Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rocky Mountains well worth the trip

Posted by Craig on 7/26/2009 2 comments
It's not Chicago, but it's worth making this blog anyway. It was actually the complete opposite...

Rather than people all around you, rapid-fire transit, and recurrent noise 24/7 -- such is life in Downtown Chicago --, it's open space everywhere you look, wildlife and nature at every corner, and near silence.

I was only there for a tad more than 48 hours, but my trip to the Rocky Mountains this weekend was one I won't soon forget.

Anyone who hasn't been to the Rocky Mountains needs to go at some point. I was unsure about the place going into the trip but once I was there, wow...

Best part -- we stayed in a lodge in a valley surrounded entirely by mountains -- 360 degrees.

You'd wake up in the morning to a fresh, forrest-like smell, and every direction you look would be like a postcard.

It was God's creation all around you, hardly any sign of man-made constructions, and the whole trip was filled with inspirational and dramatic sights.

Pictures just don't do it justice, in my opinion. You have to be there to experience it, and experience all the outdoors have to offer. And there's so much. I could have spent weeks there if I had the chance. And I'd love to go back.

But here's a few pictures anyway. One of a few mountains near our lodge, one of my sister and I in the Rockies, and one of buffalo we saw on the side of the road in Wyoming.

So why was I there? My sister is working at the YMCA in the Rockies (Estes Park) this summer, so I went out to visit her. My parents made the trip too.

It was my first time ever in Denver, though I didn't get to see the city other than from a distance landing at the airport. Spent most of the time in the Rockies and also made it up to Cheyenne, Wyoming, for a rodeo and Frontier Days on Saturday.

Though short, the trip was action-packed: plenty of exploring; lots of exercise, basketball, swimming, and more; learning about trees, birds, history; the rodeo, which was really interesting; and coming across countless streams, mountains, lakes, etc. Definitely memorable, and again, I'd love to go back there someday.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Taste of Chicago and a crazy fight

Posted by Craig on 7/03/2009 4 comments
I enjoyed Taste of Chicago so much during my first time there last Friday that I went back again tonight.

It was also the annual 3rd of July Fireworks tonight. I later learned that this can get a little crazy and a person was killed last year in a shooting after the fireworks -- why didn't I know this ahead of time?

Anyway, there was another incident tonight. It was at Congress and Michigan, and I witnessed it unfold as I was leaving the fireworks.

An altercation of some kind broke out between a few individuals. In seconds, 10-20 people got involved and it turned into a bigger fight, and this was as thousands of people (a million attended total) were in the streets.

So police jumped on this pretty quick. The Tribune reports that about 30 police broke it up, and that sounds about right. They flocked to the scene, from all directions, a few even pushed me out of the way to get there...and they formed a barricade to block people off from the area.

The shocking part for me was what happened next - cops started beating people.

I was not prepared for that. And it was this huge mob scene, with people starting to jump on top of ledges on Michigan Avenue to get a better look. It looks like police got it under control, but not before there was considerable chaos, shouting and physical violence as I said. Fortunately, no guns, or if there was, nothing happened on that end.

Anyway, I got back safe and hopefully all are OK after that. As for the FOOD part of it, the food was great! I sampled a lot of food over the course of the two days. Here's what I had ranked from favorite to least favorite when all was said and done:

1. blue raspberry Italian ice from Mazzones
2. mozzarella garlic bread from Cafe and Catering at Bridgeport
3. nutella crepe with whipped creme from Mazzones
4. potato/cheese pierogies from Kasias
5. homemade potato chips from Harry Caray's
6. thin crust sausage/pepperoni pizza from Home Run Inn
7. garlic potatoes from Oak Street Beach Cafe
8. turkey meatballs from Tuscany Taylor
9. hush puppies from Harold's Chicken
10. thin crust sausage pizza from Reggie's
11. Oreo Cheesecake with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge from Eli's

Also had Pepsi and Mountain Dew Wild Fruit from the beverage stand.

And.... I sampled 7 new, never-had-before Mountain Dew flavors at Mt. Dew Labs Tent for free! They were very good. There was an orange, citrus-type drink that was my favorite. Others included a cherry kind, green apple, etc.

And at the Pepsi Tent I tried free samples of apple soda and grapefruit soda. The apple soda was actually pretty good.

I also caught part of a concert with patriotic tunes before the fireworks, which I saw by the lakefront. Smiley face fireworks were most popular. There was a crazy lady next to me yelling every time someone stepped on her blanket, swearing like mad at everyone, kind of comical (wearing the white shirt on the right in this picture). And the coolest part was the grand finale because at the very end, you could still hear the fireworks echoing off the city buildings.

Overall, a fun night and a good time last week at the Taste of Chicago.

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