Mile High City

The car is back with the hire company and the next stage of the trip begins today – two nights in Denver. It has been another full day, though the first half definitely fell into the category of ‘housekeeping’. Fair to say too, I’m glad to have my feet up in a cool room right now.

Here’s a clue to how I spent the afternoon…

Mets Win

Here’s how it went.

On the road at a reasonable time and into downtown Boulder to find the US Post Office. The plan was to obtain a international mailing box in order to send home some of the bits & pieces I’ve accrued along the way to make bags more manageable. In theory, I could send home up to 20lbs for $60. Both figures sound a lot, especially in the context of excess baggage charges. However, when I actually got hold of the the boxes concerned, I decided that in terms of volume, they would hold very little. As a Plan B, before I fly on Saturday I intend to have a ruthless purge of what I’m carrying. For example, I’m not really sure I need to be taking a tourist guide to Tasmania back…?

That errand abandoned, I hit the road for Denver, joining the back end of the morning commute. All I can say about the thirty mile drive was that it passed by without event. When I got there, I somehow managed to drive by the Residence Inn Denver Downtown (which is actually a little bit out of downtown) without seeing it, but a circle or three of the block rectified that issue and I duly dropped my two main bags. Back on the road for the 25 mile drive to Denver International Airport. I had investigated a city centre drop-off, with no joy, so a fifty mile round trip – which amounts to wasted time really.

Approaching Denver

More heavy traffic and a last refill at a 7-Eleven, five miles short of the airport (and considerably cheaper than the airport petrol station, of course). The final mileage for the Road Trip was 2,104. Not bad in a week. If I’d done it in  straight line, it would have got me to Detroit! (or Perth to Sydney).

I got the shuttle to the domestic terminal and scoped-out transportation options to Downtown. A city bus was leaving in five minutes at a cost of $11 but required exact change, which I didn’t have. I went and got a coffee to split a $20 note (Caribou Coffee as I couldn’t immediately see a SBs), thinking the bus would be fairly frequent. Turns out it is hourly. Rather than kick my heels for nearly an hour, I explored the van option. SuperShuttle quoted $40 return, so bearing in mind that’s airport – hotel – airport and I’ve a morning flight (albeit at 11:00) on Saturday, I reckoned that sounded like a plan.

The trouble with shared van transport is that you’re at the mercy of the driver and the other passengers. The first two SuperShuttle vans that turned up said, in effect, “I’m not going that way” on seeing what hotel I was headed for. I was eventually loaded into a van, and by the time it was full (i.e. worth the driver’s while setting off) I was only ten minutes ahead of the city bus. I think it was a quicker ride though, despite the heavy traffic (still) approaching downtown and the four hotel drop-offs before mine.

It was still too early to check in (“I’ve just given away my last cleaned room to the couple ahead of you, the next one won’t be ready for an hour”). So I left my rucksack with the bag-check and took advantage the free shuttle they lay on to take guests downtown (which is I guess how they get away with calling it a ‘downtown location’ when it evidently isn’t). The driver, Bob, was very friendly and helpful, taking me on a brief tour of the city, taking advantage of his lifetime’s residence in the city (let’s just say Bob is senior in years), dropping me off outside my destination…

Coors Field

I’d noticed last night that the New York Mets were in town for a single ‘make up’ game, a result of a snowed-out game in April, apparently. The irony of a 95° game time temperature was probably not lost on the Mets players. I had a chat with a nice youth at the ticket window, who seemed surprised that I don’t follow UK football and prefer to watch baseball. I had a choice of a full range of tickets and picked a $21 seat in the right field mezzanine. In some respects, that was a minor mistake, as will become clear…

It was 2½ hours to game time, but as gates open two hours prior to the start in order to allow fans in to watch batting practice, I didn’t have long to wait before entering the ballpark. A very thorough senior lady steward insisted on sniffing the bottle of water I was carrying to ensure it wasn’t vodka, otherwise entry into the ground was quick and painless.  For the first half an hour, access was limited to the area of the ground furthest from Home Plate. The Mets came out went through their loosening exercise and began batting practice, during which access to the whole ground opened up, so I went down to the area behind the visitor’s dug out to get a closer view. It was then that I realised, being a National League game, I knew none of the players. Some of the names in the Colorado Rockies were vaguely familiar as they’ve just played a brief series against the Red Sox – the local hero Michael Cuddyer, for example.

I took advantage of the period before the ceremonies and first pitch to investigate the many and varied food concessions, predictably going with a burger to fill me up. Twenty minutes before the start I went to my allocated seat, which in itself wasn’t at all bad – front row overlooking the bullpens and the very ornate garden in centre field they have at Coors Field.

Coors Field Garden

The down side to where I was seated was that it was on the north-east corner of the ground – in the full and unrelenting glare of the sun. Remember I said it was 95°. I managed to last two innings up there, with a group of students behind me who were obviously numbers geeks – one of them also being a baseball geek, trying to explain to his mates the intricacies of scoring. It was interesting to tab-hang. Thoroughly cooked, I spent the rest of the game under the stands in the shade, watching the game from several different standing room vantage points. I can honestly say I saw every pitch, which is more than a lot of folk in the stadium. Looking around, it is obvious that the playing of a baseball game is incidental to the ballpark wanting to make as much money from the crowd as possible, and conversely, a lot of those attending see the ballgame is just an excuse for a social event. No great insight or surprise in either observation, I suppose.

The game wasn’t the best baseball spectacle I’ve ever seen, thanks to two good starting pitchers keeping the bats quiet. Both sides displayed good and bad examples of fielding, the Rockies in particular committing a terrible error in the eighth with a single run lead. The shortstop and second base got themselves mixed-up on a soft line drive, allowing a single which should have been an easy out. They were punished when the next batter homered, driving in what turned out to be the winning run. In the same vein as I’ve just observed, the result was incidental — it was the experience which counted, and I enjoyed every second of it, even if I did verge on heatstroke!

Home Plate View

Bob the Van had said that the shuttle would pick me up if I rang them after the game, and even arranged a pick-up location should I require it. However, as I left the ball park, reckoning on traffic being gridlocked after the game, I decided it would probably be as quick to walk. I think I was probably right and I saw a bit of Denver I wouldn’t otherwise have seen (and spotted a potential venue for tomorrow evening on the way!). It only took half an hour to walk it, but the last quarter of a mile was slightly uphill, so by the the time I got to the reception to finally check-in, I was a hot, sweaty mess! Also waiting for me was the iPhone lead I’d left at Colin’s which he’d very kindly posted on to me.

The suite – for that it definitely what it is – is particularly swish.

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