Thirty-Six Hours in Illinois

March 27, 2012

This past weekend was a whirlwind. On Friday night, I took a red-eye flight to Chicago, met up with my sister Laura, and we drove down to Springfield, Illinois. We were on a top secret mission: to surprise our cousin Camille by showing up at a performance of her high school’s production of “Grease” – she was starring as Marty. (See pictures of Camille, along with the rest of her family, in my cruise posts from January.) The surprise went off without a hitch – she didn’t know we were coming until she saw us in the fourth row during the opening number, and I had a great time.

It was a quick trip – I left on Friday night, and got home Sunday night – 14 hours of travel for 36 hours in Illinois, 7 of which were driving from Chicago to Springfield and back. I decided before leaving that I would take photos of everything I ate the entire weekend. The photos would keep me accountable – I had no idea where I would be eating, and there would be potentially tricky situations, like airports and restaurants, to navigate. And since I have a blog, guess what? You get to see all the photos! Shall we begin?

FRIDAY NIGHT: My flights (yep – plural, I had a layover in San Francisco) to Chicago were fantastic – I had an open seat next to me on each leg. My last few hours before leaving were spent running errands and packing, and I didn’t eat dinner. So meal #1 was purchased at the San Francisco airport on my layover. A grilled chicken salad with orange segments, a vinaigrette that I tried a little of, and a couple tablespoons of crushed cashews. Also, a fruit cup:

On one of the planes I got a glass of tomato juice (I slept through the drink service on the other plane – woohoo for plane sleeping, a rare occurrence for me):

SATURDAY: I landed in Chicago, and took the train to Laura’s house, arriving around 8am. We took a tough 10am spin class at her gym (thanks to the spin teacher, James, for giving me a guest pass!), then ate a quick lunch before hitting the road to Springfield. We went to my favorite Chicago mini-chain restaurant, Pockets, which has amazing salads served inside fresh-baked bread. I got their Greek salad, dressing on the side:

We arrived in Springfield around 3:30pm. Laura and I were greeted by these two:

That’s Javier in my lap and Lucy on the left. Plus, Laura brought her doggie, Conrad, so there were three four-legged friends running around.

Arrival snack: 1/4 of a soft pretzel from Gus’, a famous St. Louis bakery:

My aunt and uncle had hosted a cast party for all the “Grease” kids the night before, so dinner on Saturday was leftovers. They had served a ton of lasagna – so I had a small piece of that, and a big pile of salad:

I got seconds of salad, and added to it a bunch of strawberries:

The strawberries were also from the party – they were part of a giant chocolate fountain spread. There were tons of chocolate fountain leftovers: cookies, marshmallows, squares of different types of cakes, pretzels, and I stayed away from all of it, except those strawberries and 1 rice krispy ball, that I enjoyed later in the evening (which I did not dip in leftover chocolate):

We went to the evening performance of “Grease,” and it was fantastic – a very talented group of kids. It brought back lots of fond memories of doing my high school plays and musicals.

SUNDAY: I woke up and ate a banana:

My aunt and uncle have a machine called a TreadClimber. It’s a cardio machine that’s a cross between inclined walking and stairs. I had never used one before (hell, I hadn’t even heard of it), so I gave it a whirl for 35 minutes. I liked but didn’t love it, and had a good workout. I supplemented that with 10 minutes of push-ups and sit-ups.

Breakfast was more fruit (blueberries and kiwi), two small pieces of toast, and some scrambled eggs that came from very local hens. I ended up using 5 eggs (1 full egg, and 4 egg whites):

Laura and I hit the road at 11:30 to get me back to O’Hare. We had plenty of time to stop for lunch in Burr Ridge, a Chicago suburb. We ended up at Wok’n Fire, where I ordered wasabi grilled salmon, which came with grilled mushrooms, spinach, brown rice (I only ate half), and a sauce on the side:

We split the spring rolls appetizer – the fresh kind, not the deep-fried kind – these are basically salads rolled up in rice paper:

Laura got me to O’Hare with plenty of time to spare, and I bought an apple to bring on my 5pm flight with me:

I got more tomato juice on the plane, and this time, I got the whole can.Score!

In San Francisco, I rustled up some dinner: a grilled chicken salad with a few cherry tomatoes, a little goat cheese, and a garlic dressing I didn’t even open:

There were some travel snafus on the way home. The Chicago to San Francisco leg was supposed to be on a wide-body jet, but United had to switch it to a smaller, narrow-body jet. A bunch of people didn’t make it on the plane at all, but luckily, I did. Upside: I got switched to a seat in Economy Plus, so I got 5 extra inches of much-needed leg room. Downside: I was one of the last people to get on the plane, and since the overhead bins were full, they gate-checked my carry-on bag. That bag didn’t make it onto my San Francisco to Burbank plane, so I arrived home at 11pm on Sunday night without my luggage. My laptop was in that bag, which is why there was no blog post yesterday morning. When I got home I was hungry, so I finished off the last bowl of leftover gazpacho and ate a kiwi. I got my luggage on Monday, and I thought United handled everything well, from the plane switch to my missing luggage.

There you have it – a weekend on the go, and I had a great time, while managing to make smart choices and working out both days! 

Keep it up, David!


A Loooong Travel Day

August 27, 2011

I finally arrived at my sister’s place in Colorado, way later than scheduled.  My 3:30 United flight out of Burbank was delayed.  Because of the heat (105 degrees), they asked for 19 volunteers to find an alternative mode of transportation – apparently when it’s really hot, planes need to be lighter in order to take off.  Nobody stepped forward and volunteered.  They started boarding the plane: first class and premiere club members, then people with connections in Denver, and then… that’s it.  Nineteen of us got bumped.  The 50-seater regional jet went up with 31 passengers.

There were no other Burbank-Denver flights that day, so United provided us bumpees $400 in vouchers, and offered those of us that were interested a shuttle to LAX to catch a 7pm direct flight.  I took them up on their offer, and squeezed into a passenger van with 7 others, our luggage, and the driver, and we headed out in Friday night Los Angeles rush hour traffic to get from one airport to the other.  Our shuttle driver got us there with a little time to spare (he knew a kickass shortcut), and I made it on the 7pm flight.

As I waited to go through security at LAX, I knew I’d have to find something to eat to bring on the plane.  I didn’t want to land in Denver starving, and I was already hungry – it had been about 6 hours since lunch.  A challenge had presented itself to me:  Get through security (which was moving slowly), get to a bathroom (which was also becoming an urgent need), find something to eat, and get on that plane!

Moving through the terminal, the first option was a McDonald’s.  NO.  Didn’t even humor the idea.  There was also a Wolfgang Puck eatery.  There’s a special place in my heart for Wolfgang Puck ever since he made me a awesome YouTube video after I blogged about dining at his Spago restaurant, but as I cruised by on my brisk walk to Gate 77, it seemed as though all the food was made-to-order, and I wasn’t certain I’d have the time.  Moving on.

I came across a La Brea Bakery, and could see they had a grab-and-go case.  This could be a potential jackpot.  They might have a healthy option or two:

And they did!  I opted for a salad that had chicken, cabbage, radicchio, olives, parsley, and a mustard dressing (that I used about 1/3 of).  I also grabbed a bottle of sparkling water:

Anyone want to guess what I paid?  I’ll give you 5 seconds to think about it…

…5…

…4…

…3…

…2…

…1…

My dinner only cost me $14.55.   How close were you?

In the grand scheme of things, an expensive meal isn’t that big of a deal on a day that could have ended up much worse (like me missing the 7pm flight, and delaying my Colorado trip by a day), and I know I’d be much more annoyed had I made poor food choices.

The salad hit the spot, too.

I’m finishing up with a link to a post I wrote at the end of last year.  It compares what it’s like to fly now to when I flew at my heaviest, and it’s proven to be one of my all-time most popular posts, and one that has really struck a chord with my readers.  So, if you haven’t read it (or haven’t read it lately), I invite you to click here and check out “How a 400-Pound Man Flies.

Keep it up, David!