In the early 80’s I worked for a company in New Hampshire that built newspaper publication systems. I was hired on to work on the computerization of the Chicago Tribune newspaper. Remember this is back in the 1980’s we were replacing typewriters and manual typesetting at the time. I spent a number of weeks a few different times helping to install the system and updates to the software. I have not been back in Chicago since those days.
We are parked just over an hour outside of Chicago so it was time to go visit the city again. Leslie and I took a road trip a few years back and traveled part of Route 66 from Texas to the California coast. We saw the mid-point and end of the famous route. We started our little tour of Chicago at the beginning of the Mother Road – Route 66.
Route 66 Begining
From there we wondered down to the Chicago Tribune Tower. This time I spent time walking around the building instead of spending many hours in it. Prior to building the tower Colonel Robert McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune, asked his correspondents to bring back rocks and bricks from historical sites from around the world. These artifacts are incorporated into the lower stonework of the building and labeled with their origin. There are stones from the Parthenon, The Alamo, Fort Sumter, World Trade Center, and many others. Although I spent weeks in and around the Tribune Tower I never knew these existed.
Chicago Tribune Tower
From the Tribune Tower we walked down part of the Magnificent Mile on our way to the Chicago Water Tower. The water tower was built in 1869 and is the second oldest in the United States. Then we walked back down Michigan Avenue past the 26 foot tall statue of Marilyn Monroe in her famous pose from The Seven Year Itch.
Chicago Water Tower and Marilyn Monroe
We then walked down to Millennium Park, a 24.5 acre park located in downtown Chicago. Years ago the land was occupied by parkland, rail yards and a parking garage. Now the land is occupied by gardens, fountains, works of art, the Harris Theater, an ice rink and other features. We visited the Cloud Gate, a 12 foot high highly polished stainless steel sculpture shaped like a bean that reflects and distorts the cityscape.
Millennium Park Cloud Gate
After looking at city through a different perspective we spent some time watching the Crown Fountain. The fountain is different than any we have seen before. The fountain is made up of two 50 foot tall glass block towers with a black granite reflecting pool between them. Water cascades down from the top of the towers and pools in the reflecting pool. The inward sides of the dual towers contain over a million LEDs that display video movies. The videos include the faces of about 1000 Chicago residents. During part of the video display water spouts from the mouth into the reflecting pool.
Millennium Park Crown Fountain
After our brief tour of Chicago we were hungry and decided to visit the Superdawg drive-in. Superdawg has been featured on a number of shows from both the Food Network and Travel Channel. It placed number 46 on the 101 Chowdown Countdown. Maurie Berman returned from World War II and married his high school sweetheart Flaurie. Maurie was going to school to get an MBA and Flaurie was teaching in the Chicago school system. They decided to open a summer business and make it as distinctive as they are. They created a proprietary recipe to go along with their architecturally distinctive building topped with two 12 foot tall hot dog icons. The hot dogs were arguably the best we have ever had. After eating we decide to go inside and get a Superdawg magnet and figured we would took our car tray and not make the carhop go get it. Well walking from the car we were greeted by Maurie who took our tray from us and told us we would not be getting a tip. After we purchased our magnet we talked to Maurie again who introduced us to Flaurie who takes the orders from the cars. Maurie and Flaurie are wonderful and after meeting them it is easy to see why their business is prospering.
Prior to leaving Ohio for Gen Con in Indiana we decided to take a day and visit Kings Island Amusement Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. Kings Island was opened in 1972 by the Taft Broadcasting Company and when through a number of owners eventually being sold to Cedar Fair Entertainment (the owner of Cedar Point the park we visited a few weeks ago).
According to Wikipedia Kings Island and Cedar Point are both the same size, however Kings Island is laid out more like a wheel and spoke opposed to the linear layout of Cedar Point. We feel that this layout made it much easier to get around the park and made our day more enjoyable.
We started the day by riding Diamondback which was rated as the 7th best steel coaster in 2010. Diamondback is 5,282 feet long and winds through the woods before returning to a splashdown. The train goes through a pond right before returning the station where scoops on the last car send a plume of water in the air about 50 feet into the air. This is one only 5 coasters in the world that feature a splashdown. The seating on this ride is different from others we have ridden. Riders sit in chairs that are enclosed and the seats are staggered giving riders a better view of the perils ahead.
Kings Island - Diamondback
Kings Island is home of the longest wooden roller coaster in the world – The Beast. The Beast covers about 35 acres and was one of the fastest and tallest coasters built when it opened in 1979. The Beast is currently holds Golden Ticket Award as the 7th best wooden coaster.
There is more to life than coasters – so we also partook of the various water rides in the park along a spin on Delirium. Delirium is what is called a Giant Frisbee. A Giant Frisbee has a 19 meter (about 62 foot) pendulum that is suspended between two support frames. The base of the pendulum is a disk that has seats for 50 people facing outwards. The pendulum swings through 240 degrees of arc. The “ride” both spins and swings giving the riders a unique view and sensation.
Kings Island - Delirium
Firehawk is like no other coaster we have ever ridden on. Firehawk is a Vekoma flying roller coaster. In a flying roller coaster you sit in a chair without an enclosure like that of Dimondback, however in this case you get well strapped into this chair because during the ride you will ride on the straps and not the chair. Once everyone is strapped in the chair recline so that the riders are lying on their backs facing up. Once the ride gets up the first hill and gets going inversions alternate between having the riders face the sky and the ground. It was amazing – like no ride we have ever been on.
Kings Island - Firehawk
Of course we rode other coasters while at the park for example The Backlot Stunt Coaster was a combination of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Test Track from Disney World abet on a much smaller scale. Overall the park had more theming and a much better feel than Cedar Point. Given a choice we would return to Kings Island over Cedar Point.
So many rides – so little time.
Leslie volunteered and worked in the game business for a number of years and has a number of friends that were attending Gen Con 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. When we started our RV adventure and knew we were going to be on the east coast this year, Leslie decided that we should really try to attend Gen Con, the largest gaming convention in the world so she could see friends she has not seen in years.
Last Wednesday we left the Columbus, Ohio area and headed to Indianapolis, Indiana to attend the 2011 Gen Con. We wanted to stay as close to the convention center as possible, so we made reservations at the Indiana State Fairground Campground. It turns out the state fair started on Friday so reservations were needed. Well we arrived in Indianapolis and could not find the Campground (they do not put any signs for it), so we decided to park the RV unhook the Jeep and figure out where to go. This plan worked fine until we actually tried to start the Jeep. After a call to AAA and a new battery we were in business.
We found the campground and went back for the RV. We got both vehicles to the campground and went to register at which point we ran into the second major problem of the day. They had no record of us calling and reserving a site and were overbooked so we could not stay. Luckily we found an RV park on the other side of town that actually worked out much better for us.
Then was the start of our Gen Con experience. We stopped for a quick bite to eat and headed in to get our convention badges the night before the convention starts since it would be really crowded in the will call lines on the first day of the convention. Now for the third problem of the day – they had so many people in line they closed the line to new people over an hour early and we missed the cut off. The good part was we started seeing people that Leslie knew.
Thursday we got up reasonably early to head in and found a long line to get badges. It took right around 2 hours of standing in line to get our badges. Then the fun began.
For the next four days (Thursday thru Sunday) we wandered around having fun; doing demos of games, playing games with friends, spending time with Leslie’s friends and marveling at the various games, costumes, etc.
Thursday I watched one of Leslie’s friends Axis and Allies War at Sea, a collectable miniature game that is based on World War II naval operations. It looked interesting so Friday I purchased a starter and some boosters and ended up spending the entire day playing, well at least the part between 10am and just after midnight.
Gen Con is an amazing (I am not sure what to call it) well place where sleep is not needed and fun is had with all kinds of games and Domino’s Pizza delivers pizza by the hand truck to gamers playing at all hours of the night.
Gen Con 2011Gen Con 2011
I rolled a 6 – my torpedo has hit and now it is time to sleep.