BOTCON - SORTA NEAR CHICAGO
(griffin's 2015 BotCon adventure)
I knew from the train timetable that it was an hourly train at half past each hour, so my plan was to check out the Dollar Tree and Walgreens, then call for a taxi to take me to train-station in time. But since I had Fatbot with me, I wasn't able to walk as fast as I do on my own, so it was already 9.15am when we were at the Dollar Tree store which was now too late for the 9.30am train. (they didn't have the Kreo I was looking for either, but as we leaving, there about 5 of the FunPub staff entering the store... so quite a few of the staff were here early)
We decided to get a taxi anyway, so that we'd be at the trainstation
well before the 10.30 train, but we ended up trying 3 different taxi companies
before one was able to come to our remote location (St Charles) and told
us that it would be about half an hour wait because of where we were.
So we crossed the road to the Walgreens to check it out (there was nothing
I wanted to buy, but they had a wierd looking kite), and Fatbot tried Uber
instead... registering and putting in a request for a pickup.
After about 20 minutes Fatbot checked the status of the Uber pickup and found that he hadn't actually completed the request, so now he did and it said that there were no drivers in range (being so remote).
So back to the taxi option... and we called up the one that said it
would be up to a 20-30 minute wait.
By this stage it was 10.15am and unless the taxi showed up straight away, we we were going to miss another train.
Also at this time, Fatbot found out that his account was empty, when there should have been about US$1500 in there. While we were waiting for the taxi he called up his bank and found out that the Resort had charged him twice for the room, when they shouldn't have charged him anything. (I had my credit card swiped when I checked in - all he had to do was pick up his room key when he arrived... but he was asked for a Credit Card for swiping without either of them realising that it shouldn't have been necessary)
The taxi showed up at about 10.45am and we got to the train-station
until a few minutes after 11am... but then we found out that the hourly
train didn't have an 11.30 train.
So typical... we finally get there after missing two trains, and now we had to wait until 12.30pm for the next one because there wasn't any other options (a taxi into the city would cost about $100).
That would mean that we won't be getting into the City until close to 2pm... four and a half hours after leaving the Resort... which had lost me three hours of my planned time in the City, which I had hoped to be checking out a number of stores and locations around the tour circuit... and we had to be heading back by 6pm, so it didn't leave us with much time left.
While we were in the taxi on the way to the train-station... wouldn't
this be nice if it were real.
We ended up just hanging around the train-station until the 12.30pm
train arrived, and it was late, so didn't leave until 12.40... and we didn't
get into the City until 2pm.
The trains for this line were double-decker, but the top floor was like a horse-shoe of seating, with access to the top floor only at one end, and an open area in the middle. It seemed like such a waste of space, and limited the amount of people it could carry.
We walked out of the train-station (circled at the left of the map below) and crossed the river before going our separate ways. I wanted to do the On-Off tour, but Fatbot didn't, so we said we'd meet back up at this spot at 5pm. I walked south towards the first stop (the Skydeck) on the map below.
I did up this map before I left home so that I could get off at some
of the stops and check out stores and places before catching another bus
on the tour... but with only 3 hours now, I decided to just hop on the
bus and just do a full circuit. It wasn't a total waste as I was
able to use it for three of the most important stores (Target, Ross, Wendys)...
but the bulk of it was now wasted.
So I went to the Skydeck first (it is the observation deck on the tallest building in Chicago - the Willis Tower), but there was a 90 minute wait time to get up to the top... so I had to skip that as well because the On-Off tour was the priority. If only I'd been able to get into the city by 11am as I had originally planned, I would have had time to do both.
The first stop for the On-Off tour was at the base of the Skydeck building,
so I bought a ticket and got on the next bus that left a few minutes later
(it was about 2.30pm at this time).
Go here for the On-Off bus tour, which was
the same as the Thursday pre-Con tour option.
The website noted that it was a 2 hour loop... but after two hours (4.30pm) I was only at Stop 9. Since I had to meet up with Fatbot in half an hour's time, I knew that it would never get back to stop 1 in time, so I got off and walked back... stopping at a few stores on the way. (I had actually thought we agreed on 5.30pm, so at 5pm he was texting me to see where I was, and I was still 5 minutes away)
The first store I stopped at was a Ross, which people have been finding the final wave Movie Power Battlers (Junkheap, Vehicon, High Octane Bumblebee), but they had no Transformers toys at all in the mess of a toy section they had at the back of their second floor.
Next I went to the Target store. They had a decent sized toy section, but I had trouble finding the Transformers... it took me a second loop around the toy section for me to find the 5 or 6 Transformers toys that made up their entire selection. (and none that I wanted). It was yet another bust from an American retail store this year.
I then made my way to the Wendys that was on the way to where I was
to meet up with Fatbot.
On the way to the Wendys, I saw this advertisment on a bus stop.
I thought that it was a great sign for non-Americans to know excatly
what a S'more is, but it doesn't have anything obvious as to what it is
advertising ... can you guess who's advertising banner it is?
a) - Graham crackers
b) - marshmallow industry
c) - chocolate alliance
d) - a sporting goods store
If you guessed (a), I'm afraid that "Graham" is not a brand name, as
it is a type of cracker that is made by a number of companies.
The answer, is actually a sporting goods store called Recreational Equipment Inc. Even though you wouldn't think that a sporting goods store would be promoting something unhealthy like a chocolate, marshmallow cracker with bacon, it actually relates to their camping products, as S'mores are something that is traditionally made with a camp-fire while camping.
Many non-Americans don't know what a s'more is, or have probably heard of it. It took me several trips to America before I picked up on the term and then took me a while looking in stores to realise that it wasn't something you can buy... it is something you have to make from three primary ingredients - sweetened crackers (known as Graham Crackers), marshmallow (usually lightly roasted or melted) and Chocolate (can be softened). Basically it is a sandwich of melted marshmallow and Chocolate between two Graham-styled crackers.
It is something that grew from camping, which used to be a big tradition
over there to do the Summer Camp as a family, often at holiday resorts
(like the Pheasant Run Resort that we were staying at this year).
Now it is more of an indoor (grill or microwave) or backyard camping treat, as a heat source is best if you want the marshmallow melted or roasted (they are best roasted, so microwave s'mores aren't as good). And the concept has been commercialised as a flavour for a number of sweet snackfoods, basically because it isn't a name or concept that is a trademark or owned by anyone. The word itself is just a contraction of "some more"... but I imagine that some big fat corporation has tried to trademark it in the past.
Apparently August 10th has been nominated as National S'mores Day... but there doesn't seem to be any information as to how or when it was nominated as that day.
Fun fact about the Graham (style) cracker... it originally started out as a rather bland cracker (now it is sweetened to the point of almost being considered a cookie), by a Reverand Sylvester Graham, because he believed that bland food would suppress the sexual urges of people... which was the same reason for the invention of Cornflakes cereal by John Kellogg.
I got to the Wendys and grabbed three burgers to go, as I didn't have
time to sit down to eat.
A regular burger, a crispy chicken and pickle burger, and the famous triple Baconator in the middle.
I would have been really upset if I didn't get to a Wendys on this trip, as its my favourite American fast-food chain, and I was going to be here for 12 days in 4 different cities, so I had better come across at least one.
At 5pm, with burgers in bag and a message from Fatbot to ask where I
was, I walked the remaining four blocks to the meeting point, and we headed
back across the river to the Train-station.
I got Fatbot to try a giant pretzel while we were waiting for the train and he seemed to like it... and the one I got was so fresh, it was the best one I think I had eaten, probably ever.
We got on the 6.10pm train and arrived at Geneva station at 7.20pm.
We called up the Resort to see if they were able to do a pickup or if we'd
need a taxi again... they were able to send someone out in the mini-bus,
and in about 15 minutes it arrived... and we were at the Resort by around
8pm. The driver told us that the mini-bus was tied up in the last
couple of days because they had a convention with mostly elderly people,
and they needed the bus for those people in the furthest rooms/blocks to
get to and from the Convention Hall at the other end of the Resort all
Before we headed to the room, Fatbot went to the front desk to tell them about the room being charged twice to his Credit Card, after it had already been charged to mine. And if they were to refund it, they had to refund it immediately, not in a week's time like a normal refund, because he needed the money now. (the account was in US$, so if it took a week to be refunded, he would end up losing money converting it back to AU$)
I don't think we were up very late on Tuesday as we had the first Convention activity in the morning. I ate the rest of my burgers (I had half of it before I got on the train) and went to sleep by around 10pm.
Go to next day - Wednesday 17th June.
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OZFORMERS - The Australian
(and Asia) Transformers Fansite for News and Interaction (started way
back in 1996)
BotCon website - The official Collector Club and Convention website
To contact me --> griffin @ otca.com.au