Saturday, July 22, 2006

Monday 7/24/06 - Back to Bama

We left the Wyndham Hotel in Overland Park, Kansas at about 9:05 a.m. We had a long drive ahead of us to get to Huntsville, AL. Joe rode in the front at first. David read Joe's book about Davy Crocket. Matt took a nap and played with toys. Joe read the KC newspaper some. We got six coupons for kids to eat free at Bob Evans restaurant when we went to the Royals game. The boys were disappointed when I passed the first two Bob Evans restaurants because they thought we wouldn't see another one. Actually, going east on I-70 through Missouri, there are no Bob Evans restaurants between 30 minutes outside KC and Columbia, MO. I turned it into a joke. Every time there was an exit I said, "Bob Evans, this exit." They caught on and we had a lot of fun with that. When we finally saw the Bob Evans billboard heading into Columbia we all got excited. In fact we had a loud chant going as we approached the exit, "Bob Evans, Bob Evans, etc." I had egg beaters and link sausage and the boys all had the french toast. We stopped from 11-11:45.We then continued eastward toward St. Louis. I listened to Rush Limbaugh talk about the current state of affairs in the Middle East; in particular the conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah factions in southern Lebanon. Rush has taken a lot of hits. He refuses to be politically correct and he makes himself a target of the liberal media. But pull away all of the hype and the criticism and you will still find that he is a brilliant man. Anyone who can think on his feet that well for three hours a day deserves some respect, whether you agree with him or not. Anyway, I digress.We traveled on through Missouri and bypassed St Louis. We got to Festus, MO, south of St. Louis on I-55 at 2 p.m. It was time for another stop at Bob Evans. The boys were given free meal tickets in KC, but they each found a second coupon on the ground in the stadium. Therefore we stopped at Bob Evans again. This time I had the potato soup. Joe had fruit and strawberry yogurt dip. David and Matt had grilled cheese and a fruit bowl. We ate until 2;40, then continued south.We drove to Cape Girardeau and stopped there at the river walk by the Mississippi River. They have constructed a flood wall along the river and painted a mural along the wall that tells the history of the town . If you are ever near there it is certainly worth a look. I placed a quarter on the railroad track for Matthew to see how it could be flattened by a train.We then crossed the bridge over the Mississippi into Illinois. We traveled along the river to Cairo, IL, then to Paducah, KY, where we hopped on I-24. Other than a Frosty stop at Wendys in Kentucky, it was non-stop driving until we arrived in Huntsville at my parent's house at 10:45. We had all kinds of fun, listening to ball games, Radio Disney on XM Radio, and David's Shania Twain CD. We actually got a little silly and I really made the boys laugh when I was bobbing up and down in my seat to the music. We hung out with my mom awhile and kind of unwound. Unfortunately, she had just undergone some unpleasant dental work, but she was a good sport and glad to see us. After nearly 14 hours in the car, a lot of fun, a few fights, some good food, music, and laughs, we finally made it. Not a bad ending to an awesome vacation!

Sunday 7/23/06 - Kansas City

Again we had to wake up early. We awakened at 6:20 and were out of the hotel by 6:40, headed southward to Kansas City. I kept having the song "Kansas City", written by Wilbert Harrison, going through my head on the way there.

I'm going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I comeI'm going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I comeThey got a crazy way of loving thereAnd I'm gonna get me some.I'll be standing on the cornerOn the corner of Twelfth Street and VineI'm gonna be standing on the cornerOn the corner of Twelfth Street and VineWith my Kansas City babyAnd a bottle of Kansas City wine.Well I might take a trainI might take a plane, but if I have to walkI'm gonna get there just the sameI'm going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I comeThey got a crazy way of loving thereAnd I'm gonna get me some.I'm gonna pack my clothesLeave at the break of dawnI'm gonna pack my clothesEverybody will be sleepingNobody will know where I've goneCause if I stay in townI know I'm gonna die.Gotta find a friendly cityAnd that's the reason why,I'm going to Kansas CityKansas City here I comeThey got a crazy way of loving thereAnd I'm gonna get me some.

We actually heard a few weird songs that stuck in our heads on XM Radio. Most of the way we listened to the XM Christian station, 32, The Message. When we got near KC, though, we listened to the 80's station. One of the weird songs we heard was "I Know What Boys Like" by the Waitresses.

I Know What Boys Like
I know what boys like
I know what guys want
I know what boys like
I've got what boys like
I know what boys like
I know what guys want
I see them looking
I make them want me
I like to tease them
They want to touch me
I never let them
I know what boys like
I know what guys want
I know what boys like, boys
like, boys like me
But you, you're special
I might let you
You're so much different
I might let you
Mmmmm would you like that
I might let you
I know what boys like
I know what guys want
I know what boys like
I know what's on their minds
I what what boys like
I know what guys want
They talk about me
I got my cat moves
That so upset them
Zippers and buttons
Fun to frustrate them
They get so angry
Like pouty children
Denied their candy
I laugh right at them
I know what buys like
I know what guys want
I know what boys like,
boys like, boys like me
Na, na, nya, nya, nya, nya..............
I feel sad now
I will let you
Sorry I teased you
I will let you
This time I mean it
I wil1 let you
Anything you want
You can trust me
I really want to
You can trust me
How would you like it
You can trust me

Sucker. Hmmmmm....
I know what boys like
I know what guys want
I know what boys like, boys
like, boys like me
Gny, nya, gna nyah nya....

Another weird one was "Take the L" by the Motels. If you listened to pop music or watched MTV in the early 1980's you would recognize it.

Watching my head, holding my face
One more evening gone to waste
No longer do I know my place
Killing time and missing my cues
Watching her belong to you
Tears could only change my view
Take the L out of lover and it's over ((x2))
Growing up has always been tough
Good intentions never good enough
I would take you far away
Do anything to make you stay
Take the L out of lover and it's over ((x3))
Every drink and cigarette
All those hands we never met
There are things we should forget
Now its over
Take the L out of lover and it's over ((x3))
Take the L out of lover and it's over ((until fade))

How's that for the epitome of 80's banal entertainment. I wont even talk about Bow Wow Wow! Anyway, that's enough music for this post.

David slept a lot of the way to KC and Matt slept quite a bit as well. Joe rode with me up front and we talked most of the way. When we got near Kansas City I realized I needed cash, so I tried to go to an ATM at a bank and a gas station, which were both out of order. I then decided to go to Wal Mart, where Joe got a good deal on a Kansas City Royals tee shirt and I got cash back on the transaction. I prefer to get cash that way anyway because there are no ATM fees. We drove on to Kaufmann Stadium. The gates were set to open at 11:10 and the game was to begin at 1:10. We got there just in time to buy tickets and walk in right after the gates opened without having to wait in line. I bought tickets that the lady said were in the shade. It was a warm, but not hot day, unless you were in the sun. The boys got free Royals bears, kid's meal coupons to Bob Evans Restaurant, and vouchers for free hot dogs and Cokes at the game. They immediately got their hotdogs and Cokes. After that they got in line for their autograph from Royals player Estaban German. We then went to the Royals store. David purchased a KC cap, Matt purchased an Angels batting helmet (adding to his growing collection of plastic helmets), and I purchased a Royals tee shirt (as in, been there, done that, got the tee shirt). We then found our seats and really enjoyed the game in the shade. The Angels won 3-1 behind a strong pitching performance by Jerrod Weaver. (Take the 'p' out of "pitching" and it's "itching" - sorry about that; couldn't resist). Kauffman Stadium is in good shape even though it has been in operation since April 1973. I like the waterfalls in the outfield. Kansas City is known as a "small market team" in Major League Baseball circles. It's no wonder, then, that with the team in last place their attendance was only about 14,000, which was only 2,000 more people than paid to see the Iowa Cubs AAA minor league game the night before in Des Moines, Iowa.

After the game, we were stuck in traffic. Apparently there was an accident of some kind on the way we chose to exit the stadium. Fortunately for us, this was one of the few times we were not fighting the clock. Our next destination was one of the highlights of the trip to me. When I was planning the trip and decided that Kansas City was one of our destinations, my thoughts turned to food, specifically barbecue! I decided that we should find the best barbecue in Kansas City. A quick Google search gave me Arthur Bryant's. It was awesome. We went to the original location. I ordered a slab of ribs and plate of fries. It came with pickles and white bread. They have two kinds of sauce and they are both delicious. This is a must stop if you like barbecue or ribs and you are travelling through KC.

After satisfying our tummies we headed to the hotel. The boys jumped on the beds (where do they get that energy?) while I rested (but not slept) for a few minutes before unloading the car. I also took a few minutes to call back my friend Tom. We then went to the pool and we all swam for a while. I took some cool photos of the boys jumping into the pool. After that it was time for bed so we prayed and conked out without any problem!

Saturday 7/22/06 - Iowa

On Saturday I woke up early and prepared for our trip to Des Moines, Iowa. I had to clean out the vehicle, pack, and reorganize. After I got most of the work done, I woke the boys and everyone got a shower and got dressed. The boys had been asking to go to Dunkin' Doughnuts every day since we had been in Chicago. Cara and I couldn't understand what they thought was so special about the place. Cara had taken David and Matt there last year when I too Joe to Wrigley Field. Anyway, I decided to take them before we left town. Joe and I both received a free coffee coupon at the Cubs game we attended. We each got a doughnut and shared the two coffees. There was a long wait. Combining that wait with the slow traffic on the interstate in Chicago, it seemed like we would never get out of town, despite the early hour that I awakened to pack.

I also had a problem getting gas on the southside of Chicago. The pump wouldn't come on, the attendant had trouble understanding me, and the price was outrageous. I bought $5 worth of gas at over $3.50 per gallon, but they also charged my credit card an extra dollar. I didn't hang around to argue. We just got out of Dodge.

On the way to Iowa we stopped in Marseilles, IL and Ottawa, IL, which are my Mom and Dad's old stomping grounds. I enjoyed driving through those towns and passing on a little of my heritage to the boys. Joe made a comment about how many people were outside working in their yards and doing things compared to Alabama. He said that they made Alabama people look lazy. We saw people out mowing and trimming their yards, having yard sales, stores had outdoor sales, the parks were full of families playing together, and the local emergency responders were collecting donations at the main intersection in town. I almost pulled a real good one. I was getting money out to donate to the responders and I thought the car in front of me had pulled out. I almost wrecked with him when I was about to pull up to drop my donation in the bucket. I actually touched his bumper, but not enough to do anything to either of us, except cause me some embarrassment.

Driving through Ottawa I was able to show the boys the house that I grew up in on Marion Lane as well as McKinley School, where I attended first grade.
We drove on to Iowa, where we saw corn, then some more corn, followed by corn, and a little more corn. We saw some real interesting cumulus clouds and rainshafts because the visibility was so good; much better than we are accustomed to in Alabama. We went through a brief but intense rain storm that ended as abruptly as it begun.

We all liked the hotel in Des Moines. We checked in around 4, got our stuff into the room, then walked to Principal Park from the hotel. We were able to see the end of an Iowa high school baseball tournament game before the AAA Iowa Cubs played the Memphis Redbirds. We were all given free baseballs as we entered the park, which the boys got autographed by Cubs pitcher Jerome Williams before the game. We also stopped by the gift shop. I got an Iowa Cubs tee shirt, David got an Iowa Cubs can hugger, Joe got a green Red Sox cap, and Matt got Iowa Cubs wristbands. Jerome Williams, while signing autographs for the boys, was joking with Matt that he wanted his wristbands.

The game was great. It was a pitching duel that lasted a little less than two hours. Cubs starter Rich Hill struck out 14 batters in 7 and one third innings. The game lasted a few minutes less than two hours, which I think is the shortest nine inning game I can remember seeing in a very long time. I think I saw Greg Maddux pitch a shutout for the Braves against the Cubs back in the mid 1990's that lasted less than two hours. After the game, they handed out loaves of bread. We got our bread and walked back to the hotel. The boys swam in the indoor pool of the hotel for about an hour. We then headed up to the room, got ready for bed, told stories, said prayers, and got some much needed sleep.

Friday 7/21/06 - Zoo and Park

This was our last full day in Chicago. We first drove to US Cellular field, home of the White Sox. The boys were interested in going to a Sox game. We were unable to get tickets. All that was left was standing room only tickets, and those were around $30+ each. We did visit the souvenir stand but didn't buy anything. We also took several photos outside the park. I call the field "Cell Phone Field". The boys and I are not too fond of most of the corporate names given to baseball parks.

Then we drove north to Fullerton, just off Lake Shore Drive. It was a cool day, with a high around 77. There was also a very light rain that helped keep us cool, but not too wet. After we found a place to park, we walked to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Right inside the gate they were giving away free ice cream bars. Awesome! We walked around most of the zoo while the drizzle kept us comfortable. As we were leaving, the ice cream people were trying to get rid of their ice cream bars, so we all obliged.

After the zoo, we walked over to the grassy park between where we were parked the vehicle and the marina on Lake Michigan. There we played catch and even had a little batting practice. We have done this before in Chicago. There is just something really cool about playing in the park in the city, with the big skyline in the background. Hopefully, that will be another memory the boys and I will always share.

We left the park and headed for Cara's. I had to stop at Target, though. I bought drinks and snacks for the rest of our trip. I also bought myself a few extra pair of socks and shorts so that I wouldn't run out of clean clothes during the rest of the trip. The boys also convinced me to buy some chocolate chip cookie dough, which they made later in the evening with Cara's supervision.
Cara was already home from work when we arrived and she had bought a really nice birthday dinner for me from a place called Pollo Loco. Doesn't that mean chicken crazy? It was good. I would describe it as a Mexican version of KFC. We had baked chicken, tortillas, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, and macaroni and cheese.

We all played one more game of trivial pursuit. Cara and David won again. It was yet another good day with the boys and my sister, but sadly, the last one in Chicago this year.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Thursday 7/20/06 - Cubs 4 Astros 1

On Thursday the boys and I drove over to Wrigley for the Cubs game against the Astros. It was a stormy morning, but I decided to take the boys to the game, which started at 1:20, because the radar showed the storms moving out of the area. We got to Wrigley around 12:30 and I went to the ticket window to see if there were four tickets available together . Some guy behind me got my attention and said that he could give me four tickets. What a blessing! He gave us the tickets. We had a lot of fun at the game. The Cubs won 4-1 behind the pitching of Carlos Zambrano.

After the game we came back to Cara's. She cooked spaghetti, which was delicious, and we played some more trivial pursuit. Yet again Cara and Matt defeated the rest of us. Of course we played with the kitty again and we let the boys use her treadmill and drums again. They also played games on and We went to bed earlier than usual, so hopefully we will all be in a good, rested mood tomorrow.

Wednesday 7/19/06 - Chicago

My sister took the day off and we spent the day hanging out with her. My original plan was to take Matt to Wrigley Field but due to threatening weather I decided against it. The rain held off so we could have gone to the game. It was a classic matchup. Houston's Roger Clemens was pitching against Cubs hurler Greg Maddux. Both pitchers are a lock to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame during their first year of eligibility. That is if they ever retire. Clemens and the Astros ended up defeating the Cubs and Maddux 4-2.

I think we have eaten pizza at least once per day ever since we arrived in Chicago. We started small, heating up frozen pizza. We then moved up to Little Caesar's. If you have three boys, the large pizza for $5 at Little Caesars is a hard deal to pass up. On Wednesday, though, I turned the pizza eating up a few hundred notches. I ordered a pizza from Giordano's. Giordano's has been rated the best pizza in Chicago by many organizations, especially for their Chicago style deep dish pizza. The NBC Today Show, Fox Chicago, Chicago Tribune, and the NY Times have all given this honor to Giordano's.

I took David and Joe with me to pick up a large pepperoni deep dish pizza at the Giordano's on Milwaukee Avenue at Logan Square. Giordano's has over 40 locations. When the older gentleman at the counter looked at my ID he said, "Ahhh, Alabama!" He said, "It must feel like you never left," referring to the recent heat wave. The pizza was delicious and I certainly understand why it has been rated the best in Chicago by so many.

My sister took the older two boys shopping while I hung out with Matt. Matt and I made a run to Walgreens. They went to the pet store and she bought a few things for the new kitten and she also took them to Target. She bought them the two "Like Mike" movies on DVD which they watched in the evening. She also took them to Chuck E Cheese for a little while.

Cara made her famous baked chicken for supper. It was delicious as always. We watched Rockstar Supernova with her at seven and watched the Cubs game on TV while we played Trivial Pursuit. Trivial Pursuit is sort of a tradition for my sister and I whenever we get together and the boys have really gotten in on the act during the past few years. The team of Cara and Matt won, followed by the team of Joe and Dad, followed by Team David.

Of course we all held, watched, and played with the kitten, as we have every day.