Someday? Someday I'll learn to say no.
So after we left Minneapolis and the icky hotel, we drove to Rockford, Illinois. The point of this was so we could stay close enough to Chicago but save money on a hotel and then see Kings of Leon AGAIN like total groupies, and then after the concert drive 8 or 9 hours back to my house where we'd crash for a few hours and then get Shirley on her plane to go home. The plan, while in the planning stages, seemed to make total sense. I mean, we really thought this was do-able.
And why Rockford? Well when you look at the maps, Rockford isn't a small dot. It's kind of a biggish dot but not super far from Chicago and so we thought, biggish dot meant it'd have some things going for it.
As it turns out, it does not.
Rockford is actually kind of a dump of a town that doesn't actually know it's a dump. Which is kind of sad.
Also hilarious was that the "resort" we were staying in? Oh my god- the pictures online looked awesome. Shirley and I were looking at hotels separately and both chose this once because of how swank it looked and how reasonably it was priced.
As it turns out? The "resort" is not swank. Like not at all. In fact, if you've ever ridden the "Tower of Terror" ride at Disney, you basically saw the inside of this hotel. Now, the pictures here are not doing it justice. Not at all. Because what you also need to take into consideration is that the person working at the desk was missing teeth, the hotel manager's name is Roxy Rager (I have a business card to prove it), and the pancakes served at breakfast are basically flat biscuits that have been re-heated for at least month on a daily basis. Oh, and the entire place felt absolutely haunted.
I swear to you that the clock above the door? EXACT same as in Tower of Terror. EXACT.
You know, there are three cars in the lot, two employees and us. You have other rooms. So we get a room on the 4th floor. Turns out, the entrance is actually the third floor and there are two floors in the basement essentially. Um, no. The next room was the exact same minus the droopy bed. After getting settled we decided we were going to do Rockford, Illinois right.
Which meant going to the mall because that's all there is. Which, they have a really nice mall which was unbelievably crowded for a Friday night and it's like, family time. Small children all over the place. It's like they put every spare dollar the city had into this mall because it does not belong in Rockford. After shenanigans at the mall, we had ice cream and then decided that drinking the water at the hotel wasn't ideal so we went to Walgreens to get water. Where our cashier looked like he had the shit kicked out of him. Black and blue face, missing teeth, weird tattoos, scratches and cuts all over him.
And despite the really large amount of dental facilities in Rockford, dental care is not a priority. A lot of people were missing teeth.
So fast forward to Saturday. We never did sleep in as planned and I'll be honest- worst night of sleep I had for weeks. My ribs started to hurt because that bed sucked and I just couldn't stay asleep for long. So we decided we were going to drive to Chicago get some lunch and get on a Mob Tour where they dress up like gangsters. Which sounds super fun and awesome and I have wanted to do this for years.
But the "flagship" McDonald's in downtown Chicago makes you pay to park. Like $11.99 per hour. So we decide maybe we'd eat fast and then take the tour. As it turns out, after we ordered our food and rode the escalator (!!!), a protest broke out. I don't know what they were protesting (at least the first group) because they were yelling in Spanish, but then they started singing, "Ole, Ole, Ole" and it didn't really seem like a protest. Then out of NOWHERE, this group of hipsters who were sitting in the corner drinking McDonald's frappes no less, stand up and start shouting about "legal status does not matter" in reference to working,etc. Um, yes. Yes it does. This is the stuff you'd expect in Texas. But Illinois? First of all, who knew there was such a large population of illegal Spanish workers trying to work at McDonald's? I mean, that seems a bit crazy. Well this group rode the escalator up and down a few times and then left.
So then we left. But the tour already left. So we paid almost $20 to park (despite our $10 credit because we ordered food) and drove around downtown Chicago so Shirley could see it. But here's a thing- if you are at a stop light and your light turns red? You cannot just go and then give me the finger for turning on my green arrow. No, YOU are actually the douchebag and I don't care if you're in a $90,000 SUV. No, I will scream at you and give you that finger right back with a fist shake.
Fortunately, Shirley didn't die of a heart attack. But it really wouldn't have been a road trip if we didn't almost get killed in the car. I mean, it happens on every trip, it could have been worse.
But after driving around it became abundantly clear that I would not be able to stay up another 17 hours. I love me some Kings of Leon and if any of them called me, I'd come running, but damn. (Bonus points if you caught the song reference there.) So we decided to just head to my house.
But not without a stop at a Cracker Barrel in Janesville, Wisconsin. And every time I go to a Cracker Barrel (and Shirley agrees) I get really excited until I open the menu and I wonder why I got excited. I obviously bought a bunch of the Smarties Suckers I love and I regret not buying the frog lawn ornament where the belly lights up despite Shirley saying it's ugly. He would have been cute on my back step, I stand by that. But what I did do is take a picture of their double rocker bench with a $259 price tag and texted it to Matt saying I'd need help unloading it.
I immediately got a text that said "call me".
I did not. I ate my dinner.
After dinner, I dutifully called and told him I purchased it, it was hard to get in my vehicle, my back seat doesn't actually fold down and I'll need help getting it out because it was heavy.
All while Shirley is laughing.
Then we drove what literally was the longest eight hours of my life. And if you've never driven through one end of Wisconsin to the other at night? You're missing out on nothing. And I mean nothing. No lights, no cars, not even any deer. By the last hour I was essentially delirious with exhaustion and my eyes burned. They were watering on their own one minute then the next felt like they've never had moisture. It was quite possibly, the worst drive home ever. By the time we got to my house, I was exhausted. Yet as soon as I lay down I'm wide awake which is a whole other level of crap.
So the next day, we get up and I am determined to get a picture of her next to snow or something. So we went to Canal Park and a super nice jogger guy took our picture.
And then I took her up to Brighton Beach in Duluth and she got to walk on ice and see baby glaciers. Plus, it was pretty damn cold so she got to experience the beginnings of frost bite. Which is better than any souvenir, really. I mean, you could get postcards but being able to go back to nursing school and talk about frost bite and the feeling of your skin actually freezing and your eyeball juice freezing with first hand knowledge? I mean, that's kind of rad.
But then she had to go home. And I'm sad. I really like Shirley and maybe it's best we don't live super close together because she'd be my friend I'd get into all kinds of trouble with. I already told Matt that once I get all of these medical and dental bills paid, I'm going out to visit her. Most likely without him because he can be a buzz kill and I mean that in the nicest way possible. But Shirley is my friend I can text random ass things to and she doesn't even blink an eye. Even though we broke up on the Illinois border over Usher versus Ne-Yo, I'm willing to work though it. Because we all know Usher is better and we can counsel her through it. ;)