Archive for October, 2013

Those two Sundays I went to church back in the 70s was really paying off this holiday. The day dawned clear and booteeful and I headed back to Wrigley Field for my 09:00 tour. Had debated between 09:00 and 10:00 tour but figured I didn’t need any more beauty sleep ! As luck would have it, and divine intervention not withstanding, it was a good call as the clouds rolled in at around 09:30. Now Wrigley Field does draw one back as it sticks in your memory. Wrigley. Gum. Sticks. Get it? I’m here all week, try the Pizza. It was a very informative tour and there is a fascinating history to it all and who knew they played NFL, ice hockey and rock concerts here as well. I do. Now. CLP and I were lucky enough to see Fenway Park a couple of years ago ( yes I am a name dropper) which along with WF are the two oldest ballparks in the country. So the oldest tourist in USA was standing in the oldest ballpark – spooky, and it ain’t even Halloween yet. Got to see change room and dugout etc. the ground was being relaid at the time but no big deal. As you get older you do need to get relaid occasionally. So of course got sucked in for the $30 photo souvenir because damn I looked good. So back to the B&B for some R&R and then I broke my cardinal rule – and i wasn’t even in St. Louis. I stopped at a cafe for a take away coffee. Crap.

The ventra card was working a treat so thought I would load another 10 sawbucks on it and use the buses a bit more. Decided to head back to Navy Pier as didn’t really do it justice first time round and figured Friday must be better than Saturday. Ok it was crowded – bloody tourists again. By now I was over the tourist thing and the last 36 hrs would be spent eating and drinking. Easier said than done at lunchtime on a Friday . Bubba Gimps and Harry Carays were packed to the rafters ( alas without a hot Rebecca Gibney) and 20 minute wait for table. So I grabbed a hot dog instead but did hang around for a beer at HCs. And got a couple more souvenirs but sadly no ” Holy Cow ” bobble head available. There were some impressive memorabilia though. He must be like our Bruce McAvaney only straight. Will head out again later this afternoon after doing some research on nearby bars. By research I mean find the closest.
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Ok so looks like the clowns changed the feathers in their darts and lucked out an accurate forecast. Cold and wet. Sounds like my PJ bottoms in the morning. Now I had a couple more sites on the wish list – Lincoln park Zoo and another Sports venue. Now this was not zoo weather and the United Centre looked a like a cut lunch and a hip replacement away so settled on Soldier Field in the museum campus – home of the Bears. This was still going to involve a sizable trek but I was not deterred , consider it my little Kokoda track trek. No point packing all weather gear if not prepared to try it out so off I headed all rugged up for what ever Mother Nature could throw at me. Damn she is one bitch! A short bus stop set a false comfort level but I had done a little map night before but of course forgot it when leaving. No sweat I had google maps . Walk for a couple of k and head E on West Roosevelt. No problem. Now I was starting to get into some shady parts of town that I would not come back to at night. Well it is the NFL, they probably have it out in the fans neighbourhood ๐Ÿ˜„. On a positive note I can now add ” best bridges to sleep under ” to my google maps! It was still raining annoyingly so had another look at map. Odd that it is near Field museum because I saw that from Millenium Park? Hey, let’s turn map up other way. Fuck!.Ok I need to head west on W Roosevelt until I hit E Roosevelt. Is that a bus coming, sweet. So catch the No 12 heading towards E Roosevelt. Now this was a crowded bus and not suprised because I would want to get away from here too. And there were no loose track suits to be found if ya get my drift. It was amusing the way the sistas announced well in advance they were getting off next stop. I wasn’t going to stop them. Hell some of them could have made the Bears defensive line! So off one bus , wait 20 minutes and then hop on another and finally at Soldier Field – and it only took 2 hrs. So maybe not quite Kokoda like but there were plenty of fuzzy wuzzys let me tell ya. The stadium itself is very impressive and looks suitably gladiatorial. Within the museum campus is also Field museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler planetarium – all well worth a visit I am sure but not today for this little black duck. Especially a duck that hates the wet.

So it was a miserable day but felt I had achieved something. I hadn’t been mugged! May be time for a hot bath methinks. Hope weather improves tomorrow as have Wrigley Field tour booked and maybe that trip to the zoo. Still feel I have not done the Chicago Cuisine trail at all but that may have to wait for next trip.

EDIT : Ok so weather cleared in afternoon and headed out to Cultural Centre, got some souvenirs and even dropped in for a beer or 23 at Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse on way home. Sadly I relied on the one geriatric with Parkinson’s in the establishment to take the once in a lifetime photo.๐Ÿ˜ซ Stumbling along the Magnificent Mile, a rather salubrious area, on way home was surprised to see 3 fully armed cops on every second corner. Has Al Capone reappeared?

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USA. Week One – Ramblings

Posted: October 16, 2013 in Travel

I do love the good old USA and hope to come back again but of course that doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It’s not Queensland after all. Some thoughts

Airlines. Not talking about value for money here as all lumped in one price and am sure you get what you pay for. While Qantas planes are showing their age on board service is still both plentiful and good. Now AA is a different experience. Welcome to Standby and Upgrade screens. Also ” As we have a full flight today we do not have room for all carry on luggage. Can some people please check their luggage through now ?” Ok, is this not akin to not have enough life rafts on the boat because you know we are very rarely full! Also here is a tip – how about you enforce the fucking hand luggage limits. Fair dinkum some people wheel on hand luggage bigger than a Walter White barrel. Now on board the free refreshments are limited to a diet Dr Pepper and you can pay for the rest. However the economy seats are more comfortable and have more room than Qantas

Food. Big portions of course but I am a bit confused by the service model. There seems no clear guidelines often as to where you stand , how you order, how you get beverages etc. it’s not quite Soup Nazi but not too far off. Paint a couple of signs fellas for the tourists and then you won’t have to explain everything. There are plenty of healthy alternatives and most menus have caloric load etc. – like anyone cares about that here.

Transport. Very good really. Using the Ventra card which works on buses and trains. Have not met a subway system I didn’t like really. Drivers still love using a horn I notice. The pedestrians are really just as bad though as more often than not walk across even on a red hand.

Taxes. Help. The land of the Free – and the hidden tax. Just round up and give us the total will ya. Sick to death of all the small change because everything now costs $x:18c ! If it is $6.50 and you want to load tax on at least round up to $7:20. Fark.

People. Generally very friendly and helpful. But please, why is it everyone outside of Qld has to continually warn us about the cold weather so that we dress up like Nanook of the North and find ourselves 30 miles from home carrying a bloody gortex parka. It’s really only wind chill. Get out of the wind and the temp jumps 10 degrees. I reckon I will go through 3 zippers over here opening and closing jackets. Normally that only happens with my pants….

I find it hard to get comfortable at night temperature wise. You go to bed nice and rugged up at 20:00 hrs of course. Then during the night the owner switches on the internal heating and you wake up sweating and kick the Doona off. Slowly get back to sleep and then wake up at 04:00 with double pneumonia. Leave the heating off fellas – when it comes to the bedroom I have the situation in hand ok!

So not quite half the holiday over and having a ball. Will definitely have to come back with the CLP to enjoy more of the restaurant and night life.

And still not quite sure about that washing machine. I think it shrunk my pants. They certainly feel tighter.

So it would appear that the US meteorologists attended same clown school ours did. Despite forecast of blizzards and tornados I was going to venture out regardless to complete the Solo Male Traveller Holy Trinity

1. Catch a bus
2. Catch a train
3. Use the washing machine

Had noted the clothes piling up in the corner and thought CLP was being a bit slack then the penny, or dime, dropped. Luckily I was able to use 8 of those little useless metal objects the folk behind the counter keep giving me to not only wash but dry the clothes. Technology eh.

Then it was time to catch first subway out to Wrigley Field. Not a game day and a bit early so it was deadsville, just the way I like it. No bloody tourists around! May go back for tour on Friday as is easy trip out and back. Then stayed on train a bit longer coming back – ok missed my stop ๐Ÿ˜„- and ended up in the Loop. First time for everything I guess after years working for PQ! First up navigated my way to Chicago Theatre looking for Celtic Thunder tickets on the cheap. Alas they still wanted $1 for them so just took a picture of the sign and moved on. Actually found a very noice coffee on my way which will save for later trips. Don’t want to post address here or else those bloody tourists will descend again. Also visited the Vietnam War Memorial adjacent to the city Riverwalk.I did not do justice to Millenium Park on first visit so wandered back in general direction and very pleased I did. Some amazing sculptures , the MWC fountain yada yada yada. Then discovered the Art Institute and thought it was time for some cultcha . Hello???? It isn’t free? Listen, CLP will drag me through another 12 galleries next year in Gay Paris , I’ll pass thanks. Similarly walked up to and past the Field museum. There comes a time in life when you realise you know everything there is to know and can’t afford to waste brain cells acquiring new info. By now the ankle and tootsies were screaming for a rest so pillowed and looked for nearest Red Line subway and headed home. Stopped off for lunch at my fave place near home for a small Chicken Carbonara and of course picked up my salad for dinner

So after 3 full days I have ticked most of the boxes of the must see, though by no means all. The next 3 days will be spent at a more leisurely pace letting the city flow over me and sampling more drink, food and drink. After all I am concerned I may be fading away with all this walking…..

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The weather forecast was gloomy so seemed the best day to visit Union Station. Have been very lucky so far – almost Untouchable? – so headed out under gray skies for first experience of public transport. I had 12 apps that only served to confuse me but when the first bus coming along had “Union Station” on it I took a punt. Now I may have got there quicker walking but at least arrived fresh as a daisy. The staircase is tres spectacular as is the whole station “lobby” – and surprisingly free of people. So requisite photos taken and back out on the street with no real plan. A quick wander across a couple of streets to What U Talking About Wilis Tower. No need to go to Skydeck after yesterday so just started wandering up S Clark street when I recalled the meeting place for the planned Untouchables Tour later in week was 600 N Clark at the Rock n Roll Maccas. Hmm. Ring ring, any spots left on 1100 tour. Only 1 and it’s first come first serve. Now it is 10:20 and Google maps is saying 25 minute walk. Factor in 5 mins for busted ankle and tack on the Solo Male Navigation handicap of another 5 minutes and it will be tight. Now this would normally give me the vapours – right CLP ๐Ÿ˜„But this is Casual Carefree Chicago Flashman so off I headed. Made it with 5 mins to spare to be told all depends if everyone shows up yada yada yada and there were 2 couples in front of me. The key word there was couples. We were waiting on a party of 20 Danes. Great! Ok 17 turned up which left room for one couple and me! So on a crowded bus off we headed only to see 3 Danes running after the bus. You snooze You lose. Bloody foreigners eh. So the tour guides were great fun and it was very informative. Sadly rather useless for camera buffs as you never leave the bus and some of the sights such as St valentines Massacre no longer exist. But this did not detract from the tour at all – just can’t share much with my devoted followers. Certainly recommend the tour. So after almost 2 hours on the bus I was happy to walk home the 25 minutes if took. Stopped in at Potbelly sandwiches on way back for the A Wreck special and happy to report it worked ! Just turning the key in the door when the rain starts. I kinda hope it continues to rain and even the storms come through. I could do with the rest – Chicago is the kinda city that keeps drawing you back out.

Plus I really need to get back to Candy Crush – that level 183 is a bitch

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Chillin in Chicago – Day 2

Posted: October 14, 2013 in Travel

Not quite caught ip on sleep yet but as a booteeful day dawned it was time to get up and go. Now the forecast was 17 degrees so thought I would carry a jacket just in case. Well hello Wind chill factor! Felt like about 4 degrees in the wind. First stop was Navy Pier and not a sailor in site. But there was Jimmy Buffets Margaritiville Bar. Had planned an Architecture cruise later in week but as was a glorious day took a punt on Shoreline Cruises at the Pier and it was fantastic. An hour cruising up and down the river with expert and often humorous commentary. The city has a fascinating history. Back on dry land and the casual approach to the day followed with a casual stroll in the general direction of the tall buildings. By now it was lunch time and as luck , and my cholesterol, would have it there was a Giordanas Pizza place just around the corner! Time to give this stuffed pizza a try. Filling. Time for more walking and just around the corner was Millennium Park and the famous Bean. On such a glorious day there were many people around but it’s a big place. By now the day was flying past and it would be good to rest the old feet for a while so headed in the general direction of home. Chicago is a great city for walking with no hills. After a short rest it was time to take in more of this beautiful city on this stunning day. Of to the John Hancock building and straight up to the Signature room for a beer with a view on the 95th floor. Finally to finish of a great day it was a slight detour past the Tribune building to check out the wall . Storms may be on the way but have already seen so much in just 24 hrs. My feet could do with rest.

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Chillin in Chicago – Day 1.5

Posted: October 14, 2013 in Travel

Well it was a big day!

When last we left our hero he was in the AA lounge – and not an alcoholic in site. It was a smooth flight and even arrived 30 minutes early – knobber knobber – to a glorious Sunday afternoon in Chicago. Got a shared taxi trip from airport as well for only $30 so things were looking good. Arrived at the digs – and it was perfect. A studio on the 3rd floor at the back in a lovely tree lined street easy walking distance from North Michigan Ave .

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So despite feeling tired could not let this afternoon pass and headed out with camera in tow. Magnificent buildings dominate the skyline and constantly draw your eye onward and upward against the stunning blue backdrop of a perfect day. I should add at this stage that all posts on this trip are iPad only so the alignment of some photos may be a tad askew. He was Troy Donahue’s lesser known brother apparently

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Now this was an impromptu walk – like when the Royals go off protocol – so had no maps and pre- Sim so imagine my suprise when wandering aimlessly and discovering the Billy Goat tavern which was on the must see list for tomorrow!
Had my cheezeborger and a dark Billy Goat ale – all amidst the photo lined walls

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Time to walk that off by down the river and take in the beautiful backdrop of towering erections as the afternoon sun dappled on the water. It really is a beautiful city and have yet to barely scrape the surface. Not cool yet either, I could have been walking down a Maryborough street on an early September morning – you know apart from the impressive buildings and lack of flannelette.

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Was starting to tire by now so back down Magnificent mile and home for some sleep but did note AT&T store on way back so was able to also get my USA sim inserted by easily the most helpful service person I had met in years. And then after checking everything was working fine he suggested some tips on seeing the best of Chicago. I tell ya I reckon a blow job was available if I was feeling stressed but then maybe it was the jet lag kicking in. I have always found the people in US extremely helpful and look forward to the same service for next two weeks. The government May be shut down bu the people ain’t. By now the sun was setting on what had been a long long day of almost 36 hrs which must mean there is a 12 hr one coming up I better be aware of.

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Chillin in Chicago – Day 1

Posted: October 12, 2013 in Travel

Now I thought Chicago was supposed to be cold and windy – its bloody hot!

Sorry what was that Ms?

“I said we havent left Brisbane yet ya goose!”

Oh ok. Well it is my first solo trip but I just assumed that USA meteorologists failed the same course our clowns did

So the adventure begins with a Qantas flight out of Brisvegas to LA LA Land. I forked over the extra money for an exit row seat but maybe should have gone for the ones about 10 rows back. The seat map indicates this one is very close to the screaming baby aisle, one back and one to the right. But I do get the hot hosties sitting across from me on takeoff and landing. Now I believe the start of the holiday is a good indicator of how the rest will pan out. So if I get stuck next to a bloody Victorian and have Bruce and Cyril opposite then it dont look good folks.

Through security and customs fine. Not sure why the customs lady smiled and added my phone number to her contacts. And the cavity search was a bit over the top especially when she said ” Now it’s your turn” . Hey, all part of the adventure.

About to travel back in time apparently and arrive in LA before I left here. Bloody Tony Abbott. Riddle me this – am I following the sun or is it following me? It may be daylight for the next 30 hours. Luckily I am a Daywalker.

I expect there will be a lot of selfies on this solo trip

Also hope to take some photos

Y’all come back now ya hear

Update

So the Exit Row experience ? The leg room is great no doubt about it. However the lack of a pouch or similar on the seat in front for storing anything is a bit of a pain. The tray table and Entertainment module work fine. There are a few exit row seats and in future would avoid the ones near the toilets as it does become an area of congregation. Maybe the ones near the galley I have on way home will be better.One last thing of interest – there were no specific instructions given to us with regard to what we do if we start descending like the Socceroos world ranking. In fact the hostie stood next to me so could not even see the usual safety demonstration . I will grab the iPad and a bag of nuts and then jump I guess.

Arrived on time. Used the old charm on the immigration lass and got through in about 40 minutes. Then had to recheck in at terminal 4 and American Airlines. All done in plenty of time and now have to wait an hour for plane to Chicago. As with last trip to USA , the helpfulness of the service people strikes you straight away.

It was a long trip with no sleep so will be a long day before I lay me down to sleep.