They said we were crazy. "They" being our wives, of course. Three dads taking three kids, ages thirteen, eight, and two-and-a-half, on a road trip from Detroit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and then on to Yankee Stadium. But what better way to get an in-depth, real-life look at the new Ford Flex than to fill every seat, stuff the cargo hold, and head out on a real American road trip? Along the way we'd encounter not only countless freeway miles but also an hour of idling in line at the Canada/U.S. border; hills and curves along the back roads through the Catskill Mountains; brutal pavement and equally brutal gridlock in the Bronx; and winding, narrow parkways leaving New York City.
The sing-song-y tagline "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet" attempted to put Chevrolet and baseball together in the public mind back in the 1970s, but we felt this new Ford was the right car for our trip.
Baseball, much more so than any other sport, values its past, and both our destinations are focal points of baseball history. Cooperstown, obviously, is the vortex, and not only because of the Hall of Fame. There's also Doubleday Field, a perfectly preserved ballpark from 1939, which sits right in the center of town. Dozens of shops sell baseball memorabilia to visitors, all of whom appear to be likely customers, since most are wearing baseball caps and jerseys of some kind or another. The town itself is an idealized version of Norman Rockwell's America, with its lively, old-fashioned Main Street, beautifully maintained Federal-style and Greek Revival homes, and picturesque setting at the southern tip of Otsego Lake.
Down in the Bronx, 2008 is the final season for Yankee Stadium. It opened in 1923, although an unfortunate, mid-'70s renovation changed its appearance considerably. While not the oldest major league ballpark - Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are older - Yankee Stadium has seen more history-making events than probably any other: papal visits, title fights (including the 1938 bout that saw Joe Louis defeat Max Schmeling and Muhammad Ali's win over Ken Norton in 1976), three NFL championships, and thirty-seven World Series (including Don Larsen's 1956 perfect game and the 1977 game in which Reggie Jackson hit three homers). Interestingly, the new Yankee Stadium, which is going up right next door, will revive many of the design elements of the original stadium, while of course upgrading the comforts and amenities to modern standards.