DC and Baltimore

Having more time on the trains between cities, we’ve blogged about our time in Philadelphia and New York. We are playing catch up on the rest of the cities we visited.

To start off the tour de east coast we landed at Reagan National. Nice, easy spot to fly into. Our good friends Alex and Dustin hosted us for our time there and we were lucky to have Dustin have a day off to spend time with us.

The first thing Alex and Dustin asked was “Do you like burgers?” to which we answered (and will always answer) “YES!” They took us to Good Stuff Eatery in Arlington. We each got a burger and split fries. Good burgers for a medium price. Our favorite was the sauces that you can get to dip the fries in. After burgers we went back to their apartment and were able to taste some Oregon vodka, gin and whisky that Dustin’s family makes and sells. Great stuff!

Saturday was tour DC day with Alex and Dustin. Anytime you try to fit this in in one day you won’t get to see it all, but we were able to get the highlights and must do/see. Founding Farmers for brunch in the GW Univ. area was a great way to start our day out…slow service but great food.

National Mall sights:
White House – wouldn’t truly be complete without active protests happening. Israel and Gaza supporters were both passionate about communicating to the President. Or at least the security guards and tourists. There was even a young girl in her twenties standing along the fence reading a book out loud about Israel.
Washington Monument – tall and visible from most other places in DC. There is a patch of grass between the White House and Washington Monument that could use some love and creativity for land use.
– Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool – Reflecting pool sits between the Washington and Lincoln and is lovely in pictures unless you are walking right by it. Lincoln sits large and proud in his seat. The beard plays.
– Korean Memorial – I love to look at each soldier, as if they are part of a movie and you’re seeing them move right in front of you. Strong statement and both of us have seen this in rain/fog before, which is the best and most eery way to see it.

Korean Memorial 8.2.14
– MLK Jr. Memorial – New to both Ben and I. We thought this was a great setup for him. His figure chiseled out of a large slab, with a quote on the side “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope”. The rest of the area detailed the historic and profound statements he made including my favorite: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

MLK Jr Memorial 8.2.14
– FDR Memorial – New to Ben. I remember taking pictures with my friends by every fountain/water exhibit in this memorial on my 8th grade trip. Very serene feel and welcomed shade in this area. Best quote: “I have seen war. I have seen war on land and seas. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed…I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt
– Jefferson Memorial – Full figure memorial with a “power stance” and full robe/jacket. Did they call them robes back then or am I just thinking of Harry Potter? Forgive my ignorance. Although I am now having a good picture of our early presidents partaking in the Harry Potter saga. Let’s see if Ben edits this out! Jefferson quotes chosen were wordy but in his time were the right things to help shape our nation. Bummed to not have time to show Ben Monticello, but alas, we move on.
– Natural History Museum – Way too crowded in here to take full advantage but very cool exhibits on genetics, full skeleton exhibits of hundreds of mammals, and of course the Hope Diamond.

That evening we were able to cross another ballpark off the list by attending the Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies game. The stadium is great and not too far of a train ride located at the Washington Navy Yard. We were able to get some Tacos and put away a few beers at Agua 301 before heading into the game. Beautiful night and cool stadium. They clearly market to the younger crowd by offering a $5 beer before the start of the game. Nationals shut out the Phillies 11-0.

Nationals vs. Phillies 8.2.14

 

 

Best photo from this city: Ben Lucas, Commander in Chief

Ben Commander in Chief

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BALTIMORE
Next day we were off the Baltimore on the train (thanks Alex for taking us all the way there). Arrived at Baltimore Penn Station and then took the light rail to downtown. Our hotel room wasn’t ready so we checked our bags and walked to Camden Yards. What a great place. Picturesque setup with so many things to see and take your attention away from the game. Our seats were in right field foul ball territory but we were in the covered area.

We were able to have Casey and Wes (friends that we met in Fresno and have recently moved to the east coast off of Chesapeake Bay) drive up and meet us at the game. It was both Wes and I’s first Orioles versus Seattle Mariners game. It was an exciting game to start with a solo home run in the 1st inning but pretty slow after that. Even better to allow us to catch up with Casey and Wes, people watch and take in the atmosphere. Orioles won 1-0.

 

Camden Yards 8.3.14

 

Electric Slugger

The “Electric Slugger” — You play it like a violin and it sounds like an electric guitar and is made out of a Louisville Slugger!

Post game we went to a local brewery and had some good beers! Also got to witness BronyCon 2014 in person. If you don’t know what that is, google it. It’s as weird as it sounds. After dinner Casey and Wes went home (thanks again for coming to see us!!), Ben and I walked to the Inner Harbor. Loved being able to see this. It’s post card beautiful and has so much character. Definitely has some touristy spots there but a different vibe there then where our hotel was. We got back to the hotel just in time before a torrential downpour. Great views of the storm from our room and a good time to make sure we didn’t miss our Sunday night TV show ritual (thanks HBO GO and surprisingly strong WiFi).

Will definitely visit both cities again to see more, eat more and drink more.

Cheers,
Nikki and Ben

Andre Iguodala…Transformative…?

I’m not bitter by Andre leaving the Nuggets. He had all the right to leave. He turned down more money. He wanted to play with players he liked and a coach that appreciated his talents. He was a free agent and he was traded to the Nuggets. He did not sign here under his own accord. But…there a few things that I can’t stop thinking about in the weeks that have gone by…

As we’ve heard in the media, he participated in Chapel with the Warriors players during the playoffs and it doesn’t take a blind man to see that he was the narc in the Curry-Gate drama. Iguodala didn’t quit on the Nuggets, in fact, he played the best ball of the year in that series. I knew, though, from the time I saw him chumming around with Mark Jackson that his time with the Nuggets was limited. You can’t force a player to play somewhere he doesn’t want to be and isn’t contractually obligated to be.

I hope the Warriors understand what exactly they are getting though. While Iggy was mere hours away from joining the Mavs he always wanted to play with the Warriors. I can see that a few things here were true: 1. He didn’t want to play for the Nuggets (boo hoo), 2. He wanted the money over the location.

Warriors fans are pumped. They should be after all. ESPN and other networks have led them to  believe that Iggy is a star…a superstar even. You SHOULD always listed to ESPN and SHOULD always watch SportsCenter every morning…

Iggy’s PPG the last 6 years has gone from 19.9 to 13…his PER (player efficiency rating) has dropped from 18.8 to 15.2. His steals have gone down and assists and rebounds have stayed relatively similar. Field Goal % has gone up and down, three point % has done the same (Iggy is an awful shooter but is streaky as he showed in the playoffs)…The most telling sign of his decline as a scorer and “transformative” player would be his Free Throw % dropping from 72% to the AWFUL 57.5 % that it was last year. Teams can’t rely on a 57% free throw shooter in the playoffs (Iggy will be on the bench more often than not in crunch time minutes).

But I get the he “fits” in with the Warriors. They have young shooters. They run a fast-paced offense that gets “up and down the court.” Iggy is going to cause a few problems but the worst problem of all is who he will send to the bench. If I am a Warriors fan (and I’ve been a Nuggets fan my whole life) I am worried about sitting Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes in favor of someone who can’t shoot (because they both can). Do they move to a “Stretch 4” with Barnes starting at Power Forward…I can’t see this being a fit. Iggy’s defensive skills have also been greatly exaggerated. He’s a great help defender and he’s long enough to clog the passing lanes but an on-ball defender he is not anymore. Providing advanced statistics and video footage would be pointless…the Warriors will be on TNT and ESPN enough this year, just watch them.

The Nuggets finally avoided a headache in Free Agency (see past headaches Nene and Arron Afflalo) and did not have to pay market price for a player that they did not want. 57 wins is a long way off and ALL Nuggets fans should be patient with this team. Between Evan Fournier, Erick Green and Jordan Hamilton we have young talent that can help contribute and grow. Brian Shaw turned Lance Stevenson into a serviceable player and he’s a lunatic unstable. The Nuggets have been on everyone’s “least improved list” this summer and it is probably warranted for now. However, this must be taken in context. Were the Nuggets automatic contenders with Iggy? Was he the ‘transformative’ player that would have made the difference? The Nuggets weren’t going to win a title with Iggy and we’re better off without him.

Spending $14 million per year for a 33 year old who can’t shoot or play perimeter D anymore is a risk that I am glad that the Nuggets don’t have to take.

How did I get so lucky?!?!

I read a post from a friend recently that talked about how moving away from family and friends is very hard but is one of the best ways to start a marriage. I think about that nearly everyday.

And then I think about how lucky I am that Mr. Ben Lucas, this handsome, funny, smart, friendly, thoughtful guy, wanted to make me his wife and best friend for life. And then I get even more excited when I find gems like this picture (Ben with baseball cake) because I know he is going to be a great dad. And if our kids are passionate about anything as much as Ben is about sports, I’ll be happy.

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(NOTE: I’m not pregnant)

 

Cheers,

Nikki

 

Baltimore’s relief

I’ve grown  up an Orioles fan on the hush…Idolizing Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray (and Brady Anderson…yikes) as a kid…watching Nolan Ryan pitch at Camden Yards…and hearing my mom and grandma talk about going to O’s games with my grandpa at Memorial Field. They have the coolest logo in sports and play in the original, and best new/old school ballpark. Ever since that damn Jeffrey Maier though, things haven‘t really been the same.

There have been a few seasons of promise and a few players that showed flashes but nothing has sustained and all promise has always fizzled. The O’s always seem to revert right back to the bottom of the AL East right around the time that America switches focus to Football. Today, however, the O’s are staring down the barrel of first place for the first time since 1997. You can’t overlook Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Manny Machado but they are also doing it on the heels of Nick Markakis hitting everything in sight since the All-Star break (and leading off…finally). They are doing it with the help of two of the most spectacularly gifted swing-and-missers in the entire MLB in Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds (combined for 263 K’s in 776 AB’s…and 40 HR’s). They are also doing it with a bunch of classic journeymen and also-rans that seem to fit Buck Showalter’s system in Nate McClouth, Omar Quintanilla, Robert Andino and a 83 year old Wilson Betemit.

The O’s have an offense that can score runs and a starting pitching staff that has also been on fire since the break but what you cannot overlook what the bullpen has accomplished this season. In 2011 the O’s pen had 1 pitcher make over 50 appearances with an ERA under 3.00 and you have to go back to 2008 to find the last time it happened. Current closer Jim Johnson accomplished both numbers. This year the numbers are staggering with FIVE pitchers all over 50 appearances and under a 3.00 ERA, check out these numbers:

  • Jim Johnson – 58 app, 1-1, 41 SV, 2.88 ERA and 0.98 WHIP
  • Luis Ayala – 55 app, 4-4, 1 SV, 11 Holds, 2.64 ERA and 1.25 WHIP
  • Troy Patton – 50 app, 1-0, 2.58 ERA and 1.03 WHIP
  • Darren O’Day – 56 app, 6-1, 2.30 ERA and 0.99 WHIP
  • Pedro Strop – 59 app, 5-2, 3 SV, 1.83 ERA and 1.15 WHIP

One of the most shocking numbers is that none of these pitchers are dominant strikeout machines…O’Day at 8.89 K/9 is the leader…it shows how important strikes are. This bullpen effeciency has allowed Baltimore to sport the best record in baseball in 1-run games, 24-7…and the best record, by far, in extra innings at 12-2.

Living a fine line like the O’s are is fun and all 12,000 fans per game are getting excited but like the Rockies before them…this sort of success may not sustain itself over the long run. Enjoy it for now because teams like this come along only so often. They play for each other, the play for the name on the front and they play for the love of the best game in the world. This Baltimore team shows why there is magic in baseball…even if nobody is watching.

Fresno Yard House

Currently enjoying a nice Sunday chilling at the Yard House watching the Dodgers and the Olympics. Beer of choice is the Firestone/Walker Union Jack IPA.

Also taking some good me time to review last week at work while also formulating a plan for the upcoming week. So far this has helped me identify things I need to work on an transition into the next week with a better plan of action.

Spent a very fun day visiting 4 wineries just west of town yesterday. Full post will follow this later this evening fresh with photos and reviews.

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