Touristy Tuesday: Indianapolis, IN + A Night in Chicago Edition

With just a few weeks left on the road my Touristy Tuesdays are starting to get jam-packed again. During that winter hibernation period, where you didn’t see any blogs about travel or running, it was a struggle just to get out of the hotel. Now that the foot of snow is gone and the summer clothes have reappeared it’s a lot easier to get out and about!

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Our first day in the Indianapolis we had high hopes. It was a maintenance day. Get the ketchup and mustard levels checked. Wash off the relish. That kind of thing. The idea is you get some work done those days, which we do, but they’re usually over pretty quickly, leaving time for adventuring. For example, our last maintenance day in St. Louis Eliot and I snuck in a tour of Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals play. This maintenance day on the other hand did not lend well to being a tourist. Instead, we hung out at Penske for almost the entire day. (Let me tell you – the Indianapolis Penske is not exactly the finest way to be introduced to the city.)

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Luckily we found a Cracker Barrel and hung out in their rocking chairs for awhile. We had lunch nearby and played Yahtzee for the rest of the afternoon while we waited on the company car. We had just enough time to play three games, and I will shameless gloat that I had three Yahtzees and won 2/3 games!

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That afternoon I met up with Tim and his buddies from the Bourbon Street Running Club for a group run around the Indianapolis Downtown Canal. Although I didn’t experience too much of the downtown area beyond this, I was really impressed. From the run you could see several different museums, arenas, and tons of parks! Between the people and the copious amounts of things to do in the area, I could easily see myself moving to Indy one day down the road. It’s up there with Louisville, KY I think!

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I saw another running friend, Kathy, on our day off on Wednesday. University of Indiana got lucky that week – I brought the Wienermobile by both their Indy and Bloomington campuses. It was finals week, so it was kind of fun to catch up with her – hear about her running escapades (she does a marathon each month!) – and also surprise the kids on campus.

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That afternoon I headed down to the main Indiana campus in Bloomington to see my friend Rachel, who is there for grad school. Now believe it or not, I do have friends that aren’t from the running community. (Or forced friends like Eliot and Abe who are friends with me only because we are stuck in a giant hot dog together.) Rachel and I have known each other from way back in the dorm days. She made my Wilma Flintstone Halloween costume that year and I’ve been trying to repay her ever since.

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Egyptian. Genie. Wilma.

Just for throwback’s sake I’m including some fun college photos because they’re adorable and who doesn’t love a walk down Nostalgia Lane?

Ridiculous outfits we made to cheer on an intramural basketball team in our building. Go big or go home, right?

Ridiculous outfits we made to cheer on an intramural basketball team in our building. Go big or go home, right?

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At the statue of David Francis. You rub his nose for good luck before exams! Whoo!

Rachel just finished her first year of grad school at IU studying Student Affairs, where she also worked as a Graduate Assistant managing Briscoe Residence Hall. (Yep – she’s a ResLIFER. Res Life, For Life. haha) I promised that she could totally take advantage of having the Wienermobile come visit, so she set up a hot dog bar for all of the residents to enjoy on move-out day. (That made me miss being an RA in the dorms for half a second, until I actually remembered all the babysitting that went into being an RA. haha)

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That evening she showed me all around the IU campus, which was unbelievably gorgeous. I am really proud of how beautiful Mizzou is, but IU is a close rival. Perhaps because all of their red and white tulips were in bloom, but I was tempted to switch grad programs and move in with her!

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We chatted quite a bit about grad school, girly things, and everything else under the sun. I love that girl because we can go for awhile without talking (sometimes too long) and still fall right back into cahoots together, planning adventures. It was over frozen yogurt that I talked her into coming to Chicago.

One of the traditions at Indiana is to dip in this fountain. Check that off the list, I guess!

One of the traditions at Indiana is to dip in this fountain. Check that off the list, I guess!

Rachel is adventurous in a crazy/zany/spontaneous way, but hasn’t traveled too much on her own and somehow had never made it to Chicago. When I heard that, I insisted she come with! Our mutual friend David was taking the bus into Indianapolis and driving back with Eliot and I already. She could do the opposite – drive up and take the bus back! I can be pretty persuasive (not that going to Chicago in the Wienermobile is a hard sell) and I left Bloomington assured she would be joining us on the adventure.

Friday afternoon David came in for the race. If I was Rachel’s first friend at Mizzou, David was mine. Just a few days before I talked him into coming to Indy for the Mini-Marathon, which turned out to be a pretty awesome time. You can read more about the expo, carb-tastic dinner, and the race on my latest race recap.

After the race though it was time to pack and hit the road. I’ve managed to squeeze in three half marathons lately, but it has meant busy days afterwards. After the Go! St. Louis half marathon Eliot and I had to drive 7 hours to the middle of Kansas. After the Mini-Marathon we were headed to Chicago, +2 with Rachel and David in tow.

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That drive was only supposed to be a few hours long. Unfortunately we hit a massive accident, that left us going 6 miles over the course of 2 hours.

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Yes, that is us going 3.9 miles.

Yuck! I think the novelty of the company car had worn off for those two by that point.

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It was probably good they slept because we headed out on the town that night. David and I really wanted to take Rachel downtown for a real night out in Chicago, but we got in much later than expected and they two of us were a little tired from running PRs. Instead, we went to the Rosemont Entertainment District right near our hotel.

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After sharing an oversized margarita pitcher (or two) we decided to share some oversized beers as well at the Hofbräuhaus.

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Somehow these German beer places bring something out in me, like my accordion playing skills in Chicago, and when they had a ladies beer drinking competition Rachel and I were both up on stage. (And to think, we were both RAs in college!) While neither of us won, we did put in a good effort.

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This entertainment district has 10+ bars all within walking distance, so from there we headed over to Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar. WHOOOO! I have been trying to go to one of these bars the entire time we have been on the road, but failed at two other attempts while in the Southwest.

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After the long wait, it finally lived up to my expectations. (Sadly, my cowgirl boots were already packed away so I’m not sure I got the full experience.) Let me just say that after this country bar I’m even more excited to move to the South. (Georgia – Lookout!)

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After our around-the-world tour with Mexican margaritas, German Beer, and some good old American country music we headed home and crashed. Sadly Rachel had to head home in the morning, but that was just the start of Chicago adventures for me!

So that was Indianapolis. Running. Friends. Running Friends. Board Games. And Beer. All around a great week!

From the Southwest to the Midwest!

Good-bye West Coast, Hello Midwest Coast. (That’s right, the Midwest Coast. We can at least pretend there is a bit of paradise here in the breadbasket of America.)

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So why am I in America’s heartland’s heartland and how did I end up here from California? Well, in the last month that I’ve been virtually MIA from blogging I’ve switched regions and switched partners in the Wienermobile. I’ll catch up on those Touristy Tuesday weeks I’ve missed soon, but in the meantime I’ve got some introductions to do.

First though, I’ve got to say good-bye to my BFF, partner in crime, and co-corndog Abe.

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We spent seven incredible months galavanting across the country, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Grand Canyon.

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He indulged me in all those stops at National Landmarks and introduced me to every type of Mexican food you could imagine.

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This guy put up with the corndog that I am. He laughed at my jokes, laughed at my klutziness, and mostly just spent a lot of time laughing at me in general. But I love him.

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We finished up our time in the Southwest with a five day cross-country drive from San Francisco, down to San Diego, and up to Madison. Back at Hot Dog Headquarters Abe and I said our good-byes….

(Halfway through the Wienermobile tour we get new partners and new territories – the time had come.)

So I dug out my winter coat, put away the flip flops, and tried my best to mentally prepare for a real Midwest winter.

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Now allow me to introduce my new teammate, Eliot.

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He is a University of Wisconsin Business-Finance graduate who spent his first six months on the job in the Southeast.

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From our short time together I can already tell you a few fun facts about him.

1. We will definitely be eating less Mexican food than I have gotten used to. In fact, it’s been three weeks and I haven’t had rice and beans once! (It helps that he is equally burnt out on Spanish cuisine from having his own Latin partner the first half.)

2. The decline in tacos is inversely proportional to the increase in conversations involving sports. He’s a BIG Badgers/Packers/Brewers/YouNameItButNotTheCubs fan.

3. He is equally as into country as me. Hurray – Let the Zac Brown Band, Taylor Swift, and Garth Brooks play!

Of course now that we are back in the Midwest there are some new challenges – like blizzards to worry about. Since we are currently snowed into our hotel in Madison, we (or rather Eliot) is working on a puzzle and I finally have run out of excuses to avoid blogging.

Guess that means I’ll get to work on some of these long overdue blogs from the road!

Touristy Tuesday: Lubbock, TX Edition

I’m almost all caught up on my Touristy Tuesday posts! Before Thanksgiving break (or FRANKSgiving as we say in the hot dog world) Abe and I made the drive from Tucson, Arizona to Lubbock, Texas. It was one of the longest drives we’ve had yet, but it was a blast. New Mexico is absolutely stunning and somehow we didn’t run out of things to talk about on the all day trip.

Midway through the journey we took a slight detour (actually it was right along the road) and stopped at the White Sands National Monument. Abe and I were both excited for this roadside attraction.

Unlike most of our National Parks (or any place I can score another NP Passport Stamp) this was Abe’s adventure. Last month he finished reading “Dog Days, A Year in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile” by Dave Ihlendfeld, a former Hotdogger from the 90’s. You might remember that we met Dave back in Hollywood this summer and my Grandma had sent both Abe and I copies of the book. The book is next on my reading list, but Abe has read it cover to cover.

In the book Dave said White Sands was absolutely incredible and there is no question he was right about that! White Sands is the largest Gypsum sand dune in the world and it is located in the middle of the New Mexico desert. The geology nerd in me ate up every bit of it!

From there we headed through Las Cruces, NM. I can’t speak highly enough of New Mexico scenery – it’s absolutely gorgeous! I enjoyed the drive so much I immediately looked up the Bataan Memorial Death March marathon to see just where in New Mexico it is held. LAS CRUCES!! Even though I already checked New Mexico off the list (with the Doggie Dash) I am definitely committed to coming back for that race. Not only is the history behind the Bataan Memorial Death March compelling, but I know it would be an incredible race.

The trip also took us through Roswell, NM. By this time the sun had set in one of the most gorgeous sunsets I have ever seen, and we were driving in the dark. Driving the Wienermobile in the dark can be kind of a spooky experience, and Abe didn’t help the situation by telling me UFO stories and talking about ghosts. Jerk!

The next day Abe took off for Dallas to see his family and left me to explore Lubbock on my own. I had all sorts of grand plans – museums and nerdy things galore! Instead, I just ate a bunch of frozen yogurt and wandered around Target. I would still consider that a success because Abe deplores doing both of those things, so I was still taking advantage of him being gone.

I did have one exceptional discovery – Buffalo Springs Lake Park. This is clearly a secret gem for Lubbock. It was a beautiful lake that had a beach, a golf area, an RV park, off road trails, and an entire residential community.

I bet this place is packed over the summer, but when I was out there running I barely saw two people the entire time!

Talk about some great runs too! There were some serious hills around there. Since I do a lot of bike path running, hills aren’t as common as I’d like – or rather, I need, since I don’t exactly like hill work! Check out the elevation profile for my 19 miler!

Talk about some climbs. I can proudly say I ran every single hill and didn’t have to walk any of them!

Buffalo Springs Lake was so gorgeous I looked a little more into it online and was impressed to discover that it will be home to a Half Ironman next summer. Ooh! And there are still spots open! I had to refrain from registering instantly since I don’t know what the first semester of grad school will hold for me.

After two lonely days without Abe, he finally returned, with family in tow! His siblings Jordan and Rueben came in from Dallas to spend the night on Saturday. They picked a good night to come because we were going to see Holidaze – the Christmas Cirque du Soleil show.

If you’ve followed my blog, you know how much I’ve been dying to see a Cirque show since starting this job. Talk about the PERFECT opportunity. Not only do I adore Christmas, so this show was right up my alley, but the tickets were dirt cheap. In LA tickets started at $80 and in Vegas tickets were all $100+, but in Lubbock we scored decent seats for $35!

The show was incredible. Those stunts were mesmerizing. It really was all that I had heard it would be! I wasn’t sure if Cirque du Soleil was something you just needed to see one of, but after seeing it I definitely want to see the other shows!

The next day I had quite the small-world moment at work. Here we are, on our last day before break, and I look up to see Arielle – a girl I went to college with! I knew she was from Texas and had gone back to finish school, but I had no idea she was in Lubbock! I couldn’t believe it. We didn’t plan it at all, so it was a pleasant surprise for both of us.

Sunday was the last night together for Abe and I before going our separate ways for break. Not sure if we were drinking our sorrows of separation away or just celebrating vacation, but Sunday night we went out on the town. By that, I mean we walked to this pool hall and bar down the street from our hotel. It was an eventful evening – we watched one guy who was clearly far beyond his limit play air guitar by himself for TWO HOURS and also placed bets on a bar fight. We made a few friends (Abe was really just trying to convince someone to take us to Whataburger down the road) but called it a night once the smoke got to be too much. Come on Texas, catch up with the rest of the country and ban smoking in public establishments!

The next day we took off for Albuquerque, where the Wienermobile would get some much needed rest and TLC while we were home. My one regret for Lubbock: not going to see Prairie Dog Town. I wanted so badly to check out this free attraction that sounded so kitschy that it had to be fun. Abe vetoed it every day! Can you believe that? For shame! Guess that means I have to come back to Lubbock some day… maybe once the bars are smoke free!

Belated Touristy Tuesday: Return to SLC Edition

Touristy Tuesday is just a LITTLE late this week! Whoops – at least I got around to it eventually. This week we headed back to Salt Lake City, Utah to pick up where we left off two weeks earlier!

Our drive down from Boise was pretty uneventful, until we found ourselves in the Middle of Nowhere – literally.

The gas station owner definitely had a sense of humor at this place!

This place was part gas station, part “history” museum, and part petting zoo!

Just like the last time we pulled into Salt Lake City, we had a friend waiting for us. Matt, a character you might remember from Fresno, had flown out to meet up with us for a few days while he was on vacation.

Our first day off in Salt Lake City we checked something that off the Bucket List that we’ve been waiting to do for quite some time. Being in the Southwest, we often hear people say, “Ooh! The Wienerschnitzel car is here!” WRONG!! NO. NO. NO! And as much as we pridefully defend Oscar Mayer and the Wienermobile, a small part inside Abe and I has been secretly wanting to find out what these Wienerschnitzel wieners are all about! So with the Wienermobile off the hot dog highways for a bit, we walked on over to the nearby Wienershnitzel.

Stripped of all company apparel, we covertly ordered. Abe got the Junkyard Dog – complete with just about everything on the menu, which was delicious.

Yes – those are french fries loaded on top of an already loaded hot dog!

When I started Hotdogging and had to pick my nickname, I originally wanted to be Corndog Kelly – you know, because I like to ham it up! Legal turned me down though and so I was dubbed Cookout Kelly. On our undercover trip to Wienerschnitzel I figured why not be a real rebel, and ordered a corndog after my wishful namesake.

The friendly Wienerschnitzel employees had me try it with four different types of sauces too – ketchup, mustard, BBQ, and fry sauce. I can now report that if I’m going to eat a corndog, I’m going to dip it in BBQ! Fun fact though – most corndog enthusiasts actually choose mustard! (Who does that?!)

Once we had our fill of the competition, we braved SLC public transportation. Let me tell you, those Mormons may be classy, but public transportation is pretty scary no matter what city you’re in. The three girls surrounding us openly debated the benefits of “having a number” and going to prison over doing the time in a county jail.

We were dropped off downtown after our fun-filled bus trip and walked down to Temple Square. Finally!

We went into the visitor’s center, where we spoke to several missionaries, all women, That was pretty interesting.

We weren’t allowed in the temple since we didn’t have the necessary ‘Temple Recommend’

I really like Mormon’s – they’re so darn friendly and really not judgmental for being so zealous in their own religion. Plus, the first girl didn’t blush a bit when I asked about the special underwear! I did ask about their beliefs on homosexuality and another girl said that they are raised that it is corrupt outside influences that cause those feelings. She said SHE went through a stage when she was younger but her family and church helped her change. Then I abruptly, quite admittedly awkwardly and inexcusably forwardly, asked, “So are you attracted to men now?” Well, let’s just put it this way, she didn’t exactly say yes. So yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have asked such an overly personal question, but honestly I’m glad I did! haha!

While downtown we also walked around the City Center shopping area – where we stumbled upon a really neat, modern looking two story Harmond’s grocery store. Now one time Abe said to me, “Asking me to go grocery shopping with you is like asking me to go to hell.” If that doesn’t capture how much he hates grocery stores, I don’t know what does! But luckily it was 2-to-1 with Matt in the picture, and Matt and I went off to explore with shared enthusiasm.

It turns out that this grocery store actually has a cooking school on the second level and they had a class that very evening! I was THRILLED – what a fun thing to do! I really enjoy cooking but am not that great at it, plus the course was based on using herbs and spices – something I know nothing about.

Later that evening I returned and joined about 10 others for the class. it was really neat – there was a newlywed couple, a mother and daughter duo, an older married couple, and one other single girl. We spent the first half of the class learning about the differences between fresh and dried spices. Chef Adalberto was from Cuba and absolutely hilarious – he made the class that much more fun. “There’s a time and place for dried herbs,” he said, “the least amount of the time!”

After the group lesson we broke into smaller groups and each helped cook part of the menu for the evening. Fresh herb dressings to go on spring salads, smoke paprika chicken and garbanzo salad, and a marinated fruit salad with sorbet!

I even learned how to supreme and orange, which is like cutting it up grapefruit style – which I was terrible at!

The best part of the evening was eating, of course! Tyler was Chef Adalberto’s assistant and it was his last day because he was returning to school for vocal performance. He serenaded us over dessert with an opera song!

Talk about dinner and a show! They were both absolutely charming and I had a total blast on my single-gal night out!

Day two off in SLC we made the mistake of going to check out the Great Salt Lake AGAIN. You think we would have learned our lesson from our first visit, but nope! This time Abe, Matt and I ventured to Antelope Island, a state park that promised a great beach for lake swimming. When we arrived we were just thrillllled to hear from a family, “You’re in for one disgusting treat! There are a foot of flies out there!” Not deterred, we braved the sand barefoot. I’m not sure which was a worse choice, deciding to go out to the water in the first place or going out barefoot.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

We returned disgusted as promised, they were accurate with the foot of flies comment, and with sore feet. What a bust! On the plus side, I acquired one more stamp for the Park Passport. Naturally, I forgot it again and this one was on a post-it!

This is how we felt about the “Great” Salt Lake

That evening we continued to be tourists and went to the Tabernacle Choir Rehearsal at the Tabernacle in Temple Square. The organs and the choir were equally impressive!

Friday and Saturday were both busy work days for us, so we didn’t do too much adventuring after that, which was fine by me. I’ll be honest, Salt Lake has been fun to visit, but after two trips I’ve decided it’s not somewhere I’m dying to go back to – ESPECIALLY if you’re talking about the Great Salt Lake!

Sunday we took off to Boulder, Colorado, which I’ll blog about in the next Touristy Tuesday!