much-anticipated LH stop was the Shoe House near Hellam, just east of York:

We stopped for dinner at Brooks’ House of BBQ in Oneonta, N.Y., which lured us in with its terrific signage and great review from Road Food:

I’m not usually a fan of barbecued chicken, but Brooks’ version is incredible.

We capped the day with a short drive to Cooperstown, where we checked into our motel, explored downtown a little bit, and made plans to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame the next morning.

Next: Baseball. Lots and lots of baseball.


All retro, all the time

We hit the mother lode on Day 3 of our Lincoln Highway excursion. After a leisurely breakfast at a coffeehouse in Van Wert, our first major stop of the day was the J & M Trading Post in Crestline, Ohio, where we found several postcards, a couple of pieces of sheet music, a guidebook full of maps, and a little ceramic trinket box advertising the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore. I considered buying a great-looking old Singer sewing machine, but it had a vibrating shuttle instead of a modern bobbin, and I wasn’t sure how to use it.

The bottle tree next to the trading post made a wandering Route 66er feel at home. 🙂

The sight of people doing historic preservation also delighted my roadie heart: We arrived at the World’s Largest Teapot in Chester, W. Va., to find a crew of volunteers out there with scrapers, heat guns, and blowtorches, stripping the structure down to bare metal as part of a kid’s Eagle Scout project:

I’d have stopped to help if we hadn’t been behind schedule because of an unscheduled side trip to Kidron, Ohio, to see the Lehman’s Non-Electric Store. If you’ve ever seen their catalog, you know they carry some of the coolest stuff ever, but the store itself exceeds even your wildest expectations. Start with a Cracker Barrel gift shop. Put it in a building roughly the size of a shopping mall. Now, add the entire inventory from Swinney’s Hardware during its heyday and the everything except the greenhouse from the late, great Country Store. Throw in a high-end stove shop, the entire contents of a Williams-Sonoma, half the Real Goods catalog, a boatload of Melissa and Doug toys, and every book you’ve ever seen advertised in the back of Mother Earth News.

Yeah. It’s that cool. No one is more surprised than I am by the fact that I managed to get out of there for less than $100.

We drove through Pittsburgh at rush hour, which was about as relaxing as you’d expect. Dug the bridges and tunnels, though:

East of Pittsburgh, we followed the Lincoln Highway’s meandering path through the mountains to what I am fairly sure is the coolest motel east of Tucumcari: the Lincoln Motor Court near Mann’s Choice. Rather than attempt to describe it, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Love that asphalt siding.

Elevation + shade = no need for a/c.

Knotty pine paneling, of course.

Totally retro bathroom — and check out that vertical casement window.

I’d be fairly content to live at this place. Failing that, I seriously want to buy the Shady Rest property on Route 66 here in Tulsa and build my own ’30s-style motor court.

Tomorrow: More Pennsylvania.


Inspiration from Indiana

(This is part two of the heavily illustrated epic saga of our Lincoln Highway road trip/baseball pilgrimage.)

The second day of our Lincoln Highway adventure began in Dixon, Illinois. Crossing the state on the old road, we discovered this gorgeous little gas station — complete with concrete Lincoln Highway marker — in Rochelle:

Rochelle’s downtown was really cute, with plenty of historic structures, including this great old theater:

We were on the Mother Road briefly in downtown Joliet, where Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway overlap for a block or two, and had a Chicago-style hot dog and some exceptional homemade caramel corn at a Tastee-Freez somewhere around Aurora before cruising across the state line into Indiana. I’ve never been crazy about the southern part of Indiana, but the northern part of the state is another matter entirely: lots of farmland, and Goshen has one of the cutest downtowns I’ve ever seen. I bought some chile-lime salt, a bottle of strawberry Jarritos, and a couple of unusual saint candles at a Mexican grocery and took a ridiculous number of photos of the great architecture and clever decorative flourishes sprinkled around downtown:

That crosswalk isn’t really brick. It’s just paint. Don’t think I’m not planning to steal that idea and try it somewhere in Tulsa in the near future.

This little alleyway reminded me of downtown Oxford, Miss., for some reason.

Love the paint job on this old window.

This windowbox inspired another project I’m going to attempt when I get a hand free.

I’ve forgotten exactly where this drive-in was, but I love the sign:

Tomorrow: A little bit of Ohio and photos from what may be the cutest motel east of Tucumcari.


Go the Distance

As promised, here is the first set of photos from our recent Lincoln Highway adventure/baseball pilgrimage. We started our journey when I picked Ron up from work on Friday, June 17, and headed for Kansas City, where we feasted on burnt-end sandwiches from Gates Bar-B-Q, before ending our evening at the Evergreen Inn in Osceola, Iowa.

This elaborately painted Victorian house was across the street from the motel:

Also in Osceola, we found a church with a neon cross on top:

From Osceola, we headed north on Saturday, visiting some of Madison County’s famous covered bridges:

We had breakfast at a great little cafe on the square in Winterset:

I really liked the hanging baskets of Million Bells flowers all around the square. I saw a lot of hanging baskets and windowboxes filled with colorful, low-maintenance flowers on this trip. I’ve now added “build windowboxes” and “plant something in baskets” to my ever-expanding to-do list. While we were in Winterset, we stopped to visit with a fellow beek at a little farmers’ market on the square and bought some incredibly sweet strawberries, which we munched on while we drove.

We took the Lincoln Highway east to Tama to see a particularly noteworthy attraction:

This unusual bridge was built in 1915. It was one of the Lincoln Highway attractions I really wanted to see.

We left the Lincoln Highway and headed north to U.S. 20 in the eastern part of the state to visit our first baseball-related attraction: The Field of Dreams movie site. Some guys were out there with a bunch of kids, playing a very informal hybrid of baseball and Calvinball in which everybody got a turn, nobody was out, and everybody got to hit the ball and run the bases, no matter how many pitches it took. It was great:

I was a little disappointed that the corn was too short for the obligatory disappearing-into-the-field photo op. I did, however, have Ron take a picture of me with the young plants:

While I was there, I bought a few souvenirs to use next time I show the film in class.

We headed east into Illinois, visited Galena — which reminded me of Sausalito, Calif., with its steep hills, precarious layout, and plethora of historic buildings filled with shops catering to tourists — and then picked up the Lincoln Highway again at Fulton, Ill., which celebrates its Dutch heritage with a big, working windmill

… and a giant Dutchman with a fishing pole:

We took the Lincoln Highway on into Dixon, Ill., where we encountered a replica of the Berlin Wall and a vaguely obscene-looking statue:

There weren’t any interesting mom-and-pop lodging options in town, so we just checked into a Super 8, where we found a caution sticker that struck me as funny:

I think it means “slippery when wet,” but I kept referring to it as the “beware of marauding Rockettes” sign.

We’ll continue the adventures tomorrow as we cross Illinois and Indiana on our way to Ohio.


The third-base coach waved me home.

Sorry I’ve been so quiet; I’m nearing the end of a 10-day road trip. I’ll post a full report when I get home, but in the meantime, I’m contemplating the strange and graceful way a figure from my childhood keeps sending my thought into familiar places with new eyes.

Last summer, I spent three days watching Ryne Sandberg manage the Iowa Cubs in a series against the OKC RedHawks. I got back to Tulsa to find that most of my friends and colleagues were unfamiliar with my childhood hero.

I thought, This would never happen in Southern Illinois, and three days later, I was sitting in a dugout at Diamond Three in Herrin, reading a W.P. Kinsella novel and watching a thunderstorm roll in while I made my peace with my hometown.

At the Triple-A level, the manager coaches third base. Last summer, my favorite third-base coach waved me home.

This summer, Ryno is managing the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in Allentown, Pa., so Ron and I used that as an excuse to head east on the Lincoln Highway. Along the way, I discovered that it might be possible for me to survive somewhere besides Route 66: I fell in love with the farmland of Iowa; the vibrant energy of Chicago; the charming downtowns of Goshen, Ind., and Van Wert, Ohio; the giant teapot in Chester, W. Va.; the winding mountain roads of rural Pennsylvania; and the ethnic neighborhoods and skinny townhouses with old men killing time on their front stoops in the narrow side streets of Allentown.

Everywhere we went, I mumbled, “I could teach here,” until this afternoon, it suddenly occurred to me that I don’t want to live in any of the places I’ve visited; I just want to gather up what makes me happy about those places and bring it back to Tulsa, the way I gather up little souvenirs and glue them all over my dashboard. That love-the-one-you’re-with ethos that drove me to paint pictures on cabinet doors and turn my ordinary Honda into a unique artcar suddenly spilled over, and it clicked for me: Tulsa does not understand its own potential. Forget the Glenn Pool. We are sitting on a much larger reserve of a much more powerful resource: our own diversity and creativity.

After tonight’s game, we’re heading back to Tulsa, and I am bringing a boatload of shiny objects to glue on my town’s metaphorical dashboard. From here on in, I am indulging all of my artistic impulses, and I am encouraging others to do the same, even — and maybe especially — if those impulses involve public acts of eccentricity, because it is high time we tapped this giant pool of creativity we’ve been sitting on all these years.

Once again, the third-base coach is waving me home.

Stay tuned. I feel a massive, contagious creative outburst coming on.


Busy, busy, busy

Here are all the things I have done since we got in from Amarillo late Sunday night:

‘Shopped a bunch of photos and posted them; folded five loads of laundry; harvested and extracted honey; cleaned the freezer; rendered beeswax; cleaned the kitchen; picked up the dogs and cat from the vet clinic; cleaned the kitchen again; canned three quarts of salsa; replaced the showerhead in the bathroom; worked on my Lorax mural, which I started several years ago but never finished; packed for vacation; learned some new joint locks in kempo; made quesadillas; ran errands; and started training Walter to walk on a leash. (As you can imagine, Walter did not like that one little bit, but I think he’ll be fine once he gets past his fear of the outdoors.)

Grace tells me that Jamie is very interested in the fact that “Aunt Emmy” is a beekeeper, as he has decided he loves honey and all things related to its production. During a trip to the grocery store, he wanted to know whether Aunt Emmy’s bees knew how to make “bear honey.” I had a few bear jars left from our 2008 harvest, so I fixed up a special bottle for Jamie:

The honey looks dark because it’s been heated — this was part of the leftovers after I rendered beeswax. Heat breaks down the flavor, which is why local honey always tastes better than the storebought kind, but that’s probably a good thing in this case; raw honey is a little intense for a preschooler’s palate. This should taste just fine on a peanut-butter sandwich.

Here are a couple of closer shots of the mural:

And my salsa:

Hope you’re having a productive week, wherever you are.


Amarillo this morning

We went to the International Route 66 Festival in Amarillo this weekend. We left Texas this morning and just got home a couple of hours ago. Here are a few of the visual highlights from the trip:

Cowboy Motel sign on Amarillo Boulevard, a.k.a. Route 66.
Totally planning to eat here next time we're in town.
Not on 66, but south of Amarillo on Sundown Lane: The strange Ozymandias sculpture, a replica of ancient ruins described in a poem by Shelley. The faux ruins are accompanied by a faux historical marker. Both were commissioned by Stanley Marsh 3, better known as the man responsible for Cadillac Ranch.
The old Roadrunner Drive-In building in Vega has a new roof and fresh paint.
The Roadrunner sign. Love the lettering.
A sparrow rests on the steering wheel of an abandoned vehicle in Conway.
Restored Phillips 66 station in McLean.
Angry Birds: We annoyed a ginormous flock of barn swallows by driving under the overpass where they were nesting on 66 in western Oklahoma.
I've never seen so many nests in one place.
There were actually four times this many.
Lucille's on Route 66 west of Hydro.
Some friendly Californians drew peace signs on the Dreamcar at a truck stop in San Jon, N.M.
We made a sad discovery on our journey home. This pretty little station on 66 west of El Reno, pictured above in 2009 ...
... sustained a direct hit from a recent tornado. This breaks my heart.

Despite ending on a sad note, the weekend was very good. We went to the E-group breakfast, which is sort of like a family reunion for roadies; participated in the preservation project at the Triangle Motel (where I got very dirty, a little sore, and a little sunburned); went shopping and visited the authors’ and artists’ exhibits on Sixth Street in Amarillo; cruised over to New Mexico; had pie at the MidPoint Cafe; discovered a great taqueria on Amarillo Boulevard; had some good New Mexico beef jerky; went to the awards banquet; and even found time to do a little geocaching along the way.

Hope your weekend was good, wherever you were.