Friday, March 25, 2016

A Controversial Topic...

Since this is the time of year that we seem to have a lot of controversy, I thought I would throw out a controversial topic myself.

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite things in the world is doughnuts. My go to doughnut is chocolate covered with a cream filling. I do like others such as the standard glazed, a glazed with chocolate icing and doughnut holes. When I got out of town, I’ll visit whatever doughnut shop is ranked the highest for a particular area. For the purpose of this post, I am going to center on what I feel are the two controversies in the doughnut world that I am directly involved in.

Krispy Kreme vs. Dunkin’ Donuts – I feel like this comes down to whether you are a cake donut or yeast donut person. I’ve found that people from the north seem to prefer cake and people from the south prefer yeast. If you’ve ever had a fresh glazed donut from Krispy Kreme when “the hot light” is on, I think it’s no contest. I’ve been known to cut across multiple lanes of traffic putting my passengers in danger to pull in to a Krispy Kreme when the hot light is in. I have an app on my phone that tells me when the hot light is on at a particular location. When we go to Nashville, I will stop at the one in Clarksville and when I am heading north on I-57, I’ll stop at the one in Marion Illinois. The only things a Dunkin’ Donuts have over KKD is there are more of them (including one actually in Paducah – the closest KKD to me is in Marion) and they have breakfast sandwiches. I’ve gone to a Dunkin’ Donuts in desperation when I need a donut and I’m always disappointed.

Red’s vs Munals – These are the two big donut shops in the Paducah area. I’ve gone to Reds for over thirty years. One of favorite things to do in my youth was play a couple of rounds of mini golf at the South Side course (behind Hardees) and then go grab some soft tacos at the South Side Taco Johns and chocolate covered cream filled donuts from the original Red’s location on Bridge Street. I knew of Munals and I think I stopped there in desperation once when the Red’s Bridge Street location was closed but I wasn’t impressed. Donna’s family are big Munals fans and she couldn’t believe I went to Red’s. Then, Red’s moved to Jackson Street and I had to pass by it all the time so I had to pop in there quite a bit. However, over the past year, I’ve started what is an unbelievable change. I now prefer the chocolate covered cream filled at Munals. They are what I want in a cream filled donut – the cream is supposed to burst out of the donut so that you have to watch out for getting it all over you. The Red’s version while still really good, simply doesn’t hold up to that standard. Munals also has enormous cinnamon rolls and fritters. Red’s has their famous fried pies. Munals tends to run out of my go to doughnut sooner than Red’s though, I went after I ran the Iron Mom half marathon and they were out at 10am on a Saturday.

I have no doubt some will agree with me and some will think “that guy has no idea what he’s talking about”. Feel free to comment ;-)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Spring Training - the FInale

We had finally reached our day to return home. We’d had a lot of fun, but we had to head home. We did have one more game to see. Our trip home would take us past Port St Lucie which is the Spring Training home of the New York Mets. I had gotten us tickets with our travel package to see that game. We checked out of our hotel and headed for Port St Lucie.

I was prepared for a lot of traffic once we got close to Port St. Lucie. I had read several discussions online about how terrible the traffic and parking was at Tradition Field (home of the Mets). I had called up directions on my phone to know what exit to get off at, but it wasn’t any problem finding it. The traffic was backed up on it all the way onto I-95 North. Turns out that after you exit, there is a left turn on the road leading to the stadium which causes the issue. Fortunately, we’d left early in anticipation. We traveled on the road to the stadium and we glanced about for places to park that were not right at the stadium with no luck. Turns out Tradition Field has a huge grass parking lot in front of the stadium. It was no problem parking but I could see potential issues at departure.

I honestly feel Tradition Field is a nicer ballpark than Roger Dean. They have nicer seating areas including a large grass berm past the right field fence where families could spread out a blanket or lawn chairs to watch the game. They have a better scoreboard as well. We had great seats but they were right in the middle of a bunch of Mets fans. I heard a lot of the “New York accent” for most of the day. The Cardinals jumped out to a 2-0 lead on an opposite field home run by Matt Adams. Jamie Garcia threw 3 2/3 shutout innings before being replaced by Mitch Harris (the young man who was at our dinner Saturday afternoon). He gave up a two run homer to tie the game. The Cardinals relievers coughed up five runs ending with a 7-2 loss. Then, the real fun began. If you can envision several thousand cars trying to leave at once with no marked lanes for exit and no one directing traffic until you reach the exit from the lot to the street, you can see it would be chaos (it was). It took us over 40 minutes just to get out of the lot. I wound us out the back way to I-95. We spent the night in Ocala and watched several conference basketball tournaments.

The next day we got up and headed out and I really banked on missing rush hour traffic. Unfortunately, there was some sort of issue about an hour or so before we got to Atlanta that backed up traffic well before it should have. We got to Atlanta at about the worst possible time. It took TWO hours to get through the city and points north. It made us lament (like Donna and I always do) as to how people that live in a big city can handle traffic like that day in and day out. We grabbed some Krystal and then checked into our hotel. I scanned the cable TV selections to try and find the SEC Network (to watch the UK –Alabama game) with no luck. One disturbing thing is that not a single hotel of the five we stayed in had SEC Network. Fortunately, I was able to stream the game on my laptop. Kentucky won easily over Alabama again.

We got up the next morning and headed home. I was tempted to at least look at going to see Kentucky at the SEC tournament on Saturday, but decided we needed to get home at a decent hour.

We’d had a fabulous time on our trip. We are at least considering making it an annual trip. If you are a die-hard Cardinal fan, I would recommend you try it at least once. Around the first of the year, there are Spring Training vacation packages offered on, so I’d recommend looking for those.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Spring Training - Part 3

We got up Sunday morning and went to services at Palm Beach Lakes church of Christ. We had found out Sam Jones would be doing a Gospel Meeting there so were happy to see him preach. He did his usual good job. When we got out, we grabbed something to eat and then headed to Roger Dean Stadium again. The Cardinals played the Nationals. They looked a tad bit lethargic to me and they ended up losing. The Cardinals did not support their pitching well, making several errors that led to a couple of runs. We got back to the hotel and changed and headed to visit at the Suncoast church of Christ. We found another group of wonderful Christians there and really enjoyed that as well.

Monday, I got up and ran. We went to our fourth game at Roger Dean Stadium. The Cardinals would be playing the Mets. They didn’t bring any of their starters. The highlight though was the appearance of Adam Wainwright as the Cardinals starter. He had not started a game since the game (which we were at) in Milwaukee where he tore his achilles tendon. He pitched two shutout innings and then exited the game. The teams each scored a run in the third and then the Cardinals scored five runs in the fifth to break the game open. We came back to the hotel and had the hotel dinner. If you’ve noticed, we’ve been able to save a good amount of money on our meals on this trip.

Tuesday was a welcomed day off. The Cardinals had a game in Fort Myers but that was over two hours away so we didn’t go. I ran and then headed over to the practice field. I was fortunate to get to see Carlos Martinez throw a few innings of a simulated game. His catcher was Yadier Molina. There were several others watching him including Adam Wainwright and Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt. Adam Wainwright came over and signed autographs and posed for photos. He was a very nice personable guy for all the fans. For lunch, we ended up going to Palm Beach Lakes again. Sam Jones did a lunch session each day on “Managing Life After a Faith-Shaking Experience”. He did his usual fabulous job. On the way back, we popped into the Cheesecake Factory to grab a couple of pieces of cheesecake to eat later. We had the hotel dinner again and then went to see Sam Jones speak again that evening.

We got up Wednesday and I went for my morning run. Running was so nice in Jupiter, the weather was beautiful. Donna had seen an ad for a fish and fries basket from Checkers, so she decided to give that a try. I had a double bacon burger. They also have funnel cakes there so I had to get a small one. We got the food but honestly were not really impressed by it. We headed to the game (the final one we’d see at Roger Dean). The weather was so nice that we just walked the mile or so. The Cardinals played the Marlins and new acquired Mike Leake took the mound. The big thing though was Yadier Molina got the start at catcher! It was good to see him in an actual game. In the 2nd, the leadoff man for the Marlins reached on an error and was singled to second. Then, a batter or so later, there was a single up the middle. Randall Grichuk grabbed the ball and fired to the plate. I was a bit concerned about Yadi’s first tag play after his injury (that’s how he tore his thumb ligament last year). Yadi made the tag perfectly to get the runner out and was unscathed. The Cardinals scored in the fifth on a home run by Patrick Wisdom (the first Cardinal home run we’d seen there) but lost 5-3. We walked back to the hotel and changed and headed to see the last night of the Gospel Meeting. It was a special bonus to the trip to be able to attend that and see Brother Jones speak.

I’ll finish this series up by letting you know how the trip home went in my next post.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Spring Training - Part 2

On Friday, the Cardinals had an away game against the Astros in Kissimmee. We didn't want to drive all the way there so we spent the day just resting. I did take a run in the morning. I ended up running by the Cardinals practice fields. They were about a mile from our hotel. The setup resembles a little league complex. There are a bunch of fields strewn about for the Cardinals to practice on. They open the gates in the morning to let fans in. There are bleachers around the fields that they allow the fans to watch from. I sat down to watch for bit. Mike Leake (the newly acquired free agent pitcher) was throwing batting practice. It took me a few minutes to realize that Yadi was catching him. Given that he'd had two hand ligament surgeries over the winter, that was good news. Several players such as Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha were watching. I stayed around until they were done.

We had the usual issue of where we wanted to get lunch from. We discussed it for a while and finally decided to get food from a place called Pollo Tropical. It's Caribbean type place with grilled chicken and sides like black beans and rice. It was excellent. I ended up later going to Publix and grabbing some sodas and cookies to snack on.

I got up on Saturday and ran. With our Saturday tickets, we were able to go in and watch the teams have batting practice. The gates for that opened at 10:30. I went over by myself to watch them. I got to watch the Marlins take batting practice. Giancarlo Stanton smacked several long home runs. Unfortunately, the Cardinals didn't take batting practice on the field. Donna took the hotel shuttle and got there about thirty minutes before the game started. The Cardinals ended up pulling out a win 3-2.

We had passes to a post game meal where several Cardinal players would come over and answer questions. We got over there and were treated to a really good buffet meal. Tommy Pham and Mitch Harris along with announcer Mike Claiborne were there. Mike Matheny came over a few minutes later. They took questions from the crowd and Donna got to ask a question. She asked Mitch Harris (a pitcher) what it was like to work with Yadi (she had to of course get in a question about her favorite player). Mitch of course talked about how wonderful he was. We were then allowed to get autographs. I fortunately had bought a couple of baseballs for us to get signatures on. Mike Matheny signed Donna's hat (which will of course go to Josh). We told him how he was our son Josh's favorite player when he was young and had even bought a Mike Matheny shirt. Mike seemed genuinely happy to hear that and told us to thank Josh for that. It was a very enjoyable time. We went back to the hotel and rested and went to bed.

In my next post, I'll let you know about our busy Sunday and how the rest of the games went.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Spring Training - Part 1

For several years, one of the things I’ve really wanted to do is go to see the St Louis Cardinals at Spring Training. I’ve never been able to arrange it. The Cardinals offer spring training vacation packages and I’ve always dreamed of going. Our 30th wedding anniversary would be in March. I talked with Donna and I said we’d go anywhere she wanted for our anniversary. She said “You’ve always wanted to go to Spring Training so I want to go to Jupiter Florida”. I of course thought that was a wonderful idea. I have the best wife in the world. I went ahead and bought a Spring Training package for the first week of March so we’d be going to SIX Cardinal games.

We left out on our anniversary (March 1st). We drove to McDonough Georgia. It’s a little south of Atlanta and we hit quite a bit of traffic but made it through unscathed. The next day we drove to Kissimmee to stop for the night. We went to Wednesday night Bible study at Kissimmee church of Christ. I used to go there regularly when I went to email conferences in Orlando. Several people actually said they remembered me. We heard a good lesson from Acts 19 about Paul and Ephesus. We stopped at Dairy Queen for ice cream afterwards.

We got up and headed for Jupiter the next morning. We got to Jupiter in plenty of time for the game. The Cardinals play at Roger Dean Stadium there. It is right next to Florida Atlantic University. They have parking for the games at a pretty reasonable price (6.00) that is only a short stroll through their campus from the stadium. We got there no problem.

Roger Dean Stadium is a nice stadium. It seats about 6800 people. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house. Our seats were in the 2nd level right behind home plate. We had a great view of the game. We also experienced something we hadn’t in quite some time. We got hot. The temperature was in the 80s. I loved it. I ended up getting Donna a cherry Italian ice to help her cool off. The Cardinals share the stadium with the Florida Marlins, so they would be playing. Tyler Lyons started for the Cardinals. He gave up a home run to the second batter. That ended up being the only run he gave up over three innings. The Cardinals tied the game in the bottom of the first on a triple by Tommy Pham and an error. They took the lead with two runs in the 2nd. The Marlins tied the game in the 6th on another home run and an error. The Cardinals scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the 7th. They brought in a young pitcher whose name I couldn’t pronounce named Dean Kiekhefer. He mowed them down in the ninth to get the save. We walked back to our car and headed to our hotel.

I had gotten us rooms at the Homewood Suites which was about a mile away. They had a pretty decent dinner for free that evening so we were able to just stay at the hotel for the evening and relax.

In my next post, I’ll let you know how the next few days of our trip went.