I guess I should say first that a lot of the chicago portion of this trip wouldn't have been possible if Josh and Jasmine weren't such great people and offered to put me up for a week. It made it possible for me to stay longer in chicago by taking the hotel costs out of the equation. Even if I had pricelined a good price, we're still talking about a bit under $250, which is hardly chump change. Add to it the $200 I payed for a week of car rental and it's not long before the cost seems to be prohibitive. Now that they're both moving from chicago, I'm not sure exactly what I'll do about next year's trip.
Anyway, our story begins on a Tuesday evening when I was due to fly out from Newark airport to Chicago Midway. I had decided to book an evening flight thinking that it would make it easier to do the packing and whatnot beforehand. Not to mention that I never sleep well the night before a flight and I figured this would give me extra time. As usual, I left packing to the last minute more or less and spent a frenzied amount of time chucking crap into my suitcase and duffle bag. With 2 checked bags and 2 carry-on, it was the most crap I had ever taken with me on a trip in my entire life.
One of the last-minute additions to my packing was Lil' Georgie. I thought it would be funny to bring him along and take pictures with him over the course of the trip, much like you read about people doing with garden gnomes and the like. It sounded like it would be an interesting gimmick if nothing else and it ended up being a lot of fun.
I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Since I had my mp3 player with me, I wasn't all that concerned about the downtime. I ended up bring 2 audiobooks that I wanted to finish, the most recent book of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I had also taken some precautions regarding bring the Enbrel with me since I figured the security people might have some concerns about the fact that I was keeping needles in my carry-on surrounded by two giant gelpacks. I had even gone to the TSA website and called their hotline to be sure of what I needed to not have a problem though I don't know why I bothered. In the end, the morons screening the baggage never even mentioned the items, nor checked to make sure it wasn't something potentially deadly. Just as well for them that I wasn't planning to hijack an airplane that week. They did, however, flag my True Dungeon treasure tokens for additional screening and as I was making my way down the hall the handle snapped off the case. This would end up being a collasal pain in the ass as the case was heavy, awkward to carry, and now had a couple sharp and exposed screws. Suffice to say, I was not a happy camper.
When I finally made it through security I found a place to set my things down and took the time to bitch incessantly through a voicepost. I also decided to snap a picture of George with the case. No doubt it was manufactured by terrorists....or maybe hippies.
The flight itself was uneventful as far as I can recall. I think I got some sort of mini sandwich on the flight, which is pretty spiffy considering the cutbacks at most airlines on that sort of thing. It wasn't a meal or anything, but it made for a decent snack.
It was when I got to chicago that the horror of that broken handle really started to wear on me. It is incredibly awkward to carry a 30-pound weight shaped like that freaking binder. It tends to slide around on you and it's hard to find a position in which to hold it that feels comfortable over time. The difference in being able to carry it around with a handle or strap and without is amazing. If I didn't know better I would have said that the weight doubled once the handle broke. Once I got my checked backage, it was a mess trying to maneuver a suitcase, dufflebag, backpack, and the blasted binder, all of them stuffed to the gills.
While still in jersey, I had pricelined a week of car rental through Alamo for around $190. I was supposed to get a compact, which I was a little worried about. I had a lot of crap with me after all and I'm hardly a small person to boot. I really didn't want to get a car that woudln't fit me or the things I had to haul. So when the guy at the counter asked me if I wanted to upgrade to a bigger car, I decided to inquire as to how much it would be. $14 a day. Holy crap. Basically, it would have cost me 50% more than what I was already paying. I pleasantly told him to fuck off (may have not been the words I used but it was what I was thinking :P) and laboriously hauled all of my crap to the Alamo lot. It turns out that there were no compacts left in the lot when I got there so I got a free upgrade anyway. There were a line of PT cruisers and the lady there said I could have my pick. She assumed right off the bat that I wouldn't want the bumblebee yellow one (good guess) so I had a choice between blue and maroon. I went with the former.
Just as a little aside here, I was very impressed with the PT cruiser overall. I had never liked the car because it reminded me of a herse from the outside, but one that would only transport the coffins of midgets. It had plenty of room inside, both head and leg, and accomodated all of my crap easily. If I have to get a car in the future, this is definitely one that I'll be taking a closer look at. From what I hear, they're very big with car rental companies which means the price of used ones are probably very low. The MSRP is also very reasonable from what I've seen and the gas milage as well from my one-week experience with it. If anyone from Ford is reading this and wants to comp me one for my praise of their product, I'd happily accept.
I drove over to Josh and Jasmine's place and with Josh's help, lugged all of my crap up the 4th floor walkup. By the end of it, I was about ready to die. Nothing makes you wish you had packed less crap than having it to haul it up flights of stairs and I probably had over a hundred pounds of gobbilygook with me easy.
After I had gotten my crap stowed away, I was lying in bed and decided to take a picture of the room's decour. It was a pretty eclectic mix. You seldom see bondage pictures next to a tazmanian devil next to what has got to be one of the weirdest movie posters I've ever run across. At least, I'm guessing that it's a movie poster. I can't quite figure out what else it could possibly be advertising.
I also snapped a picture of Georgie with the wall hanging. We all know how much George loved his brewskis back in the day.
So that more or less ended day one. I decided to pass on going out to get something to eat and figured I would just call it an early night. Josh and I stayed up a bit, watching tv but notta really interesting.