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.