Simply Charlotte

It’s 3,000 miles away as the plane flies, which means I don’t get there very often. That said, it’s still one of my favorite places to catch a flight or make a connection.

The last time I passed through Charlotte International Airport (CLT) was a few weeks ago. I was transiting from a puddle-jumper coming from Ocean City, Maryland to a full-sized jet on my way home to Sacramento. What makes Charlotte different you may ask? In a word: everything!

The wonderful part about Charlotte is its expansive atrium; a light, bright and airy building that overlooks the “B” and “C” gates. After the beautiful view out the windows, the next thing you notice is music. Not canned “mu-zac” from hollow sounding speakers – but a piano player seated at a baby grand right in the center of the building. On this day he was playing a few jazz standards. Want to sit and listen to the live music? No problem. Have a seat in one of the rocking chairs placed strategically throughout the atrium. Rock, listen to music, connect to the free Wi-Fi or charge your electronic toys at one of the several “power stations.”

Getting hungry? Try my favorite spot for Carolina BBQ, Brookwood Farms. They have a counter within listening distance of the baby grand. Or pick up a Jamba Juice if you want something lighter. Not sure what you want? I dare you to walk through the terminal and not be pleasantly surprised by the helpful airport volunteers who stand out in their bright yellow shirts. They’re easy to get food recommendations from because they aren’t behind a desk somewhere – they’re out in the open, walking around and approaching anyone who might have a confused look on their face.

And did I mention the staff in the restrooms? Yep, just like a fancy hotel or restaurant they have restroom attendants offering towels, fresh mints and other items that come in handy in between long cramped flights. Need something a little more powerful than a mint to put a spring in your step? Visit the AeroClinic in the atrium. The clinic provides treatment for minor ailments, preventative care, X-rays and vaccinations. Prescriptions and packaged medicines are also available.

Of course, there is shopping and a business center and a few other standard airport amenities. But I think you’ll agree that Charlotte goes above and beyond a “standard” airport. I can only hope that when our new terminal in Sacramento opens, they will take a lesson from “Simply Charlotte.”

 

Wild About Harry

It’s rare to figure out a way to go on vacation for next to nothing. Thanks to a couple of voluntary bumps my wife and I took on United Airlines recently and some hotel points, our family of four enjoyed a memorable week in Miami and Key West over winter break. Our first few nights were spent in Key West at a lovely hotel removed from downtown and across from a popular public beach. The kids swam and we met several East Coast ex pats escaping their harsh winter season. Drew, my ten year old, and I visited Truman’s Little White House, his primary residence of escape when Washington DC was getting overwhelming. The small house, then situated on a naval submarine base, has been lovingly restored and offers informative guided tours.

When not conducting the business of state, Harry enjoyed swimming, reading, playing poker and the piano, and had his staff participate in what he called “loud shirt” contests – he who wore the most outrageous tropical shirt won. Of course when Mrs. Truman and daughter Margaret came for a visit, a few things had to be put away. The custom made poker table had a top cover that instantly concealed what was underneath. The bar was generally closed down when Mrs. Truman was present, except for the President’s morning “heart starter”: a fresh squeezed glass of Florida orange juice and a shot of bourbon. Of course the President, who didn’t care much for fishing, nonetheless had to accompany the First Lady out on the water to indulge one of her favorite pastimes.

While the former President died when I was very young, his life as it was outlined by our guide reinforced my belief in just how much a man of the people he truly was, especially in Key West. He didn’t relax in a palatial mansion or private home far from the watchful eyes of the press or the public. He walked through town. He talked to people. He caroused with the press. He genuinely enjoyed the company of the servicemen and officers who shared this vacation home with him. Truly, he was exceptionally unique among other men who have held the office, but then again, those were different times.

I think the most touching story the guide told our tour group was about a small satchel the President always carried with him when traveling to and from Key West. The President never had it out of arms reach and never permitted anyone to carry it for him. His aides always believed the satchel carried important papers. While the contents were important to the President, it didn’t carry anything terribly important to country. It simply carried the President’s classical music records that he loved listening to in the evening hours as the sun set in Key West.

After my visit it was easy to see why our tours to this unique destination continue to sell out each January. I can only hope that someday, I might be able to wrestle the tour away from Mark so I can begin planning my return visit!

 

Great Scot!

In the world of social media, I’ve learned a “shout out” is appropriate to acknowledge a friend, when a good deed is done or when someone is worthy of attention. To this end, I’d like to offer at shout out to Carol, Beverly, Sue, Loraine, Amylou, Phyllis, Kitty, Maggie, Barbara & Eric, Susan & Wayne, Jim & Shirley, Hal & Bea, Bill & Beverly, Gail & Fred, Jim & Lora and the combined staffs of Sports Leisure Vacations and All West Coachlines, especially Diane, Kristin and Ken. They’ve earned it! They deserve it!

On Friday, February 18, this group of eager Sports Leisure travelers gathered at Sacramento International Airport to embark on the highly anticipated tour to Long Beach to take part in the 18th Annual Scottish Festival held aboard and around the venerable Queen Mary. I was excited to be the tour director. In fact, I cut my winter sabbatical short to get back here in time to take this trip. As Sports Leisure’s resident Scotsman, I even purchased a new kilt for the trip (bringing my total to four, one for each day of the tour).

A beautiful full moon shined down upon us as we all motored to the airport in the pre-dawn hours. Then it happened—that little thing that that only occurs at Central Valley airports built in the middle of endless rice paddies in the wintertime: The fog rolled in. No, “rolled in” is too kind and gentle a verb to use in this case. It stormed in like Sherman marching through Georgia. Immediately every flight was delayed, but surprisingly only one was cancelled. You guessed it: our flight to LAX would not operate.

This was the Friday morning of a holiday weekend. Even before the cancellation, seeing the writing on the wall, my office staff and I were looking at our options. In short, there were none. Every flight from Sacramento, Oakland or San Francisco to LA, Burbank, Long Beach, Ontario, Orange County or San Diego was sold out both Friday and Saturday. Either the tour would be cancelled or we’d have to drive.

Less than an hour later, our beautiful All West motorcoach—a familiar old friend, SuperCoach II—pulled up in front of the airport. Thus our 8-hour drive to the south began. Despite pelting rain and driving winds, our savior behind the wheel, Mr. Ken Sanders, got us there safely and just in time for our evening activities.

Despite fowl weather reports, the weekend was beautiful for the most part—just a couple of isolated showers. The Festival went off without a hitch. We enjoyed numerous outdoor activities under the southern California sun including a Venetian gondola ride and an ocean cruise. By trip’s end, the weather was so perfect we could have never imagined our next challenge . . .

Our plane originated in Hartford, CT that morning in the middle of a blizzard, then landed in Milwaukee during terrible storms. She finally and unceremoniously landed in San Diego to take us home nearly three hours late. So there will be no Shout Out to Southwest Airlines today!

I often say “travel is an inexact science.” Air travel is especially so, as proven by our misadventures this past weekend. But I have to ask why these great people signed up for the trip to begin with? Was it to fly back and forth and be on time? Or was it to spend relaxed time in the company of a great group of travelers, leaving the worries to someone else, perhaps enjoying a few surprises along the way? If the latter, I hope their expectations were met. We were even blessed with a beautiful rainbow as we began our ascent over the Grapevine, seemingly telling us everything was going to be OK. In addition to the shout out, I offer my sincere thanks to all my travelers for your patience, cooperation, great attitude and kind words expressed throughout our adventure.

I have just one more question for you: Where shall we go next?

Pearl Harbor Gets a New Look, Doris Duke’s Home Open for a First Look

Almost everyone who has made it to Hawaii in the past two generations has made it a priority to stop at the Pearl Harbor Memorial. The tragic but historically fascinating story of the surprise Japanese attack that signaled our country’s entry into World War II will live in infamy, as the late President Roosevelt told the country the day after it occurred. The memorial played host to thousands every day, six days a week, 52 weeks a year. Survivors of the attack would often hold court on the lawn, telling and retelling the events of December 7th, 1941 to the delight of scores of listeners.

But the old memorial grounds were crowded. The facilities were not modern, the exhibit spaces were cramped, concessions minimal, rest rooms overcrowded. For such a reverent place, it often fell victim to the shear numbers of people wanting to come and learn about the events of the day and pay their respects to those permanently entombed in the USS Arizona and the other brave men and women who lost their lives that day. Park service staff were overwhelmed on a daily basis.

But now, after three years of work, a new visitors center is open at the Valor in the Pacific Memorial. You can take a shuttle to tour the USS Missouri, where the Japanese surrendered at the end of the war. There’s a submarine to explore; larger, cleaner restrooms, a snack bar, many more exhibits to see. The theater has a new film which gives an overview of the attack and you still board the Navy launch to go out to the Arizona Memorial.

If you’ve been once in the past, it’s worth another visit. This is a truly American story, one that will live through the ages, and the National Park Service has done an outstanding job of displaying history in a way that is well worth spending the better part of a day exploring.

While there is a charge for the shuttle to the Missouri and admission to the submarine, admission to the memorial remains free. Tickets cannot be reserved in advance, you must get them on the day of your visit. I strongly recommend arriving between 7:30 – 8:00am, as the tickets are time dated, and the early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the early ticket.

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There’s a new attraction in Honolulu that is worthy of your time and the $25 admission price. The late Doris Duke, a high society matron of the first half of the 1900’s, owned a spectacular home and a massive art collection on the east side of Diamondhead crater. The house and grounds are being restored and in recent years have been opened to the public for tours on a very limited basis (75 visitors per day).

From the Academy of Art, you board a shuttle bus that takes you on the 20 minute ride to the home. Chris Galloway, my traveling companion on this scouting trip, snapped the pictures you see here. It was a most interesting look at someone I knew little about (Ms. Duke). The views from the balconies alone are worth the effort to go there.

After 90 minutes, you are returned to downtown Honolulu on the shuttle bus. Since the Iolani Palace and the State Capitol are just a few blocks away, you can easily spend a day here. For lunch, check out the YMCA café, in a building designed by Julia Morgan.

Who said Honolulu is just a big boring city? Not me. Heck, the steak dinner at Chuck’s Cellar, a tiny spot tucked under the Round Table Pizza on Kaiulani Ave. between Kalakaua and Kuhio, serves an incredibly steak dinner in an old time atmosphere that will remind you of the Chuck’s of Hawaii that was across from Town and Country Village in Sacramento before it burned to the ground many years ago.

More good eats….the crab and prime rib special at the Marriott Waikiki on Friday and Saturday is the best buy in town. Save a few bucks off the $30 price by going before 6pm. Crab legs as far as the eyes and the tummy can see. Plus a great salad bar, tender prime rib and desserts for days. Check it out next time you are in Waikiki.

And so it goes….

Morgan’s Wonderland

On a recent visit to San Antonio, I was introduced to a truly wonderful place. Morgan’s Wonderland, an amusement park just north of the city, is the first designed specifically for families with physically and mentally challenged children. The park, which opened just this year, was built by the father of a special needs child. During a family vacation, he noticed his daughter wanting to play with some other children in a swimming pool but she was unsure of how to communicate her wishes to them. Likewise, the children seemed to want Morgan to play with them as well, but they were unsure of how to approach her. Today, Morgan’s Wonderland is a father’s realization of a promise to himself to create an atmosphere where children and adults of all abilities and their families can come together and play.

During a short guided tour, myself and several other Tour Operators from the Travel Alliance Partnership were shown several accessible attractions, including a merry-go-round that was lowered so the platform with the animals is level with the ground. In this way, a wheelchair can simply roll onto the ride. Additionally, the merry-go-round features an apparatus that can accommodate a wheelchair, which itself will go “up and down,” just like the animals. No more simply going around in circles in a non-moving spot. Other rides included a fully accessible train and “off-road” vehicle. There were also play gyms, sand boxes and play tables, along with full-size swing sets, that could accommodate wheelchairs and other special needs as well.

What’s really amazing about Morgan’s Wonderland is how its staff takes care of families that visit. Reservations are highly encouraged as the park maintains a strict maximum attendance each day. This helps keep the crowds more manageable and provides a level of comfort to children with special needs who may be anxious in large numbers of people. Families are also provided unique radio wrist bands. If a parent feels comfortable allowing a child to explore the park on his/her own, the parent can locate the child at any time by using special kiosks throughout the park. Here’s the best part – admission for those with special needs is free to Morgan’s Wonderland. Attendants of special needs visitors are only charged $5 and others are admitted for only $15.

As the first of its kind, Morgan’s Wonderland is fighting to get the word out about the unique experience it offers. More parks are hoped for in the future with the possibility of franchising the idea so that like-minded individuals and non-profits can bring similar parks to their regions sooner. In the meantime, Morgan’s Wonderland continues to serve families from not only the greater region around San Antonio, but from all over the United States. For more information about the park and its mission, please visit www.morganswonderland.com.

Honoring our Veterans and Enjoying Great Music Along the Way!

I escorted my first tour to Branson Missouri in 2003. I really did not think I would enjoy watching shows for several days as I am more at home being in the great outdoors, traveling to our National Parks. Since 2003 I have escorted eleven tours to Branson and look forward to many more! First of all Branson is in a beautiful setting, in the middle of the Ozark Mountains. Our beautiful hotel, the Hilton Promenade sits in the middle of a shopping area called the Branson Landing on the banks of Lake Taneycomo. Also steps away, the historic Old Town with a five and dime store, and neat little shops. It is also very convenient getting to Branson these days since they opened a brand new airport just south of town.

But what keeps people coming back to Branson are the shows that line the road known as Country Blvd 76, soon to be renamed Entertainment Blvd because it is not just country music you will hear. On our visit we watched the performances of Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Debbie Boone and the Gatlin Brothers, Tony Orlando and the Lennon Sisters, Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff, Japanese violinist Shoji Tabuchi, The Hughes Brothers, and Jim Stafford.

I had a really lovely, fun group. We enjoyed 70 degree days all but one, and a nice sightseeing tour around the area. Breakfast and dinner where included each day and the meals and restaurants were excellent. We were in town during the Veterans Day week with their annual parade passing right by our hotel. Branson is the most patriotic place in the country; they acknowledge our veterans each day of the year, not just on Veterans Day. I think the thing I like the most about Branson are the people, they are so friendly. We pull right up to the front door of the theatres and restaurants. No place else do I know of where the restaurant manager will come on to the coach and welcome you to his establishment. If you’ve never been to Branson, find a spot for it on your travel calendar, I don’t think you will be disappointed. Next year’s tour will depart sometime in the fall. Look for the itinerary in our newsletter the beginning of 2011.

Flowers & Fireworks in the Pacific Northwest

077 I recently had the pleasure of escorting a trip to Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia. These are two of my favorite destinations and I always look forward to going back. For many reasons, this particular trip was amazing. The weather was absolutely perfect for the entire six days. We met the “Queen of England” (I will explain later), saw deer and gray whales, enjoyed the beauty of Butchart Gardens, and was dazzled by an awesome firework show over Vancouver Harbor. There was also an unfortunate incident that involved me doing a dance called the Macarena (again, I will explain/ defend myself later on).

After arriving from Seattle to picturesque Victoria Harbor by ferry we enjoyed three very leisurely days in the city. Victoria is a great tourist destination and every sight is a near perfect picture. The hanging flower baskets, the architectural beauty of the Empress Hotel and British Columbia’s Provincial Parliament building fronting the harbor, and the chance to stroll along the waterfront are just some of the charms that keep me going back. We had a double-decker bus tour of the city and for the first time our group saw the elusive black-tailed deer and even happened to see a gray whale surface as we drove along the waterfront. (As the Tour Director I’d like to take credit for arranging these chance encounters, but luck and good fortune were on our side.)

I will take the credit for our group meeting the “Queen.” During high tea at the Empress, she “arrived” and taught us all the royal wave and how to properly stir our tea…never clink the tea spoon on the tea cup! Jess and Frances Mills celebrated their anniversary and Frances was presented with an exquisite 29¢ strand of plastic pearls from the Queen’s “personal collection.” Meeting her is always a treat. While teaching us proper tea time etiquette, she regales us with the latest gossip and scandals of the Royal Family. Oh, and even if you missed this trip, you won’t miss the Queen. For some reason, she always seems to be in town when we are. Amazing but true.

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Butchart Gardens is always a sensory experience. The gardens began in the remnants of an old rock quarry a century ago. Jenny Butchart began planting roses and now the garden is a maze of beauty with its Japanese gardens, English and Italian Rose Gardens, and the famous sunken garden that feels like walking through a postcard. My mom considers it a necessity that I get there once a year so I can provide her with seeds for her flowerbeds. I know not to come home empty-handed.

The last two days of the trip were spent in Vancouver. The city has such a unique feeling. Its downtown is dense and has the feeling of New York City mixed with Seattle, but on a much smaller scale. We were in town for The Festival of Lights, a competition where countries compete to dazzle the crowd of 20,000 or more people with elaborate firework displays. After a nice dinner cruise we had the luxury of watching Mexico’s presentation from the deck of our ship. The full moon and lights of the city made for a perfect backdrop for a perfect evening.

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Oh, about that Macarena incident…as the ship returned to the dock, a DJ was playing familiar classics, and this is where the night turned a little more lively. After singing along and dancing from our seats to the YMCA, I was dared by some of our ladies (Teri, Luanne, and Mary) to get on the floor and dance. We made a deal that if I danced they would join me. The DJ played the Macarena which has an accompanying dance. We got on the floor and after teaching everyone the moves we were all dancing when the entire catering staff of the ship joined us on the dance floor. It was one of the best times I have had with a group because everyone just let loose and had a great time. There were incriminating videos and pictures taken and I will pay dearly to keep them hidden!

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This blog entry doesn’t even begin to capture all the incredible things we saw and experienced. I am including some pictures from our trip because, after all, pictures are worth a thousand words. If you have pictures to share or would like me to send you a picture that I took just email me at Chris@sportsleisure.com. You can also check out these photos and more on our facebook page if that’s your sort of thing.  I love this trip and look forward to escorting another group to two of my favorite destinations next year. Come along with me, eh, and sip a cup of tea with the Queen…

Disneyland is Still Special

It’s been 55 years since Walt Disney opened his Magic Kingdom in Southern California. It’s been over 30 years since I first traveled there myself as a young child. After high school, I didn’t spend too much time there but since being married and having children, I have been fortunate to visit every year for the past ten. There have been countless changes just in those last ten years. A new hotel, The Grand Californian Resort, has opened. An entirely new theme park, Disney’s California Adventure, has been built and is now undergoing a significant transformation as it redesigns several areas and expands. Downtown Disney, a separate attraction in itself with many restaurants and stores, has also opened. With all this evolution, it’s no wonder the area is now referred to as Disney’s California Resort.

On a recent trip we followed our usual modus operandi: one day Disneyland, one day California Adventure, one day back at Disneyland. In between we enjoyed good food, good shopping, and great rides and shows. Want to enjoy a 50 minute Broadway show in a theater that would rival any on Broadway? See “Aladdin” in the new California Adventure theme park. Hankering for great food and maybe some wine? While the original park still doesn’t sell alcohol, the new park does and has wonderful meals at the Wine Country Trattoria. Want to learn more about the parks and the famous Mr. Disney? Take one of several personally guided tours of the parks including the popular “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps.” Of course many of the old favorites are still at Disneyland including the recent return of one of its signature attractions, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, which Disney created for the World’s Fair in 1964.

What motivates me to travel to Disneyland year after year? Honestly, it’s the faces of my children and my wife as we spend several days with each other. It’s the small town feel of walking down Main Street USA and exploring the western rivers of Frontierland by steamboat. It’s the clean walks and pathways, the beautiful landscapes, and that fact that there is always something old and something new to see. And it’s the food – Murphy Family tradition dictates a great breakfast at the Carnation Café on Main Street, lunch at the Wine Country Trattoria, and a fantastic dinner at the Blue Bayou Restaurant, adjacent to the water of the popular ride Pirates of the Caribbean.

It’s been years since Sports Leisure visited the Magic Kingdom. Any takers?

Southern Boy Learns Midwest Hospitality Along the Lincoln Highway

The Sports Leisure Vacations Lincoln Highway II tour last month was one of the most memorable trips I have ever escorted. With many returning travelers, along with some new additions to the Sports Leisure Travel Club, our group set off to see the Midwest along the Lincoln Highway, from Chicago to Cheyenne. I must confess that this is a portion of the country that I have often overlooked in favor of the glitz and glamour of large cosmopolitan coastal cities, and had never taken the time to truly experience. Stopping at museums, roadside attractions, and, small town diners and restaurants, we enjoyed the hospitality and goodwill of Midwestern people as we slowed down and returned to the main streets of small-town America. Three occasions stick out in my memory, and have endeared this portion of the country to me forever.

Let’s start with the food. The first meal our group had was on the outskirts of Chicago at a place called Del Rhea’s Chicken Basket. Being a Southern boy, I had always assumed that Southern folk had the market cornered on fried chicken. I hate to admit that I may be wrong. Actually a longtime Route 66 landmark (that famous route starts in Chicago, while the Lincoln runs along the outskirts of the city), Del Rhea’s serves up the crispiest, juiciest fried chicken I have ever had. Add to that real homestyle mashed potatoes and gravy with corn fritters (think hushpuppies with corn drizzled with honey) and we are talking about some good eating. It makes my stomach growl just thinking about it. If I am ever back in that area, and I hope to be, they had better have me a seat ready!

Another meal that stands out is the Maid-Rite loose meat sandwich. It sounds a little funny, but it’s definitely something worth trying. It’s basically an unformed hamburger. The meat is browned and seasoned, and piled high on a bun, topped with cheese, a generous smear of yellow mustard and covered with dill pickles. The group loved it, and some even went back for more—Larry Mullnix, I’m talking to you—and I even took one home to eat cold the next day!

In Shelton, NE, a tiny town, there is small museum dedicated to the history of the Lincoln Highway. We were greeted by Bob Stubblefield and his wife and other volunteers with smiles, coffee, and cookies. The museum had original signs that lined the highway on display and even original paving bricks from the highway. The buildings are conjoined and in true Midwestern fashion, the corner is a bank that looks out diagonally towards the intersection, a feature that welcomes in the bank’s patrons and their money. The original vault is still intact and one can feel the history of the building. Mark posed inside the vault for some funny pictures. We tried but could not get the door closed fast enough so we had to take him with us.

In Kimball, NE, you would think the President himself was traveling with us, because it seemed the entire town showed up for our arrival. We stopped to visit the historic Wheat Growers Hotel that is currently undergoing renovation. The town is raising funds in the hopes of restoring the hotel to its original grandeur. There is much work to be done and much need for funding. Sports Leisure Vacations helped with their cause with a $250 donation, which was presented to the mayor of the town in the presence of the media—the one local reporter. It was truly a big event for them and they treated us like small-town royalty. I wish them the best in their efforts. Hopefully one day I will be able to say that I returned to enjoy the elegance of the restored Wheat Growers Hotel.

Our journey had it all, even the passage of a Barnum and Bailey circus train on its way to its next stop in rural Illinois. (We all kept watching for the car with the clowns!)

In 2011, Sports Leisure Vacations will embark on the third leg of the journey from Cheyenne to San Francisco. There will be many more sights to see and fun to be had. I encourage you to come along, slow down, and enjoy seeing the country and the land, instead of simply jetting over it. Take the time to reconnect with the history and appreciate the life along the historic Lincoln Highway.

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An (Almost) Perfect Baseball Day

Mark shouted across the hall to me, “Wanna escort the Giants vs Dodgers baseball group on Wednesday?” “Sure!” I reply, wanting to take advantage of every opportunity to get out on the coach I can. Then he adds: “If the Dodgers win the game don’t bother to come back…” I cringe slightly because I sense a hint of seriousness in his voice. He is a baseball fan after all, and though the team he holds dear to his heart are the Cards, he naturally supports the Giants, doesn’t everybody in this town? “Please God, let the Giants win on Wednesday…”

It’s no secret that Sacramento in the summer is my least favorite place to be. I don’t do hot. Strange for a girl raised in Honolulu, but that’s another blog. So even though I’m not a “real” baseball fan, I did consider myself blessed to take a group of our clients to “The City” to see their beloved Giants play the rival Dodgers. When the motor coach pulled up alongside AT&T Park to drop us off, the temperature outside was 69 degrees… I smile because I know that Sacramento will be 90ish hot today.

By the time the scoreboard tells us we are in the bottom of the fifth, I realize that there has been a steady stream of people walking by my seat in section 130 and I laugh to myself because they are almost always holding two cups of beer in their hands. You could have told me it was “Ocktoberfest” and I would have believed you. Somewhere between yet another homerun by the, ahem, Dodgers and the umpteenth hundredth two fisted beer drinking fan walking by, I take it all in…the perfect weather, the fans flying their team colors, McCovey Cove, the right field upper deck, the ML pennants flapping in the breeze, the beautiful blue skies…and realize that I am genuinely enjoying this moment!

People often ask me why an Island Girl like myself would want to live anywhere else. It’s not for lack of love of my Island heritage or appreciation for its beauty. I love and appreciate it all, even more since I moved to Sacramento in ‘96. But for days like this, and I’ve had many here on the “mainland”, the Islands simply can’t compete.

God didn’t answer my prayer for a Giants win this time, and Mark graciously lifted his ban to banish me and told me I could come back (he must have realized he needed the extra body in the office). I understand now why some people just love baseball…it was (almost) a perfect day!