United States: Chicago, Illinois

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, United States

Jon and I woke up this morning to go for runs, but instead woke up feeling very ill.  We both had swollen glands, were achy and sniffling and all-around icky.  Jon said that he figured that something like this would happen.  This past week was jam packed with activity and little sleep, and the night before last was really tiring.  He said that this was to be expected.  So we spent the day – my one and only day in Chicago – in bed.  We just couldn’t motivate ourselves to go out and do anything cultural.

And it was a good day to lay around too.  The day was overcast and rainy, so it wasn’t difficult to convince ourselves that our time would be better spent inside.

So sad.

For dinner, we actually did motivate outside though.  My friend Eddie Barker is in town on a consulting contract.  Eddie married my former roommate and bridesmaid, Yoon.  He also, ironically, went to NYU Stern School of Business and is working for my soon-to-be employer, AT Kearney.  Actually, Eddie is one of the many reasons I decided to accept the job with ATK.  So it was nice to be able to see him and hang out.

The Chicago Skyline

We met him “downtown” at a cool restaurant called Mas (www.masrestaurant.com).  We had a great time at dinner and spent most of the time talking about our trip, Yoon, and Eddie’s project.  We also learned a lot about the status of the consulting industry and the state of the company I’m going to work for.  ATK told me, after they last postponed my start date from July to some nebulous “soon”, that I could find another employer and they wouldn’t penalize me for the signing bonus I spent a year and a half ago.  But I don’t want to find another job.  I want to work for AT Kearney!  And spending the evening with Eddie reminded me why this is.  I want to work with intelligent, motivated people.  I want to work on interesting projects that will change every few months.  I’m ready for this.  And Jon and I both agreed after dinner that we’re ready to return to the real world and to concentrate on our careers again.

Now, if only we could find a way to do that!

United States: Chicago, Illinois

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, United States

Jon rallied us up and out of bed really early this morning.  He wanted to make it to Chicago by 10:45 for the 1:00 Chicago Cubs – Chicago White Sox game.  We were on the road for almost four hours, but we made it to Wrigley Field in perfect time.

How We Got the Tickets…

Now, this weekend is a major inter-league baseball weekend across the country.  And this – the Cubs vs. the White Sox – is a major inter-league game, much like the Subway Series of Yankees vs. Mets.  It’s virtually impossible to get tickets.  Almost.

Originally, we weren’t planning to come to Chicago.  Our friends Mike and Lynn from San Diego were in Chi-town for the weekend, but we didn’t think the timing would work out for us.  But an intriguing (and slightly random) connection got us here.  When we stayed with Bridget and Terry in Kansas City, we mentioned that we weren’t going to Chicago and Jon said something about but not being able to get tickets to Wrigley Field.  Bridget and Terry said, “Well, Billy can get you tickets!”.  Huh?  Billy who?

Billy is Terry’s very best friend and was the best man at their wedding.  He’s also (small, small world) the third baseman for the Chicago Cubs!!!  Uuuuuuuhhhh…. excuse me?  Are you joking?!?!?  That alone is reason to go to Chicago!  Just for the story!  So Billy Mueller (pronounced “Miller”) secured us five highly coveted tickets to today’s inter-league game and we were so psyched about it.

Wrigley Field

We met Mike and Lynn and Jon’s friend Steve Lieberman at the main entrance of Wrigley Field.  We wanted to get into the ballpark when the Cubs were at batting practice so we could find Billy and say hello and thanks for the tickets.

Lynn, Jon, Mike, and Steve at Wrigley Field

Unfortunately, the player tickets hadn’t been sent down to Will Call yet, so we instead went to a nearby bar where ESPN was hosting a brunch.  Steve works for ESPN, so he knew the place to go!  We hung out there for a while and then made our way back to Wrigley Field.

Jon, Mike and I went down near third base to see if we could catch a glimpse of Billy Mueller but the Cubs had long since finished their batting practice.  So we stuck around for a while but since the seats were filling up so we went back to our own seats.  Later, we saw Billy come out on the field to stretch and warm up, so we headed down again to find him.  As soon as we made it down to third base (no small feat in this sold-out stadium), Billy ducked back into the dugout.  So we never got a chance to thank him for the tickets.

Our seats, by the way, were spectacular.  Bridget and Terry warned us that the players’ seats are never the best.  Baseball is, after all, still a business and the players are employees.  So the best seats will naturally be used for revenue and not for the players’ benefit.  But our seats were great!  We were high up in the first section, in the shade, with a perfectly symmetrical view of the field.

Our View of Wrigley Field

So we were quite happy with our seats!  But honestly, it wouldn’t have mattered if we were in the nosebleed seats.  It wouldn’t have mattered because – of course – these tickets were given to us by Billy Mueller, third baseman for the Chicago Cubs!

In fact, we’d have been happy with the “rooftop seats” outside the stadium.  The people who own the buildings around Wrigley Field have built bleachers on top of their roofs for seating and revenue.  How funny is that?  There’s the price for having a ballpark in the middle of a bustling city.


Private Bleacher Seats

Anytime Billy came up to bat, we cheered like crazy.  I have no idea if he heard us, but I’d like to think that it helped a bit.  He was batting .228 and was 1-4 with a walk and a run scored.  

Billy At Bat

Did I mention that our tickets were given to us by Billy Mueller, third baseman of the Chicago Cubs?

The Cubs lost to the White Sox 10-6, and the crowd was absolutely nutty the entire game.  It was a surprisingly even split between Cubs fans and White Sox fans, but all were equally fanatical about their teams winning this game.  What a great way to spend a beautiful father’s day.  At an exciting and energetic baseball game.  Does life get better than this?

Only if your tickets are courtesy of Billy Mueller, third baseman of the Chicago Cubs.

After the game was over, we said good-bye to Lynn and Mike who had a flight to catch back to San Diego.  Steve went with them because their luggage was at his apartment.  Jon and I went down to the Cubs’ dugout to try to see Billy again, but that was highly unlikely because we knew he had a radio interview to do after the game.  It’s all good, though.  One really can’t complain about hanging out in an empty Wrigley Field.  Well, except the security guards who eventually came and shooed us out.

We got in our car and headed to our hotel, which was about 30 minutes outside the city.  45 minutes with the heinous Sunday evening traffic.  The hotel, it turns out, is just near O’Hare airport but we didn’t notice any air traffic when we later settled in to sleep.

United States: Springfield, Illinois

Posted Posted in Round The World Trip, United States

The big plans for the day was the lake house.  My Aunt Ann (Dad’s sister) and Uncle Roy have a lake house about an hour south of St Louis.  The entire family was converging on this little town in Missouri for a day of fun in the sun, skiing, and swimming.

Jon and I packed up the car and followed Aunt Chris, Uncle Walter, Grandma and Grandpa as they led the way.  Today was a beautiful day to be outside, and the lake house was perfect for it.  We sat in the screened-in porch and enjoyed the scenery as we waited for the rest of the family.  The house isn’t immediately on the lake, but Ann and Roy have a friend down the lake with a lovely dock.  As Roy, Walter, and Jon loaded the “toys” (boat and jet ski) into the water, we greeted the rest of the Marstall Clan.

Marci and Jeff showed up, and Jeff shocked the family with his set of nipple rings.  Then my cousin Sara, her husband Brent, and their adorable daughter Makenna.  Makenna is about a year and a half old, and is the apple of everyone’s eyes.  Not to mention constant entertainment!  What a cutie she is.  Not long later, Bridget and Terry showed up with their dogs Riley and Murphy.  Then we all made our way down the street to Ann and Roy’s friends’ house, which they had graciously offered to us for the day.

Makenna, Aunt Chris, Marci and Sara

For some crazy reason, Roy gave Jon the keys to the Suburban to run an errand.  While he was gone, Walter decided it was time to get some water skiing in.  So Marci, Brent, Walter and I went out on the speed boat and hit the waves.  Marci went skiing first and, of course, looked great.  Then it was my turn.  I haven’t been skiing in about 10 years, so it took me three tries to get up on the skis.  But with everyone on the boat cheering me on and Walter’s coaching, it wasn’t very hard.  The hard part was staying up!

Heidi Water Skiing

It’s a lot more work than I remembered!  After just a few minutes, I could feel the strain in the my arms and legs.  I finally went down, and got such a painful wedgie that I swear I couldn’t breathe for a few minutes.  A pontoon passed me and the guy said, “I’ll bet that didn’t feel good.”  Yeah.  No kidding.  But I got back up again when they brought the boat around.  This time when I went down, I had a much softer landing.  I was completely exhausted by this point, so I took off my skis and turned them over to Brent.

Jeff came by on the jet ski and he wanted to ski, so Marci and I climbed on the jet ski and off we went.  I drove, because Marci’s done this “tons of times”.  And the funny thing was that she was barely holding on for the entire ride!  The speed limit on the lake is 45 mph, and I was barely going 40 but that was fast!  But Marci was chattering and hanging out like she was on the back of a tricycle instead of a jet ski.

Then I dropped Marci off at the speedboat and I went back to the dock to pick up Jon.  He and I rode around the lake quite a few times, with him egging me on to fly over the wakes.  Subconsciously I would slow down whenever we hit a wake, and Jon would tease me about being scared.  But we were definitely airborne a few times.  Then he drove and I held on.  For dear life, I held on!  It’s different when you’re no longer in control of this kind of toy.  Even though Jon was driving safely, I felt like I was going to fly off.  The jet ski “corners like it’s on rails”, but I don’t.  So whenever he took a corner, I would feel myself sliding off the back and would have to hold on with my arms and my knees.  This makes me wonder, yet again, how Marci road behind me without holding on. 

Jon on The Jet Ski

Back at the dock, the girls had broken out the hors d’oevres.  So Jon took off on the jet ski again, and the rest of us got in some quality dock time.  Terry and Bridget’s dogs were taking full advantage of the water, and Riley didn’t look like he was letting up any time soon.  Every time Riley doggie-paddled back into shore, Terry would through his float toy back out in the water and Riley would jump in to get it.

As the afternoon faded away, we slowly trickled back to Ann and Roy’s house for dinner.  Roy was grilling like crazy, and the rest of us put out our various dishes of salad, potatoes, broccoli, cake, etc.  Dinner was delicious.  We passed most of the time watching Makenna and laughing at her silly antics.

Makenna Chasing Bubbles

Dinner was delicious and incredibly filling.  So we all sat around and moaned for a while before it was time to leave.  But before we all departed, we stopped to pose for a family portrait.  The people who let us hang out on their dock all day came to dinner and have three young children.  One of the kids – Brian – asked Jon if we were all related.  He thought about it and said, “Well, all the girls are related.  The boys just married in.”  And the funniest thing is that it’s completely true!  The blood-related male in our party was Grandpa.

The Marstall Clan

Back Row: (Left to Right): Jon, Uncle Roy, Heidi, Aunt Chris, Uncle Walter, Marci, Bridget, Terry, McKenna, Brent, Sara

Front Row: (L to R): Aunt Ann, Grandpa, Grandma

Soon after, Jon and I said our good-byes and followed Marci and Jeff out the lake complex and onto 44 toward Illinois.  We knew we couldn’t make it to Chicago tonight, but we wanted to drive as far as we could.  We were both exhausted from the long and active day, but Jon was determined.  After about three hours on the road, we neared Springfield, Illinois.  We decided we’d go one hour further north and crash there.  So I made some phone calls to the hotels in the area and found that they were all booked.  Booked!  What in the world is there to do in central Illinois on a Saturday night that all the hotels are booked?!?!  The only place we could find to stay was in Springfield at the Super 8 Motel.  Not a problem, but we were bummed that we had to stop an hour earlier than we’d planned.