I left the familiar confines of St. Paul at 6:00 PM Tuesday evening with my close friend Kevin and 2004 Individual Trivia Champion Cary Smith. In the SABR universe Kevin and I are nobodies. We haven't published any books. We haven't done any statistical analysis of note. We aren't one of the many volunteers and elected officials that power the organization. And we aren't trivia champions like Cary. But we do like drinking a lot of beer, watching major league baseball in out-of-town ballparks, getting exposed to new research, meeting a whole slew of knowledgeable baseball fans from around the country (and world), and blowing town for a few days every summer.
The trip started off with a good omen. Two hours before I was scheduled to hop in my car, rendezvous with my two travel companions and head out onto the open road, the postman delivered my Screw Everyone... I Love Bonds tee shirt just in time for the convention.
The only problem we faced was having to drive through Iowa. To say there is nothing in Iowa is an understatement. We found no traces of the ghost of Kerouac or the prettiest girls in the world. In fact, even the information signs where barren.
Most of the Gas, Food, and Lodging sings we passed looked like the one pictured above. Give Iowa credit, at least they're optimistic, holding out hope that there will someday be gas, food, and lodging along their state and interstate highways.
Around 10:00 PM we realized that we were four hours into our trip and hadn't (a) consumed any beer nor (b) watched any baseball (although we were listening to XM in the car and Pat Neshek's bludgeoning at the hands of the Blue Jays). We decided to stop in Waterloo, Iowa to get the trip back on track.
Becks's Sports Brewery seems like the greatest idea in restaurant history, combining a sports bar with a microbrewery. Hopes were high.
Cary and Kevin sample the beer. Cary was nice enough to sympathize with me having to drive and just ordered a ten-ounce to start. Kevin has both a 22-ounce and a shit-eating grin on his face, reveling in my sobriety.
I enjoy my solitary brew of the night and rep the Twins as the Iowans around me (off camera) cheer on the Cubs in their game against the Cardinals.
Fortunately for me, the beer wasn't that good. You could taste the good, dark beer that had existed in the past but had since been drowned into mediocrity. It was like needing a coke fix only to have half of what you snort turn out to be baking powder. The beer was also served really cold, and could have benefited from a serving at cask temperature. I guess the type of folks who frequent sports bars in Waterloo, Iowa want at Miller Light even when they're not drinking Miller Light.
The sandwiches were as forgettable as the beer, but the fries were great.
We hopped back on the road and almost made it to Missouri before having to refuel. We pulled into a huge truck stop along a state highway.
Kevin and I both got a Maximum Overdrive vibe from the place, and we knew that if things went wrong Emilio Estevez wasn't around to bail us out.
Shooting over tons of poorly designed elevations and curves along a two-lane Highway 61, we were too scared to nod off despite our trip crawling into the early hours of the morning. Finally, around 3:30 AM we rolled into St. Louis and found our hotel.
Kevin and I passed out immediately upon coming in contact with our beds, but Cary had to register for his fall classes at 6:00 AM and figured he might as well stay up as our drive came to a close.
I'm writing this from lulls in the convention's Retrosheet Workshop, and while sitting in a class taught by Dave Smith is a nerd's dream come true, I'll hold off on the details until I post my Wednesday recap some time tomorrow.