The first day of an American holiday always starts early with the change of time zones and body-clock taking some catching up. Nick was up and about around 6am and went down to the lobby, and I awoke naturally (i.e. long before the alarm) about an hour later. I showered and went down to join him, exploring the Springhill Suites’ breakfast offering, which wasn’t at all bad – no ‘full English’ though.
Though it’s a beautiful sunny day, there is a bit of cloud and a fresh breeze – which we were to be grateful for later.
After breakfast we hit the road. And the road hit back…
As I mentioned last night, the main road out of the airport has received many millions of Obama Dollars spent on it, and bears only passing resemblance to the map as displayed by my iPhone. Added to which, what signs there are won’t win awards for consistency or clarity. In short, we went round in a big circle, which wouldn’t be too bad except the rush hour traffic made it far from fun.
Once we eventually got headed in the right direction, because we’d gone off the planned route, that clever sod Siri had recalculated and decided it knew better, sending us on a different route to Fort Myers than the one I had asked it for. Perhaps in most circumstances this would be a good thing, but I had in mind to cross to the west coast by what I anticipated would be a much more scenic route called the Tamiami Trail through the Everglades. Instead, we found ourselves going north on I-75 routed toward “Aligator Alley”. That would be fine except it is an Interstate and we’ve done it before. I’d proper got my knickers in a twist at this point.
Nick saved the day, however, by realising we could head north off I-75 on US-87 then west on State Road 80, through towns of Clewiston and La Belle. New ground for both of us, and skirting the vast expanse of Lake Okeechobee. In the end, we saw little or nothing of the lake as, rather like Fenland in the UK, huge earth banks (levees in the local parlance?) stand between road and water. The scenery was interesting in as much of what it represented, but not really beautiful. The towns we passed through were somewhat industrial in character and showed signs of having suffered during the recession. Nevertheless, at no point was the 150 mile drive boring at all and there was always plenty to see and comment on.
It was around noon when we arrived in the Fort Myers area and found Jet Blue Park, also known as Fenway South. The truth of the matter is neither of us knew what to expect here. In the event, we were guided in off the main road by a series of stewards and directed to a space in a very busy public parking area. We were a little perturbed to note, however, that the vast majority of the large crowd (around 200-300 folk, all wearing Red Sox T shirts of course), were heading back to the car park. We subsequently discovered that the public training session runs from 09:00 to 11:30, hence the exodus.
Many people remained, however, and one of our first acts on arriving was to buy tickets for the 12:30 tour of the stadium. With 20 minutes or so to kill beforehand, we explored the perimeter and took in the atmosphere. The tour itself was excellent, a New England native called John led us around and his spiel was entertaining and knowledgable, if maybe lacking polish in its delivery. We were taken into the Red Sox dug out, up to the scoreboard (the original one from Fenway, replaced in the 1980s) and up to the Green Monster. The size and shape of the playing area here is an exact replica of Fenway in terms of its dimensions, though the new stadium around it has amenities that Fenway lacks, like seats which are actually fit to sit on! All-in-all it is a spectacular little ballpark and a facility to be proud of.
Photo highlights can be viewed here…
From the Green Monster were able to look down on the Player Development Facility. During the afternoon the younger squad members and some of the minor league affiliates such as the Pawtucket Paw Sox were heading out to do their drills and practice. Unfortunately, this session was closed to the public.
After lining John Henry (and MLB)’s pockets in the gift shop, we wandered back to the car and set course for the Courtyard. We checked in and, as I type, are enjoying a chill-out afternoon. Nick has asked the lady who checked us in (who hails from Cornwall, 28 years ago!) what options there are around for food later. To my delight, we are apparently in walking distance of the Fort Myers Ale House. My initial enthusiasm is dampened a little as I gather it is a chain called Miller’s – but I’m optimistic as on this case the name has nothing to do with the global brewing company of the same name. I will report later.