WOW. What a trip. It had a bit of almost everything: travel drama, meeting famous athletes, BYOB, etc…! I hope that you enjoy reading about the trip as much as we had living it. Kyle, Kelsey, and Clark know how important chronological order is to me, so, in the famous words of Jackie Gleason, “Away we go!”
Travel Drama #1. Wednesday Night.
My original flight plan was Birmingham to Chicago. Sounded easy and simple enough, but NO! Flight was re-routed from Birmingham to Minneapolis (no extra charge for the stop in Minneapolis or the overnight stay in the Minneapolis airport, LOL!) to Chicago. The overnight stay in Minneapolis was an “interesting” adventure, so I tried to make the best of it. The Minneapolis airport at 1:29 A.M. was interesting and very, very deserted. Anyway. The next morning I was on a 5:15 A.M. flight to Chicago. Early but okay with me. The flight would have been even better if my baggage was with me but, again, NO! Clark met me at the L and the baggage arrived on Thursday at about noon. A nap and shower and I was ready to explore Chicago!
Chicago – Day 1 – Thursday
Clark suggested I try Dry Hop for lunch. I took the L from Clark’s apartment to the Belmont stop on the Red Line. After about a 15-minute walk, I was there. A very, very good restaurant call by Clark.
In the early evening, I went to check our group into an apartment that Kelsey had booked for Kyle, Kari, Phillip (AKA Maxx Gruber), and I to stay in during the rest of the weekend. In the famous words from the TV series Dragnet, “The names have been changed to protect the innocent.” The location of this apartment was terrific, only a single block from the Belmont station. Kelsey booked this apartment via an online service named very similarly to “ground B-N-B.” I think the owner described this location as a condo, but it is NOT a condo. It really was a large one-bedroom apartment. Quirky and different but fine for the five of us. I won’t mention anything about having to dodge the exposed pipes that were hanging below the ceiling…plus, the owner seemed surprised that three sets of keys were needed for our group. Yikes!
Anyway, back to Clark. Clark and I walked to dinner and then took the L to Target to do some light shopping. Very, very important point here: As Clark pointed out, Chicago is a very pedestrian town with lots of walking, which is okay because Chicago is very, very flat. I did not see a hill the entire time I was there, but walking is walking. Shopping at Target was very, very strategic because we had to carry all the items that we bought. Plus, we then walked 4.8 miles back to Clark’s apartment. Did I remember to mention that by now my FEET WERE KILLING ME?!
Later on Thursday night, Kyle, Kari, Kelsey, and Maxx arrived. The humor started almost immediately! Apparently Kari had packed her suitcase and then someone decided to unpack some of her delicates…Yikes again! This someone explained how this unpacking occurred, which was interesting but still difficult to understand.
Chicago – Day 2 – Friday
Clark was working on Friday, so the five of us walked up to the Belmont stop and had breakfast at the Chicago Bagel Authority. HOME RUN! Agnes took our orders and signed my Chicago Cubs hat! We sat down to eat and someone noticed a group of young ladies eating at a nearby table. As fate would have it, one of the young ladies was wearing a t-shirt from the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta! One of the other girls had a Duke t-shirt on, so in terms of knowledge and brainpower, I knew I was at a huge disadvantage. Solution, when in doubt, turn up the “charm” meter to 10! A few minutes later we were all best friends.
Next we started walking up Sheffield to the most sacred stadium in all of baseball, Wrigley Field. It was a beautiful day in Chicago, sunny blue skies and very low humidity. We saw the stadium flags at Wrigley Field and tears of joy came to my eyes!
Crossing one of the streets, we saw our first street vendor with almost legit and almost authorized Cubs t-shirts. They had a wonderful collection of t-shirts starting at $10. We knew the closer we got to Wrigley the higher the prices would go. Almost legit and almost authorized at $10? Kelsey, who is thrifty at times like me, made her purchase. Good girl, save that money!
We then actually arrived at Wrigley Field. We saw the Addison stop on the L. We were on Sheffield. We walked to Clark Street. People were everywhere, the energy, the magic, the enthusiasm, were fantastic!
I then met and started talking with my new, personal friend Marcus The Peanut Man. Marcus had a great sense of humor, plus he and I go to the same barber! Marcus and I definitely have a “look.” Only guys with great looking skulls can go with this look! It’s very fashion forward, very European. HOME RUN. When you go to Wrigley, go to the corner of Addison and Clark, and Marcus The Peanut Man will be there. Mention my name, ask for his autograph, buy some peanuts. Go Cubs!
Shortly thereafter, Kyle came out of a Cubs merchandise store and said, “Hey, Dad, I just saw Jordy Nelson.” I asked, “Are you sure?” To prove it true, we went inside the store, walked to the back and…IT WAS JORDY NELSON. The same Jordy Nelson who plays for the Green Bay Packers!!! I very quickly processed the following: Am I ever going to be this close to Jordy Nelson again? No. So, I walked up to him and, in a very, very hushed voice, asked him, “Excuse me, are you Jordy Nelson?” YES, it was him. Jordy and his wife signed my hat, and all was well. More great news: I resisted and did not mention to Jordy that I drafted him last year on my Fantasy Football team only to have him endure a season-ending knee injury the next week. All is forgiven!
Marcus The Peanut Man and Jordy Nelson both before lunch on the first full day in Chicago!
It was at this point in the late morning that our posse had to split up. Kelsey and Maxx drove to northern Indiana to visit with Maxx’s grandmother and aunt. Kyle and Kari went shopping for replacements for the delicate undergarments. I took the L to go downtown and have lunch with Clark.
So, I was standing on the Addison platform waiting for the L, and two young ladies were also waiting. Yikes. One of the young ladies had these great-looking red suede pumps. They were fabulous and her wearing them on the L, more power to her. Her friend had massively long eyelashes. We chatted it up, and thankfully they both had a great sense of humor.
I took the L downtown, walked a short distance, and had lunch at Shake Shack with Clark. Emily, the Shake Shack cashier, signed my Chicago Cubs hat. The food was terrific! Not as good as In-n-Out, but very, very close. Kyle and Kari met us at Shake Shack.
We huddled, and Clark, Kyle, and Kari decided to go to Clark’s posh, high-rise office building. I chose a more humble option; I walked to find the famous Billy Goat Tavern. This is the same Billy Goat Tavern from Saturday Night Live fame (cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger)! This place is direct from Hollywood via central casting! It was great. It would be my minor suggestion that next time you go to Chicago, go to the Billy Goat and have an Old Style beer. Worth the trip. Plus, Sam (the owner of the Billy Goat) signed my Chicago Cubs hat.
Next on my Chicago radar was Garrett’s Popcorn. Please, don’t laugh. You may think that popcorn is popcorn, that is until you have Garrett’s. Simply put, Garrett’s is popcorn heaven. Expensive but worth it.
I know, all this fun and it’s only Friday afternoon!
I found the Red Line, hopped on (remember, no jumping!), and rode until the Belmont stop. While walking back to the apartment, I stopped at the famous 1,000 Liquors. On the list, Fireball and Old Style beer, what a combo!
On Friday night, Clark had plans to play in his beach volleyball league. Due to distance and time, we decided that Uber was our best choice. Drumroll please…
Carlos, his minivan, and the greatest Uber ride in the history of Uber! I rode shotgun and it’s quite possible that Carlos could have been a stunt driver for the Jason Bourne movies! It was the greatest. Carlos started honking the horn, cut through an alley, honked the horn, almost hit a pedestrian, honked the horn, passed other cars on the right, more horn. Of the five of us in the minivan, I was the only one laughing and encouraging/supporting Carlos. Long story short, we made it to the lakefront, everyone in one piece. Carlos was the greatest – why didn’t everyone else in the minivan think so?
We watched Clark play volleyball and certainly could have used jackets. Even though it was the middle of July, the temperature at the lakefront was in the 60s. Did I mention the wind was clocked at 22.6 MPH? Not a hurricane-force wind, but close.
Anyway, Kari went to have dinner with friends, so Kelsey, Maxx, Kyle, and I decided to head to Cozy’s for a Thai dinner. Cozy is small, has massive character and charm, and is BYOB. Cue more Old Style! While walking to get the Old Style, I ran into this couple and the wife SWORE that my name was Steve and that she knew me. Not wanting to crush her dreams, I kindly let her believe that I was Steve. So, I tossed out a few believable comments and now am certain that I was in some kind of Hollywood movie.
Back to Cozy’s. We started yapping it up with the table next to us. They all had a great sense of humor. The way that one of the girls was dressed meant she could have been part of an Andrich family get-together, and according to Maxx and Kyle, she certainly had enough “talent” to be included. I noticed a small but very inviting roulette wheel nearby. I asked the waiter if it was okay to give the roulette a spin. He said, “Sure, but you won’t win anything.” This mattered not to me; I just wanted to spin the roulette wheel. One of the people at the next table created a game. Spin the wheel, and if the number was under 15, their table had to drink. Over the number 15, and our table had to drink. All this fun at NO EXTRA CHARGE! No wonder every other table at Cozy’s wished they were part of the fun. I’m not certain, but I believe that some of those at our table might have been rolling their eyes. Can you believe it?!
The hits just keep on coming!
A short walk for ice cream and then back to the apartment for more Garrett’s. After all this fun and adventure, the day ran out of time.
Chicago – Day 3 – Saturday
The big day was here. We had bleacher tickets for the Rangers-Cubs game. I have been to Wrigley Field before, but never have I sat in the bleachers. Kyle, as a grown adult, has never been to Wrigley Field. Kelsey, on a prior trip, has been to Wrigley Field/Wrigleyville but never has been to Wrigley Field to see a game. Clark, living in Chicago, has been to Wrigley Field. But, this is the first time that myself and all the kids have been to Wrigley Field to see a game together. Wrigley Field is a baseball cathedral and this was the best.
I had done my research and prep work. Game time was 1:20 P.M. CST. We needed to be in line three hours prior to the start of the game. Gates open for the bleacher seats two hours prior to the game.
Kelsey, Maxx, and I left the apartment at 9:02 A.M. CST. We walked to Chicago Bagel Authority for breakfast. Great news: Agnes was working again, plus her sister Margaret.
We got in the bleacher line at 9:58 A.M. CST. This was great. Kelsey and Maxx walked around Wrigley Field, had a drink at The Cubby Bear bar (a Chicago ritual), stopped and visited with Marcus The Peanut Man to buy some peanuts, and came back to the line at 11:01 A.M. CST.
The gates to the bleachers finally opened. I shouted, “Stop pushing!” We climbed up a flight of stairs and we were there! The outfield was so green. The ivy on the outfield wall. A beautiful day in Chicago. A beautiful blue sky. THIS IS BASEBALL HEAVEN.
The Rangers finished batting practice (sorry, no homerun balls came near us), the teams took infield, Kyle, Kari, and Clark arrived, and it was game time!
Before we knew it, it was time for one of the greatest traditions in baseball: Wrigley Field and the 7th Inning Stretch. We stood and screamed “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The song sounded terrific, aided by the $8.75 beers that we had enjoyed and happily paid for.
End of the games. CUBS WIN, CUBS WIN, CUBS WIN!
After the game, I thought it might be a good idea for a quick stop at the Chicago Blarney Stone for a postgame beer.
We got back to the apartment and decided to go and visit Clark’s apartment. Everyone was thrilled with the visit, the terrific decorating, etc…
We then took the L for famous Chicago deep-dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s. No thin crust New York style here. No tofu California style here. Just terrific pizza.
Travel Drama #2. Sunday Night.
Kyle, Kari, Kelsey, and Maxx had an afternoon flight back to Atlanta.
I on the other hand, trying to save some money, booked myself on a 10:00 P.M. CST flight back to Birmingham. We all know the saying “No good deed goes unpunished.” Not wanting to relieve the delays, the drama, etc…I’ll say this. The plane did not leave Chicago until shortly after 2:00 A.M. CST Monday morning. Only four hours late. Arrived in Birmingham at approximately 3:30 A.M. CST. Got to sleep at approximately 4:30 A.M. CST. Got up at 6:30 A.M. CST to go to work.
You know what? I would do it all again, the trip was that fantastic!
Even if you are not a baseball fan, you need to go to Chicago, go to Wrigley Field, see and talk with Marcus The Peanut Man, sit in the bleachers, and see the Cubs.
In closing, I want to thank Kelsey for allowing me to share memories of this terrific trip!