Southward with Garfield and Baseball

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August 1st 2016
Published: August 2nd 2016
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Another day of driving and baseball. I've hit the home stretch of this trip, since I'm now back in America and every place I visit brings me closer to where I started - Georgia. I woke up in Canada but was back in the US before noon. It's been a 3-state-and-1-province day, and I now find myself in my first hotel room since my first night in Canada. And only the third of the whole trip. I've never seen this part of Ohio before, but it really does look like most of the rest of it.

Checking out of my dorm this morning was a painless process. I was out of the parking deck before 8AM and heading south towards Niagara Falls. I've seen the falls twice before, once from each national side; the Canadian side is definitely better. But before I could get to America, I had 2 goals: eat at a Tim Horton's restaurant and see the monument that Canada built to their only major defeat of America. The first goal was pretty easy to accomplish, since there are Tim Horton's restaurants at almost every exit. They remind me of Dunkin Donuts in the US - loads of pastries and coffee but also breakfast combo meals with biscuits, sausage, egg, etc. I pulled over when I was about 45 minutes on the road, enough to be out of the Toronto area. I ordered a number one - sausage biscuit meal and a large Pepsi. Yes, that drink choice was unfortunate, but they only serve Pepsi products. I can't remember the last time I had a Pepsi, but I needed some caffeine, and since I don't drink coffee... I'll say that the food was comparable to other breakfast fast food - the egg and cheese on the biscuit were very good, but the sausage tasted like it had to much pepper. While I ate, I wrote my final postcards from Canada and found a post box in the parking lot to send them to their recipients.

The Brock Monument is just outside Niagara Falls and is the monument Canada erected to their victory over the US in the War of 1812. I don't know much about that war, but I do know that we lost (or certainly didn't win), so I wish people would quit saying that we've always taken care of business in warfare. Not true. And
Brock's Monument at NiagaraBrock's Monument at NiagaraBrock's Monument at Niagara

He has turned his back to the USA
this monument shows that. You can climb to the top, but I was more anxious to get back over the border than giving the monument people their admission fee to climb the thing. I also thought I would get to see the falls themselves, since I was already there. That was a waste of time. Parking is $22, and I wasn't going to spend that much just for what amounted to a drive by. So I let the spray from the falls cover my windshield and kept on going. Next stop: America.

Actually, the next stop was Customs. I swear this lady had it out for me. After waiting in line for about 10 minutes, she waved my car up to her window. The family in front of me had 4 passports and they were on their way in less than 3 minutes. I thought one guy could make at least the same case. Wrong. She just knew I was hauling drugs or alcohol or something, with my hippy hair and beard, being all by myself and unemployed. I freely offered up that last bit, since I figured they have access to whatever they want to know about me anyway. And you're not supposed to lie to these people. She didn't really ever ask me what I actually DID bring back with me. She searched my trunk, asked me if a drug dog would find anything if they made it sniff my car, and whether I was sure I didn't have any narcotics on me or that I had never done any illegal substances. I applaud her thoroughness, but really, I can only wonder what the Department of Homeland Security has against me - I get this treatment basically every time I come back from Canada and most times from anywhere else, too. I just have the air of a drug mule, I suppose. Anyway, after she questioned me, she checked her computer for at least 5 more minutes without speaking a word to me before conceding defeat, handing my my passport and telling me I could move along. If this is how they treat a white male at the border, I can't understand why or how other people who go through this process who are not caucasian get anything illegal done.

My next stop was the James A. Garfield Historic Site in Mentor, Ohio. On the way, I drove by the Buffalo City Hall, a wonderful and massive example of art deco architecture. Check out that picture. Stunning. But after that, it was almost a straight shot to the historic site. Garfield was the nation's 20th president, serving only 6.5 months before dying from an assassin's bullet. It really was a shame because he could've gotten so much done, whereas his VP, Chester Arthur, did little to nothing and in fact brought a tinge of corruption to the office. The site accepted my National Parks pass, so I didn't have to pay for the tour. They have a visitor center at the back of the property, which is next to the parking lot. It includes a small exhibit on the life of Garfield, including the events around his assassination. Lots of artifacts and very good explanations of his development as a scholar, lawyer, statesman, and even Civil War general. I must confess that even I didn't know that last part. I have a lot of admiration for the man whom our tour guide called probably the most educated and intelligent president of the 19th century.

The tour begins in the visitor center and then proceeds to the house, called Lawnfield. Garfield bought the house in 1876 and set about upgrading it for his 9-person family. It was a large estate of about 150 acres at one point, but now it's been reduced to 5. Most of the furniture in the house is original to the family because the family were the only ones who ever lived in the house before they turned it over to the national parks service in the 1930s. We were able to see the front porch, where Garfield did most of his campaigning (in those days, candidates didn't go all over the country; they had other people give stump speeches for them), the bedrooms of Garfield and his children, and even his mother, who had a special place in her heart for her youngest son. Apparently, she was the first presidential parent to attend an inauguration and to live in the White House. We saw the dining room where the family and friends celebrated the 1880 presidential victory and lastly the library that Lucretia, Garfield's wife, turned into really the first presidential library - full of Garfield's personal and private documents, though it wasn't open to the public. The tour lasted about an hour, and afterwards, we were allowed to wander the grounds to our heart's content.

My final stop of the day was a baseball game at the Cleveland Indians park, called Progressive Field. A bit of irony there, I think. I had paid for parking with my ticket online a few weeks ago, and that made the adventure so much less troublesome than it could've been. The parking deck, you see, is almost attached to the baseball stadium. On one level, in fact, there is a walkway directly from the deck into the stadium. How splendid. What was not so splendid, though, was the horrible communication about the gate opening times. One side of the stadium opens 2 hours before the game; the other side, where my ticket was located, didn't open until 1 hour before the game. I got to my parking spot just under 2 hours before the game, thinking the stadium would be open and I could take it all in, much as I had done in Toronto the day before. Instead, I was welcomed by the unrelenting sun for about 45 minutes as we awaited the opening of the gate. At least I got to make new friends, one of whom was a lady from Mississippi who also had been a loyal Braves fan over the years.

Inside the stadium, I did my typical circuit, walking around the entire lower level before deciding what I wanted to do. That's not quite true - my first stop was at a concession stand for a drink, since I was more thirsty than anything else. I got a large drink for $7, refills for $2, and it turned out that it was the souvenir cup. So I got a new cup to take home with me. I found the cheapest place to get food offered bratwurst for $5, so by the time I decided to get food, I also needed a refill of my large drink. Their lemonade was quite good and the bratwurst kept me from needing any other food for the evening. I walked up to the information desk and told them it was my first time, at which point they promptly produced a certificate and wrote my name and the date on it. They told me that all MLB parks do this, but I've never heard of it. So I'll see when I go to the Cincinnati Reds game tomorrow night. All the staff were very friendly and helpful. I guess they saw me there alone, not wearing the colors of any team, and then once I had that certificate it was like a target for them to help. As far as the stadium goes, I liked it. The scoreboard screen was huge and worked perfectly. The stadium wasn't too big, so it wasn't an ordeal to walk around it. And the team is doing well this year. This game, however, was not their best performance. It looked like we were in store for an exciting game of baseball in the first inning - a rarity indeed! The Minnesota Twins scored 2 runs and the Indians scored 3. All in the 1st inning. Many entire games don't score that high. But then the Indians' pitching became terrible, and after the third inning, the Twins were leading 8-3. By the time I left, sometime in the 6th inning, I think, the score had become 10-3. It wasn't really a game anymore, and I was feeling like it was time to head to my hotel for the evening. The Indians ended up losing by a score of 12-5. Ouch.

Tomorrow will be a long day. I have to leave by 8:30 if I want to get everything accomplished. This includes another MLB game, a presidential site, and 3 college football stadiums - my first ones of this trip. So, that's all I'm going to say for now.

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