I always cherish our annual trip to Gateway. It was, after all, the first road trip I ever came along for. As an intern in ’09, I only worked home games but I was granted the privilege of attending the July 29-31 trip to Gateway. It was then that I discovered what a different world we lived in on the road. While the home games are filled with constant work, stat accumulation and reading, when you’re on the road, the world is your oyster. There is still plenty of work to do, but you can do it at your own pace. It’s just a totally different atmosphere to operate in.
Last year, when I became a little more experienced as a traveler, I realized that Gateway really isn’t such hot stuff. I generally judge road trips on hotel quality, the surrounding area and the stadium, and though Gateway does not receive negative marks in any of those areas, there are better. Still, I couldn’t shake the positive feelings that I possessed simply for the memories of my previous year’s trip.
It was Friday, July 2 when we reached the hotel in Fairview Heights, IL last year and I was discovering that it was easier to navigate the area the previous year with a car than it was on foot. Despite the 210 degree heat, however, I made it to the mall and looked around wondering why exactly that had been my destination. Sure, I had been there before, so it had the familiarity factor working for it, but what else? Then I saw what else. In the food court at St. Clair Square there was a Chick-fil-A. Over the past year, I’ve had Chick-fil-A a number of times and the shine has worn off a little bit to the extent that it has gone from being the Holy Grail of foodstuffs to just being a wonderful meal. But at the time, I hadn’t partaken in the chicken delight in over a year and it was calling out to me like the sirens. I looked around the food court, which was more full than just about any food court at any mall I’ve ever seen. While I glanced across the tabletops, I noticed that not everyone was eating Chick-fil-A. This confused me. Was it possible that heaven nuggets sat within arm’s reach but these people were OK with Subway? i tried to disregard this crazy notion and strolled to the counter, the first time, I realized, that I had been at a Chick-fil-A restaurant, my only previous experience coming at a catered event. As I took my first bite into that golden brown nugget, I decided that it was far too hot. I burnt my tongue and was unable to fully enjoy the rest of my chicken. I took this as a sign that I had flown too close to the sun and ate lunch the next day at Charley’s.
That night, we lost to the Gateway Grizzlies 16-4 or some obscene score like that. When we returned to the hotel, I turned the TV on to discover the movie “George Washington Slept Here” starring Jack Benny. All’s well that end’s well I always say.
This year, on our only trip to Gateway, I made sure to visit Chick-fil-A day one and on my way out, I spotted Five Guys. Could it be, my two favorite chain restaurants within a stone’s throw of one another?
Over the last few days I’ve decided something. The novelty of the first trip may have worn off and maybe there are better hotels in the league, but I really do enjoy my Gateway time. Now I’m off to eat the Krispy Kreme burger.