Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chicago Bound!

Our epic cross country adventure starts here.

After getting up and getting on the road from Sioux City, SD our plan was to drive west across Iowa and stay in east Iowa at a KOA that is no longer a KOA, probably due to our comments. I will talk about that later.

It was a pretty easy drive across Iowa and not scenic, in my opinion. While we were driving down I-80, or across on I-80, I should say, Dana came across a sign for Elk Horn. We were caravanning, so we carried walkie-talkies to communicate with each other. When she saw the sign for Elk Horn, she radioed over and asked if I wanted to go. Maybe if it was Elk Cove, as in the Elk Cove from the movie Overboard, I would have shown a bit more excitement. I mean, who doesn't watch that movie when it comes on TBS every week? Ok, maybe just me. Anyways, I guess I didn't fully understand how much Dana wanted to go until we had driven ten miles past the exit and she wasn't responding to any of my radio calls. Well, we ended up turning around and headed to Elk Horn, Iowa, the center of Danish ethnicity and home to the Danish Immigrant Museum. If you didn't know, Dana is of Danish descent. The museum was brand new and I will admit, there was some pretty neat stuff inside. This ended up being a good place to stop and let the dogs stretch their legs. As for the town of Elk Horn; not a place you go to on the weekend to get your party on. That is unless your idea of a party is tractor racing down Main Street.

After the brief excursion to Danish America, we continued onward to West Liberty, a small town just outside of Iowa City, home to the Hawkeyes. Iowa City being home to the Hawkeyes, not West Liberty. As I mentioned earlier, we made arrangements to stay at a KOA there. Much like most of Iowa we had seen already, there wasn't much once you pass Iowa City. We get off at the exit for the KOA, follow the signs and end up pulling into a BP gas station. Well we continued to follow the signs that led to the back of the gas station and into the KOA. We could still hear the traffic from the interstate at the entrance (a stone's throw from I-80). We park and go into what was the KOA lodge. It did not resemble any of the lodges we had seen before and when our host (I think that's what they call them at KOA) came out, she was not dressed in the nice embroidered KOA shirts and I definitely knew that corporate KOA had not been out here in a while.

We checked in and pull around to our spot. The RV park was bound by a cow pasture, whose aroma permeated the air, and a mobile home park. We had not stopped to pick up any food for the night so we needed to go out after we got set up. We asked the host for the closest grocery store and she sent us down the highway to the booming metropolis of West Liberty. We drove through what was the downtown area, past what looked to be a business district, but no grocery store. We had plenty of people staring at us and I'm sure the thought that West Liberty might be our last stop EVER crossed both our minds at one point. We got the hell outta dodge and drove back the direction we came and ended up having to drive back to Iowa City to find a grocery store. I'm pretty sure that the cow pasture adjacent to our RV park was home to the cows that would become the West Liberty Saturday night special. I'm sure you don't need a grocery store if you kill your own animals. Talk about fresh.

Needless to say we got up early the next morning, skipped breakfast, and got on the road. If the saying were "give me West Liberty or give me death," we would most assuredly choose death. A bit into our drive that day we saw signs for the Presidential Library and Museum of President Hoover, located in West Branch, Iowa. We had some extra time since we expedited our exit from West Liberty (what's with all the "Wests" in Iowa?) so we decided to stop. The small town was actually pretty neat and the grounds where the museum and grave sites of President Hoover and his wife were very well kept. This was probably the nicest site in Iowa. No offense to anyone from Iowa who reads this. I'm sure our experience was jaded by the former West Liberty KOA.

We make it to Naperville, Illinois, a large suburb outside Chicago, early evening to see our friends Arynn and Dane. I met Dana through Arynn in Charleston, SC back in 2001 so it was certainly good to see her again. They had a Cocker Spaniel named Piper who our dogs enjoyed hanging out with. Dane and Arynn, who knew I was a big Cubs fan, surprised us with tickets to a Cubs game. I was thrilled! I had been to Wrigley back in college while on a road trip to see Georgia Tech play at Notre Dame. Tech lost that game and I honestly don't remember the score of the Cubs game or who they played, but I do remember where I sat and even have pictures of Harry Carey leaning out during the 7th inning stretch singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Dana and I had also seen the Cubs play in San Fran while stationed in Monterey. The Cubs lost that one but I won, seeing as how they had Lagunitas IPA on-tap at the stadium.

I digress. Well Dane and Arynn had to work the day we were going to the game but we had planned to go over to Chicago early to meet Aimster, a friend of Dana's, and a friend of mine from the submarine community, John Red-face, as he is known to us. Dana and I took the train in from Naperville and we all met at the Rock Bottom Brewery downtown. Dane and Arynn were planning on meeting us at the stadium before the game. It was noon when we arrived at Rock Bottom and we didn't leave for several hours.

Dana's friend had to go but John asked us if we wanted to go back to his place which was not far from Wrigley. We had nothing to do for a while so we hung out, maybe had some more beverages, and John escorted us to the stadium where we met up with Dane and Arynn. It was nuts around Wrigley. We found a bar to pre-game for a bit and finally made our way into the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Our seats were AWESOME! Ten rows up from the field on the 3rd base side. Carlos Zambrano had lost that day in San Fran when we last saw the Cubs play and he was back on the mound today. Long story short. The Olde Style flowed and the Cubs' homers flew and in the end, the Cubs destroyed their opponent. It had been a fun day. I could definitely live in Chicago.

After a few days with Arynn and Dane, who were great hosts, we departed and continued east.
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