1730 – Grab dinner at Golden Palace, an excellent Chinese buffet on the Meridian strip. Unlike Zio’s, the Italian restaurant several blocks south, the Palace had no waiting line (but lots of people dining, just the same). Given that COVID-19 has driven so many restaurants out of business, I’m delight to see that pretty much every restaurant on Meridian (between the airport and I-40) seems to be thriving.
1800 – Do a little computer and battery maintenance. Charge up the AX53 camcorder batteries that arrived the day before I left of this trip. Adding these batteries gives me nearly 8 hours camcorder running time between recharges!
2000 – Watched Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume2 on the room TV. Still a fun flick after a number of viewings. Our generation is very fortunate to enjoy the genius of Stan Lee, creator of the Marvel universe.
2200 – Charge the Fitbit, listen to my bible podcast, and drift off to sleep.
07:00-11:00 – work from home, online, that is. (Don’t lots of folks do that now?)
11:00 – Lunch at Charlie’s (Bolingbrook Clow International Airport).
(They have scheduled flights to Canada, so ‘International” is quite real.)
12:12 – Depart Bolingbrook Airport, traveling southwest on I-55S.
14:09 – A brief pit stop in Atlanta, IL. Still good on fuel!
14:22 – Resume southwesterly course on I-55S
15:25 – Oh no. traffic jam!
17:28 – Refuel at St. Clair, MO, just west of Six Flags enough to avoid paying a premium price for gasoline.
2100 – Arrive at Red Roof Inn, Springfield. Check in then eat dinner at Jimm’s Steakhouse and Pub. Had the monstrously generous prime rib dip (like a classic French dip, but using prime rib). Too much food!
Our day really started with Chinese lunch at Golden Palace, a place with over 100 items of high-quality Mandarin and Cantonese appetizers, soups, entrees and (American-style) desserts.
After lunch and a quick fuel stop, we visited the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. If you go, allow up to two hours to walk through the amazing exhibits, pictured below.
After the museum visit, we went to the Oklahoma National Memorial (“the bombing memorial”). Although it is a somber place with moving tributes to those lost, it also holds a message of hope and recovery. Photos are below.
We met up with most of the tour group and walked up to Charleston’s for dinner. Simon and I split a Kale-Quinoa salad, which was still an overwhelming amount of food, even split in half.
Then, we returned to the hotel, where I spent the balance of the evening charging devices, uploading photos, and (finally) sleeping.
First, drove from the motel in Bolingbrook into the Loop of Chicago. After an unplanned orbit of Lower Wacker Drive, we got into our parking garage and walked to breakfest. I had a tasty apple-walnut oatmeal and my first-ever (and probably last-ever) keto coffee.
Then, we walked across the street and went up to the 103rd story attractions of the [former] Sears Tower (a/k/a the Willis Tower).
The views were spectacular, but when I stepped out onto The Ledge, I got dizzy and withdrew immediately. My #FearOfHeights kicked in hard. After a moment of calming down, I backed into my slot in the transparent box so high above the street and we were able to get a few pictures.
Looking out in each of the four compass point directions, we took in the amazing views. The multiple shades of view on Lake Michigan, looking to the north, was astonishingly beautiful!
Along the Way: Fill-Up Philip
After of hour of “103” time was up, we returned to the car, headed west on Madison Street, and took I-94 and I-55 southwest, departing Chicago.
A few hours later, we stopped at Dwight, Illinois for lunch. We had a classic American cuisine lunch (burgers, BLT sandwiches, hot soup), then visited the 1950s-vintage gas station across the street.
One Tall Tomb
Next stop was the Lincoln Tomb (the actual final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of his four sons. The route to the monument took us through some pretty unassuming side streets (and I was beginning to the the GPS had misguided us). The tomb is topped off with an imposing obelisk and has many beautiful statues of Lincoln, depicting the various stages of is life from young adult to the final year of his presidency.
Quarter of the Way ‘Round the World
Continuing southwestward, I pulled the van to the shoulder for our ‘mystery stop’. I must have given half a dozen hints where we were going, what it was about, etc. We got WAY past twenty questions, but my guests finally figured it out without me telling them outright. Here we are after arriving.
After many more hours of driving, we arrived at our dinner destination in Versailles — pronounced ‘ver-Sails’ — in Missouri. Thanks to a cable between the van’s CarPlay port and my iPhone acting up, I had to rely on my guests’ phones for navigation. (Excellent job adapting to the situation, gang! I am in your debt.) Fortunately, we never got off the desired route, arriving at around 9pm. We met Kathy’s stepdaughter, Allison, at a local microbrewery and restaurant call The Bee’s Knees. Other than a brief whiff of the beer, I abstained (as I was driving). On the other hand, I enjoyed a generous portion of the delicious varieties of thin crust pizza. It was a good thing we were driving; I could barely walk after the meal.
One Last Push
In a final push to our goal of Springfield, Missouri, I drove us on MO 5 toward Lebanon, Missouri and I-44. The winding road, hilly terrain, and stretches of re-paving activy along the way made for a challenging drive, but we arrived safe and sound at Springfield around midnight. Four sleepy travelers went to sleep about 30 minutes later for some very solid and well-earned rest.
This Thursday was like any other Thursday, except for my great excitement that my friends are arriving from London. Well I did get work done at work, I am mostly prepared for being absent. I sent a quick email delegating various responsibilities, reasserting the chain of command, and outlining a few goals for the team during my vacation.
Other than leaving my mobile phone at home, the day went pretty much as planned. But I had to come back by the house anyways after work because I was not going to drag a company laptop with me on the road. Absolutely no reason for me to incur that kind of risk when it is in my power to simply store the laptop in a safe place.
After a quick stop by the house, I headed to O’Hare airport. The drive was everything I expected it to be cold and slow moving, filled with cars, trudging along. Here’s a quick time-lapse video to give you a taste of my drive:
Fortunately I got an early enough start that I arrive right around the time that my friends’ flight was arriving. That said, fortune seem to smile on me: I found a parking spot that was only two or three slots from the sidewalk leading into Terminal 5 (the international terminal), encountered my friends quickly, and left almost as quickly (after Phil ran back into the building to pay for the short term parking, as I flew right on by the pay station without thinking about it). From the time I arrive to the time we departed could not of been much more than 10 minutes, a personal best for an airport pick up.
Kathy, Phil and Simon were happy and energetic as we exchanged hugs. Their Dreamliner flight seem to agree with them and they even remarked that the meals exceeded their expectations. Sliders anybody?
Our ride from the airport down the tri-state, 88, and I 355 went smoothly (but slowly due to moderate traffic).
We sat down to a nice dinner at the Family Square Restaurant in Bolingbrook, just a few minutes From the British contingent’s hotel.
I hung out during the check in process to make sure everybody was able to get into their rooms and settle in for the night. Getting to the rooms just before sunset and having a large meal contributed to everyone aligning their sleep schedules to U.S. Central Time. Jet lag is not much fun, but I hope we were able to get it under control by lining up sunset and meals.
Friday morning comes with an early start, so hopefully everybody gets some good solid sleep so we can enjoy the day. I’m pretty sure the positive attitudes will carry us through no matter what, but some good sleep will really help. I’ve been really tired lately, so the rest will be welcome.
I have lots of stuff on my mind. House stuff. Packing stuff. Car stuff — OK, that’s 100% finished, actually. But I won’t have a peaceful departure until the pre-vacation ‘to-do’ list reaches zero items pending. (That’s just how I’m wired in my brain, folks.)
The last 48 hours before ‘launch’ are always a bit anxious for me: what will I forget. One year I forgot to put the water heater in VACATION mode, but I’ve never made a serious error like leaving the stove on.
Last night, I taught a 3-hour class on using GRlevel3 and CR2Analyst programs for weather awareness during emergency management agency (EMA) operations. Not bad to handle this on 4 hours sleep!
Today, I’m drinking lots of caffeine and thinking about the last three items on my to do list:
Purchase a wireless shutter control for my Nikon D7000 DSLR camera
Pack my clothing (photographing the contents of the bag as I go)
Adapt the bucket handling my roof leakage to send water to my bathtub while I’m on vacation (‘flood and mold avoidance’).
There are little ‘nice to have’ items I’d like to finish before the trip, but if they don’t get done, the trip will still be pleasant and relaxing.
The truth is that I’m a bit distracted today. The SPC Day 1 outlook showed a MODERATE RISK blob over the Texas Panhandle, one of my most favorite places to chase. It was accompanied by a 10% TORNADO RISK blob. Those who can chase today should be richly rewarded!
While I’m not superstitious, it’s sometimes fun to consider whether or not sighting the weather radar-themed UHAUL truck is a good omen.
11:45 AM – Depart from I-355, entering I-55 southbound. Drove through a brief call shower.
12:28 PM – Passed by Dwight, Illinois. Just saw a northbound Amtrak train heading to Chicago. Feels very like in my childhood memory of travel between Rockford and Monmouth, Illinois. The family used to travel US 34. We used to see many trains along that route. (Sorry, no picture, as I am in traffic.)
Traffic has slowed to a crawl. Seems there is some roadwork or a police action of a head up ahead.
“Work zone speed limit 55 mph.” (Actual speed 24, but it has been 10 mph for the last 10 minutes. Do the math!) And there they are: those people who see the merge signs for the last 2 miles and wait to the last minute to join traffic because they think that the rest of us are stupid and will let them in. And it only takes one generous person to make them right. Now four lanes have become two lanes, one northbound one southbound. The southbound lanes of I-55 or being revealed re-built. (76.3 miles into the trip)
12:49 PM – Left the construction zone at exit 201, Continuing south on I 55. Detour signs indicating the delay was about 13 minutes with results. That feels about right. (Around Pontiac, Illinois)
1:03 PM – South of Pontiac, Illinois. It is wonderfully flat and open near here. This is prime central Illinois chase country. You can see all the way to the Verizon in almost every direction. And the landscape is almost completely free of distractions, except for the occasional microwave, cellular, or radio tower. There are power lines in the distance. A few scattered trees, I’m really not much here. Basically a blank canvas on which to paint a memory. (Tried to take a picture here, it was cut in half the long horizontal. What’s up with that?) I have moved far enough south that I have left the 60°F weather in Chicago and I’m surrounded by 80°F temperatures.
1:36PM – stopped at rest area south of Bloomington-Normal, to stretch my legs, visit the restroom, and grab a light snack. Leving the Illinois pollination exhibit behind, By-bye busy little bee!
1:48 PM – Departed rest stop. Continuing south to St. Louis
2:02 PM – Passing the NWS weather radar at Lincoln Illinois (KILX). It is approximately the midpoint between Chicago and St. Louis along interstate 55.
2:24 PM – travel note: 555 mile post 104 is the location of a rest area on the southbound traffic. This is a little closer to the midpoint of the Chicago St. Louis leg of the journey.
3:24 PM – Just outside St. Louis. Traffic has crawled to a near halt due to construction. We are
grinding along and about 20 miles an hour. Looks like the right lane is closed ahead. We are just south of Worden.
3:37 PM – Exited the construction zone. Very lucky to only have two delays in Illinois. On certain past trips I had 50 miles of construction; this time wasn’t so bad.
4:10 PM – Welcome to Missouri. Took I-255 across to I_44 and beyond. Definitely better than going downtown during rush hour. Temperature here is 91°F. It is like summer! I am loving every minute of it.
5:40 PM- fuel/bathroom/food stop at Roll, Missouri.
8:08 PM – Arrived at Motel 6 North, Springfield, Missouri. Feeling tired but very happy. So THIS is what vacation feels like, I had almost forgotten! Unpacked the van then went to sleep (gently). Zzzzzzz.
TODAY’S ROUTE: 499.3 miles as shown below (map courtesy of DeLorme Street Atlas 2014):
1000 – Errands
_____ — Home Depot: a long quest for a SEEK infrared camera for Phil (they aren’t sole yet in the UK)
_____ — WalMart: searched in vain for a Bruce Springsteen album for Kathy. Fellow traveler Eric Meola photographed the cover art for the “Born to Run” album. The WalMart music section was so disorganized that five of us could not find a single Springsteen album. Bad WalMart, naught WalMart!
_____ – Continued on to Penn Square Mall to visit the Apple store (and search for another music store). Phil spent a bit of time looking or the new Apple Watch. We discussed lunch at Whiskey Cafe, but the wait was almost two hours (as this is Mother’s Day).
_____ — Venture northwest (on Northwest Expressway) to F.Y.E., a real music store. Plenty of Springsteen, but we cannot find “Born to Run”. *SIGH*
_____ — we head south to Reno and MacArthur, ending up at Lin’s Restaurant for all-you-can-eat steak, sushi, and Chinese food. Stuffed, we return to the hotel, to allow safe storage of our purchases. We take a short break to allow all to regroup.
13:30 — We head up to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (just off the Kelley exit from I-44). Many great exhibits, a lot of walking, and a visit to the souvenir shop.
16:45 — We hed back to the hotel, then regroup later for dinner.
19:00– Walk to dinner at Frosty Mug (a bar and grill a few doors down from the hotel). We aree later joined by David Balfour, who arrived s bit earlier in the afternoon. The British/Aussie/Kiwi contingent is complete!
22:30 — Wrap up the day by frafting the day’s blog entry.
Here is the overall plan for my 2014 storm season (which I’ll update as events warrant):
DATEDAYSTARTENDMILESREMARKSSEMINARS/CLASSROOM TRAINING: 14 FebruaryFridayBolingbrookILDenverCO-ChaserCon 2014 – day 1 (convention) http://www.chasercon.com/15 FebruarySaturdayDenverCO—ChaserCon 2014 – day 2 (convention) http://www.chasercon.com/16 FebruarySundayDenverCOBolingbrookIL-ChaserCon 2014 – day 3 (convention) http://www.chasercon.com/11 MarchTuesdayBolingbrookILNapervilleIL-Naperville EMA
Radar class (#1 of 3)
Weather Command Class I http://www.napervilleema.org12 MarchWednesdayBolingbrookILNapervilleIL-NEMA Spotter Training (mandatory) http://www.napervilleema.org15 MarchSaturdayBolingbrookILWheatonIL-DuPage OHSEM Advanced
Spotter Training (seminar) http://www.dupagesevereweather.com26 MarchWednesdayBolingbrookILNapervilleIL-Naperville EMA
Radar class (#2 of 3)
Weather Command Class II http://www.napervilleema.org09 AprilWednesdayBolingbrookILNapervilleIL-Naperville EMA
Radar class (#3 of 3)
Weather Command Class III http://www.napervilleema.orgTBAPOSTPONEDBolingbrookILNapervilleIL-Blood-borne Pathogens (mandatory) http://www.napervilleema.orgSOUTHERN/GREAT PLAINS CHASES: mid-May: 4060 miles / 11 days 09 MaySaturdayBolingbrookIL––Prologue10 MaySaturdayBolingbrookILOklahoma CityOK–TRAVEL11 MaySundayOklahoma CityOK—PLAYING TOURIST12 MayMondayOklahoma CityOK______DAY 1: ORIENTATION; DEPART BASE13 MayTuesday_________DAY 2: _14 MayWednesday_________DAY 3: _15 MayThursday_________DAY 4: _16 MayFriday_________DAY 5: _17 MaySaturday_________DAY 6: _18 MaySunday_________DAY 7: _19 MayMonday_________DAY 8: _20 MayTuesday_________DAY 9: _21 MayWednesday_________DAY 10: _22 MayThursday_________DAY 11: RETURN TO BASE23 MayFridayOklahoma CityOKBolingbrookIL___Homeward bound24 MaySaturdayBolingbrookIL EpilogueIL/IA CHASES/SPOTTING: Chaser/spotter fun within 300 miles of home (TBA)(TBA)BolingbrookIL(TBA)– VIRTUAL CHASES/SPOTTING: Like chasing without leaving home (or the office) (TBA)(TBA)BolingbrookIL(TBA)–
0730 – Wake up; shower; pack, but leave everything in the room since it’s a little ways to the breakfast room and the vans are closer to my room in the front of the motel.
0830 – Ate in the breakfast room. My waffle stuck to the waffle machine, and I was barely able to get it out before started burning. It was so funky looking I decided to do something totally off the wall and put white gravy on it instead of throwing it out and getting a biscuit. All things considered it was pretty tasty, but I certainly got some strange looks.
0930 – Meet at the vans; load up; we do a short weather briefing, and discuss what things look like for Saturday and Sunday, which look like our first days with a reasonable prospect for severe weather on the high plains. Patience!
1000 – Depart Cheyenne on westbound I-80, for Laramie, after breakfast.
1040-1100 – stop at the Ames Monument, a tribute to a pair of brothers who made major contributions during the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.
____ – continue to Laramie for lunch at Lovejoy’s: spicy buffalo burger! We do a bit of shopping afterwards. I’m running low on laundry, so I buy a T-shirt to hold me over until I do laundry tomorrow morning.
____ – head south towards Walden, CO; beautiful snow-capped mountains rise to our west, south, (later) east
____ – Enter Medicine Bow National Forest (elevation:____)
____ – we rise to 9150 feet in elevation, allowing smaller vehicles to pass us.
____ – As we descend, we hunt for a turnout with a scenic view. The drivers, Bob and Rook, get plenty of practice downshifting.
1450-1501 – Scenic overlook #1 (photos in gallery, below)
1513-1526 – Scenic overlook #2 (photos in gallery, below)
[Gallery will be inserted here a bit later… laptop battery DYING]
1600 – We enter Walden from the north; check-in at the motel.
1640 – I chat briefly with the motel manager, whose daughter is fascinated with both storm chasing and Antarctica. I offer to chat with her if she is interested. I wander over to the town bank to buy a couple of roll of quarters, as it has reached the point of the trip or I will need to do laundry pretty quickly. The T-shirt that I bought in Laramie will buy me an extra 24 hours, but no more.
1658 – I get my quarters for laundry, with two minutes to spare before the bank closes for the weekend. I wander around the main strip of town just looking to see what is there and taking pictures of some interesting stuff I encounter along the way. I wander up to what looks like a good place for dinner, the River Rock Café. Looks like they have a terrific menu and I bump into Bob one of our drivers there, who agrees this is a good choice for dinner.
1800 – The gang gathers close to my room to wander up the main street for dinner. It looks like Eric is sitting this one out. I hope he is feeling okay.
I order the Volcano Burger, opting for the 1-pound size, because I’m a little bit hungry. There is a 3-pound size available called “the challenge”, but I don’t feel up to eating that and the waiter warns that the burger is extremely spicy, made with jalapeños and habanero sauce. I later discovered that the burger is hotter with every bite, and barely finished 1 pound burger, guzzling several quarts of water along the way to cool my taste buds. I reward myself with a scoop of vanilla ice cream at the end of it all, partly as a self–congratulations and partly to cool the heat of the habaneros that have saturated my taste buds when this time.
On my way out the door, I get a farewell hug from River Rock Café’s mascot, Fred the Bear.
EOD – North Park Inn & Suites
I-80W, through Medicine Bow National Forest, to Walden (CO 14)