I go to great lengths to try to wear myself out, to feel like I’ve given everything to a day.
Case in point: Today, Week 2 of two weeks off from work – the luxury of luxuries because you actually start to feel it in week 2 – I decided to take the advice of a couple people on Twitter and head to Wayzata. The quest: Finding a coffee shop in the Twin Cities metro area with a great view, preferably of water. Two people said the Caribou Coffee in Wayzata had a great view of Wayzata Bay.
I live in Minneapolis, only about half a mile from St. Paul, so that’s a long way to go for a view. But you know what makes it even longer? When I decide at the last minute that it would be much better to ride my bike there than to drive.
About 20 miles, two hours, countless detours and one ridiculous bout of hunger that coincided with a fever dream that Wild GM Paul Fenton had been fired – only to find out I wasn’t hallucinating after stopping at a gas station and consuming two granola bars in about 13 seconds – I made it to my destination.
This post is going to be pretty long because as soon as I’m done, the reality that I have to do the route all over again will set in.
The view here is nice, the day is perfect and the setting is conducive to writing. “You have a good office,” a woman remarks to me as I sit on a bench with my laptop open. She is not wrong.
I’m here to sew together some thoughts on the latest installment of the Great Baseball Road Trip – the annual journey combining baseball and friends. This year’s trip took us to Chicago, for all four games of the Twins/White Sox series.
We didn’t once get in a car, so maybe road trip in this case is a misnomer. But I will say this: I tried so very hard to wear myself out in Chicago, and the city just wasn’t having it. It just kept giving back the energy and telling me to go, go, go.
There are four cities in the United States and seven in the world that give me this sort of energy: New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Toronto and Paris.
I’m sure others (London? Tokyo?) will make the cut when I visit them for the first time. I’ve been to pretty much every major U.S. city, and all of them have their moments. But Chicago is in the Big Four.
Those are the places that make you want to just walk. You could drive, sure, but it’s a pain. And more importantly, every store front is an invitation. Every passing conversation could reveal a great truth or a moment of levity. There is a chance to engage with history, but more than that an opportunity to feel exactly what it is like to be in that place in the moment.
And in Chicago, like most great cities, there is water.
I hadn’t been to any of those seven cities since 2015, and I hadn’t spent more than a day in any of them since 2013 in San Francisco. It was on that trip that my wife and I found out she was pregnant with our first child, and you can draw a pretty straight line from there to the present in terms of travel.
We have two kids now, and a third on the way. In a few years, once the youngest is old enough to understand what travel is, we will visit all the great places as a family. My oldest, only 5, already is imbued with my wanderlust. She sees Paris and San Francisco on TV and begs to go there. I tell her to wait just a little bit, and luckily even though patience is not a virtue of 5-year-olds almost everything in the world is a novel experience to her. A trip to a new playground will suffice for the moment.
This was the 20th baseball road trip. I’ve been on all 20, and the three others on this year’s trip have all been on parts of at least 13. We are the Original Four, having made the first trip to Boston, New York, Baltimore and Washington D.C. on Memorial Day weekend in 2000, sleeping four to a room or on floors because we all had more time than money.
We were all in our early-to-mid-20s on the first trip, meaning we’re all in our early-to-mid-40s now. I was 23, an age I often tell people is perfect but also the age at which I once declared to nobody in particular something to the effect of, “Wow, I pretty much have this all figured out. What more is there to learn in life?”
Sigh. They say youth is wasted on the young, and they are not wrong.
New York, as I mentioned, was part of that trip. I remember key moments from that part of the trip, including a man falling into the netting at Yankee Stadium. But I couldn’t possibly tell you how I interacted with the city. I want to know exactly how I felt, but it’s hard to transfer a feeling into a memory.
I know I felt more or less the same about great cities then as I do now, but I’m also positive I didn’t appreciate the energy the same way.
When you change so much, sometimes the past feels like a lie. More likely, though, the future is just a version of the truth you don’t know yet.
The baseball trip these days is packed into four days. Three of us arrived in Chicago on Thursday morning (the fourth was delayed until early afternoon). We are spread out now in Minneapolis, Alaska, Virginia and North Carolina. The Alaskan lugged his Sega Genesis – bought during our one day in Chicago on the 2015 trip – all the way back so we could play in our hotel rooms. We might be in our 40s now, but we try to act 15 when we can.
The punishing pace of driving from city to city was replaced by three nights in the same place – with a grand view of the river from the 31st floor. Any time saved was reinvested in walking the city, breathing the neighborhoods, eating everything in sight and, of course, baseball.
We had not seen a Twins game on the road trip since 2008, and the Twins’ record in our presence at away games on the trip stood at a dismal 2-8 entering this year even though they had winning seasons every previous year we saw them. Had the weekend gone differently, you certainly could have blamed us for the collapse of the 2019 season.
Instead, we were there for all three Nelson Cruz home runs on Thursday – all going more than 430 feet, the first a blast that was as impressive as anything I’ve seen in person. Sometimes you think it’s going to be a home run. This one was just a question of how far.
We saw Michael Pineda continue his progression into the team’s second-most reliable starter. We saw a very forgettable Saturday game, but on Sunday there was a rout – and the first time in a month that the Twins increased their lead over Cleveland on a day when they weren’t playing each other.
We met some Chicago fans who are very impressed by the Twins and very worried about the Bears’ kicking situation. And then just as quickly as we arrived, we were headed out.
It’s strange to have 20 years worth of memories about anything as an adult. It’s hard to say what exactly constitutes a midpoint when you don’t know the endpoint, but I do know that 20 feels like a big number in that context. Maybe it’s why we nervously joked about this being the mid-life crisis version of the road trip, even if all of us are doing relatively well.
But if there’s a tendency to think of the next 20 years as some sort of coming down, it doesn’t feel that way. I feel like I’ve learned as much and grown as much in the last year as an any year of my life – but this time, at least, I’m not naïve enough to think I know everything like I did when I was 23.
I see the world differently. I experience it differently. Hopefully I appreciate it all more. I know I appreciated Chicago, the 40 miles on foot in four days, and the feeling you get when you pour all your energy out and it refuses to make you tired.
I spend a lot of my life chasing that feeling, and one surefire way outside of spending time in one of those seven cities is to find some water and write.
With 20 miles in and 20 to go, I’m counting on that energy to take me home.