GG: The US Tour – Chicago
So at the end of the last update, this weary traveler was questioning a lot of the things that happened to put him into Chicago in the middle of traffic, get him lost trying to find his hotel and generally wasn’t very happy with how this leg of the Tour had gone, despite having very much enjoyed meeting two of his fellow Iron Rockers. This post will be centered around my time in Chicago and on my way to Ohio. Those of you that have followed my Tour will probably be wondering why I’m devoting an entire post to what was planned as basically an overnite stay in Chicago and a drive to my next stop. Well, considering that was the plan and my plans have gone a bit wonky up to this point, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to hear that I ended up not leaving Chicago for a few days… Basically, I got hit head-on by Fate and had to stop and recover. 😉 Hopefully you all enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed the experience.
So I know I ended the last post checking into the Hard Rock Hotel, but I need to back up a bit here and recap to make sure everyone sees how the dominoes of this story got set up and were made to fall in a line that left me quite unable unwilling to leave and continue on as planned.
For the first leg of my trip, I had paired down my luggage to a point where I had all but my rollaround stuffed behind/under my seats and the rollaround was in the passenger floorboard leaving my passenger seat itself empty but with no way to carry a passenger. I had picked up a locking tool chest for the truck and had it installed in Tulsa which let me put literally all of my stuff in it and thus giving me tons of free room. I almost didn’t bother purchasing it because it was shiny diamond-plate and it just looked a little off on the truck, but for some reason I did it anyway.
I had almost left Tulsa a day earlier on Monday to try to give myself a little more flex-time while traveling as this leg of the trip saw at least one person that I wanted to hang out with at every stop, plus I had to be in Virginia by Monday the 13th so I could truly finish this leg of my Tour by visiting the Mythic Studios. I actually had a choice to go on either Monday or Tuesday, but chose the latter to give myself some flexibility. I decided not to leave on the 6th but instead wait until the 7th to spend another day with my Mom and to help her move some things.
Before heading north, I found out about a couple things I’d have to change. PhoenixRed was going to be busy the night I planned to hit Chicago, so I would be on my own that evening for dinner. Also, the friend I was supposed to visit in Iowa wasn’t going to be around so I changed my path to just head straight to the Mall of America. When I stopped for dinner, I found out my friend would be at MoA so decided to not stop driving that night until got there, putting me up to around a 14 hour day in the car just so I could hang out with them before meeting Kaidin and Kerowyn. Those plans changed abruptly right after I emailed Kaidin and Kerowyn and I chose to keep my room another night to help my friend. Then the friend ended up not needing me to be there at all, I never ended up seeing them at all, and I almost left in the middle of the night for Chicago just to get a change of scenery. I didn’t though and instead slept in and left later in the day than I had planned.
Because I left late, I ended up running smack into heavy Chicago traffic that made what my GPS said would be a 30 minute drive into a bit over 2 hours at one point. The GPS then got confused in the tall buildings and I circled my hotel area for around 30 minutes before finding the actual hotel and a garage to park at instead of just using the valet which was only a few dollars more a day. This ultimately put me in my room at the Hard Rock later in the evening than I had planned and made it so I really had to decide if I wanted to bother to go out to eat at all as it had been a rough couple of days and I wasn’t in the greatest mood.
I know that’s a lot of things that have already been covered, but I felt it necessary to repeat them as the introduction to the story I’m about to tell you because if even one of those things had happened differently, everything that you are about to read would have never, ever happened. This story is the strongest argument for a belief in Fate that I have ever personally experienced and those that have heard it have agreed that it’s very eerie.
So while I was trying to decide what I wanted to do, I re-read my PMs on the Warhammer Alliance forums from PhoenixRed who had given me a bunch of good information about things to see and places to eat while I was in Chicago. Of the food choices, the one that sounded best was a taste of true deep-dish Chicago pizza. I decided on Gino’s East but had to choose between two of its locations that were about the same distance from my hotel if I were to go. While deciding, I read the history of the restaurant real quick and realized that the Gino’s East on Superior, which was the original restaurant, was one of my choices. I decided in that instant that I would be going out, I’d be going to that location and that I may as well toss on a nicer shirt while I was at it since I was in Chicago at night and might decide to hit a bar afterwards since I’d be cabbing it anyway due to the driving/parking issues.
So I freshened up a bit, changed clothes and headed downstairs and looked for an ATM machine since I had used up my road cash. I finally had to ask at the desk where it was and then jetted to its hiding place in the back of the elevator area, delaying my dinner even more, before heading out front and having one of the guys flag me down a cab. By this point, it was around 9pm. The cab took me straight there and I got out to find myself looking at a line to get in that wrapped around the front of the building and about 1/3 of the way down the alley next to it. I almost said forget it and hopped back in the cab, but I figured if it was this late and the line was that big, the food must be great so I hopped in line.
Immediately after I got to the back of the line, a cab pulled up and dropped two younger ladies off. They were chatting excitedly back and forth, got in line right behind me and started talking to me. Turns out, there was a Pampered Chef convention in town and they were there for it. There was apparently a lot of them in their group and some weren’t there yet as there had apparently been various ideas for where to go for dinner but they had finally decided on this place. They quickly learned that I was on a roadtrip across the US and conversation ensued just as two more of them showed up to join the first ones. Everyone started asking me questions and it was quickly decided by them that I was going to be joining them for dinner. lol. Sure, why not right?
So we finally get inside and they set us up at a 6-top for the 5 of us. Just as our server arrived, three more people showed up outside in line from their group. There was no way to convert our table to an 8-top and there wasn’t a bigger table available, so we ended up just staying there with our server and the other three went upstairs. Drink orders quickly went in with three of us choosing the same drink of choice, Jack and Coke, one choosing a gigantic margarita equal to four regular ones and the other not drinking. We put in our order for a deep dish and were told it would take 45 minutes to an hour to cook. Wow. Good thing we had drinks! While we were waiting, they went back and forth between our table, upstairs and outside to smoke, leaving me to talk mainly with the original two girls that I was in line with.
Now, when it came time to figure out a tip, we pretty much gave the guy a low one because, whether his fault or not, we had some slow service when it came to drinks and I actually didn’t ever receive the last one I ordered. He seemed nice other than that, but oh well. Ultimately, after about 90 minutes of drinks, conversation and amazing pizza, a couple of them decided they were going to head back to their hotel, but the rest were going out for drinks. Once again, I was invited along and, quite frankly, I was having so much fun at this point just being around their energy and enjoying the conversations that there was no way I was going to say no. So the six of us headed off towards Michigan Ave to try to find a new place to drink and maybe some music. We had no clue where we were going and ended up heading towards the river before running into a couple guys that were from Chicago who started trying to tell us where clubs were located. Ultimately, it was decided we would head to the closest place that served alcohol to grab a quick drink before heading somewhere with music.
So we headed down these stairs going from one level of road to a lower one, something I don’t see at all in San Diego hehe, and headed into a restaurant called Blackie’s that had a bar and was still open at the time, which was around 11pm. Everyone grabbed a stool at the bar and I almost sat on the end but got told to move down to the other side to chat with the only one of the original two girls I met in the alley. (Sounds weird huh? “met in an alley” It was a constant source of amusement, let me tell you.) Myself, her and the person next to her were the three Jack and Coke drinkers, so we quickly ordered up another round and went back to chatting. The group of us were so loud and energetic that the few tables left in the restaurant were all just staring at us. Apparently, not only did they think it was great, but so did the manager because he comp’d us a round of shots and one of the patrons paid $10 of our bar tab for us. lol. Good times. While we were there, the last member of their group finally showed up, putting our total at 7 people at this point.
I went outside with the a few of them so they could smoke and chat while we waited or the others to finish their drinks since the place was closing. While out there, one of them stopped a random guy walking down the street yet again and asked about local bars. We got told there were two that were close: PJ Clark’s and Timothy O’Tooles. Right away, I said “Irish Bar, let’s go!” One of the girls told the guy he should come along too and once the ones inside were done, we all headed down the street to find the next stop.
This place was situated downstairs from the surrounding stores, which again was something I’m not really used to. There’s only one or two places like that in San Diego, and they tend to be linked to whatever is above them. ie: a restaurant over a night club. This place, however, was a restaurant and bar all in one. We grabbed a huge table in a back room, a couple of the ladies grabbed a pool table and started playing and the rest of us ordered drinks. I spent the next half an hour talking to two of them about some of the things I’d done on my trip so far, the idea behind the whole thing and what I was hoping to get out of it all. They both thought it was great and I ended up with Pampered Chef business cards and e-mail addresses for a bunch of them before the conversation was over. lol. I had even been told that they’d love to have me work for them while we were at dinner. :p
About that time, the girl I’d been chatting with originally came back to find out where I was and told me I had to come play pool. I also needed a refill so hit up the bar and then headed over to play some pool. I actually played a ton of pool in college, going down just about every night for a couple years to the pool table in our residence hall for an hour or two. I even had my own pool cue for a long time. Not to mention that when I moved off-campus my last year, I bought a pool table for our place and played on it to the point where my friends wouldn’t allow me to play during parties because I wiped the floor with everyone while drinking copious amounts of alcohol and not really paying attention.
She wiped the floor with me and talked smack the whole time. It was awesome. lol. While I tend to get a little better the more I drink due to not second-guessing myself as much, she said she tends to get worse. So I got us another drink and set up for round two. hehe, sneaky sneaky. 😉 Round two went better for me, but if anything, the smack talk increased. I ended up winning, but honestly, I think she wasn’t really trying that round. It really didn’t matter at that point, I was smitten. Not only did she drink my usual drink, she rocked at pool and had the personality to talk smack while doing it.
Now, around this time, some of the other ladies came over to find us and who do we see walk in but our server from Gino’s. He came back and joined us for drinks and ended up telling us about an after-hours bar that we could hit up as this one was about to close as it was around 2.30am at this point. Somewhere along the way, the ladies had also picked up another guy in this bar and we all headed upstairs to find the new place. At this point, some of the ladies decided to call it a night and head back to their hotel. So the after-hours group consisted of myself, the two other guys and the last three of the Pampered Chef crew. Apparently the bar wasn’t too far away, so we all headed off on foot to find it.
I have to say, just walking around that area of Chicago at night was really cool. A lot of the buildings and architecture are just so vastly different from everything I’m used to. Chicago really is a beautiful place. Anyway, after a bit of walking, we found where we were headed: Streeter’s. Again, another bar that you get to by walking downstairs under something else. And what do I see the second I get downstairs but a beer-pong table with a group of people playing. lol. Then I walked around the corner to see Trivial Pursuit set up on the bar and people in the corner playing Wii Tennis on a big flat-screen. They even had a very nice pool table set up in the back. This place rocked. We all ordered a round of drinks and also did a round of Jameson shots before finding a table.
Now, as if this place wasn’t cool enough, I headed back to the bathroom only to find out that the men’s urinal was situated on the shared wall with the bar, right under a two-way mirror allowing you to do your business while watching everything going on in the bar. hehe, too funny. Not quite as epic as the machismo bar in Guanajuato, Mexico, where the urinal is actually built into the bar itself so you never have to get up, but for an American bar it was great.
Finally around 4am, the bar shut down and we were left without somewhere to continue our evening/morning/whatever. :p We started walking up Michigan since everyone’s hotel was in that direction. About the time we got near my hotel, one of the girls said they needed a bathroom so I took everyone up to my room. Now, I really should have taken a picture of my room as it was very cool, but I’ll just have to describe it instead. It had a HUGE bed that was supposed to be a King but had to have been bigger. They had a cool little chair in the corner with a footstool, a computer/work desk with chair, a 42″ flatscreen and a sweet bathroom. Since it was so big and comfy, we just hung out there for an hour or so. In doing so, the random guy we had picked up curled up on the floor and passed out. We made sure he was on his side, tried to give him a pillow but he wouldn’t move at all, then just went back to chatting.
Finally around 6am, the girls had to get back to their hotel as they had a full day of convention stuff to attend. We left the passed out guy in the room and the server and I walked the girls down to their hotel and dropped them off. I got asked if I was still leaving that morning and I decided that just wasn’t going to happen. First off, it was going to be close to 8am by the time I got back to my room, I was still a bit buzzed and I hadn’t slept at all. There was no way I was going to be checking out at noon and driving to Detroit like I had planned. So they told me to call them since I had their cards and we’d go out again the next night.
So when I finally got back to the Hard Rock, I went to the front desk and extended my stay. The guy at the desk asked me if I was having a good time in Chicago, to which I replied “Most definitely since I haven’t even gone to bed yet.” lol. He made a comment about knowing that Chicago had after-hours bars but that he didn’t know of any, so I told him about Streeter’s. He looked a little put-off by the fact that someone who hadn’t even been in town for 12 hours already knew about an after-hours bar. lol
So I finally headed back up to my room, made sure the guy on the floor was still breathing, sent out emails to the people I was supposed to meet over the next few days saying my plans had changed and trying to reschedule, then fell into bed fully clothed around 9am. At 11.30 I woke up to floor-guy getting up and waved at him. He said “Thanks”, I said “It was a blast. Stay safe.” and he cruised out the door. I was still way-tired, obviously, but hit the shower before crashing into the bed the right way for the night/afternoon/whatever and slept until about 2pm before waking up again.
So despite really wanting to just stay in bed (gee, can’t imagine why…), I got up, showered and hit the streets to run some errands. I had to get some razor blades as I was out, so I hit up the Walgreens next to the hotel. I found the blades in their usual plastic case with a lock on it like we have in San Diego and went to lift the door to grab a pack, but it was locked. In San Diego, the lock is usually there, but never actually locked for some reason, so this caught me off guard. One of the ladies there walked up to me and I asked if they had to open it. Valid question from my point of view since this was the first time I’d seen one locked. The lady gave me a look like I was an idiot and said “Yeah, that’s why it has a lock on it…” If I had been even halfway awake, I probably would have made a comment about what she could do with her keys and walked out. As it was, I just wanted my stuff so I could go eat. Seriously though, wth? Talk about bad customer service.
Anyway, I was supposed to meet one of the girls to do some shopping they needed to do and see some of the sights in the parks along Michigain Ave, so while I was waiting I stopped at the restaurant at the hotel and grabbed a drink (why not, right?) and some food and then headed towards their hotel. While I was there, I got a text from a friend saying “you alive?” lol. Barely.
So I met them at their hotel and we hit up some of the cheesy touristy shops so they could look for trinkets to take home and then headed off through the park areas. I have to say, some of these areas were so cool. Here’s some snapshots, but keep in mind there is so much more that I didn’t have a chance to shoot. Chicago really is a beautiful place.
These were these huge fountain structures with water coming down from the top. You can’t see it in the picture, but the inside walls also had images being shown on them of people’s faces. It was pretty cool. Tons of little kids were running in and around and getting nice and wet and some people were even being pushed/dragged fully-clothed under the waterfalls, kind of like the girl in this pic. hehe
They had areas with all kinds of different pieces of artwork, but this was the one I thought was the coolest due to the mirror-finish on it and its size.
And this would be an example of the cool architecture they use all over these parks. Honestly, I loved just walking around all the areas of Chicago I got to see and just looking at the buildings. We went thru a lot of the park areas in and around this before she had to jet to make it to their closing banquet. I have to say, the entire area along Michigan Ave is just a really cool place to walk around aimlessly. You might run the risk of getting lost, but at least it will be in a cool surrounding. lol
So I was told to be ready around 11pm because they were going to try to get people to go out again. I headed back to the hotel, checked my emails and adjusted my trip to Cedar Point to Sunday and then lay down to watch some TV. I so totally fell asleep. hehe. I woke up to a phone call asking what room I was in because they forgot. They hit my room, pulled out a bottle of Jack and we did some shots before heading off out into the Chicago night again. First up, Timothy O’Tooles again. We asked for a table this time as I was starving since I’d only had an appetizer at the hotel restaurant for lunch. We had been seated in the same room we were in the night before and who walks in but the waiter from then. I smiled and said “We’re baaackkk….” He was like “I know, what the heck!?” hehe.
After our first round of drinks and my chicken quesadilla (which was yummy), one of the girls found a tiny piece of glass in her drink. I’ve worked in restaurants before and that’s just not good. I told our waiter and he immediately ran back to have them burn the ice and clean out the box and then came back and told us he was comp’ing our bill. Good times. We were kind of killing time because the server from Gino’s was supposed to join us after he got off work, so we grabbed a pool table and played for a bit while loading up the jukebox with songs. I’m not sure when it happened, but those things got expensive. What the hell? You’d think a digitial jukebox would be cheaper than the old ones, but apparently not.
While we were waiting, who should appear but the guy that passed out on my floor! lol. He joined us and proceeded to tell us that after he left my hotel, he tried to walk back to his but ended up in some park just doing circles around the outside of it. hehe. Apparently he finally ran into a cab and had them take him back to his place. Too funny. Around that time, the server from Gino’s showed up as well and we hung out a bit while waiting for our songs to play before heading out and going back to Streeter’s again.
Ultimately, it ended up being quite the long night yet again and I really did have to leave the next day to make the rest of my trip happen at all. After making sure the ladies got back to their hotel, I hit the sack again and got up a few hours later to pack my stuff up and check out. After all the fun I’d had, I couldn’t leave without some kind of memento, so I asked if I could keep my room key and they said of course. hehe. Apparently they actually want you to keep it at the Hard Rock since it’s also a gift certificate. Keep that in mind folks.
So I packed up my truck and headed to meet them for lunch one last time before we all headed off. I ended up leaving around 3pm from Chicago, a tad later than would allow me to get to Detroit in any decent hour to do anything. lol. Oh well, I’ll just have to hit that next time. About an hour out of Chicago, I get a phone call. Apparently, one of the girls’ friends had booked them their train ticket for the wrong day. Not good. Luckily, I had all my luggage in the lock-box so had room to go pick them up and give them a lift to a town a bit north of Detroit where the train was taking the rest of them. Roughly six hours later, I dropped her off with her friend that had waited to take her the rest of the way home and headed off to get as close to my next destination as possible before getting too tired to drive. After all, I was supposed to spend the next afternoon at Cedar Point Amusement Park with Magickira and didn’t want to miss that. I have a thing for good rollercoasters, hehe.
So that’s Chicago. As you can see, not only is it an epicly long story deserving of its own post, it’s also a very eerie fate-filled tale if you stop and look at it all. If multitudes of things had happened just a bit differently, either none of this would have happened at all or it wouldn’t have been nearly as epic a tale as it turned out to be.
I definitely have to tip my hat to Fate on this one, that was one hell of a domino chain.