Thursday, July 15, 2010

The futile quest for Stranahan's

Or, Dan and Emily's Excellent Summer Adventure, part the second.

As it turns out, Iowa looks an awful lot like Nebraska: corn, cows, trees. I was still feeling pretty miserable, but decided to try to make the best of it, and the drive across Iowa wasn't too hot because it was overcast for most of the day. We stopped in Iowa City and met up with Cate, who had never met anybody from the internets before (Hope we didn't scare ya too badly!), at a Panera Bread in a mall mid-morning, which was behind this old restored carousel. I kinda wished I'd brought my camera in to snap a photo of it. After she had to return to her evil taskmasters, Dan and I checked on the possibility of some of the museums in Chicago being free, so we could take advantage of that when we arrived there. We finished the journey across Iowa and Illinois and drove all the way into downtown Chicago, where we parked at Soldier Field for $16, even though we knew we'd only be there for approximately 1.5 hours, because we were getting into the museum for free.

And the reason I wanted to see the Field museum?

My name is Sue. How do you do?

When I was in Chicago nearly 10 years ago now, I met up with a large group of people from the message board where I met Dan for a big fest. It was my first time in the Windy City, and I really enjoyed it, but we never got around to seeing the Field Museum, which had just acquired Sue that year. This is the 10-year anniversary of Sue, so I was super excited to see her.

The only real drawback was that the rest of the museum wasn't nearly as interesting or impressive as I wanted it to be, and I was glad that we hadn't paid admission. We did manage to spend the whole hour and a half before closing wandering around the museum, and then we spent over an hour driving out to our $30 hotel in the 'burbs through rush hour traffic, which was LOADS of fun. After we checked into the second room (nonsmoking, didn't smell like smoke like the first one did), we showered and then drove over to a Thai restaurant (also in the 'burbs) to meet up with one of the Chicago residents whom I'd met at that get-together in Chi-town ten years ago. It was great to see him and another friend, and we had tasty food and good conversation. I was hoping the spicy noodles would help to clear my sinuses, but mostly they just got more congested.

Tuesday morning, we followed Steve's advice to wait out the morning traffic and slept in for the first time in several days, which I have to admit felt pretty awesome. Breakfast was Denny's (it was, of course, next to a La Quinta, which is Spanish for "Next to Denny's") and as the first restaurant-consumed breakfast of the trip I was a-OK with it. We'd spent quite some time discussing our options for our remaining hours in Chicago, because we had a 4+-hour drive and a date with friends in Ann Arbor, MI, so we only had a couple of hours with which to play. Our original plan was to go to the Art Institute, which is something I'd like to see again even though I saw it 10 years ago (and Dan saw it 11 years ago when he went through Chicago), but ultimately we decided to save our art museum dollars for the Met in NYC. We drove into the city and found relatively inexpensive street parking near Lincoln Park (I found myself wondering whether Linkin Park ever played there) and strolled, just tolerating the heat and humidity, through the park and back. We saw Baberham Lincoln and Baberham Christian Andersen and Baberham Franklin. It was about all we had time for in the city of big shoulders, and we got back on the road, navigating the morass of highways to get ourselves over to Michigan.

This is a hibiscus in Lincoln Park. It is large.

Even larger than my swollen hand.

The thing that I had neglected to consider in all of this was that when you go from Illinois through Indiana and into Michigan, you change from Central time to Eastern time. We got to Ann Arbor in plenty of time, we thought, only to get a call from my friend asking where we were. "What do you mean? It's 5:30!" I said, only to look at my phone that said 6:30. ARGH.

Luckily, the friends waited for us and we met them in a brewpub in downtown Ann Arbor, Dan dropping me off to look for parking and getting soaked to the skin walking to the restaurant. We had a nice dinner and some beers, and Dan and I exchanged looks about the rain and how much it was going to suck setting up our tent in a downpour at the campground where we planned to stay. After dinner, we meandered a bit in damp Ann Arbor (which is very cute, by the way, and apparently all about Stuff, and Having Stuff, since I saw at least three establishments advertise Stuff. Sadly, I'd left my camera in the car, so I have no proof.), and one of the friends insisted that instead of dealing with the rain and the mud we sleep in her guest room instead. Not ones to turn down such generous offers, we gladly accepted, and we spent the rest of the evening enjoying each others' company.

So why is the title of this post about a futile quest?

We knew that we'd be staying with Jive Turkey, HoST, and Sadie when we got to Pittsburgh, and we wanted to bring them a host gift. Our original plan was to buy some Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey (which is like bourbon, but they can't call it bourbon because it isn't made in Kentucky) before we left and bring it along, but in the hubbub of preparations and both of us being sick, we just completely forgot about it. I didn't even remember until we were nearly to Sterling CO, and it was waaaaay too early in the morning (and a Sunday, to boot) to be able to stop and buy it in a liquor store before we left the state. So we gave it up as a lost cause, me kicking myself.

Then, when we got to Chicago and had wireless internet in our hotel room, we did a search and found that Stranahan's does indeed sell their non-bourbon outside of Colorado, and we got all excited about it. Our plan was to ask Steve for suggestions of a liquor store that sold a lot of stuff, and he suggested a chain place that had a location nearby. Sadly, when we left the restaurant that night, liquor stores were closed because it was the suburbs and a Monday night after 9 PM. Back at the hotel, we searched the chain's site to discover that they did, indeed, carry it, so we resolved to buy some in the morning before leaving Chicago.

At dinner, I was reminded of the exorbitant 12% sales tax!!! in Cook County, and I thought, well, if Illinois has it than maybe Michigan does, too. Dan checked, and the Stranahan's site said they distributed in Michigan, so he googled a bunch of Ann Arbor liquor stores, one of which had a website that said they carried it. So we decided that rather than pay 12% tax we'd wait and pay 6% in Michigan. After our dinner in A2, as the locals call it, they drove us to the part of town that had the aforementioned store. We went inside, and were deeply disappointed to find that they hadn't had any in stock in approximately three months. "Well, we'll just go to one of the good stores near me," said our friend, and drove in front of us to her house.

When we got there, we got on the computer and did some more searching, and got on the phone and called the places nearby, rather than physically going to each store. No dice. At that point, I decided that it just wasn't worth going to any more effort. So the next morning, we just began our drive through Ohio. Stranahan's was just not going to happen, but I had a vague memory about there being weird liquor laws in Pennsylvania, so it seemed like we should stop to get a bottle of SOMETHING before we reached the state line, and so began our misadventure in Youngstown, Ohio. I knew absolutely nothing about it before we pulled off the highway, but somehow we located a public library somewhere in the eerily quiet downtown area near the campus, and stole some free wireless to find a liquor store in order to buy our friends SOMETHING. We ended up with a bottle of Woodford Reserve, which is a perfectly respectable bourbon, and Jive Turkey and HoST even let us have some. But that is another tale for another day.


Anonymous said...

Stranahan's, Woodford Reserve -- it all makes me feel invincible for 45 minutes and then pass out with my shoes on, so what's the diff?

"La Quinta, which is Spanish for 'Next to Denny's'"

Crafty Mama said...

Y'know, there IS a Denny's next to almost every La Quinta I've ever seen! :) Having just done this leg of the drive you're on....isn't Indiana BORING?? Oh wait, except for passing the RV and Motor Home Hall of Fame. Yeah, that was exciting.

Glad you're having a good trip.

Cate said...

Mmm, bourbon. I totally did the time change "d'oh" when I went to Ohio, too! And I felt horrible because my friend was waiting up for me and I told her I'd be there by midnight at the latest...when apparently I meant 1:00 a.m. =P