Back In Time For Beer

This blog entry about the events of Sunday, June 19, 2011 was originally posted on June 21, 2011.

PART 2 (DAY 4): “All we need is a flux capacitor,” I said, taking a picture of all the electronic gadgets hooked up in the car.  Road tripping sure has come a long way since the days of Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise in Kerouac’s On The Road; in our ride we had a GPS navigator, an EZ-Pass, an iPhone 4, a Droid, and a Verizon 4G/3G mobile hotspot serving a WiFi connection for our two laptops. All of this was powered through the 1-to-3 power outlet adapter (that fortunately swiveled upwards so we could still use the handbrake). Cheryl was concerned we’d drain the car battery, but I figured we’d be okay if our long drives were charging it.

We continued heading west on the interstate highway from Teaneck, New Jersey, where I-80 begins its stretch all the way across the country, ending at the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.  We wouldn’t follow I-80 all the way though, for there were definitely sights to see on the way. However, we wouldn’t detour and stop to see too many things on our first day through the eastern mid-Atlantic states, because we had to make it all the way to Chicago in one shot; as much as we wanted to be flexible on every leg of the journey, we were tied to a schedule since we had locked down some campsite reservations in some of the national parks we’d hit out west.  (Campsite reservations start booking up to a year in advance.)

By 6:30 am, we were driving through the Delaware Water Gap, entry point of the famed Appalachian Trail, and the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania  From there we drove the entire width of the “Keystone State,” our longest United State that day, but we made the best of it with MP3s and Pandora — a nice alternative to the half dozen radio stations praising Jesus and the Bible.  Cheryl slept for the first leg of the drive, while I gunned it down the road at speeds up to 88 miles per hour (despite not being in a DeLorean).  I kept my eyes out for cops, roadkill, and ripped truck tire treads as I admired the scenery: the rolling hills, the farmlands, and the rest of the open expanse of American countryside outside an urban sprawl.  And even though we had since left the Atlantic Ocean, there was still a sign for land-locked Jersey Shore, PA.  Oh, America.

Cheryl took over for the next shift, leaving me to my laptop and the mobile internet connection to work on my blog and other projects.  With the exception of a couple of gas and bathroom breaks — and a quick McDonald’s breakfast earlier that morning — we pretty much hauled it all the way to the halfway point of our first day: Cleveland, Ohio for a lunch break. 

The only thing we knew about Cleveland — other than it being the setting of The Drew Carey Show and home of a couple of sports teams and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum — was everything that was featured in that “HASTILY MADE CLEVELAND TOURISM VIDEO” that went viral on the internet a few years ago.  In the satirical videos, a guy highlights all the depressing aspects of the city — like the fact that they only have two skyscraper buildings and the sun only comes out three times a year — all to a catchy rock tune.  (Watch the first and second on Youtube.)

“Why did it all of a sudden get gray when we got to Cleveland?” Cheryl asked.

“It’s just like the video!”  Clouds descended almost as if on cue as we approached the city limits.  According to our GPS device, our arrival in Cleveland was imminent.

“Where is [the city]? I would usually see it by now,” Cheryl said behind the wheel. 

“Maybe it’s like the video.  They only have two buildings.”  Sure enough, we spotted them the closer we approached downtown.  “There they are!”

All jokes aside, there are obviously more than two buildings in Ohio’s city on the shores of Lake Erie: many office buildings, government buildings, Progressive Field, the Great Lakes Science Center, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  There were also more things of interest, like the firefighter memorial, painted guitar sculptures, the World’s Largest “FREE” Rubber Stamp (“they call this art”), the Sheriff, and… “Look, they have Indian people here,” Cheryl said, noticing a couple of brown-skinned south Asians walking down the street. 

“Cleveland Indians!” we exclaimed in unison when we quickly realized the pun.

“They’ve probably heard that a million times,” Cheryl said.

THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM was the one place we chose to see for our quick mid-day break.  After a picture with Johnny Cash’s tour bus and a really mediocre lunch in the cafeteria — with menu puns like “Mac the Cheese,” “Burgers in Paradise,” “Love Me Chicken Tenders” and the “In Da Club” sandwich — we rushed through the museum, a place honoring the greats in rock music and beyond, from Chuck Berry (cousin of Marvin), to Elvis, to The Beatles, The Who, and eventually to Jay-Z — all in a setting where photos weren’t permitted.  We briefly saw guitars and clothes, and many other things that could have been interesting if we had more time.  Cheryl remembered the Grammy that Michael Jackson got for the Thriller album, while I appreciated seeing the mellotron that Paul McCartney played in “Strawberry Fields Forever.”  We only spent a very short time there (much to our chagrin, after realizing the $22 admission fee) and departed Cleveland after realizing that due to a miscalculation on distance and time, we still had a good seven hours to drive. 

We raced across Ohio, then Indiana, and eventually made it to Illinois.  I had told my friends in Chicago that we’d arrive there by 7:30, but we weren’t sure we’d make it with the 8:11 estimated arrival time given by the GPS device.  “I think that’s east coast time,” I said, trying to do the math in my head based on miles and miles per hour.  The closer we got, the more we realized that the GPS device was in fact displaying east coast time (or perhaps not factoring my speeds of up to 88 mph), and as soon as we crossed into Illinois and the central time zone, we gained an hour.

“We just went back in time,” I said.  No flux capacitor needed.

We hadn’t just gone back in time an hour, but three years, to the year: 2008.  It was then that I became good friends with Craig, a copywriter at the ad agency we worked at in New York.  He eventually left the Big Apple and became a resident of Chicago after getting hitched, and now lived happily ever after with his lovely wife Katie in the quaint Andersonville neighborhood.  Craig was (and still is) your all around good American guy, a witty Princeton grad with a friendly demeanor — although most people usually don’t notice his personality but his good guy looks, with a facial appearance that looks something like a cross between actor Chris O’Donnell and SNL member Will Forte.  In 2008, many a woman and gay guy swooned over his handsome face and chiseled shoulders — hell, most straight guys noticed it too.  In fact, our friend Scotty K. who had a knack of nicknaming people in the office, took one look at him and started calling him “Stallion.”  All of that aside, I still appreciated him for his sense of humor, one full of 80s references and those “That’s what she said” jokes that were all the rage in the year 2008. 

You getting close? he texted me.

twss I responded, our acronym for “that’s what she said.”

We were in fact close; the interstate took us northbound towards Lake Michigan and into the city, and I felt a little excited that we had finally reached our destination of the day.  The Chicago skyline glided outside the car window like that establishing shot in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when they play hooky and head into the city.  The weather was pleasant when we arrived around 7:20 on his street in the northern, suburban-like neighborhood of Andersonville.  There was no doorbell by the door, so I called him on the phone.

“Abe Froman, party of two,” I said. 

After obligatory hugs and hellos, Cheryl and I brought our things in the apartment — just enough to crash for the night.  Amidst the three cats walking around the house, Craig caught me up with his life: he was working for a smaller agency (which he preferred), plus he and his wife Katie were gearing up to move to a new house they bought in another neighborhood.  Katie wasn’t home just yet, but was to meet us for dinner in the area later; she was running late because she was out trying to get an oriental rug she tracked down on Craigslist.  A picture of it was sent to Craig’s cell phone.

“How big is it?” I asked; there was no reference of scale on the tiny screen.

“That’s what she said,” Craig quipped.

After a quick walking tour of the main drag in Andersonville — an enclave of Italians, Swedes, and interior design stores — we ended up at the Hopleaf, the place to go in the area if you’re a beer lover.  (It’s been rated as one of the best beer bars in the country.)  Joining us first was my friend Kirsten, a fellow traveler and Chicago native whom I met at the BootsnAll party in Portland a couple of years ago — and coincidentally lived ten minutes away from Hopleaf. She updated us with tales of her meeting Mr. and Mrs. Obama a few weeks ago, through her friend connections with the White House.  (It was with her that I got to go to a party in the White House bowling alley.)

Katie eventually joined us and the five of us ate delicious food — mussels, a duck reuben, mac and cheese, and their signature CB & J (a cashew butter and fig jam sandwich) — and of course, delicious beers.  After a few of those, all my energy drained real fast; it was a long, 18-hr day — one that had started at 5 a.m., spanning a third of the width of the U.S.A., over five states and two time zones.  Plus I’d only gotten three hours of sleep the night prior.  Needless to say, I was a zombie by the end of the night.

“You know how you get a second and third wind?” I said the next morning.  “I already used those up.”  It was a shame too because we could have gone to the cool dive bar next door with the funny neon sign of a fish wearing a viking helmet

“What’s your plan?” Craig asked me before leaving us to go to work.

“Just pack up and…” I said, pausing for too long.  “I was trying to think of a joke there.”

“It’s okay,” he said, smiling. “It happens.”

We wished each other well and parted ways.  Cheryl and I took showers, drank coffee, and gathered our things, before saying our thank yous and farewells to Katie (who was still home).  Our night in Chicago was brief, but It was still nice to stop in, catch up, and “be back in time for beers” with an old friend — but the future of our road trip was calling.


FUN FACT:

Craig once mentioned “that thing I do in the morning.”

“That’s what she said.”





Next entry: 1 out of 10,000

Previous entry: Last Adventures On The Atlantic




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Comments for “Back In Time For Beer”

  • As soon as you said “andersonville” I was going to tell you go to to hopleaf - and you did!  I love that place!  I live just west of there..in Lincoln Square.

    Posted by sara  on  06/21  at  12:38 AM


  • nice speeding to 69 mph and cutting the video off…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/21  at  05:03 PM


  • that should be our t-shirt for the warrior’s run:  fish with viking hat holding chalice

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/22  at  12:54 AM


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This blog post is one of sixteen travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: From Sea to Shining Sea," which chronicled a two-and-a-half-week road trip across the U.S.A., from New York to San Francisco, visiting several American national parks and monuments along the way.

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