I took a trip through the countryside of upstate New York and back in time to Cooperstown for a visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

It had been almost twenty years since my last visit to the Hall. I was prepared for making the ninety minute drive from Albany almost entirely on local roads, but I wasn’t prepared to find that nothing had changed along State Route 20. And in the case of State Route 20, that’s not a good thing.

Sad little roadside yard sales, boring houses, baled hay everywhere, endless satellite dishes, dozens of McCain signs – it was a lot like traveling the back roads of West Virginia. The only major employer in the area appeared to be a huge Wal-Mart distribution center, set down in the middle of nowhere.

In fact it was like traveling the back roads of most of the United States, and that was not comforting during the run-up to the Presidential election in November.

The Village of Cooperstown, however, is another thing altogether, an oasis in the midst of all this desolation. With a steady flow of tourists from around the world, and its quaint homes and old-fashioned charm, it is a lovely place to visit, even for non-baseball fans.

Unlike State Route 20, The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has grown and developed quite nicely over the past twenty years.

The “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience” and “Diamond Dreams: Women in Baseball” exhibits were new to me, inspirational and humbling at the same time.

But while the new exhibits and audio/video presentations were excellent, I spent most of my time (as I had last time) in the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery, reading the bronze plaques and immersing myself in the history of the game. Then I spent too much time (and money) in the Museum store, trying to talk myself out of buying almost everything I saw.

I will leave you with two pieces of advice if you’re making your first visit: double the time you think you’ll need to fully enjoy the Museum; and if your companion isn’t a baseball fan be sure to plan an alternate activity outside the Museum for him or her – there’s nothing worse than having travelled all that way and having someone who’s bored asking “Are you done yet?” when you haven’t really begun.