My wife and I were fortunate enough to travel to Florida for two weeks in the beginning of March. It was an odd year in some ways, however. When we left, Hudson was still in the grips of winter as the snowbanks in front of my house were just as high as they were most of the winter.
The warm-up at home apparently began almost immediately after we left. By the time we came home, the snow was absolutely gone and the temperature was in the 50s! Never have I seen such a dramatic shift in the weather during the time I was gone on a trip.
Again we stayed with my wife's sister and husband, Tom and Sandy Wells, in Fort Myers Beach. They are officially Florida residents, although they still own a home in New Richmond.
We had a couple of odd thing occur on the trips down and back. I had purchased my tickets way last summer - I think it was late July or early August. It was a heck of deal - we found round-trip tickets for about $180.
Because we were going to be gone for two weeks, we decided to take our dog with, rather than put her in a kennel. When I called the airline, I discovered it would cost $200 (roundtrip) to take the dog - it cost more to take the dog to Florida than I paid for my ticket! Small dogs can be placed in a carry-on case that fits under the seat in front of you, but you need to reserve ahead of time and, of course, pay the fee. Before you decide I am totally crazy, however, check the price to put a dog in a kennel for a couple of weeks. I think we still came out ahead. Although, because the dog was a carryon, I had to check my bag - another $20 each way!
My son Donovan, his wife Michele and our grandson Connor also came to visit for eight days. Because of babysitting issues and work schedules, we agreed to bring our nine-month old grandson home on the plane with us. I could "feel" the looks as we got on the plane to come home carrying a nine-month old baby and a dog! Fortunately we were seated by a very understanding man who was a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. And, fortunately, the baby and dog were good travelers.
As usual, I spent some time at the Minnesota Twins spring training facility in Fort Myers. I attended two Grapefruit League games at Hammond Stadium. I saw the Hammond Stadium spring opener on March 5 (Twins beat Red Sox 5-0) and a night game against the Orioles March 11 (twins won 8-3 in a game cut short by rain).
I've been going to spring training camps for a number of years, but it amazes me how spring training games have become such a big event for fans in the last decade or so.
Virtually every spring training game at Hammond Stadium was sold out. Tickets are not cheap. Most are $24 or $22. The only thing cheaper is standing room, and a grassy terrace along the right field foul line -- you can stand or sit on the grass for $12. The souvenir shop is absolutely packed during spring training games. Everyone who travels to Florida wants a Twins shirt or cap that has "Florida" on it. I think they sell more merchandise at a spring training game than they probably do at a regular season game.
I compare it to 1997 - the year I attended my first Twins spring training game at Hammond Stadium. The stadium was about a third to half full - plenty of empty seats. And that game was also against the Red Sox. It probably drew more than normal games because the Red Sox also train in Fort Myers and the fans often visit each other's facility.
It seems like things were a bit more relaxed in 1997 - lots of autograph signing near the dugouts right up to game time. In fact, the day in 1997 was memorable because my youngest son and I were standing near the Twins dugout when a guy came out and asked my son if "he wanted to do the bats for the Sox." My son said "yes" and the rest was history - he was the batboy for the Red Sox during the game that day. Something tells me things are a bit more organized today.
Hammond Stadium is part of the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers and has been the spring training home of the Twins since 1990. The facility includes five full fields and two half fields, as well as Hammond Stadium that also serves as the home of the Fort Myers Miracle (Class A; Florida State League) and the Gulf Coast League Twins.
My wife and I did a lot of walking on the trip. The Wells home is about 2.5 miles from the Pier area on Fort Myers Beach. So we could start at the house and walk the beach to the pier and cover about five miles each time we completed the roundtrip walk. Then we usually walked the dog another couple of miles later in the day. I figure we covered something over 70 miles during our two-week stay. The great scenery and weather, however, made the walking seem like anything but a chore.
Other than a couple of trips to a movie theater and a few trips to area restaurants, the days consisted mostly of walking and relaxing in the Florida sunshine. We were fortunate to have good weather. The first couple of days were a bit cool, with highs in the low to mid 60s, but most days were in the mid 70s - cool by Florida standards, but great for those of us coming from the upper Midwest.
We had only one real day of rain which curtailed our walking plans. We drove to Sanibel Island that day and had lunch at a unique restaurant called the "Island Cow." With the cow theme I thought the owners might be from Wisconsin, but that's not the case - Someone said they were from Maine, or someplace out East. The place, however, has one of the largest menus I've ever seen. They serve just about anything! We enjoyed the crunchy grouper sandwich!
One final note about flying, it seems like many people, including families, don't get seated together on planes - there is always a scramble at the gate to try and get groups together. I'm not sure what the solution is, but reserve those seats online or at the airport ASAP.
I ran into only one Hudsonite on this trip (usually we see several here and there). At the airport coming home, Mary Weller and her daughter were on the same plane.