Green Bay and Door County

As previously mentioned…road trip to GB. In truth, I was not impressed with GB. The city was kind of lame. Not much nightlife, few tourist attractions, just kind of boring. After the Jake Owen concert, we wanted to grab some food and some beer. We were out at just before 11pm and, seriously, everything was closed. We did find this awesome sign….
Untitled

And eventually found a place open to midnight. We were the ONLY customers. We ate and got the hell out so the guy could close up and go home. It was fairly lame.

Friday morning, we got up and Elena and I headed out to Lambeau Field. It’s iconic. One of those things. Neither of us are huge football fans, but it seemed like something you should see. So off we went. Kind of a long story about bad signage, security who don’t know anything, and Lane and I ended up hopping fences and breaking in to Lambeau. Okay, we didn’t really break in, but it felt like it.
Untitled

Once we got inside and into the line, it was cool. We were going to do the tour then meet up with Nance and Ryan for lunch. Then when we got up there….turns out the tours were FULL. The next free tour was 3.5 hours away. No way. I mean, it would have been fine, but I am not waiting that long to tour a football stadium. Unless Tom Brady is giving the tour, but I doubted that was the case. So instead, we walked around and took pictures of ourselves AT the stadium. It was fine. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, that’s good enough, right? (Probably for everyone in the world except my Aunt Kate, right Sara?)

See? I was there.

We regrouped and decided that GB was lame enough we were going to drive up to Door County. We headed north and ended up in Sturgeon Bay. We had a nice lunch and then walked all over the cute little town, ducking into different shops and just hanging out. The town was so cute. Bought a few nice gifts…then we found a wine and olive oil shop. Um, awesome? Oh yes. They had free samples of everything. Olive oil. Cheese. Snacks. Wine. You could sample any of their wines, for free. Then they had a distillery sampler. I did this. For $5 you got to sample three distilled alcohols and you got a free shot glass. Seemed more than worth it to me. I tried cherry brandy, single malt whiskey, and cherry/orange bitters. Then I mixed the bitters with the whiskey for a down and dirty manhattan. It was good. Potent. After slugging those shots, I think I was a little tipsy. Good thing I wasn’t driving.

Sturgeon Bay is proud of its heritage and there were fish (presumably sturgeon) sculptures all over this town. Finally I decided we had to have a pic of at least one, so here is Nancy and the sturgeon.

No one really had a plan, so I said, we couldn’t come all the was to GB without, you know, actually seeing Green Bay, and since Door County is an isthmus that sits between the bay and Lake Michigan, I said we should see both.

First stop….Lake Michigan.
P7250436

Of course since it is the end of July, it should be cloudy and about 68 degrees….yeah, it was cold. We were all in jackets. Crazy weather. But it was still amazing. Beautiful.

P7250439

I wanted a nice picture of all of us. Luckily Ryan has crazy long arms, so he did a nice selfie with the camera.
P7250442
On the shores of Lake Michigan.

And then Nancy grabbed my camera and took this.
P7250445
Wow! I love this so much. My new favorite photo of us.

P7250446
My toes in Lake Michigan. That one’s for Kelly.

P7250450
Please note the choppy water and crashing waves. I was wearing knee length capris, but the waves were crashing so hard it was splashing up to my thighs. I was wet by the time we left the beach.

Next stop….Green Bay.
P7250456
It was just about sunset, so we got there just in time. Note how calm the water is. The bay is protected, so the water was super calm, even though we were only about 10 miles from the Lake on the other side. Weather was the same, but the water was very different.

P7250458
These photos were taken in Egg Harbor. At the Egg Harbor Marina. Do you see those big rocks? Well, they were perfect for climbing and seeing the bay, but they also housed giant nests of oversized SPIDERS. Freaked me the fuck out. No kidding. I almost had a meltdown. Surrounded by thousands of giant spiders. Not cool. I was not enjoying this at all.

Elena finally found me a spot that was spider free. So she said. I’m guessing it wasn’t, but she said it was and I chose to believe her. There was no beach so you had to climb down the rocks to get to the water and I wanted to dip my toes into the bay.
P7250463
Notice my hand resting on the rock? I’m barely bending. Those rocks were HUGE. It was an effort to climb up and down them to get to the water, but I’ve officially dipped my toes in Green Bay, so I’m happy. And no spiders came near me.

Then, as we’re walking back, Ryan kicks a spider web. On purpose, “just to see what would happen”. Freaking boys. Of course the spiders freak out and start running madly all over the place. AT ME. I was screaming and running. Not cool, Ryan. Elena finally had to tell him to knock it off, because I was not enjoying this trip to spiderville.

P7250466
Our group shot in front of the bay.

Before we left, a woman was fishing and caught a little fish. She said what kind but I can’t remember. She told us she was going to feed it to the gulls.
So she tosses this fish on the sidewalk. This giant seagull lands and the poor fish is flopping desperately, then:

P7250470

He picked him up…and swallowed him whole. It was crazy. Impressive, even. Circle of life, I guess.
Here’s the victor, digesting his meal.
P7250471

We left spiderville and drove the hour and a halfish back to GB. At some point, I forced everyone to stop at an historical marker. I love these things. I always stop on road trips to see things you never expect. We stopped at a cool cemetery and learned that Door County has a strong Belgian population, but that was not as cool as this.

Untitled

That’s right, we literally drove halfway to Santa’s house. Take that. Incredibly awesome if you ask me. I wished it weren’t cloudy so we might have seen the North Star at a 45º angle, but alas, that’s what happens when you’re just rolling with it.

When we got back, we rapid-changed and ended up cabbing all over town, in order to end up at a karaoke bar walking distance from the hotel. Whoops.

But karaoke was the point. Elena had it on her bucket list. Somewhere in the mess of my photos, there is a video of her singing but I am not uploading it for many reasons (I can’t find it, it’s long, I need to upload it on YouTube first, I don’t have her permission) take your pick. But if you want to see it, just ask, it is on my phone.

I also got Nancy to sing, she and I did a duet of Wrong Song by Rayna James and Juliette Barnes (from the TV series Nashville). I was Rayna (the amazing Connie Britton, who I might actually like to be) and it was fun. She almost chickened out, but she had to go up. I couldn’t sing both parts. I physically dragged her on the stage. There is also a video of that somewhere. Ask Lane. And I was wearing a dress. True story.

Mostly we just drank, hung out with the locals, and made fun of Jesus. Oh, did I forget to mention that Jesus was there? A young, dark haired man, was at the bar, wearing a caftan and birkenstocks. Couldn’t have looked more like Christ…well, unless he had a beard. Maybe it’s true and he’s come back. Not sure why he’d choose karaoke at Mikey’s bar in Green Bay, WI, but who am I to judge our Lord and Savior? Which is exactly why, at the end of the night, when we were about to walk back to the hotel, when he came outside and asked me to dance, I accepted. (No one thought to take a picture, but this happened). Somehow we drifted into the road. And that is the story of how I danced in the street with Jesus Christ. Because one day I want to get into Heaven and I figure St. Peter will appreciate this story.

Untitled

Elena grabbed this gem just before we were leaving, mere minutes before my dance with Christ. (That gets funnier every time I say it).

The next day it was up and at ’em as we headed for home. We had long since planned the long route home, in order to detour past the Mouse House Cheese House. My stories about this place are always at the end of super long blogs, but oh well. That link will take you to my last visit there. This visit was similar and no less awesome. That may well be my favorite place in all Wisconsin. The food, the cheese, the fudge, the cheese. It’s heaven in Windsor, WI.

That’s a lot of religious references in this decidedly secular trip. All in all, it was a fun couple of days and good to go away.

I first started writing this post about a month ago (Ha! Exactly one month ago, August 18 is when I started this draft), and hope I didn’t forget anything essential. My life has gone a bit sideways since then, but that makes it all the more important to get this published. When I look back on the summer of 2014, I will probably think of my mom and her illness. But I don’t want to forget Elena turning 35 and our fun getaway to Green Bay.

And dancing with the Son of God.

Alone With Him

This year, for her birthday, Lane found out that a country band she likes, The Cadillac Three (TC3), were opening for singer Jake Owen, ON her actual birthday. The catch was, they were performing in Green Bay, WI. She asked me, her sister (Nancy) and Nancy’s husband, Ryan, to road trip with her.

*I* was super excited. I am a Jake Owen fan. Elena didn’t know much about him and Nance and Ryan don’t even like country music. An odd group, but still, it was to celebrate the birthday of one of our favorite people. We drove to GB the day of the show, checked into the hotel, and then headed out to the show.

It was at the Resch Center, the big arena next door to Lambeau Field. Our seats were pretty far away, but directly facing the stage. Imagine, for the locals, being in the Xcel Center, and the stage is at one end of the arena, and you are at the other, then up two levels. This is important, because I got a new camera for Christmas and this was my first chance to test out the amazing zoom.

We walked in and TC3 was coming on the stage. On my phone it was 6:57, the show was set to start at 7. Apparently these guys are crazy prompt. They were a rocking good time, super entertaining. I was not a fan when we went in, but now? I love them. High energy, fun, great sound. It was so loud it almost hurt to listen to, but even so, they were terrific.

P7240376
There they are. Notice how it seems like we’re pretty close? We aren’t. Amazing zoom this camera has.

Then there was a second opener, Parmalee. I do not like them. During their set, we wandered around the Resch center for food and beer. Ryan took a photo of me and Lane, since it was her actual birthday and all…

P7240388

 

I love that picture!

Finally, after what seemed like a really long time, Jake Owen hit the stage.

P7240394
He popped up right in front of us. That’s without the crazy zoom. And blurry because I was excited to see him right there. And surprised.

Then he walked through the crowd up to the stage.

P7240398
I know, it seems like we are super close, but we weren’t. And yes, he is barefoot. Was the whole concert.

P7240406

I mean, seriously? When I got home I told my mom, (who gave me the camera) “I LOVE my new camera!” Because I never would have gotten these amazing shots otherwise.
P7240410

I have a bunch of video, too, but I am not posting those because it’s a pain and really, no one really cares but me. But if you’re curious, ask me in person and I’ll show you.

P7240422

About the show….this guy was AMAZING. Honestly, I liked his music. But I probably wouldn’t have set out to see him in concert if this opportunity hadn’t come up. Now? I am a HUGE Jake Owen fan. He is an incredible live performer. One of the best concerts I’ve ever seen in my life. By my count, this was around the 40th concert I’ve ever seen, and very possibly the best one. This guy is magnetic, he drew in the crowd and every person in there was having fun. He would allow nothing less. He was interacting with the crowd (he kept reaching down and stealing people’s phones and taking selfies and giving the phones back, it was so cool) and had such high energy.

Then at one point, the music started and he wasn’t on stage….where could he be?
P7240432
Oh, there he is. On our level, IN THE AUDIENCE, in a random section. Just showed up next to fans and stood there, singing the whole song. The whole time he was twisting around so everyone nearby got a chance to be in a photo with him. It was amazing.

Then when the song was over, he walked through the crowd back to the stage. On his way, he saw a mom with her two little girls. They were small…maybe 6 and 8? He grabbed the girls by the hands and invited them up on stage. The mom got to go, too. But he had the girls go around the stage and play instruments with his band. He gave them drumsticks, then, he brought them center stage and knelt down next to them, and sang to them. Then he gave the older one his mic and let her sing part of the song. I was melting. It was so cute. Mom was on the edge of the stage taking pictures the whole time. Then when the song ended, he walked them back to mom and knelt down between them, with his arm around each of them, and let mom take a picture of him with the girls. It was so cute and he was singing the whole time, so the concert didn’t drag, it was just what he was doing during that song.

P7240429
He was truly incredible. I want to go see him again, that’s how good he was. When the show was over, I said to Nancy and Ryan (who are NOT country fans) “what did you think?” Ryan said, “it was awesome, I think I’m his fan now”. Nancy said she loved it, too. Neither one had high expectations, but both were blown away. Elena thought it was incredible. And it was. I cannot say enough good things about this show.

And I will end with one more thing. Jake Owen has the whitest teeth of possibly any human being on earth. They were blindingly white, and since he’s got a huge and infectious smile, we saw those pearly whites often. I kept saying that night “man his teeth were so white” and I don’t want to forget, so I am including it here.

Now the very last thing….
This is my favorite photo of the night.
P7240427Next up is a post of the rest of our trip to GB, but this is the concert recap. 

 

Just Say Hello

I have posts for Green Bay coming, but I need to upload all the photo and video. I know, but reading in the sunshine has just seemed more important. However, to whet your appetite for this exciting weekend adventure, I will share a small story.

So we are in Green Bay for about 20 min, all checked into the hotel. Elena and I are just chilling in our room, before getting ready to head out to the concert. The room phone rings. I assume it is Nancy or Ryan, Lane’s sister and brother-in-law, who are traveling with us. Because I am a funny girl, I answer the phone, using my sexiest voice, I say, “hello, you have reached 1-800-PhoneSex, how can I help you”? Whomever was on the other end suddenly hung up without saying a word. And Lane is freaking out, saying how that had better Nance and Ryan.

I’m laughing, because it seemed funny. A few seconds later, the phone rang again. This time as I reached to picked it up, Elena yelled “Just say HELLO!” So I did. And a guy said “Hello, this is the front desk calling. We know you just checked in and we wanted to make sure everything is alright with the room.”

Oh.

God.

I felt like a complete idiot. I pretended to be a phone sex operator for the front desk of the hotel.

So I tell him everything is fine with the room, then I covered the receiver and said to Lane, “um, it’s the front desk.” And SHE looked embarrassed. Fair enough. After all, it was in her name, they had no idea who *I* was.

Then there was a brief pause on the phone and the guy started….laughing. He was laughing, I figured he must know it was me the whole time. It was so embarrassing, but what can you do? So I laughed and said, “so, did you enjoy that?”

And he hung up.

I was kind of astounded, because that is piss poor customer service, but then, I suppose laughing AT one of your guests is pretty bad, too, so he probably took the easiest route. And it’s not like I’d complain, because who wants to explain that?

A while later, Nance and Ryan came to get us to head out for the concert. First thing I said was “have I got a story for you!” They were a bit surprised, as they’d only left us an hour ago, how could I possibly have come up with a story during that time? And I proceed to tell them this entire story, because who doesn’t want to hear how I made a fool of myself?

They were quiet, mostly, during the story, but Nancy looked uncomfortable. During the telling, Elena was piping in how she wanted me to answer the phone normally. It was funny, we were all laughing. I mean, it’s one of those things.

Then, there was a beat, and Ryan said, “yeah, it was me. Both times.”

WHAT?

I mean, I totally thought it was, the first time. And he told me how after I answered the phone that way, he had to hang up because he was laughing so hard. Then he decided to mess with me and called back pretending to be the front desk. He said that after I asked him (as the front desk person) if he enjoyed it, he got to laughing so hard he had to hang up again so as to not give away his game.

I cracked up.

Ryan is not a guy I know well, but after that, I think we’ll be friends for life. I mean, anyone who can pull one over on me, and make me laugh about it?

Well played Ryan, well played.

Archer City

It’s a little town in big ‘ole Texas. It stands at less than 2,000 people. One of those people is Western author, writer of Lonesome Dove and Terms of Endearment, Larry McMurtry.  I’ve never read anything by Larry McMurtry. However, someday, I will travel to his hometown just to visit his bookstore.

When I was a little girl, I used to believe that Heaven was just beyond the clouds and the streets were paved with gold and angels were everywhere, wearing white robes, with big, fluffy, white wings. As I’ve grown, my belief in Heaven itself hasn’t changed, but my ideas of it have. Now, I believe Heaven is your true happiness. Each person gets their own perfect Heaven. And mine?

Mine looks like the inside of Larry McMurtry’s bookstore in north Texas.

photo

Yes, that is it exactly. My Heaven. Books, as far as the eye can see. So many that they overflow off the shelves and tables, onto the floor. Stacks of books in a never ending supply. Beautiful, organized, chaos. The only thing missing is the easy chair in the corner.

I just stumbled across this while reading online. It’s somewhat miraculous to find a photo of your Heaven displayed for all the world to see. I never even knew this existed before today, but now, now that I know? I must go there. When I finally take that cross-country road trip, this will definitely be one of the stops.

Even I didn’t know that I’ve always wanted to visit Archer City, TX. The things you can learn without even trying…

Chicago 2011: Take 2

Well, because I clearly didn’t have enough fun the first time around, I decided to take a second trip to Chicago, only three months later. This time, I went AGAIN for a concert, or three, and traveled with different friends, Tom and Mindy. Oh, and I mean different as in, not Kelly, not different as in, unusual or strange.

Also different, this time we road tripped. I think gas was fairly reasonable way back then (only six months ago, now!) and we borrowed my mom’s car. Yes, three adults who own 3-4 cars between them borrowed a car from my mommy. It’s odd, get over it.

There’s something bizarrely enticing about a road trip, even just a straight highway shot to Chicago. When I picked up my travel companions that first morning, Mindy said to me “would you mind if Tom drove?” I was so relieved. I thought that because it was “my” car, they’d expect me to drive. I couldn’t have wanted to drive any less. Tom was happy to drive and off we went.
photo

Not only was he happy to drive, he actually drove the whole way, there and back. It was awesome. For most of the ride, Mindy and I cuddled up in the backseat, laughing and talking, while Tom had sole control of the radio. It was perfection for us all. We actually got a later start than anticipated, and we stopped for lunch at Applebee’s in Wisconsin Dells. Mindy and I had a beer, while our chauffeur had coffee. Life’s unfair sometimes.

On our way out of the Dells, we did stop once to take this photo.
photo

It was just so over-the-top that we couldn’t help ourselves, plus, who doesn’t want to stop at a place called the “Goody Goody Gum Drop”?

We drove on, laughing and talking, when suddenly, in the middle of Nowheresville, WI, we were hit with a beautiful weather phenomenon.
photo

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know how much I enjoy rainbows. I take pictures of them every time I see them, even if I’m driving a car. This one was especially vivid on that gray day, but then, we went around the curve and found:
photo

Yikes, right?!? You can actually see every single color. (note the green trees)

But, as we kept driving:
photo

BAM! We could suddenly see the whole thing. It was so beautiful. Boded well for our trip, I think.

Planning on our part wasn’t so stellar, because the concerts we were attending were both on Friday night and we were still driving. Then, of course, we rolled into the outer limits of Chicago just in time for rush hour.
photo

Yes, I know that pic is terrible, but we could finally see the skyline and it seemed so close. I think it was about an hour later we actually hit the city limit. Chicago’s big, y’all.

By the time we found the hotel, got checked in, it was time to go. I dropped my things, slapped on some deodorant, changed my shirt, plopped the cowboy hat (that I had bought three months earlier, the first time I was in Chicago)
photo

on my head and ran out the door. I was a bit behind schedule. Seems to be a Chicago thing. I was attending a Christian Kane show and Tom and Mindy were headed to the Avett Brothers. My concert started first and it was only an opening, but it was at a bar, so I was hanging there until they showed up, after their show. I took a cab ride to the venue, my first ever cab ride by myself. Crap! That’s not true. I took a cab in Prague from the airport to the hotel. Never mind. However, I was plenty nervous, and it didn’t help that my cab driver didn’t speak English and seemed confused by my requesting to go to this bar. We started to drive and the neighborhood got worse and worse and worse and I started to think I was going to become a headline on the Chicago morning news.

I distracted myself, thusly:
photo

and, again, I know that photo sucks, but there was no light in the cab or on the streets of the rundown, shoddy neighborhoods we were driving through.

At this point, I’m going to jump ahead in time, the concert itself will be a separate post that I will later link back to, here.

Once Tom and Mindy met up with me, HOURS later, I was pretty, um, happy? Many beers had gone into making me this way and the three of us chatted, talking about our respective shows. It was wonderful (and a long, long, long time since this has happened) that they didn’t have to get up to kids and the three of us could be out on the town.

We left Joe’s Bar and headed back into town, finally stumbling into this Irish pub. It was packed in there, but we squeezed into a spot by the bar. I asked if I could buy the round, to thank them for traveling with me and Tom for driving. No problem. They said I didn’t have to, but I wanted to. *Note to self: If you’re going to generously buy drinks, don’t offer in the heart of Chicago* We each got a beer and a shot. Three beers, three shots, total. Price? $55. When the girl said the price, I said, “what?” thinking I hadn’t heard right, because it was loud in there. Oh no, I heard right. Honestly, if each item were $8 a piece, which is very high, that would only be $48, so…wow. Just wow.

We had our drinks and took our shot (it’s tradition) and then we were all starving. The bartender gave us directions to the only place left in all of Chicago that was still serving food. (It was maybe 1:00am at this point). We walked and walked and thought we got lost, but suddenly, there it was. An all-night diner. There are few things in this world more delicious than drunk eggs and hash browns, I promise you. After breakfast/midnight snack, we were suddenly exhausted. Of course, it was almost 3 am! We headed back to the hotel to crash.

We stayed at a lovely hotel, the Allerton, right on Michigan Ave. In fact, this hotel:
photo

is directly across the street from this building:
photo

which I had learned, the first time I was in Chicago, is the only store along the Magnificent Mile that actually turns a profit. The rents are so high on that street that all the other businesses are just for show or just used as advertising, the companies lose money on them. But, Apple, makes money. Shocker. I shared my knowledge with my travel companions, who wanted to know how I knew so much about Chi-town, I explained the beauty that is the trolley to them. The morning after the concerts, they were up with the sun. Seriously, I got up at 10am and they were up, dressed and had been out for coffee already. They wanted to tour, but I didn’t want them to wait for me, so I sent them off to buy trolley tickets while I got ready. We agreed to meet up for lunch.

Lunch. You wouldn’t think this would be the highlight of the trip, but it’s damn close. I am going to call upon all of my expertise in prose to give this the credit it is due. We were talking about where to go for lunch. Before leaving for this trip, Tom’s cousin, Rocco, had made him a list of places to eat in Chicago. Apparently, Rocco visits regularly and was full of tips. Tom read us some options from the list and Mindy and I both agreed that a hot beef sandwich sounded good. Tom looked up the recommended place and said we could walk.

We should have taken a cab.

It was very, very far, but we still walked and walked. We were headed to a hole-in-the-wall called Al’s. Now, I happen to be the progeny of a lifelong hole-in-the-waller (thanks, Dad!), so this does not surprise me. In fact, I’m acquainted with the loosely held secret that dives often have the best food, and they are not expensive. We finally arrived at Al’s and it was tiny. Miniscule. So small I couldn’t believe it was actually the place. We went in and read the short menu. Our options were limited. I went first and ordered a traditional hot beef sandwich. Dude behind the counter said, “you want peppers?” I, of course, had no idea, so I asked what was usual. He nodded and said, “yep.” And that’s how I got a typical hot beef sandwich. Tom and Mindy ordered the same. I don’t remember if we got sides or not. Literally cannot remember. Granted, it was a while ago, but mostly it was because this sandwich eclipsed memories of all other food.

Here’s the skinny. They take a hoagie roll. They dip the roll itself in hot au jus. They pile on beef that has been soaking in au jus. They smother it in peppers and more peppers and then they give it to you. It comes out in a wrapper, hot and steaming, but a soggy, drippy, soaky mess. Sounds appealing, right? No, of course not. It sounds, and frankly, looks, disgusting. I distinctly remember saying, “I don’t know how to eat this.” The bread gets so soggy from the au jus that the meat is falling out and it’s so hot it is steaming and I picked mine up and it started to fall apart. Wonderful.

Then, before we could take a bite, Tom wanted proof we’d taken one of Rocco’s recommendations, which is how we got this:
photo

And that is one of maybe three tables in this giant restaurant. No bites had been had yet, we’re just holding our sandwiches and it was burning my fingers it was so hot. Finally, I just took a huge bite.

Never had I had a sandwich like this. It was…delicious is too tame. Magnificent? Superb? Incredible? Delectable? Mouthwatering? Scrumptious? Yes, that’s it. The sandwich was scrumptious. All the individual parts combined to make a sandwich bursting with flavor, the peppers made it hot, but not too hot to eat, they actually added flavor. It was so good, I wanted another, even though it is a TON of meat and I was full. It was so good that, all these months later, I’d drive back to Chicago just to get one. I rarely make sweeping statements like this, but it was truly one of the best things I have ever eaten.

You can ask Elena, later that day, I talked to her on the phone and treated her to a detailed description of how perfect this sandwich was. I think my parents also got the full version. If you ask me about this particular trip, that’s the first thing I’ll tell you about. In fact, I’ve elevated this sandwich to such proportions that it’s become synonymous with Chicago in my mind. I love Al’s hot beef! (That was ridiculous, right? Who waxes on about a sandwich? Trust me, it was that good. If you’ve eaten there and had one, I want to hear from you!)

After that, we decided to cruise the city, doing the tourist bit. Unfortunately, Tom and Mindy had bought passes for the trolley, so they were excited to use them. I planned on about 2 more hours in the city before leaving for my next concert, so I wasn’t wasting my money on that, but we wanted to hang together. So, after much discussion, we decided to sneak me on to a trolley. No kidding, we had an actual conversation about how it would work best. It ended up going like this. We step on in a line, Mindy in front, me in the middle, Tom in the rear. Mindy flashes her pass, I am studiously looking in my bag, like I’m searching for mine, and Tom stays close and then flashes his pass. The hope was that if we kept moving, the driver won’t notice us and just catch the passes flashed his way. We tried…and it worked! I got on for free.

We rode inside, because it was full, but eventually made it up top. Here’s a bit of a tip: weather in Chicago is vastly different between June and October (it was actually October 1st that day) and it was FREEZING up top. But you can’t really see anything from inside, you can only hear. We huddled up top, like it was the dead of winter, it was that cold. Walking around on the ground, it was jeans/sweatshirt weather, but atop a moving bus? Damn cold.

We visited the start of Route 66, and got our pictures taken. Somehow, we got a lovely photo of:

Tom and Liv Route 66

That’s right, Tommy and me. I’m not sure how, but there is no picture of Tom and Mindy at this site. It’s strange and one of only three pictures (that I know of!) in existence that contain only the two of us. Maybe we’ll add to our collection at my party this weekend! BTW, I really love this picture, in case that wasn’t clear.

We stopped at the architechtural museum and I showed them the scale model of Chicago. Like the first time, I still thought this was pretty cool. Then, we walked over to the Bean. I kept telling them how cool it was. Of course, you can’t really understand it until you’ve seen it. No amount of describing or pictures make it as cool as it actually is.
photo

Directly underneath the Bean.
photo

Underneath with zoom.
photo

Underneath, but looking at the sides, not straight up.
photo

A shot of the three of us.
photo

My favorite Bean shot, because it *almost* looks like a real photo and not a reflection.
photo

Cool angle from the end, with the buildings in the background.

Okay, maybe this is my favorite Bean photo…
photo

With the exception of the statue glinting off Tom’s head, that’s pretty perfect!

When we were walking through the gardens, on our way back from the Bean, Mindy mentioned she wanted a nice picture of her and Tom, obviously. Now, Tom is fairly notorious (according to Mindy) for not smiling in pictures. I never seem to have that problem with him. (see: all the pictures of him in this post). So, I positioned them in a lovely garden and told Tommy, “smile”:

Tom and Mindy Chicago

Isn’t that fantastic? Mindy said it is one of her favorite pictures of the two of them. It even made their Christmas card this year. I am so honored.

After that, I mentioned I should be heading back. I said I was going to take a cab. Tom said “let’s just walk” and I said it was a long walk back to the hotel. They said they were ready to go back. Mindy suggested taking the trolley back, because there were things they hadn’t seen. I was hesitant, but it was an hour before I thought I needed to leave, so I hopped on that transporfuckingtation one more time. You’d really think I had learned something the first time as it took over two hours to get back to the hotel. WTF?

On the way, though, I did get a clear shot of Buckingham Fountain, which I missed the first time around. For those who don’t know, this is the exact fountain filmed at the start of the credits for “Married…With Children”. Remember it now?
photo

We were riding up top of the coldest bus on earth (why not go inside? because you can’t see, damn it, and we’re Minnesotans) and I was getting increasingly more agitated. Not only was I on a time schedule, but I had a 3.5 hour drive before getting to my concert and I didn’t know where I was going. If I got lost…I’d miss the show. Can you imagine going all that way and missing the show?

However, when we finally got to our stop, there was a bit of a surprise.
photo

A giant statue of Marilyn Monroe. Now, you can see from the people how big that thing is. It was not there the first time I passed through, three months earlier. Weird? Yes. The driver was actually telling us why it’s there, but I was so focused on getting back to my hotel I didn’t hear a word.

When I got in the door, I grabbed my stuff, threw it in bags and was running out the door. It was about 4:30pm. The concert started at 8pm, 3.5 hours away. You do the math.

Then, they had to bring my car from valet. It took almost 15 minutes. Then, the valet guy wants me to pay for it, right then. I refused. I tried explaining that I wasn’t leaving permanently, just for the night and my party was staying at the hotel. He wasn’t buying it. Then he called my room to verify and there was no one there! Turns out, after I left, Tom and Mindy switched rooms to a king sized bed, rather than two queens, so it looked like we checked out and were scamming them. Of course, I was about to lose it and I practically yelled at this poor guy and then got in my car and drove away. Why bother me? Our room was booked with a credit card, it isn’t like they can’t just charge that if I never come back?

I was on my way…it was 5:00. Then I missed my exit to get to the freeway. I had to double back and try again but through Chicago traffic. Then I was finally on the interstate and missed my exit to change freeways and be in the right direction – as it was, I was headed to Nashville, completely opposite of where I was going (Illiopolis, IL). I turned around again and got it straightened out. Once I was on the road, officially, it was 5:30pm.
photo

It was a beautiful night for a drive, I can’t really argue with that. This was 5:30 pm.

Three hours and 15 minutes, according to the GPS, provided I didn’t get lost or miss any more exits. And only 2.5 hours until the show. NOT GOOD. I started driving like a bat out of hell. No kidding, I was driving 95 mph for most of the drive. Not even being dramatic. I figured I’d rather get a $300 speeding ticket than miss this show (I know, nice logic). I was shaking and tried hard to calm myself down. I talked to Elena on the phone (yep, while speeding down an unfamiliar highway at tragically high speeds) and she calmed me a bit.
photo

6:30 pm.
photo

7:30 pm.

You’ll notice that at 30 minutes before the show, I was in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, the show was in the middle of nowhere, so it seemed like I was on track. I will be detailing the rest of the drive and concert in another post, here.

Let’s just say, that it was a good concert. I spent the night in a conference center in Decatur, IL. When I got back to my hotel it was 2am. I hadn’t eaten since the hot beef sandwich at 12:30, 13.5 hours earlier. There was certainly no time to stop on the hectic drive and the only “food” at the venue was dude out behind the barn, with grill, pulling meat out of coolers. Nope, you cannot make this up.

When I checked into the hotel I said to the girl, “is there ANY chance, that there is a place that serves food nearby? I will even settle for a 24-hour gas station, if they have snacks.” She said that it was a “college town” and that the local pizza joint delivered until 3am. Hallelujah! I found a movie on tv and ordered pizza. They delivered my pizza about 2:45 am. I had to walk through the whole conference center to the lobby to get it. This place was huge. No exaggerating, from the room, down the elevator, to the lobby, took me five solid minutes of walking. This place was HUGE.

The next morning, I was up at 7:45am to be on the road by 8:30. I didn’t want to drive so crazy on the way back and I needed to stop for gas and breakfast. It ended up that I got back to the Allerton just before noon to pick up Tom and Mindy. Tom agreed to drive (luckily, I was all “drive”-d out) and we started our six hour drive home. 2.5 days of travel and I spent about 20 of those hours in the car, driving. I’m such a trooper.

On the way home (and, dear GOD, if you’ve stuck it out this long, I’m impressed) we stopped for lunch at the MouseHouse Cheese House. Nope, didn’t make that up. It’s a real place in Wisconsin. Windsor, WI to be specific. It was one of the best parts of the journey. They had beer and wine for sale, souvenirs, both tacky and nice, and food. Lots of food. They had a full scale deli. They made their own cheese, dozens of flavors of cheese and they would let you sample anything you wanted. They made their own cheese curds, free samples. They made their own fudge, free samples. We spent a ton of time just sampling food. I was practically full just from the samples, and I still got a fresh deli sandwich, roast beef and onion with homemade horseradish mustard. It was wonderful. Not an Al’s hot beef, but still, the sandwiches on this trip really rocked my world. It was also good for souvenirs. I brought my folks different flavors of fudge and different flavored cheese curds as a thank you for letting me use their car.

Before we left, I had to get a shot of this place, because you’d never believe it otherwise.

photo

It was cheesy (pun intended) but one of the more entertaining parts of the trip. A classic example of why you should travel by car whenever possible. You’ll notice the things they are most proud of: Cheese Beer Gifts Fudge. Pretty much sums it up.

The rest of the drive home, the three of us just chatted in the car. We ended up talking about how Tom and Mindy’s relationship started. I met them just a couple months after they started dating, but they kept it a secret because they worked together. I knew the basics of the story, but this time around, I got to hear all the details. Mindy did most of the telling, but I kept interrupting to ask Tom questions. He was answering me monosyllabically and I finally said to him, “you don’t want to be having this conversation, do you?” And he replied, “do I have a choice?” Ah, it’s good to have smart friends. He did not, and after eleven and a half years of friendship (then – we’ll hit twelve in April!!!), I think it was high time I heard the nitty gritty details. It’s nice to learn new things.

Somehow, in the two days since we left, the trees had really turned (reference rainbow pictures above), which is how our drive home ended up looking more like this:
photo

and this:
photo

and it was scenically beautiful.

The friends, the conversation, the experience, and the fun were nonstop entertainment and I have so many terrific memories from this trip. I feel lucky to have friends like these two and that I am able to share these memories with them.

Chicago 2011: Take 1

This is a bit out of date. I visited Chicago with Kelly in June of last year (yes, nine months ago, what’s it to ya?).

When we got back, I posted this, reminding myself of the things I wanted to post. I’m glad I did that, because I still recall what to write about. I also posted this, a preview.  At what point does it become absurd to blog about something that’s over? Nine months could be on the cusp, but there is a method to my madness.

Here we go:

5) NKOTBSB

The whole point of the trip was to see this concert. The day of, Kelly was growing more and more excited. When we finally arrived at the show, we were so early we just wandered around the grounds. Eventually, we saw fans watching the tour bus area. A bunch of BSBers were out walking around (Read Kelly’s blog here if you want the details).

Mostly, though, it was just standing around in a clump of crazy fans, clinging to a chain link fence, salivating that they might get to see someone. With 45 minutes left until showtime, I was getting bored. Finally, I turned to Kelly and said, “I think we should have a sing along. What song do you think everyone knows?”

She laughed, of course. I followed that with, “I vote This Land is Your Land.”

Finally, Joe McIntyre came out and the crowd went wild. I was so happy to recognize someone.
photo

That’s really him. I swear. You should have heard the screams, then you’d believe me.
photo

Don’t worry, the 12 year old is only holding that beer for me so I can take the picture.
photo

It was not the best show I’ve ever seen. Mostly because of the BSB portion. I never knew them or was a fan at all, so I really couldn’t have cared less and they were on the stage a lot. Okay, probably only 50% of the time, but come on.
photo

I really liked the intro, though.
photo

And the ending was pretty cool. What I remember most from this concert is the crazy camera game. My battery was dying. Kelly’s memory card was full. I was snapping photos with my iPhone and she was videoing, while piecing together our two cameras (luckily, we have the same camera) to get one working camera. Nutso.

Also, I remember, quite strongly, that the beers cost $9. I didn’t even have one, but every time Kelly did she’d say, “nine dollars for a twelve ounce beer” I think she had 6 or so of them, so I heard her say that, well, 6 or so times.

4) Transporfuckingtation

Well, now, we’re going to back up a bit, to earlier that same day. We were touring around the city, seeing sights. We were on our awesome trolley.
photo

This was the best deal in the city. We paid $35 for three days and could hop on or off whenever we wanted. Amazing. We saw the whole city this way. We actually used this as transportation. Need to hit the other side of town? Great, hop on.
photo
photo
photo

The day of the concert, we saw some fun stuff and then figured we ought to head back to the hotel to get ready. We hopped on the trolley at the nearest stop.

Unfortunately, this makes a LOT of stops. Which, natch, takes a LOT of time. So, there we were, two girls on a bus. Sitting up top in the sunshine.
photo

(btw, I lost those shades a few weeks later and am STILL sad about it)

Suddenly, I can feel Kelly growing more and more agitated. It’s taking too long. It’s 4pm and the concert starts at 7pm. She wants off this bus. She actually said, “I want off this bus”. Maybe she said trolley.

Then it was, “this transporfuckingtation is taking too long”. And I about died. Yes, it was taking a long time, a very long time, but transporfuckingtation? That’s not even a word!

3) It’s a dry town. (Miller’s Pub)

photo

This pub was like four steps from the door of our hotel. We stopped there several times and it always seemed to be closed. People at the hotel kept recommending we go there, so it wasn’t closed permanently, but it was never open.

So we asked for a liquor store. We got directions. Couldn’t find the store. Kept walking. Couldn’t find any liquor stores. At the end of the first day, we found a convenience store that sold beer.

The next day, more directions, more looking, more walking, no liquor store. Finally, Kelly looks at me, point blank and said, “is this a dry town?”

The night of the concert, suddenly, miraculously, Miller’s was open and we were able to go inside and drink it up, Chicago style. We actually met the owner of the bar who was kind enough to buy us a drink. We met this lovely gay couple who were wildly entertaining.
photo

They talked us into shots, and then when Kelly wouldn’t take hers, they said, “pussy up, girl” which might be my favorite phrase of the trip, if I weren’t traveling with Kelly, who is full of fun sayings. (Wait for #2 and #1). And, as a fun side note, today, nine months later, I am wearing the same shirt as in that picture. What are the odds?

Finally, on our last day in Chicago, we were headed back to the hotel to drop off packages before heading out to tour again. Having given up the hunt for booze in Chi-town, we turned the corner on to our block and lo and behold, there was that damn liquor store we’d been searching for all along.
photo

This weird dude was actually kind of creepy and forced his way into our photo, but we really wanted proof that there is at least one liquor store in all of Chicago.

2) “I Love Black People.”

This one still makes me laugh. We were at Miller’s Pub, the night of the concert and we were drinking. In walks a tall dude in a basketball cap and when I say tall, I mean TALL. If I remember correctly, he said he was 6’11”. Kelly, being maybe 5′ 2″ had to get a photo. We approached him and asked. He thought it was weird. It was weird. But she’s so short and he was so tall, and he finally agreed.

Kelly and Talls

(Right?)

As we walked away from this nice boy, Kelly looked at me and said, “I love black people”. Just like that. Like saying “I love cheese”. Again, I almost bust a gut at her deadpan gift for delivering the one liners. And, next time you see her, ask, she’ll tell you, she loves black people.

1)Oprah vs. Jordan.

This one. Oh boy. I’m actually laughing as I type it. It’s the funniest moment of the trip, hands down. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure this qualifies as a “had to be there” moment. Meaning, that you might not find this so funny. I’ll try to set it up right.

We were on the trolley. Driving around. Kelly, as you may know, is obsessed with New Kids on the Block. No one loves them like she does. I’m not being dramatic or a good friend, she really loves them like no other. Jordan Knight is her all time favorite. Since she was a little girl, she loved him. She hasn’t wavered, not once, not ever.

Now, Kelly also loves Oprah, as do many women. I am not one of them. Oprah used to be on the bus (that’s the metaphorical bus where I place all people who annoy me and then drive it over a cliff) but she’s a lot less annoying now that she’s off the air. I’ve never been a fan. I know women the world over love Oprah, but not me. I knew Kelly liked her, but I never really understood how much.

Here’s what happened. We’re riding the trolley. Kelly has actually asked the tour guide to point out Oprah’s home. She asked this in such a maniacal voice I think he was afraid NOT to. But, as these trolley rides can drag on, she started to wonder if he’d forgotten. Then, we drove down Lake Shore Drive and the guide points out “for the woman in the back” that is Oprah’s home.

Kelly flies out of her seat and starts taking pictures at a speed not known to most humans and is frantically scanning the street as if Oprah herself might walk by.

As the trolley sits in traffic, in front of Oprah’s apartment, Kelly turns to me and with a serious and sober expression, no drama in her voice at all, “if she came out right now, I would jump off the bus.”

I laughed, because that’s what you do with crazy people.

She continued, “I’m not kidding. I would dangle from this bar and drop to the ground. I’d have no problem ditching my bag of crap.”

I pulled out my phone and started typing this into a notepad, to preserve this conversation for posterity. Her bag of crap? The souvenirs she had bought for her kids. But, what was especially funny was that she’d also be ditching…ME! and she really didn’t seem to care. I pointed that out and we had a nice laugh. Then we sat in silence, contemplating, as the bus finally started to move.

Suddenly, as though there was zero break in the conversation, she turns to me and says, “if you told me, ‘if you jump off this bus you WILL break your ankle, bu you will still meet Oprah’, I’d do it. I swear to you, I would do it.” Now, I’m laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. She said, “Liv, I’m not kidding.” I think she was genuinely perplexed as to why I was laughing so hard. Now, of course, she finds it as funny as I do, but in the moment, she was dead serious and mystified by my sense of humor.

Again, as though there was no lag in the conversation, she said, “if Oprah was on one side and Jordan was on the other, I’d meet Oprah.”

And I lost it. Never have I had such a funny conversation. A one-sided conversation, as I barely spoke, but that is kind of what made it so funny.

That wraps up our tour of memories and in-jokes from my first trip to Chicago in 2011. Beyond this, I’ll just share a few of my favorite photos.

photo

In a random sporting goods store, a rack of Chicago sports team shirts and this lone pile of Twins shirts. What was it doing there? So odd.
photo

My first ever ride on a ferris wheel and it was 15 stories tall and took 7 minutes for one complete rotation.

photo

No idea why, but I enjoy this photo.
photo
photo

Can we say tailor-made?
photo

This was a random shot and has become one of my favorite photos from that trip.
photo

‘Nuff said.
photo

Us and Ernie Banks
photo

The Bean. My favorite stop in Chicago. So amazing. Can’t explain, you just have to see it in person.
photophoto

John Hancock building
photo

Can you find us? We’re in there!

It was a fun-filled, laughter-filled, over-the-top trip. Thanks for making those memories with me, Kelly. And thanks for being so damn funny!

Road Trip Weekend

Round trip gas cost = $240

Two nights hotel = $140

Beer = $75

Food = $60

Concert tickets = $43

Chance to see back-to-back Christian Kane shows?   Priceless.

Christian Kane, he’s everywhere you want to be. (Well, everywhere I want to be, at least!)

If you don’t know what I am talking about, I’m road tripping to Chicago to see CK on Friday night, then following the band to central Illinois to see them play again on Saturday night. My friends, Mindy and Tom, happen to also be going to a show in Chicago on Friday night (Avett Brothers) so we’re all driving together.

I’m very excited for my mini-vacation–can’t wait for back-to-back Kane shows! I’m also tremendously excited to travel with M&T, we’ve never done that before. Well, Tom and I haven’t. Mindy and I road tripped to Denver for my…22nd? 23rd? birthday and to visit Justin. Obviously, it’s been a while. It will be fun to hang with them and to see some awesome shows. I’ll be back next week with some more updates.

See you in October.