Wednesday, 01 November 2006

It was kind of last minute because of Todd’s flight schedule, but Monday and Tuesday turned into travel days while I jaunted up to Madison to visit my good friend Michelle.

This was one advantage of my having stayed in Northbrook rather than a hotel closer to downtown. I didn’t have to deal with rush-hour traffic to get on the road. Then again, I checked out of the hotel just before 11, grabbed a leisurely lunch, and headed up the highway.

And don’t even get me started on toll roads. I’ve had enough of toll roads. It felt like every 20 miles I had to stop and pay just to be out on the road. And Illinois gets you leaving the state too. There’s one last toll booth a mile or two before the state line.

I got to her place around 3pm and we started getting caught up on everything, joking around just like old times. Steve came home a while later, just long enough to throw some stuff together so he could fly out east for a meeting. I wish he could have stayed, but it was good to at least say hello.

Michelle and I went over to Bluephies for dinner and it was great. The place has a funky sort of atmosphere and a menu to match. She went with the and I had the Peppercorn Crusted Tuna. It was done perfectly and the honey wasabi sauce was terrific. It came with chili infused sweet potatoes which were delicious, although mashed. For dessert we both had the Duo of Crème Brulee. A brown-sugar vanilla in one cup and chocolate chambord in another; it was positively divine, if a little small, but they say good things come in small packages.

We stayed up late talking and I realized that even though she and Steve left the Twin Cities 4 or 5 years ago, I still miss them being there. At least Madison isn’t the opposite end of the earth.

For breakfast we kept it simple and hit The Original Pancake House. The food and the service were good, just as you’d expect for a small, local place. Then back to Michelle’s house where I got to see what was left of the garden (it is fall, after all) and hear some of the plans she has for next year.

Eventually, we had to say our goodbyes. It was wonderful to see Michelle again. The two years or so since I’ve been there was far too long. I almost didn’t want to go, but I had to be back at the airport by 3:45pm to pick up Todd.

I got lucky and only had to circle the airport once to catch the right turn for hourly parking, but it paid off. I managed to find a space about as close to the terminal as you can get and ended up very close to where Todd and I had agreed to meet.

Back in the car, we hit the road and headed for Cleveland. Of course it was rush-hour in Chicago and we missed several chances to get on the express-way, although it wouldn’t have done us any good if we had. Once we finally made our way around the city, it was smooth sailing. Although we had to pay to leave Illinois again – damn tollways. Not that Indiana and Ohio don’t have toll roads either. They just do it differently. You get a ticket upon entering (in our case coming into the state) and each exit has a toll station where you pay based on the distance from where you started.

We made good time to Cleveland with only a couple rest stops along the way, one for fast-food dinner and another just to stretch our legs and top off the gas tank. Leaving the airport at about 4:30pm, we were at the hotel by 11pm (midnight local time). Not too shabby for 360-something miles.

The first hotel we looked into, I had found on-line. The Northpoint Inn is only about 9 miles from the bar for the Cleveland show and the rates looked good. When we got there and saw a strip club in the building with the hotel entrance on the other end and the rooms above, Todd and I both decided that it was worth an extra 10 or 20 bucks for something (anything) better.

About a mile away was a Days Inn and we put in there for the night. For $70 they have free Wi-Fi Internet access, free Continental breakfast in the morning, and decent enough rooms in a fairly easy location. The room isn’t anything fancy: bed, bathroom, desk, TV. It’s downtown, it’s vaguely inexpensive, it’ll work.

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