Green Bay, Wisconsin

July 10, 2008

 

I am in Green Bay.

I got in yesterday late morning.  I had a really full day here.

I am staying “downtown”, however, it sure doesn’t look like a downtown area.  The helpful guy at the front desk says it is and to head out in a certain direction.  So I start out exploring on my bike.  Their downtown doesn’t look like a “regular” downtown.  You know how in smaller towns, outside of downtown, there are blocks with ordinary rectangular shaped office buildings…a couple of them on a block with a parking lot or two?  That is downtown Green Bay.  I kept searching. 

I asked a local person where their downtown is. 
You’re in it. 
No, I mean the “downtown” part of your downtown. 
This is it.

Sheesh…[idiot].

So I ask another person.  And come away thinking…idiot.

I get back to my hotel, and talk to the helpful guy and he sheds some light on my confusion:

In the early 70’s when malls first started being built [I remember with excitement as my hometown was building its first mall].  Green Bay decided to tear down its entire “downtown” area, and build a mall.  Which they did and it was quite successful/booming for a couple decades.  However, for the last decade or so it’s been dead.  They are slowing tearing down the mall and, it looks like they are putting up condos [starting at $180k].  So…that is why I couldn’t find what I was looking for.

There are a couple blocks a few blocks away across Fox River on Broadway Street, which has nice offbeat shops and restaurants.

On a side note, in the 70’s Appleton’s [45 min south] downtown merchants fought a mall that was to be built just outside of town.  They fought them for 10 years, but ended up losing, and the mall was built.  Their downtown shops suffered for years, but then the mall petered out and is gone…and their downtown is now booming.

We’ll see – I head that way later today.

I received suggestions that I should visit Lambeau Field, which I did.  The Field is in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

A couple things of note:
* Green Bay has 103,000 residents.  Stadium holds 83,000.  There is a waiting list of 85,000 for season tickets.  Each year, between 0 and 5 people turn their season tickets back in.  This year, ZERO people turned their tickets in.

* One can leave their tickets and/or their place in line on the waiting list in their Will.

* If you rent a “box” at the stadium.  The box is yours all year.  So, you can have parties, meetings, whatever in the box.  You just have to call and give notice, and you can’t bring in your own food/drink [except cakes].

* I’m sure most of you football fans know this, but the goal posts are painted fluorescent yellow.  Better to see them during snowy games.

* We walked out onto the field the same way the players do before the game.  They play a tape that sounds like the crowd, the music, the guy on the PA announcing the team.  I must say, even I got goose bumps.  Pretty cool.

* Obviously the field is NOT named/sold out to a corporate sponsor.  However, the 3 gates are named.  There are minimal ads inside the stadium.

After visiting the stadium and its Hall of Fame, I cycled over to the farmer’s market, which takes place each Wed on Broadway.  Bought strawberries.

Green Bay is positioned along Fox River, which feeds into Green Bay.  They have a cycling/walking path along the River.  VERY nice. However, at a certain point, it is maintained by the Parks Service.  Nothing wrong with that, but it becomes more “native”.  Bugs galore. Little bitty ones.  I didn’t mind getting constantly smashed in the face/body [cuz I’m just going to take a shower], but I couldn’t open my eyes to see.  I ended up closing one eye and putting my hand in front of my other eye to try to protect it from bugs getting in…but that didn’t work the best.  I then realized that I’m NOT having any fun.  I decided to ride to the next mile marker just to see how far I have gone in this Parks area. 

Mile: one.

Ha ha ha.  It sure did seem longer than that!

On the way back, some cyclists rode by me…all had goggles on.

There are rabbits and ducks all over town [near the water].

After that joy and a shower, I went to the Bullfrogs game.  There is a baseball league for college kids to play ball during the summer.  The teams consist of guys from all over the states.  I asked the guy at the desk if these games were fun, and he lit up with an enthusiastic YES.  Hmmm…he’s a guy.  How much fun can it be?  So, I went to the coffee shop and asked the woman whom I was talking with earlier, and she said YES!

So, I cycled off to the game.

The game WAS fun. 

* $5 tickets. 

* Green popcorn and nacho chips. 

* They had lots of audience participation “games” between innings and half innings.  They would announce that if this batter strikes out, then it’s half priced beer [or $1 soda] for the rest of the inning.  When the guy did, the stands made a mass exodus to the concessions stand.  This one poor guy, he struck out and people got half priced beer.  So, the next time he came up to bat, the announcer announced AGAIN, if he strikes out, its half priced beer, AGAIN for everyone.  That doesn’t relay too well in print.

* Nobody smoked.

* Pitcher [#19] felt the need to touch himself either after every pitch, or every other pitch.

I’d stay another day, but there is a band I want to see in Appleton tonite.  I don’t know them, but from their picture they look like someone I’d like to see.  I haven’t listened to live music since Oxford, MS.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Day 1

June 30, 2008

 

I am headed to the NW states. 

I left Baltimore on Saturday.  After a whopping 30 minutes of driving, I just had to stop and walk around.  So, am unsure how long it will take me to get to the NW.

I am in Pittsburgh.  I really like it here.  The few times these last 2 years that I have driven from Baltimore to Michigan, I have gone by Pittsburgh, but never stopped in.  When I was in Houston, I re-connected with a guy who travels around the states with his boys to go to baseball games and to check out all the stadiums.  By far, his favorite stadium is in Pittsburgh.  He said the team colors are black and yellow [maybe gold], and they used materials and paint that are those colors.  So, it is really nice how the stadium matches the uniforms.  Also nice is the layout/setting where you can lookout and see downtown in the outfield.

So, I had planned on coming to Pittsburgh and spending at least Saturday nite…and seeing a game.  I had my mind set on this.  So of course for the entire 5 hour drive, it is raining and then not.

Once in Pittsburgh, as I’m driving downtown, it’s not raining, but it sure looks like it’s brewing up a big one.

Pittsburgh was settled on 3 rivers.  I’m not sure if one would call them big hills or baby mountains, but that is all around.  So, you have tunnels, lots of bridges [over the rivers, and also “regular” streets], and houses built on the side of the mountains/hills.  Looks really pretty.

I walked over the Roberto Clemente pedestrian bridge [just on game nites] and talked to some guys who were selling souvenirs re buying a ticket on the street.  They told me the guy to buy from…and got my $8 ticket in the bleachers [$9 at the window].

They have several tall bronze statues – probably 12’ high, outside the stadium.  Roberto Clemente. Willie Stargell.  Some Homer or Honer guy… When I talked to people, I asked the statues were life size, but people didn’t get my joke.

Inside they had the very stereotypic ballpark food.  Nothing new or interesting.  They have helpful people working there and a guy told me to go to the Hall of Fame Club, which is open to the public and they have better food up there.  So, I went there and the moment I got inside, the skies opened up and the wind and the rain came pouring down.  I didn’t care, cuz I was inside, and had my greek salad, which was unusually tasty.

After about 45 minutes, the rain stopped and they announced the game would start in 15 minutes.  I went and found a seat under the awning/whatever it’s called.

After the game started, it started to rain again, and rained the entire game.  Unsure when they call it [I’m sure some of my readers know], but thought it interesting that they never called it, and there were all these people sitting out in the open [NOT under an awning].

Several thoughts:
As mentioned above, they have regular food stands, except …they sell pierogies.  They even have a cartoon with pierogie characters that plays between innings and then people dressed as pierogies come onto the field and run around.

Chili pie = bucco pie

People here call the team the bucs, not the pirates.  Lots of bucs or bucco mentioned.

Now, the layout of the stadium is spectacular…you can see downtown and a bridge just above the outfield.  However, contrary to what I was told, the stadium isn’t black and yellow.  The back/outfield area is painted all green.  The stadium seats are midnite blue [per my childhood box of 64 crayola crayons].  Everything else is cement color.  And then the coolest thing happened, at one point,  it was as though someone flipped a switch…at a certain point the sun was setting and the reflection off all the downtown buildings was this yellow/gold color.  AND a rainbow.  Unbelievable.  It seemed surreal.  I have attached a photo. Doesn’t do it justice.

You know how in between innings some stadiums will “shoot” t-shirts out of the gun-like thing?  Well, here they shoot hot dogs.

Minimal signs/adverts along the outfield wall. 

On my way to the game, I went thru a little run down area and then a really nice area – big beautiful older houses.  The whole time everyone I saw had dark skin.  Of course, no big deal…just what I noticed.  Then, around the 5th inning, I looked around me…and the crowd seemed 100% Anglo.  I then searched the stands for people of color.  I found 4 [not together].

The lady at my hotel says NO ONE goes to the games.  I think the stadium was probably 40% full.  Of course, the threat of rain probably kept a lot of people away.

The game tied up in the 8th inning.  Still tied at the bottom of the 9th.  I was cold so I left.   It went for 13 innings, with the pirates/bucs winning.

I like Pittsburgh enough to spend another nite here.

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