Friday, May 30, 2014

A Belizean Slow Start

We are planning a fast approaching trip to Belize (hopefully with a little stop in Guatemala). Lydia found this pretty cool sounding jungle lodge place called Ian Anderson's Cave Branch. The experience is billed as more adventurey and less laying around like a slug on a beach somewhere. But it is still all inclusive. At first glance it seemed to be coincidentally right next door to one of Belize's top attractions, the Great Blue Hole. Blue Hole is like an underground cave that collapsed and the ocean flowed in, and it is supposed to be great for SCUBA diving.

Now that I've purchased my Lonely Planet guide book (and reservations have been made) and I'm learning more about the country, I realize we will be staying nowhere near the famous Hole, but a different Hole entirely.

View The Great Blue Hole in a larger map
We will be sleeping just north of Blue Hole National Park. I was such a fool to get that confused with the famous Blue Hole National Monument. Such a blue, blue fool.

File:Great Blue Hole.jpg
Great Blue Hole

The Belizean government's limited place name vocabulary will not hinder my awesome trip, though. No way.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Indianapolis 500 Post-Game Show

Memorial Day Monday was nice because we left Indy fairly early and no one had any pressing reason to be home quickly, which gave us ample opportunity to screw around and take a few detours on the drive home.

I stopped at a few liquor stores on the way out of town looking for a limited edition Fuzzy's Vodka bottle made especially for the Indy 500.

I spotted a few in use at the speedway and I was hoping to score one as a memento. No such luck. One enterprising small business owner did take my phone number and said he might ship me one when they got another shipment. We'll see about that.

Fun Fact: Cataract Falls is the largest waterfall by volume and by height in the state of Indiana.

Fun Fact #2: Cataract Falls Covered Bridge is the only remaining covered bridge in Owen County.

Fun Fact #3: I am the awesomest dude, by height, in the state of Indiana.

Steph found the Cloverdale, Indiana House Of Bells on some roadside attraction website. It was pretty much a big collection of bells and other metal heavy things outside of someone's house in the middle of nowhere. Kinda cool, kinda serial-killerish.

Greenup, Illinois. Self explanatory.

Near Highland, Illinois we stopped at the Blue Springs Cafe for some foot high pies.

I like meringue a whole lot so the whole situation worked out pretty well.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Indianapolis 500!

Luckily we had already scouted out the Indy Speedway the day prior, because it was a teensy bit more crowded on race day.

In a major contrast with the gestapo-esque policies of the Kentucky Derby, bringing booze into the Indy 500 was just fine. I brought my trusty plastic bourbon pint with me. Securing a cup of ice to pour it into took a bit of work but after that was taken care of I was good to go.

The day started off pretty entertainingly, with some racing greats driving some classic cars around the track. Luckily I had enough of an education from the museum that I even recognized some of the winning racers' names.

As you can see our seats were excellent, with a nice overhang taking care of that pesky sun.

We were in a red state, and this was Memorial Day, which meant some heavy torture was in store for us. There were military guys driving around the track in cars. Then there was the pictured parade of military guys. Then we stood for the singing of multiple patriotic songs. Then there was a prayer that was about half military guys rah rah and half "lord please bless these turbo powered engines".

Finally the cars came out. They did a safety lap or two with the black pace car out in front. Then they gunned it!

Sure they go fast, but the sound was the most surprising thing for me. It was really loud and a lot higher pitched than I would have guessed, like a pack of giants honeybees. I only watched one or two passes before the ear plugs went in. It was kind of like listening to the opening part of Ride of the Valkyries really loud on loop.

Yes, this shirt came from Target. Yes it was on the clearance rack. Yes it is a camo print with mermaids on it. I figured it would class the place up a little.

After a few go-arounds we walked down to the track to get a closer look.

Luckily the fence from Jurassic Park was on hand to keep flying car chunks on their own side of the track.

I thought the in-car camera view was pretty sweet.

The driver from Colombia had a Juan Valdez sponsorship.

 Watched some pit stop time.

I experimented with the slow mo function on my iPhone for the first time. It's pretty darn cool. Watching a lady ram a hot dog in her mouth in slow motion is the best part.

 The race went pretty smoothly until the end, we got to see a couple of good crashes, with car pieces flying all over the place. They would put up a yellow flag while cleaning up, which meant the pace car would come back out and everyone would go slow around the track. Once guy hit the fence so hard that they had to have everyone go back to their pit stop area in order to do repairs to the track. Extreme!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Indianapolis 500 Pre-Game

We'd already spent some time exploring Indiana and I'd say we'd made a pretty big dent in what was available to see. I had not yet seen the event of all events in Indiana, though.

When flipping through my copy of 1,000 Places to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die, I am often annoyed by the one time events. I couldn't just wake up tomorrow and go to the Kentucky Derby tomorrow, for example. I feel like a fairly spontaneous dude, which may hamper my ability to plan trips very far in advance. So as a result, the Indy 500 page of the book annoyed me greatly. It was something awesome that I had heard of but not yet done. How could this be? Luckily Lydia and her friends Steph and Amy are better at planning than I am. I donated the use of my rockin' car to the effort, and away we went.

In an interesting departure from my usual routine, we didn't leave right after work Friday evening. It was Memorial Day weekend, and the race wasn't going to happen until Sunday. This was kind of nice because I still had the option of hanging out with my pals one night. Sometimes too much weekend globetrotting makes me feel a bit anti-social.

We left Saturday morning painfully bright and early, and I slept most of the drive there. Without my awesome influence I can't imagine anything interesting happened.

We spent the majority of two days at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The first was like a low key racing themed mini carnival. There were plenty of people but not overwhelming at all. This is such a big deal that town it is located in is called Speedway, Indiana.

We started off early with some margaritas and bloody marys.

The Speedway's control tower was housed in this cool Pagoda building. This is like a cool spacey version of the old school pagodas I saw in Japan. There was a panel of what I think were old race announcers/sports reporters or something. They were talking about the glory days, and we listened while having some bbq sandwiches in the shade nearby. Eventually they moved on to questions from the audience, and of course some person had to ask them a question about crashes. At least one of the panel members was moved to tears talking about some racing friend of theirs torn to bits on the track. Classy, audience, very classy.

We toured the area where the teams apparently stayed. The biggest RVs I've ever seen were all in a line, each with their own sealed tents. These were pretty much individual moon bases.

Across from the team moon bases were what looked to be the car garages. I thought it was really cool that we were allowed to see all the secret stuff behind the scenes.

These cars are surprisingly difficult to get in and out of. I wouldn't want to have to try to escape one on fire.

The final thing on our agenda was Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. We were playing the "guess how much it costs" game while waiting in line outside. I thought maybe $14. I was pleasantly surprised when we reached the ticket window and the price was $5, but it was quickly apparent that you get what you pay for. The museum was full of people and uncomfortably warm. My first impression was, this isn't a museum, it's a collection. It's pretty much a room full of cars and signs and people. I couldn't help but compare this place to the time I went to the Kentucky Derby Museum. Kentucky was way, way better.

After the cars, all of the funky awards given to the winners were really interesting. Release the hounds!

The only bit of multimedia was a 20 minute long movie in a tiny little theater. The projector had one of those big green spots in the center of the picture.

We agreed that I should have one of these filled with rum at our apartment.

After a long day of racing related learning we were ready to just take it easy. Steph and Amy had never been to my favorite ice cream place ever, so we drove south to Columbus to visit Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor. It's a magical place. The girls didn't seem as hugely impressed with the place as I am, but I think they enjoyed themselves.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Controlled 30th Birthday Violence

With my 30th birthday fast approaching, I wanted it to be as completely ridiculous awesome as possible. Partly for it's own sake, and partly because I wanted to dull the sting of entering geezerdom. There was plenty of a different type of sting provided by good old fashion paintball wounds.

Preparations started the night before with a trip to local beer purveyor Schlafly Taproom. I've never directly been involved with the purchase of a full size keg before, which was exciting by itself. I've always been disappointed with the weak nature of keg beer I encountered. I decided to use my dictatorial birthday powers to upgrade the beer to something awesome.

Belgian Golden Ale
Schlafly Belgian Golden Ale is the beer a Lannister would dream about. Delicious with a 7% alcohol content to remind you it means business. Per the Schlafly website:

"Our Belgian-Style Golden Ale opens with a fruity nose and rounded sweetness that compose a pale and balanced beer. Hallertau hops lend a hint of spice that balances the aroma and flavor of orchard fruit. Similar to our Belgian Tripel, but with a lighter body and a crisper finish..."

The keg was so large and heavy that we needed a truck to transport it, which my good buddy Kyle was kind enough to provide. We met him and Jess for a pre-drink. Unfortunately for everyone at the table I glanced at a food menu and noticed something awesome: pickled herring! I'd actually had this before; It's a big deal in the Netherlands. I ate it once as a whole fish fillet that you hold by the tail, and once chopped up with onions on a hot dog bun.

I expected a couple little pieces, and maybe some bread or crackers. What I received was a massive pile of pickled sea creature with four little pieces of bread. In case that wasn't enough pickle, there were pickled capers mixed in and some pickle pickles on the side. Of course there was dill sour cream to dip it all in. Once our mouths were sufficiently pickled we loaded up the truck.

I think everyone present would agree that paintball was completely awesome. Gateway Paintball Park was out near St. Charles, and had several maps with different kinds of obstacles to hide behind. My little strategy was to move quickly along the sides of the courses in order to flank people in the middle. It worked fairly well I would say, but I didn't escape without several quarter sized bruises. I got several extras bruises from the end of the day, where I just ran around with no gun and let people shoot at me a la Duck Hunt.

Party goers who weren't still nursing their paintball PTSD came over to the apartment later that night and we went out on the Loop. Adventures were had.

I learned a hard lesson in keg beer the next day. I brought the remainder of the keg out for our kickball team, Pitch Slap (I'm proud of that name), to enjoy. I'm thinking I hadn't kept it cold enough overnight, but it was like a foam firehouse. I had a couple bags of ice on it to no avail. That is the reason why people put such weak, no head, beer in there. Live and learn, I guess.

I filled up a few containers with the keg once it had settled down a little, then took it back to its home. Goodbye keg, and happy birthday to me!