Don't forget to read the last 6 blog entries to see what happened so far on our journey...
DAY FOUR: The Slow Road to Brigadoon
The wake up call came at 9 AM, and thankfully, my legs were not bleeding from little bug bites. Just in case, however, I took an especially hot shower, hoping to at least boil any bedbug eggs that might be implanted. You can’t be too careful. Thomas moved slowly, clearly exhausted from the previous day’s trek through NYC and Yankee Stadium. I pushed him pretty hard yesterday, but today should be a more leisurely pace. The goal was Cooperstown by lunch.
While Thomas showered, I went to grab some muffins and coffee from the complimentary continental breakfast, except there wasn’t one. There was a semi-retired front desk clerk with yesterday’s newspaper and a flat screen TV tuned to the local morning news. According to the weather report, it was predicted to be a beautiful, sunny day everywhere in the viewing area, except for the rain that would hit exactly where we were planning to travel. Of course. Cloudy with a chance of rain was our constant travel companion. Why would today be any different?
By 10:15 AM, we were settled into our assigned seats in the minivan, with a full tank of gas and some McDonalds breakfast. Our destination was approximately 2 hours away, barring any detours. The trip from Saugerties to Cooperstown on the best of days, however, must feel like you are taking detours exclusively. Off one little 2 lane highway, onto another 2 lane street, left onto a winding road, right onto what seemed to be a gravel driveway on someone’s farmland. Jill, our trusty British navigator, and Thomas’ interpretation of the MapQuest directions, were in lock step. That was good, because I had yet to see any signs for Cooperstown, although the GPS kept insisting that we were getting closer.
About 45 minutes from our destination, we encountered the last type of sign that you want to see on a road trip far from home in unfamiliar territory: BRIDGE OUT. Jill kept emphatically repeating that we needed to take a left turn onto the missing bridge. She was trying to kill us. “Turn NOW.” The road signs and barricades insisted that we do otherwise. Left with no choice, we followed the road signs, trusting that the NYDOT knew more than the disembodied Mary Poppins on our dashboard.
We were in uncharted territory. Every few minutes, Jill would break the growing tension in the car with a declarative, “Turn left now”, followed shortly thereafter by a disappointed, “Recalculating.” The detour signs were pulling us further and further away from Cooperstown, and Jill was becoming agitated. If we followed her instructions, she might bring us back to the bridge that was missing, and plunge us to a fiery death. If we followed the detour signs, we might end up in Wisconsin. I was being indecisive and blaming Thomas, my wing man, for not telling me what to do. This was not rational since Thomas was only 12 years old and was probably counting on me to be the adult in the situation. After 3 miles driving off our plotted course, I was willing to accept that Jill might be trying to kill us, but that was an acceptable risk. I made the next possible left. I turned onto a small country road, and we put our fate in the hands of our impatient English tour guide. Did Mommy pack the rosary beads by chance?
Jill avoided the missing bridge, which was good, but she steered us onto some streets in rural upstate New York that had no business being public thoroughfares. Over Jill’s constant nagging, I could be heard muttering, “Where the ‘H-E-double hockey sticks’ is she taking us? And where are the signs for Cooperstown?” According to the mileage tracking on the GPS, we were getting closer, but the scenery was getting more remote and rustic, and still no signs. We were going to the National Museum for our National Pastime, and no signs, no roadside Hall of Fame vegetable stands, no “Last Gas before Hall of Fame” signs, no Babe Ruth Memorial Highway. If this is Jill’s idea of a joke, we did not appreciate her British humor.
The GPS said we were 5 minutes from destination. Really? We drove alongside a large lake on our right, and there was a lake on the maps of Cooperstown. It must be here somewhere, but still no signage announcing the town. Suddenly, we emerged from beneath the trees covering our route like a tunnel, and there it was. Not only were we now in Cooperstown, NY, home of the National Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame, we were apparently in 1951. The town appeared like Brigadoon out of nothing, and I felt like we were no longer in a Honda minivan, but in a refurbished DeLorean, hitting the breaks after achieving 88 mph and 200 gigawatts of power. We were back to the future.
The town was as advertised. It probably looked exactly the same as the day the Hall of Fame originally opened 80 years ago with its original induction class of 5. You half expected old time ballplayers to appear on the sidewalks, strolling out of the surrounding trees like Shoeless Joe from the cornfield in Field of Dreams, desperately seeking a game of pepper or catch. This was a stereotypical mid-century American town, existing solely to honor the stereotypical American game – baseball.
Cooperstown proper was about 6 blocks long, lined with baseball memorabilia shops and quaint eateries. The first building to our left when the town appeared was the Hall of Fame, by far the most modern structure in town. The rest was Mayberry, RFD. We had to park the car quickly and breathe in the nostalgia. We had 24 hours to live the dream, and then Brigadoon would disappear for us into the mist. We had to get started.
We parked 5 blocks away from the Hall, right in front of Doubleday Field, a miniature baseball stadium for those players not invited into Cooperstown after major league (or Little League) careers. At this midday hour, it was open to the public, so Thomas and I walked in, sat on the bleachers with the other 20 fans, and watched 2 teams battle on the diamond. This was baseball at its purest. There were young adults in full uniforms, playing for fun on a professional style diamond, enjoying heated competition in the summer air. We sat among the sounds of the bat hitting the ball, the ball hitting leather, the chatter of the infielders, and the authoritative bellows of the home plate umpire. We were enveloped by a cloud of dust kicked high after a stolen base, and hypnotized by the sweet smell of freshly cut grass. We could have sat there all day. We watched the game unfold, and spoke very little. Speaking would have ruined it.
It started to sprinkle. The rain was coming, but today, we didn’t really care. We’re going to the Baseball Hall of Fame in a few minutes. Eat your heart out, Pete Rose.
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