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2007 Pittsburgh & Cleveland

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Long neglected but much anticipated as we've traveled the land in search of the perfect hot dog has been the rust belt, that stretch of post-industrial America that isn't quite east coast, but not quite midwest either. This year we ventured to the heart of the rust belt to visit two fine ballparks, and to expose Mark to a bit of unwanted culture.

First stop was Pittsburgh, PA, the home of Andy Warhol, the Steelers, the Pirates, and a rather bland sandwich crammed with cole slaw and french fries. On Saturday morning Mark slept in, then called us to see where the group had ventured off to. Hearing that we were at the Andy Warhol Museum, Mark quickly threw on some clothes and ran across the 9th St. Bridge so as not to miss a thing, and he was not disappointed. In fact, I believe Mark was heard to say "Thank you, guys, for bringing me here... you have opened my eyes to the fabulous world of modern art, and I don't think I will ever be able to look out onto the world the same way again. This has been a truly transcendental experience."

I may not have gotten that exactly right, but I think you get the idea.

Saturday evening we were treated to a rare home win as the Pirates defeated the Astros 7-3 at lovely PNC Park. Pittsburgh's claim of having the "Best Ballpark in America" is open to debate, but is probably more accurate than the quote above.

Sunday we had an architectural experience at Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, which, contrary to claims at the website, is more than 90 minutes south of Pittsburgh. Interesting house in a unique setting - Mark was, of course, still reeling from the Andy Warhol experience, so this may have been more 20th century art than he could handle in a 48 hour period.

From there we bid farewell to the weekend warriors and headed north to the shores of Lake Erie . In addition to the Tribe, Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, a fitting location considering the great acts that have hailed from Cleveland: Henry Mancini, Chrissie Hynde, the Ohio Players, etc.

Hmm, actually Chrissie Hynde was born in Akron, and the Ohio Players got their start in Dayton, leaving just "Breakfast at Tiffany's" soundtrack composer Henry Mancini. Cleveland Rocks.

At least the city has a nice ballpark, from which one would have excellent views of downtown had they made the left field scoreboard a bit smaller, or put it behind center field. The night was a special one, however, for the 10,000 Red Sox fans who were in attendance to see John Lester make his first start in over a year after receiving treatments for cancer. Boston prevails over the Tribe, 6-2, ending the pilgrim's mini 2-game win streak.

Lessons learned on this trip: less driving is better; bring maps; Matt will do just about anything that is suggested; just because a sandwich is loaded with fries doesn't mean it tastes good; any bobblehead is a good bobblehead; Mark will tell you that pissing on a canvas isn't art, yet he can't pull his eyes away from it.

2007 Phoenix

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It was a glorious Sunday afternoon in the Valley of the Sun. It's early in the season and Phoenix has not hit triple-digit temperatures. In fact, it was a very pleasant 77 degrees. Baseball designated April 15, 2007 as Jackie Robinson Day and many players wore the retired "42" to honor the man who broke baseball's color barrier.

Chase Field, formerly Bank One Ballpark (BOB) is a nice, retractable roof modern stadium, a bit reminiscent of Milwaukee's Miller Park. Disappointing was the attendance of less than 22,000, considering it was a) Sunday, b) Jackie Robinson Day, and c) the D'backs were in first place. Did you know that they have $5 seats in the upper deck left field foul pole section? That's just $405 for season tickets! You'd think attendance would be better, especially with Randy Johnson and having recently won the World Series.

The home team beat the Rockies 6-4, a rare sight for these pilgrims. The local fans celebrated by reminding us we were in the "Grand Canyon State."

Every pilgrimage includes a side trip. This time, we stop by the Tree & Ron Wedding. The after parties feature moments with Heather the five-time cellphone loser and Drunken Jen, who not only bears a resemblance to Penelope Cruz, but also hates being called Drunken Jen. Fascinating.


2006 Denver

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Located in Denver's Lower Downtown (LoDo), Coors Field is a nice, modern park that serves Rocky Mountain Oysters. Did we? You betcha!

We sit in a swank section behind home plate and foul balls come our way often. Razzy Burst catches one and sells it to a drunk guy for $1.6 million dollars. In true pilgrimage tradition, the local nine loses to the Padres [5-2].

Of course, we tour the Coors Brewery in Golden, CO. After the tour, there is a free tasting. With all due respect to Adolf, Coors beer pretty much sucks, even when it's free. We left behind a bunch of half-full (or half-empty) cups. Unbelievable.

After the game, we walk around and check out the LoDo scene. Oh yes, there is much lurking going on.


2005 Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC

The East Coast Trip starts with us crashing at DJ Mike's loft in the Northern Liberties area of Philly. One of our nights in Philly went extra innings.

We visit the the Native American Museum, various Federal buildings with black helicopters overhead, Arlington and see the Nationals in DC.

Crabcake sandwiches at the beautiful Orioles Park at Camden Yards. Mmmm.


2004 San Diego, Los Angeles, Anaheim

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The Western Metal Supply Company Building incorporated into PETCO park seems a bit contrived, but overall, it's a pleasant ballyard. We meet up with Mark's friend Jen and her friend in the Gaslamp District, and learned that a cat is an "indoor animal." Who knew? Indoor Animals, Dodger Dogs and Rally Monkeys, oh my!

The Marlins clobber the Padres 8-2. Beckett drills Loretta, one of Tony's best players that year. Down goes Loretta!

Atlanta pummels the Dodgers 10-1 in a battle between division leaders. Jaret Wright (remember him?) dominates the bums while Giles, Drew, Franco and Marrero each had three hits.

The lovely Julie hangs with us at Chavez Ravine. Later, she and Andrea join us for dinner at C&O Trattoria in Venice Beach where some heavy discussions go down. "That's Amore" plays and the Gay Tarantella is born.

We spend the day at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Perhaps it is our bias against all things SoCal, or having been to the Art Institute of Chicago, we are underwhelmed. We did have fun filming a re-enactment of The Play.

The Royals saves us from experiencing a third consecutive home blowout loss. The Angels, behind Bartolo Colon, embarrasses KC 9-4. I honestly don't know how the score is this close, as the Royals can not hit, pitch nor field. Seriously, it is like a team of Marvin Benards. Of the starters, five are no longer active and the other four are Dejesus, Stairs, Buck and Berroa.

Finally, we walk around Downtown Disney. Gomez and Brian dance a little jig earning Brian the nickname "Sir Dance-A-Lot."



2003 Jonas and Ron make a road trip

In July, 2003, Jonas and Ron took to the road to embark upon what remains to date the most ambitious of the Pulled Pork Park Pilgrimages. We invite you to look over the original web log created by this duo while on the road.


2002 Chicago, Milwaukee, Chicago again

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Ah, the Windy City. The Land of Broad Shoulders. The Second City. Mmm... mezcal margaritas...

We visit Wrigley Field for a Thursday day game. The Phillies and Cubs are both in fifth place in their respective divisions, double digit games behind the leaders. The Loveable Losers, behind a strong outing by Carlos Zambrano, are actually ahead 2-1 going into the eighth inning, when the proverbial wheels fall off. This time the culprit isn't Juan Cruz, who's already blown many a game started by Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Matt Clement and Zambrano this year. He will finish with a 3-11 record, while only starting nine games. It's battery mates Kyle Farnsworth and Todd Hundley who preserve the loss by allowing four runs in a brutal eighth inning, including allowing a run to score on a strikeout! The Phillies win 6-2. We seem more upset than the folks around us. Either we didn't drink enough Old Style, or the Cubs fans accept losing a bit better.

We have dinner at Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill/Topolobampo. Is it one restaurant with two names, or two restaurants connected together? I don't know, but the food is awesome. Among the dishes we ordered is duck with habanero dipping sauce. And yes, the mezcal margaritas are good and potent.

The next day, we drive up interstate 94 to Milwaukee. What do we see at the state border? A bunch of adult book/video stores! I can't remeber whether the Illinois or Wisconsin side had the stores, but I do recall the parking lots were pretty full. We tour the Miller Brewing Company where we learn that fortunately for Milwaukee, the Great Fire of Chicago destroyed that city's breweries. Hey, their loss is our gain! MGD ice cold isn't too bad, and we also taste some of their premium drinks like Zima and Baccardi. We also send the President some free postcards.

We serendipitously happen upon German Fest. Bratwursts, beer, sauerbraten, more beer, the German ambassador calling the state "Michigan," more beer, multiple verses of "America the Beautiful," the Glockenspiel, more beer, lederhosen, funny hats, cheeses, and more beer.

Alas, the Pabst Blue Ribbon facility was closed. Long live PBR.

The Brewers rout the Rockies 10-3. Richie Sexson and Todd Helton hit homers. Miller Park is nice, though not considered cozy like PacBell. Bernie the Brewer going down the slide is fun, as are the sausage race and the singing of "Roll out the Barrel." Of course, Bob Uecker is calling the game and we get a glimpse of him in the booth from our seats.



2001 Seattle

Ichiro! Tyler Jones! Pike Place Market!


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