Baseball, Rodeo and Guns.
27.03.2015 - 29.03.2015
Turns out our Giants caps are more than just sweet looking sun-blocking accessories for us on this trip - they're also good for starting up conversations. At one of the vinyards at Napa some guy had started talking to us with a "Hey! Go Giants! How do you think the team's looking this year?"
A bit of embarrassed explaining followed as we told him we were English, about our trip and that we'd just bought the caps as we were in San Fran, and had never seen a baseball game.
"Well then; you should head to Arizona on the way past and catch some Spring Training!"
Turns out all the US baseball teams head to either Arizona or Florida every spring for a warm up league before the season proper begins - due to the nice weather in those states! The Giants have their own Spring Training stadium in Phoenix, and it turned out we could head there without much of a detour, and they were playing on the day we were driving past. Seemed rude not to, so we booked into a motel and got ourselves tickets to a couple of games. Friday night at the baseball was interesting. Well, not really very interesting. What we thought was a fairly slow game resulted in a 6-4 win for the giants (Go Giants!) but there wasn't that much happening really, in the 9 innings they have.
You can't really tell what the pitcher is doing at a live game, so most balls look the same. There was plenty of beer though and some hotdogs so all was good. After the game though came the real highlight of the day. First up we were told we could get a free ride in a golf cart to wherever we wanted - the drivers just worked for tips. This sounded awesome, and when our cart driver turned out to be one of the hottest girls I've ever seen, wearing stockings and suspenders (guess it all helps with the tips) we were even more impressed. She took us to the bars of Scottsdale and it was there that Phoenix really left it's impression on us. Obviously I'm very happily in a relationship so I don't care about these sorts of things, but if you're a guy and single, just find a way to move to Phoenix. Just go. Turns out our golf cart driver was decidedly below par in that town, and there were stunning girls absolutely everywhere- I've never seen anything like it. The nightlife was fantastic, and we hit our first proper country bar - which was amazing! Cowboy hats and rhinestone clad denim shorts everywhere, without a hint of irony, and the band were fantastic. This country music is really growing on me!
The following day didn't start amazingly, with a hangover from hell, but we put a brave face on, had a reviving dip in the pool and a quick milkshake and headed to our second baseball game, a clash between locals Arizona Diamondbacks and the Cleveland Indians. Well, it turns out that our previous Friday night game that we thought was pretty slow was actually an action packed run fest. This game had 7 hits in the first 8 innings. That's right - in 16 innings between them, the teams HIT THE BALL 7 times. Not 7 home runs, not even 7 runs. They just managed to hit the ball 7 times. That's in about 2 hours. Only 1 of those hits resulted in a run. How the hell can Americans like this game??? I can only assume it's some kind of collective national masochism. The 9th inning however was manic, with no less than 4 hits in about 45 minutes, resulting in a 2-1 victory for Arizona. Man it was boring, and I'm a massive cricket fan.
After our afternoon of baseball we set off for the exciting part of the day - the overnight slog accross the country. We'd tried to work out a more interesting route but whichever way we looked at it there was one nasty part of the trip. Texas. Basically, we had 1500 miles between Phoenix and New Orleans, with nowhere we really wanted to see in between. We had to break things up, so what can you do in Texas? That's right, Rodeo. We found one that was going on in San Antonio, but that still left us 1000 miles to cover, and rather than spend 2 days in traffic and stop in motels along the way, we decided to take it in turns to sleep and smash it overnight.
That was one hell of a night's drive, but thanks to plenty of caffeine and Jamie's healthy disregard of any kind of speed limit we arrived bright and early in San Antonio, with time for lunch and some relaxing before the rodeo that night.
OK, Rodeos. They're hilarious!
The night started with about 3 songs sung to the flag of Texas as it was paraded around the arena, another 2 sung to the Flag of the USA, and several prayers. This was followed by a load of guys being thrown violently off bulls. Brilliant! The bull riding was followed by some lasooing contests and some barrel riding, before the night's highlight was announced.
"All you youngsters out there better be ready, it's mutt'n bustin' time!"
Mutton Busting is the funniest thing I have ever, ever seen. With us not having a clue what to expect the announcer introduced 6 year old Tommy, from Dallas. Then a gate opens, and a kid on the back of a sheep is revealed. Someone then belts the sheep on the backside, it panics and races into the arena, with the kid (with no saddle or rope or anything) clinging on for dear life! I couldn't believe it as 5 year old Daisy, then 3 year old Billie were introduced! Kids were flying everywhere. Genius.
After a good old hoedown after the event with the guys and gals two stepping till midnight, we got a taxi back to the motel. Tired as we were, after realising we were from the UK the driver was intent on explaining to us the merits of gun ownership. I tried to be diplomatic, and we had an "interesting" chat. Towards the end of this we got:
"So really? You guys don't own guns over there? At all? Hey - do you wanna play with one of mine?"
After making doubly sure there were no euphemisms involved we said, yes, yes we did. Turns out the guy had been sat on a loaded pistol the whole time and handed it over. As an afterthought he took it back and removed the clip. Texans are crazy!
So the next day me and Jamie looked up a shooting range and headed over there. Pretty unbelievable. No ID needed, no deposit. Just pick a gun, get some ammo and go and shoot some targets. Pretty scary stuff, but also pretty good fun. After a bit of a friendly contest it turns out you don't really want to mess with me or Jamie as we're both kind of bad asses. If we happen to be in Texas and have a gun.