Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Travelblog, Part 2--Indianapolis

Last time I passed through Indy in 2006, they were just starting to construct Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts and this year’s NCAA Final Four.  Seeing the House That Manning Built on TV is one thing, but I was floored at how huge this place is when I first got a gander of it from the highway.  It’s a sight to behold—very stately-looking and easily the tallest stadium of any kind I’ve ever seen and it would positively dwarf Arrowhead Stadium if they sat side-by-side.  I was able to get a brief peek inside through the glass doors, and the interior looked equally impressive.  If nothing else, LOS is a major upgrade over the venue it replaced, the now-demolished bubble-headed Hoosier Dome.

Just as Evansville’s Bosse Field co-starred in A League Of Their Own, Indianapolis’ Bush Stadium was used in the film Eight Men Out (as both Chicago’s Comiskey Park and Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, alternately).  Sadly, unlike Bosse Field, which is still in use and thriving, Bush Stadium is dying a long slow death on Indy’s west side, even though it’s on the National Registry of Historic Places.  It was once home to the AAA Indianapolis Indians, but when they moved in 1996 to their new downtown digs, Victory Field, the old stadium was left to sit and rot.  The city tried converting it into a small race track for a time, but that fizzled out, and now they don’t know what to do with it, and the stadium currently suffers the indignity of serving as an auto graveyard in the wake of the Cash For Clunkers fiascokinda reminds me of R2-D2 having to serve cocktails on Jabba The Hut's floating barge.  The place has been abandoned so long that there are now trees growing around the backstop area and in the grandstands.  Seems almost fitting for a place named ‘Bush’, don’t it?  I’m all for preserving old stadiums and arenas and finding new uses for them, but that isn’t always feasible, and when they are unable to fease it, then I say put the place out of its misery and tear it down already.

I caught a nice break on Saturday when I visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  My original plan was to just do the museum and track lap they offer for $5 each (both of which I’ve done before), but on this particular day, the track laps weren’t available because they had a private function going on for regular track patrons.  However, for 15 bucks, for this one day they offered a behind-the-scenes track tour, and I wound up seeing more of the place than I would have otherwise.  The tour included the media room where they hold the post-race press conferences, the media center where all the journalists and reporters work (which was about the size of a Wal-Mart, btw), the press box and the winner’s circle, followed by a quick spin through Gasoline Alley on the tour bus.  I’m not what you’d call an auto racing fanatic, but I’ve always watched the Indy 500 every year as long as I can remember, so it was really cool to see some of the innerds of the most famous race track in the world.  It ain't much to look at on the outsideit's sorta like an over-sized high school football stadium, but once you get inside, the place comes alive.  One thing I don’t get is why the “Biggest Spectacle In Racing” is blacked-out on local TV in Indy every year.  It ain’t like they struggle to get people to come out to the track—this year’s attendance was like 400,000.  Those are Woodstock-like figures, so surely they can cut the good Indianapolisians (Indianapolites?) a break and let them watch the race that rakes in zillions of dollars to their fair city.

In previous trips to Indianapolis, I was totally unaware of this place’s existence, let alone its importance, but I made it a point to check out Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse this time.  I wasn’t able to go inside, unfortunately, but it looks like a great place to time-travel for old-school bassit-ball, just as they did when Hoosiers was filmed here in 1986.  In light of Butler’s Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament this year, I’m willing to bet we’ll see a few more games from Hinkle on ESPN next fall…

…Wild Beaver Saloon, I couldn’t resist stopping in for a couple beers.  I wound up feeling like Charlie Daniels at the Do-Drop-Inn, though—there wasn’t a soul in the place except me and the bartender, which I thought was rather odd for 6:00 on a Saturday in downtown Indy while all the other bars and restaurants were hopping.

Once again, I endeavored to sample some local one-of-a-kind eateries during my trip but without the help of Guy Fieri’s “Drive-Ins, Diners & Dives” this time, and whaddya know—I actually fared better!  My favorite on this trip was definitely the Boogie Burger, which sits in a quaint little neighborhood called Broad Ripple (don’t ask me why) north of downtown Indy near Butler U.  The Boogie is a teeny little place no bigger than my living room (kitchen included), but I very much enjoyed their Rise ‘n’ Shine Burger, which included bacon and a fried egg on top. I also enjoyed a delicacy Kansas City still has yet to discover—garlic fries (like in this photo).  Unfortunately, I got the food to go, and the fries funked the car up pretty good—d’oh!  Louisville had a similar burger emporium called Bunz, which also carred a burger with egg and bacon on it, but I didn’t like theirs quite as well because their “special sauce” pretty much overwhelmed the flavor and I couldn’t even taste the egg or bacon.  I also checked out a place in downtown Indy called Dick’s Bodacious BBQ.  They weren’t quite bodacious, but they weren’t Dicks either, and for Texas-style BBQ, the eats there weren’t too shabby.  I’m biased being partial to K.C.-style BBQ, but I liked their brisket and ribs, the sauce was tasty, their portions were generous and the corn-on-the-cob was quite good.  As for the rest of the trip, I dined at institutions we don’t have in K.C. like White Castle, Lion’s Choice roast beef and Jack-In-The-Box.  Rumors abound that Jack may be poised to make a return to the K.C. area later this year.  I hope so—their breakfast menu is excellent.

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