Friday, August 25, 2006

ROAD TRIP~! Chicago: Day 1 - The Long Road There

It all began with a phone call in May. Matty P was calling with some interesting information. His cousin, who lives in Chicago, shares a set of season tickets to the Chicago Cubs with others, and made the offer to give Matt the tickets for a game some time this year. Matt called asking if I would be interested in going. Being the baseball fan that I am, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to go to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

A month passes, and Matt gets the tickets in the mail. August 20th against the St. Louis Cardinals. And as an added bonus, apparently the seats were directly behind home plate, 4 rows up. From there, the plan quickly came together. Boyd would drive his Pontiac Grand Prix down, with Matt in the back and also acting as the backup driver, and I would be in the front acting as the navigator. I made reservations at the Travelodge Chicago Downtown, as it was the only hotel in the downtown area that was around $200 Cdn a night and didn't have absolutely horrific reviews.

Finally, Friday arrived. Matt picked me up at 8:00am, and we were off to the races(*). We get to Boyd's at around 8:30 and start loading the Grand Prix up. At 9:00 am, we were on the 401 W, bound for Chicago.

(Of course, at 9:15, we stopped off for some lovely $1.39 Sausage McMuffins courtesy of the fine folks at McDonald's, but we were back on the road by 9:45 am.)

When we reached the outskirts of London, Boyd asked where we needed to get off. I told him highway 402, which through him off slightly. Apparently the thought of crossing the border at Sarnia never occurred to anyone before. But hey, that's what MapQuest suggested, and who are we to doubt MapQuest?

The drive to Sarnia was pretty uneventful, save for our discovery of 89X, Windsor/Detroit's New Rock Alternative. (For Torontonians, think The Edge circa 1996/1997, only with current music.) This was fantastic and looked to be the discovery of the car ride down. As we would find out though, there was something better still to come.

As we pulled up to customs, we found ourselves in a line on the Blue Water Bridge, waiting our turn after paying $2.50 Canadian. As we were in line, the car started bouncing slightly. Initially, we blamed it on Matt shaking his leg, but it became apparent that this was not the case. Instead, it occurred any time a truck rode over the bridge. Needless to say, we weren't exactly comfortable staying on the bridge for any length of time.

We passed through customs without too much incident, showing our ID and then stating where we were going and why. After a quick staredown from the customs officer, we were officially in the US.

Now, Mapquest is great for directions and everything. But one thing it fails to mention is construction. The Travelodge website made mention of construction on the Dan Ryan expressway, which is the main artery to downtown Chicago. They suggested an alternate which seemed to be a nice driving tour of Chicago, so we decided to stick with Mapquest. Problem is, we didn't think we would need an alternate for our trip across Michigan.

The first half an hour in Michigan was pretty uneventful. But then we ran into what was the first of many "road work" areas. The first warning you get is something that says "Road work ahead - 10 miles". Then you get to see this sign (**):

Honestly, I'm not sure what I find funnier: that the life of a roadside worker has been valued at $7,500 US by the Michigan Department of Justice, or that apparently the fine was considered to be the bigger deterrent and thus got listed before the jail sentence. I mean, what sort of person thinks You know, I was okay with the 15 years in jail, but the $7,500? I can't afford that! I guess I'll just have to find a nice raccoon to hit instead.

Part of the fun of these construction zones was when they had shut down the westbound lanes completely, and sent our traffic into the eastbound lanes (there was a divide between the eastbound and westbound traffic). To fully understand the ridiculousness of this, refer to this picture:

Now imagine that in order to close the lanes you are in, the construcion workers pave over part of the large median that was separating the traffic. I have no idea as to what they are going to do with the paved median, but I'd imagine that it isn't as exciting as a few extra miles of grass.

One of the biggest problems that this switching over the median makes is that you are driving over rumble strips for long periods of time. And these rumble strips tend to catch the car and pull it towards either the median or the temporary barricade that had been put up. Either option is not where you want to end up.

At 2pm, we decide that maybe we should stop to stretch our legs, go to the washroom and get some food. So we stop off at an Arby's. While Matt is in the bathroom, I notice the 5 for $5.95 deal and immediately declare it the best deal ever. Basically, there are 8 items available on this deal, and you can get as many of each as you want, so long as you get 5 total. The items were: Arby's Melt, Regular Fries, Regular Curly Fries, Small Shake, Apple Turnover, Regular Soft Drink, Potato Cakes and Regular Mozzarella Sticks~! While Boyd and I could probably each have just done an order of 5 Mozza Sticks, but instead we decide to split a combo and only end up with one order of mozzarella sticks. Matt, fresh from the washroom, goes up to the counter, misses the 5 for $5.95 sign and purchases a Beef'n'Cheddar combo. When he comes back we give him a gentle ribbing about missing the sign (we thought he might have gotten the Beef'n'Cheddar strickly for the Onion bun).

Back we went to the road, and more construction. Only this time, we actually had to slow down, and then come to a complete stop. So much of a complete stop that the guy in front of us got out of his pickup, started drinking a bottle of water, came around the back, gave us a pantomime to say that the lineup of cars was extremely long ahead of us, and then went into some trunk like area on his truck. We started moving a bit better soon after, but that was just a momentum killer for us, and we knew that we weren't going to be in Chicago at 5 CST. On the bright side, we did find this tidbit out:

It's good to know that somebody has Grand Funk Railroad's back.

We continued to plug along, but were quickly facing a major disaster: we were moving out of 89X's range. We didn't panic, and we scanned the frequencies, looking for something good to listen to. At 101.5 FM, we found it. Boyd's radio has a digital piece to it, which allows the display to show the radio station being listened to , along with the song title and band performing it. We thought we might be getting some bad information when the radio station's name was "The Banana". But apparently that is the name. And it played great music (though the DJs left something to be desired). (As a matter of fact, I think Boyd is petitioning to get it aired in Canada.)

We finally made it into Indiana around 5:00. And while the construction seemed to have subsided (along with the warnings about not hitting construction workers), the weather decided to make itself noticed and we were greeted with some rain. Fear not though, we got more construction to go with the rain.

As we got closer to the Indiana/Illinois border (and thus Chicago), we noticed a bit of a trend: Casinos. There's a Horseshoe, a Blue Chip and an Aztar among other casinos. They are maybe 45 minutes out of Chicago, so if you feel like gambling, go ahead.

After all of this, we arrive in Chicago around 6:30 pm (local time). We attempt to park in what is labelled as Travelodge parking, only to find that the parking will be closed on Saturday and Sunday, and are pointed to another parking lot. While Boyd handled that, I checked in. Check in was quick and painless, and we were soon in our room.

The room was okay. We had two double beds (which can also be known as "a bed for one fat guy"). There was a fridge and microwave if we wanted to use them. And the room was not cramped by any stretch of the imagination. If you want to stay downtown Chicago, and don't necessarily care about luxury, I'd consider the Travelodge. It's in a good location and is clean.

Around 8 (local time), we figured that it would be a good time to get something to eat. The choice was some Deep dish pizza, and the best can only be found at Giordano's. We had a general idea as to where it was, but no exact idea, so we went for a walk. After walking through Grant Park and seeing the kidney shaped metallic thingy, we figured out where we were and found Giordano's.

Once inside, we were informed that it would be a 30 minute wait, but no worries, we can look at the menu and order our pizza before being seated. After a bit of discussion, we settled on a large deep dish with pepperoni, sausage and ham. Almost as soon as we had ordered our pizza, we were seated. From there we ordered an app of Mozzarella sticks, fried mushrooms and fried zucchini sticks. This, of course, was a mistake. Not because they weren't good, but because it left us with a bit less room for dinner. While we each had 2 slices, we left 2 slices (aka the slices that Graham would have eaten if he were able to join us).

Total damage: $54 with tax and tip for a large pizza, sampler platter and a pitcher of beer.

After a long day of driving, we went back to the hotel. Along the way, we ran into a homeless person who asked for the leftover pizza we were carrying with us. We gave them to him and continued on to the hotel. Once there, we squared away the cot arrangements and crashed. After all, tomorrow was going to be another long day of wandering around Chicago.

(*): No, we did not stop off at Mohawk.

(**): This might have been the most difficult picture I have ever attempted to take. Half the time I did not have camera ready when the sign would appear, leading to a very loud "GOD DAMN IT" to be yelled. A quarter of the time, I would be distracted with doing something else, whether that be getting Boyd a Dr. Pepper or changing the CD, leading to a very loud "GOD DAMN IT" to be yelled. And the final quarter of the time I would have my camera ready, but when I took the picture, the shutter speed would be slow enough that the sign would be out of the frame by the time the camera actually took the picture, leading to a very loud "GOD DAMN IT" to be yelled. I'm not sure what woke Matt up more, the rumble strips or my yelling.

NEXT: The metallic kidney, interesting sculptures and the best perch I've ever tasted. Plus, does Boyd survive this dangerous situation?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Chicago post delay

Hopefully until tomorrow. I've done a lot more writing than I expected and still have more to do.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The seemier side of Poker

Here's an update from my previous post on Jamie Gold, 2006 WSOP Main Event winner. Apparently Norm was right to question how Gold's money was going to be divided. Bruce Crispin Leyser has filed suit against Gold, claiming that Gold owes him half of the $12 million that was the first place prize of the main event. The reason why is rather convoluted - something about Leyser producing Dax Sheppard and Matthew Lillard for a promotional tournament. Read the article and try to make sense of it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Does that mean that Nelly Furtado is a-ok?

The only thing that came to mind when I read this article that states that Justin Timberlake banned Lindsay Lohan from a concert because he was afraid she would ruin his image was "What image does Timberlake think he has?"

I'm back

Just got back from the previously unmentioned road trip to Chicago (not that I'm sure anybody noticed).

Anywho, more on the road trip tomorrow. Tonight I'm going to try to get back to a normal life.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Giving Gold the finger

Jamie Gold, 2006 WSOP Main Event champion, has to have some really powerful enemies. Because there's a few stories floating around which do not put Mr. Gold in a positive light. Just from Norm:

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Canadian Cinema: Catch the Fever!

This week is a big week for movies here in Canada. Snakes on a Plane - the most brilliantly marketed movie, well, ever - is finally released. Accepted also comes out to less fanfare, though it could be a sleeper movie this year. But most importantly for Canadian cinema, Bon Cop, Bad Cop opens in all of Canada that is not Quebec.

Bon Cop, Bad Cop is basically a buddy cop movie, only twisting the formula slightly. Instead of the normal by the book cop paired with the out of control wild man cop, they add in a twist of an English speaking Ontario based cop teaming with a French speaking Quebec based cop. I haven't read a bad word about the movie yet, which is a good sign. And it has been doing extremely well in Quebec, where it was released two weeks ago. As a matter of fact, it was 17th in gross sales in North America on its opening weekend, despite being shown on 132 screens. (Little Miss Sunshine did even better, earning more money with half of the screens as BCBC.)

This is a major test of Canadian Cinema. Quebec has a thriving film scene, where it is possible to release a successful non-Hollywood film. But for the rest of Canada, it is death to be labelled a "Canadian" movie, no matter the quality of the movie. Will people flock to Bon Cop, Bad Cop? Or will it follow the route of Going the Distance and Men With Brooms?

This weekend will be interesting, to say the least.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A thesis to bring together geeks and jocks

A Simon Fraser University student, Amy Summers, writes a thesis on one of the great goals of life: Proving that your fantasy hockey drafting method is better than everybody else's.

(h/t: Sisu Hockey)

Not guaranteed to get you into Notre Dame

Daniel Ruettiger (aka Rudy) has a new energy drink named "Rudy Revolution".

And who's the Montreal Poutine?

Updating the Paul Lo Duca story from last week, it seems as though Lo Duca wasn't only into Long Island teenagers. A Philly teen (or as the New York Post put it, a "Philly Cheesecake") has come forward and also claimed to have slept with Lo Duca.

And just to kick Lo Duca in the groin further, said teenager met Lo Duca at her place of employment - at a horse racing betting parlor. This is not good for a guy who's being investigated for gambling issues.

Oh, and there's this quote from the article:
On the straying slugger's sexual prowess in bed, Alisio then added, "He's all right but below what I expected."


Friday, August 11, 2006

And you thought you had a bad week...

Paul Lo Duca's week won't be featured on VH1's Best Week Ever. In the span of 5 days...

  • It is revealed that Lo Duca's smoking hot wife (note: previous three links are completely NSFW) filed for divorce, citing adultery as the reason.

  • Lo Duca's mistress comes forward - a 19 year old he met at an "18 and older" night at a bar

  • The Mets revealed they would investigate Lo Duca's gambling habits, with a story coming out that Lo Duca was stalked by different bookies at different times.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Quick suggestion

For my good friend Matty P, how about a list of top 25 garbage Blue Jays.

I'll expound on this when I'm not as frustrated by the Jays' inability to hold a lead.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Switching things up

As you can tell, I got bored of the old look, and decided to make a change to the look around these parts. I like it the general look, though I will be goofing around with small things until it looks exactly like I want.

One good thing about Blogger is backing up your blog template is pretty simple - just copy the template to your favourite text editor and then save the file. It really saved some time in bringing along my old links. (And soon, look out for refreshed links!)

Let me know what you're thinking about the new look. Good, bad, indifferent?


Remember this post with one of my favourite photos ever? Well, the Las Vegas Review-Journal is running a feature of photos submitted by readers that show the stormy weather Vegas has been getting. If you like photos of lightning strikes, then hit the link.