Rule #4 – Write from your experiences
One of the great parts about writing travel pieces is the “I was there!” shot. Getting out in the world, taking pictures of what I see, having the experiences – that’s what makes writing a great career. Or is the writing career my excuse to travel? Even when I visit the same places over and over again, I still find new things to see. I get a new perspective.
That new perspective greeted me when I decided to make a dent in my 32 Pilgrimage this year. For those who are not baseball fanatics, the 32 Pilgrimage is when you see a baseball game in EACH of the 32 major league baseball parks. It doesn’t have to be your home team. We are talking about the park experiences here, or as marketers might say, the fan experience.
I signed up with Jay Buckley Baseball Tours, out of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. This organization has been around for years and, each season, they run a number of tours that cover a variety of baseball parks. The tours are not just for the baseball fan. Many tours take you behind the scenes in the stadium, and to see the sights in the home cities. You get yourself to the starting point, or points depending on the tour. They take it from there.
The tour I chose was a quick, Midwestern trip to five different ball parks in six days. I wanted to tour the parks, sure. But I also wanted to test my ability to be on a coach bus with others – without driving someone totally crazy - for almost a week. But now to get to one of the pick-up points…
I booked Southwest flights in and out of Milwaukee for this trip. I haven’t flown in years. The thought of putting this cute, not-so-little body into an aluminum tube and hurling it through the atmosphere is a more than a little terrifying. So I tried to get non-stop flights both ways.
The check-in process at BWI was pretty smooth. My daughter, who seems to be flying all over for business, gave me lots of great pointers. I got through security with a minimum of problems. Thanks to a bit of a brain-fart, I forgot to take a handkerchief out of my pocket. So guess which future little old lady got wanded… you got it.
Next, it was off to get the “lay of the land”. What is it with airports? They have more construction than an interstate in summer time. I finally found my way around the terminal, found my gate, then found something to snack on and drink while I waited.
As for the wait, thank you, Janet Evanovich, for writing such great Stephanie Plum novels. I was able to read almost half of one of her books, all while getting the hairy eyeball from many of my fellow travelers. Nothing like seeing someone break out into spontaneous laughter at odd times in an airport terminal. Maybe it was the timing of the laughter, like when a World Cup goal attempt missed. Anyway, a few people around me took her name and said they would check out the books.
Finally the plane pulled in and we were able to board. This flight to Milwaukee was full and I was one of the last to board. I sat on the aisle across from three businessmen who had already met the contents of a local tavern. We didn’t need the flight attendants to do a comedy routine for us. These three caballeros had it covered.
Take offs and landings are never the best part of the flight for me. So I put myself into my “zone” by mentally reverting to my youth – and the Flintstones. I pictured all of us on our own bicycles and Barney yelling to Fred, “C’mon, Fred. Peddle faster.” I think I even said it out loud. The three “men” were busy doing their own thing across the aisle. There was one older fellow and two younger ones. The younger ones started the “He’s touching me” routine, since they were sitting next to each other. Then, as the plane left the ground, they put their hands up in the air – roller coaster style – and went “Wheeeeee!” Once we were airborne and the seat belt sign was off, the older fellow made one of the younger ones move his seat. The older fellow sat between the two younger ones now, so they wouldn’t fight and smack each other the whole trip.
So here I am, on a non-stop flight, no Liam Neeson, but stuck in a plane with three nut jobs… thank heaven, it was only a two hour flight. I can take anything for two hours. Remember, Self, you were a middle school teacher…you can handle anything.
By the way, is Madison the capital of Wisconsin? We played Wisconsin trivia on the plane.
The plane landed on time and safely in Milwaukee. Then it was time to wander through another airport-under-construction to get my bag. I called for my hotel reservation from the airport baggage claim area. The shuttle picked me up and it was off to settle in for the night. I checked in, got some dinner and repacked, since I was picking up a bus the next day with different baggage requirements.
Notes to self:
- Find out Wisconsin trivia answers. Look smarter on flight home.
- Try cheese curds at some point.
- Enjoy beer, since you are in the land of beer and brats.
- Double-check bus trip check in times. Be on time for tour check in.
- Plan the photo shots for baseball parks.
- Let kids know where you are at all times… as an example of what you wanted them to do when they were younger.
- Relax and have fun. Self, this is the start of a trip of a lifetime!
Tomorrow, it is off to Chicago, and next, our first game!