26 April 2010

Fun and games

Last weekend was a sports fest extraordinaire. The Better Half swam in the Illinois state Masters meet, which is usually a pretty good event. The Chicago area has a lot of amateur swimmers (not surprising with a metro area population of about 6 million) so the competition is usually pretty good and there are plenty of swimmers in every age group. TBH took six firsts in age group in the six events she swam (1000 freestyle, 200 back, 50 back, 100 IM, 200 freestyle, and 400 IM). Sweep! She'd have set the state record in the 1000 but she's in Iowa Masters and state records can only be set by swimmers belonging to in-state swim squads. Crap!

I think she's going to switch to Illinois Masters next short course yards season. The competition is better and a local team is now up and running (Western Illinois Masters Program Swimmers-which forms the neat acronym WIMPS) to compete with the big state squads like Naperville Waves and Evanston Wild Cat-Fish. It would help her to get back to a club with regular workouts, interval training, and coaching.

My job? Cheer, count laps on the long freestyles, lug stuff (swimmers pack an amazing amount of gear for just needing a suit and a towel), and drive. If there's a meet in an area that has something I want to see or do, we'll try to work it in. Doesn't happen all that often.

The meet was held in DeKalb, home of Northern Illinois University and a Greek row that reminds one of the Deltas from 'Animal House'. But I have fond memories of DeKalb and NIU. I helped a girl I knew, NatalieC, move into her 'studio apartment' near campus, going on, oh, 14 years ago (!). 'Studio apartment' is probably a glowing description, since the place was nearly the size of the bathroom in a Winnebago RV. But, hey, it's student digs and university students ain't too discriminating. Natalie and I went out casually a few times but she was going places and I was in my own 'career', such as it was. It wouldn't have worked out, I think. But she was an elegant girl, from a more civilized age. Wherever she is, I hope life was everything she wanted.

But most things work out how they will, and back to the present. TBH and I were looking for a place to get some decent Indian food, only to find no curry houses anywhere in town. DeKalb may be the ONLY university town on the planet that has no Indian restaurants. We ended with Chinese instead, from a little hole-in-the-wall place on campus. Good value-we each got three meals from what we were served. I guess you can't go wrong in opening a restaurant that can serve a lot of relatively cheap grub to drunken college kids.

Sunday saw our first baseball outing of the 2010 campaign with the River Bandits. TBH was sort of leading our church's children's choir in singing the national anthem before the game so we had to be there. The group had tickets in the alcohol-free family section. I got us two seats behind home plate. There we're away from everyone and I can have a beer. Everyone wins.

We were worried because it was supposed to rain all weekend, and it poured here on Saturday. We caught a bit if a break in that the rain let up during the games. The sun even peeked out briefly a couple of times. The kids did pretty well singing the Banner and they behaved decently before and during the games. Actually, we caught a bonus-Saturday's game was rained out so the Bandits played a doubleheader on Sunday (the Midwest League will play two short seven-inning games when they have unscheduled doubleheaders). When I used to go to the old Clinton Giants games, I liked seeing doubleheaders-two games for the price of one. If you had a free pass, that was a hell of a deal. And the Bandits (the Cardinals' farm team) swept the day over the Peoria Chiefs (the Cubs' farm team), 3-1, and 1-0. Figures.

Most of you have seen pictures of Modern Woodmen Park so you know what the place looks like. This winter the club installed new drainage on the field which is supposed to handle seven inches of rain per hour. If we get that much rain in one swoop it'll be boat-riding time anyway. The field and turf looked good, though. Inside the stadium, they've improved the concessions by having fewer menu items and getting them out faster, which is fine by me. I don't expect gourmet cuisine at the ball park, and I don't care to wait two innings to get it. Had a decent hot dog with the works and a Bent River Stout to go along with it. A good day.

We'll probably catch a half-dozen or so Bandits games, and make the drive to Clinton to catch the Lumber Kings a couple of times. I cut my baseball teeth going to those games back in the early 80's. That field hasn't changed a lot since 1935 when they built it. It's a laid-back stadium and close to the action. A great place to spend a summer afternoon or evening!

This summer we're planning on one MLB tilt-a bus trip to Chicago to catch the Cubs play the Phillies in July. Yeah, a bus trip. Like an old couple. You try driving to and finding a parking spot within 2 miles of Wrigley Field in the summer! You'd sign up for a bus trip, too. I'd like to (time permitting) get up to Miller Park to catch the Brewers as well. I pull for the Cubs-but Miller Park is an infinitely better stadium to get into, out of, and around in. I hope in the next couple of years to get up to Minneapolis to the Twins' new park, Target Field. It's an open-air stadium, which should be interesting in April. Minnesota can be damn cold and snowy, even in late spring. We'll see how the Twins fare outside of the old Humpdome.

The powers-that-be were talking about getting Amtrak service from Chicago out here to the Quads and on to Iowa City (which would have tied us and the University of Iowa to Amtrak's hub at Union Station in Chicago). It doesn't look like it'll happen anytime soon, which is a shame. I'd gladly have gotten on a train and relaxed in a big comfy coach seat all the way to Chicago. A person could walk to a lot of places in the city or gotten on the El to the major sports venues. I'd go to more ball games and events in Chicago if I didn't have to sit on the parking lots expressways to get in and out of town. Not much fun doing that anymore.

Reckon that about catches up everyone with goings-on around these parts. I'm going to finish watching the Blackhawks game. We'll see if they can finish off the Predators tonight and get ready for Vancouver on the road to Lord Stanley's Cup.

Never mind. The Hawks beat the Preds 5-3. Bring on the Canucks.
yankeedog out.


  1. I'd absolutely agree that trains are much more preferable to buses, having had several years of both during undergrad at uni (studying in Sydney, returning to my family's place 400 miles north for hols), but they've slowly been killed off. There's no longer any passenger train services in the South Island of NZ, just a few scenic trains for tourists.

    Well done to TBH! Awesome stuff.

  2. Congrats to TBH (and her support team). Never really travelled by bus or train long distance but I'm betting on which one I could get a beer.

  3. I definitely prefer trains. Having done the Euro ones and some in Canada and the U.S. they beat the crap out of buses.
    I hope for your sake the Cubs win that one against Philadelphia in July. Grab a dog and a beer for me when you're there.