The Slow (Internet) Boat to China
This was the first home opener I've missed in 30 years.
I'm way too baseball crazy. My wife loves to travel to exotic places so when she came up with plans for a trip to China for 3 weeks the only question was when. It was either September/October or April. There went my opening day streak. Opening day is for me a religious holiday. You know, opening day is guaranteed to freeze your butt off but it's the annual reintroduction to Wrigley Field. Brown vines withstanding, the scoreboard is such a beautiful sight after a long off-season. So when I decided to sacrifice the beginning of the 2009 season (at the expense of not sacrificing the end of the season) I knew I'd be able to follow the Cubs via all the mlb and internet technology options out there.
Not so fast, grasshopper.
First, I'm told that there is a luggage weight restriction we'd have to deal with in several of the intra-China flights so I shouldn't bring my laptop. OK, I'll bring my iPhone. Then I realize Apple is still working on a deal with China Telecom, so the phone won't get me on the net except thru wi-fi. Plan B. I get a new iPod touch which also gets e-mail and wifi internet plus much more storage for video. I added Ken Burns Baseball (innings 1 and 2), When it was a Game and a few movies ie. Alibi Ike, Kill the Umpire and it Happens Every Spring to prevent baseball withdrawl. Not everything was baseball (Shawshank Redemption) but there was ample material for some long flights and tour bus rides.
April 2nd and 3rd (14 hour flight but with time change Thursday became Friday). Direct flight from O'Hare to Shanghai. I'd strongly recommend seeing the Ken Burns series. It's being replayed from time to time on the mlb network. The route taken was also worth mentioning. Flew straight north over Wisconsin and central Canada, north of Alaska (almost to the North Pole) then down over Siberia. I'm still trying to remind myself to look at a globe to sort that route out.
Fancy hotel in Shanghai with great wi-fi in the room. Perfect. My e-mail box is still under control and I'm reading TCR including comments. Plenty of Arizona Phil, awesome. First glitch. I tried to enter the TCR Annual 10 queston contest but for some reason I couldn't get the choices to work because the browser kept adding boxes of Mandarin script. I knew studying German in highschool was a mistake.
Shanghai is incredible. Supposedly 20 million people. Huge Skyscrapers. We had an extra day in the city to explore before the tour began, so we took the subway to a Buddist Temple and then walked our way back. Walked thru some streets full of vendors selling antique memoribilia (need a Chairman Mao statue?), Eventually found a teahouse for lunch. Oolong tea for me, Jasmine for my mate Renee.
Tour starts on Sunday. Very ambitious schedule including Shanghai Museum, Yu Gardens, the Bund (Chinese version of Michigan Avenue) and a dinner show with Chinese acrobats. Next day is a travel day with stops at a silk factory in Suzhou (I bought a shirt, Happy Buddah size) before getting to Nanking and the Yangtze River for the 10 day cruise part of the trip.
The brochure promised internet on the cruise. Internet-hell is what they need to call it. 4 computers with no wi-fi (nixing my iPod). It took about 20 minutes to download most web pages so only the most patient could access e-mail. The only browser was internet explorer (have I mentioned I hate IE? I it would have taken 24 hours to download Firefox.), so I couldn't access my .mac mail account, but it's a moot point because AOL, g-mail and hotmail users had long waits to get the page to load...so mostly they played freecell and chatted with the passerbys who asked if the internet was faster today as they'd politely smile at the goofballs trying their skill on these hapless computers.
But I'm more saavy than that. From my first cellphone days with "baby" internet, I knew the epsn mobile app site address and hooray, I was saved. Of course there was minimal graphics but it did give me pitch by pitch info.
A Soriano homered to left center. >CHC 1 HOU 0
...and the good Zambrano showed up.
I can live with this. Of course, there was a 13 hour time difference so I had to get up at 2 AM to watch any of the "day games" and night games, well about 6 AM.
K Hill homered to left center, R Theriot scored. >CHC 3 MIL 2
Fuckin' A. But Kerry Wood will be missed if Kevin Gregg pitches like time all season:
R Weeks doubled to deep left, C Duffy scored. >CHC 3 MIL 3
...I do remember KW not starting so well against the Brewers last year, with a 3 run HR by Fukudome being the equivalent of Koyie's heroics in that game.
April 11th, Saturday:
A Ramirez homered to catcher. >CHC 4 MIL 5
A Soriano homered to left, J Gathright scored. >CHC 6 MIL 5
Woo. Soriano hotter than a pistol. People on the other computers think I'm nuts. I guess I am.
Wuhan, China to Chicago, April 13th. Get up at 2:20 am for the official opening day. Game hasn't started. Gotta find out if it's going to be cancelled. Fortunately after 15 minutes the TCR site loads, 15 more minutes to get the comments.
thanks Jace (TCR readers come thru!):
Radar looks like things should be clearing up in 30 minutes or so... It'll be a cold, wet one, but it looks like it might be playable...
So I sit and wait for 112 minutes for my baseball opening day fix.
Well worth it. Lillyhammer, we loves you. No-no into the 7th and even the bullpen didn't suck.
After 10 days on the Yangtze River including the beautiful Three Gorges, we end the river part of the tour in Chongquing (formerly known as Chung-King until the frozen food company was getting too much notoriety). Highlighted by a stop at their zoo to see the Pandas, it's a city supposedly over 6 million but 30 million for the whole municipality. That's alot of people and the city was very busy with monorails, taxi's but not bicycles as it's built on somewhat mountainous terrain.
Same day, we fly to Xian, population 7 million. Home of the terra cota warriors. These are some 8,000 statues lined up in military columns (rediscovered by farmers drilling for water in 1974) it was representative of the Emporer Qin Shi Huang's army from around 200 B.C. One has to see them in person to appreciate how spectacular this archeological wonder is.
Xian was the return to luxury hotel-land. Wi-fi in the lobby (but not in the room). So I'm back in business. I downloaded the mlb app which became available just before I left home. Awesome. This year they've added radio broadcasts of both teams. Live updates too with all the usual frills like boxscores and video hightlights. I'm in the lobby of the hotel at 4:30 am with headphones listening to Pat and Ron. I pick up the game about the 6th inning as the Cardinals tied it up at 4-4. We're in for a long season if our bullpen repeats this effort Heilman/Patton/Cotts/Guzman...yeech. Sad final, 7-4 and I'm off to the land of ancient artifacts.
Finally we fly to Beijing and a luxurious Shangri-La hotel. Internet in the room but no wi-fi. I was duped cause they never weighed our luggage for the flight so I could have bought the laptop. I go down to the lobby for wi-fi and find the signal is sort of weak. So I get Pat and Ron but they keep cutting out. Back to espn mobile.app but I keep hoping to hear Ron whooping it up. Missed it by that much so it's me that's whooping at Saturday, 5 am in the lobby.
A Soriano homered to left center, A Miles scored. >STL 7 CHC 8
Finally got the mlb app to work and watched the vido of the Soriano HR. Woo. I'm off to tour the Great China Wall...
...until Sunday 5 am:
Bot 11th - CHC
A Ramirez homered to center, K Fukudome scored. >STL 5 CHC 7
Concierge thinks I'm a traveling lunatic especially on the second morning of this.
After the final game in the Cardinal series gets rained out I relax my baseball-jones and I'm off for the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square wrapping up the tour with a Chinese Opera performance. The last morning of the trip had a few more hours to see Beijing and visit a fantastic park called Temple of Heaven with people doing Tai-chi, ribbon dancing and other popular Chinese forms of exercise. The Emperor, circa 1500, would visit the Temples on site after a 3 day fast to pray for a good harvest. Finally, the 13 hour flight home and major jet lag (which I'm still suffering from nearly a week later). With a day off monday (travel day) and a Cincy series that I had tickets for...I survived my April baseball challenge.
Remember if all else fails, http://mobileapp.espn.go.com/mlb/scoreboard