2018
Two Guys & a Map
Ring Around The Appalachians Tour

2018 map


July 10 - Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Washington Nationals, PNC Park
July 11 - Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Washington Nationals, PNC Park
July 11 - Triple A All-Star Game, Huntington Park
July 12 - Louisville Bats vs. Columbus Clippers, Louisville Slugger Park
July 14 - Atlanta Braves vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, SunTrust Park
July 15 - Durham Bulls vs. Charlotte Knights, Durham Bulls Athletic Park
July 17 - Major League All-Star Game, Nationals Park

Part One: Pittsburgh and Columbus

By the end of 2008 we had been to every current Major League ballpark. Between then and the beginning of the 2017 season, five new stadiums opened. 2017 was the first year in that time in which we did not make it to a new stadium in its first year. So there was no doubt that our 2018 trip would take us to SunTrust Park, in its second season as the new home of the Atlanta Braves.

The closet city to Atlanta with a Major League team is almost 500 miles away so we knew minor league ballparks would be part of the trip. The Appalachian Mountains form a natural barrier to short trips from cities to the northwest of Atlanta so we developed a plan to circle around the Appalachians in order to get to SunTrust Park.

We started out from DC’s house on Tuesday, July 10 and arrived in Pittsburgh early in the afternoon. We went directly to the Carnegie Science Center, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Displays included a mind blowing exhibit of Nathan Sawaya’s LEGO art (one piece, a dinosaur, was made with 82,000 Legos), a large display of robotics, an exhibit of how the body works (including the somewhat disconcerting display of plasticized actual human anatomy) and a wonderful model train layout that features Pittsburgh architecture and landmarks from the 1880s through the 1930s.


Carnegie Science Center

Carnegie Science Center

LEGO art.

Forbes Field circa 1903 on the model train layout.



Nice shirts!

After a few hours at the science center, we walked to the ballpark. We’d seen a game there on our 2004 Days of Awe Tour and DC had been there once since. This is an absolutely beautiful ballpark, second only to San Francisco’s in our rankings of those constructed in the post-Camden Yards building boom.

The Pirates were playing our hometown team, the Washington Nationals. The Nats were preseason favorites to win the National League East Division but were struggling and in third place going into this game. This night they did fine – Jeremy Hellickson, who had been rocked in his previous start, pitched five shutout innings and the offense, led by Anthony Rendon’s two run homer, did their job as the Nats cruised to a 5-1 win.

Wednesday began with breakfast at the hotel. We were each wearing a (different) Two Guys and a Map shirt and a hotel guest complimented us on them. It turns out he and his family were driving around the country going to national parks and baseball games – definitely a kindred spirit!

In the late 19th Century seventeen funiculars (self-contained cable railways designed to go up and down steep hills) were built in order to make it easier to get people and supplies up and down the steep hill on the south bank of the Monongahela River. Two of the funiculars survive. After breakfast we went to the Duquesne Incline, which is 800 feet long and rises 400 feet from the banks of the river at a 30 degree angle. The cars, the rails, the stations at the top and bottom and most of the machinery are all original, dating back to 1877. After the short ride to the top we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the city.




Duquesne Incline

Duquesne Incline

Duquesne Incline

Going up.

The view from the top.

Original equipment, circa 1877.


That night we’d be attending the Triple A All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio but since the Nats were playing the Pirates in a weekday matinee, we decided to go to that game as well. In order to get tickets for the Triple A All-Star Game, we had to buy tickets for two additional events – their home run hitting contest and the Triple A Championship Game to be played in Columbus on September 18. Dave’s friend Kevin Bresnahan, an Ohio boy through and through, volunteered to take all the extra events off our hands so we bought three packages instead of two.

We descended back to the bottom of the hill, crossed the river and made our way back to PNC Park. Kevin, who knows a beautiful ballpark when he sees one, had decided to join us for our second Pirates game so we met up with him there. The Nats reverted to their recent form, wasting a good pitching performance by Gio Gonzalez and losing 2-0.


Kevin is proudly inducted into the Two Guys and a Map Hall of Fame.

Kevin inducted


PNC


PNC Park in Pittsburgh (This is not a painting - it was an absolutely beautiful day for baseball.)


We left in the seventh inning in order to make it to Columbus on time. Kevin met up with us again at Huntington Park, the nice home of the Columbus Clippers. Dave especially enjoyed the fact that water was taken to the umpires by a very well trained dog rather than a person. For the second time that day our shirts drew compliments.


PNC



The All-Star game was a wild, sloppy affair with the visiting Pacific Coast League beating the International League team 12-7. The talk in the stands was equally entertaining, highlighted by a spirited debate between New York Yankee loving DC and Yankee loathing Kevin about the defensive prowess (or lack thereof) of Derek Jeter.

Triple A All-Star Game at Huntington Park in Columbus, OH



Part Two: Louisville and Nashville

After the game we said farewell to Kevin. The next morning, we drove to Louisville, Kentucky. Our first stop was the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. Louisville Slugger bats have been manufactured since 1884 and are probably the most popular brand at virtually every level of baseball. The factory tour was relatively short but very interesting. There is also a museum which included an interesting confluence of our first couple of days on the road, a LEGO portrait of Derek Jeter.

A few blocks from there is the Muhammad Ali Center. It is a museum that incorporates six core principals of Louisville native Ali’s life – confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect and spirituality, in terms of both his athletic career and his humanitarian work.


Louisville Slugger

Derek in LEGO

Muhammad Ali

The Louisville Slugger factory.

Derek in Legos.

The Greatest.



Then it was on to Louisville Slugger Field, the home of the Louisville Bats, the Triple A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. Like Huntington Park, it’s a nice brick ballpark located in the heart of downtown. The Bats opponent was the host team for the previous night's All-Star Game, the Columbus Clippers, the Triple A affiliate of Kevin Bresnahan's beloved Cleveland Indians. Kevin would have been pleased as the future Indians beat the home team by a score of 6-4.

One of the Clippers’ runs came when the Bats’ catcher was called for blocking the plate without possession of the ball. By this time, we’d already been exposed to the know-it-all attitude of the person next to us in the front row behind the home dugout. The blocking the plate call really set him off.

His heckling was so annoying and relentless that the Bats players – mind you, the team who was on the wrong end of the call in question, the team that the heckler was rooting for – started throwing sunflower seeds at him.

Because we were getting a really early start on the road the next day, we left a little before the end of the game. As we made our way down our row, DC made sure to tell everyone there that we were NOT with the guy next to us.


We had pretty good seats in Louisville.



Louisville Slugger Park



Honus

Derek

Pee Wee

DC spent much of the trip hanging with great shortstops. Left to right, that's Honus Wagner in Pittsburgh, Derek Jeter at the Louisville Slugger Factory and Louisville native Pee Wee Reese.


Friday was a day without baseball. We left Louisville before dawn and were in Nashville by 6:30 AM. Since we had time to kill, we first visited the Parthenon. This is a full scale replica of original Parthenon located in Athens, Greece. The Nashville version was built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. It houses an art museum but because of the early hour we weren’t able to go inside. After an excellent breakfast at the Omni Hotel, we went to “The Mother Church of Country Music”, the Ryman Auditorium. It’s a beautiful building that opened as a gospel tabernacle in 1892 and was for many years the home of the Grand Ol’ Opry country music radio program. Because there was a show that night we weren’t able to take the guided backstage tour. The self-guided tour is very interesting and informative but if given the chance to take the guided tour, it’s worth the extra time (Dave had done it on a previous visit to Nashville).

Then we walked three blocks to the Country Music Hall of Fame and did a quick tour through there. Because of time constraints, we weren’t able to stay as long as we would have liked but it was still a worthwhile experience.


Parthenon

Ryman

Inside the Ryman

The Parthenon at sunrise.

The Ryman Auditorium.

Inside the Mother Church of Country Music.



Part Three: Atlanta

There is a lot to see in Nashville including a Triple A team but we had to hit the road. Our original plan had been to spend all day Friday in Nashville, then drive to Atlanta on Saturday morning. That was based on our assumption that the Braves game would be Saturday evening. But you know what happens when you assume – the game was actually at 4:00 PM.

That threw a wrench into our plans – there were two things we wanted to see in Atlanta and if we had driven from Nashville on the day of the game, we would have had to choose one or the other. So driving in on Friday made sense.

This plan had a huge bonus for Dave. One of his favorite bands, Dan Baird and Homemade Sin was playing a club in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur on Friday night. Dave loves bands with guitars playing in bars – he thinks it’s a natural environment for rock 'n' roll – and Eddie’s Attic turned out to be a great place to see a show.

The band was in fine form and the set list was excellent. Dave was thrilled that they played Another Chance, a favorite of his which he'd never heard played live. Dan Baird had lived a good portion of his life in Georgia so there was a real homecoming vibe to the show. As Homemade Sin’s guitar player Warner Hodges put it, “You know you’re home when you address the hecklers by name.”


Eddie's Attic



"Let the neighbors call the cops

It don’t matter, we ain’t gonna stop

Smack them drums, hit the big A chord

Put the pedal to the metal, let’s shake it ‘til it’s sore"




Dan Baird and Homemade Sin rockin' at Eddie's Attic

Homemade Sin


Dave thought it was a fabulous show. DC, who doesn’t have as a much of an affinity for bar bands as Dave, enjoyed it too. Dave’s wife Bobbi, who is an even bigger Homemade Sin fan than he is, enjoyed it vicariously through Dave’s text messages and even more so when she discovered someone was streaming it live online.


The next morning we headed for the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. The museum covers Carter’s life from childhood on a farm, his Naval service, his political career through his Presidency and his post-White House life. While he was not the most successful President, the museum makes a compelling argument that he may be the most successful ex-President due to his humanitarian work.

We'd seen the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, now the National Civil Rights Museum, in Memphis on our 2006 Life On The Mississippi Tour. We'd studied his civil rights activism in Alabama at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on our 2012 Jazzfest Tour. After we finished at the Jimmy Carter Museum, we headed to the Martin Luther King Historical Site.

The historical site in Atlanta encompasses the area where he got his start. A small visitors center sits across the street from the Ebenezer Baptist Church, whose congregation was led by King, his father and his maternal grandfather for over eighty years and was the site of his funeral. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King’s tombs are next door to the church and the house in which he was born is on the next block.


Carter Library

MLK church

MLK birthplace

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s church

Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthplace.




From there, it was off to SunTrust Park. The Braves had moved from downtown to the suburbs the year before. One reason for abandoning a relatively new stadium (the Braves previous home, Turner Field hosted its first baseball game in 1997) was the opportunity to develop the land around the park for commercial purposes. There is a hotel, a performance venue, shops and lots of bars and restaurants.

We’d heard parking was difficult (and expensive – we turned down a $50 spot) so we got there two hours before game time. Even that early it was nearly impossible to get into a restaurant and still make it to the game on time. We finally found a more upscale looking place that could seat us right away and turned out to have reasonably priced, very good food.

SunTrust Park, home of the Atlanta Braves



SunTrust Park


After lunch we entered the park. It’s definitely a step up from their previous home (but nowhere near as nice as San Francisco or Pittsburgh). They have a nice display of Braves history and a team Hall of Fame. Sight lines are good and the scoreboard isn’t bad (we are spoiled on that aspect – Nationals Park in Washington has an excellent, informative and uncluttered scoreboard). It looks comfortable for the players – the dugouts are very large and roomy. There are seats behind a chain link fence in the right field wall a la the old Comiskey Park (site of the very first Two Guys game) and seating on four levels with the top level towering very high over the field.

The Braves didn’t put up much of a fight, losing 3-0 to the Arizona Diamondbacks All-Star pitcher Zack Greinke.

Braves Museum



SunTrust



Hank Aaron

The Braves Museum.



SunTrust Park .



Hammerin' Hank.


Part Four: North Carolina

Tom and Suzanne



After the game we drove for a few hours and spent the night in Spartanburg, South Carolina (it is indeed a spartan burg, at least the part where we stayed.) Sunday morning, we were back on the road. Shortly after leaving Spartanburg, we crossed into North Carolina and a couple of hours later we arrived in Chapel Hill, where we stopped to see Dave’s friends Tom and Suzanne (and their excitable dog, Pickles). We had a nice visit, chatting and watching France defeat Croatia in the World Cup Finals.

Our 2010 trip was a cross country trek to deliver a car to Dave’s friends Ron and Robin after they moved from Virginia to Los Angeles. Since then they moved back east to North Carolina (somehow getting “The Ronmobile” back across country without our help!) so we dropped in on them and had another nice visit with the whole family – Ron, Robin, their daughters Savannah and Sierra and dogs Frannie, Sadie and Jasmine.

Sadly, we missed being reunited with our trusty 2010 transport, The Ronmobile having been retired just a few weeks earlier.

That's Tom and Suzanne on the left; Dave with Robin and Ron on the right



Ron and Robin



From there it was on to the home of DC’s cousin Jodi and her husband Bob. We got a quick tour of their lovely home and then the four of us headed for Durham. The Durham Bulls used to be a Single A team but after the success of the movie Bull Durham, the growth of the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area and the expansion of Major League Baseball (therefore requiring more minor league teams at all levels), it had become a Triple A franchise in 1998. A couple of years before that, they’d moved from the Durham Athletic Park (where the movie was filmed) to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (also known as DBAP).

As you might guess by the fact that it was designed by the same firm that designed Camden Yards in Baltimore, DBAP is a gem. Comfortable seats, great views of the field, features similar to some classic Major League parks such as a hand operated scoreboard in the tall outfield wall (a la Fenway Park) and a warehouse beyond the right field wall (Camden Yards). In the movie, the old park had a large sign shaped like a bull located far from home plate which would earn a steak for anyone who hit it with a batted ball. DBAP has a similar sign.


PNC


Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Note the bull sign atop the left field wall.


In addition to Bob and Jodi, we were joined at the game by our second Kevin of the trip, Kevin Sloan and his daughter Wendy. The Sloans are old friends and have attended several Two Guys games over the years, in Washington D.C. and New York. Wendy was living in North Carolina while doing an internship and Kevin drove down to visit her and join us at the game. Tom and some friends of his were there as well. There were enough empty seats around us for the whole group to sit together for most of the game.

We had a great time with our large group of friends (the second largest gathering of friends and family at a single Two Guys game after the Twins game in 2010) and were treated to a highly entertaining game, the best one of the trip. The Bulls, the Triple A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, played the Charlotte Knights (White Sox affiliate). Durham trailed from the top of the second inning until literally the last moment of the game, scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 7-6 win. And someone hit the bull sign! (It was a Charlotte player so we didn't get to see the bull blow smoke until the victory celebration).


Movie quote



The whole gang



The bull

A quote from the movie.



We don't know the guy looking at his phone. Everyone else was with us.
Top row, left to right: Wendy, Kevin, DC, Jodi, Bob, Dave
Bottom row, left to right: Tom M., Tom D., Kathe, Erik, Diane



"Hit The Bull, Win a Steak"



Part Five: One Last Game

The next morning we headed back to the Washington area. Jodi came along to visit with her sister, who also lives there. We enjoyed the company. While we had arrived home on Monday, the official end of the Two Guys and a Map 2018 trip didn’t occur until Tuesday night. For the first time since 1969, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was held in Washington D.C. We met up at the park where we were joined once again by Kevin Sloan, this time with his son Rob.

We got to see the game's best players. Since 2005 Washington has been a National League town so it was a treat to see so many American League stars, such as Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts and (in his last game as a Baltimore Oriole) Manny Machado, who seldom play in our home park. Like the Triple A All-Star Game six days earlier, it was a wild affair, with a record ten home runs accounting for all but one of the game's runs. The National League came from behind to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, only to give up two home runs in the tenth and lose 8-6.


All Star Game

All Star Game

All Star Game




Epilogue

And with that, the Ring Around The Appalachians Tour came to an end. In eight days we'd driven over 1700 miles, seen three regular season Major League Baseball games, two regular season Triple A games and two All-Star Games. We visited nine cultural sites, attended a concert and got to see many friends and relatives.

We've come a long way from our 28 hour, two ballgame visit to Chicago in 1990. After 28 years of traveling the highways and byways of America, we are actually pretty close to being the "well oiled machine" we have often claimed to be. Despite knowing all of each other's stories by heart and tolerating each other's idiosyncrasies (we're in trouble if we can't find a restaurant that serves both chicken and shrimp), our friendship endures.

In the past, by the end of a trip, we usually had a pretty good idea where our next one would take us - a new ballpark to visit or a place we wanted to go for other reasons. Not this time. When we got to SunTrust Park, we had once again achieved our goal of seeing games in every Major League Baseball park. No team was expected to be in a new ballpark before 2023 at the earliest. We'd each visited all 48 contiguous states. So... we'll see!



This is our most recent tour. For a complete list of parks we have visited, check out our Two Guys and a Map Ballpark Scorecard.

Return to Two Guys & a Map Home Page

Prelude - The 1979 World Series
1990 - The Windy City Tour
1991 - The Lost In Cleveland Tour
1994 - The Great Lakes Tour
1996 - The Midwest Tour
1998 - The Two Guys & a Mapholder Classic Ballparks Tour
2000 - The Y2K Southern Tour
2002 - The Midlife Crisis Tour
2004 - The Days of Awe Tour
2006 - The Life on the Mississippi Tour
2007 - The Sunshine State Mini Tour
2007 - The Close To Home Tour
2007 - The Midwest Mini Tour



2008 - If It's Tuesday, This Must Be The Giants Tour
2008 - The Big Apple Mini Tour
2008 - The Touch 'em All Tour
2009 - The Empire State Tour
2010 - The Riding In Ron's Car Tour
2012 - The Jazz Fest Tour
2014 - The Contiguous Completion Tour
2016 - The Way Out West Tour
2018 - The Ring Around The Appalachians Tour You are here

Two Guys and a Map Hall of Fame
Two Guys and a Map Ballpark Scorecard
Two Guys and a Map Cultural Landmarks

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