I must preface this article by saying while it is an enjoyable read on its own, it would make much more sense after reading Part 1 of my summer road trip (which can be found here).
Day Two! After a long day in Cleveland, we (Sean, Harry and Myself) headed off to our next destination for our second game of the trip: The New York Mets vs the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Sean, being from New York, has the unfortunate distinction of being a Mets fan, so he was beyond excited to see the Mets play. As a Phillies fan, I really can’t understand why.
We had a long day ahead of us as we woke up, going from Cleveland to Chicago and seeing the game all in one day. As we are all college students, none of us were overly thrilled about waking up early, but by 8 AM we planned to get on our way. Theoretically, it was supposed to the lightest travel day we would have, with only about 5 hours of travel time between the two cities. After a complimentary breakfast of waffles at the La Quinta Inn, we headed off towards the Windy City!
During the car rides, we had a very strict and hierarchical three seat system: one person would drive, one person would navigate/DJ, and the third person would sleep and distribute snacks from the back seat. While I wouldn’t call myself a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, I was by far the most capable of driving in the morning, so I had the first shift and got us most of the way through Ohio, just on the fringe of Indiana, before I handed off the wheel and took my seat in the back where I was finally able to catch up on some sleep.
I woke up about an hour later and had no idea where we were, but I noticed that we just passed a sign for Holy Cross College. For those unfamiliar, Holy Cross College is where the main character from the football movie “Rudy” attends so he’s able to get into Notre Dame, his dream school, to play football for the Fighting Irish. At the time, I was barely awake and wasn’t too interested in exactly what was going on, and when I asked them was that in fact the school that Rudy went to, they humored me and said they weren’t sure. The more I came to my senses, I noticed more and more signs that said South Bend, Indiana, and I eventually realized we were in fact making an unscheduled stop to the legendary campus of Notre Dame University. We were about to stand on sacred ground.
The first thing I could say was “wow”; no picture I could have taken would properly do it justice. I have been on many different college campuses, but nothing could even come close to the absolute majesty of Notre Dame. Every building (and we went in a lot of buildings), was pristine, colored in their traditional blue and gold. You could absolutely feel the history in every aspect of the campus. There were water fountains the size of Olympic pools (where were different than the numerous reflection pools scattered around campus), statues to countless Catholic Saints standing proudly on campus, as well as numerous monuments to alumni who have done amazing things not only for the school, but as governors, Nobel Prize recipients, and multiple Hall of Fame memebrs or otherwise notable athletes*.
The one thing we weren’t able to see was inside Notre Dame Stadium, home of the Fighting Irish football team. One of the most storied and beloved football programs in history, few programs command the respect that they do. With legends such as Joe Montana and Joe Theismann having graduated from the program, seven Heisman trophy winners (a NCAA Record), and 12 Pro Football Hall of Fame Members, the history and tradition of Notre Dame is virtually unmatched.
So there we were, at legendary Notre Dame. It was a surreal experience. The bookstore alone was bigger than President’s Hall at Seton Hall University, where both Sean and I currently attend. Three stories, and the bottom floor was just apparel, with a hat wall that would rival LIDS (I picked up the beauty pictured below while we were there). After walking about for what must have been two and a half hours just aimlessly exploring every nook and cranny we could, we realized we only explored about an eighth of the campus. Thankfully, there were numerous full services restaurants right on campus. While the name of the place we ate at escapes me, I vividly remember our waitress pointing out my Philly accent as when I asked for a “wooder” instead of “water”, which she told me they do not serve here.
After what ended up being a four hour sabbatical, and easily the best spur of the moment decision of the road trip, we finally got back on the road, headed to our hotel in Chicago. As we got closer and closer to the city, the traffic got worse and worse. All three of us live in New Jersey, and have driven around New York, so we all are no strangers to absolutely horrendous traffic, but this was something else entirely. Gridlocked for nothing less than hours, we ended up having to go straight to the stadium rather than go to the hotel first like we planned.
Planted squarely in the middle of a residential neighborhood, parking at Wrigley is understandably a struggle, and as three college students, paying $45 understandably for parking at the stadium seemed a little ridiculous. Many residents of the surrounding neighborhood have a second business renting out their personal garages as parking for many of the games, so when we saw someone holding up a sign for $20 parking only four blocks from the stadium, we jumped on that opportunity.
Wrigley field is arguably baseball’s version’s of Mecca: its the place where every baseball fan has to go at least once in their lifetime. Its unique among the National League teams, with Red Sox’s slightly older Fenway Park serving as the American League counter-park (get it?). Small local restaurants and bars populate the surrounding area, with some very notable bars having bleachers on their rooftops that allow patrons to see into Wrigley Field; this is something truly unique among all stadiums. Pictures can’t even properly do the stadium justice. A small stadium in the terribly inconvenient location, with a historically terrible team, manages to sell out virtually every game, with a fan-base that is among the best in the game. Every single great baseball player has stepped up to the plate at Wrigley, with a century baseball history to its name.
It just so happens that the 2014 season was the 100th anniversary of historic Wrigley Field, home of the historically bad Chicago Cubs, who haven’t won a championship since the Ottoman Empire still existed****, and we got to go around surrounding area about before the game. Due to the severely limited space inside the stadium, the main team store is outside the stadium, where I picked up these two Cubs caps featuring the retro baby Cubs logo, as well as the 100th Anniversary Cap the players were wearing during home games during the season.
The game itself was amazing, with the Cubs jumping out to an early 4-0 lead, before the Mets stormed back to tie it up, before some late game heroics from Cubs’ first basemen and All-Star Anthony Rizzo put them back the lead, and gave them the win. After any Cubs home victory, they play “Go Cubs Go” by Chicago native Steve Goodman (which can be found here), which quickly became stuck in our heads for weeks on end.
I got to see the Mets lose (a moral victory), the Cubs get a series sweep (an actual victory), the eventual NL Rookie of the Year winner Jacob deGrom and a very rare night game at Wrigley Field** all in one day, but for Sean that wasn’t enough. The entire game Sean would not stop saying how great and special Wrigley Field was… because there was a Taco Bell directly across from it. We were at a 100 year old baseball stadium, and he was excited about a Taco Bell. Now I understand if you may think that I am exaggerating this point, but I assure you I am not; he basically sprinted out of the stadium after the Mets loss and headed straight to his beloved Taco bell where him and Harry stuffed their faces full of loaded nachos. I honestly don’t know how they could stomach it.
This day was exceptional for many reasons, but one of the main was that I broke a new personal record, purchasing three New Era Caps in one day between Wrigley Field and Notre Dame.*** After an exceptionally long day, which included a 40 minute adventure to remember in whose garage we parked, we finally headed back to the hotel. The next day, we headed back to Wrigley for a day game, with a whole new set of adventures to follow.
* Including then Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who played both football and baseball at Notre Dame before being drafted in the 5th round of the draft by the Cubs. Later during the season, he was traded to the Oakland A’s.
** Since its in a residential neighborhood, the number of night games they play at home is severely restricted.
*** As it turns out, they would be the only three caps I purchased during this road trip, proving doubters wrong, as the over/under for caps I would buy was set at 4.5.
**** Sadly, this is an actual fact. The Ottoman Empire fell in 1923, and the Cubs last won the World Series in 1908.