Friday, April 25, 2014

Spring Chicago Night Out

One of the best times to visit Chicago is Easter Weekend. There's a small chance of nice weather and cheap hotel rates. We used Hotwire to get a 4-Star hotel in the Magnificent Mile Area for under $100 with tax. Overnight parking adds on another $50.

This year we spent Thursday night in the city since we both had Friday off from work. After a long trip in due to traffic we checked into our hotel in record time and hit the streets. Our first stop was The Disney Store on Michigan Avenue, which was around the corner from our hotel. After that we hit Jake Melnik's. Jake's is a casual BBQ place with a decent beer menu that we usually always end up visiting.....

After a beer we headed up Rush Street towards our dinner location. Before the trip Dave mapped out a couple of bars that might be interesting to visit. The first one was closed for a private event. Instead of traveling north a few more blocks we decided to land in Hugo's Frog Bar. First impressions were it was a little small and too brightly lit. However, they had a good selection of signature cocktails, beers, wines, a pleasant bartender, and a live piano man singing. We hung out here before venturing off to dinner at Table Fifty-Two.

The first thing we need to tell you about Table Fifty-Two is that it is on 52 WEST Elm, and not 52 East Elm as communicated to us by Siri. After a few minute delay we made it to our dining destination.

Holly had an interest in this restaurant for a while. Yelp! Reviews were dinging the place for bad service and being overpriced. We don't buy into the overpriced statements. Folks have the internet where menus, and sometime even pictures of the food, are available. Diners nowadays have all the resources to make educated decisions based on price. On top of that, these were actually decent prices for a nice restaurant in the tourist area. Our experience with the service was completely opposite of the Yelp! reviews.

The downstairs room where we ate was quaint. Everything matched the southern theme of the restaurant. Our server was prompt with taking our wine order and bringing us our amuse buche of a cheese filled pastry.

Holly chose the Deviled Egg appetizer (which was only $4 - liked them) and Dave had the Shrimp and Grits. Absolutely the best grits he ever had.

For main dishes Holly enjoyed the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Dave chose the Berkshire Pork Chop with Laurel Aged Rice, Walnut, Ancho Chili, Pineapple-Plantain Chutney. This was right up his alley. Thankfully, this was a proper southern restaurant and pecan pie was on the menu - again, the best ever.

Our waitress and water attendant were on-game all night (the waitress even told a patron to turn off the Youtube she was watching on her phone) and chef Art Smith stopped by our table to check on us three times. A really nice evening.


The Drawing Room's private event was over and we were able to get some seats at the small bar in the basement, this place was all about the "art of the cocktail" with ingredients in droppers and liqueurs we never heard of. Holly got the old stand-by vodka soda and Dave a Blanton's on the rocks. The lounge was nice and quiet, but we weren't in the mood for "art of the cocktail" tonight. We left the Drawing Room and hit another favorite, The Bar at the Peninsula Hotel. It's a real comfy lounge with a fireplace and great people watching. We watched a tipsy couple fight (we think it was an affair) and some girls come in that talked like the #Selfie song lady. After a couple signature cocktails filled with mint and berries we called it a night. We had plans the next morning at The Museum of Science and Industry.


Sunday, April 20, 2014


Happy Easter! Here are some cute bunnies to enjoy!



Monday, April 14, 2014

The Rest of Atlanta

While in Atlanta for the Publix's Georgia Marathon were able to hit a few attractions.

Our hotel was attached to the CNN Center and across the street from Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park. This is where the bomb went off during the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996. It's a nice sized area with wide open spaces and plenty of Olympic-related sculptures and fountains.

Adjacent to the park is The World of Coca-Cola. It's a museum dedicated to Coca-Cola the product and the company. Boy was this place crowded. There were lots of fun displays highlighting changes in the brand and our culture over the past 100+ years. One of the best features was The Tasting Room where you can sample over 60 different soda flavors from around the world.


As mentioned in our race report we had a chance to see the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial and National Site.

Our last stop before catching our flight out of town (ok second-to-last since we had time to catch a beer downtown) was the Margaret Mitchell House. This was the home of the author of Gone with the Wind. The house is part tribute to the author as well as part tribute to the film.

We were in Atlanta less than 48 hours and accomplished a lot: lunches, dinners, and drinks out with friends, two museums, one park, one historic site, a rotating bar, furry convention. Oh yeah, and Holly ran a marathon.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Some other Walt Disney World Stuff

In January and February we took trips to Disney World for various running events. While there, we managed to do some other fun things. Here are some non-race photos from those trips:
We rode the fire truck up Main Street with the popular cast member Barbara at the wheel.
Used our new Magic Bands and decorated them with attachments that come off real easy.
Fed the Off Kilter ducks
A couple new character spottings.
We met Talking Mickey. He told us a story about the Haunted Mansion and asked us to pose like a hitch hiking ghost. Too bad he blinked.
We visited the Princess Fairytale Hall. Just like the Circus meet-and-greet room, this place needs a white balance adjustment on your camera.
Be Our Guest Restaurant cupcakes
Dave's favorite, Inca Kola, now in Club Cool. We are now spending too much time here.
Coney Island Chris performs at the Boardwalk Resort a night. His act is a bit on the twisted side.
Fantasia Gardens mini golf on the hard course. Try to get here right when they open so there isn't anyone in front of you.
Visited Sea Dog Brewing (off property) with a couple of friends. Eddie put the mascot head on while no one was looking.
Dinner at the new California Grill. Our meal prep was not timed well with the fireworks and both entrees were overcooked. Dave sent his back and Holly really should have sent her meal back.
Always fun to visit with Mike

Dave finally had Starbucks on property. Loved it!
Dinner with friends one night at Teppen Edo in Japan and other random fun.
Eddie joined our World Showcase Half Marathon victory lap. We got the special tequila shot in the commemorative glass.
Flying baby ride fun and getting photo bombed by friends.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Georgia Marathon Race Report and Video

Here's Holly's race report from the Publix Georgia Marathon:

This was not my planned marathon for the state of Georgia. I remember talking to my friend Eddie McCoy, who lives in Atlanta, about what race I should do in Georgia. He said whatever you do don’t do the Georgia Marathon. It is the hilliest course ever, way worse than Knoxville (that almost killed me). I agreed that I wouldn’t be doing that nonsense. Fast forward to January and I am looking for a race about three weeks out from Big Sur to do as a training run. My good friend Eddie says he has the perfect race. The Georgia Marathon?!?!? I said what happened to not ever doing this one? He said it will be fine, good hill training for Big Sur and the hills aren’t that bad. I foolishly agree and get registered and THEN look at the elevation chart:

I must be freaking crazy. I got some other fools to agree to this adventure with me. Eddie would run with me and Joe was going to make a vacation out of it with his family. My good friend Jessica was going to run the full now instead of the half. I thought this wouldn’t be so bad. First, Jessica hurts her back and has to stop running altogether for a while. I’m very sad for her and hope she recovers quickly! I still have Eddie and Joe to keep me company. Then, Joe’s daughter places well in her school competition and they make it to the State Finals! So happy for them, but the finals are the same weekend. Now it is down to Eddie and me. Perfect, I can yell at him for getting me into this. Finally, he bails on me because he wants to use the race as a training run for Boston. I totally understand and am thinking it will be a good test for me to see how I can do by myself. It had been quite awhile. Well I didn’t know another friend would be running and he wanted to take it easy and run with me. It would be awesome to have company so Alex and I would be running partners for this hilly marathon.

We got into Atlanta late Friday and had a bit too much fun with the McCoys. The fun involved a brewery (Max Lager's), a rooftop lounge (Sun Dial), a furry convention and a statue that has very hard hands. Saturday we tried to take it easy and went to the Expo, lunch (Dantanna's) and then battled the crowds at World of Coke. We had the longest dinner ever with all of our friends. Good Company, good food, but bad service.
Sunday morning I met Alex in the lobby and we made our way to the corral right down the street from the hotel. The Omni was a great location for the race. The temperature was perfect, mid 50s. There was a 60% chance of rain and it sure looked like we were going to get wet. I was praying we wouldn’t. It was still dark when we started and it took about 15 minutes to cross the start line. Alex did a great job of keeping up with texts from Dave so we would know where he was on the course. We saw Dave right after the start and we were off and running. My plan was 2:1 intervals and 12:30 miles. The first mile was 11:35. Whoops. A little excited and it was down hill for part of it. I told Alex we had to slow down. Next mile 12:41. Perfect. We then kept that pace for pretty much the rest of the race. I was really nervous for this race. I felt this would tell me if I had prepared enough for the hills of Big Sur. Big Sur has a hard 6 hour time limit and I don’t want to be close to that. I have been doing a ton of hill work for the past three months and I was hoping it would pay off.
The elevation chart didn’t lie. If we weren’t going up hill we were going downhill. I was feeling great and going right up the hills. I was still worried that they would take it out of me and I would die at the end and have to walk more. The course itself was beautiful. It took you through all the beautiful neighborhoods of Atlanta and suburbs. There were beautiful homes to look at. We also ran through several colleges. We saw Dave several times. He was managing what looked like hellacious traffic like the Race Chase expert he is.
Alex was great. He kept the conversation going and the miles really kept on ticking off. I would get tired on some of the really steep hills and we would run to a certain point and stop and walk for a bit, but then pick up running again. I really felt great and I kept waiting to crash and burn. Alex would check in with me and ask how I was feeling and I kept saying fine. The rain held off too. We thought we were going to get soaked for sure when Alex pulled up the radar, but it somehow missed us. Very lucky!! We got to one of the last hills around Mile 23 and that was just a cruel hill. It was very steep. Thankfully they had oranges and I inducted Alex into the orange smile club. We saw Dave one more time here and I still felt great here and told him so. Right after that I did start to tire. But it was Mile 24 and I was almost home. I had a bit of a back issue here, but pushed through and soon we were making the final turn and Eddie and Dave were cheering us on. I gave the biggest smile ever and crossed the finish line.

I was unbelievably excited. My time was 5:35:29. Not a PR, but it felt like it. It was my fastest time since MCM in October 2012. I was thrilled with that time on that course. I am now super confident for Big Sur and am excited to relax and enjoy that course. Big thanks to Alex for running the race with me and keeping it fun and making it go by so fast. Big thanks to Eddie for talking me into it. I never once cursed you on the course. And of course the Biggest thanks goes to Dave for making it around the course. It’s always great to see your smiling face.

Dave's Comments:
I knew this was going to be a tough one.  The half marathon cuts directly through the inner loop of the marathon course.   Roads were listed as open and Eddie said it would be ok, so I followed an inside loop instead of an outside loop.  I had to move the car outside of the hotel garage since it was basically 100 feet from the start line.  Out the door at 5:30 to park it a few blocks away.  I walked back to the hotel, met up with everyone, and watched the start with our friend Brad.  Next, I parked in a shady Circle K lot around Mile 4 and had plenty of time to appreciate the fact that I was standing across from Dr. Martin Luther King's memorial and grave.  A few runners went slightly out of their way to pay their respects.  After that, I tried to get to The Carter Library, but Siri just wouldn't let me.  Apparently there's only one way in and the roads around it were closed.   This is when the panic stepped in.

I figured I'd catch them around Mile 7.   I found the course at Ponce de Leon and Highland with good supermarket parking.   I stood there for a while and saw their dot on my tracking app was approaching.  As I looked down the road I saw some runners going straight instead of turning the corner.  DANGIT!  I was 2 blocks north of the split for the 1/2 and full.    I hauled it down the street and had just missed them.  Some expert I am.   This put me in a bad mood, and to top it off, there was no way to cross the darn half course by car.   Eventually the stream of runners was a trickle and they let us through.  I got a drive-by sighting in and made stops at 10 and 13 with no issues.   I just made it to mile 15, missed 16 because of Siri and roadblocks.  Eventually made it to mile 16 while they past 17, so I hoofed it over to mile 19.   I made it back downtown with no issues to see them again at Mile 23 and the finish line.  I was able to squeeze in 9 viewing spots.

Snacks were great on the course. The areas I traveled were mostly urban/suburban so many gas stations, markets, Starbucks, Paneras, and the likes.

Here's the video: