Friday, June 26, 2009

Coors Field

There are so many things that are nice about Colorado; the scenery and natural beauty, the friendly people, the fresh food and cold beer, and the facilities. Colorado really does it right with taxpayer money. There are bikepaths everywhere, new high schools with modern facilties, recreation centers with tons of activities, wide roads with no potholes, and state and national parks that are second to none. Denver is a sports town that's second to none with a phenominal baseball venue to prove it.

HOK Architecture created another masterpiece in Coors Field. Just about every detail was carefully planned in this ballpark from the landscape in centerfield with pinetrees, waterfalls, and fountains, to the spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains in left field, and a sunset that is unmatched by any MLB park. The main entrance at the corner of 20th and Blake Street is reminiscent of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. It is constructed of hand-laid brick with an old fashioned clock at the top. Adding to Coors Field's history is the fact that 66 million year old dinosaur bones were discovered beneath the Blake Street location. They do have a silly looking mascot named Dinger the Dinosaur that resulted from this discovery. Most of the seats at Coors Field are dark green, but there is a row of purple seats in the upper deck in right field that marks the exact point that fans are 1 mile above sea level. Coors has one of the larger capacities(50,449) of the new ballparks due to the fact that the Rockies were regularly selling out 80,000 seat Mile High Stadium in their first two years of existence in 1993 and 1994. The Rockpile is the bleacher section in centerfield that was first conceived at Mile High and brought over to Coors Field. They are a ways from the field, but if you are 55 are older or 12 and younger, you can buy these tickets the day of the game for A BUCK!!! Try doing that at Fenway!

Even with some of the features that bring fans back to 1940's era of open air ballparks, Coors Field has a number of amenities necessary to accomodate modern day baseball. The field can drain over five inches of water in one hour, and the grass is heated to melt snow from the unpredictable weather months of April and October. There is even an area to bring fans to safety in case of a tornado. Yes they do happen, and the day before my tour, the tornado siren sounded at Coors Field for the first time.

Food and drink choices are endless at Coors Field. The Blue Moon Brewery is attached to the ballpark with their signature Belgian wheat beer and pub grub. The Mountain Ranch Bar and Grille is located in right field with casual and fine dining options. There's a good view of the field and a lot of memorabilia and references to the 2007 World Series. This is one of the aspects of Coors that Bostonians will enjoy more than any other, as we celebrated a sweep of this World Series right on the field. I enjoyed a "Rockie Dog", a giant hot dog with peppers, onions, sourkraut, relish, and mustard. There are also Buffalo burgers, gourmet pizza, Denver Cheesesteaks, and even Rocky Mountain Oysters. These are good, if you have the BALLS to eat them. There is a kids area called Buckaroos that serves kids sized portions in case your child doesn't want to eat a 2ft hot dog. The longest line for food that I saw was for tornadoughs. These are pretzels covered with cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar and other toppings; fantastic. There's even salad stand for those men who want a beating for eating a salad at a ballgame. Believe it or not, you can bring food and water into the ballpark. Make sure while in CO to drink water as the altitude can give you a headache or worse. After the game, the LoDo area (Lower Downtown) has a number of great bars to tie one on after the game. I recommend one of the bars with an outdoor patio or the Chophouse(great steaks!)

I know many of you think that the scores at Coors rival those of Bronco games. Not so much anymore. The humidor where they store baseballs before the game has considerably cut down on home runs. Coors has altitude 6% higher than any other park in baseball, so the outfield is 4% larger. What hasn't changed is the fact that a curveball does not break as sharply at Coors. This would explain why pitchers Mike Hampton, Darryl Kile, and Denny Neagle did not succeed despite huge contracts. Pitchers from the Rockies farm system have fared better from learning to pitch in nearby Colorado Springs. Keeping the ball low is key. For the record, there were no home runs in the game I saw. If there is a Rockies Home Run, the 40 foot fountains in centerfield erupt.

My seats were 15 rows up from the field with a view of the sunset in left field and the Rocky Mountains. A hundred bucks got me two field level seats; pretty good considering you could pay $150 a seat to sit in front of a poll at Fenway vs. the Yankees. Not that I ever did that.The Rockies completed their 10th straight win, and I might gave seen my last glimpse of Ken Griffey Jr. as the Mariners visited Colorado. The ushers and police officers are helpful and actually want to answer your question. Convenience is the rule at Coors Field as it is located right off I-25 and close to a light rail public transit station. There is also plenty of parking for $5!!!!! In Boston you can park 1/8 of a car for 5 bucks. In short, for those of you who plan your vacation around the Red Sox travel plans, or you just want to see a ballgame in a great facility, with perfect weather, and a friendly atmosphere, do not miss Coors Field.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hot Sulphur Springs, CO

On our vacation in CO, when my wife suggested we take an overnight trip outside of Denver, I have to admit I never would have guessed that she would have picked a place with an overwhelming aroma of natural gas! Hot Sulphur Springs, CO is a town of 521 residents west of the Rocky Mountains on the Colorado River. We stayed at the Hot Sulphur Springs Spa and Resort. The resort does not have a good reputation from what I read on TripAdvisor, and from what I saw, I understand the complaints that were made. The rooms have no phone or TV and amenities are nil for over $100 per night. The massage therapists were excellent and well worth the price. The esthetician who gave us an herbal wrap was nice, but it isn't something I would do again. There are seven natural springs in Hot Sulphur Springs that range from 104-126 degrees. Fissures, or crevices deep beneath the earth's surface, are heated by volcanic rock which then in turn heat the natural springs. The water from the springs contain sodium, sulfate, potassium, calcium, fluoride and magnesium among other minerals that rejuvinate the skin, relax the body, and some claim that they even cure arthritis. As you would expect, the sulphur springs smell like, well, farts! There are also train tracks nearby and the horns go off at all hours of the night; much like the scenes in the movie "My Cousin Vinnie", as my wife Holly aptly pointed out. The one amenity the resort does have: earplugs for the trains. It is a beautiful spot, as are most places in Colorado, but the resort could do so much more by organizing hikes around the mountains or provide an exercise facility and classes that promote overall wellness. They do none of this, however and it really is a shame. Unless you want a dinner of funyuns and Mrs. Fields Cookies from the vending machine, walk across the river to the Riverside Hotel.

We had one of the best meals we have ever had at the Riverside Hotel. Local Rocky Mountain asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and fontina cheese was our appetizer. I had a ribeye fired directly over wood coals and finished with a balsamic glaze for the right mix of smokiness and sweetness, phenominal!!! Holly had swai fish, which is similar to Tilapia, but more flavorful and less expensive. Side dishes included their fantastic seasonal vegetables, and out of this world gratin potatoes. We finshed the meal off with bread pudding covered in chocolate sauce, and Holly had a strawberry dessert finished with grenadine and whipped cream. We polished everything off, and we don't even like bread pudding, except at this place. Did I also mention we got a table with a window that had the best view of one of the nation's most important rivers, the Colorado River? Afterwards, the Paradise family turned on their big screen TV so we could watch Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. What a great place. Reasonable too! Stay here instead of the Hot Springs Spa and Resort if you go. The Paradise family will welcome you with open arms, particularly if you're a KU Jayhawk fan.

Also that weekend was the celebration of Hot Sulphur Days. It's a small town summer celebration with events such as fireworks, a pie baking contest, street dance, craft fair, parade and more. The signature event is the Texas Charlie Shootout which re-enacts an Old West story of a high-rolling outlaw that meets his match in Hot Sulphur Springs trying to confront the long arm of the law. The body of Texas Charlie(the actor) is put on pallet and displayed and shown to onlookers in the Hot Sulphur Days Parade.

There is a lot of "white knuckle" driving on the way to Hot Sulphur Springs. US 40 climbs many mountains and ledges and winds through Winter Park, the highest city limits in the entire country. Believe me, you feel it. Winter Park town center is located more than 9,000 feet above sea level, as opposed to 5,280 in Denver. Drink lots of water and be prepared if you are afraid of heights.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Flying: Also for the Birds

Readers: These were my thoughts I wrote down as I was sitting in Denver International Airport for more than 5 hours.

My wife and others ask me why I do the things I do; like drive any distance up to 1000 miles. As I sit on a plane waiting for our flight to take off for Boston after a 4 hour delay, I will tell you. Flying sucks, pure and simple. I can think of a number of things I like better than flying such as:
1) Having my wisdom teeth pulled without anesthesia.
2) Having a meat thermometer hammered in my ear.
3) Contracting bird flu.
Well, you get the idea. Maybe if I'm lucky by the time we arrive at Logan and get our bags, I can go right from the terminal to work. Good times. All this after paying $75 to check our bags roundtrip, $200 in cab fare, and $80 in meals and magazines to keep my brain occupied while I act thankful that we arrive home safely. But there is hope. Now that they delayed our arrival time to 1AM, they're allowing me to turn on my cell phone for the next 45 seconds and check the Sox score. Hope nobody has to take the T home. By the time I get home, the Rockies, who start their games 2 hours later, will have finished their game. Oh and there's more. They're coming around with snack boxes that sell for a mere $6. Complete with the finest snacks found on the floors of taxi cabs everywhere! Scrumdidlyicious! We are also apparently sitting next to a surgeon wearing a mask. He looks to be younger than Doogie Howser. Maybe the youngest surgeon ever! I suppose he could be worried about swine flu or sars. Maybe he is carpenter who is going to sand down a cabinet in his seat, and he doesn't want to inhale the sawdust. If that's the case, the least he can do is offer us a mask. Maybe at this point I'll pay $6 for an eye drop of vodka to go with my 40 oz. can of tomato juice. That'll put me to sleep, or at least make me regular again. We are apparently circling around the airport for the next 40 minutes. Hey look kids it's Big Ben... Parliament. Stay tuned....

10PM Eastern. We're in the air and I just got sassed by a male flight attendant.

1:30AM- We landed, and now we know why the guy next to us was wearing mask. He was farting enough to wilt all the corn crop in Iowa.

It's too bad Denver is 2000 miles away. Great city. Great vacation. You just have to fly there.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Going Golden In Colorado

Today we spent the day at the home of Coors Beer: Golden, CO. Since we've been such great customers of Coors over the years, I thought we should take a tour of the brewery. Coors has been brewing beer since 1873, and doing it well I might add. Their brewery is the largest single-site brewery in the world. Enter the brew house and there are tanks that contain the eqivalent of over 27,000 six packs of beer. There are a number of interesting facts including it takes about 55 days on average to brew one Coors Beer from start to finish. The best fact of all: The tour is free and includes 4 free samples of their beers from Coors Banquet, Coors Light, Killians Irish Red, Blue Moon, and Honey Moon Summer Ale.

Golden is a great little town about 15 miles west of Denver. There are rafting and kayak lessons right in the center of town on Clear Creek in addition to tours of the brewery. After the tour we took a walk on Clear Creek path, and then drank $1.50 Coors Light Drafts on the outdoor patio at the Buffalo Rose Bar. This bar has the best wings I've ever had, and has great live music to boot(look for acoustic guitarist David Risk, phenominal musician).The people are friendly too. Being from MA, I'm still trying to figure out how to handle being treated with respect at a restaurant on a regular basis. The only thing that surprised me, noone was watching the afternoon Rockies game in any of the bars. They're on an 8 game win streak! I could not find the game on TV either; Not like Boston. The weather was great though! Unlike the fog and rain I saw tonight at Fenway. Great place to spend the day. Stay tuned for the Hot Spring Spas and Coors Field!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Duck Tour Is for the Birds

I'm taking on a different topic in this post. Sports can take a back seat for a couple of days. Recently Holly and I decided to take a duck tour through the hub. Boston does have a lot of great things to offer. It is sometimes difficult to see these things with the bad weather, bad drivers, bad traffic, corrupt government, high cost of living, and generally unhappy people(I know, I'm one to talk). Boston does, however, unmatched historical significance, different and distinct neighborhoods, a spectacular skyline, unique architecture, and oh yeah 6 pro sports championships in 7 years.

Duck Tours can be fun on a nice day. It's an 80 minute tour that takes you through one of the most aesthetically pleasing cities in the country. You learn to appreciate Boston's skyline after seeing places like LA, Buffalo, and Detroit. The World War II amphibious vehicle travels along Boylston, Newbury, and Tremont Streets by land, and the Charles River between the Museum of Science and the Longfellow bridge. Quick drives through Charlestown, Government Center, the West End, and the Back Bay are also made. Boston is a city of firsts as we all know. Boston has the oldest public botanical garden, the first subway system in the country, the oldest university in the country, the nation's oldest restaurant(Union Oyster House), the first commissioned naval vessel in the world, the first American public school, and the first public park in the US.

Unfortunately the Duck Tour focuses more on bad jokes and saying the word duck in every sentence, than giving facts on our great city. I would liked to have learned something I didn't know before, like why Boston is called the Hub. Colonel Duct Tape was our guide. He hands out a lot of duck stickers, makes numerous bad jokes about ducks, and yells at pedstrians on Boylston and Newbury streets. He's a good tour guide, but I wish they allowed him to focus on why people are on the tour: to see Boston. It would have been nice of them to reference the other neighborhoods in the city too: Brighton, Alston, West Roxbury, Roxbury, Dorchester etc.It's not cheap either. $70 for 2 tix on the internet. In short, Leave the Duck Tours to the out-of-towners.