Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Stadium #1: Coors Field, Denver, Colorado

We had an incredible time in Colorado and especially at Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies.  Beautiful views from everywhere in the stadium, six homeruns, a home team win, and fantastic fireworks were a perfect way to spend an evening in Denver!  
Coors Field is at Blake St and 20th and since it's the Rockies' 20th
anniversary they changed the street name for the year!

Cameron wearing multiple Texas team logos at a
Colorado-Arizona game hahaha

After the jump is a complete weekend recap and a zillion pictures!

Our quest to visit all 30 MLB stadiums for a game is officially off to a great start!  We could not have asked for a better weekend in Colorado.  The weekend started off on a Thursday morning veeeerry early, 4:15AM to be exact.  Our flight was at 6AM but it was worth it to get into Denver at 8 and have the entire day.  Our plan heading into this trip was to fly in on Thursday, rent a car, drive through Rocky Mountain National Park as the aspen trees were starting to change colors, go through the adorable small mountain town of Estes Park and then head over to Fort Collins to visit New Belgium Brewing and then return the car to Denver and use bicycles for the rest of the weekend.  Sounds like an amazing day, right?  It would have been were it not for the massive flooding that northern Colorado suffered the week before our trip.  Rocky Mountain National Park was completely closed until the day before we arrived and even then only small sections were open.  Various roads were closed and we couldn't even get to Estes Park at all so our plan was shot.  We did drive around in the mountains in the early morning light which was really beautiful.  Then we headed to Fort Collins and ate lunch before heading for our brewery tour at New Belgium.

New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado
New Belgium was such a blast.  The company culture there is just so much fun we both want to work there immediately.  After a year of working there you get a New Belgium cruiser bike and then after five years they send you to Belgium for a week.  Everyone, no matter what your job is.  Yes, please.  Too bad we don't really have marketable skills to a craft brewery.  We got to tour the massive campus they have and sample many, many beers and then hung out for a bit in their tap room.  Brag: I answered a trivia question correctly and won a free bottle of Ranger IPA.  The question was: how many bombers (22 oz) can they bottle per minute?  I guessed 350 and was spot on!  Before our next stop we made sure to buy a few bombers of limited batch beers that aren't available in Texas to bring back with us (they survived the flight by being stashed in one of these!)

After telling a few friends of our New Belgium plans the universal consensus was, "you have to go to Odell too!"  Currently Odell Brewing doesn't distribute to Texas so we knew nothing about them but they were literally around the block from New Belgium so we headed over.  Great decision!  We didn't do a tour of this brewery but got a taster setup so that we could sample what they had to offer.  Everything was delicious but our favorite was Levity.  The bartender in their tap room told us that they are hoping to be distributing in Texas sometime next year! We bought a few souvenirs and two bottles of Levity to enjoy later in the weekend and then headed back to Denver.

Odell "classic" beer set-up. Side note: this only cost $4.
We dropped off our rental car and caught a cab back to Denver.  ADVICE: Do not take a cab from the Denver airport.  Take the $11 SkyRide bus.  We knew the airport was kind of far outside the city but didn't anticipate the with-tip $64 cab ride.  Ouch.  You live and learn, I guess.  On the way back to the airport after our trip was over we walked a little less than 2 miles (not bad in 60 degree gorgeous weather!) to the bus stop and took this cheap shuttle instead.  I digress.    Instead of staying in a hotel during this trip we opted to stay at an Air BnB place.  There are definitely pros and cons to hotels and using services like Air BnB but for this trip it was an overall success choosing this option.  The place we stayed was adjacent to a small park so there was green space everywhere.  There was a great back deck with trees where we enjoyed some of the beers we brought back from Fort Collins.  Best of all, the guy who lives in the house gave us his garage code and thus access to two bicycles so that all of our transportation for the rest of the trip was free AND great exercise.  Also, it was the cutest old house I've ever seen.

Seriously, how cute is this house!?
  By the time we had returned our car and gotten back into town it was almost 9PM mountain time and we had been up since 4:15 central time so we were pretty exhausted so we opted to just go out to dinner and then call it a night so we weren't dead the next day.  A little Yelp research and we headed to Ignite.  Since we're going to be travelling to a lot of cities that have signature foods I decided that when we are in a place that has a distinct "thing" then I should try and partake.  Colorado restaurants are full of bison, bison, bison so I had a bison burger and it was delicious!  This restaurant was really delicious and moderately priced so I'd definitely recommend it if you're travelling to Denver.  After dinner we crashed hard.  

Friday was the day we had been waiting for: our first stadium!  The Rockies - D Backs game wasn't until 6 so our plan for the day was to eat some breakfast and then head out to visit a few Denver craft breweries and/or tap rooms before the game.  While Thursday was pretty overcast Friday was perfect weather--60 degrees and sunny.  Perfect for bike riding around the beautiful mountain city.  We woke up early and headed to breakfast at a really cute little cafe called Hutch and Spoon.  I enjoyed a waffle with caramel sauce all over it and homemade cucumber soda which was out of this world delicious.  Cam had their pineapple ginger soda.  So yummy!  While biking back to our house to change for the big game we stumbled upon a gorgeous and huge community vegetable garden.  We are active gardeners ourselves and loved accidentally discovering this cute little gem in downtown Denver.

Pineapple ginger soda on the left and cucumber soda on the right

Lush community garden in downtown Denver

Check out this PUMPKIN growing in the community garden

Did I mention that my ride for the weekend was a PINK cruiser?
We set out for the afternoon and headed towards Denver Beer Co.  They are a local brewery that doesn't yet distribute so we were excited to visit their beer garden.  It was a garage-type building with outside and semi-outside seating.  We sat at the bar and enjoyed a few beers.  It was a really cute place and everyone out on the patio seemed to be having a great time.  I feel like if we lived in Denver we'd be regulars at DBC.

We tried Cuke Pale Ale, Promiscuous Peche, Hey! Pumpkin,
and the High Tide Oyster Stout.

Taps and glasses neatly arranged

Loved the chalk art!

High Tide Oyster Stout and Hey! Pumpkin
On a whim we decided to add Wynkoop Brew Pub to our list of stops.  Wynkoop doesn't bottle or distribute their beers so we had never had them.  We parked ourselves at the bar and ordered a couple beers.  After ordering our beers we discovered that one of the beers was brewed with Rocky Mountain oysters so naturally we got a taster of it.  For those of you not in the know Rocky Mountain oysters means bull testicles.  Yes, bull testicles.  More on this at the Rockies game below.  

A couple came and sat by us and we chatted with them for a bit.  They were from New York and in town for a wedding and said they were about to head up to Fort Collins so we of course gave them the tip about visiting Odell in addition to New Belgium.  Small world is their friend just started grad school at Rice University in Houston so we were able to give them some tips about great bars for their friend to try in Houston.
Colorojo Double Red

I like punny beer names so I especially
liked "Mile HI.P.A." 

Bull.  Testicles.
We hopped on our bikes and headed to Breckenridge Brewery around the block.  Err, their restaurant.  Their brewery is in Denver as well as their restaurant and Cam mixed up the addresses so we ended up at their restaurant which was okay because we needed to eat lunch anyway.  It was a little disappointing that we weren't able to buy any bombers because we love Breckenridge's beers.  I devoured a bison reuben and a Breckenridge brew before we headed out for our last stop before the game.  

Everything in Denver has a rustic, ski lodge feel

Beards n Beers

Our last brewery to check out was Great Divide.  To be honest this was my least favorite stop.  Great Divide is a great brewery and I'm so glad we get their beers in Texas.  But their tap room was like a closet.  It was a Friday afternoon and it was jam packed so I can't imagine how bad it would be during the weekend.  Despite the small size it was still a great time.  Since we do get Great Divide in Texas we got a taster setup of five beers that they had on tap that we don't get in Texas.  Predictably they were all great.  We were able to snag a bomber of their Hibernation Ale that survived the flight so we can enjoy it later this winter.  I can't wait to drink it in a few months and reminisce with Cam about how much fun this day was.

Great variety of beers we had never tried

Finally, the reason we came to Denver: Coors Field!  Y'all.  We could not have picked a better game to attend.  As I mentioned, the weather was completely gorgeous.  I brought a dark purple long sleeve shirt with me so that I could root root root for the home team.  When we ordered our tickets we chose to have the tickets mailed to us instead of print at home tickets so that we could have ticket stubs to put in our MLB passports.  When the envelope came in July it had the tickets but just had the Ticketmaster logo on them.  When we got to the stadium we asked if it would be possible to have them reprinted there so we'd have more attractive stubs with the Rockies logo.  The friendly ticket booth lady referred us to the front office for customer service.  Two minutes in customer service and we had purple shiny Rockies ticket stubs.  After that effort I of course cannot find my stub anywhere but Cameron's is firmly in his MLB passport to prove that we actually attended the game.  After we had our tickets in hand we decided that at every stadium we attend we should try to get a picture of the two of us outside in front of the stadium sign.  Cam saw a girl holding a nice Canon like mine meaning she would know how to use it and asked her to take our picture.  She looked at me and goes, "I know you!  I met you in the bathroom line at New Belgium yesterday!"  I instantly recognized her as the completely drunk girl who was dying to chat with me in the bathroom line.  Good catch up, girl!  Small world that she's the girl Cameron randomly picked out of the crowd to take our picture.

No chance of a rain-out with that blue sky

They had different shades of purple flowers all over--loved it!

As I mentioned in the intro post we sat in the "mile high" row so if we had a really specific bucket list we could cross off "watch a baseball game from exactly a mile high" off of it.  A week before our visit Todd Helton, the Rockies' first baseman, announced his retirement.  Helton is not a once-in-a-generation player or anything but he played his entire career with the Rockies and according to Wikipedia as of 2013 he was the third senior active player to spend his entire career with the same team behind only Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter--not bad company.  Every time Todd came up to bat the crowd went absolutely nuts.  It was great to see the fan appreciation of their workhorse for the last 16 years.  

Great view immediately upon entering the stadium

The lighting doesn't show the Rockies in the distance but
even without them look how perfect this view was!

The Mile High Row

The purple row is the Mile High Row going around the stadium
The stadium is very open and airy--downtown views all around

Beautiful downtown views from the stadium
 As far as stadiums go this one is absolutely gorgeous and lived up to the hype.  From our seats on the first base side we had a perfect view of the Rocky Mountains in the distance and watching the sun set over them was glorious.  Before heading up to our seats in the upper deck we walked around and there are truly amazing views all around the stadium which is impressive.  Almost immediately upon walking in you are treated to the spectacular view of the park above.  Some stadiums take a little more navigating to get to this view and/or have entrances more on the sides so you don't walk into the action so spectacularly.  Another "small world" moment occurred when we hiked up to our Mile High seats there was a couple sitting in our row in our section that we not only saw at New Belgium the day before but they were on our tour and we had talked with them a little.

After a few innings I decided that I was brave (read: drunk) enough to try Rocky Mountain Oysters.  And this time not just brewed into beer--I was actually going to eat them.  I asked more than one stadium attendant who had no idea where to get them.  But in keeping with my decision to eat the local foods and especially stadium specific foods (think clam chowder at Fenway, Primanti's in Pittsburgh) I was determined.  I googled it and discovered that it's only available at stand 144 on the main concourse.  So we headed down and ordered some Coors (when in Rome) and some Rocky Mountain Oysters.  The guy who took our money wished us luck.  So if you decide to eat these while at Coors be forewarned that the entire staff seemingly is opposed to them selling these and don't even know where you can buy them.  Armed with our inebriation and some Coors to wash them down we dug into our deep fried bull testicles.  They were...chewy.  That's really the only description.  But they weren't terrible and they came with fries and now we can say we've eaten bull balls so I definitely consider it a win.

They even have them in a much smaller font on the menu!

Rocky Mountain Oysters in all their glory
If you don't know much about baseball Coors Field is known as a "hitters ballpark."  There are significantly more hits in this ballpark each year than any other park.  The Rockies' official web page says that this is due to the altitude and that "...the ball still travels 9 percent farther at 5,280 feet than at sea level.  It is estimated that a home run hit 400 feet in sea-level Yankee stadium would travel about 408 feet in Atlanta and as far as 440 feet in the Mile High City."  Well the stadium definitely lived up to the reputation as we saw a whopping six home runs including a 2-run shot by Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin.  Balls just seemed to sail out of the park.  Other than all of the home runs and the Todd Helton appreciation we didn't see anything spectacular but it was a great game nonetheless.  Despite the Rockies being firmly in last place in their division and the D Backs being second the home team won 9-4.  Obviously we are good luck.

Sunset over the Rockies

enjoying the game with my main squeeze

Enjoying a Coors at Coors Field

one of Todd Helton's last at bats at Coors Field

Now you can see the Rockies beautifully
Once we decided to sit in the mile high row we picked the ones that we did so that we would have the great view of the mountains but also it was a Friday and we wanted a perfect view for the fireworks!  Fireworks are one of my favorite things on the planet.  They make me feel like a little kid again I get so giddy.  I don't know if the Rockies always have AMAZING fireworks or they just went all out since the game we attended was the last Friday home game but they were seriously July 4th level amazing and that's saying something coming from me.  They went on forever--I kept thinking we were seeing the finale and then there kept being more!  I was grinning ear to ear the whole time.  A perfect end to a perfect day in Denver.

The next morning, Saturday, was our last morning in Denver.  Before heading to the airport for our afternoon flight we set out for breakfast.  A few people recommended I check out a place called Snooze that has locations in both Denver and Fort Collins so we headed out on our bikes for a downtown Denver location.  As we pulled up we saw lots of people waiting outside which is never a good sign when you're hungry for brunch.  Cam went inside to see how long the wait was and I realized that the two people right in front of me was the couple that we had chatted with over beers at Wynkoop.  To recap, we saw five of the same people on different days in different cities--so crazy.  The wait was forever so we got on Yelp and looked for another option.  We decided to bike over to Syrup which did not disappoint.  Go ahead and click that link and just look at all of the ridiculous syrups and waffle/pancake combos they have.  It was kind of weirdly located in an office complex where everything on the ground floor was a store or restaurant and this was the only thing opened on the weekends.  But it was an incredible breakfast.  Remember my caramel waffle from the day before that blew my mind?  Well I don't know what it is about waffles in Denver but I'm DOWN.  The one I ate had peanut butter chips, walnuts, caramel sauce, and my choice of syrup.  Umm.  As if that weren't enough their signature item (aside from Syrup, I guess) is a corned beef hash--who am I to say no to that?  So I said, hey, I'm on vacation, and ordered both.  If you ever find yourself in Denver looking for brunch please look no further than Syrup.  Everything we had was perfection.

After brunch I made Cameron do something I'm sure he wasn't thrilled about--tour a historic home.  I love history.  That's an understatement.  I'm obsessed.  I have an undergraduate degree in history but I've loved exploring history (i.e. in the form of ruins, historical sites, museums) since I was a child growing up in the northeast.  I've also been a longtime fan of the New York Times' 36 Hours column wherein they send a travel writer to a city for 36 hours and s/he writes about if you only had 36 hours to tour that city what you shouldn't miss.  I think it's such a succinct way to write about travel because unless you have unlimited funds you rarely find yourself in a city for as much time as it would take to properly take it in so they offer you the best of the best.  It's a great column because it isn't just touristy things--it's a healthy mix of the tourist things you must see and also seedy dive bars and hidden gems.  So last year for Christmas Cam got me the 36 Hours BOOK!  Throughout our whole MLB adventure I plan on schlepping it with us so that we can have our handy guide.  This was all a long way of telling you that after reading the Denver write up in the book I was not leaving Denver before touring the Molly Brown House.

No pictures allowed in the house so this is all you get

thanks for ruining the picture, stupid car.
I don't know why certain school memories from elementary stick out more than others but I have a very clear memory of learning about the Titanic in third grade and loved hearing about the Unsinkable Molly Brown.  And, of course, as any girl of my generation I'm totally obsessed with Leo as Jack Dawson.  Aside from her antics on the sinking Titanic Margaret Brown (I learned while touring at the house that she never was called Molly in her life!) was a feminist and a philanthropist.  She ran for Congress multiple times before women even had the right to vote!  I also learned that while the Titanic survivors were on the Carpathia (the ship that rescued survivors from the water) Margaret was devastated by the third class passengers who quite literally lost everything they had and she began to take up a collection from the first class passengers.  Apparently a lot of them were not into donating for the poor people so she posted a list naming who had given money and who hadn't.  Well the public shaming worked because by the time they arrived in New York she had raised over $10,000 which is a sizable sum in 1912 dollars!  The home itself was restored to how it looked in 1910 and was really neat to tour.  Tip: it is not air conditioned so I recommend going in the fall like we did, I imagine it would be quite stuffy in the summer.  Cam definitely earned boyfriend tips for touring an unairconditioned century old home of a feminist with me.

After our journey back in time we headed back to our Air BnB house for the last time.  As I mentioned, the cab from the airport was really expensive so we did some better research and realized that we could get from downtown Denver to the airport on a shuttle for $11 so we decided to do that.  We were about two miles from the station so we decided to just walk since it was a beautiful day.  I guess we could've taken a short cab ride there but the city is so green and lush with pretty old homes that the walk went by so fast and I really enjoyed it.  Before the walk we had a little bit of time to hang out at our rented house.  There was a really gorgeous patio outside and we still had a bomber of Le Terroir and a couple bottles of Odell to enjoy in Denver before heading back to the real world in Houston.  It was a perfectly relaxing way to end our trip sitting on a patio enjoying local beers and talking about how much fun we had.

I kinda sorta wanted to steal our Air BnB host's
fun tumblers. I didn't!  Just totally loved them!

I'm sure every stadium visit won't go as smoothly as our evening at Coors Field did.  Hopefully we won't have any rain-outs but if we do we will retool and get back to that stadium eventually.  And every city is not going to be the beer heaven that Colorado is.  But if each visit is half as fun and perfect as our trip to Coors and Colorado was then these trips are going to be incredible.  Another thing I'll note about Colorado is that everyone we met was incredibly friendly.  People in the Midwest really are super friendly.  Anyone we casually told about our baseball trip--even if they weren't baseball fans--got so excited and encouraged us.  The guy in the couple we chatted with at Wynkoop asked what our timeline was and we said we didn't have one.  We have jobs and obviously it's going to take a few summers.  He told us we had way more ambition than he did and he thought it was a fantastic idea and something great to look forward to every summer.

We are now into the playoffs and while the Rangers made a run at it they couldn't close the deal so he we are, two fans of teams that didn't make it just hoping that the teams we hate lose early.  We have already started looking at the 2014 schedules to figure out what stadiums will be on our radar for next year and can't wait to start planning in a few months.  Thankfully, all of our bombers from Denver survived the plane ride and I imagine we might enjoy some good Colorado beer while planning our next trip...

These beauties came home with us along with two more
Le Terroir bombers for some special friends

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