Onward to Baltimore…

After dropping my rental car off I headed into the airport.  If you have never been to Milwaukee’s airport, DON’T GO!  To get to the ticket counter I had to go in from the rental drop off garage, up 2 levels, into the airport, down a level and clear to the other side of that floor to get to my airlines (Air Tran) ticketing counter.  Once I got checked in, I had to go back across the floor, up 1 level and walk a ways to get to security all while carrying that “Dead Hooker”.  I tell ya, I learned a valuable lesson already and that is if I am ever going to do just carry on luggage again it will have WHEELS!  I am not going to be hauling that over my shoulder ever again!!

Ben's Chili Bowl in NW Washington D.C.

Security wasn’t bad at all, much to my surprise because 2 days ago as I walked by on my way out of the airport, it was jammed!  Had a great conversation with the guys working there about beer (1 of them commented on my “Dick’s Manfish Brewing” hat) as I stripped down having to remove my shoes, brace, phone and belt buckle.  I was afraid my pants were going to fall off they were so loose!  When I went to put everything back on, and my laptop back into my carry on, I saw a sign there above my head that read “Recombobulation Area”… not THAT is just plain out funny airport security humor!!

My flight to Baltimore was just about 2 hours long and fairly easy honestly.  I only got about 15 minutes of sleep, sure wish it had been more.  However, once we landed I hit the ground ‘running’ yet again.   In Baltimore to get to the rental car counters you have to ride a shuttle bus from BWI to the rental facility.  Having done this a few times prior, I had no problem doing it again as I got on the bus and got to relax for a few minutes talking to a family from Chicago about the Cubs (I had my Cubs jersey on).  When we got to the rental facility I headed straight for Budget, saw their “FastBreak” sign, found my car and got out of there in less than 15 minutes… take THAT Milwaukee!

Having really not eaten anything since my wings at Psycho Suzie’s in Minneapolis yesterday afternoon, I headed straight for U Street in Northwest DC and Ben’s Chili Bowl.  Ben’s is famous and has been there for just over 50 years now.  Many Presidents have ate there, including President Obama on Inauguration Day.  Ben’s is also a favorite restaurant of Bill Cosby and his favorite item is the “chili half-smoke” so naturally that’s what I was having.  Not just because of him, but because of the 3 I have had before that were all soooo good!  This time I sat at the counter, right up front, so I could watch everything going on.  Along with the half-smoke I ordered a side of the chili.  I was surprised to see that the side of chili comes with beans, where the chili on the half-smoke doesn’t, as it’s more of a sauce really.  Either way they were both so good, but by the time I was done, I was also so full I didn’t want to move except for I had a ticket in my pocket for the 1:30pm tour at National’s Park I needed to get to.

At National's Park

I left Ben’s just before Noon and I figured I would go to Nat’s Park and see if I could jump into the next tour instead of waiting until mine at 1:30pm.  That would have been a great idea except for the fact that there was no more tours until the one I was in at 1:30pm.  So with almost 90 minutes to waste I texted my buddy Bob DeVries and asked for a suggestion on a sports bar to go hang out at and have a beer or 3.  He suggested “Capital City Brewing Co” so that’s where I went.  Capital City if a pretty cool place with a decent selection of their own beers on tap.  I asked if they had a hoppy IPA and was told that they didn’t, but their Pale Ale was “Good and hoppy”.  I smiled and said I would try it and holy hops batman, it was!  I had a couple of those and just before I left I was introduced to a new style of beer, to me anyhow, a Belgian-Style IPA.  I’m not big on Belgian beers because they are usually a bit sweeter and a tad creamy.  This was no different except that it had a great hop flavor to go with it.  I liked it but didn’t have time to get another cause I had a tour to get to!

As I arrived back at National’s Park I noticed the thermometer was reading 98*!  Nothing like a mostly outdoor walking tour in 98* weather with some seriously high humidity!  The tour itself was pretty cool.  We had a small group so our guide took us all over the park.  The only real disappointment is that the Nationals advertise that with their tours you get to go into the bullpen and throw a pitch off the mound.  We were unable to do that today because they were setting up the stage for a Dave Mathews concert that would be there in a few days.  That sucked, but our guide tried her best to make up for it and our 1 hour tour turned into an almost 2 hour tour.  We got to see the Clubhouse, indoor batting cages, Presidents Club (both inside and outside), got to go into the press box, a couple different suites and so on.  I learned that National’s Park is the 1st and only ballpark to be certified “Green”.  That’s cool!  At one point our tour guide was telling us about their HD video board and said that it was just over 5000sq ft.  I got to thinking and I asked her if I heard that right and she said I did and I said, “My house is only 1808 sq ft!”  She laughed and replied, “So that video board is over 2.5X the size of your house.”  Holy cow that’s huge!   As the tour ended and I got to my car I took a quick peek at the thermometer, it was reading 105* now.  I betcha I lost 2 pounds, at least, on that tour.  No matter, my Sante Fe had AC and I was off to Baltimore for the game at Camden Yards.

Getting Soaked at Camden Yards

The drive up to Camden Yards was stop and go for most of it.  I knew if I didn’t get out of DC in time, and with the tour running long I didn’t, that the Beltway would be a mess and it was.  No matter, I still had plenty of time and I got to the ballpark, was parked and walked up to the gate on Eutaw Street before it even opened.  As I stood there, in the sweltering heat, I kept my eyes on the sky cause as the clouds rolled in I could smell rain coming and about 20 minutes after the gates were opened, as I was sitting in my seat in right-center, it started to sprinkle.  The sprinkles quickly gave way to a full on downpour! I just sat there in my seat because I figured that while I was going to get soaked, once it passed, the sun would come back out and I would dry fairly quickly.  At one point I took my glasses off and leaned my head back and just let the rain beat down on me.  Honestly, it felt quite nice as it was a rather warm rain.  Before long the rain had passed and the sun was coming out and an usher walked over to me to ask me why I just sat there.  I told her it felt good and should help me wake up considering I have been awake for almost 36 hours at this point.  I also explained to her how rain was nothing new for me there at Camden Yards because of the 4 times I have been there for games, this was the 3rd time it’s rained.  She joked how it was my fault that it rained.  I can’t recall her name, but she was really nice, unlike a lot of ushers at ballparks I have been to.

Due to the rain there wasn’t gonna be any  batting practice, naturally since I brought my glove for my 1st row seat in the bleachers, so I got up and walked out to Eutaw Street to look at things and wondered over to the Bud Light Warehouse bar.  Inside here is a bar, naturally, and they have a table set up on the right side where the Orioles pregame radio show is broadcast from.  Since I was there I figured I would check it out and ended up staying almost an hour watching them.  Partly because it was interesting and one of their guests was Baltimore great Boog Powel and partly because as I stood there it started pouring yet again outside!

Just before heading back to my seat I heard one of the radio guys mention how traffic was tight around the park tonight and if you were coming you better do it soon because the 1st Lady of the United States would be here to throw out the 1st pitch.  Wicked!  As I walked back to my seat I could see, rather obviously, several secret service members walking around.  A buddy of mine later told me they do that so you pay attention to those guys and not the ones in plain clothes… I guess that makes sense.

First Lady Michelle Obama walks to the mound @ Camden Yards

About 10 minutes before the game was to start they announced Michelle Obama and she was joined by a boy and a girl from her new “Let’s Move” foundation which helps fight childhood obesity.  Mrs. Obama didn’t actually throw a pitch, each of the kids with her did, which I thought was pretty cool.  Whether you like the current administration or not I found it very cool to be in attendance the night that the First Lady was there and being able to see her was a highlight for sure.  Just before the game started that usher lady from earlier came up to me and said with a big smile on her face “Any more rain and I am tossing you outta here!”.  I couldn’t help but laugh.

As for the game, Orioles vs Rays (Arrieta vs Garza), this was my 3rd time seeing Tampa in Baltimore (I need to plan that better).  I was excited to get to see Matt Garza pitch, yet this night he had nothing.  He gave up 10 hits and 7 runs in 6 1/3 innings.  By the time the rain started failing again (with 1 out in the top of the 6th inning) it was 4-2 Orioles.  As the rain kept coming down and really hard at times, I decided I was done with getting soaked, was freakin’ tired and needed to get me a bite to eat.  Honestly I figured that they were going to put the game in a rain delay at any moment, so I left.  As I got up to walk out I stopped by and told my usher lady, “I’ll make this easy on you and toss myself out!”

As I walked out of Camden Yards on Eutaw Street headed to my car, in a downpour, I felt something pop on my leg.  It was the strap on my leg brace… it broke!  There I am, 4 days into a 2 week trip, walking to my car in the rain, with a broken brace strap.  Lovely!

Chap's Special @ Chap's Pit Beef

For dinner I Googled the address for “Chap’s Pit Beef”, another place I have seen on “Diners, Drive-in’s & Dives” and headed over there.  I am not a big BBQ fan, but from what I had seen on their show, their sandwiches looked awesome.  I got the “Chap’s Special”, which is a hoagie stuffed with fresh turkey, ham and roast beef smothered in BBQ sauce and fresh onions.  It wasn’t much to look at, but it was awesome!  Big enough that I ate it for 2 meals!

I was listening to the game as I made my way to my hotel out by the airport.  I was shocked that they hadn’t even called it yet even though it was still raining, though not as hard as earlier.  Once I got checked in and up to my room, I looked for it on TV, couldn’t find it, so I followed the rest of the 13 inning affair online and was happy to see that the Orioles pulled it out 11-10 in 4 hours and 38 minutes.  I still think I made the right choice since I will be back at the game tomorrow.  Better to cut one short and get some much needed rest than to run super long at 1 and make the rest of the trip miserable.  As I said, there’s always tomorrow’s game…

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