Originally created 08/11/05

Teacher has a ball during summer trips



Two years ago, Kevin Kearns completed a goal of visiting every major baseball league stadium in the country.

With an insatiable curiosity to see national attractions up close, the Hephzibah Middle School sixth-grade math teacher also visited such places as Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Grand Canyon, and he has driven Route 66 during summer road trips to the stadiums.

With the exception of Alaska, he's seen every state's capitol building because it's the most important building in the state, so the architecture will be "neat," he said.

What's Mr. Kearns been doing since completing his goal?

Three more baseball stadiums have opened,and he's been to all of them. As more open, he plans to visit each one.

"I've got 47 now," he said of the stadiums he's visited.

Last summer, Mr. Kearns visited Citizens Bank Park, the new Philadelphia Phillies stadium.

Earlier this year, the Montreal Expos moved to the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C., and became known as the Washington Nationals.

"I went to that one in May," he said. "It's not new. I'd seen the stadium 50 times, but there was no event going on; it was just sitting there."

In June, he drove to California to see Petco Park, the new home of the San Diego Padres.

That road trip was like many adventures he has while on summer break, during which he sight-sees and stays at campsites to save money on hotels.

He considers himself a typical tourist and doesn't mind being in the car for hours because "there's a lot to see out there," he said.

Mr. Kearns likes to share his travel stories with his pupils in hopes of inspiring them to do the same.

"They know I travel and all that," he said. "I tell them because I want them to do it, too."

He was gone for 22 nights when he went to California. His wife, Diane, flew out for 10 nights, and they visited Hollywood and Las Vegas before she flew home.

Mr. Kearns drove home - alone. Driving alone allows for extra adventures, such as the one he had when he drove 30 miles off the main road to a campsite at Big Ben National Park in southwest Texas.

The park had room for 200 setups, he said, but with temperatures in the upper 90s, he was the only one camping.

"Very, very few people visit the park because it's so far out of the way and it was like 100 degrees," he said.

"The scenery was spectacular, but nobody was down there."

While at the site, Mr. Kearns could not resist the Rio Grande.

"I walked across the river to Mexico, how all the illegal aliens do. The water was only about 2 feet deep. There was nobody there watching," he said. "It was kind of eerie - nobody there and I'm wading through river."

The highlight of this summer's trip, however, came on his way home, when Mr. Kearns went back to the Grand Canyon area to the Indian reservation Havasu Falls.

Visitors had to park at the rim of the canyon and hike 10 miles down to get to the falls, Mr. Kearns said.

"I got down there and spent four hours. There's a lot of people down there. You can get in and swim under the falls; I did all that," he said.

Mr. Kearns plans to drive to Alaska within the next four years.

There's a stadium under construction in St. Louis that is scheduled to open next year. The new Washington Nationals stadium is supposed to open in 2008, and the New York Yankees' new stadium is scheduled to open in 2009.

"If it plays out the way I'm looking at it, it's St. Louis next year, then the one in D.C., and the Yankees stadium will be No. 50," he said.

In the meantime, he's got his mind set on another goal - to climb Mount Rainier in Washington, east of Seattle.

The 14,410-foot mountain is a dormant volcano covered in ice and snow.

"I've been out there to the park, my wife and I, eight years ago. We had lunch at a lodge and you can see it (the mountain), you see what looks like little ants going up the side," Mr. Kearns said, referring to people climbing the mountain.

"(My wife) didn't have an interest in climbing the mountain. She said, 'You can come back with somebody else and do that.'

"Me and a buddy of mine are going to climb to the top. We hope to do it next summer."



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