Copyright Dave MacDougall. All rights reserved.
DAY 21: WEDNESDAY JUNE 28 2017
We left Geneva, NY at 9:30 after breakfast with clear skies and a full tank of gas. Today's plan was to get to tonight's game in Toronto vs. the Orioles at the Rogers Centre. Ultimately we made it.
New York is wide- at least for the slow moving bus. We entered the Empire State on Monday, noonish, and finally crossed the Rainbow Bridge into Canada at 2pm Wednesday. Sure we had a frozen tire anchoring us in Albany overnight and a planned detour to Cooperstown, but it seems I crossed Texas easier. Today's ride towards the border was uneventful, just a slow 55.
The sight of Niagara Falls at the border jolted Tommy from his word search games though. We passed the sniff test using our needed documents and entered into Canada, a first for the boy. We paid to park ($18 American) and did a walking tour of the world famous falls, while enjoying an ice cream cone.
The GPS said it would take 90 minutes to reach the ballpark so we headed out at 3pm which would normally get us to the gate with plenty of time to see it all. The heavy amount of traffic said otherwise.
We expect delays, plan for them and allow additional time to get to our destinations on schedule. Getting to the gate 30 minutes before first pitch cut it as close as I can remember. The plan was open as to where we would stay, where we would park and I thought that like our stop in Baltimore, we would get a room within a block or two. A quick Google search for "hotels near me" showing rates had me saying nope. Fat chance. Wrong. Arriving at height of rush hour in gridlock traffic unable to move had me gritting teeth. $20 parking three blocks away was fine. We hit the pavement and headed over to the 22nd of 30 stops on our quest to scatter Johnny's remains with high hopes.
Toronto is without a doubt a world-class city with little regard for $129 rooms. Even with the exchange rate, the plan was put on hold until we at least got into the ballpark. I bought a pair of tickets on the street, upper deck behind the plate row 3. We entered the complex and wound our way through what can only be described as a cold cavern of concrete. Dark, dank, bland, blah and unfriendly are the nicest descriptors. I back spaced plenty here to get it right.
We walked around the 100 level, purchased a window decal, souvenir refillable soda and a slice of pizza. We found our seats by ascending the ramps and wow, some redemption. The views of the city were amazing. The sight lines of the field were good. I suspect that if the roof were closed things would have been different, but it was a nice evening and a good crowd.
I spent the better part of the first Inning on my phone trying to find normal hotels in the general area but failed to do so. I told Tommy that we would leave Metropolis as soon as he felt like it and after the fourth inning, and a ceremonial ash scattering in section 112, we did just that. So long Hogtown.
I guess today simply did not add up to the fun ballpark experience I had hoped for, but it's only one game, one stop and we have much more to do and see.
We ended up tonight in Brantford Ontario just off the Wayne Gretzky Parkway. The Blue Jays won 4-0 but I feel like we lost out. I am sure things will improve.
DAY 22: THURSDAY JUNE 29 2017
Applied Rain-X to the windshield in preparation for the continuing rainfall, hit the drive-thru at Tim Horton's, the National go-to coffee, donut and burger shop, then high tailed out of Brantford at a steady 50 MPH, I mean 80 KPH, eh.
The 403 Westbound would lead us directly into Detroit, our primary destination today. We cruised at a steady 50 due both to the kilometers long legal limit over largely single lane construction zone roads, as well as the imposing wind trying to blow us off the inter-province highway. I drafted a big rig for ninety minutes and after a good break at a rest area, we set our sights on the motor city for a Friday night game. The bus has been getting 3.85 kilometers per litre which sounds terrible; another reason to celebrate getting back into the good old USA. We hit the border after a 170 mile run, crossing over the Detroit River atop the Ambassador Bridge, all before the extreme vetting deadline of 9pm EST. We made it!
I was wondering where all of the rush hour traffic was and where all of the people were like we encountered in Toronto, but the streets were flowing, the people were relegated to other areas apparently, and the ballpark emerged like a beacon on the horizon. Route guidance shifted from the 1978 metric system back to miles and feet just as my gas consumption shot up to 15 MPG. We pulled over beside the home of the Tigers and with a simple search, Google populated a list of hotels near me at regular rates. We settled on the Holiday Inn just a few blocks away due to location, price point, and the secure parking. I'll take two nights thank you. What a difference 24 hours can make. We miss RV camping but with nothing offered in the city and evening games; hotels are needed.
The parking valet fully understood my concerns about the bus and gave us good tips with the security manager, and the desk clerk of the hotel extended special pricing matching the Thursday night rate for Friday nights lodging. So far so good. The room was nice, just like tonight's forecast so Tommy and I hoofed it over to catch the game just in case the Friday night game gets scrubbed due to rain. Walking along big city streets in the financial / touristy district is both interesting and safer, and we had no trouble reaching the ballpark about 10 minutes away. Funny thing though, the Tigers don't draw many fans on non-game days as we quickly discovered. Not being able to come up with a valid excuse as to why there was nobody there I told Tommy we just needed some exercise, so let's go back to the hotel, eat at the adjacent restaurant, shower up, watch TV in bed and relax. He was delighted. It's nice being Super Dad again.
DAY 23: FRIDAY JUNE 30 2017
Happy Birthday Kristin Sloan. Tommy and I are in Detroit and you are in Fort Lauderdale today. We really miss your smile, wit and friendly demeanor. You are the best! See you soon.
We did sleep in a little late this morning. I fired up the laptop, returned emails, text messages, made a trip to the post office to mail out some funds, did two loads of laundry, you know, doing the routine mundane stuff put off because of travel. We actually attempted getting haircuts today but in the city of Detroit, unless you have a reservation at a good old-fashioned Barber Shop, forget about it. Twice we were turned away at the door. Luckily, I always pack an extra supply of hair paste to plaster down the crazy scientist hairdo gone amuck.
Tommy and I pulled on our baseball garb and made our way to the ballpark, a mere ten blocks away under gloomy skies and a light drizzle. Tickets were donated to us for this particular game from good friends, Geri and Joe who live in Detroit yet maintain a winter place in Fort Lauderdale that we've become very friendly with; thank you so much. Comerica Park is so beautiful. It is what modern ballpark's should look like. The fans here love the team and the mascot, a fierce Bengal tiger.
We passed through the gates, picked up a souvenir soda, a window decal and made our way around the perimeter of level one as the rains increased. Our customary clockwise rotation of the ballpark showed us what great architecture and artistic ingenuity can achieve. It was awesome. I would encourage other baseball fans to consider traveling to Detroit to see how the fan experience is so much better when art, architecture and comfort levels combine to deliver an amazing venue. We pressed on over to a cell phone charging station and the rains continued to fall. We met a father-daughter duo from Cleveland, the opposing team, who stopped by the same cell phone oasis and we struck up a conversation. Tommy asked them if they wanted to hear the world's most annoying sound to which the lady replied sure, and then instantly regretted it. Her dad was amused for 2 seconds as I just rolled my eyes chuckling intently.
We both traded travel stories and her father was very interested in hearing about all of our exploits, wished us the best of luck and was sorry to hear about Johnny. He said the entire premise of the trip was wholly worthwhile and Tommy shot me a look of satisfaction, one that I've yet to see from him, one that made me so proud of the boy. The young lady kept checking the radar and stated that the weather will likely not let up and the game will probably be called because of the impending doom. Charlie Brown's teacher confirmed it a few moments later over there loudspeaker. We descended down the steps into the right field lower box seats, directly toward the foul pole. The usher did not have an objection as I took the napkin of Johnny's remains out of my pocket, leaned far over the wall and waved it all into the Friday night atmosphere. He will forever be part of Comerica Park now.
It was fine. We traveled hundreds of miles to be at this ballpark, on this night, and you know what, it's perfectly fine. We will definitely return to the friendly city of Detroit and marvel again at this incredible ballpark. Fans began scurrying out in a smattering of directions.
So we missed enjoying the ball game, we missed the 7th inning stretch, we missed the first pitch, but we truly caught the spirit of the crowd, a group who came out in force supporting their team.
One thing I have always wanted to do is rank each ballpark in order of first to last using a completely unscientific methodology. This ballpark will ultimately be at the very top.
As we poured out of park, the skies poured down on top of us. We smiled, we ran, we dodged droplets ducking under overhangs, bridges, hotel entryways; laughing all the way. One thing is for certain, Tommy is faster when it's raining on his head then when it's sunny on his back. We arrived back at the Holiday Inn in record time, stopped off to grab a light dinner before returning to our room - knowing it would be the end of our stay in the Motor City. Tomorrow we will rise early pack our bags and head south towards the Sunshine State with only one ballpark left to see. Thus far, everything has been great, even the snafus we've encountered.
Thank you all for your support. Baseball is only a game but it mirrors real life; slow, exciting, even a complete washout. That’s why we go, you just never know what you'll get or when it'll be your last.
DAY 24: SATURDAY JULY 1 2017
Forgot to cancel my cell phone alarm and was up at 5:55; packed all of the gear, put out some clean travel clothes for Tommy and finished up a string of emails while watching nothing on TV. The boy sleeps like a stack of lumber.
We each showered, went down to the buffet breakfast and did the ‘do-si-do’ maneuvers fetching eggs, juice, a bagel and coffee around the Taekwondo conventioneers. Those kids were fast as lightning. Tommy cuts through the crowd like a skilled commuter boarding the morning train.
Our bags were placed into the bus by 9 and after an oil check, walkaround door ding inspection and sunglasses wipe down, I cranked over the engine. Well, I tried to start the bus but she wasn't up yet. It took a few tries but she fired up eventually and off we went after a good ten minute warm up. The valet lot guard was very interested in talking about our travels. He figured out that we were doing a baseball trip due to the window decals and asked many questions including the ultimate question about Johnny Boy. The young man wished us well as we left the hotel lot, the city, after I promised Tommy a return to the Motor City for an actual game.
The plan today was to head south on Interstate 75 as far as comfortable. The overall drive to Atlanta spans 715 miles and we have a game there on Tuesday evening so we can be choosy. I prefer getting a jump on the first day but was prepared for four equal servings of 180 miles if needed. We motored on for 9 hours covering 325 miles. Taking long breaks kept us all happy, the bus included. There were no further starter issues. We cruised along, got blown around quite a bit in Michigan over the wide open landscape of green pastures and excessively bumpy roads. Ohio was instantly smoother and with the windows now rolled down, we straightened right out. This top-heavy vehicle seems to be impacted by both shadows and bug splats, but she is fun to drive. Two hands, two feet, two eyes and two ears are needed at all times. It's a throwback and I really enjoy it for all of its' idiosyncrasies. It is timeless.
The clock does not work, aside from 9:18 twice daily so I placed a circular photograph of Johnny over this recess on the dash. I stroke his face often saying you would have loved this or that boy. He's always on the back of my mind, but today he was front and center. Having hours to think about how much fun we did have together was really good. It makes the trips we take to honor him so worthwhile and he is missed dearly.
The day kept rolling along like the analog odometer and we crossed into Kentucky and paused at the rest area / welcome center. It was here that the handy 'Camp and RV' app generated a list of suitable places to consider. We have missed camping on this trip so tonight we decided it's time to get back at it.
We settled on a new place in Georgetown, KY 'Whispering Hills RV Park'. This converted horse farm is sprawling with 200+ sites, a large pool, a covered Pavilion, basketball hoops, bouncy houses and at least four trees. There must be 100 kids roaming around too. Oh, and after we checked out the sparkling restrooms / showers I noticed many helpful posters telling us don't do this and don't do that.
Tommy owned the pool, riding down the spiral waterside a few dozen times. Marco Polo was played but there were zero cannonballs attempted due to a 4.5 foot maximum depth. I heard music playing and we ventured over for a set at the Pavilion. The trio were good playing some classics, Jimmy Buffet, Neil Young, Tom Petty and a Beatles "Yellow Submarine". The smell of BBQ grilles and hickory wood burning in the firepits wafted across the grounds as the sun began its slow western most descent in the eastern time zone. It stays light here in summer til 9:30.
Tommy showered off the miles, the chlorine and met me back at site # 11 with the A/C blasting and an expertly crafted peanut butter and fluff sandwich at the ready. Days like this are great, leaving us with a sense of accomplishment and a stunning sunset too. Hopefully he stays young long enough for a 1,000 more such days.
DAY 25: SUNDAY JULY 2 2017
Well, the starter gremlin reappeared this morning. I showered first, packed up, unloaded, reloaded, closed the roof gently while tucking in the canvas so as not to pinch the fabric or have it hanging out along the side. Tommy told me each step in sequence, a routine he has mastered so that in the future when he can handle the weight and legally drive, he will be completely seasoned. Turned the key and the solenoid fired up to jolt the starter but the engine would not yet crank over. Tried again, and it cranked on, still nothing.
The actual site we parked in was slightly sloping downwards. Blood likely flowed into our sleeping feet last night, sort of like the Joker's lair in the TV show Batman; not really on the level. This proved to be useful as we rolled the bus down the slope, dropped it into second and popped the clutch and it roared to a stutter start and quit again. The roadway leveled off a bit and we tried a last clutch technique quickly before resting and nada.
This happened yesterday in Detroit too and once it started then, it was fine for the rest of the day. The unit was hot, the engine was hot and it just fired up each key cycle. It started. OK. We're good. After a warm up, we went 2 miles to fuel up. I chose a spot on a good hill, filled the tank with 92 octane and she started normally. You see, I know what I'm doing.
It's Sunday and the routine is to make and devour the world's best pancakes. I ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ made them because the Waffle House does not serve pancakes and Tommy only ate 25% of the chocolate chip waffles served. They were great by the way, along with a Texas Toast Sausage Egg breakfast sandwich and those slightly undercooked home fries. It was a quick pit stop and we left satisfied and drove away from Georgetown, KY on to I-75 at 11a.m.
Yesterday was a 9 hour day covering 325 miles. Today started out a bit off but was loosely going to be a simpler day, splitting the next roughly 400 miles over 3 days. The miles just rolled on by quite easily. I figure a tank of fuel lasts 175 highway miles, 150 combined city / highway driving and then fill up accordingly. We were cruising along and I heard a backfire about 140 miles into this fill up and pulled over to examine the muffler patch job. Some flashing was peaking so after a quick mallet tampering, it looked fine. I opened the engine hatch and the fan belt was loose like a bobblehead, sloppy even. The tension was way off. The border was only a few miles away so I figured we'd stop, rest, have lunch and check things out further. The bus was running just fine, even peppier.
Hello Tennessee. The welcome center came up quickly around a bend in the roadway and was both narrow and offered only 500 feet of parking start to finish. The upward slope of the single lane entry was teaming with people making their way to the bathrooms, pet walking area and picnic tables. We parked in front of the main building, shut off the bus and headed inside.
The handy RV and Camp app posted many campgrounds including a nice looking KOA not too far away, nor too far from Atlanta for Tuesday's game. Trouble was, they, like many I suspect wanted a 3 night minimum. This just didn't fit with our plan so we got rolling southward to rethink the logistics. But it was here and now the bus gremlin stepped out from behind the curtain.
The key turn yielded zip. Not a stutter, crank, nothing.
It was dead.
I opened the engine hatch, gave it a more thorough inspection, and glaring back at me was a silver hole, the former home to the alternator lock bolt. This resulted in a very slack fan belt which meant the battery was not getting charged up. I carry a German-made heavy-duty battery charger with me and a 50 foot extension cord, tools and small parts in my bag of tricks, including nuts, bolts washers, fuses, everything you would likely need for such a breakdown. I thought okay we will secure the alternator, tighten the belt, charge the battery and it'll start right up. It was a good plan, the security guard thought so too and he even offered to help. I Houdinied under the bus, inserted the hardware, tightened it down with an assist from a VW enthusiast, seemingly solved the belt issue. The battery continued charging as Tommy ate his sandwich and downed a Pepsi. Twenty minutes later, the battery registered 85% so I turned the key and to my surprise nothing happened. My volt meter showed the battery strong enough to start any car so I began running through the other typical issues that could be causing this problem. I quickly realized I am not a mechanic and did not have alternatives, aside from the obvious; it's broken. It could be a fuse, a relay, the ignition coil, the starter, the solenoid. Trouble is, easily diagnosing what to do, what to check for is not my strength. I'm more of a balls and strikes guy than a nuts and bolts guy, but I do have a basic grasp of things. I tapped on the starter, I tapped on the solenoid, I depressed the clutch, I did everything I know to do to diagnose the problem to no avail. Here is something I now know, people in Tennessee are kind and patient and helpful. A man came by and insisted on helping until we got 'this thing going'. We checked all of the fuses, discovering one had been blown and now the stereo works. Now we have music, but I prefer driving. He said I could potentially bypass the solenoid and I went through that procedure with no success. We spent 45 minutes scratching our heads trying to come up with a solution to get this bus started. He hung in there with me for an hour. Can't say he did not try. He left genuinely sorry. I told him that if all else fails, I have power from the building, food, AC and a 24 hour bathroom. Not a bad spot to be in. I knew all along I could roll jump start it down the narrow one-way, wrong way entry into the rest area, but it was so crowded with pedestrians I had ruled it out. Now it was time to get moving. Tommy turned the wheel as I pushed the bus out of the spot. He stepped out safely back on to the sidewalk. I had one shot at this. The wheels rolled, faster and faster, the lane was clear and as the clutch popped out, Sweet Pea fired back to life. I had forgotten how handsome the boy can be when he smiles ear to ear.
I let the bus warm up thoroughly during this time and checked route guidance. SunTrust Park, home of the Atlanta Braves, was 225 miles away. So if parked on a hill, the bus can roll a bit and start. Sure, turning the key is easier, safer, and preferred but if we are in a jam, we likely can get out of it over this holiday weekend, provided we have some gravity nearby.
This trip has already used up one of four AAA tows, (100 miles each) something VW people covet highly. I told Tommy if we press on now and get south of Chattanooga, TN, we will be within 100 miles of the ballpark in Atlanta. If we absolutely cannot get help we can at least be towed to the bsllpark to see the game and complete the 2017 quest. It ran great and we pressed on; and here we are 98 miles away from the ballpark at the Holiday Inn at the top of the driveway, safe, secure and more seasoned. Tommy was told and has learned over time that when things go sideways, it's time to focus, plan, and execute solutions. Naturally we would prefer not to be in the situation, but I believe down the road he will look back on this and benefit by adapting and overcoming unforseen obstacles. A mechanic will get us back to basics. No question. But nothing will change the experience we shared today.
DAY 26: MONDAY JULY 3 2017
Sir Isaac Newton would favor VW'S I suspect. Vroom went the bus this morning as we sped down the little parking lot hill in Chattanooga. The premise of using a rolling start to fire up Sweet Pea had the laws of gravity working for us. Put the key in the on position, roll, clutch and shift into 2nd gear, roll a bit more at speed, let the clutch out and it started right up. We quickly drove back to the starting spot to let the engine warm up; this way, if it konked out, we could do it again. Tommy could likely do this if needed. He knows the steps. Kids learn things at summer camp; at camp MacDougall, the KID learns useful life skills.
Our breakfast was delicious. We ate well, packed up, performed the starting procedure and left Tennessee to get to Atlanta earlier than originally planned just so we can catch the game on Tuesday.
Hello Georgia! Within five miles, we pulled into a foreign auto mechanic shop that I found online for a professional diagnosis. Calling in advance could have easily thwarted our attempt, so we did a drop by to garner a more personal reaction of the bus, the boy and our out of state holiday weekend situation. It worked, sort of. He simply could not handle the work because of the holiday schedule. The problem is clearly an either or scenario- starter motor or ignition. We will address this after the 4th of July, otherwise we will be parking on hills until we get back to Fort Lauderdale. No big deal, just a nuisance.
There happened to be a Supercuts one door down and we both sorely needed basic grooming. Luckily they were on a slight downward slope and if all else failed, the guy at the shop said he could help push start us if needed. Tommy wanted a mohawk but settled for a faux-hawk instead. It was a simple trim for me. I pointed out the projected rolling route in that empty lot to the boy and he gave the bus a good push and it easily started up. He was beaming at the effort put forth. He rode shotgun and we drove 95 miles to SunTrust Park, home of the Atlanta Braves. It was an easy ride and there where many hotels to pick from within walking distance to the ballpark for Tuesday night's game. After a topography examination, we settled on a Day's Inn. Boo hoo. Many of the hotel's were booked for July 4th as we discovered, but being safe, in the mix and perched in a choice spot satisfied the core needs.
We took an Uber to and from a local movie theater to see "Cars 3" and thoroughly enjoyed it. So the camping aspect has been temporarily sidelined in favor of a stay within walking-distance to the game, but we are holding up well, and with our eyes set on the newest ballpark in the nation for the final game of this season, complete with fireworks on the 4th of July. We are having a ball.
DAY 27: TUESDAY JULY 4 2017
Happy Independence Day!
Tommy and I are somewhat stuck in Atlanta having fun but feeling like we should be doing something more than just hanging out in the hotel room for a day and a half, but tonight was the big game between the Astros and the Braves at the brand new ballpark. We saw c a movie, did some 'work' but really just hung out, waiting for something to happen.
Our buddy Dave Farrell hooked us up with spectacular Club Level tickets, and we eagerly awaited the opening of the ballpark at what's known as 'The Battery' at a really cool hip restaurant bar scene just outside the main entry in center field. It sprinkled a bit but we entered on time, picked up his souvenir soda cup, a window decal, and walked the perimeter, settling in for what surely would be an epic game between two rivals.
The boy was served his typical dose of cotton candy, a slice of pizza, and we ventured over to our premium seats and took it all in realizing that this ballpark is something special.
The Astros took an early and commanding lead yet the hometown crowd which filled the ballpark, didn't leave, didn't waiver, didn't give up on their team. The game somewhat slipped away and before we knew it, the sixth inning came and went, and then we all slipped into the 7th inning stretch. Johnny Boy was scattered to the dust, a permanent fixture of SunTrust Park, out in the outfield.
A young couple took interest in our trip, in our travels, and I suggested that they too plan a trip, to do and see the things they dream of. I turned around and spotted Tommy and just hugged him. He beckoned to leave early but we didn't. We stuck it out, hung in there. Just like being positioned on the side of a road, he had little choice.
The game ended and we walked back to our hotel a mere half mile away. This ballpark completes our ninth of the season, and our final one of this year and we are spent, but we're hopeful the next year in completing the task we set out to do in 2015 to honor Johnny in each and every of the 30 ballparks in the major leagues. Happy Independence Day.
We will always remember and celebrate Johnny on this day of baseball, hotdogs and apple pie.
DAY 28: WEDNESDAY JULY 5 2017
We were so tired this morning and slept til 9am, but by 10:15, we were packed, fed and roll starting Sweet Pea down the generous slope of the parking lot on the Circle 75 Pkwy.
Route guidance was used to monitor traffic levels more so than where to go as the only likely roadway we would see today was Interstate 75 South. Atlanta is a speedway city with a populous of budding NASCAR drivers seemingly trying out for the 43rd spot on the circuit. We were passed by so many motorists by an average margin of two feet. After clearing the city though, the roads were a dream, smooth, clear and dry.
Tommy loves saying "HEY!" while pointing at a field of baled hay passing by. His jokes are getting better and I always laugh. He asked where will we end up and I said I'm not sure, let's keep going and see. We fueled up, we took breaks and we felt fine so we just kept going.
This leg of the trip is deceiving. It will take us 9 driving hours to reach home so the plan always had us stopping in Orlando to check out the new waterpark. We had dinner, filled up the tank, checked our lights, turn signals, brakes, etc. and decided Orlando was doable today, albeit with an arrival tonight. We had done a 535 mile run in 2016 so 450 or so today wouldn't be setting any records, but close enough. I drive carefully, slowly, leaving wide berths and plenty of braking room. Pushing this vehicle to an unreasonable level would yield problems. So the drive was slow, long and less comfortable, but the bay widow windshield enabled unparalleled views. The roads were flat, the forecast clear, the boy was excited and we dug in.
We have traveled all over the USA and a sliver of Canada with nary a solid plan of camping or hotel stops. Sure we stayed with family and friends whenever possible and that was great, the best part of our trip really. Keeping our options loose allowed for spontaneity.
Tonight, I wanted to stay near the Universal Theme Park, with a sloped parking lot, free shuttle to the park and a complimentary breakfast too. We settled into a Comfort Inn and Suites because it was there. Must say the place looks great after the complete facelift, and the guy at the counter gave us a large room too.
I'm guessing he could sense the mileage of today on my wary face. Maybe it was the Dedham Fire T-shirt, or the boy wonder still full of energy.
We settled in, showered up and and are looking forward to enjoying the last full day together at the waterpark tomorrow. He will be back with mom soon enough and I wanted to finish strong, with one more lasting memory. We talked of what we'll see next season and of how we might mix it up a bit to knock it out faster, even possibly flying / renting a car. Keeping him engaged, happy and focused in the original premise of honoring Johnny by taking him out to the ballgame is the message that must resonate the most, and I think overall, he has gotten it.
DAY 29: THURSDAY JULY 6 2017
Staying off property but with complimentary shuttle service saves the parking fee to said theme park. The in-house ticket agent sold us water park passes and said get there on time because they do limit the number of guests entering this new hotspot, shutting people off at the gate. We grabbed the first available shuttle bus at 8:30 and the driver stated that one of the other shuttle buses had been disabled and we would be picking up additional guests at other properties. Subsequently, we were shut out from entering the water park until 4 p.m.
Guest Services had a line a mile long with irate customers who legitimately bought passes yet were turned away through no fault of their own aside from arriving at 9 when the gates opened. It was chaos and guest services was clearly overwhelmed. The remedy was to provide complimentary passes to the other two theme parks (Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios) and allow us into the waterpark as soon as the capacity crowds thinned out. Tommy and I shrugged, took the deal, and made the best of the situation. And it was great!
We were here last on his 9th birthday back in February but the park is large enough and cool enough for a repeat visit. We hit the highlights there and before we knew it, we were on a shuttle bus to the water park. This was our first entry into "Volcano Bay" and it was very impressive. Sporting smart wristbands to reserve rides, we checked our gear into a locker and hit them all. My favorite, the rapid lazy river. Tommy loved everything. We ate, we drank, and we closed the park at 9 p.m. wanting more. After taking the shuttle back to the central bus depot we hopped in a $8 cab and returned to our hotel 8 minutes later still soaking, still smiling and wiser about logistics.
We will be returning to Fort Lauderdale tomorrow afternoon but today was all about Tommy and keeping the promise that if the trip goes as smoothly as expected, we will treat ourselves to a day at the new water park in Orlando; mission accomplished.
DAY 30: FRIDAY JULY 7 2017
Tommy gave a good push at 9:15 a.m. and we got rolling out of the lot after a decent warm up. Orlando is as much fun to leave as it is when arriving, this time even more so. The weather was clear, the roads were empty and our sights were set on South Florida, more specifically, home. Tommy asked several times how long will it take? Where are we? What time are we due back? To which I always answer in algebra.
I always try to keep him guessing, or thinking or even just puzzled. Like yesterday at the park when exiting Universal's "Transformers" attraction. In dad speak, "that Transgender leader Octopus Slime really beat up Heavens to Murgatroyd with the help of the Fembots". The annoyed boy snorted back, "dad, they are TRANSFORMERS, and the leader is Optimus Prime, defeating Megatron with the help of the Autobots", hand slapping forehead for dramatic effect. The trip was like this all along and our fun banter of father and son was truly the highlight.
We went to amazing ballparks, stayed with friends and family and enjoyed so many wonderful experiences, but it was the one on one time I will treasure. In the span of 30 days, many spent on the road, we never listened to the car stereo. Sure the blown fuse lasted through 8 states and all of Canada before I replaced it in Kentucky, but our conversations were far better than anything else.
We rolled on easily today through a typical Florida downpour before reaching Weston so Tommy could step out and hug his mom and cat. He said it best, "we took care of Johnny on this part of the trip and only have six more ballparks next year".
I left the boy smiling telling him that he likely grew a full inch over the course of the trip but logged memories that will last a lifetime. He gave me a giant hug and then a good shove down the sloping driveway so I could start the bus and drive home.
He explained the procedure to his mom who looked slightly amused, proud and stunned all at once. They both disappeared as I rounded the corner, Tommy giving a rare wave.
I pulled into my driveway after this 30 day trip, logging exactly 4,035 miles, nine ballparks and the Hall of Fame visited, and only one tow needed. I'm good. Goals were set and reached. We took Johnny out to the ballgame. We honored him. We would not have been and be to do this without the support of family and friends and are so grateful. Thank you.
I will compile a highlight post later to cover some other interesting factoids but I will finish with this; we are stronger because of you. Now it's time to see Kristin Sloan
2017 TRIP LOG
DAY 21 - 30
30 DAYS - 4,035 MILES