Category Archives: travel

Savannah on my mind

She always finds her Tardis
She always finds her Tardis

Gabrielle and I approached the breakfast buffet at the Comfort Inn in Columbia, South Carolina, trepidatiously.

That is to say we’ve been there before.

That moment when you walk into the foyer of whatever cheap hotel occupies every single exit from here to Modesto, and you discover that it looks like it’s been pillaged by Viking raiders.

The tables were covered in the viscera of yogurts and bananas, whose skeletons and skins bulged in a heap atop the trash can like a pile of bodies ready for the pyre.

Sloppy paper notes indicated the orange juice, waffles and sausages were gone. Forever.

So we made up toast with jam, salvaged the rest of the Fruit Loops and drank apple-juice colored water and headed to the pool, where I taught her my secret skills of playing the mouth trumpet in an echoe-y room.

“You’re really good at that dad,” she said.

“I know,” I replied. “I want you to put that on my grave stone.”

She just looked sideways at me and continued to swim.

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Asheville, The Art of War and Cheryl Strayed

IMG_7658I started writing this from the Chili’s across from the Comfort Inn we’re staying at in Dentsville, South Carolina tonight.

The kids are staring at me after I just scolded them for replying to the waitress with their typical “ya,” or barely discernible grunt meant to infer  that yes, they would indeed like fries with their burger.

“This is the South, where people are polite, and when they ask you if you want fries with your burger, you say yes please,” I told them.

They replied with those barely discernible grunts meant to infer that they indeed understood what I was saying.

After a long evening with Jon in Cincinnati, I was up early, as is my usual habit. I showered, dressed and sat in bed for a while waiting to wake my sleeping wife and kids.

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Cincinnati: Under the Rhine

We were going to blow through Cincinnati after a short beer stop with my buddy Jon.

We’d make our way down to Lexington and have a short hop over to Asheville in the morning.

But we met at the Rhinegeist, which felt good in the way a creative spot feels good. The brewery in a massive industrial space filled with people celebrating the end of a workweek and the upcoming holidays.

The beer was phenomenal, and catching up with one of my dearest friends was too easy in the way that makes a new place feel homey kind of way.

The kids played corn hole, ping pong and fusbal while the adults caught up, and we all waited for the pizzas Jon ordered.

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My friend Kenny

The 303Kenny sat by me on the train tonight.

“How’s that phone working out for you?” he asked.

“Fine, fine,” I said.

“That the six?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“You have an iPad too, right?”

“Yes, but I forgot it at home today, so I’m working on my phone instead,” I replied.

“That must be nice,” he said, smiling knowingly.

I don’t know Kenny, but I sort of do.

I’ve been watching him work his social magic on the forward train car on the 5:30 train from LaSalle to Blue Island almost every night since October.

You see, every train car has its own culture, and I spent most of September and part of October trying all the cars out on the 303 to see which culture I fit into.

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Whatever happened to the great American family road trip?

Captain

It’s 11 p.m. on a Sunday night in Panama City. The air conditioner in the cheap hotel we’re in reads 68. The kids are sleeping off three days of sun, sand and water.

There is a commercial on television featuring a dating site for farmers, ranchers and good, ol’ country folk. And there is a plate of grilled Gulf shrimp on the bed and another with discarded shells.

The kids filled their bellies before crashing to sleep drained and content.

Cheryl and I wash ours down with a bottle of cold sauvignon blanc procured at a Winn Dixie on the way back to the hotel.

We’re all sunburned and fun fatigued, which, in spite of the negative connotations, are the best things to be at the end of a great vacation.

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The Resident’s Curse

Our house in Palos Heights
Our house in Palos Heights

Last night my wife and I tallied all the places we’ve lived in our nearly 20 years together.

In that time, we’ve moved more than 20 times. And the longest we’ve spent living in one location was a little over three years in a double-wide trailer on the outskirts of Salem, Oregon while I attended the University of Oregon.

That was 13 years ago.

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The longest way home

The long ride, cycle, train, walk home

chicago

It starts with a seven-minute walk from my desk to the bike rack at the entrance to Navy Pier.

There’s an elevator ride in there too.

For most of Chicago’s bitterly cold and blustery winter that walk is fairly benign if not altogether banal.

You wave to bored shopkeepers walking down the middle concourse of the pier or get out in the brisk wind and chill air to enliven yourself after a long day of work. Usually the former.

But in late spring, on nice days by our standards, they begin to show up to the pier like zombie hoards.

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My Own Allegory of the Cave

Mammoth Cave National Park

In hindsight, a trip to a cave for spring break might not have been the best idea considering my claustrophobia.

Yes, I love exploring and adventuring as much as the next guy.

But tight quarters with more than 100 of my fellow human beings fighting for the same space and air is more than I can handle.

My claustrophobia set in after I worked in Ukraine as a reporter at the Kyiv Post in 2004.

I attended a rally in Maidan with a million people and got sucked into the crowd. I was swept off my feet and carried for many yards against my will.

Something from that moment stuck with me, and I hate crowds to this day.

A secondary, albeit lesser, phobia is of being on something like a bus, train or plane where I cannot leave the trip at any moment of my choosing.

The standard Mammoth Cave National Park tour provides the perfect setting for both of these scenarios.

The Historical Tour, which we signed up for, often features more than 100 people and two guides.

Though it does go through the larger caverns of Mammoth Cave, there are a few parts where you do not want to be stuck with 50 people in front of you and 50 people behind you.

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Anatomy of a free hotel breakfast buffet

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 10.14.26 AM

The hotel lobby was quiet when we exited the elevator.

A few families sat quietly shoving spoonfuls of egg product into toddler mouths and picking at fruit bowls.

My kids surveyed the lineup of biscuits and gravy, toast, yogurt, cereal, egg and meat products and waffles.

It was a unanimous decision.

I quickly read the instructions and poured a cup of batter on the hot iron, which produced an alarm that made the lady at a nearby table jump and spill her hot coffee.

I flipped it over and silenced the buzzer.

The timer read 2:58, so the kids poured themselves some juice and went to find a table.

In that small timeframe, the once serene buffet was inundated with three different families like an invading army.

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Living Spontaneously: Losing my travel companions

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Pit stop at the fastest place on earth.

After a rough week of being sick and then dealing with the devil more than usual during a shortened work week, the weekend loomed like a colorful piñata.

The potential was palpable, but I would have some convincing to do.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we used to pack the kids up on a whim and drive to Mexico for spring break.

The first time we did it was after a particularly rough quarter at college. I wasn’t completely convinced I was doing the right thing, and the stress was eating away at me.

I discovered we had $1,000 leftover from student aid that could be used for living expenses , and at that point in time, I needed to do some living.

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