My bus trip from Kansas City to St. Louis, I knew, would my last with Megabus. I had exhausted their midwestern and northeastern routes on the baseball road trip of a lifetime; a tear. To get to Cincinnati, Ohio from the Gateway City, I had no choice: Greyhound. Or, as I like to call them: Not Megabus. And my ride was scheduled at a most-convenient 3:20 am.
This much I know: the St. Louis Greyhound station at 3:00 am on a Friday morning is not the happiest place on earth. Far from it. Instead, the station serves as a reminder that the airline industry, as much as we might complain about it, is not, in fact, pure and unrelenting evil. Frankly, the Greyhound station is depressing; any and all of them. Because nobody around you is looking forward to their ride. Everyone, it seems, is waiting for a bus they hope will never arrive.
Yet thousands of people ride Greyhound across the continent every day. Because, without a doubt, you can't beat their fares. I am living proof, having paid only $50 to be whisked east to Ohio. There's also no doubt that travelling the great United States of America on (mostly) wheels has been an incredible and eye-opening experience. The people are, well ... let's just call them interesting. Enough to make you pray to the baseball gods that the bus you're travelling on isn't full, and that the empty seat next to you will remain just that.
But it isn't all bad, the Greyhound, no. You see, if it weren't for that motel on wheels, I'd never be able to say I visited, for a half hour, Effingham, Illinois; our 5:00 am first stop en route to Cincinnati. (Seriously, there's a place called Effingham.) Or beautiful downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, where I arrived at 8:30 am, and transferred buses for a 9 a.m., two-hour journey to "The Nasty Nati," to see the historic Cincinnati Reds.
Great American Ball Park
Now that's a name for a ballpark, folks. So patriotic; America and baseball. So poetic; baseball and America. So perfect.
Or so I thought, until I was informed that Great American Insurance Group owns the naming rights. Ugh; talk about having the wind knocked out of your sails. Great American is paying the Reds $2.5-million a season until 2033 to fool thousands of innocent baseball fans like myself; the power of the almighty dollar.
You'll find her, Great American Ball Park, on the banks of the Ohio River, in downtown Cincinnati. And unless you're staying at a city centre hotel within walking or taxi distance, you're driving. Because Cincinnati never finished building her subway; its tunnels sit abandoned and unused. Fret not; there's ample parking. My friend Priya and I came in from north of the city and found a spot down the road from the ballpark, in a lot next to Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals, for only $10.
With some time to kill before first pitch, we set off to find a watering hole, and we found one; we did good. The In Between Tavern is the spot, and you'll find it at the corner of 3rd Street and Sycamore Street, directly across the street from the stadium. Beer was $5 a bottle, and the patio was packed. Not only with Reds fans, but with even a couple of fellas from Toronto, who drove down that morning to take in some St. Louis and Cincinnati action. My Blue Jays hat, as always, was their cue to say hello.
You'll never guess who they were sitting and having a drink with, though: the United Kingdom's entire population of baseball fans; all three of them! They were there in Cincinnati, on their own baseball road trip of a lifetime, having already visited Chicago, Kansas City, and St. Louis.
I couldn't believe my luck in meeting the UK lads who had travelled so far - much, much farther than I - to watch the game they love, and the game the rest of their countrymen couldn't care less about. That's passion. And there we were, all seven of us, Priya, a Torontonian still at heart, the only one able to call herself a Cincinnati resident. Baseball, baby; it brings people together.