After I visited Wrigley in 2005, the answer to "Which one that you haven't been to do you most want to see?" became Dodger Stadium. Stump your friends with this trivia question: what's the third-oldest active ballpark in the majors? Everyone knows Wrigley and Fenway are old, but it usually comes as surprise that Chavez Ravine, opened in 1962, is now #3.
And it feels that sort of old, in a cool retro way. After walking very far across the parking lot, we took a covered escalator up past palm trees, and it felt like Disney's version of the future as imagined in the 60s. It's big and open, you can see the hills, and it's just a fun place to be. The stadium holds 56,000, so even when the stands looked half-empty, there were still a lot of people there, as evidenced whenever they had something to cheer about. (Though they had little to cheer about this day, in an 7-3 loss to the Cubs, but Matt Kemp did hit a home run.)
One odd feature, though: movement between levels is largely prohibited. We arrived just at the start of game time (yup, LA traffic is a thing) and as such didn't have a chance to wander the whole park. But when we decided to do so, we couldn't find ramps between the levels, just a couple of stairwells. Those were guarded by ballpark staff, who said we couldn't go down without a ticket for the lower levels. One of them said "Come back in the 9th inning," though. At that point the stairs were undefended, and we made it to behind home plate before the game ended.
I didn't get to partake in many food options, what with our late arrival and inability to walk around the ballpark, but I did get a Dodger Dog. And it's not all hype, this is actually a really good hot dog.
Post-game, we went into the city proper and met college-era friends Dave and Jon at The Standard, where I had pizza with okra on it, we saw some dudes who looked like they had stepped out of Dragonball Z, and some other dudes who looked like they were going to hang out with Derek Zoolander.
Los Angeles was preceded by a return to Petco Park, since the last time I was there we got rained out. This was a frustrating game, as the Padres acted like they just weren't interested in scoring runs, but they kept the Braves off the board with some great escapes. Finally the Padres won in the 12th and there was much rejoicing. There were also fish tacos, and goofy-ass Padres bucket hats.
My San Diego crew had planned to go to a local casino after the game, and that plan stayed on even with the extra innings. Fortunately the game started early, so rather than ending close to midnight, it was "only" 10 PM or so. But that's still 1 AM eastern time, and I am old and boring; I found myself wishing I'd made better choices on the drive there. So quite naturally I won $175 playing craps once we got there. In all I had been up 24 hours straight by the time we got back.
The food highlight of the trip: I insisted we visit the winner of the San Diego-ish portion of the FiveThirtyEight burrito bracket, Lolita's, which turned out to have a location right by the ballpark. Lo, we were not disappointed; the carne asada burrito, with fries inside and two wonderful salsas to add, was a thing of beauty. We liked it so much we came back for breakfast before the trip to LA.
Seven ballparks left (eight if you count Atlanta, but I refuse to do so until they actually open their new one). Next year's leading candidates are Detroit and Miami. If you're in Tampa, Phoenix, San Francisco, Milwaukee, or Denver, you're welcome to make your case.
About time to get caught up on trip reports. This being an even-numbered year, we returned to Duck, North Carolina, to our little house on the sound. The night we arrived, we saw the most wonderful sunset, resulting in perhaps the best photograph I've ever taken, seen above.
Two primary thoughts on this vacation. First, we didn't do much. And I mean that in a good way. We spent most of our time hanging out on the dock or on the beach itself (it should go without saying that I didn't catch any fish). We did the usual shopping/browsing, but nothing extreme. There was a distinct lack of day trips--we didn't go to Corolla at all except for donuts and groceries early in the week, and we only went south once, for the Outer Banks Brewing Station and miniature golf. We had considered visiting a park or wildlife refuge to go hiking, but that never materialized. But that's OK. This vacation felt a lot more relaxing than some past ones, no doubt because we didn't put much pressure on ourselves. Duly noted for future years. We spent one day at a Centreville friend's beach house in Southern Shores, and enjoyed that tremendously--other kids for the girls to play with, hanging out with friends and their extended family, just a nice time. Makes us wonder why we don't do extended family beach trips more often; we may try to pull that off next year.
The other thing: this will always be remembered as the year a hurricane passed over us. There was no indication of it when we first arrived, but by mid-week news spread that Hurricane Arthur would be paying us a visit, Thursday night into Friday. A mandatory evacuation of Hatteras Island was announced, as the storm was to track directly over it (also, with bridge construction going on there, a much greater likelihood that people could be stranded). The northern towns were told we could stay put. Evacuating at that point sounds like a drag--do you pack up and cut your vacation short? Leave most of your stuff, find a hotel inland, but then how do you know you'll be able to get back? We talked with some local cops next to us at a restaurant on Wednesday, and they didn't think it would be a big deal, so we stayed.
The storm hit late Thursday night, and it rained and howled like a banshee. Kristin and the girls slept through it. I very much did not, considering the possibility of tornadoes and our total lack of a basement. Things started to let up by morning, though, and by early afternoon there was little indication that anything out of the ordinary had happened. The water on the sound side was definitely higher, but no actual flooding in our area. The beach was red-flagged, meaning no one in the water, but we had no problem with that. The biggest downer was the cancellation of Duck's Fourth of July parade; fireworks and other activities were postponed until the weekend, and we ended up not attending any of that.
Dining: mostly usual favorites. Wave Pizza, Duck Donuts, the Brewing Station (where I watched the USA-Belgium World Cup match, with some difficulty), and Sooey's BBQ. A notable new entry was Coastal Cravings, which was apparently featured on Guy Fieri's Food Network show. We got big seafood dishes; it was the most expensive meal we had all week, but quite enjoyable (and way better than the salty seafood buffets of years past). The Duck Boardwalk, while not like the New Jersey boardwalks, now connects most of the sound-side shopping areas, as well as the Duck Town Park. Makes for enjoyable and easy walking.
More photos on Flickr, after the baseball pictures.