Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hello Target Field, it's nice to finally meet you

When it comes to upcoming events or activities, anticipation has a way of sabotaging our enjoyment of them.

Quick example: The summer before my junior year of college, a few friends and I went to go see "Snakes on a Plane" in theater. Yes, that would be the Samuel Jackson action movie where he does battle against -- you guessed it -- snakes on a plane. Obviously, we weren't seeing it because we thought it would be an epic drama with captivating dialogue; it was because we wanted see Samuel Jackson beat up snakes and spout off his signature line of the movie (just for fun, here's the edited version of it). Because of that (and the fact that we went to a cheaper matinee show), we all thought it was an enjoyable movie.

Conversely, I went to see "J. Edgar" last winter fully expecting it to be an Oscar-caliber film. Critics were panning it at the time, but I figured it had an award-winning director (Clint Eastwood) and one of Hollywood's finest actors (Leo DiCaprio) behind it. On top of that, it was a biopic about one of the most controversial and polarizing figures in American history. How could that miss?

However, after suffering through more than two hours of convoluted storytelling, unexplored plot points and ghastly old person makeup, I began to understand exactly how it could miss. Considering the hype surrounding "J. Edgar" leading up to its release (some thought it would lead to DiCaprio's first Oscar), it was an extreme letdown. I remember leaving the theater frantically texting friends not to see it and debated on whether or not I should ask the cashier for my money back. After thinking about it, I determined that "J. Edgar" was the most disappointing movie I ever saw in theater, a strong statement seeing as how I saw "Batman & Robin" (click here for the gory details).

Now, taking away all the hype and buzz surrounding the two movies, most critics would say "J. Edgar" is a superior movie to "Snakes on a Plane." The acting is better, it's less campy and the main characters have considerably more depth. However, because of the separate expectations I had for the two movies, I enjoyed seeing Samuel Jackson beat up snakes and look cool for 90 minutes more than I did watching a biopic about J. Edgar Hoover -- a weird thing to say when you were a history major in college.

It took two years to finally catch a
game here, but it was worth the wait.
So what does all of this have to do with a blog post about Target Field? Well, as I was getting ready to leave for my much-anticipated bike trip to the Twins' ballpark, I worried that I was setting myself for a "J. Edgar"-esque letdown.

Admittedly, I was pretty pumped for this trip, probably more than I'd been for any other bike trip aside from RAGBRAI. Seeing my first game at Target Field was exciting enough by itself; the fact that I was making a bike trip out of it was just the icing on the cake. I must have packed and re-packed my gear five times the day before leaving and had trouble falling asleep Friday night because I so excited thinking "This is it, I'm FINALLY doing it."

The next morning, the anticipation got replaced -- at least somewhat -- by nervousness, as I woke up and started running through my head all the things that could go wrong.

What if I got lost on an unfamiliar road? What if I got a broken spoke or some other kind of bike malfunction I couldn't readily fix? What if I ran out of water in the middle of nowhere? What if the weather forecasts were wrong and I wound up having to pedal through head winds for 60+ miles? What if it started downpouring and caused the game to get cancelled? What if I couldn't find my parents (who had the tickets) and missed the game because of it?

The video of myself I took of
myself while biking turned out badly,
but I think the photo looks cool.
Some of those issues are things I've encountered on other trips, but this wasn't a regular bike adventure; this was a pilgrimage to see a Twins game. I couldn't go at a leisurely pace and shrug it off if something went wrong. If I got a flat tire or took a wrong turn, I could miss the start of the game or miss it altogether.

I embarked from Faribault bracing myself for anything, but as the ride began to unfold, it soon became clear that my worries were all for nothing. My bike was handling as well as ever, the wind was indeed in my favor and, because of my early departure, the hot temperatures predicted for that day hadn't come to fruition yet. The meticulous route planning also paid off, as I was able to navigate the back roads between Northfield and Farmington and readjust my route when I came across an unexpected dirt road.

Simply put, the ride went splendidly. I made it to Minneapolis with enough extra time to take a quick shower at the Anytime Fitness near Target Field and went to grab a drink with my parents at a nearby pub before the game. I even had enough time the play around with my camera and try to take pictures/videos of myself while biking (the video did not turn out so well, all you see is chin).

My dad and I have been to
a lot of Twins games
together, but this was our
first at Target Field.
The occurrences after the bike ride were equally wonderful. The game was an enjoyable one to watch, with our seats being comfortably in the shade and the Twins trouncing the lowly Chicago Cubs 11-3. Target Field also lived up to the hype I'd been hearing about it since it opened. It's a beautiful stadium to walk through and bask in, complete with breathtaking views of downtown Minneapolis, a bevy of concession options and a number of other quirks that make it unique to Minnesota (the Kasota stone exterior, for example).

Walking around the ballpark, it almost didn't feel like I was watching the same team after spending so many years going to Twins games at the lowly Metrodome. The fact that I got to experience it for the first time with my dad -- the man who introduced me to baseball in the first place -- made it all the more special.

The trip's fun didn't stop once the game was over either. Post-game activities included an outdoors blues festival, a trip to Fulton Brewery and my introduction -- and immediate infatuation -- with Russian Imperial Stout.

While biking over to St. Paul that evening, my friend Nick and I also came across the psychedelic Northern Spark arts festival on the Stone Arch Bridge. Neither of us had any idea what the festival was or why it was clogging bike traffic on the bridge, but considering it featured booming music, puppet shows, eclectic works of art and bikes decked out with everything from Christmas lights to paper- mâché dragon heads, we were at least intrigued.

Yep, the Stone Arch Bridge was
quite a scene on Saturday night.
Once we finally got to Nick's place to crash for the evening (thanks again for the hospitality), I once again found myself laying awake, this time on Nick's futon mattress. Instead of the anticipation and nervousness of the night before, my mind was awash with disbelief:

"Did this day really just happen? Did I actually pull this off and did I EVER expect it to be this cool?"

It is a rare -- and welcome -- occurrence to have something you've built up so much in your head turn out exactly the way you wanted it to. The trip wasn't entirely picture-perfect -- I opted to have Nick drive me back to Faribault the next day instead of biking it due to EXTREMELY ominous weather conditions -- but considering the concerns I had at the start of it, I couldn't be happier.

After all the buildup and anticipation, it was nice to finally say "hello" to Target Field.

I was planning on concluding this post with a video of my trip, but since I haven't perfected the art of filming myself while biking, here's a clip of Charlie Parr performing at that blues festival instead. I figure my readership will enjoy hearing his guitar more than they'd enjoy hearing my voice anyway:

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