The Shoestring Catch


6/11 US cellular field/ white sox game
June 11, 2009, 11:30 pm
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White Sox Fascism

White Sox Fascism

There is plenty of parking at US Cellular Field… if you’re a multimillionaire.  At $23 a pop, the White Sox offer the most expensive ballpark parking we have come across.  We refused this extortion and found some free parking 10 blocks away in front of a hardware store.  There are some very enticing free parking spots in residential areas right next to the ballpark, but they are tow-away zones during White Sox games.  These traps are well marked, so just make sure you are paying attention.

This game was our first rain-delay experience; the 1:05 PM start was delayed a full three hours.  To pass the time, the Sox were kind enough to play a documentary of their 2005 World Series victory on the jumbotron.  I’m sure this was a treat for your average White Sox fan, but it was quite frustrating for the boy from Houston.  It really made me wish they hadn’t canceled Mark Buehrle’s slip-n-slide show.

The worst part of the rain delay, and US Cellular Field in general, was we were trapped.  Why?  Because “500 Level ticket holders cannot access other levels of the ballpark”.  Fans with the cheapest seats in the park are not allowed to walk around the main concourse, try to catch batting practice homeruns, or look at any of the statues or memorials in US Cellular Field; they have to march straight up to their nosebleed seats.  It’s like riding steerage on the Titanic.  Even during the two hour rain delay the gate attendants would not let us walk around the park.  I asked one attendant why we couldn’t go to the main level and he pointed out that we might try to sneak into some better seats.  I told him that it is every baseball fan’s right and duty to try and sneak into better seats, but he did not reply.  The cheapest White Sox ticket is more expensive than any other park’s cheapest (face value) ticket, and it doesn’t even grant you access to the whole park.  It was enough of an outrage to make us all vow to never to return to US Cellular Field.  It’s a fine park, but we will not stand for their blatant elitism.

Our first rain delayed game almost turned into our first extra innings game when Curtis Granderson tied it up with a two run homerun in the top of the ninth.  Thankfully Scott Podsednik of all people had a walk off hit in the bottom of the ninth.  We were all cold, wet, and fed up with the man; it would not have been a good time for extras.

US Cellular Field did have some great hot dogs; I will give it that.  At $4.75 they were also fairly reasonably priced.  I had the Brat, Eric had the Italian, and Andrew had the Polish.  This might be my favorite picture from the entire trip:

Italian. Polish. Bratwurst

Italian. Polish. Bratwurst



Toronto 6/6
June 10, 2009, 4:53 pm
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Liam and CN Tower

Liam and CN Tower

We got to Toronto around 10:00AM and walked around the city for awhile before our 1:00PM Royals vs. Blue Jays game.  Toronto has a very large Chinatown and we got turned around once or twice while exploring.  Apparently the CN Tower was the tallest free-standing building in the world until 2007.  I’ve got to tell you though– it doesn’t look that tall in person.  We thought about taking a tour, but at $20.00, tickets were way out of our price range.  As unimpressed as I was with CN Tower, I thought the Rogers Centre was amazing.  As the first stadium with a fully-retractable roof, it is architecturally significant, and a nice place to watch a game.  This Astros fan thanks you for paving the way Canada.  When the roof is open, as it was for our game, you also have a good view of downtown, and especially of CN Tower.

The game was nothing special.  It’s hard for a National League boy to get too worked up over Royals vs. Blue Jays, but I am very glad we made it up to Canada.  We were supposed to couchsurf with a guy in Toronto, but he sent me an email saying he couldn’t host us because his two Swedish female couchsurfers were staying an extra week.  I can’t say that I blame him for kicking us to the curb, but it did put us in a bit of a bind.  With no place to stay in Canada, we just started driving towards Detroit, hoping something would materialize.

Rogers Centre

Rogers Centre



Boston Day I
June 5, 2009, 1:49 pm
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We got into Boston around 2:00PM and drove around the city for awhile trying to find cheap parking.  After this failed we drove over to Fenway and found a $1/hour meter near the park.  My guess is that this meter will not be available on game day.  A one hour tour of the park only costs $12, so we decided to take one.  Andrew was giddy the entire time.  We got to see the press box, sit in the original seats in the grandstands, stand on top of the Green Monster, and check out the fairly new right field rooftop section.  I was happy we got to see the park before the game because I don’t plan on leaving my seat during the game.  At most parks I like to do a walk around during the game, but at Fenway I want to sit in my seat and absorb as much baseball goodness as possible.  After the tour we moved the car to a meter near city hall and walked some of the Freedom Trail.  We saw Paul Revere’s house, Cobb’s Hill Cemetery, Faneuil Hall, and taverns that date back to the 1700s on our walk.  I think we are going to try to see the USS Constitution tomorrow, and perhaps the Harpoon Brewery.  Whatever we do tomorrow, we are definitely taking the subway into town so that we don’t have to deal with parking the car.



Gambling
June 1, 2009, 3:43 pm
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Hotel casinos can either be the budget traveler’s boon or the budget traveler’s bane.  It would be awesome if we could each win a fortune and pay for the rest of the trip, but we’re obviously going to have to be careful not to lose our shirts.  I  am currently down $20.00.  I’ll keep you updated on my progress, as long as it doesn’t get too painful.

UPDATE: I ended my gambling exploits down $30. I am not including this in the expenses and pie charts because you should know better than to do this. Gambling losses stories are boring, so I won’t tell any.

Today we drive into New York. I have found a garage in Manhattan to park my car. I think we’re going to spend most of our time in Central Park. Updates when I get them.



Atlantic City
June 1, 2009, 3:43 pm
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We couldn’t find any reasonably priced accommodations in New York City.  We tried to couchsurf, but everyone we contacted was already hosting someone else.  We could have stayed at a hostel, but the cheapest one we could find would have been $35.00 per person.  Additionally, I was not looking forward to parking my car on a New York street overnight.  I guess we could have found a hotel in Newark or something, but instead we decided to drive down to Atlantic City.  With the economy as bad as it is, the gaming world has been hit especially hard.  This is bad for the casinos, but great for us.  We were able to book a suite at the Resorts Atlantic City for $77.00 a night, or less than $26.00 a person.  The hotel is also right on the beach.  I think the idea of giving us the room for so cheap is that we will lose a lot of money at the casino, but hopefully that won’t happen.  We are staying in Atlantic City tonight and Monday night and heading back to New York for the Yankees on Tuesday morning.  We’re going to take a beach day on Monday and sightsee New York on Tuesday before the game.  The plan as of now is to just start driving north to Boston after the game and find a cheap hotel on the way.



Couchsurfing
June 1, 2009, 3:40 pm
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One of the most important aspects of traveling on a tight budget is finding free places to stay.  Crashing with friends and family is certainly the easiest way to sleep for free, and it’s what we’ve done so far, but it’s unreasonable to assume you are going to be able to find a second cousin or friend of a friend in every city (especially on a 13 city road trip) to put you up for the night.  So unless you are incredibly well connected, you’re going to have to find a supplement somewhere.  This is where couchsurfing comes in.  Couchsurfing is an online service that helps connect budget travelers with couches to crash on in cities all over the world.  Each user sets up a facebook-like profile that includes when they can host surfers, how many people their couch (or spare bedroom or floor) can accommodate, and when they are available to host.  As a prospective surfer I set up an account and started emailing hosts in all of the cities we still needed places to crash (Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee).  With the exceptions of New York and Boston, I found willing hosts in every city we needed.

To the faint of heart and paranoid, couchsurfing seems like a dangerous proposition.  How do you know the person you are staying with is not an axe murderer?  To help alleviate serial killer fears, couchsurfing has implemented a vouching, verification, and feedback system.  If you see 100 people have left positive feedback and personal blurbs on a host’s profile, the odds are that the host is not murdering all of these people.  Our first ever couchsurfing experience will be tonight in Philadelphia; I will post my impressions after I have some.



Baltimore Logistics
May 30, 2009, 4:31 am
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We left Silver Spring at 5:00PM. It is only a 30 mile drive to Baltimore, but with rush hour traffic and a thunderstorm, the drive took us the better part of two hours. For some reason I thought we would be fine on traffic since we were driving into Baltimore, but because everything is so close to everything else on the east coast, that also meant we were driving out of D.C. We were delayed because of rain, but that same rain delayed the start of the game, so we didn’t miss anything. It was a very “chicken and the egg” experience.

There was some very convenient $20.00 parking very close to the ballpark, but because this is the budget trip, we parked at a meter on the corner of S. Pine and W. Baltimore in the University of Maryland at Baltimore Medical Center. The meters in Baltimore cost $1.00/hour and run until 8:00PM on Mondays-Saturdays. Since we pulled into our spot at 7:03 we were only on the hook for a $1.00 of parking fees. It was a bit of a hike to the ballpark, but it was worth the money saved. Because of the University, this also felt like a fairly safe location to leave my car. We passed several police officers and many med students in scrubs on our walk to Camden Yards.

Apparently tonight was student night at the ballpark and all of the upper deck tickets were available at a discount with a valid student I.D. Since we are all less than a month out of college, we still have our I.D.s and we took advantage of this deal. All of the upper deck tickets were “sold out”, but we were able to buy $6.00 Standing Room Only tickets. This ended up being the best of all worlds because it was the cheapest ticket we could have bought, and because of the rain, there were plenty of empty seats for us to scavenge.

Something else we did not know (this is starting to become a theme of the trip) is that Friday night is fireworks night at Camden Yards. We were treated to a lovely 20 minute fireworks display after the game. It was a nice, unexpected bonus.