Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Getting to Know Greensboro

The fact that I was working this Summer caused the boys and me to miss out on our usual Friday Field Trips. So with only a few precious days left until the return to academia...and all the hoopla that accompanies it...I threw together one last mini-getaway. And, in order for Husband to be able to accompany us, we broke tradition and scheduled it for a Saturday...thus Team WestEnders ventured westward...to explore the little town of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Our first stop involved a battlefield. (I know, right: shocker! Eventually I'll run out of them, but for now, the cannons keep calling to me...and no, I do NOT have any rational explanation for this...tell ya what, let's just go with "history fascinates me", okay?) The clash at Guilford Courthouse during the Revolutionary War was a relatively minor blip in the course of the colonies' fight for independence from the British. It involved two reportedly talented and seasoned generals--Nathanael Greene and Charles Cornwallis--grappling for control of the southern region.

In the end, although it appeared that Cornwallis's more organized and disciplined troops had prevailed, they also suffered heavy casualties, causing their commander to decide upon a retreat toward the coast. Meanwhile, Greene's losses were lighter, and he opted to turn further south and concentrate on recapturing South Carolina and Georgia, rather than follow Cornwallis to Virginia. Greene successfully regained those areas from the British, while Cornwallis encountered defeat in his campaign, and ultimately surrendered in Yorktown 7 months later, effectively ending the war and ensuring the rebel victory.

Okay, have you had enough lecturing for one day? Yeah, me too. What really mattered to us was that we had a lovely time strolling through the wooded park, admiring the statues...and acting all silly with the artillery (ahem...BOYS...what can you do?) From there, we sought out a lunch spot I'd found when researching our excursion. Manny's Universal Cafe--it was one of those tucked away in a neighborhood, off-the-beaten-track, "great reviews on Trip Adviser" kinds of places. My assessment? Super-slow service, but what you were waiting so long for turned out to be absolutely delicious, home-cooked food. Worth it in the end for a brief rest from all of our running around...

Next we made our way to the Greensboro Science Center, which includes an aquarium section and an outdoor Animal Discovery Zoo. I'll be honest...we kind of geeked out over the whole experience...but some of our favorite highlights would have to be: dipping our hands into an enormous water tank to touch stingrays as they glided by; cowering in the presence of tarantulas and snakes in the herpetology room (they were behind glass, but still...creep-tastic...); marveling at gibbons as they leaped and swung around their enclosure--one with a tiny, fuzzy newborn clinging gamely to her belly as she flew through the air. Extremely entertaining...and educational! Seriously, what more can you want?

We had about an hour to kill before we had to show up for our final item on the evening's agenda, so we stopped off for a shady, restful, commune-with-nature kind of interlude at the Greensboro Arboretum. While the Male Posse dug into the snack stash I'd packed for just such an "Oh, my gosh, it's been HOURS since we last ate" emergency (Yeah, I know my family) I wandered around in a sort of...walking meditation...while enjoying the flora.

At last, the time had arrived for the Grand Finale: a minor league baseball game. Yes, folks, we were gearing up for a Single-A meeting between the hometown Greensboro Grasshoppers and their division rival, the Hickory Crawdads. (Who comes up with this stuff? Ridiculous...yet genius at the same time...) We were there for the ambiance, because the 'Hoppers, as they are affectionately known, came into the night's proceedings with a less-than-impressive 16-38 record, good for dead last place in their league. (Who held the top position? Um...the Crawdads...it did not bode well...)

As far as the action on the diamond...I can tell you that I've seen better pitching...and fielding...when watching 12-year olds in the Little League World Series on ESPN. It was...well, pretty much "comical", to say the least. I'm sure the players--professionals though they're supposed to be--were not aided by the cacophony of hops-fueled yelling emanating from several rows behind us. These undeniably enthusiastic...yet often obnoxious...fans were supporting the visiting team...and it was all well and good when they were encouraging their preferred players, with personal cheers that called them by name.

But as the night wore on, they also began taunting the Grasshoppers...such as counting the walk-of-shame steps back to the dugout after each and every strikeout (it took us some time to catch on to what in tarnation they were doing...for a while we were like "So you know your numbers up to 20...whattya want, a cookie? 'Cuz we're certainly NOT offering you another beer, that's for sure!") Apparently they paid attention to the pre-game announcements as well, since at some point they began needling the umpires: "Hey, John, what's with that call? You're killin' me out there!" Ay yi yi. However, in the end, Greensboro had the last laugh, crafting a come-from-behind rally, scoring 4 runs in one inning, and winning 7-4. Ha! Take that...crustaceans!

Befitting a minor league franchise, the Grasshoppers have their own special gimmick...a black lab who sits with her trainer beside the dugout and retrieves bats and balls during the home half of each inning. She's not only adorable and beloved by regular attendees, but evidently she's participated in 643 straight games. And to top off the surprising and satisfying victory, we even got a fireworks display before heading home.

Whew...what a complete package of a day...we got history...science...botany...physical activity (22,000 steps, according to my handy dandy Fitbit) and sports, to boot! Now there's nothing left to do but send the youngsters back to school...so their parents can rest up!

No comments: