Eastern Road Trip 2010: Day One

Greetings! Fitting that I’ve gone from one trip to the next without any other posts at all, but alas, such is life. Yesterday we packed up the car and began the 5,000 road trip that will see us cross four states and five provinces en route to the end goal of Justin’s wedding. As usual, plans don’t always come together.

The goal was to make it from Toronto to Syracuse for lunch at Dinosaur BBQ, as featured on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, before getting to Boston in time to catch a concert by my favourite band, Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers. Alas, the unexpected world of border crossings. We stood idly by for over an hour at the Queenston-Lewiston crossing, thereby ending any chances of arriving in Boston early enough for the show.

The first stop happened as planned, albeit a bit later than usual lunch. Dinosaur BBQ came recommended by Adam Gertler on said Food Network show for their BBQ chicken. Mary did a chicken and rib combo with mashed potatoes and tomato and cucumber salad, I did the pulled pork and brisket combo with beans and chili. All of it was excellent. This is a huge place in the middle of an older, slightly industrial area of town that was absolutely packed even after 2pm in the afternoon. Food was served quickly and tasted great, highly recommended. I even managed a flight of odd beers: Middle Ages Ape Hangar Ale, Ithaca Cascazilla, Lake Placid Ubu Ale, and Middle Ages Wailing Wench. Ape Hangar was crap, the others were great.

After that it’s a long haul of boredom to the Boston area, trust me. Oddly I’m starting to recognize things after my many trips this way, and we pulled in near 8:30pm. We hit dinner at a place called nourish in Lexington, meant to be a restaurant of ethically sourced food that’s relatively natural, organic, etc.. Small issue that the service was horrible and the food was average, regardless of the restaurant being almost empty. I did enjoy a Peak Organic IPA before we hit the Fireside Bed & Breakfast in Lexington for the night. A very nice B&B with wireless internet (w00t!), air conditioned rooms, and a really friendly and helpful host. We caught a late night swim before retiring out of sheer exhaustion.

So this morning I lay out the goals:

  • My geek cred life goal of having my picture taken outside Kirkland House at Harvard, the dorm where Facebook was invented is primary
  • Securing the Yard Bird (Harvard) foursquare badge is second
  • Lunch at Mr Bartley’s Burger Cottage, which was closed on our first visit in 2006
  • Doughnut at Craigie on Main, as recommended by Food Network magazine
  • Delivering a rather large care package of Ontario beer to Josh Christie

Let’s see how many of these I can cross off today!

Circus Mexicus: Day 2

So I’m doing these out of order, sue me. I’m a busy man. *sucks straw*.

Phoenix stop on Diners, Drive-Ins and DivesSo the long awaited day 2. This would be our baseball day, one of the two real reasons behind the trip in the first place. Most of you likely know I seek a new MLB park to see a game in every year as part of my goal to see all of them before I head to the great beyond. This day would start with a trip into the downtown Phoenix area to fulfill another of my many travel-related hobbies: food at a stop from “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” This one would be Matt’s Big Breakfast, home of the breakfast pork chop and the “paid retail” thick-cut bacon. I need to tell you a couple things about this place, if your search for it brings you here. First, it’s very small. Because of this the lineup is very long. In fact, we’d wait over an hour outside for our chance to stride to the counter and try a breakfast. That said, once we finally arrived it didn’t disappoint. The wait staff were awesome and the food was delivered quickly and tasted great. And given the lineups the prices aren’t unreasonable, not sure I’d have the same constraint if I were in that position.

Former Toronto Blue Jay knuckleballerFrom there we did a slow tour through downtown, snapping pics of whatever we could find, until we finally found ourselves outside Chase Field. We signed on for a tour of the facilities, something I’ve actually never done at a ballpark before. Thinking about a tour of Chase Field? Comes highly recommended by yours truly. It was tons of fun to see the passion of the staff and the attention to detail by those who manage it. There’s a legitimate love not only of the Dbacks and the game, but of entertaining the fans that attend the games. Nothing but the field level itself seems off limits, up to and including press boxes and the dugout (where, yes, I satisfied the oft-discussed “basic ball shift” life list item). Here’s where things get fun.

So I hope I’m not blowing the secret if I note that a friend of OA, KP Wee, is currently involved in a book project surrounding former Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer, Tom Candiotti. Tom is currently employed as a broadcaster for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and I had offered up mine and Paul’s services to KP earlier in the year should he require photos for the project. KP indicated that, indeed, photos could come in handy, and he put me in touch with Tom. I had been texting him throughout the day to ensure things were still on schedule, and indeed at 5pm Paul and I hit the lobby of Chase Field to meet and greet Tom and be escorted into the back halls of Chase to the press boxes. Paul, with his good photographic eye and solid equipment, proceeded to snap a large number of shots ranging from the press box to field level. The whole process took less than an hour, we shook hands with Tom and he was off to the night job whilst we took our seats to take in the Dbacks vs. Cardinals game.

Chase Field tamale.Sidenote on baseball stadiums: Rogers Centre sucks. Hard. Having now been to Fenway Park (2007), Progressive Field (2008), US Cellular Field (2009), Wrigley Field (2009) and Chase Field (2010) I have come to see exactly what makes a good park. Things like sightlines, seats, atmosphere, amenities, food and drink. Chase was happy to fill us in that each seat was redirected towards home plate, discussed their luxury “pool” box, HD screen, and even focused on foodservice things like fresh tamales, tequila on tap and craft beer pavilions. Enjoying a tamale with a bomber of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in my seat facing home plate only reinforces that Toronto, truly, doesn’t yet have a baseball stadium. It’d be nice to see it happen some day.