The Baseball Hall of Fame - America's Most Naive Bike Tourist Rides From MN to MA - CycleBlaze

July 3, 2014

The Baseball Hall of Fame

Cooperstown, New York

It has been said that all great art comes from pain and suffering.  If true, today's entry should be the War and Peace of bike touring journals.

It begins with a vicious climb out of the Mohawk River valley.  Long and steep.  That was followed by short, level stretch, then some more climbing.  Level for a short time.  One more short climb.  Long and level again.  Long, gradual downhill.  Big uphill.  Another uphill.  Finally, a killer downhill into Cooperstown.

The hills, though, are not the source of my pain and suffering.  Hills are a part of cycling and I accept that.  I have been on longer and steeper hills, but these came as a bit of a shock because I haven't seen any big ones since Wisconsin.  Anyway, the NEXT few paragraphs will tell the true story of my pain and suffering.

If you refer back to my descriptions of the elevation gains and losses two paragraphs ago, the REAL pain and suffering occurred on the "long, gradual downhill" part.  I was breezing along on this mild descent with the added benefit of some brand new blacktop.  That's right--fast and smooth!  What's so painful about that?

After a couple miles I saw the usual signs that tell you there is road construction ahead--signs that say "road construction ahead," and "fines double in work zones," and "flag man ahead, prepare to stop."

Cruising along, I began to hear an unknown crackly sound.  "That's strange," I thought, but I was quickly distracted when my eyes were diverted to the flag man.  (Which, in this case, turned out to be a flag woman.)  A long line of cars were stopped to wait for their turn to drive through the construction zone.  I passed all of them on the shoulder and when I slowed down to talk to the flag woman, I noticed the appearance of my tires.  Something was wrong.  I unclipped from my pedal and my foot sank into the asphalt.  I now realized the shoulder had been paved only minutes before I arrived and my tires had accumulated a full 1/8-inch of fresh blacktop all the way around.

I think I mumbled some foul words at nobody in particular, moved my bike to the ditch, and sat down to think.  "OK Greg, don't panic.  You're a highly trained problem solver.  You can work through this."

After my little pep talk I pulled out my multi-tool, which contains a small serrated knife, and began scraping the sticky asphalt from the surface of my front tire.  In the meantime, the hot sun was baking the asphalt to my rear tire.

The flag woman rotated her sign from "stop" to "slow" and let the line of cars pass.  It was naïve of me to think she would give a shit about my dilemma.  She never said a word.  I kept scraping.

Cars came from the other direction while another line formed behind me.  I kept scraping.   The flag woman flipped her sign again and allowed another batch of cars to proceed.  I moved on to the back tire.  The asphalt was hard on the outside but sticky on the tires.  I sawed and scraped.  Sawed and scraped.  The cars came and went.  I worked and worked, breaking a significant sweat, until the tires were as clean as I could get them.  When I finally felt I was ready to ride the last 17 miles to Cooperstown, and when the flag woman turned her sign again, my cycling shoe would not lock into the pedal.  I had to get off my bike again to clean the crap out of my cleats.  (Nice alliteration, but awful work.)

A got moving again but had to stop every once in a while to wipe away pebbles, glass, twigs, and debris that were sticking to my tires.  After the wild downhill into Cooperstown I was finally satisfied that I had survived the ordeal.

(Agreed, not exactly War and Peace, but almost as long and definitely more boring.)

A pleasing view of the landscape--before the blacktop incident.
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The reason for going off-route again is that Cooperstown is the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Overall, it was worth the trip because I am a baseball fan.  There were positives and negatives, just as there were for the Rock Hall of Fame.  I don't care about seeing Roberto Clemente's fielding glove, or Javier Molina's chest protector, or Frank Robinson's bat, or a bunch of Hank Aaron's homerun balls.  I admire all of those players, but what I really enjoyed were the exhibits on the history of the World Series, the Negro Leagues, Latin American players, and the women's baseball league. 

Busy times at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
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The wrong week for a Twins fan to ride his bike 1,300 miles to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
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Perhaps not the most politically correct team name by today's standards. This was part of the section honoring the Women's League.
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Phillie Phanatic is here to pump up the enthusiasm.
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The most important highlight was the Hall of Fame Gallery, which consists of plaques of every member of the Hall of Fame--the greatest players of all time.  

Is it wrong of me to point out the New York Yankee bias here?  I know this is New York and the Yankees have a long and storied history, but the favoritism toward the Yankees is way out of proportion to their actual importance, in my opinion.  

Take Babe Ruth for instance.  He gets more attention here than anybody, even though there can be no doubt who the greatest baseball player in history is.  That would be Harmon Killebrew.  I know there will be plenty of New Yorkians who will contradict me with a bunch of Yankee names and, yes, every baseball fan has their own favorites.  But my choice for the greatest is backed up by facts and logic:

 What is the most productive offensive play in baseball?  The answer is "the homerun."  I believe Harmon Killebrew hit more homeruns per at-bat than anybody except for Babe Ruth, and it is commonly known that Babe Ruth cheated by consuming large quantities of performance-enhancing whiskey.  There should be an asterisk next to his name and all of his records.  When Harmon was inducted into the Hall, nobody in the American League had hit more homers except for the cheatin' Babe Ruth.

The greatest slugger in the history of baseball. Me too.
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Note the number of cheaters on the all-time homerun list. (The baseball that Barry Bonds hit to break the record is on display here. The guy who donated it to the Hall carved an asterisk into the leather cover. Pure genius.)
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Today's ride: 33 miles (53 km)
Total: 1,468 miles (2,363 km)

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