It’s Omaha Time!

Two years ago this weekend, we were packing for our first trip post retirement. We’d be immersed in college baseball for four days in Omaha at the College World Series.

We will not be making a return trip this year but as pictures of this year’s teams arriving continue to show up in my Twitter feed, it seems like a good time to revisit a bucket list event and share want we learned.

You don’t need to buy tickets in advance. I used the CWS ticket site and purchased all tickets a couple of weeks before the games. Tickets would have been much cheaper in Omaha, either general admission or using the same ticket site purchasing resell tickets.

Attend all games, regardless of which teams are playing. You’re in Omaha. You’re there to watch baseball. Make the most of the experience.

Four of the teams we watched play in 2015 are making return appearances this year: LSU, TCU, Cal St, and UF.

Wear sunscreen and a hat. Games start at 2:00 each afternoon and since the sun doesn’t set until after 9:00, you’ll need to protect yourself from the heat.

Take pictures at the entrance gate, the dog pile statue and from inside the stadium. You need to prove you really were there!

Meet a winning team exiting the stadium to board the team bus. After each game, the teams board their buses around the side of the stadium. It’s easy to find the location since these 45 foot monsters are lined up waiting for the team long before the game ends. Players celebrate with family, friends and fans.

Visit Rosenblatt. The site of the previous home of the College World Series, across the street from the zoo, houses memorabilia making it an outdoor museum to the game.

Eat at the stadium. It may seem like a good idea to get away from the stadium for a meal, but grazing on ballpark food is definitely the way to go.

NO! THIS IS NOT STADIUM FOOD! Omaha is famous for steak and in the stadium you can feast on Omaha Steaks Burger, Steak Sandwich or Gourmet Frank. No need to search for a steak dinner.

Walk across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge and straddle the Nebraska Iowa border. Within site of the stadium, this 3,000 foot bridge crosses the Missouri River and provides a wonderful view of Omaha. Since it’s also connected to miles and miles of nature trails, it’s a good place to stretch your legs and get some exercise.

Spend some time at the Lauritzen Gardens. Omaha’s botanical gardens provide a change of scenery and since no afternoon games are scheduled on some days, this is a good place to spend some relaxing down time.

No trip to Omaha this year. Instead we’ll be watching from home. A good way to spend rainy afternoons and evenings in Florida.

Omaha’s Oasis

One of the best ways to spend a refreshing day while on vacation is to take advantage of the serenity of a botanical garden. A place to escape the hustle, bustle of a jammed packed vacation schedule in a quiet, peaceful setting often in the middle of an urban area.

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That’s exactly what we encountered at the Laurentiza Botanical Garden in Omaha. Afternoons and evenings spent cheering double plays and home runs were broken up by time spend wandering through the well kept gardens.

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In addition to the flowers and paths, an area was set aside for birds. A variety of birdhouses encouraged birds to take up residence, and we even saw as one ground turkey.

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A Model Railroad Garden as well as a Children’s Garden provide entertainment for guests of all ages.

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And while “Nature is the Art of God”, Lauritzen knows a little mman made art doesn’t hurt.

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Relaxing in an urban oasis like the one we found in Omaha is a great way to recharge before.

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History Happens Here!

History Happens Here!

That’s the slogan for the College World Series, and the history we were most interested in on our trip to Omaha was baseball history, but we also squeezed in a trip to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge where we walked from Nebraska across the Missouri River to Iowa.

We even managed to find time to go to the North Platte State Park, the Lauritzen Gardens Botanical Center, and the old Rosenblatt Stadium where the College World Series was originally played in Omaha.

Instead of posting pictures, here’s a Flipagram created by John, a quick and easy slideshow maker.

Did you notice that four of the teams on the shirt from 2004 also played in this year’s series? Arkansas, Miami, Cal State Fullerton, and LSU

I Wanted to Get to Omaha in the Worst Way

As I boarded the plane to Omaha last week, I was reminded of former Utah Senator, Mo Udall’s opening line of a speech given at Western Carolina University in 1977. He started by saying that he wanted to come to Cullowhee in the worst way…so he flew Piedmont.  Piedmont was a regional airline serving Western North Carolina and the butt of many jokes.

However, after flying Allegiant Airlines, I think Mo would have considered Piedmont a luxury airline.

We flew Allegiant because the flight was half the price of one of the major airlines. It was a good way to make a quick trip for a relatively low price. However, upon reserving our tickets, I found Allegiant charges for EVERYTHING.

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Paying for checked luggage was no surprise, but there is also an $18 fee for carry on bags (that’s $18 each way).
There’s a charge for priority boarding and another for selecting a seat on the plane, and not just a seat with perks like extra leg room but any seat…with the warning that seats will be assigned without regard to those traveling together. (I decided to take my chance on this one.)
Failure to check in prior to arrival at the airport would result in another $5 fee if a boarding pass needed to be printed at the airport kiosk.
All food and beverages incur charges, including water.

It even cost extra to pay for the tickets using a credit card. Another excuse for a $10 fee.

Upon boarding I wondered if we were required to pay for air conditioning since the plane was extremely warm and stuffy.

Of course, the lack of leg room was expected. After all, we were on a plane, but the noise not only surprised me, but frightened me. I can only compare the sound in the plane to that of the roar heard inside the cockpit of bombers seen in movies. You know, the ones where the crew is forced to shout at one another to be heard. I’ve never noticed hearing the sound of engines accelerating and decelerating will in flight and the noises heard when preparing to land was quite unexpected. I wondered if the low fares were really worth it.

I can honestly say that the pilot and crew were wonderful on the way to Omaha. They helped inspire confidence in a plane that left a lot to be desired. I even thought I could look for future Allegiant deals.

IMG_9370However, the return trip made me rethink that decision. Starting with an early morning wake up call about a delayed flight, an apology about the delay that involved a story about the need to replace the crew due to FAA required rest times, and then interacting with a surly flight attendant whose response to questions always involved the words, you can pay for that and do you want to see the company policy?

When asked if we could move across the aisle to the emergency exit row, the flight attendant said, "That'll be $30 each!"  Hope we don't experience a problem in which she needs our help opening the door, because there will be a charge for that!
When asked if we could move across the aisle to the emergency exit row, the flight attendant said, “That’ll be $30 each!”
Hope we don’t experience a problem in which she needs our help opening the door, because there will be a charge for that!

Finally when I returned home, I received a message from Emily letting me know she was so glad we were still alive and included this news report:

I’ll think long and hard about another Allegiant flight, but at least I know what to do if I want to get somewhere in the worst way!

 

7 Down; 8 To Go

When John and I planned the list of 15 things we wanted to do in 2015, there were far more items on the list than 15. Nevertheless, we decided to only plan 14 of them, number 15 would be left open to allow for spontaneity. If a concert or festival or something came up that we just couldn’t resist, we could add it to the list of 15 in 15.

Well, without consulting the other half of my team, I decided that this was the year to attend the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. For years, we’ve said this is something we want to do, and when planning our 14 in 14 list we’d agreed that it would be a priority for June 2015. However, an opportunity for a trip to Seattle in June eliminated the College World Series trip…just not enough time to do both.

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But as the season progressed, I felt this was the year to go. Not only could we enjoy the Omaha experience, it seemed like 2015 may also be the year we could cheer for the University of Miami Hurricanes team in baseball heaven. So, in mid-May, before the teams had been determined, I booked a flight and purchased tickets for five games, and crossed my fingers that John would think this was a great idea.

Good news! While surprised that I made the decision without getting his input, he was 100% on board with making a trip to Omaha and the CWS the fifteenth event on our list this year.

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After flying from Orlando Sanford to Des Moines, we rented a car, drove a couple hours and were in our seats for the Miami v Arkansas game. The team didn’t let me down. They made it to the tournament, and we cheered them on as they won Game #5, our opening game experience.

We saw all eight teams compete, including two from Florida and two representing the ACC. We were two of 25,000+ spectators in the stadium each game. We watched fans celebrate the winning teams as they boarded the bus after the game. And of course there were hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, cotton candy, peanuts, an organist playing live music between innings, the batting of beach balls in the outfield, and the wave taking over the stadium.

And while, it would have been nice to see the Canes continue in the series, it was a great event. Turns out the College World Series was the perfect addition to round out the list of 15 in 15…7 Down; 8 To Go.