Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stuck Between Stations

"There are nights when I think Sal Paradise was right/Boys and Girls in America have such a sad time together" - Hold Steady, Stuck Between Stations

As most of you know, I spent a drive-by visit in Pittsburgh this weekend, to see the Mets play the Pirates. The good news is, the Mets won their first National League road series in 2010. The bad news is, they lost on Sunday, not completing a sweep like they should have. The good news is, they won the game we attended. The bad news is, we spent more time in the car than in the actual stadium. Take it from me, folks: fly to Pittsburgh.

The Other Half is usually in charge of pictures when we go on baseball road trips these days. We invested in a new camera shortly before our West Coast trip last month, and he takes better pics than me, admittedly. When we are in the car or the bus traveling to a stadium, he likes to document the signs and the stops we make by taking pics.

I will be documenting the stadium later, but I am doing the chronicle a little ass-backwards. See, being from the New York area, I am used to listening to 660 for the WFAN broadcasts. However, there are several stations that broadcast the Pittsburgh Pirates games in and around the city.

Some of our fellow road tripping fans wanted us to stay the second game...however, I wanted to get back home. The good news is, the Mets lost, so I didn't feel bad about staying. The bad news is, we got stuck in about 2 hours of traffic by the GW Bridge. The really bad news is, I should have listened to my gut about taking the Holland Tunnel all the way through, but I decided to listen to my GPS, which by the way was completely schizo the entire weekend. You'd think my lesson was learned, right? Nooooooooo.

Anyway we headed back on the road around 10:30 am on Sunday. I had wanted to leave earlier but I was so exhausted, I needed as much sleep as I could spare. When we left, I almost entertained staying for the game only because we had gotten around to leaving so late. But it also meant we'd have to get from Queens late at night, since that's where we rented our car from.

Our first stop whenever we are on the road is Cracker Barrel. If you have never experienced a Cracker Barrel, well, then you have not experienced Americana at its very best. Speaking of Americana, I've never done such an intense road trip in my adult life. Generally, I fly everywhere. This was questionable, but it was neat to finally have done it. Then again, I will never do it again, but glad I was able to do it once.

Getting there I was able to see so many rivers that I read about in my American History classes as a kid. The Susquehanna. Driving through mountains.

Pittsburgh would have been cool to explore had I been in the mood to do so, what with Fort Duquesne, the Allegheny, the Monongahela. and even as a baseball history fan going to visit Forbes Field.

Our biggest concern though was listening to the game once we were on the road. Oddly enough, the Pirates broadcast their games on an FM channel locally, so once we were out of range, it was AM stations, which is what we were used to. We were able to find their AM station right away after leaving Cracker Barrel.

However, we had to keep changing stations as we got further away from the city itself. TOH was using his copiloting and DJ-ing skills to assist. He got lucky most of the time. However, if we hit a tunnel, we'd lose all reception for a bit. One of the cooler parts about seeing Americana on the road is driving through mountains.

The not-so-cool part was missing an at-bat here or there. Now, at one point, well actually during the whole game was Johan Santana absolutely dominating. Of course you'd think the Mets would score some runs off a weak-ish Pirates pitching staff but nooooooo. However, at one point, we were lamenting leaving because "what if" this game turned into the first no-hitter?

Well, I'm just absolutely resigned to never seeing or hearing one that the Mets pitch anyway. By that time though, we were able to get the FAN pretty clearly from that point on, I'm guessing at the mid-way point in the state of Pennsylvania. We missed a part while going through a tunnel where someone got on base, but then we realized it was a walk or error or something. Then by the time the first hit occurred, we heard Wayne Hagin give the exact number of games the Mets have started and have not gotten a no-hitter.

Of course, it was fitting that we were able to get that stat and hear it on the FAN. Of course, if there was a no-hitter we'd have wanted it no other than to hear it on the FAN since it's the closest thing to home.

So speaking of home, we were nowhere near it at that point. TOH had mentioned that maybe we would be crossing the Jersey state line by the time the game was ending. Of course, Johan Santana is so efficient. Would you believe me if I told you that we'd see two complete games in a row by Johan...but both were losses?

Of course. This is the Mets we are talking about.

I don't know if I was just cranky or tired, maybe a bit of both. At any rate, we head into some small town where I wanted to get a Dairy Queen. DQs are hard to come by these days. I decided to get a coffee next door for the ride, since Cracker Barrel only gave me brown water for breakfast.

That's when I saw it. A dog in a van with closed windows.

Granted, the weather was not hot. The sun wasn't beating down on it. It was the PRINCIPLE of it. You wouldn't leave a child in there, with no windows cracked at the least, while his human went in to get his coffee and donuts.

Well, I let 'er rip on this jackass. I said, "Don't you know the amount of PREVENTABLE animal deaths happen each year because of leaving your animals in shut cars?"

He gets all defensive, "Well, it's not hot out...I'm only here 3 minutes...etc etc." To which I replied, "It doesn't matter! It doesn't matter!" I was so frustrated, by that time, he says, "Oh mind your own bloody business." To which I replied, "Take better care of your pet, you limey douche."

I might have also used the words, in no specific order "douchebag," "jackass," "moron" or "dumb ass."

And the Mets still weren't scoring runs by the time I made it back from my coffee trip. And before any of you ask, yes the husband stayed in the car, but he can fend for himself, unlike a domestic pet who trusts us and depends on us to take care of them.

The game was very late by then...and of course Johan was still in. By this time, I was pretty pleased we did not stay. Although I had gotten half a game in on Saturday, a win is a win and I got enough of the local flavor of PNC Park to justify our trip. We didn't get to Jerz before the game ended...but I was sure we'd be home before some of our blolleagues who had made the trip for Sunday.

Then the rain came down. A lot. Decreased visibility. Slowing down. I am fine with driving in the rain, but it's the caution I hate exercising, as I have bit of a lead foot. But we were still making good time on Route 78.

Then the GPS, who had sent me in some bass-ackwards ways all weekend sent me to the north. Against my better judgment, I didn't take 78 all the way to NYC but also did not listen to traffic reports.

That is...until it was much too late.

We get to the George Washington Bridge and I notice a little backup. I think nothing of it.

Till I see it not moving. At. All. I can't bail, since this is the "express" lane, and the only exit is right before the bridge...THREE MILES AWAY.

NOW I get the bright idea for traffic reports.

Every other Hudson River crossing has 10-15 minute delays. The GW? ONE FUCKING HOUR.

We decided to bail in Fort Lee, where we got to participate in more Americana settings, at Five Guys Burgers. Nothing says Americana and road trip like stopping at a burger joint (I give the slight edge to Shake Shack though).

As irony would have it, when we started this trip, we picked up our car from LaGuardia, which as you know is right next door to our very own CitiField. The GPS had us go in a back-end direction, which was fine with me since I was able to hit a non-BP gas station on the way home to top off the tank.

So we started at CitiField, made a Pittstop (get it?) at PNC Park, then passed CitiField again on the way home.

We were home.

So the rules of the road here...
Don't drive to Pittsburgh.
If you do, stop at Cracker Barrel, there are about a million on the different interstates you travel.
If you stop at a Dunkin Donuts for a latte, make sure you stop before hitting a Hudson River crossing so you can pee. Picking a fight with a British guy who forgets his pet in the car is optional.
When all else fails, hit Five Guys. It's not Shake Shake, but worth a try.

And when you get back to LaGuardia, don't wait for the bus to take you home, even in torrential down pour. Dial-7 provided us with a car pickup in 10 minutes to take us back to the city.

I loved PNC Park, but it's a bitch-and-a-half to travel there. Not to mention, if you are catching a game on the radio, you have to really search for the stations to find the Mets. But halfway through the state, you feel like you are home again.


DyHrdMET said...

You want Dairy Queen? Next road trip, stop by and see me on your way our (or back). There's a DQ about a mile from here.

I live in Jersey, and I learned long ago between driving to college on Long Island and driving out to Shea (before I found mass transit) that I turn on the traffic reports and keep changing to the different scheduled ones to figure out how I'm getting there. And I could get you from any highway in North Jersey over to Shea/Citi Field/LaGuardia without the GPS. Sunday traffic is unpredictable, especially at the GWB, and the Cross Bronx can be a clusterfuck at times.

But you got to see 2010 Mets history seeing them clinch their first NL road series of the season.

The Other Half said...

So to sum up your trip, we saw Pitt, a Brit and few hits. That's the sh*t.

GaryG said...

Did you did the big "windmill farm" on I 76? Also, consider Andy Warhol Museum, as well as the ride up Mt Washington.

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