Best college restaurant: Good Morning America wants your vote

For most of us, college was a low period in our culinary lives. Ramen, macaroni and cheese, beer for breakfast. . .ah, the memories!

When we got tired of contributing to our freshman fifteen with junk food, there was always that one place that served up something a little better, a little special. If you’ve been to college, or even if you haven’t, I bet you just thought of that place right now.

As an undergraduate in Tucson my favorite was a grimy dive bar called Mike’s Place. It served its last under-aged drinker years ago, closing down in the face of “urban renewal”. In graduate school in Columbia, Missouri, my fave was Shakespeare’s Pizza, which serves up delicious pizza right next to campus. It’s the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve been to Rome. Even The Pizza Files gave it a good review.

Now Shakespeare’s is one of four finalists in Good Morning America Weekend’s Best Bites Challenge. On this Saturday’s show they’ll announce the finalists and tell you how to vote for your favorite. They’re not very good at keeping secrets over at ABC, because the Columbia Tribune revealed the finalists to be Sandwich University in Morgantown, W.Va.; Öl Stuga in Lindsborg, Kan.; Camellia Grill in New Orleans; and Shakespeare’s.

Personally, I know Shakespeare’s is the best because I’ve never been to those other places. How can they compete?

What was your favorite college hangout? Reminisce in the comments section!

Seven wonders of the United States: Utopia and baseball

The ABC’s morning show, “Good Morning America” has a series in the works to get people to tune in May 5-13. Each day they will feature a “wonder” of the United States. A panel of travel experts are in charge of the picking. What seems daunting to me is figuring out the parameters, and then narrowing down the choices. In February, Gading ran a series on the 14 sites in the U.S. that may achieve World Heritage organization distinction over the next 10 years. Even that list doesn’t help much.

Does one choose architecture over nature? What about sites with cultural significance? How does the Grand Canyon compare to the Empire State Building? If I were to pick the top wonders of the U.S., two of them would be Disneyland in Anaheim, California and Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama. “Say, what?” you might be thinking. I have my reasons.

I’d pick Disneyland, not because I think Disneyland is the most wonderful place in the U.S., but because it was created by Walt Disney as a version of Utopian society. Really. There’s a loads of stuff written about it. Optimism, innovation and cleanliness were built into its design. The values Disneyland promotes are meant to reflect the U.S., and over the years Disneyland has had an enormous influence on American culture. Look at marketing alone and how many people pour into a Disney establishment each year. When people come to the United States for vacation, Disney is one of the places they head. Since Disneyland was the first to open, it gets the nod.

Why Rickwood Field? Well, it’s the oldest baseball park in the U.S. that still looks like it did back in 1910 when it first opened. Willie Mays played here. I thought about choosing one of the larger more famous ball parks, but when I did a search for the oldest ball park in the United States, Rickwood Field came up. Whenever Rickwood Field gets an update, the update looks like the original.

Wonders of the world, in my opinion, should mostly represent the original creation, otherwise history is covered up and discarded. Rickwood Field is also significant in the history of U.S. race relations. This was the home of the Black Barons of the Negro League.

Because baseball is a sport that most folks in the U.S. have played at one time of another–and it is one that has had an enormous impact on the identity of many U.S. cities–look at the economic impact alone, I think a baseball field is a U.S. wonder. So, these are my two choices off the top of my head. I’m interested to see what the travel experts pick. I doubt they’ll think of Rickwood Field. Disneyland? Maybe. The Grand Canyon? I would say it is a yes.