When Ben and I first got together I knew less than nothing about football (American, that is…not to be confused with footie (Australian football), or soccer, or any other iteration). I knew it included a football, but that was it. I distinctly remember “playing” football in Grade 8. Our teacher put us on the field and then expected the magic to happen. For every other kid there, it did. For me, I stood in the middle of the field, completely lost and confused.
Imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered my boyfriend, a.k.a. my now husband, LOVED football, LOVED the NFL, and LOVED tackling people. Yay! (Insert sarcasm here…and there…and above…everywhere, really.)
Over the 11 years of being together and the 8-almost-9 years of marriage, I have learned A LOT about football. I still can’t tell what kind of play the offense is going to run, or the defense is going to set up in answer, but the fact that I know who the offense is, who the defense is, which direction the ball is going, what down it is, and how many yards they have left until they get a fresh set of downs, is incredible…and is the result of hours and and hours and hours of watching football with my man. Also, bugging him incessantly with questions (like, why is it called the first down when it’s the 80th down they’ve had…or they ‘get a first down’ when they were just on a second down…and what the hell is going on?!). I can proudly say that I can hold my own in conversations about the game, that I have a favourite player (Hi, Peyton!!) and that I can cheer alongside Ben confidently, although I still pick the team he’s not cheering for just to be a pain (old habits, dying hard, you know).
So when Toni and Jacqueline hatched the plan to take the boys to a Baltimore Ravens game for a Christmas gift, it was an easy HELLS YEAH! The Ravens are Ben’s team and, in a funny coincidence, also Cody’s favourite team. Mike loves the NFL period, so it was a win-win-win (Andreah and Joe couldn’t come because of monies…and because none of us are rich, we couldn’t swing the coverage for them…it SUCKED that they couldn’t be there, but life is life, regardless of the NFL and the Ravens, and ROAD TRIP!).
A road trip means FOOD. And to kick it off, I baked a few treats…some scones, some delicious cranberry oat muffins, some healthy banana oat cookies, and, of course, some terrible for you but SO YUMMY milk chocolate chip cookies. Snacks were COVERED.
For us to go, of course, it meant finding a babysitter that would be willing to hang out with our crazies for THREE DAYS. We have three kids under 6…that is not a small thing to ask. Luckily, we’ve got points with the mothers, and between our mom and Ben’s mom, along with some uber support from Grandpa Mike, we were able to leave our babies and embark on the 9-hour trip to Baltimore, Maryland.
The willing victims…I mean ROCK STARS.
We left at crazy-o’clock in the morning…can you see the clock in the above picture? That says 4:50 a.m., people. We mean business. Toni and Mike picked us up and drove the white Tahoe that they rented for the trip – it was the only vehicle big enough for everyone (all 6 of us) and our STUFF (Mike couldn’t see out the back, but that’s not THAT important…) – to get Jacqueline and Cody. Mike had actually won the rental at his work Christmas party the weekend before, which was a stroke of luck that saved us OODLES of money, considering we were taking the rental over the border and putting 837487436750 km on it. Even the Christmas party gods wanted us to go! SIGNS, BABY!
Jacqueline had never driven as far as we were driving, or traveled for as long as we were travelling, so she didn’t know what to expect. She DID however win the ‘best seat partner’ award from me, because she brought 14 pillows and 56 cozy, thick, soft, fuzzy blankets.
Our backseat was tight, because we have the shortest legs, but it was the most comfortable seat ever. Take your shoes off, put your head down, close your eyes, and voila! Road trippin’ naps.
The cool kids sit in the back (our view)
Mike was driving, which he preferred AND it was what the insurance on the rental covered, Ben was his front-seat passenger, because this way he could hear conversations (otherwise, it’d be an isolated trip for him), Cody and Toni were in the middle, and Jacqueline and I were in the waaaaaaay back. Cramped, cozy, ROAD TRIP.
The middle trying to sneak into the back…everyone wants to be the cool kids.
The first stop was for coffee. Exactly 15 minutes away from Jacqueline and Cody’s house. People peed, caffeine and breakfast were obtained, and then we were on our way.
The border was by far the most nervous part of our trip and happened within the first 90 minutes of driving. The border guy, who we weren’t dumb enough to take a picture of, was full of tight-lippedness. He couldn’t see Jacqueline and I in the back seat, so we had to pop up and say, “Here!” just like during attendance at school. He asked why we were going to see an NFL game…to which we had trouble answering because the answer was obvious. Mike said, “Entertainment.” Everyone held their breath. Then the super serious border guy relented and said, “Yeah, but why Baltimore?” Ahhh! Breathing can commence – he’s being FUNNY. (So scary). Big hump hurdled, onto the next!
Our first gas stop was called the Fractured Prune. Can’t make this stuff up.
The next hurdle was crossing through New York state into Pennsylvania. While we were in the great state of Pennsylvania, we witnessed a car accident – the guy turning left decided to go regardless of the fact he had a red light…and the guy going straight through slammed into him, surprisingly. Moments after we left that intersection, we were almost hit by someone else running a red light, again trying to turn left. We decided to get out of that city and stop for some lunch. At this point I’d already had TWO naps (a Canadian side one, and a New York one…all in all, a GOOD DAY).
We decided to go to Hardee’s, a burger place that Mike had heard of and wanted to try. The hamburgers were just all right and the fries were CRAZY salty. In the end, it wasn’t anything special, and we all got the gift of fun pooping later that evening (TMI? TOO BAD).
Hardee’s: Never heard of it. Made everyone POOP.
The best part about the road trip so far (you know, besides the lack of children and the napping)? The fact that it was SO warm. We left Ontario with winter coming at us, negative temperatures and lots of bundling required. We got to the States and discovered temperatures that required no coat and no boots. It was like springtime. SO AWESOME.
I had another nap (OH YEAH) and we made it through Pennsylvania, land of the no-stop-red-lights, and into Maryland, land of everyone-honks-while-driving. Our hotel was right downtown Baltimore and a mile away from the stadium, meaning once we got there, we could park and not have to drive again until we headed home.
You must say the name of the hotel in a British accent, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
The hotel was beautiful – it had just been redone, so everything was clean and new and the staff were lovely. They originally booked us on two different floors, but then totally switched us all to the 12th floor so we could be near each other. Even though it must have been a pain, they were so kind about it.
Branded sheets? Fancy!
Our room was lovely. Spacious. Had lots of room to sit on the floor, a huge king-size bed (we are queens here at home), comfortable chairs, a closet and bathroom. The only trouble? No fan in the bathroom. So all of those Hardee’s poops? Fodder for everyone. BLEH.
After we had settled in, we decided to go exploring and find some dinner. The first order of business was figuring out where the game would be the next day.
The Baltimore Ravens play at M&T Bank Stadium, which is right beside where the Baltimore Orioles play at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. They share a parking lot, they’re so close to each other.
(From top left, clockwise): Home run landings marked by bronze baseballs in the concrete; the stadium lit by the Baltimore sunset; entrance to the stadium; A.L. East Division Champions banner
To get to the Baltimore Ravens’ home, we had to walk through the Orioles’ stomping ground. Did you know that Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore? We didn’t either!
The boys posing with Baltimorean, Babe Ruth.
A beautiful war memorial right after Oriole land and right before Raven land. It reads, “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”
And then, once we were steeped in Oriole and baseball lore, we made it to Ravens Walk, M&T Stadium, and all things FOOTBALL. Ben (and the boys) were in HEAVEN.
We MADE it.
Statues of Ray Lewis and Johnny Unitas in front of the stadium
Ben v.s. Ravens’ football helmet garbage cans – who will win?
M&T Stadium, empty and gearing up for the big game
After getting our fill of Ravens’ pregame show, we headed off in search of dinner. We were all starving and tired (regardless of the 4587634 naps we had on the way down).
Who can name the sitcom this references? Anyone? Bueller?
We settled on 17 Light, which was a restaurant in another hotel on Light Street. We had tried another restaurant, but the host didn’t seem too keen on doing his job (he answered the phone right after saying “Hi” to us), and then told us it was a 45 minute wait to be seated, even though it looked empty.
This restaurant, the one that served us delicious food, had a bartender/host who greeted us warmly. When he found out we were from Canada, he instantly said he had started watching a Canadian show and LOVED it. All of us were bracing for it – Corner Gas? Red Green? Nope. Trailer Park Boys. We told him that it wasn’t entirely indicative of what life in Canada looks like, but it was the perfect ice-breaker.
Our dinner spot…where we left our mark.
After dinner, we got some beer, some wine, and hung out in Ben’s and my hotel room, decompressing after the loooooong day. We watched the tail end of Fast Five, where Paul Walker was alive and Vin Diesel still had no neck (it was a no-neck off between him and The Rock…ripped, big, and neckless).
It was heaven to be away from home, to hang out with (some of) the sisters, and have no babies to care for. It was the perfect start to a vacation much-needed and football-filled.
Tune in tomorrow when Toni will regale you with tales of GAME DAY!