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Monthly Archives: August 2012

I Am Going to EXplode

[I have a deep-fried hangover]

This is the first year ever when I am actually going to be away for the airshow, I have had to put up with it for 25 miserable years (I mean, 20, 20 miserable years) and finally I am getting a break. The only downside to being away during it is that I will also be away for a week of the CNE. I had to condense my multiple visits into a rather small time frame. Actually going within days of each other. I pretty much had enough time to digest and go to the bank. The first time we went for the whole day and saw mostly everything. The little bits I had missed I made up on round 2.

Every year the ice show gets better, they always add on new things. This year they added in a whole bunch of new things: breakdancers, jugglers, and trampoliners. It made me feel old, watching these young kids bouncing on a trampoline and kicking off a wall into a backflip back onto the trampoline and on and on. All I could thing was how bad my knees would hurt. And how scared of injury I would be. I spent most of the show unable to blink. The breakdancers got extra spin whilst on their backs thanks to the ice. The jugglers somehow managed not to fall flat on their faces while walking around in running shoes ON ICE AND JUGGLING AT THE SAME TIME. I could barely look away, let alone blink as one guy suspended himself from the ceiling by just holding ropes… with nothing but cold hard ice below were he to fall. To say that it was insane, would be an understatement. While this was all happening there were ice dancers all over, spinning, twirling and balancing. It was a circus without the animals and no tent. There were times when I literally did not know where to look, there was so much happening all at once. All precariously scary things that I would never dream of doing.

The dog show did not disappoint, how could it, they are Super Dogs! What can I say? We watched dogs run obstacle courses and catch frisbees for a good 40 minutes to a blaring hip hop and top 40 soundtrack. One dog was not having the run-around-barrels part of the obstacle course so he ran into it and knocked it down with his front paws. It was adorable. New this year they had people, by which I mean kids, race the dogs. Nothing is funnier than watching a child race a Chihuahua puppy that is so small at some times you lose sight of it on the course, I swear it was the size of a rabbit. Speaking of rabbits, at the petting zoo this year they had tiny little bunnies, no more than a few weeks old! Probably trying to hit on us, one of the workers, a young guy, came over and took one of the bunnies out to show us. They were sequestered behind a fence, in a pet carrier. It was tiny, it fit in the palm of his hand and the ears were still tiny. There were other baby animals in the petting zoo: horse, donkey, llama.

Walking along through the Arts & Crafts building, past the wonderful dip place (where we spent a good 15 minutes snacking, which only made us hungrier) there is a meat stall. They sell summer sausages, but there is something amiss, something a bit odd. Some of these sausages are made of the very delicious and new thus year: llama and alpaca, in addition to the already-weird kangaroo (which I tried in previous years). You know what else is delicious at the CNE? Deep-fried stuff! So here is a run-down of the two days worth of CNE-specialties:

Pulled pork from Pull’d: Camilla ordered this and I just stole bites when she was not looking. The bun was made of pretzel. which was better than I had expected. The sandwich came with two pan-fried perogies inside of it, good as far as non-home made perogies go, did add to the sandwich. The pulled pork itself was a bit dry, not enough sauce on it and skimpily served, a small amount of meat in the sandwich. Were it not for the perogies or the bun this would have truly been a shabby awful sandwich. It is not a good sign if the pulled pork, the main part of the sandwich. the main thing the vendor is based on, is subpar and dry. It came with a side of beans, beans that no one wanted to eat.

Pizza cone from Just Cone It!: I was set on trying something new, which after last years poor-showing I was afraid I would not find. Fear not! Just Cone It! appeared newly this year to the rescue! Do you ever have the problem of having to eat with two hands, having to sit down to eat? Problem solved: pack the food into a cone. Not an ice cream cone, a bread cone. A bread cone filled with cheese, tomato sauce and pepperonis (albeit there were very few, next time they need more pepperonis) sounds amazing. It is, until you get to the very bottom, after eating mouthful after mouthful of melted cheese with a tiny piece of bread. You start feeling awful, you realize you have eaten about half a brick of cheese. You feel you have just made yourself lactose-intolerant… and yet you keep eating, it is so good, so melty, so cheesy, how could you stop? One of my new favourites at the CNE this year, I really do hope they are back next year.

Deep-fried cheesecake from deep-fried place in Food Building: Keep in mind, I ordered this literally right after wolfing down that pizza cone. I did not know what to expect when I ordered it, would it hold up or disintegrate? Would it sop the oil up like a sponge? Apparently it is a rather difficult one to fry because the guy making mine had to redo it a few times as it kept breaking once he put it in the oil, resulting in a slightly longer wait than usual. While I waited I took to talking to the people around me. In line for deep-fried goodies is the best place to meet people and talk deep-fried. Compare notes, discuss what is good, what is not. It becomes a competition of who ate what. Or dousing peoples dreams and hopes as I did when I told the guy that I had deep-fried Twinkie before and it was disappointing because the creamy-filling had completely melted into the cake, but I saved myself by reminding him that this was in the States, I had not (and still have not) had the one from the CNE. Now down to brass-tax, the deep-fried cheesecake was, wait for it… AMAZING. Of all the deep-fried goodies I have had, it is easily one of my top three. It held up surprisingly well, tructurally, texturally and taste-wise. The cheesecake did not disintegrate. It still looked and felt and tasted like cheesecake. It did not sop up all the oil, it did not even have the flavour of the oil or the batter. The cheesecake was warm and soft and just perfect. Also: it was plain cheesecake without the graham cracker crumb base.
Deep-fried rice krispie square from Sweet Treats: I chanced upon this one by accident, did not even know this was on offer. I found it at the midway stall outside of the Direct Energy Centre, where they have deep-fried butter. I had high hopes for this one, expected to bite into a crunchy and marshmallowy gooey mess. I instead bit into batter and emptiness. The rice krispie square had disintegrated INTO the batter. You would get a bite of batter coating and there would be a tiny crunch of one lone rice krispy. The marshmallow aspect was nowhere to be found. Don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious, as most everything deep-fried is, but it fell short of my expectations. I am surprised about how badly it fell apart though.

Bacon-wrapped beer-battered deep-fried hotdog from Bacon Nation: Bacon is even bigger this year than last at the CNE, thanks in part to one of the Food Building’s new vendors, Bacon Nation. I could not pass up having something with bacon on it at the CNE, I felt like I would be missing out. On my second visit to the CNE, I sucked it up and went to Bacon Nation. What I had really wanted was bacon popcorn. I was so intrigued by it, did it have bacon bits on top? The grease from cooking the bacon? Fake bacon flavour? I had to know! Alas, on my first trip I decided to scope it out and I did not see any bacon popcorn on the menu. When I got home I checked the CNE app and saw that they indeed were slated to serve bacon popcorn, I assumed it must come as a side instead of fries. It was settled, I was going to eat the disgusting-sounding bacon-wrapped hotdog. It was colossal, I thought for sure they would serve me a small dinky hotdog, but nope, this was giant. There was so much meat. The beer-batter was a lot thinner (think fish and chips instead of corn dog) so each bite was a lot meatier. It came with barbeque sauce on the side, but it was better on its own. It was unbelievably satiating, and so greasy, it just dripped with grease. Delicious bacon-y meaty grease. I would not however make it one of my mainstays as I have corn dogs. It is really more of a once-in-a-lifetime thing, just to try it, just for kicks. As for the popcorn, I asked about it and she just abruptly said “no” without an explanation or anything. Just no. This is not over, I am going to look into the matter further.

Deep-fried Jos Louis: This is the only item on the list that was not new. I had tried to eat this last year, but it was sold out. Again, I was not sure what to expect. Would the icing in the middle uphold? What of the chocolate coating? The chocolate coating just disappeared into the mess. The icing, I was shocked to find little remnants of it here and there, I guess the chocolate and cake somehow insulated it? The cake, it was soaked up ALL the oil. It was a greasy soggy mess of delicoiusness. Not outstanding though, the deep-frying did not transform it into a heavenly treat.

There is also a new Lebanese bakery vendor in the Food Building, I had a bite of Camilla’s sesame pita wrap. It was ok, not exactly fair food. But it is one of those foods I can see myself eating outside in the real world, it was not messy, greasy or weird. Just tasty.

If you enjoy shopping at the CNE, be forewarned: this year it is just plain awful. Stitches used to be 50% off the sale price, now the deal is that nothing is over $10, which is to say that most everything is $10. There are maybe two racks with stuff under $5. What happened to the Stitches where you could buy a skirt for $2 or a bikini top for $1?! It is not even worth going. Save your time. Unless you want an awesome shirt that says “Stay Calm and Kill Some Zombies” then maybe you should go. Or the cupcake version.

 

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Birthday Marathon

This year was finally it. I got my free dozen bagels from What A Bagel. It also happened to be my sisters birthday that very same day, yes we share a birthday but are three years apart, I know, what are the odds? So she also got a dozen bagels. It is three weeks later and I am still eating bagels. So many bagels. Every time I try to find something in the fridge or freezer, all I see are bagels.

The day of our birthday we also went to Boston Pizza for free entrees. The entrees were huge, we each only ate half and gave up. Mine sat in the fridge for a good week or so afterwards. As if we were not full enough, we headed to Marble Slab for free medium sized cones. No sooner were we done than it was time to go to Booster Juice for free smoothies. Interspersed in there we got free lip and hair treatments from Sephora and Aveda, respectively.

All in all we had a good haul and a fun birthday.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!

 

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Anatolia

Between roadtrips and trips to the cottage, not a whole lot of fooding has been done this summer. Over the weekend however we had a car, which of course meant… we could go fooding anywhere. Alas, it was a Saturday afternoon and the places we had in mind, en route to Kitchener for Josh’s birthday, were all supposedly packed on weekends. We went with the safe bet, that was first along the way, and if that failed we would subsequently try the other two.

First we tried Anatolia, voted best hummus. We were the only people in the restaurant, so that worked out nicely. We ordered a mixed plate that had chicken shish-kebobs, ground beef patties and meat inside of a pita all on top of a bed of rice. You cannot just go in and order hummus, it would be too weird. The hummus was amazing, it came with a basket of bread to scoop it up with. The mixed plate was also really delicious and the meat well seasoned. I did not care for the mint yogurt sauce on the side however. The rice soaked up the flavours of the meat as well. I enjoyed a Turkish coffee between the hummus and the mixed plate, it was delicious, until I got a bit of coffee grounds in my mouth at the end.

Making good use of the weekend, I spent Sunday afternoon on the boardwalk patio at Sunnyside Cafe, looking out over the boardwalk at the lake while munching on some delicious coconut shrimp.

 

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2012 Roadtrip 2, Day 11

Sun. July 29, 2012- Michigan to home:

Watching the Olympics while packing is mildly distracting, you forget what you are doing and find yourself enthralled by it. Or you have your back turned and miss something really cool while stuffing things in your backpack. The stupid Radisson hotel did not have any milk or creamer, not even any of that fake disgusting whitening powder for the complimentary coffee in the lobby. It made me mildly grumpy. I was also hungry, which was not helping. The GPS decided to take us down a one-way road that was half torn up due to construction. It then decided to take us to a phantom Dunkin’ Donuts that did not exist. Things were not looking good. Thankfully there was an exit for a Tim Hortons off the highway, and on the way to it we instead passed another coffee shop, Bigby Coffee and went there instead. It is a great place, one of my new American favourites: they have about 5-6 different brews of coffee available including a weird cherry-flavoured one.  Cherry without chocolate just does not go well with coffee. Eating a chocolate chip muffin and lemon pound cake in the car resulted in my being covered, as in all over, with crumbs. There was a family of three deer grazing by the side of the highway. The license plate game continued, adding on three more: South Dakota, Maryland and Rhode Island. It was also decided that for the next trip we are going to print out a map so I can keep btter track. And get more than 38 states and 5 provinces.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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2012 Roadtrip 2, Day 10

Sat. July 28, 2012- Illinois to Michigan:

After sleeping in, I headed out alone around the block to Dunkin’ Donuts and what a pleasant surprise! The street was blocked off for a farmers market but nothing really caught my eye for breakfast. The cashier at Dunkin’ laughed at me for paying with a $50 for a cup of coffee, it was not my fault, and it was towards the end of the trip when all I had left were big bills. I almost ran back to the hotel to get Brent so that we could go explore the farmers market, I was really hungry. Delightful Pastries caught my eye, they had delightful pączki. The pączek was filled with delightful strawberry preserves and was cut in half to fit in some delightful whipped cream, which in turn made it monstrously huge. I took one bite, nearly dislocating my jaw, and splat, the whipped cream went all over my hand, down my front and onto my legs. While my face ended up covered in not just whipped cream, but also powdered sugar from the top, I even ended up with whipped cream on my nose, all to Brent’s delight as he laughed and laughed at my hilarious predicament.

We had ventured out without a map, trying to get to the Lincoln Park zoo from memory; thankfully Lincoln Park had wonderful signs pointing the way. As it turns out, the zoo grounds open at 9am, and the buildings open at 10am, we could have gotten there earlier. Because we were there so early however, all the animals were out and about. Some of them were being fed as well.  The jaguar had just been fed and two cages down a lynx was anxiously pacing back and forth, it knew that food was on its way. There was a baby gibbon monkey playing with his mother, chasing each other around the enclosure and swinging on the ropes, it was unbelievably cute. The chimps were sticking their arms through the fence to get the tall blades of grass on the other side. There was an old (as in liver-spotted and gray) chimp chowing down on a head of lettuce. Even the local sparrows were in on the feeding frenzy, teasing the injured bald eagle, by precariously perching on the fence just within reach. We were excited about seeing the rhino exhibit because we read that for Chicago’s 175th birthday a small mock-up of the city was placed in their enclosure and that the rhinos proceeded to destroy it. All we saw was rhino butt. The other animals were a lot more entertaining: the flamingos were fighting; kookaburras laughing; vultures turning their heads all the way around and wild dogs fighting over a mostly-eaten rack of ribs when there was another untouched one less than 20 feet away on the side of the hill. Towards the end we really had to rush (as is our apparent tradition in the Lincoln Park Zoo) and we ended up arriving at the hotel late and checking out late. We had gone too far east and had to backtrack, but it all worked out in the end, we were not that late.

We drove to the American-Polish museum but 1.) it appeared to be closed and 2.) it did not look like a museum, it said Polish-American Union on the side, as if it were a bank. We tried to drive to the Polish district but the road was blocked off for a street festival. We bailed and went for the highway, with the promise of the McDonalds ion the toll bridge. As we drove out of Chicago we were listening to a podcast about the Great Chicago Fire. The pull off for the McDonalds was a bit confusing- and it was missed. No McDonalds on a toll bridge for me. Then there was a really slow line-up at the toll booth because it was automated. We finally pulled up, and did not have any change, so I handed over a $5 and rather than spit out my change, the machine decided to eat my change. How nice. My day had turned rather sour. We held up the line while buzzing for help, the woman claimed that when the machine was audited they would mail me my change. Somehow I don’t believe her.

The GPS led us to a dead end, not the Hardee’s it had promised. I settled for Wendy’s because hunger was not helping my sour mood, maybe chicken nuggets and a cheeseburger would help. Dessert was candy from Walgreen’s, a Coconut Twix that was ok and Skittles, which I had thought were new but upon eating them, realized they were not. A welcome to Michigan sign cheered me up a little, but our streak had been broken. There was a Big Boy along the way and I insisted on stopping there, I walked in only to realize it was a sit-down place. We arrived at the hotel just in time to drop our stuff and head out to explore Lansing, Michigan the old rattle-trap of a town (that is what it was called on a historical info board). Also on the board were some hilarious other possible names plus wonderful little facts such as when Lansing was named the capitol, people thought it was a joke. The capitol building was not as pretty as the one in Montpelier, and there was nothing else to see other than the river we crossed on our way to the ballpark.

The baseball game was very low-key and laidback, except for the uptight people sitting behind us who would yell “down in front” every time anyone stood up, even when nothing was happening on the field. In the outfield instead of seats there was just a giant patch of grass for people to sprawl out on. The food and alcohol were also much cheaper here. Big Lug the mascot came out and danced on top of the dug-out. A guy walked buy carrying what appeared to be a berry-flavoured Sierra Mist, the day before we were leaving for home! I wish I had known beforehand! There was a kid sitting beside us and he was just losing it screaming “go nuts” (the team was called the Lugnuts), it was adorable and loud. There was a fireworks show right after the game, and of course they just had to play Katy Perry’s “Firework”.

Back at the hotel we were watching the Olympics. At some point I lost interest and took to amusing myself with the remote control for the bed. It was one of those sleep-numbers beds where you can adjust the bed from soft and smooshy to hard as concrete. I would lay on the bed and it would raise and lower me as I changed the number, all the while giggling like a madwoman.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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2012 Roadtrip 2, Day 9

Fri. July 27, 2012- Wisconsin to Illinois:

Breakfast proved to be successful; we raked in a good haul, bringing in some mini lemon poppy seed muffins, chocolate raspberry danishes and coffee with flavoured creamers and green tea. Plus I walked in during the most hilarious part of a news segment about Twilight fans being mad on Twitter. We started walking towards what we thought was the Pabst Mansion only to realize that it was a fancy hotel, so we turned back to the hotel to get a proper address and see if we did not have to instead drive there. It turned out we were maybe three or four blocks away. We headed back out, this time with our trusty map in hand. We were also in search of the Pabst brewery and a statue of Beercules. The mansion was just a big fancy house that was now surrounded by an office building and a university residence, it was nothing spectacular and we were far too early for tours. The brewery appeared to be abandoned (unless this is a hipster thing, to disguise your brewery as abandoned), with the windows all boarded up. Beercules was trapped in a beer garden of the Pabst gift shop and pub. We had to peek through the gate to look at him in all his beer-filled glory. While out walking we witnessed a giant (I mean the size of a goose) seagull crossing the street… at a crosswalk. We were floored.

In the hotel lobby I conveniently found a brochure for some outlets that conveniently were en route back to Chicago and I was conveniently given free reign of part of the day plans due to my stellar attendance record at the baseball games. The giant clock that I wanted to see was also on the way out of town. It was indeed giant, as promised. The only problems were that it was in an industrial area and that once you got close to it, it ironically disappeared from view behind the building. The outlets proved less than successful, Ghiradelli’s outlet is not the same as Lindt’s, they do not sell chocolate by bulk but by bag.

There was no welcome sign to Illinois! It was so rude and it broke our every-state-welcomed-us streak. We drove alongside a truck and for the longest time I could not tell what it was hauling, I had to have stared at it for at least five minutes, unable to make it out. Then I realized, it was crushed up cars. We were staying at the Hotel Indigo which was actually on the same street we had stayed in earlier in Chicago, just further north. This hotel was so unbearably cute, our room had a mural behind the wall that was a photograph of blueberries and the furniture was all very colourful and bright and it felt like staying inside an IKEA showroom. We pretty much just threw our stuff down and ran out the door, we were voraciously hungry. We took a detour, which added on more time to the hour plus walk to our first food destination, but the detour was to go see Charlie Trotteris before it closes down. The restaurant does not even have a sign out front; it is too fancy for that. If you are eating there you know where it is, no one is going to walk in off the street and decide to eat there, at least not without getting laughed at. We had to stop at a 7-Eleven to get me some candy so that I could make it all the way to George’s for hotdogs. It was a good idea, because I arrived very hungry still. The hot dog was OK, it was on par with Gold Coast Dogs, but it was not outstanding. It was also needlessly buried in French fries. It was the same brand of hot dog: Vienna Beef. Our next stop was Hot Chocolate for dessert. What I did not do when looking up the address, was to look up the hours. We faced a locked door and decided to come back that evening (apparently an hour long walk is just fine for hot chocolate). We also walked right by it at first and had to back track, it does not stand out at all and is easy to miss. Thankfully Piece was nearby, I say thankfully because I was still hungry. We were heading for some New Haven-style pizza, in the article it was suggested to order bacon and clam strips, Brent tried to trick me and took liberties with our order by saying broccoli instead of bacon, not sure if this was by mistake or a plan to get me to eat vegetables. Either way, it did not work, I called him out on it and the waiter laughed. Piece also happens to be a microbrewery, but I am no beernoisseur and to me it just tasted like beer, as in gross.

Even after the pizza, we still had an hour before hot chocolate opened, back to the hotel we walked, exhausted, full of food and having to carry 3 slices of pizza we never managed to get through. The clam strips and bacon went together surprisingly well, I think it also helped that we ordered the pizza sans-tomato sauce (as suggested). We went back to the hotel and had about half an hour of time to kill before we had to head right back out in the same direction. We were going drinking, in a bank vault! We were too full for dinner, so when we arrived we asked to have our dinner reservation to be changed to just drinks. Best idea ever, the casual drinking area was inside the bank vault. We got to sit on comfy couches and drink while trying to pry open safety deposit boxes. The music was also great, an all around fun place to sit and drink. Brent eventually found a safety deposit box that was open and he pulled it out- there was just a crumpled piece of paper inside, what a let-down. One drink later we decided it was time to head out; it was time for hot chocolate. We got to a confusing five-street intersection and had a mini-disagreement. I insisted that N. Milwaukee Street continued towards the right, where Hot Chocolate was, Brent said to the left. So we went to the left while I kept saying it was the other street. After a while we realized we had gone past the number, we missed it again. Only we were on the wrong street. You see, during the disagreement we had both been right. Hot Chocolate was on the street over to the right and N. Milwaukee was the street we were on to the left. Hot Chocolate was not on N. Milwaukee. It was worth all the extra walking to sit down at a bar and order a hot chocolate and a snickerdoodle cookie. The hot chocolate was out of this world, and the home-made marshmallow on the side was the cherry on top. The cookie was also delicious and so much fun to dunk into my hot chocolate. Brent’s hot chocolate was creamy and vanilla-y with the slightest hint of orange; we had swapped halfway through. I had read that the pastries were amazing, but there were no pastries on the menu, so I will just have to assume based on the cookie and drink that the pastries are also amazing. The only downside was that drinking such a warm drink in the summer in a crowded place lead to me being uncomfortably hot, I nearly ran out the door when we were done.

We very slowly made our way back to the hotel. The protesters that had been at an intersection all day were finally gone. All the bikers in Chicago apparently come out at night; a parade of them rode by. We caught the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, but after I saw the Polish team I was too tired and full to keep watching, I was out cold.

Lesson for the day: Chicago drivers suck. Twice I almost got run over, cars just kept honking when they were going through intersections on red lights and they never stopped for pedestrians who had right of way.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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2012 Roadtrip 2, Day 8

Thurs. July 26, 2012- Illinois to Wisconsin:

There is no better way to start the day than with a free iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, thanks to the White Sox hitting a run in the fourth inning of course. I was on my own for the morning; mostly because my intention was go to on a massive condensed shopping trip and due to the excitement of being in Chicago crossed with being an hour behind in time zones, this little adventure commenced rather early. I did not mind, there was plenty of stuff to do before the shops opened. It is not hard to figure out that I made a beeline for Cloudgate. It was barely 9am so I got to experience the Chicago morning rush hour on the sidewalks; it was a lot better than the tourist crowds. Cloudgate was fairly empty; I guess not a lot of people go there first thing in the morning. The seagulls had taken over and were perched precariously atop the giant silver Bean. It made me giggle and love Cloudgate that much more. I loved it so much in fact that I killed my camera battery taking pictures of it.

The previous day I had seen a few people with Forever 21 shopping bags and it struck me as slightly odd that they would be so far south, Magnificent Mile being north of us, about a 40 minute walk. It bugged me but I let it go. The next day I soon found out why, they were not in fact avid walkers; a new Forever 21 had opened up closer to Grant Park, near the new Target. This was clearly a new secondary shopping area for people too lazy to walk to Magnificent Mile, let alone the mall that is even further north. I got to the stores too early, but the opening times were staggered. I would browse one shop, while waiting for the next one to open. There were a few that did not have hours listed, so every time I passed by I would try the door.  I tried to go into Charlotte Rousse four times to no avail. I kept circling the block, trying doors, I felt like a shark. On my way back to the hotel I saw some street art that was light bulbs on little poles glowing blue and Eiffel 65’s song Blue playing from hidden speakers, further affirming my love affair with Chicago. I reconvened with Brent and we headed to the Rookery hoping that this time it would be open, and it was. But only the foyer was open to gawking tourists, we weren’t even allowed to walk up the fancy marble staircase.

Part of the reason for the laisse-faire attitude in the morning was that Hot Doug’s (where we were going for breakfast) was not open until 10:30am and it was finally time to head out for some weird hotdogs. I say weird because we looked at the menu for the day and had decided on alligator (my choice) and kangaroo (Brent’s choice) sausages. That is unless the website was lying and intent on breaking my heart. It was faster to see some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings along the way than to follow the original plan for the day and do those after Hot Doug’s. The first one was a house he had designed but the house number did not match what we had found, maybe it was a way of keeping people away? It was still very obviously his work if you knew what to look for. The second stop on our mini-tour was Unity Temple, his masterwork. You had to pay to go in but then were free to wander around. It was easy to see why he called it his masterpiece; the design was just gorgeous if not fully thought out. The glass ceiling tiles turned the temple into a sauna. We were roasting in there. The third and final stop was also a residential house but it was blatantly obvious that it was a FLW-design, not to mention it stood out from all the other houses around it. The house was almost completely surrounded by trees and obscured from view.

At this point I was getting really hungry and I feared I would turn hangry (hungry and angry, not a great combination). I snacked a bit on what was left of our bag of Garrett’s Popcorn, but I was starving. It was hot dog time, I had developed a craving. We got there and our jaws dropped. The line was out the door and around the block. I jumped out of the car and ran for the line; Brent drove off in search of parking. I thought for sure he would come back half an hour later, but surprisingly there he was 5 minutes later. And then there we were in line for almost an hour, surrounded by the most infuriating people imaginable. It was unbearable. I really thought I was going to scream and my hanger (yep, I had gone hangry) was getting to me. We did get a few minutes of relief when we were in between the door and the secondary door in a small foyer, just us, no annoying people talking about the stupidest things. The owner, who was working the register, is a saint for having to deal with these kinds of people. I surmised that it was undecided people slowing down the line, I was right. There should be two lines, a regular line and an express line for people who know what they want. If you stand there too long and don’t order you get sent to the other line. That is how it should be; the world would be a better place.

My alligator sausage came with a giant lump of feta cheese on top; I was not at all heart-broken when that lump just slid right off as I took a bite. There was just enough feta residue left on my sausage to create the flavour the chef had wanted, without me having to ingest feta or feel its weird texture (which is lumpy). The alligator had just a slight kick of spicy to it, delicious. The kangaroo sausage was not as good, and it was topped with goat cheese, goat cheese that did not just slide right off. I won this round. It was worth having to put up with those irritating people in line and the cherry soda made me smile.

State #26 (for me), Wisconsin also welcomed us with a big wooden welcome sign. You could tell we were in Wisconsin; one of the first things we passed was the Mars Cheese Castle. We saw a license plate that said Jehovah; you could say we were Jehovah’s Witnesses.  We set out to explore Milwaukee and no sooner had I pointed out a sign in a bar that said they offer discounted beer when it rains, it started raining. Thankfully we were only a block away from the hotel so we backtracked to get our jackets. And good thing we did because the rain did not let up, it was awful, just a torrential downpour as we tried to explore Milwaukee. In the rain we searched for the stature of Fonzi which was supposed to be by the river, not near a bridge over the river. I really thought this was going to be another American Gothic incident, but trying to get to the riverwalk we found him. Along the riverwalk we also saw the statue of the WWII duck (I forget the story). It was still raining, we found the Safehouse restaurant but Brent was not hungry yet and we did not have enough time so we continued on to the building being scaled by ladybugs, and that is just what it was, a building with giant ladybugs on the side of it. The other stuff I had on my list of things to see in Milwaukee were too far to walk to in time.

We suddenly found ourselves with more time so back to the Safehouse we went. We went in and there was a door, but it was locked. I pushed a random lever and the wall slid open. We went in and again found ourselves in a small room, and again the wall slid open. We were in. For starters we had the deep-fried cheese curds; we were in Wisconsin after all. We should have stopped at that, the mains were subpar. I had chicken tortilla soup that was way too salty and Brent had an awful sandwich. I could not resist ordering a shot so I could keep the shot glass, the drink tasted like candy. We had two options when leaving the restaurant: leave through the regular door OR go answer a phone, put in a quarter and listen to instructions. We wandered around looking for it, went into a phone booth and put in a quarter, all we heard were sound effects. We put in another quarter, more sound effects. No instructions. We got out, realized it was s ound-effects booth and that the exit was to the left of us. And we were out of quarters. We had to settle for the regular way out. We walked down to the waterfront, wherein my stomach really started to hurt. I blame the cheese-curds and soup. We wandered over to a war memorial and had a great view of Lake Michigan from it. The rain had finally let up and it was actually getting pretty hot outside. It did not help me feel better, my stomach was dying, my shoes were damp and we were walking towards the bright sun. All I could do was complain.

We left our coats and my camera at the hotel and headed out for the game. We barely made it to the elevators before realizing we’d forgotten the tickets and the water. So many busses kept passing us by, all different routes, none of them going to the stadium but eventually it arrived. The stadium was big and fancy with lots of food options, they even had cupcakes! Mind you, I was in no mood to eat. I had one bite of Brent’s bratwurst and even that was too much for me. We got free military print Brewers hats, which apparently only a few people got. There was an old woman beside us who caught a foul ball and instead of giving it to the kids in front of us, she kept it for herself. She even went so far as to show her friends, taunting the kids in front of us who had turned around to look. When we got up to go wander around we left our stuff behind and we wondered if she was going to steal our hats, she had yelled something at us about them as we left. When we came back she retrieved them from under her seat to give back to us. She totally wanted to take them and was counting on us to not come back. While walking around there were a bunch of people chanting Polish, and I was a tad confused, until I looked down on the field and saw that there were different types of sausages racing. In the 8th inning the Brewers hit a homerun which resulted in fireworks and the mascot going down a twirly slide in the outfield. We had seen the mascot earlier while wandering the stadium, he slapped Brent on the back. Leaving the game, we had to sit on the bus and wait. The bus was not allowed to leave until the game was actually over. When the bus driver said it was time to go the entire crowd let out a cheer.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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2012 Roadtrip 2, Day 7

Wed. July 25, 2012- Missouri to Illinois:

Yet again we found ourselves in a hotel that did not offer free coffee or breakfast, thankfully the GPS knew the way to a Dunkin’ Donuts, and oh there just happened to be a Jack-In-The-Box across the street, and it just so happened to be open 24/7 and it just so happened to serve a full menu, unlike McDonalds where we would have had to eat their breakfast food. Jack-In-The-Box was better than McDonalds, but not as good as Hardee’s, they do get points for having curly fries, but in the end it was lackluster and I do not see myself going back there again. I had to traverse a construction site to get to Dunkin’ Donuts and I almost fell into a hole at one point. I thought I would try something new and I went for the blueberry flavoured coffee, it was weirdly good. No sooner were we back on the road than we passed by the Crossroads Route 66 Diner, it would have been a much better breakfast but I like to think that it was closed at that early hour.

I regretted not having downloaded some of the tracks from Cruis’n USA; it would have been perfect for the five hour drive ahead of us. Halfway through the drive Brent woke me up, suggesting I play the license plate game. I am not sure if this was suggested to keep me awake because he was bored, or he thought I was bored. In any case I took to it right away, at first just casually calling out state names as we saw them. Soon I was really racking them up, I was nearing 20. Then I was nearing 25, I was losing my mind, we were so close to downtown Chicago, nearing our exit off the freeway, I just needed one more state to have seen half the states, I got screwed over by seeing a Canadian one (obviously does not count as a state), I had seen some really far flung ones and it was all down to the wire… and it stayed there. In 2.5 hours of driving I had seen 24 different states and 3 provinces. A nice fun game had turned high stakes with me screaming because I could not see the license plate because another car pulled up.

We checked in at the Wyndham Blake hotel and it was a mad dash from there to the subway, we were running late for the afternoon White Sox game. The way the transit system works is that you load money onto a card and swipe it, apparently we looked like we did not know what we were doing because we were being helped by a transit employee. It was a long wait for the subway, and those things are loud when they roll in to the station, it all somehow made the TTC seem reasonable.

The game was set to start at around 1pm; in the middle of the summer this is not an ideal time to have an outdoor baseball game. It was unbelievably hot. Everyone was just drenched with sweat. There were showers around the stadium and just crowds of people crammed under them. People were splashing themselves with water at the bathroom sink and the line-ups for the water fountains, well; there actually were lines in front of them. Hunger and heat led to the both of us just devouring a plate of nachos, they were disgustingly good and salty and cheesy. The heat got to me and I caved an d had a Snickers ice cream bar, which was reasonably priced at $4 (as in Toronto-price, turns out in the US those things cost you about a $1 regularly). When the White Sox hit a home run there are fireworks and spiral spinning things light up, but the fireworks are not nearly as effective in the middle of the day and you cannot see the spinning things lights. The seats were so hot they actually burned my legs and I had to resort to sitting on my purse. A fat guy in front of us spilled his drink on the guy in the row in front, and the fat guy’s wife had to wipe up the poor chaps head. We left early because the game was slow, it was ungodly hot and we had no intention of being stuck in that hot sweaty mass of people all heading for the subway.

It felt so good to have a shower as soon as we got back, getting all the sunscreen and sweat off. I had to change my clothes as well. It was bad. We grabbed our trusty map and headed out to explore Chicago some more. Our first destination was the American Gothic Statue, but we passed by a Garrett’s Popcorn and figured we might as well; it would save us some time and give us something to eat on the way. The way we were walking though, we were heading straight for Cloudgate so American Gothic was bumped down the list again. It was a good call because we got to wash the caramel off our hands (the popcorn is so damn greasy). Cloudgate was amazing as ever, I just love it, it is easily one of my favourite sights I have ever been to. We got to the Chicagio Tribune Building and there was no sign of American Gothic, we circled the building to no avail. I walked over to a tour guide guy and asked him, he thought I wanted the American Girl store, so I said “No, the statue of a farmer holding a pitchfork, standing beside his wife” and he just stared blankly at me and confessed that he was not even from Chicago. I moved on to the next guide who laughed and asked who told me about it, for it had been taken down two (!!!) years ago. I was furious. First they take down Forever Marilyn, now the internet lies to me about American Gothic?! He said it was a temporary thing and that they always change the statue there, but the last two times I went there was nothing. When was the last time I was there? Oh, I don’t know, two years ago? As in when American Gothic was supposed to still be there?! AAHH!!!

The next few blocks we walked in silence, I was so flipping angry. We were looking for Macy’s that was formerly a Marshall Fields store where there was a supposed Tiffany glass mosaic ceiling. We found Macy’s easily, no map needed, I directed us. We stepped in, glanced up in anticipation… and saw nothing. It was a stupid regular ceiling. I nearly lost my mind. I was about to give up, but we went in further, and looked up yet again… and behold there it was. For a second view we went to the top floor, it was gorgeous and must have taken forever to make. It also brightened my mood significantly. Gold Coast Dogs was just up the street, I think hunger was also making me angry. I had the steamed dog, Brent had the chargrilled. They were OK hotdogs, but by no means better than Portillos/SuperDawg/Byron’s. On the way back to the hotel we chanced upon Chagal’s mural “Four Seasons”, something I had wanted to see but had forgotten to look up and there it was. It was very pretty and you could walk all the way around and admire it. He signed it a bunch of times, and his signature varied, it was a bit odd, I chalk it up to creative insanity. There was a Target on the next street over, calling me like a beacon, but I did not find anything good there sadly.

Back at the hotel we placed an order for deep-dish pizza with garlic and Canadian bacon from Giordano’s, one of the deep-dish pizza places we had missed last time. Unfortunately in that time of ordering the pizza I managed to drink half my soda. We sat around drinking one glass of water after another, we had not thought ahead and brought water with is while out walking. We walked to the Rookery (which I found out you can go inside of) and peaked in but we were too late to go inside and look around. The pizza was so heavy and it smelled so good, it was tempting to just eat it right there in the middle of the street but we managed to get to the hotel. America’s Got Talent was conveniently on as well.  The pizza was so good and so greasy and so unbelievably cheesy. For dessert we topped off with a bit of Garrett’s popcorn, but I had eaten almost 2 whole slices, it was too much food. While watching AGT I got the worst news of all: it was going on a 3 week break for the Olympics!!

We did not have too much time to recuperate after eating all that food, it was time to go out again. We were going to a jazz bar for college night. We got to Buddy Guy’s Legends bar and quickly realized we were the youngest ones there, there was nary a college student to be seen. I had a drink made with Maker’s Mark. We had gotten the last seats in the bar and the music was great. Two hours later when we went back outside, it was 11:30pm and it was still boiling hot outside. It was unbelievable.

Overall Chicago, two years later is mostly the same but also a lot has changed. Target opened up downtown, there are a bunch more Garrett’s Popcorn out postings (we passed at least 4, when last time there were 2 locations total), Gino’s East also had a third out posting (across from our hotel) and Cloudgate is as awesome as ever. But the Chicago Tribune Plaza, where there is supposed to be a new statue each time: sucks.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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2012 Roadtrip 2, Day 6

Tues. July 24, 2012- Indiana to Illinois to Missouri:

This had to have been the most fun breakfast as of yet. The pancake machine was back and this one was not broken. You push a button and the machine squirts some batter onto a conveyor belt, cooks it and spits out a perfectly cooked pancake for you to eat, plus it is fun watching it just flop onto your plate. And then another, because of course this is America, you cannot eat just one pancake. There was a hitchhiker on the on-ramp to the highway, not exactly the best stop to have someone pull over and pick you up. We passed a small Route 66 sign because there was a detour heading along it, the one and only time I wished we had been on the detour, damn I-64 not having a detour along Route 66, it would have been the best detour ever. Illinois welcomed us with a big one wonderful sign, so far every state we entered had greeted us. I started falling asleep but Brent was not having it, he yelped just to scare me awake. I got back at him though, by demanding we pull off the highway to go to a 50s McDonalds, I needed coffee as evidenced by my falling asleep. The outside was more 50s than the inside, but they were playing 50s music.

State number 25! I cheered as we entered Missouri, and yes there was a welcome sign. And then I cheered some more, it was Route 66!!  The welcome sign was on the bridge over the Mississippi River, but as we drove along another sign popped up that said Missouri state line, I had cheered too soon. We drove to Chouteau Island in Illinois, we had to back track, we had missed the exit, and we were in Missouri too early. The GPS told us that Chouteau Island was where Chain of Rocks Bridge was. Why were we going to see a bridge? Because this was no ordinary bridge, this was a bridge that was on Route 66 back in its heyday and I insisted on going to see as per my obsession with Route 66. The bridge is closed to cars and you have to walk across it, but that is better because you get to stop and admire the Mississippi River. There was a sign about the wildlife but we scoffed at it, as if we would see anything along the bridge. There were a tonne (I am talking thousands here) of fish swimming upstream and a heron who was slowly inching his way towards them, even though they were too big for him to eat anyways. There were some turtles along the banks of the river, and if you went to the middle of the bridge and looked south you could see the Archway in St. Louis, MO.

The bridge had a lot of Route 66 memorabilia scattered about. At the entrance there was a sign overhead that said Historic Route 66. Further along there was an old car from that era, all broken down and beat up, but still bright red. At the midway point there was a state line drawn and two Route 66 signs with the state names. This provided much amusement to yours truly, who entertained herself for a good few minutes by hopping back and forth, “Illinois, Missouri, Illinois, Missouri…” Also entertaining was climbing into the old car and playing around, pushing the pedals, climbing into the open back. Further along the bridge some signs had been turned into benches and there were some restaurant and motel signs placed at the edge of the bridge. There was a sign about the history of Route 66, but it was old and weather-beaten that you could barely read it, which somehow made it that much better. On the Missouri side there were port-a-potties under an awning that had been painted with a Route 66 mural.

We stopped at Phillips 66 gas station and as usual stocked up on snacks, this time we had a good haul: honey BBQ chips, mint M&Ms and cherry Dr Pepper. We passed by the Historic Route 66 Flea Market but there was no time to stop and it did not look open. As we drove along the highway in St. Louis, we passed a slow driver who looked a lot like Alfred Hitchcock; I shouted that he was a ghost. Our Route 66 adventure continued as we drove along another stretch (the first was from the bridge to the interstate in Illinois) to Ted Drewe’s for frozen custard concretes. It sounds like a mouthful and it is a mouthful, basically it was a McFlurry made with frozen custard and was very thick. The sizes at this Route 66 Roadside Attraction are mammoth; I ordered a mini and got what is the equivalent (to normal people) of a medium. Up at the register I later found out that they have an extra-mini as well. We also did not know you could mix flavours; I could have had a mix of Oreo and other stuff. Ah well, it just means that I have to go back. And then go back again. And again a few more times. It was that good, there were so many Oreo pieces in it and I just love the roadside attraction sign. And it is not just me, soon after we ordered a giant crowd formed; we had just missed the rush. We drove along Route 66 to the Wayside Motel, but this stretch was not as nice, it had been overtaken and made into a commercial area, were it not for the signs you would not know you were on Route 66. It should have been left untouched and just restored and kept as it was. The Wayside Motel at first glance seemed unimpressive, it was just a motel. Only after some thought did I realize why it was recommended, it had individual garages for Route 66 motorists to store their precious cars!!! We even saw an old car, one you would have seen on Route 66 back in the day, chugging along, but we passed it, he was going slowly.

We passed a Jack-In-The-Box (so unfitting of Route 66) but we did not have time to stop (I was hell-bent on trying it, partly because I kept missing opportunities to try it). We were on our way to Laumeier Sculpture Park to look at, what else, sculptures. What we did not anticipate was how ungodly hot it was going to be, we were there just past 1pm and it was like a desert. The grass was yellow and crunchy underfoot, we had to refill our water bottle over and over again because we kept drinking it all, and it was still not enough. There was one sculpture that was a bunch of black balls stuck together, I said it looked like a balloon animal poodle, Brent said it looked like molecules. As it turned out we were both right.

At the hotel we saw a guy checking in who had a lot of Kansas City Royals gear, I saw his name on the bag, I thought it said Steve, Brent said it was Sueve, when we Googled it turned out he was Steuve. We did not manage to find out however what he was doing with all that Kansas City Royals gear when we were nowhere near Kansas, and the baseball game was going to be St. Louis Cardinals versus some team that was not Kansas. We walked in the blazing heat, facing the sun, hungry and tired to Pappy’s Smokehouse for some Man Vs. Food–approved dinner. We decided on the pulled pork and the beef brisket, instead of a sad attempt at a challenge Man Vs. Food style. The food was quick and delicious, plus we had window seats so we could stare at the meat smoker standing outside. We had just missed the dinner rush; the line was to the door. The food was good, but it was not outstanding. It was a tiny bit dry and it would have been nice had the meat been braised in sauce rather than just having to add sauce on top by myself. We walked slowly through another sculpture garden, stopped to marvel at some nice architecture and wondering what the building was, it turned out to be a train station and a hotel. One of the sculptures was a headless business man in a pink suit and I joked about how many people took photos of it with the office buildings in the background and claimed it was a “statement on corporate America being faceless drones” and such. It was so tempting to run into a fountain in the park, it was still unbelievably hot even though it was the evening. We made our way to the St. Louis Archway but we were there too late to take the tram to the top, we had a baseball game to get to. We did stop and watch a tugboat push a barge along the Mississippi River though. We did not last very long at the game, we were both dehydrated, tired and we had eaten too much. We retreated to the hotel and I caught the end of America’s Got Talent, stupid time zone shift, had we not been an hour behind I would have seen the entire episode.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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2012 Roadtrip 2, Day 5

Mon. July 23, 2012- Kentucky to Indiana:

Brent woke me up because we only had half an hour left until they stopped serving breakfast and he specifically chosen this Inn because of the breakfast that they offer, apparently they have amazing ham. In a panicked rush I madly hurried to get ready, filled with hopes of ham. Those hopes were dashed; there was no sign of ham on the menu. The breakfast was set up so that it was a hot menu, but it was a buffet, you could eat as much of it as you wanted. There were no pancakes either, the closest thing to them was corn-cakes, and I was not in the mood for that. I settled on oatmeal, not anticipating that I was going to be served all of their oatmeal. It was easily three servings. And not very good, it was kind of mushy and gooey and it had the consistency of glue. I barely got through half of it. I had ordered breakfast sausages on the side, thinking it was the closest thing to ham, but they were flattened like patties. On the drive I concluded that there were no ghosts in the Beaumont Inn, despite how old it was and Harrodsburg being one of the first settlements in Kentucky.

Our first stop of the day was the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery, one of the few real bourbon distilleries. In fact there are only six of them in Kentucky as I learned in a Bourbon Trail pamphlet while we waited around for our tour to start. I also found a handy-dandy bourbon passport where you could collect stamps at each of the distilleries. It was settled. We were going to collect all the stamps. We did not have much else to do that day anyways. But as per tours, one was more than enough. The Woodford tour took an hour and we got to see everything. Woodford was one of the nicer distilleries; it had old copper stills, and oak barrels. We even got to see the yeast fermenting and bubbling. The smell reminded me of cake, a nice yeast cake. It actually made me hungry somehow. At Woodford I found some bourbon flavoured coffee and could not pass it up (it is delicious). At the end of the tour we were given a sample of the bourbon in a shot glass we got to keep as well as a bourn filled chocolate. I much preferred the chocolate; it did not make my throat burn. The best part of the tour was the used barrels rolling along a track to be shipped off elsewhere. The most awkward part was watching employees bottling the bourbon, they were just working.

Next was Wild Turkey bourbon, they had a barrel turned into a turkey outside, while inside they had Wild Turkey Christmas ornaments. I found out that Wild Turkey Honey is not just what they call girls who drink Wild Turkey; it is in fact a version of bourbon they make. Wild Turkey was also the only bourbon I had previously tried from the entire list. Wild Turkey was more industrial, with lots of big ugly buildings. Wild Roses was pretty much the same thing, except they turned a barrel into a swing. We stopped at A&W for lunch, and learned a harsh lesson. A&W is not the same in the States as it is Canada, not even close. The burgers we got were these measly little things and only a handful of fries on the side. They also serve their own version of McFlurries and I caved, I had to, they had a cookie dough one. We accidentally drove by Heaven Hill distillery while trying to get to Maker’s Mark, but it turned out we’d driven by the distillery and not the heritage centre. We stopped in for stamps and a quick walk around the mini-museum. They offered a super fancy tasting wherein you sit in fancy leather chairs and have a bartender, but I was too full to think about it. I instead tried various bourbon sauces, including chocolate. Maker’s Mark was one of the more scenic distilleries, it had a Whisky Creek. At this point we were pressed for time. We had 20 minutes to get to Jim Beam before closing but the GPS said it would be an hour. Five out of six is not too bad. And on the plus side I got to keep my bourbon passport. Had we gotten all six stamps we could have mailed it in for a free t-shirt, like those bikers whom we kept running into along the trail will probably do.

The GPS decided to take us down a tiny one lane road, circling around back behind Maker’s Mark. It was mildly unnerving going along this one lane dirt road when a giant truck would come down the other way and we would have to veer to the side to let it pass. In Louisville we saw the KFC Yum! Centre. Continuing our tradition there was yet another sign welcoming us to a state: Indiana! Then I saw it, the mother of all signs, a Christmas Store in Santa Claus, Indiana. And a theme park in Santa Claus, Indiana, called Holiday World. I was cheering about a sign for an Amish Buffet which led into cheering about some deer grazing by the side of the highway. But that was not enough to get Brent to want to go, Project: Get-Brent-To-Go-To-Amish-Buffet failed epically. It failed even more epically when I realized the next day that it was across the street, I did not need Brent to drive me.

The hotel was giving away free cookies in the lobby, which went great with my book, which I know had time to read, partly because half the TV channels were dead. We were in Indiana, yet again in the middle of nowhere in a hotel just off a highway that smelled of farms. The only food source was a McDonald’s next door. We went on our usual vending machine hunt, only all we found was a big empty space where it used to be. It was a truly awful sight. Thankfully the other floors had machines. My strawberry-lemonade from McDonalds’s was not enough to keep me awake. There was nothing on TV and nothing outside to do so I turned in early.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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