Friday, June 12th (cont) - The first thing you notice when you step off the above ground train at Wrigley Field is how the stadium is literally built into the surrounding neighborhood. Rooftops from nearby buildings overlook the ivy grown walls of the outfield while street venders fill the area directly outside the stadium. I've been to Fenway in Boston, and the difference there is that they actually close down the streets surrounding the stadium. In Chicago, it seems they can't, though the fans make the area almost impassable by car or bus.
I loved the feel of the stadium, the history of it all, which it has a lot of since it was built back in 1914. The scoreboard is all done by hand, with large wooden number boards being used to replace the number of runs scored each inning. There aren't many men's rooms, so they've instituted a trough system, in which men stand side by side and basically urinate into a large, open, steel pan together. In some case, you actually face other men across a brick barrier, almost forcing conversation while you relieve yourself. Maybe I missed out, but I chose not to engage others in conversation while I emptied my bladder.
Then, there's the footlong Chicago Style Dawgs, topped with any number of toppings from cheese, chili, sport peppers, onions, kraut, pickle spear, ketchup, mustard, relish, and more. We each got one in addition to an order of chili cheese fries and Old Style beers (the local brew.)
The game itself was beautiful, sunny, though a little chilly. We had bought three tickets on StubHub yesterday, two together, and another a few seats away. I chose the irregular seat, and kept on moving as people filled in seats around us. Sort of fun, meeting new people every time I sat down.
The final score was 7-4, with the Twins beating the Cubs, upsetting a large number of Cubs fans but exciting the large contingent of Twins fans in attendance. After the game, we got back on the subway, piled into Faith, and drove off towards our final destination: Coralville, IA.
The drive was pleasant, with the sun slowly fading beyond the horizon. We hit a little traffic, but then it was smooth sailing. At least, until we neared the Mississippi River. Then things got a little strange.
The first thing we experienced was what looked like a police manhunt. We had stopped at a Love's Rest Stop, and a local police car had followed us in, eyeballing us from what I could tell. I then noticed the next two cars also had cops behind them. This is when I began to feel like something was going on.
We got back on Route 80 and continued, only to get stopped a few miles later. But we weren't the only ones stopped - the police had stopped the ENTIRE HIGHWAY. We were towards the front of the blockage, and could see that a flashing police car was sitting in the middle of both lanes. Finally, they let us by, and we noticed a car on the side of the road, with MA plates and an open passengers side door. Our conclusion? Someone had stolen a car with Massachusetts plates, and then fled the cops. That would explain why we were followed, and why the traffic was backed up. Of course, we can't confirm any of this, but it was a little strange, nonetheless.
Anyway, we continued, and night fell as we approached the Iowa border. Rain drops began to fall, and we dropped to one lane to cross the majestic Mississippi. Unfortunately, we couldn't see much, and reached the other side without much fanfare.
A few miles into Iowa, we saw the "Welcome to Iowa" sign and decided to pull over to flash a few photos (as we've done the whole trip.) The situation was a little rough, with the rain falling, and tractor trailer trucks going 70+ mph past us. I deftly pulled the car off the road, maybe 40 feet from the sign, and Kat and Arp leaned out their windows to shoot what they could. I told them to keep it quick as I was worried about police, and suddenly, Kat blurts out, "Drive! Benni drive! There's someone out here!" I suddenly noticed a low voice, saying something I couldn't understand, and stepped on the gas without thinking about it. We were back on the road within seconds.
We're not entirely sure what happened, but it seems as though there are one of three options: 1) a hitchhiker was sitting in the forest by the sign, looking for a ride when curious passerbys would surely stop at the sign, 2) it was a police car, hidden in the woods, telling us to move on, or 3) a scary highway ghost. Arp couldn't make out what the voice said, but definitely heard a "Hey" followed by some other garbled words.
We were all shaken up a bit, so we pulled over at the next rest stop. The rain was now falling a little more steadily and we took shelter inside. After we used the restrooms, we were approached by an Iowa Rest Stop Maintenance man. I didn't catch his name, but he had one tooth and a number of what I can only assume were prison tattoos. I wasn't sure what to expect, especially after our most recent encounter, but he ended up being a friendly guy who was really excited to show us the new HELP computer set up in the foyer of the rest stop. It showed you weather, traffic, roadwork, current events, etc. We thanked him (as we learned about the severity of the oncoming storm), and departed, a little more rested than when we had entered.
We drove on for another 60 miles through the rain, and reached Coralville, IA, where our Best Western awaited. But not just any Best Western. This place was actually called the Cantebury Inn and Suites with an attached Restaurant and Pub called the House of Lords. It had a drawbridge with a small moat leading to the lobby, a couple of towers with flags flying, and gargoyles everywhere. On top of that, our room had doors overlooking the interior pool area. It was a nice distraction from the troubles of the night.
One last tidbit for you about the day. Once we got into Coralville, it was already 11:15pm, so we didn't have many choices for dinner. We ended up going to the Burger King drive thru. I wasn't sure what kind of service we might expect, but to our surprise, the man on the other end of the speaker was spunky. But even more than just spunky. For example, I told him that I'd like the 6-piece Burger Shot meal with onion rings and coke. He remarked, "Cool man. Good choice." Then I told him I also wanted the new Burger Extreme 3-cheese XT meal with onion rings and a coke. This time, his response, "Dude, THAT is a great burger. An excellent choice." Finally, I gave him my order, a number 6 with onion rings and a diet coke. His thoughts? "Good one. You'll really like it."
We all laughed at this slightly peculiar service at such a late time of night, and could only imagine that this guy was either really enthusiastic at what he does, or he was high. Or on speed. I only say this because he almost forgot to take my money. I actually had to say, "Hey man. Let me give you the $21.06 I owe you." And he said, "Oh yeah. Thanks dude."
And that was how our night ended. In our Castle, with our zesty sauce and rings of onion. I passed out after some Adult Swim and looked forward to what the continental breakfast had in store for us in the morning.