At the company where I work we accrue a vacation day each month essentially. When I moved I lost the majority of my vacation days because of all the hassles that are moving. It took months for me to finally add them back up. I wanted to have enough to go on a week-long vacation. I originally was talking to a coworker of mine about all the professional MLB ballparks we had been to. I thought I had been to a lot with eleven under my belt. She was sitting at around twenty. She told me that her family vacations where always centered around going to a new town and catching a ball game. I was happy for her but also thought I really needed to up my game and see more ballparks. The ballparks I had been to were usually because I was living in the area or working in the area. She sparked the idea that I would plan a baseball road trip inspired by crossing off ballparks that I hadn't been to already.

In a weeks time I traveled over 2,000 miles through six states. I went to four MLB ballpark, watching three MLB games, and passing by several monuments in Washington D.C. I made new friends each place I stopped and reconnected with old friends. It was a trip that I had planned for months, but also left a lot of the trip up to chance and opportunity. I never really expected anything but a couch to crash on as I passed through. When I planned my trip I picked out three different spots to crash along my way with three different friends I had come to know throughout my years. All three of them were more than generous and added to my trip ten times over. Even once I returned I managed to go to another baseball game. Even though I had already been to that ballpark I still managed to attend five different ballparks in eight days. Throughout this trip I kept a journal of what I did and some of my thoughts. Now that journal is almost 10,000 words so I will split them up into different parts.

My Rental Car

My Rental Car

Day #1 (June 24th):

In fairness most people wouldn’t count Day 1 as an actual vacation day. I scheduled a 9 AM pickup for my rental car. I have the problem of not really having any friends that live by me so I had to call Hertz and have them pick me up. I was getting worried because they didn’t pick me up until 9 AM even when I asked them if they could pick me up earlier. I knew they had stuff they had to go over with me and stuff I needed to sign. I was nervous because I had to start work at 11 and still needed to load up the car, shower, and then drive the twenty-five minutes to work. All in all it worked out fine. The car I paid for wasn’t done and they gave me a free upgrade. The cooler didn’t fit in the back of the car like I had hoped but I made it work. I also got to work on time.

I worked an 11-7 shift that Friday and then to hit the road. Work went pretty smooth so I wasn’t grumpy or in a bad mood. I’m pretty comfortable on the road. I don’t get worried about directions when I have a GPS. I don’t worry about traffic because I’ve driven in many big cities before and I typically know when to avoid problems areas. The more and more I drove the more I realized that I wasn’t going to have to stop every two to three hours for gas or food. The car that they upgraded me to was phenomenal on gas. I was basically on the highway the entire time and it was at 40 mpg and still trending upwards. I didn’t stop at all for gas. I stopped once for dinner and to make a quick vlog for the trip.

My itinerary went according to plan. I got to Batesville, Indiana and decided to stop at the rest stop nearby. By the time I got to the area I was so tired and felt kind of sweaty from work I thought that maybe I could afford to buy a motel if I was going to save a lot of money on gas. The problem was that all of the hotels and motels in the area were booked. I must have been too close to Cincinnati even though I was still 45 minutes away. I think I ended up getting comfortable enough to sleep around 3 AM Eastern Time. After crossing into Ohio I knew I was in the Eastern Time zone. I think I woke up around 7:15 because some asshole was honking his horn. Needless to say the sun was up by then and I tried to rest my eyes a little bit longer but I knew it was a battle I couldn’t win.

Day #2 (June 25):

I cleaned up at the rest stop that early morning. I basically just cleaned my face, whipped my hair and my armpits and then brushed my teeth. There’s only so much you can do in a bathroom while truckers are shitting. I made sure to stretch before I got back in the car. It’s a very simple rule you should always follow if you’re on the road a lot. Every gas stop or food stop get out and stretch. It’ll keep you from getting stiff from being stuck in a car for so many hours. It was around 8 AM and Jacob had contacted me about today’s plans and what all he had to do. In summary we couldn’t meet up until 3:30 PM at the ballpark. I had all day to do whatever I wanted in the city on Cincinnati.

This was the part of the trip I didn’t really have any plans for. I assumed I’d sleep in and I didn’t. That added a full morning. I decided I’d head towards Cincinnati and find a place to stop for breakfast along the way somewhere. I didn’t really see anything I liked so I pulled off and got some pancakes at McDonalds. I decided it might be cheaper to get gas in this small town instead of Cincinnati later on. The gas prices were still 2.59. That’s higher than St. Louis my friends! Either way I knew I had plenty of time so I pulled out my cooler and used it as a table and had a nice breakfast outside while looking into the Ohio hills. It was quite peaceful.

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I still had no clue was I was going to do. I figured something would just come to me or something would stick out. In a way I guess it did. I drove to the ballpark and basically did a loop around it. I tried to find parking but couldn’t really find a spot. I ended up seeing a sign for the botanical gardens and zoo. Perfect! I love animals and I had plenty of time to check out the whole park. I got there around 10 AM when the park was opening. I originally was excited because I read that the zoo was free. It was not free. It was $32 including parking. There was a lot of different animals though that made it worth it. I did spend two hours there and got plenty of photos and videos.

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There were three things that I learned from Day 2 and one of them was this… animals have it figured out better than people do. No matter if it’s a wolf, a bear, monkeys, or anything in between they all have found a way to work together. They find a way to coexist with one another and to mate and be happy. Yes they have to survive and that’s a lot harder than us, but it also seems like its way simpler the way that they mate and procreate. I think it’s because they have their set roles. It’s not always the male’s job to hunt the food either. It’s not always the male job to be the protector. I’m not trying to come off as sexist at all. I’m just trying to make a point. It’s just so much easier to find a mate when you know what role you are expected to play or what role you want from someone. I think it’s just so much easier to find someone you are happy with, or at least content being around, when roles seemed more defined. In today’s world it just seems like we struggle in so many personal departments that it’s impossible to succeed in them all. I think it’s because we take on so many different roles in different fields. We are constantly changing who we are to fit into a certain mold. It’s our attempt at surviving at its highest level instead of accepting our role in whatever we’re good at. Even if it’s something simple as raking leaves we get judged by it. Why can’t we just accept everyone has a role in each community and not be so judgmental? We always strive for more. I’m not here to tell you if that’s right or wrong, but it does seem to correlate with being happy or miserable.

After the zoo I was hungry. There was no way I was paying $12 for a bean burger or small pizza at the zoo. I ended up just googling “vegetarian food near me” and found a lot of options. I was quite shocked actually. I only had to drive a few miles away from where I was to find this place. Since I wasn’t familiar with the area I had to drive by and circle around and find parking. Only having to pay 50 cents for an hour parking is great though. I have no complaints. The only weird thing was I had to charge it because all my change is in my blazer and not in the rental car. I ended up eating at a place called Melt Eclectic Café. It was a real small joint with only a few options in each meal category but it was still a cool spot. It fit the market they are trying to reach. I came in right before the afternoon rush. I got a thing called “The Threeway,” and yes I enjoyed making puns with it for hours! I know I’m immature. It was basically pasta with vegan chili, onions, and a vegan cheese sauce that was kind of like queso. It was really good. I took like six bites before I realized how spicy it was. They gave me such a big bowl though that I wasn’t even hungry until like 9 PM. It also probably helped that I crossed the street and got a vegan vanilla milk shake at a place called Pickle Tickle. Yeah I laughed at a few of these names as well. The prices are usually always higher at these vegan/vegetarian places but you pay for it anyways because it’s healthier and more humane.

I browsed the streets there a little bit, but I didn’t want to get too far. Not only did I feel fatigued this whole time, but I’m still afraid I’m going to forget what my car looks like. I’m just inside of it usually that I don’t remember what it looks like on the outside. I just look for the Texas plates and my cooler in the backseat. I ended up returning to my car around 1:30 and decided I still had two hours to waste. I decided I would try to find a local winery. They always seem to be outside of the city somewhere or in some downtown area with a bunch of them from my experience. I drove only about nine miles away to an older neighborhood that I at first thought this place must have closed down. But I saw it on the corner when I was stuck at the light. It wasn’t a big place. It really just looked like a country club type of place with a bar full of wine bottles. I asked the lady for assistance and she let me try out a few different kinds. I ended up settling for two bottles. They were only $11 and $12. I also bought two of the glasses from the place. Those are the types of souvenirs I’ll use and also value at the same time. The same problem arose. I went and did something and I did it too fast. I still had basically an hour to waste. When I mentioned taking a nap in the park she said I could just park in their parking lot if I wanted to. She wouldn’t suggest going to some of the parks in that area. I got the vibe the area was getting rougher than where I was before.

Needless to say I ran out of ideas. I was going to do some writing, but the last thing I started writing wasn’t really feeling relevant anymore and I didn’t want to bring up those feelings again. I thought about doing another vlog but my phone battery was really low. I ended up just taking a half hour nap with the car on so I didn’t start sweating even more than I already had. When I woke up that’s when I realized the second thing that I learned today. I really am turning into my Mom. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all. I’ve always been able to go through stretches for a few days where I sleep very little but can push through it and enjoy myself. But after those few days I just completely crash and sleep ten hours in a day.

Here I was going on maybe a total of five hours of sleep and I’m still going strong. I’m still singing to the radio. I’m still alert and active. I still walked around quite a bit from the zoo and the shops along the places I went to eat. But this isn’t just another stretch of a few days. This has been going on for a while now. I haven’t been sleeping well in my apartment. The heat, stress at work, the light from the windows, personal dilemma’s, and any other wrinkles you want to add into it. It’s just completely ruined my sleeping skills. I’ve been getting by sleeping a consistent five hours a night and then getting through work. This is how my mom has operated for years. She just gets by on very limited sleep that it’s just become the routine. The problem is that I know it’s not healthy. I know I need more sleep. It just feels like the problems in my life aren’t as easy to fix as they once were. It keeps me up at night obsessing over what I should do. But that’s neither here nor there.

After my nap I made a vlog and then I met up with Jacob. We then went to the Cincinnati Reds game. I caught the tail end of Pete Rose’s speech before the game about getting into the Reds Hall of Fame and I believe they also were retiring his number. I couldn’t quite hear everything. He was entertaining as usual though and the crowd loved it. The ballpark was beautiful and I bought a couple of souvenirs. I was very shocked that they don’t sell souvenir cups. That’s the one thing I always buy. It’s a win win. You get a cold drink and a souvenir. They need to step their game up! They do have a great view of the bridge and the river from certain parts of the ballpark.

Welcome to Great American Ball Park

Welcome to Great American Ball Park

I took way too many photos. I think I should get hired on to be a baseball park photographer. I made a new friend Yeison. He was friends with Jacob at Barry University before I transferred in there. It was his first time at the ballpark and even the Midwest in general. He’s a professional Muay Thai fighter and personal trainer. He’s about to have his first professional fight in a few weeks. I kind of led the way around the ballpark and made sure he got some of the same good photos that I did.

We left the game a little bit early. None of us really had any investment in the game as both teams are struggling this season. Jacob also had a birthday party that we needed to get to. The drive was a little over two hours north from Cincinnati to a town called Hebron. If you’ve never lived in the Midwest before it feels very small town Midwest. It’s always interesting to me what peoples idea of “small town” really is. I thought I was from a small town, and still consider it a small town, only to hear other people have lived in towns three times smaller than mine. I’ve also talked to people who said they grew up in a small town but it’s three times larger than mine. I always consider an area being a small town community when you have to drive at least twenty minutes away to go buy something that often time’s people can get right away. In my town I had to drive to another town to go see a movie, a small concert, to go mini golfing, or even an amateur sporting event. There’s a Super Wal-Mart where you essentially have to buy everything but groceries because nothing else is around. If you want something fancy for a baseball glove you have to go to another town or order it online.

Jacob’s version of living in a small town is very similar to me. There’s a lot of area being surrounded by trees and corn fields. There are small villages, or towns, in between these fields that might have a mom and pop shop to go eat at. There are probably two or three hot spots that all the same people attend on the weekends. If you’ve lived in one of these areas the majority of your life your face and name might become familiar to people. I know when I was back in college and still spending my summers in my home town I never had to fill out a deposit check or show an ID card because the people at the bank knew who I was. If I walked down to the little league fields somebody was bound to start talking to me about coaching or my playing days. Even after returning back there once I had finished college there was adults my parent’s age who had heard stories about what I had been doing. I mean I was in the local paper once for a coaching gig, but that wasn’t everything I heard.

It’s always puzzling to me when I hear people complaining about this sort of thing. I don’t get why people let it bother them. I guess I always find it flattering because it’s good things. If it was bad stuff I can see why it bothers people but it shouldn’t. In the past whenever I heard bad or untrue rumors I just blew them up even more. No I didn’t sleep with two sisters. It was three cousins in the same house. I got a laugh out of it. I just know that the people who really are concerned with my well-being and care about what I’m doing will just ask me if it’s true or not and I’ll give them the truth. I don’t care if I did do something horrible or not. If they’re your friends they deserve the truth. It’s not up to you to hide things from your friends or to try to protect them. They have the right to determine whether the friendship is worth keeping or not.

I grabbed a quick sandwich from Jimmy Johns, and then we headed over to Jacob’s friend’s house. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I’m only 27 but Jacob is 30. When I found out it was his god daughter’s birthday party I expected a five-year old running around and adults in their 20’s and 30’s drinking beer and playing lawn games. I was half right. Her daughter was turning thirteen. There were a lot of teenage girls running around with younger looking parents. They were playing lawn games and drinking beers. The only weird thing was that we had to keep the beers away from the teenagers. Man it felt familiar and weird at the same time. Ten years both direction and I could be any of the people here. It also felt nice to be outside in a small town. You can see the clear skies and count all the stars you want. There’s not a lot of outside noise besides the noises you are creating. That sense of everybody knows everybody is nice to be around. As an outsider I was just trying to take it all in. I wanted to hear some stories but it wasn’t really that type of scene. I also wasn’t sure how many people had really left this area and had the type of stories I’ve been trying to hear my whole life. I want to hear the dream chaser stories and the romantics. I want to hear that the impossible happened and give me some hope. I didn’t get any of that. What I did get is the third thing that I learned.

We all have wondered what it’s like to view ourselves through someone else’s eyes. I know I’ve been a good person and I’ll continue to be a good person even if I come off as an asshole sometimes. But sometimes I wonder what a person really sees in me. I wonder what they want from me or our relationship. I will continue to help and guide anyone who I think needs it or deserve a second chance. I will tend to look out for a person’s best interests over whatever interest or curiosity I have in them. I understand that we all have faults and some of them can’t really be changed. That’s just who we are. I think I’ve done a really good job of accepting people into my life as they are. That being said I’m not always a great communicator. It’s hard to stay in touch with so many people who live different lifestyles or live in different parts of the country.

Last night Jacob introduced me as his best friend and I was taken back by it. I know I haven’t always been the nicest person or the easiest to get in touch with. I can often times be difficult to deal with with a lot of people. But I have invited him over for Thanksgiving one year. I have offered him support and I have cheered him on through his weight loss and through his personal growth. We have argued over sports and both of us end up laughing about it later on when we are right or wrong. We have talked about stuff that I haven’t talked about with a lot of people, but when I think of putting someone in that “best friend” category I wouldn’t have thought we’d be there. I don’t want to say that my standards of what a best friend is higher than others. That just sounds elitist. It just made me ask some questions internally.

There are people you just consider a good friend that probably see you as an amazing person and you just don’t realize it. I’m not saying you take them for granted, or take advantage of it, but are simply unaware of your power of influence and meaning. Or that maybe someone you think very highly of doesn’t even give you a second thought. That always hurts when they dismiss you over something that meant a lot to you. I don’t want to be that type of person. I don’t want to be a person who uses others because they think a lot about me, but I rarely think of them. I think I’ve done a good job at this. I’ve tried new hobbies and done new things I had no interest in just because one of my friends loved it. I think that’s just something a good person does. I know a lot of people will never ever do this. They probably won’t even think of doing something like that. People are selfish. They always just think you can find someone else to do something you like if they don’t. The truth is that’s not always true. Sometimes hobbies die because you can’t find anyone to share them with. I do advise that if you’re going to try a new hobby for someone you have to take an open approach to it. Don’t try it and then belittle it the whole time. Ask questions and try to be interested in it. Maybe you will even like it. I played a few RPG games and Magic the Gathering with friends in college and actually liked it. I met some new people as well that I thought were nice. I just didn’t have as much free time as them to play it so I never got to play it with them very much.

I guess the point I’m trying to make if you’re reading this is that maybe you should reassess the people in your lives. You maybe want to run an inventory on who still matters or who still really cares about you. For those that still do and are still a part of your life in any way maybe you could try a little harder to be interested in their lives and their struggles. I know I’m going to do my best to give those that care about me more time and energy and less to people who just throw me aside like a toy they’ve grown bored with.