Saturday, October 1, 2022

Road Trip to Field of Dreams Day 7 - Lincoln, Nebraska to Dubuque, Iowa

Hancock House, Dubuque, Iowa

On day 7, we hit the road early.  Ahead of us were 380 miles and near 6 hours of driving to take us from Lincoln to Dubuque, Iowa.  Dubuque would be home for a few days.  Saturday, July 2 was set aside for the Field of Dreams.  We had our tickets for the farmhouse tour and there would be the ghost players on hand that day.  But first, there was Iowa to cross.

We left Lincoln on I-80 and crossed the Platte River.  In rather abrupt fashion the city of Omaha appeared.  Leaving Omaha, we crossed the Missouri River and then finally -- we were in Iowa.   

 The drive through Iowa was a joy.  Part of it was we were close to our destination.  But I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the rolling green Iowa countryside with occasional farmhouses, silos and creek beds that amazingly were full of water.  We veered south of Cedar Rapids (which we would visit on our way home) and headed north-east into Dubuque.  More surprises were ahead.

Above is the Hancock House, where we stayed for three nights in Dubuque.  An 1891 Victorian high on a bluff overlooking the city and the Mississippi River, this place was spectacular.  The owner, Simon, was a gracious as could be and made our stay very memorable.  He loves his city and, after some time in Dubuque, quite unexpectedly, we did too.    

This is the view from the Hancock House Driveway.  You can see the spires of the city below edging close to the mighty Mississippi.  Across the River are Illinois and Wisconsin.

While in Dubuque, we visited Eagle Point Park at the northern edge of the city.  The park is 164 acres of beauty overlooking the Mississippi.  There is a river walk with fantastic views of the River and Wisconsin and Illinois across the River.  The park is dotted with gardens and stone and wood pavilions designed in the Frank Lloyd Wright style and built in the 1930's.  We saw several pavilions being used for family gatherings and weddings.  The picture above is lock and dam number 11 as seen from the riverwalk.    

One of the goals for our trip was to find locally owned coffee shops and to avoid the national chains.  I don't think we went to any Starbucks on this trip.  In Dubuque we went twice to Devour Cafe.  This was our favorite coffee stop over the full 4,000+ mile trip. They roast their own beans and the coffee (and food) were excellent.  Add to that the owner gave us a quick tour of the cafe furnishings which are loaded items salvaged from local buildings.   

Wayfarer Coffee also deserves mention along with its location.  They are in Dubuque's historic Millwork District, where block upon block of brick factories have been redeveloped with restaurants, retail and homes.  Wayfarer's coffee lags Devour by a mile, but there is a fantastic historical exhibit in the hallway outside Wayfarer that profiles many of the men and women who worked making windows, doors and other millwork.  The exhibit lines the walls of a hallway and chronicles the lives of factory workers in the 1940's and '50's -- the grinders and glaziers and men running the saws often putting in 55- hour weeks.

Toward day's end, we went to the Dubuque Star Brewery building which rests on the banks of the Mississippi and now home to offices, a museum and a very lively ground floor restaurant.  The weather was perfect, so we (along with many others) sat outside and enjoyed a glass of wine.  In the morning we would be off to our destination -- the Field of Dreams.  Little did I know, but big surprises were planned.  As I found out later, our two kids were on their way from California to join us. In the post-Covid summer of 2022, airline flights could be scarce. They had made it from LAX to Dallas and now they needed a connection to Cedar Rapids.  It was getting late and their mother was getting worried if not acting downright districted as we enjoyed our wine, the old Brewery building and River.  Would the kids make it?   

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Road Trip to Field of Dreams - Day 6 - Denver, Colorado to Lincoln, Nebraska

Our sixth day on the road would be a long one -- 490 miles and near 7 hours of driving to get from Denver to Lincoln.  Most of those miles and hours would be in Nebraska.

 Above is the state welcome sign just over the Colorado/Nebraska border along Interstate 76.

I like the Nebraska sign.  It just makes you feel good to be entering the land of "the good life."  I have always wondered how to get to the good life.  Now I know.  

And, who doesn't like Arbor Day?  Big fan of trees here.   

It is kind of funny that the Nebraska good life sign is out in the middle of nowhere -- with brown/green fields as far as the eye can see.  Maybe that's part of the good life.  

Before getting out of Colorado, we stopped at Home Plate for breakfast.  On our way to FoD, how could we not stop here?  Home Plate is a just off the freeway in Fort Morgan and was busy with a lot of local folks.  It was a fun stop for us and gave us a small window into Fort Morgan life.   

One of our goals on this trip was to find good independent coffee places.  The Bristlecone in Cedar City had been a home run and, though I am sure Colorado is loaded with such places, we had struck out in the state.  

Our top Nebraska find was Black Sheep Coffee House.  Getting to Black Sheep was an adventure. We exited the Interstate and almost immediately were detoured onto a dirt road.  We travelled the dirt road passing farmhouses, trucks and row upon row of corn.  There was nothing to do but go forward on the dirt road until finally we came to Platteview Road, which thankfully was paved.   Platteview Road took us into the town of Springfield and a corner lot that supplied all your needs -- a Pit Stop gas station, Valentino's Pizza and Black Sheep Coffee.  Great coffee, friendly people.  Kind of the poster business for the Nebraska good life. 

 Our second great Nebraska find was Slow Lane Coffee in Ogallala.   Again, great coffee, friendly people and more.  Slow Lane is down the street from the Prairie Theater which is in the middle of a nicely preserved downtown.  Photos of lakes and trees on the walls.  On Spruce Street in the home of Arbor Day. Slow Lane. Nebraska good life.   

As we drove through Nebraska, there was just something calming about the state.  The state demanded nothing of us.  The place was green.  Farms. Corn.  Yet, there was human life out there, which we brushed up against at Black Sheep and Slow Lane and the experiences had been well .... kind of like a little taste of the good life.  

As we drove through Nebraska, we talked about the trip so far, what was coming up and a fairly big item that we had completely forgotten to plan -- how exactly were we going to get back to Pasadena from the Field of Dreams?  We had planned every day and every stop of our trip to Dubuque, Iowa. But, where to from there?  How do we get home?  Nada.  

So, we talked about how we might get back to Pasadena.  We could return the same way we came.  Then there was the northern route.  There was also a southern route.  We talked about each.  After a day's discussion rolling through Nebraska, we came to a definitive conclusion about our return -- we would take one of the three routes back home.  I was content with the indecision, my wife, the planner, not so much.

There were a few Nebraska places we had wanted to visit.  Fourth of July in the town of Seward was one we thought about and the timing was just not right.  Another stop we wanted to make was the University of Nebraska Dairy Store at the Lincoln campus where they sold ice cream, cheeses and meats all made by university students.  We just missed the 9 pm close.  Next time.

We stopped for the night in Lincoln.  The next morning I noticed we had parked next to a truck with an "OB" sticker.  I was excited that we might see someone from almost home, Ocean Beach ("OB"), San Diego, where I lived for a season.  Alas, the OB was Orange Beach in Alabama.  Orange Beach?

Tomorrow....... Iowa!!  


Sunday, August 21, 2022

Road Trip to Field of Dreams - Day 4 - Glenwood Springs to Denver, Colorado

When we planned our trip, there were two dates we had to meet.  We had to be at the FoD on July 2 for the House Tour and Ghost Players and then had to be back to Pasadena by the 12th.  From there, we filled in dates and places.  We planned two days in Glenwood Springs, two days in Denver, and at least three days in Iowa.  No offense to Nevada, Utah and Nebraska, but those would be mostly drive through states.

Above is the National Ballpark Museum, one of the highlights of my time in Denver. More on that below.

Denver is 157 miles from Glenwood Springs.  The only direct route is on Interstate 70 which winds over and through the Rocky Mountains.  Along the way, the scenery is spectacular.  Leaving Glenwood Springs, the road winds through Glenwood Canyon, with the canyon walls on the left and Colorado River below and on the right.  This part of the Interstate was completed in 1992 and is said to be an engineering marvel because of the care taken to preserve the natural setting.  After the Canyon, the views range from meadows to forests to mountain peaks.  Not many Interstate drives are inspiring. This one is.

 The Eisenhower Tunnel traverses the Continental Divide at an elevation of more than 11,000 feet.   When built in 1973, it was the highest vehicular tunnel in the world.

Once on the eastern side of the Divide, there is more incredible mountain terrain, then a long downhill run into the Denver metro area. The area is reported to have bighorn sheep that sometimes can be seen from the road.  We stopped at a bighorn sheep viewing area near Georgetown.  It turned out to be near impossible to see any sheep since the sheep are on the other side of the highway high on a rocky mountainside.  "If you see a rock move, that's probably a sheep," we were told.  Not very satisfying if you really want to see a bighorn sheep.  We will need to try sheep viewing somewhere else.  Meanwhile, Georgetown had a cool train ride.  Maybe the train passengers saw sheep. 

So, what's there to say about Denver?

We had two nights and just one full day in the city. The first night, we met with friends (California expatriates) at T Street Roadhouse in a newer Lakewood neighborhood.  Highly recommend T Street. The next day I got to know Denver.  

Our hotel was near a light rail stop which made travel into downtown easy. Since I had never been to Denver, I took a guided Segway tour of downtown.  We covered a lot of terrain and cruised past many landmarks, including the Colorado State Capitol (above) and Confluence Park (below) where Cherry Creek joins the South Platte River.  We saw the Blue Bear (which was made in California), LoDo, Coors Field and our guide, though a bit laconic (bad trait for a tour guide), was able to manage some interesting city history.     

While on break from my Segway, I saw this lady who appeared lost in the sound of rushing of the water.  Every city should have places like this.

From here, our Segway tour headed right down the Cherry Creek trail, which unfortunately was a repository of broken bikes and other trash and was hardly an inviting path. 

More pleasing was the company I had on the tour.  I was joined by a father and son from Dayton, Ohio, who were touring major league baseball stadiums and were in town for the Rockies game.  I would bump into them again later at the National Ballpark Museum.  

The National Ballpark Museum is at 1940 Blake Street, just down the street from Coors Field, and is well worth a visit.  The place is a tour de force of one man, Bruce Hellerstein, who has assembled a fascinating and unique collection of baseball memorabilia.  I was fortunate Bruce was on hand to talk about some of the exhibits.  His enthusiasm for the game and its history is infectious.   

One of the truly captivating parts of my visit was seeing and holding an identical replica of Shoeless Joe Jackson's bat. The bat was different from modern bats with a thicker handle and much heavier weight. It is a barely tapered piece of wood lacking any kind of modern "barrel."  In fact, Jackson's bat weighed in at 48 ounces, whereas modern major leaguer's bats top out at about 35 ounces.  As Bruce pointed out, these old timers were strong guys.  Nicknamed Black Betsy for mass quantities of tobacco juice rubbed into it, Jackson's actual bat was reportedly sold on ebay in 2001 for half a million dollars.    

Our final night in Denver took us to Coors Field (with two more former Californians) to see the Rockies play our Dodgers. The Coors Field experience is just outstanding, from the light rail ride in, to the open-air mall and restaurants outside the stadium, to the field view.  As a bonus, toward the seventh inning, the sky opened up with rain and thunder and lightning.  The game continued without pause, but fans in the upper deck were told to exit due to lightning concerns.  We got a little wet but the Dodgers won. Perfect end to a long day in Denver.  

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Road Trip to Field of Dreams - Day 2 - Cedar City, Utah to Glenwood Springs, Colorado

From Cedar City, we headed up Interstate 15 for about 70 miles then turned right onto Interstate 70 heading east.  Our destination for the day was Glenwood Springs, Colorado, which was 422 miles away or 6 hours of straight driving.  

Most of the day we traversed a high desert area known as the Colorado Plateau.  This is an area of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico marked with fascinating rock formations and canyons.  The Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Arches and the Petrified Forest (which we would visit on our way home) are part of the vast Plateau.   

There are several scenic stops along I 70, with names like Ghost Rock, Black Dragon and Sand Bench.  We stopped at an overlook of part of San Rafael Swell where I took the picture above. In some future trip, I would like to understand more about this area. I did learn this -- the term "swell" does not refer to a gentle wave at Huntington Beach, but rather to a massive upheaval of rock that occurred millions of years ago.  Also someone has figured out the San Rafael Swell resembles terrain on Mars, so there is a research center there that simulates life on Mars.   Maybe another day.

As interesting as the rock formations were, we were also fascinated by the Utah sky. Dark clouds were rolling in over the desert punctuated with lightning and thunder, all of which was fun stuff for a couple of southern California kids.  Soon we would be in the middle of a downpour. With wipers going full blast, we left the scenic stop and resumed our trip east.  

We passed out of Utah and continued into Colorado and up the western slope of the Rocky Mountains.  With the Colorado River running along-side I-70, we gradually gained elevation until we made it to Glenwood Springs, which sits at 5,761 feet.  

We stayed two nights at the Hotel Colorado, which dates back to 1893 and is on the National Historic Register.  The hotel has a fun history (including presidential visits from Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft) and the first-floor walls are lined with old photographs and memorabilia.  The hotel also lays claim to the original "teddy bear," which hotel staff formed of scraps of fine fabric and gave to President Roosevelt to raise his spirits when he returned from bear hunting empty handed.  One quirk about the Hotel Colorado though -- as wonderful as the hotel's first floor and courtyard were, our 4th floor room was on the Spartan side with a comically small bathroom, nothing on the walls, window hung a-c and funky wiring leading to a television. Apparently, the old hotel is being renovated, from the ground up and upper floors have not yet been addressed.   

Across the street from the hotel is the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort Pool, which they say is the world's largest hot springs pool.  The resort, which is pictured above, was fun and, had we spent more time there say with a good book, would have been very relaxing.  The setting is incredible with the redbrick of the resort buildings and mountain backdrop.  There are two pools -- a smaller pool with super-hot mineral water and the very large pool with warm mineral water.  A lot of families there. 

From the Hot Springs Resort, you can walk on a bridge that takes you over the I 70 freeway and Colorado River into the town of Glenwood Springs. The downtown is a very lively few blocks of restaurants and shops.  There is a Doc Holiday Museum at the corner of 8th and Grand.  The good doctor had a dual career (dentist and gunslinger) and had travelled to Glenwood Springs hoping the springs and vapors would cure his tuberculosis.  He died there in 1887

We had dinner at Glenwood Canyon Brewpub, which was excellent and a fun time. We were joined by dozens of hockey fans who were there to watch their Colorado Avalanche play for the Stanley Cup.  The Avalanche won and the Brewpub erupted. 

We had planned for two days, with some time at a mineral spa with vapor caves.  But, they were booked, and we were told that another place in town had closed during Covid and not reopened. So, we went with Plan B and drove 40 miles down to Aspen to see the John Denver Sanctuary.  It is truly a beautiful spot running along the Roaring Fork River.  Lyrics to several of Denver's songs are carved into large rocks along the trail. 

In another part of the John Denver Sanctuary the rocks contain thought provoking statements by others, including the one above from John Muir. 

Nearly dark, we headed back to Hotel Colorado where we got a glass of wine and enjoyed the hotel's courtyard with other guests.  

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Road Trip to Field of Dreams - Day 1- Pasadena CA to Cedar City, Utah

Early Saturday morning, June 25, 2022, we headed out from Pasadena on our bucket list road trip to the Field of Dreams in Iowa.  Our first night's stop would be Cedar City, Utah, which according to google maps was 430 miles away and a 6-hour ten-minute drive.  

We were sailing along on the 210 east when, big surprise, we hit traffic.  What better way to depict our first travel day than California freeway traffic!  The jam here is going over the Cajon Pass down into Victorville.     

Aside from the traffic, our trip through the California desert was uneventful. Oh yeah, Barstow has a new Dutch Bros.  And I got a BOGO deal on shoes at the outlets there.  Regrettably the rest stop near Baker was closed. 

As we left California we followed this Ram truck, which according to its rear window is part of the exodus of Californians to other states.  Unlike the Ram, we would be returning to our home state, we just didn't know exactly when.  

Going over the Colorado River, we saw the water level was low. We knew that the next day, we would see the River again as we headed into the Rocky Mountains.  But, first, we had to cross southern Nevada, a nice bit of Arizona and a huge chunk of Utah.  

Cedar City is home to the Utah Shakespeare Festival.  We had tickets for opening night of King Lear and, due to traffic delays, we just made the 8 PM curtain.  The photo above was taken outside the open-air Englestad Shakespeare Theatre, which is part of a three-stage complex at Southern Utah University.  The setting is beautiful, and I think both of us would gladly return. The rendition of King Lear was very good. But the actors all wore masks, which unfortunately detracted from the performance.   

There are plenty of hotels near the university and we stayed at Baymont hotel on South Main Street, a nondescript almost clean place in walking distance of the Shakespeare Festival. 

More important, it was also in walking distance of our morning coffee find -- the Bristlecone at 67 West Center Street.  Bristlecone is in the middle of an interesting older downtown and it was fun to walk the streets.  Kind of a mix of coffee shop, restaurant, cool place and yoga studio, Bristlecone served up uncommonly good coffee, had healthy breakfast options and engaging friendly staff.  It was a great way to start the day. We sat outside to plan our day's trip but wound up playing Jenga and cornhole.  Bristlecone is highly recommended.  

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Vin Scully Called Up

Vincent Edward Scully, known by all as "Vin" or "Vinny," has died.  Over 67 years, first for Brooklyn then starting in 1958 for Los Angeles, he announced Dodger baseball.  For summer after summer and generation after generation, he was the voice of baseball.

As many are saying in tribute, Vinny was so much more than an announcer. 

Vinny and I arrived in southern California about the same time - he as the 31-year-old Dodger broadcaster and me as a newborn at Pomona Valley Hospital.  From my earliest memories, the Dodgers have always been my team.  Year in and year out, reliable as the sun, there was always Vin Scully.  

So, though I never met the man, his death feels like a loss in the family.  That's crazy. And its not.

To kids growing up in my neighborhood, he was "VinScully," pronounced as a single name. It would have been unthinkable for a child to use the familiar "Vin" or "Vinny." Scully brought us the Dodgers, but he was also our teacher on all things Dodgers and baseball.  I remember more than one boyhood argument ending with "VinScully says so" which was the final word on the matter.  

I don't associate Scully with any one place. I remember listening to his voice in cars, backyards, front yards, garages and living rooms.  As I grew older, Vin Scully and Dodger baseball was something parents and a laconic teen could share.  

As a young man, I lived in other cities with other teams and other announcers.  But, none were Vin Scully. 

I became a father. Rocking back and forth, with a sleeping baby on my shoulder, I listened to Vin Scully on the radio.

We celebrated my parents' 50th wedding anniversary and wrote to celebrities hoping to get a note of congratulations.  Some sent autographed photos.  Not Vin.  He handwrote to my mom and dad, "I would say God bless you, but I can see that he already has." Just a simple thing, but so elegant and kind that I'm retelling the story 15 years later. 

In 2016, I watched on television as the Dodgers honored Vin and then watched him broadcast his final game from San Francisco.  The next year, Marcia and I heard him speak at the Pasadena Civic.

Last October, I was at Dodger Stadium for the post season series against the Braves. I was up in the reserved section and instantly stood with 50,000 others as Vin Scully appeared on the big screen. He was at his home and appearing by live video feed.  There he was, smiling on the screen, gently waiving to the crowd. His smile grew. He knew very well what was coming next. He was 93, his voice shook, but there was a boyish glee about him. We all knew exactly what was coming next and a kind of reverent clapping erupted. Then, at Vin's invitation, all together in his sing-song cadence, we yelled "It is time for Dodger baseball."   


The Dodgers play the Padres tonight at Dodger Stadium.  Game time is 6:10.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Bucket List Road Trip -- Pasadena, California to Field of Dreams, Iowa

In March, I received the perfect birthday gift -- a bucket list road trip to the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa.  That's right. We were going to Iowa and I couldn't have been more excited.

Field of Dreams is the title of a 1989 Kevin Costner movie.  The movie site, including corn fields, baseball diamond and farmhouse, have been preserved, same as they were when the movie was filmed.  On their own, a corn field, ball diamond or farmhouse hardly warrant a 2,000- mile road trip.  But, add in the movie's magical stories of redemption spun around America's Pastime, family, and rich Iowa soil -- now that's another matter.  
When I told others of my bucket list road trip, I typically got two equally emphatic answers.  Many just didn't get it politely asking "where?" "what?" or "why?"  But, those who got it really got it and shared my excitement.  One wanted to go along (to which I said "no") another wanted to nominate my wife for sainthood (to which I said "yes").

Planning the trip, as they say, is half the fun and we took three months researching big cities, small towns, places to stay, coffee houses to visit, games to see, and the like.  The Internet is full of You Tubes and other posts recording visits to the Field of Dreams.  But, we found little documenting an actual road trip to the Field, much less a road trip from southern California to Dyersville, Iowa.  Who would do such a thing?  So, in the next few posts, I am going to address that glaring whole the Internet and talk a little about our trip, the stops we made and interesting places we saw.  

Just so you know, near simultaneous to our trip east, professional journalists were on their own road trip heading west to the Field of Dreams.  Truly elite baseball writers Sam Dykstra and Benjamin Hill started in New York and did their own road trip to Dyersville.  Dykstra's journal of the trip along with some beautiful photography is at Major League Baseball's site here.