Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Too Hot in Nashville

We’ve always enjoyed visiting the Nashville area, and on this trip we managed to grab a great spot at 7 Points Corps of Engineers Campground, just outside of town on J. Percy Priest Lake.  You can see our review here.  The weather was insufferably hot – mid 90s and humid, and we decided to pass on a visit downtown with the crowds, heat, and very expensive parking.  Instead, we decided to revisit one of our favorite places, the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.  We had attended a conference here back in my working days, and were amazed then, as we were again, at clip_image002this huge, beautiful facility.  With 2800 rooms and over 600,000 square feet of meeting space, 15 restaurants  and 3600 employees, it’s a city in itself – and all that space doesn’t include the four magnificent “atriums” that cover nine air-conditioned acres.  The largest atrium, “Delta” is so large that it has a 1/4 mile river that meanders through the gardens.  Each Atrium has a separate theme, but all four are filled with trees, flowers, fountains, and waterfalls.  It’s hard to believe that you’re indoors – I can’t imagine the energy cost to keep the entire 9 acres at a comfortable 72 degrees!  Some views of the atriums:Opryland1
The sound of rushing water from the many fountains and waterfalls is everywhere:
Ah, and the flowers; everywhere flowers….
Opryland Flower1
Opreyland Flower3
Opreyland Flower4
Opreyland Flower5
As we were walking around, we were shocked to find a group of Vulcans having lunch.  Turns out there was a Star Trek convention going on while we were there, and many of the attendees came in full costume:
Vulcans at Lunch
Nashville was great, but it was time to move on, so we’ll get back to you with more tales of our travels!

Sunday, September 01, 2013

A Little League of Their Own

We’re watched the Little League World Series on TV for a number of years and enjoyed it; so, we said, why not attend some year?  LL World Series4And this was the year!  We spent time in Northeast Ohio visiting friends and relatives (more on that later), and then headed east along I-80 to Williamsport, PA to attend the games.  It’s a beautiful area of rolling hills (although they call them mountains back here), green forests, and pretty farmland.  Williamsport is a medium-sized town along the Susquehanna River and has been the home of the Little League World Series since 1947.  Here, 11-13 year olds come from all over the world to play in the double-elimination tournament deciding the champion.  But it’s more than that.  The 16 teams (eight U.S., eight international) that have made it this far are housed in a special complex where they learn about each other’s cultures, work with their coaches, but mostly just have fun.  All transportation, housing, and food costs are free to the teams thanks to private and corporate donations. 
LL World Series3As you walk through the stadium complex, you get the feeling that this is more a festival than a baseball playoff.  Carnival-like games, food vendors, and souvenir stands abound, and everywhere are smiling kids in their team shirts. LL Scoreboard There’s no admission charge to see the games, although getting a spot in the 3000-seat stadium involves an intricate lottery system that we didn’t bother with.  But no problem, as you’ve seen if you watched the games on TV, there’s room for 30,000 or so fans on the grass beyond the outfield, and even more room above. 
LL World Series2What impressed us most was the sound – even in the farthest reaches you could hear the team parents cheering and the sounds of the game.  The biggest difference in being there was how fast LL World Seriesthe pitchers were throwing –  the “pop” of the ball in the catcher’s mitt was loud and clear!  We learned later in the museum that because of the shorter distance, the ball gets to the plate faster than a major leaguer’s LL World Series790-mph fastball .   The kids have picked up all of the major leaguer’s mannerisms  while batting – the adjusting of the helmet, tightening of the batting gloves, hand outstretched behind to signal time, digging a hole in the batter’s box……all that’s missing is the cheek full of “chew”. 
LL World Series5It was a great afternoon, but after watching Japan defeat Mexico, we had to call it a day.  A long uphill walk from distant parking, temperatures in the mid-80s, and bright sun made the car’s air conditioning and a cold drink a must.  We realized that we weren’t up to an early morning trip back to the stadium to claim space for the championship game, but we agreed that our trip was well worth the lifetime memories.
LL MuseumOn our walk back to the car, we stopped at the museum, a modern facility that had an interesting mix of history and interactive exhibits.  Here, kids could run an indoor track simulating home plate to first base and get their Helmet Guntime and the best time of the day; look through a catcher’s mask at a 3-D pitcher fling fast balls at them, and search for teams around the world using a high-tech touch screen console.  We also laughed at the “helmet gun”, a cannon built to shoot baseballs at batting helmets to see how they’d perform.  I think I‘ve known a couple of people who were used as test subjects…..
And so another bucket list items has been scratched off the list.  Truly a memorable experience and one we recommend for everyone – the joy of the kids is contagious!
Our RV park for this visit was located well out into the farmland, and as we traveled back each day, we were greeted by this beautiful sunflower field:
Sunflower Field1
Sunflower Field2
Keith and LorrieOne of the great joys of traveling the country is to be able to reunite with friends.  In Ohio, I met with a high-school buddy, Lorrie,  that I hadn’t seen for 48 years – you can imagine how old that made us feel.  But within minutes the time slipped away and we were reminiscing about our time together as if it were yesterday.  We had a great afternoon together – another connection made possible by Facebook!
Keith & SandyIn Pennsylvania, we visited with an old Air Force friend that we hadn’t seen for eight years.  Now a retired Colonel, Sandy has an incredible home in the mountains.  We had a great visit and managed to avoid spending the day telling “war stories” from our military lives.  And, managed to leave with Sandy’s hand-crafted kielbasa and pierogi!  What a deal- good friendship and free food!  We’ll plan on returning as soon as Sandy finishes building the RV pad for our extended stays….
We’ve left Pennsylvania and are wandering around with a final destination of Texas for the winter.  We’ll be stopping at some interesting places, so c’mon back and see where we’ve been!