Day 2 of 8 – 8.2 Miles in Chicago, Illinois

After finishing my run in Fort Dodge, I drove home and had just enough time to shower up, play with the Cal-man for a bit, watch my Cyclones have a complete meltdown in Norman, Oklahoma and head down to Des Moines to catch my first bus. I said my goodbyes to Tillie and Cal (more about Tillie later this week and how great she is to let me go on this crazy adventure each year) and found this thing waiting for me.

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I wondered how busy the bus from Des Moines to Chicago would be, and I was surprised to find out that there were only seven us on the bus. I scored the upper-deck front row for a bird’s eye view to Chicago. We stopped in Iowa City to pick up another small crew and made the trek to Chicago.

I had been doing some reading about a alternative taxi service called Uber that is in approximately 15 cities, and I planned to use it once I arrived in Chicago. It didn’t disappoint, and I can honestly say that it was probably my best “cab” experience of my life. When I arrived at the bus stop, I opened up the Uber app, which automatically identified my location. I then hit a button that said “Request a car.” About ten seconds later, I received a text from Uber stating that my driver would be there in one minute. About ten seconds later, I received a call from my driver who was trying to locate me. We found each other, and I was shocked to find a Cadillac Escalade waiting for me. Score! I had about a four mile drive to Andy Tomka’s house, and it cost $20. A normal cab would have been approximately $15. Because I have my credit card plugged into Uber, I didn’t have to make a transaction upon leaving the car, and received my receipt via email about minute later. What a great experience! It was interesting talking with driver about the company. It sounds like many cities are getting on their case for completing disrupting the cab market in the city. Hmmmm, cities losing cab license revenues because others can provide better experiences?

I was excited to see fellow Iowa State Phi Delt Andy Tomka and his girlfriend Liz for the second year in a row. Chicago is almost a must when leaving on Megabus from Des Moines and then you can branch out from there. I’ll never complain about having to go through Chicago. So much to see! I hit the sack at about 12:30am and woke up at 7am to get ready for our run.

Andy tried to retain the title as best breakfast on my trip with a delicious oatmeal concoction and tea to start our day off. He’s in the early lead! Andy and I switched up the route a bit and just left from his place rather than transporting in to start at Soldier Field. It was a great decision to save time.

On the way to our first stop, a car approached us with the head of a Golden Retriever sticking out of the sunroof scoping out the scene. I have added an item to Lex’s bucket list. Seriously, it was hilarious to the dog just roll by us like it was no big deal.

Our first stop was the United Center, the home of the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks. Growing up a Bulls fan, a trip to the United Center is always exciting. Here, we spotted the Michael Jordan statue, and I was able to thank my cousins Matt & Jessi Good. Matt is a huge Jordan fan, so it was fun to be able to recognize him here. It’s quite the statue. I stayed with Matt in NYC last year during my trip, and the hotel room was what I needed towards the end of that trip. Thanks again guys for your support!

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From the United Center, we headed east on Madison Ave. Ironically enough, I had driven Madison Ave. a week earlier as I was in town for Phi Delta Theta’s Recruitment Workshop. Our next stop was my first Runner’s Choice for the day, the Billy Goat Tavern. The Billy Goat Tavern has quite the history with Chicago. Cubs fans, you can skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to be reminded about the “stinkiness” of your team. The owner of the Billy Goat Tavern had a pet goat (Murphy), with whom the owner (Billy Goat) tried getting into a 1945 World Series game. The pet goat was not allowed in for the reason that “it stinks.” Billy Goat threw up is arms and stated that the Cubs would not win another World Series until they allowed a goat in the stadium. The rest is history. Moral of the story – Don’t mess with the goat.

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Here I thanked fellow Iowa State Phi Delt Colin Hueser. I’m very proud of Colin as he was recently hired to be a part of the 2013 Phi Delta Theta Leadership Consultant class. He will soon be a colleague of mine, and I look forward to watching him do great things in the role. Colin is probably the reason I am now helping to advise the chapter at Iowa State. He had a vision in place that I supported 100%.

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We then ran to Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower. I remember going to the top of the tower as a young chap with my dad on our first father-son trip. Here I thanked my running buddy Andy. I probably should have just taken the picture of him holding the sign. We ran to the front of the building to check out the grand entrance.

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From Willis, we headed to the Chicago Board of Trade where I thanked my cousins Adam & Lindsey Good. Tillie and I are pumped that these two have recently moved to Ames. Adam and I are about a month apart in age, and we both have a very strong love for the Iowa State football tailgate. You can generally find us either filled with optimism after a win or licking our wounds after a heartbreaking loss. Either way, we have a good time. Lindsay teaches in the Gilbert School District just north of Ames and Adam is a financial advisor in Ogden and Eagle Grove. It was only fitting that we thanked them in front of the Chicago Board of Trade.

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From the Board of Trade, we hurried out of the downtown shade and into the sun to warm up a bit on our way to Soldier Field. On the way, I took the opportunity to take another Runner’s Choice photo at Field Museum, one of Chicago’s many great museums. Here, I thanked the Brannon family. Jason is a fellow Iowa State Phi Delt and has supported my trip both years, and I recently connected with his mother Nancy. She left me a message that mentioned that both her mom and cousin had lost their battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. I didn’t know the family had that connection. It’s connections like this that completely make this trip worthwhile. I take great pride in representing these families as I run. Serious motivation.

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We had arrived at Soldier Field, the home of the Chicago Bears. What a cool stadium. I first had to take a picture of the great tribute art erected in front of the stadium. I was telling Andy that in all the years that I’ve been a sports fan, I’ve never made the connection that Soldier Field pays tribute to actual soldiers. Seems so obvious, but it’s one of things that I never knew until I saw this sign.

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At Soldier Field, I thanked the awesome Robles Family. Rich is a Phi Delt and former GHQ-staffer, April was Tillie’s boss at Miami University, and their kids Eva and RJ are just plain hilarious. When we were in Cincinnati, I was periodically given the opportunity to drive these two yahoos home. I truly looked forward to every opportunity to do so, and these two had me rolling for a half hour each time. Whether it was RJ pointing at me and telling me that I had a cheeseburger on my head or Eva telling me all about her class that day, it was always hilarious. We miss the Robles. April, I wasn’t able to find the playground where I wanted to take the picture. Sorry!

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We headed back north from Soldier Field, ran by Grant Park and ended up stopping at Buckingham Fountain for a Runner’s Choice picture. Buckingham Fountain is familiar to you Married With Children fans. While it was way too cold for the fountain to be operating, the location provided for a serious view! Here, I thanked Matt & Jessi Good once again.

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We headed toward the end of our run near the Canal and Michigan Ave. Our first stop in this area was at the Chicago Tribune Tower. The best picture of the tower was ruined by some killer shade at that point of the day, but I was able to find a really neat entrance to the building. Here, I thanked Riley Smith, a fellow Cyclone and member of Farmhouse Fraternity. One of my best pictures of last year’s trip was for Riley drinking a Miller High Life in front of the Miller High Life Lounge in Des Moines. Thanks again for your support Riley! You’re awesome. I can only hope that we randomly cross paths in an airport again in the near future!

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From the Tribune Tower, I was supposed to get a picture in front of the Wrigley Building for Allan Hammell, but there was some serious construction going on which ruined every good opportunity. So I improvised. A block over was the Trump Tower, and as you can imagine, is pretty fantastic. Here I thanked Allan, one of my Iowa State Phi Delt pledge brothers. Allan and his wife Hillary recently had a beautiful baby girl! Also, a big thanks to Allan for working to reconnect the Iowa State Phi Delt alumni base with the chapter’s involvement in Dance Marathon.

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The final thank-you of the run once again went to my sister and brother-in-law. The Michigan Avenue bride in downtown Chicago provides for one of the neatest views of the city in my opinion. I wanted to make sure to thank Anne & Don here. Quite the view eh? 20130303-150221.jpg

Andy and I made our way back to his place, where I cleaned up and repacked the old backpack. Once again, thank you to Andy & Liz for their hospitality. It’s always great to see them, and I always enjoy hearing about updates in their lives. Great peeps.

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The two of them dropped me off near the bus station where I grabbed a bite to eat before the 9-hour trip to Nashville, my longest of the trip. While waiting for the bus, a few things rattled me a bit. A young lad came up to me and asked for money, I politely declined, and he proceded to talk to me about his alcoholism for about 15 minutes. He said that he had just gotten out of jail, which is always comforting to hear. He eventually left, but was replaced by a young and ragged couple that were obviously high on something waiting for one of the buses. Those of us who were there witness the young girl randomly pass out and land straight on her face on the concrete. Her counterpart proceeded to yell at her with no respect. I think we were all a bit shaken by the situation, but luckily there were about 50 of us. This was really the first bad experience I have ever had with Megabus, but luckily none of these people were on my bus. Moral of the story – Abusing booze, drugs and women sucks. Don’t do it. Having said all of that, I found value in the experience as it was a stark reminder of the many positive influences in my life.

So I’m off to Nashville, via Indianapolis and Louisville. Nine hours in a bus after nearly 16 miles in two days will be interesting, but warm weather and great friends await in Nashville.

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