HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN:

HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - city of big bottoms and small minds.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

NEED A VACATION AWAY FROM VACATIONING!! IT'S REALLY HARD WORK

Everything had gone so well that I should have suspected that the last day of our baseball trip would disintegrate into complete chaos. Oh, it started off well enough; friday night when we got back to the Knickerbocker Itold Doug I would come up to his suite and make us a nice breakfast in an attempt to use up any an all of the left over groceries,

We have a nice meal of eggs, bacon, bagels, orange juice and coffee. We both had packed the night before so in no time we were checked out of the hotel and in a cab to the down town Milwaukee (Intermodal) Amtrak station. The train was much busier than the one we had taken coming out of Chicago.

We rolled into Chicago's Union Station just as the rain began to quicken. We asked if the subway was within walking distance and an employee assured us that it was only three blocks down and a block over so we set out on foot.

After walking in the rain for about half an hour we had had enough and hailed a cab which deposited us at the main Blue Line subway station and we had a long, crowded ride into the city and O'Hare airport.

We trundled our way towards where we would be checking through security and found the United Airlines board listing flights. That's when our day took a left turn. The scheduled 11:28 AM flight to Eau Claire had been cancelled. The next scheduled flight was 9:24 PM.

So we wandered about the terminal for a bit, then decided to check into the Hilton Hotel, just across the street from our terminal. The Hilton was sold out but the clerk said he would get us a booking at the Comfort Inn, which he did.

Unfortunately, he neglected to tell us one important thing. There are five Comfort Inns within nine miles of the airport and we didn't know which one. In fact we had to get rejected from several buses before we finally found out that there are five.

By now, it was too late to even think about getting a place to rest so we did the next best thing and went in to the bar at the Hilton. We had some appetizers and I put down two vodka gimlets. When my waiter asked if there was a specific kind of vodka I should have said bar rail but I just said no, whatever's handy.

Turns out Skyy was what I got and at $13 a drink. I forgot that I was in a Hilton.

Being somewhat inebriated is not a good way to go through TSA security but that's what I did and somehow I came through with everything I took off.

Now began the wasiting game of two and a half hours to see if our flight would be cancelled again. I watched the board and in cities all around Eau Claire flights were biting the dust - Duluth went down - Green Bay followed as did the Twin Cities.

Somehow though, our flight held and we were on the little two jet engined puddle jumper at 9:30 and got into Eau Claire at 10:40PMonly to find that they had lost one piece of luggage -- mine!

Since then I have been trying to catch up with my rest but things are not going well. Sunday I drove Kim and the rest of "The Getaway Girls" up to the Twin Cities for their vacation flight to The Big Easy.

Now it's just me and the cats. I went in search of the perfect frozen pizza the other day. I know, I know - there is no such thing. But pizza is like sex - even when it's bad, it's pretty good.

So I found one I finally can eat without gagging. It's not as good as freshly made or Sammy's- but I am going to stock up on some nine inchers yet today.

The name? BrewPub Lotzza Motzzarella and they are pretty darn good. But that's just me.

Here's a photo:


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Friday, April 19, 2013

FINAL DAY OF VACATION TURNS NIGHTMARISH BUT FINALLY HOME!

Well, it took us all day and half the night, but I finally got to bed with my wife at 1:30 this morning. I got up at 6AM on thursday, finished my packing and then went up and made breakfast for Doug to use up as much of the groceries as we could.

We were all checked out by 7:30 and on the Amtrak about an hour later. We tried to find the Blue Line subway outside of Union Station in Chicago, but after walking for about three city blocks in the rain, Doug gave up and hailed a cab. We got in line to check in with United Airlines and found huge lines - everything was clogged with people - we moved down to terminal one but found the same mess there.

Then we found out that the late morning flight to Eau Claire had been cancelled so we loitered around a while and Doug decided he wanted to check into a hotel near the airport to lounge around until the next flight to Eau Claire at 9:24 PM - He called the Hilton across the street - they were all booked up but the guy at the Hilton desk offered to book us at the Comfort Inn, which he did. He gave Doug a confirmation number, but neglected to tell him that there are five Comfort Inns in the area -- we stood outside waiting for a shuttle bus - Comfort Suites came by - I tried to get on -- was told it was the wrong bus - then we missed seeing another one -- and finally I was getting upet and started yelling at the next driver from a Comfort Inn - he asked at which one we were staying and that was the first that we foound out there are FIVE!!!

Then Doug called the guy back at the Hilton and tried to get the right bus - was told that the one we wanted was nine miles away, but because of flooding it took the bus an hour to get there!!!!

So Doug cancelled the room, we milled around for a while and then went across the street to the Hilton's lounge and a chance to recharge Doug's iPHone - wthout asking how much they were, I had two vodka gimlets and we both had an appetizer -- when the bill came, it was $73!!! The drinks were $13 dollars a piece. I paid the bill.

With the Eau Claire 9:24 PM flight still holding, we went thru security and then began the nail biting until they called our flight at 8:58PM - we got into Eau Claire at 10:45PM and of course, they lost MY luggage! (I just got it back about an hour ago).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17 - WEATHER TURNS CHILLY AND RAINY - BREWERS SQUEAK PAST GIANTS 4-3 IN NINE

BLAKE LALLI IS MET AT HOME PLATE BY JUBILANT TEAM MATES AFTER HIS WALK OFF PINCH HIT SAC FLY

Rarely used, Blake Lalli quickly showed he was totally prepared.
On the first pitch, the pinch-hitter lifted a long single in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the San Francisco Giants 4-3.
"He was in looking at videos, he was looking at what the pitchers throw and he knew what he wanted to do with the first pitch," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "Lalli is a very smart guy. He knew what he wanted to do in that situation."


I had gone up to Doug's suite in the morning and made him a breakfast of eggs and bacon with orange juice. Doug spent the afternoon at the Potawatomie Casino, but that didn't interest me at all, so I slept in to be ready for the evening's festivities.

I also got most of my packing done as we will be leaving the hotel at 7 AM after I go up and cook up what is left of the groceries Doug has in his suite.

Time for me to hit the hay as I have a 6 AM start tomorrow. We will be taking Amtrak from downtown Milwaukee at 8 AM to the Chicago O'Hare airport, get checked in and take an early afternoon flight back to Eau Claire to finish the baseball trip!

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BREWERS WIN FIRST GAME AFTER HUGE THIRD INNING TOPPED WITH BETANCOURT GRAND SLAM - Also coverage of April 16


The first two photos are of the main entrance to the Hotel Knickerbocker,Milwaukee, and the very ornate elevator doors. After quite a bit of rain last night, the day dawned with a beautiful sunrise over Lake Michigan.

Knowing that Doug would be sleeping in until at least 10 AM, Anson and I got up around 6:30 in the morning and headed over to the Einstein Bagel joint on Ogden for a bagel and a shmear.

Doug had called from his room the night before to tell us that he had left his iPhone at Mader's, but when we got in Anson's car we found it on the floor of the car.

When we got back to the hotel I went up to Doug's 6th floor suite and slipped a note under his door with the news.

Eventually Doug called and we went up to his room where I made breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon,toast, orange juice and coffee with the few utensils supplied by the hotel. It was somewhat of a challenge but worked out okay.

After our brunch, we jumped in the car and went over to the lakefront to the Milwaukee Museum of Art which features the architectural sculpture of a Spanish architectural artist, Calatrava. It is of a abstract bird figure the wings of which fold and then open about every ten minutes - as shown in the picture above.

The other architectural photos are of two very old edifices just down the street from our hotel. And no, I am not referring to the photo of Doug and I standing in front of the Milwaukee Museum!

Several pictures from tuesday night's 9-8 Brewer victory. As you can see, these are the best seats of the tour as we are in the third row and very close to home plate.

The seating at Miller Park is much too confined with absolutely no elbow room. Even though the roof was closed, it was a pretty chilly time of it - seemed to get colder in the building as it got later; probably because so many "fans" left early - something we couldn't understand because it was a good game. Made it kind of embarrassing to be a Wisconsin boy and a Brewer fan. Also we had a "mouth" a few rows back who was vocally unpleasant with the Giant players while they were in the on deck circle.

The game was a slow one - started at 7:10 and didn't finish until well after 10:30PM. One more game tomorrow night before we head back to Chicago to catch our plane back to Eau Claire.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

MONDAY, APRIL 15 - OUR TRAVEL DAY AND MY 72ND BIRTHDAY



Today was our travel day from Chicago to Milwaukee by Amtrak. Doug and I left the Hotel Lincoln at 11:30 AM by taxi, laden with our suitcases and back packs. We checked into Union Station and waited about 50 minutes for our train (335) The Hiawatha to announce boarding.

There was plenty of room to relax on the car we chose and we made the trip to downtown Milwaukee by 2:34PM. On the way, the train made a stop at Sturdevant, Wisconsin, and Doug spotted one of the Giants TV announcers making his way into the station entry way! Seems he is originally a Wisconsin boy from nearby.

My brother Anson met us at the station when we arrived down town and we quickly got signed into our hotel, The Knickerbocker. The top left photo is of the wonderful old style architecture of the entry way to room 414 where Anson and I are staying tonight. The picture to the right is of Anson and Doug - caught totally by surprise. Let's hope they don't see this one!

The next photos are of the kitchenette, the walk in closet, the bath room, our sleeping quarters, a shot of the boys at County Clare, a quaint little Irish pub and lodging house just around the corner from the Knickerbocker on our way to dinner at Mader's.

I had a shot of Jamieson's and it knocked me on my ass!

Dinner at Mader's was incredibly delicious! Anson and I both had the pork schneitzel with red cabbage and spaetzle. Doug opted for the pork shank which was equally delicious.


Just as we were finishing dinner, we met a wonderful table of Giants fans who were also finishing their meal. As we had, they had been to games in Chicago and will be at the game tomorrow night at Miller Park. They are all natives of the Bay Area and proud followers of their team.

I hope we get a chance to visit with them again tomorrow!

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

SUNDAY'S WEATHER MUCH MORE CONDUSIVE TO ENJOYABLE BASEBALL



Having a devil of a time getting the photos from today to load onto the blog site. They seem to all be up now but in no order whatsoever so see if you can figure them out. One of them is a view out my tenth story window looking toward Lake Michigan that I took early this morning while the cold 40 temperatures were still upon us.

The photo just to the left of that is of Doug standing just outside what was the front door of his apartment building on Belden when he was a wee lad. We did some walking and reminiscing around his old haunts before taking the bus to the ball game at 1:20PM.

The photo above that has Doug standing in front of a bronze statue of the Bard on Avon inscribed: "What a piece of work is man" etc.
Doug told me that as an eight year old he would climb up and sit in Shakespeare's lap. Try as I might, I couldn't get him to do that for this photo!

By the time we got to the ball park, (two pictures to left and above), the sun had come out and we had just sat down in our seats when the announcer called "PLAY BALL!" Again the seats were exquisite and the game was a real barn burner with the Cubs leading most of the way, but Pence hit a single home run with a 3-2 count in the top of the ninth to tie the game and the Giants stopped the Cubs with one run in their half of the inning to put the game into extra innings.

The Giants put up three runs in the top of the tenth and Doug's favorite reliever, Romo, came in and shut them down with just one man on base to end the game.

The weather turned out to be beautiful all afternoon with temps in the low 60's and no wind - we both got some sun and are looking quite ruddy this evening.

Time for bed - tomorrow is travel day to Milwaukee by Amtrak and also my 72nd birthday!

Carry on!


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Saturday, April 13, 2013

ADVENTURES OF DOUG AND LARRY - DAY TWO - GIANTS WIN IN THE COLD

Last night, tired as we were from the trek into town from the airport, we decided to have our evening meal at the hotel restaurant. It is one of those places with extremely high ceilings and normal conversation becomes a din as dineers try to outdo each other to be heard at their respective tables.

The food was a little too "haute cuisine -ish" for my taste as the chef is an expert in using local meats and vegetables and is heavily into pickling. So we had pickled beets with nuts and pickled cabbage leaves as a lead in and my main course was a pork scallopine with a sauce I didn't really understand.

We parted for our rooms and the plan was to get up early enough to find some breakfast before proceeding to Wrigley. However, Doug, a notorious night owl, overslept somewhat and we didn't get started until 10 AM. We decided that we would just pick up ball park food.

Doug checked game start time, thinking it was 1:05PM, but it was indeed a noon start so we got bundled up for the forty degree, cloudy and windy forecast and took a cab to Addison.

We found our way to great seats in the third row just behind the Giants dug out on the first base side, then went back to the concession area for a slice of Chicago style deep dish pizza, two Chicago hot dogs, and two Old Styles to wash it all down with.

There were a surprising number of fans in San Francisco gear,including two young ladies who sat directly in front of us. Not much happened in the early innings; no home runs or multiple runners but finally the Giants put two runs on the board and added a third in the 7th.

The Cubs managed a home run with a runner on base in their half of the inning but the Gaints hung on to win 3-2 in nine innings. The last Cubs batter, on his final strike, fell to the ground in agony and it took some time to get him to his feet.

We decided to take the CTA bus back to the hotel as that is a much cheaper ride than the cabs. I did find it interesting that Chicago's taxi cab fleet is now made up of Priuses.

We are scheduled to leave the hotel for Italian food at 7 PM so I have a little time to rest now!

We are back from dinner at Topo Gigio's Italian Restuaurant, in despite its name, the food was very very good! Doug had the veal scallopine with capers which was sliced wonderfully thin and exquisitely seasoned.

I chose the Italian sausage ragu over porcini mushrooms and home made pasta. The Italian sausage was very much like mine, I found, and the serving was immense. I ended up bringing at least two thirds of it back to my room.

I just finished taking a very long soak in my bath tub - fell asleep twice --and now I am going to snooze until Kim calls around 10PM. This vacationing is hard work!

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Friday, April 12, 2013

FIRST DAY OF BASEBALL TRIP HAS ITS TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

For a while today ist looked like we wouldn't be making the trip to Chicago. With the plane scheduled to depart precisely at 3PM, I got a call from Doug saying he was still in the process of rounding up the house sitter and Walter the Dachshund sitter as well.

Kim and I arrived at the house at 2:05PM and still no Doug - then I got another telephone call from him saying that they were at Mega
foods picking up groceries for said house sitter. At 2:20, Doug pulled into the driveway and by 2:25PM we were on our way to the Eau Claire airport.

As we were unloading our luggage we heard the loud speaker blare that this was last call for the 3 PM flight to Chicago. We hustled in, last in line, and got through the removal of shoes and the magic wand that my artificial knee drove crazy and were the last to get to our seats. As my habit, I was way overdressed to stay warm, thinking about being outdoors at the ball games this weekend so it was a very uncomfortable ride all the way to O'Hare.

In addition, the air line attendant decided that my "carry on" luggage was too big to carry on and so they took it away from me and stowed it with the rest of the luggage in the belly of the plane. At the time that they did this, they handed me a sticker with a number on it but didn't tell me that I was to attach it to the handle of my bag. so instead I put it in my pocket so that I could identify my bag upon arrival.

There were about nine of us waiting for luggage and I kept trying to compare the numbers on the sticker I had in my pocket with those on the bags as the crew deposited them at our feet. Finally one of the crew saw what I was doing and told me that I was supposed to have put that sticker on my luggage.

Now I broke out in a cold sweat because all my clothes for the weekend were in that bag! Everyone collected their luggage and left me standing alone on the jetway. Suddenly the guy from the crew brought up one more bag and asked if this was mine. I said I wouldn't know without opening it. I opened it and luckily it was my stuff!

This put doug way behind in collecting his luggage at the carousel so we began the long trek through O'Hare, which stretches, it seems. aimlessly for miles. At one point we missed the turn to get to the carousel and ended walking and extra two blocks. Dragging all my stuff, and overdressed, I was about to drop in my tracks by the time we got to the carousel.

There was no luggage coming out so finally doug asked an attendant whast was up and she took him to where they had stored his bags because they didn't think he was going to show.

Our next trek was to find the way to ground transport to catch an El train that would take us as close to our hotel as possible. More walking. And lots of it.

We finally found the correct train and rode for 40 minutes to the stop closest to the Lincoln Hotel where we were staying - still some 13 blocks away.

We hailed a cab the driver of which did not know where the hotel was! He blabbered in a foreign language to someone on the radio all the way to the hotel with Doug's directions.

We checked into our rooms and collapsed until dinner at 8PM.

I hope we have better luck tomorrow!

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OFF ON THE "GREAT BASEBALL ODYSSEY"

Today is the day that my good friend and huge San Francisco Giants fan, Doug and I, leave for Chicago to see the Giants battle the Cubs for two games, saturday, April 13. and sunday April 14.

Unfortunately, when the trip was booked, it was with the enthusiastic hopes that Spring would have truly arrived and temperatures would be in the 60's. But if you live anywhere near Chicago you know that is not the case. Instead, temperatures have been hovering around freezing and we have been getting intermittent snow.

So Wrigley field could be a real challenge! I have spent two days organizing and reorganizing my packing to prepare for saturday's 40 degree temperatures and sunday's high of sixty degrees. Plenty of long underwear, warm socks, and stocking caps. Unfortunately I don't own one of those "bank holdup" ski masks, and this time of year, nobody has them in stock!

Okay, so I bring a long scarf and do Lawrence of Arabia!

We are staying in a great old hotel - the name of which escapes me just now but I intend to cover the entire trip with blogs and pictures so I will let you know.

Monday will be our day off and my (gulp) 72nd birthday, which we will celebrate by taking a train up to Milwaukee and the Knickerbocker Hotel (there, I remembered that one!) and my younger brother Anson is coming down from Algoma to join us for birthday dinner at a good German restaurant.

Anson will be staying overnight and going with us to Miller Park for the first of two games between the Giants and the Brewers in a domed and much more comfortable atmosphere.

So I'll catch up with you later! LET'S GO GIANTS! (I gotta cheer for SF -- Doug paid for the whole trip as a birthday gift!)

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