We were taking the long way home.
It was the only Saturday that my 14 year-old son and I could make it out to see the Colts practice during their training camp in the summer of 1999, and we were going to stay for both sessions. As luck would have it, one session started at 8:30 am, and to try and avoid the heat, the second practice didn't take place until 7:30 pm. It made no sense to drive back home in between, so it looked like Terre Haute, Indiana had us for the day. We were theirs, whether they liked it or not.
The early morning ride west on Interstate 70 (no taking the long way to get there!) was exactly what it should have been; talk of when first-round draft pick Edgerrin James might sign his contract and join his teammates; could he pick up where the departed Marshall Faulk left off? Would rookie linebacker Mike Peterson make a much needed instant impact on defense. The emptiness we both felt when speaking of the tragic death of third-round pick Brandon Burlsworth. And how the heck are we going to get through 9 hours of spare time in Terre Haute, Indiana?
The morning practice gave us quite a bit to talk about as we walked towards the car, a little unsure of where we were going or what we were doing as we pulled out of the Rose-Hulman campus. I had heard that there were batting cages and miniature golf somewhere on the west side of town, back behind the mall. That was worth a shot.
We grabbed something to eat, came upon the batting cages amd spent the next two hours or so there. I grew up playing baseball, played through high school, but never set foot in a batting cage until that day. My son, Jack, never played organized baseball. Needless to say, we had the time of our lives. It wasn't always pretty, but it didn't have to be.
We walked over to the other side of this amusement center, and played a round of miniature golf. We bet something on the game. I can't remember what we wagered, but I do remember this; standing there on the "crucial" 18th hole, the sun shining brightly, trying my best to make my son miss his clinching shot -- and realizing that we were no longer just killing time. We weren't killing time at all. We were enjoying the moment. It was a nice realization.
Driving back towards town, we came across a very small, very seedy looking trading card shop. Jack was already a huge Edgerrin James fan, regardless of what his contract situation was. We spent quite a bit of time in there, as my son patiently decided which James' rookie cards he had to have. That was fine with me. I had no big plans at the moment.
And just let me say this. You haven't lived until you've had Saturday evening dinner at Denny's in Terre Haute, Indiana.
We headed back towards the campus, the evening practice less than an hour away. A little weary, but focused intently, we watched our team go through their drills, talking about what a great season this was going to be (little did we know).
The session over, the crowd thinning out, we took our time leaving. Hey, it's Saturday night; no rush, no worries.
Not giving a thought to the interstate, I pulled onto 40 and headed east. Brazil was only a few miles up the road and seemed like a good place for us to stop and get a cold drink.
And yes, it took longer to get home. More time to talk, more little towns to pass through, to take in. Harmony, Putnamville, Stilesville; one traffic light, a general store, a far cry from North Jersey; something new, something different.
On Saturday, July 30th, 2005 the Colts will hold two practice sessions in Terre Haute. As luck would have it, the morning session starts at 8:30, and in an effort to avoid the heat, the evening practice will not take place until 7:30. As of this morning, my son, now 20 and ever the comedian, says that there is a 43% chance that he will go with me.
And if he goes, we will once again have a lot of time to kill in Terre Haute. Will it be the same as 6 years ago? Of course not; what is? It will be different, but it could be as much fun.
This I do know; with Jack, or on my own, I will take the long way home that Saturday evening.
It just seems like the right way to go home.
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