Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Driving Across America 2010: Part 5

I'm sitting in our 7th floor hotel room in Canton while Melissa showers, getting ready to tour the Pro Football Hall of Fame - after we eat our complimentary breakfast as part of the McKinley Grand's "Hall of Fame Legendary Getaway" Package. But that's a story for the next edition. You all want to hear about the last leg of Chicago.

Sunday morning, I slept in the latest (10am or so). I woke up to one of the greatest surprises of my lifetime. Melissa was already dressed and almost completely ready to go. I was astonished...stunned...befuddled...you pick a surprise word and I was probably that. So I got up and showered, and by 11 everyone had eaten a little bit and we were on our way to Cubby Bear, a bar outside of Wrigley Field. We had tickets for one of the Rooftops at Wrigley and we were meeting a couple of Jay's coworkers and colleagues there. These Rooftops are brilliant, and I'll get to describing them in a little bit.

The cab ride to Cubby Bear was a smooth sail, and we immediately ordered bloody Mary's so that Jay could try his first ever. They have a unique recipe there, something neither Melissa nor I, both former bartenders, had ever seen. They use the basic bloody mix with vodka, some tabasco and pepper, and then they float a little Guinness at the end. Very interesting. It was not particularly good, but it wasn't bad either. One of Jay's coworkers at Big Ten, Kerry, met us at Cubby Bear and we all chatted while we waited for Ben, who works for the ACC, and his girlfriend to get there. Ben asked us to grab his friend if we saw him as well, who he described as "black, about 5'9, shaved head, and a goofy smile...his name is Brion." In a bar full of people, we were supposed to approach every person who fit that description in the hopes that it was Ben's friend? That's not a recipe for a racial profiling disaster... Jay shouted "Brian" every time someone who came close to the description walked by, but we never found him. Eventually, Ben arrived and located the guy. Anyhow, we headed over to our rooftop seats around 1:15, probably later than we should have, for the 1:20 game against the Pirates.

Rooftops at Wrigley are not actually in the stadium. I'm not even sure they are owned or operated by the Cubs management. Oldest scoreboard in America.

They are on the tops of the buildings overlooking the field, they have bleacher seats, and they offer all you can eat - hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwiches, Italian beef sandwiches, and brats - and all you can drink - one beer per person per order. They also had a soft serve machine with all sorts of toppings at our fingertips. We immediately got food, as we had saved our appetites for the free spread. The Italian beef gets a 10 out of 10 - this is a true Chicago tradition. The hot dog was better than your average dog as well, but how good can a hot dog really be? We got them with sauteed onions and I loaded my hot dog with ketchup, mustard, and relish. The soft serve ice cream machine apparently gets shut down at last call for alcohol, so I was robbed of my dessert.

The game itself was a bit boring until the end. The Pirates led most of the way, and it looked like the Cubs were doomed to continue a less than stellar run in the season. But in the 8th or 9th inning they rallied for the win. I got to hear the whole stadium sing the "Cubs Win" song, which was pretty impressive for an almost packed house. The entire crowd headed back to Cubby Bear after the game, where a really good DJ was spinning dance music. We made friends with three girls whose names I can't remember, thanks to Jay coming through with one of his classic icebreakers. Thanks to Twitter, Jay had learned earlier in the day that the inventor of the Chipwich had died Sunday morning. One of the girls standing in our area had made a chipwich using the ingredients at the buffet and was thoroughly enjoying it when Jay broke the bad news. Sparks were flying from then on, and they accompanied us to the bar-turned-club after the game for a bit.

I don't remember what time it was when we left there, but we hopped in a cab and headed back to Wicker Park to rest. This set the stage for the road trip's biggest disaster. Getting out of the cab was a tragic comedy. I made it safely to the curb. Melissa did not. She tripped on her way out, skinning her knee on the curb. Jay was rushing to get out and almost fell on top of her trying to stop himself. As the cab pulled off, I proceeded to do my usual pocket pat-down check - wallet in the back, camera in the right, and cell phone in the...gone. No cell phone. It had slipped out of my shorts pocket in the cab. I am not the type to ever lose anything - I'm neurotic almost to the point of OCD about making sure I always have keys, wallet, cell phone, camera, etc. every time I go anywhere. Of course, none of us had noticed the cab number, the cab company, or even what color the cab was. I was annoyed, but not nearly as furious as Melissa was, who thought this was going to lead to the meltdown that ruined the entire road trip. We start walking home, dejected at the loss, when someone - I think Jay - decides we should try calling the phone. I borrow Melissa's phone and dial, expecting nothing at all.

Then magic happened. The cabbie answered! He asked where we were in an unidentifiable accent. I got flustered and started looking for street signs, having no idea where we were. Jay came to the rescue and told me how to describe the intersection - North and Milwaukee, in front of a Starbucks - and the cabbie knew the spot. Thirty minutes later, after we flagged down every cab who drove by to their great annoyance, the man showed up with my phone. I gave him $10 for his trouble, and we went on our way, elated at the turn of events.
This is the now-famous intersection.

Back at Jay's, we weren't too hungry yet, but we knew we would need a little dinner. After some down time, we headed to Silver Cloud for some late night dinner. It was, hands down, the best sloppy Joe I have ever had in my life. Literally. Melissa got a chicken pot pie, which I was not as impressed with though she loved it, and mac n cheese, which was very good. This about did it for the final night in Chicago. We walked back to Jay's and all passed out on the couch watching TV.

Sleep was restless for all three of us Sunday night, unfortunately, and by about 5am all of us had given up. We decided to head to the Hollywood Grill for a final breakfast with Jay before he headed to work and we headed for Canton. This is typical greasy spoon diner, so it would be inappropriate to expect an amazing meal. We had lots of coffee, Jay and I ordered 2222s (2 eggs, 2 sausage links, 2 bacon strips, and 2 pancakes or hashbrowns). Melissa ordered a veggie omelette with cheese. It was actually pretty delicious, even for cheap diners. After that, Jay stopped for his dry cleaning on the way home around 7. We got back, started showering and cleaning up, Jay left for work, and we were on the road by 10am.

You already know we arrived safely in Canton. We finally hit our first bad weather of the trip. It was only a matter of time after dodging the apocalypse. It rained from Chicago to Canton, and it continues to be cold and wet here in the birthplace of the NFL.

It's time for breakfast now, so I have to go. I'll finish up the Canton write-up tonight when we get back to Maryland. I'll upload all the pictures as well, so be sure to check back to the older blog posts for those. Thanks again to all our many readers (I'm getting about 20-25 people a day reading our adventures - pretty impressive!).

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