Tag Archives: midwest

Cheesy grits. Enough said.

Illinois and Iowa made Ohio and Indiana look like my grandma’s metaphorical backyard garden. Where in Ohio we saw a cornfield, in Illinois we saw a corn sea. Where cornfields dotted the highway in Indiana, highway dotted the cornfields in Iowa. Just driving through there made my poop look weird.

I knew this day was going to be the longest and prepared by bringing book two from the Game of Thrones series (which is actually called A Song of Ice and Fire but that couldn’t be farther from manly) and read one chapter. The rest of the time I wasn’t driving I frantically searched for cell phone reception. What a day.

Omaha, our next stop, is luckily right across the border of Nebraska. As we crossed the Missouri I snapped another great “Welcome to” sign picture:

We only had a few hours in Omaha, as our campsite was about 30 minutes west of the city. So we did what everyone does in Omaha, and got steak. This steak was phenomenal. Grab a napkin to wipe the drool from your computer because here’s a picture (with CHEESY GRITS. CAN LIFE GET BETTER.):

I took that knife for my collection (of things, not knives) and we went to get some dessert. For future reference, do enter an ice cream shop with a knife in your hand. Things could get weird.

After trolling around a nice little area of Omaha (after stopping at the car to get rid of the knife) we headed to the campsite, which was just outside a very small town called Fremont. Fremont was like a Midwestern spin on Toledo, but could have had a greater variety of lampshades. It was getting late when we finally got to our site, so we went to set up the tent I was borrowing from my aunt before the sun went down.

The tent had no poles. Which if you know anything about tents means it was now a huge, complex sleeping bag, or a tarp. Which is less than ideal for a week’s worth of camping.

Luckily, we were in the Midwest which means you’re never farther than 15 minutes from a Walmart. After purchasing a new tent (thanks Mom!) and discovering that the People of Walmart mostly come from the Fremont, NE store, we went back to the site to blindly set up our tent. Using our cell phones as flashlights we got it up only to realize we bought the penthouse of tents. A family of five and their dog could easily share it with room for clothes and a small kitchen. So we had some room to sprawl out.

Unfortunately the tent wasn’t sound proof. Every hour or so a train would go past the campsite, all night long, blowing its horn. And every time I woke up and for a split second thought we were under attack. It is obvious that my campsite picking abilities rival my “Welcome to” sign picture taking abilities.

After a sleepless night for the both of us, we tore down our canvas mobile home and headed to the first destination that we were really looking forward to – where trains couldn’t jar you awake and all the tents had poles: The Badlands of South Dakota.

I want the duck beer.

Finally, after seven and a half grueling hours of cornfields and Toledo, we got to Chicago. We both had been there before, but only I was here in the summer. I like to think of Chicago as Pittsburgh only bigger and with worse sports teams but I also don’t follow any sports but Pittsburgh sports so that’s how I view every city. However the weather and people are pretty similar.

Luckily we got to stay in Chicago for free with a friend’s sister. What made us even more lucky is that she didn’t have air conditioning in her third floor apartment so sorry about your blanket Liz it’s full of my sweat.

When we got there we decided to walk down to Lake Michigan. As we headed toward the lake, a little girl in a stroller turned around and sang Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in tha trap” to me which was special because at that moment I knew she was going to grow up and do great things with her GED.

We got to the lake, walked around, I scooped up some water and a bit of sand from the lake for my collection of things I take when I go places, and then we headed back to eat pizza. If you’re thinking “Yum, I bet that deep dish was really good”, I wouldn’t know because we got the thinnest, strangest pizza Chicago offers. But it was free and a nice gesture from our host so we ate 14 pieces each and didn’t save any for her Aunt who would be there in a few minutes.

After some conversation we realized the Stanley Cup was on and went to a bar down the street to watch. We chose this particular bar because a sign outside read “Free Buffet Monday-Thursday”. Before I could settle the battle in my head about heading back to the car for tupperware, we were inside. The first beer on tap I saw had a duck lever with no words and I wanted to try it. So I asked for the duck beer. She had no idea what I was talking about. After some explaining she understood what I meant. Turns out it was a goose.

When I finally got my duck beer we sat and drank and like any secret fatty would do acted surprised when they said there was a free buffet in the back. The bartender then gave us a basket of free popcorn – what kind of bar heaven was this? Free buffet AND popcorn? After eating all the popcorn, we finally headed to the back for more food. As we lifted the buffet tray lids, we realized that the buffet was actually questionable leftovers from the adjoining restaurant including what seemed to be half cooked potatoes and old penne with crusty sauce.

We stuck to popcorn.

After watching the Kings win, we headed home. The next morning we ate a quick breakfast, complained about how girls have dirty bathrooms, and got behind the wheel to dive deeper into the Midwest. Next stop: Omaha.

The Lampshade Capital of the World

As I finished up the last of my heart-wrenching goodbyes, I packed the last few things into my car for the long drive ahead. College was officially over, and I was moving to LA for the summer. The sun was breaking through the clouds in a very un-Pittsburgh-like fashion as my best friend and I climbed into my two door Honda Accord to start the long trip to sunny California. It was going to last 7 days and 6 nights with stops all across the country.

To understand the trip, you have to understand that my friend and I have a relationship that can only be described as “pushing the limits of the bromance”. Basically we’re two ball taps away from my mom “loving me no matter who I am”. It’s love in the straightest way possible.

So my definitely not boyfriend and I hit the road heading west. Our first stop was 8 hours away – Chi-Town. However we hit an obstacle before Chicago: Ohio and Indiana.

On a whim because I’m creative and spontaneous (aside from my numerous other positive qualities) I decided I was going to take a picture of the “Welcome to” sign at the border of every state we entered. Things started off great in Ohio:

This was followed by our first sight in this great state – a tractor trailer with not two but three trailers attached. This blew my mind because I’ve never seen this in PA, most likely because we have landforms. Needless to say Ohio was opening my eyes to the wonders of the free world.

When we got hungry, luckily, were about to hit Toledo. We’d heard of Toledo before, so we decided to find the nearest Chipotle (obviously). As we got off the highway, I realized Toledo was not the sprawling metropolis I had envisioned. Aside from Chipotle, I think the newest thing was an Old Country Buffet from 1987.

However it did have the following: a restaurant called “Good Food”, a hotel called “Best Hotel”, and most importantly an enormous store called “Lampshade World”. This proves that Ohioans are not only creative, but are on the forefront of technologic and economic prosperity. When I think “What is one product that is so versatile and profitable I could fill up a warehouse with it and call it a store?” I think lampshades.

We dined with Toledo’s finest, and after about 15 minutes of lampshade jokes, we got the fuck out of there, dubbing it “The Lampshade Capital of the World”. We crossed into Indiana, where my “Welcome to” sign picture taking ability greatly improved, and started counting down the minutes til we got to Chicago.

Day 1 had already been a whirlwind of exhilaration, and it was barely noon.