Volunteer – Race Day

There are opportunities to volunteer for races in every community, for every charity, all year long.  My SO has participated in 5K run/walks on various holidays (4th of July, Thanksgiving, etc.) and for various charities (Race for the Cure, Run for the Zoo).  He has also taken on the Chicago Marathon and other half marathons in his running career.  I’m not bragging about his accomplishments, I am simply pointing out that you can find an event like this, year round, no matter where you live.  And they are always looking for volunteers.

My community hosts a mini triathlon every year and I have volunteered for the last 3-4 years now.  I worked the Tri for the first time back in 2012.  My son needed community service hours for school and we thought this would be a great opportunity.  I found out at this event that two of my neighbors had also signed up and had been working the Tri for several years.  Mark and Chris are at the first water table as soon as you transition from your bike to the run.  They enjoy working this spot and request it every year when they sign up.

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So, inspired by them, two other neighbors and I decided to follow their lead and start volunteering.  The first year we were assigned the main pool and we have requested it every year.  My job is to get everyone lined up by their assigned bib number and keep the line moving once the race starts.  That’s it.  Not so hard, right?  I like this location because it gives me a chance to talk to some of the participants while they are waiting to get in the pool to start.  Many of them are doing this triathlon for the first time.  And, seeing as a tri has a swim, bike, and run component, you might assume that all these athletes are in great shape.  Not necessarily.  Some are doing it in an effort to get in better shape.  Some are doing it to check off an item on their “bucket list”.  Whatever the reason, color me impressed.

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This triathlon also hosts a kid’s version.  Fewer laps in the pool and a shorter bike ride and run.  The number of participants has grown each year that I have volunteered.  They are a little more excited to get in the pool (i.e. antsy) and they are a lot chattier in line too.  Which is great because I have already had my full tumbler of coffee by the time they start 😊

Once an athlete crosses the finish line, there are tents set up in the parking lot with food (bananas, granola bars) and drinks.  Many of these items are available to the volunteers as well.  Racers can get massages.  They can buy new gear.  My SO’s favorite tent after this race (any race really) is the beer tent.  Go figure.

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I look forward to working this event every year because I get to cheer on my husband (in the pool anyway), I run into friends and neighbors who are racing, and I get to hear inspirational stories.  My favorite athlete this year was the 68-year old who was doing her first triathlon.  I want to be her when I grow up.  Minus the triathlon part.  As a final bonus, I got a t-shirt and some swag too.  So, get out and volunteer.  Your community needs you!

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Baseball – The Chicago Cubs – Part II

Going to a Cubs game is now being turned into a multi-day experience thanks to the new hotel and park that opened up in the last two years.  I explored these options just for you.

The new Hotel Zachary opened in March of 2018.  Considered a “boutique hotel”, it is a small (less than 200 rooms) hotel with upscale accommodations in an up-and-coming area.  Now, I would not consider Wrigleyville to be up-and-coming, but the area directly surrounding the baseball field is exactly that.  Located directly across from the ballpark on Clark street, Hotel Zachary sits atop a row of dining options, which, of course I also checked out.  For you.  Oh, the sacrifices I make for this blog 😊

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Along with the upscale accommodations, however, comes an upscale price.  The rooms were modern in their style and accessories (wireless iPhone chargers, oversized walk-in shower with rainfall showerheads).  We also appreciated the décor of the main bar and patio overlooking the ballpark and Gallagher Way (formerly known as the Park at Wrigley).

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On the first level of the hotel complex are a couple of new restaurants.  We chose Mordecai Whiskey & Grill because, well, it had “whiskey” in the name.  I would love to tell you what we ate that night, but I don’t see it listed on their menu right now.  And we were so hungry we forgot to take a picture before we dug in.  Well, that, and it was delicious.  I think it was halibut.

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After dinner, we packed up a few chairs and a cooler and headed across the street to the Gallagher Way park at Wrigley.  This is the open-air plaza that debuted in 2017.  On a game day, it is bustling with fans hanging out before heading into the stadium.  As I mentioned in Part I, it is very much like a block party atmosphere.  On non-game days and some evenings after a day game, there are a variety of activities taking place here.  There are fitness classes in the morning, a Farmer’s Market hosted by Green City Market, and movie nights hosted by the Music Box Theatre.  We took advantage of the Sundown Session concert happening that night.

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Before heading back into the hotel, we had to stop and get some dessert.  There is an interesting ice cream shop called Jeni’s right on the corner.  I say interesting because, well, look at some of the flavor options:

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With so many choices to make, we took advantage of the “Flights of Minis” – 3 half scoops.  I chose salty caramel, rainbow bfy (buttermilk frozen yogurt), and wildberry lavender.

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My SO went with goat cheese with red cherries, brown butter almond brittle, and the froze sorbet.

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They were all delicious.  I really liked rainbow bfy and the goat cheese one- it tasted like cherry cheesecake.  My SO really liked his brown butter almond brittle.

Then we headed back to the hotel for one last cocktail on the patio before retiring for the night.

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A really great way to experience a Cubs day game.  I highly recommend trying it at least once.

Baseball – The Chicago Cubs – Part I

Summertime means baseball.  And there are plenty of teams in Illinois to support.  Let’s start with the Chicago Cubs.  I know there is a rivalry in this town and, while I consider myself a Cubs fan, I am not a hater.  I have many family members and friends who are die-hard White Sox fans.  I don’t have time to be disrespectful of something they love.  Speaking of love, what baseball fan wouldn’t love this view?

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But, I digress.  Wrigley Field has been an iconic stadium on the North side of Chicago since 1914.  It is the second oldest park in the Majors, second only to Fenway Park in Boston.  Originally known as Weeghman Park, it hosted its first Cubs game in 1916 and officially changed its name to Wrigley Field in 1926.  It is best known for day games (especially in the bleachers), the ivy that covers outfield walls, and the forest green scoreboard that is still changed by hand.

Scoreboard

There are a couple of ways to get tickets: a) Go to the Cubs main website or other ticket vendor (StubHub, etc) and you can purchase single game day tickets, b) go to Groupon and you can get discounted tickets – but they only have a handful of upcoming games available at a time, or c) register for the Chicago Cubs lottery and try to win $10 tickets – but only if you are available to go within 48 hours.

Baseball is, in my opinion, an easy sport to be a spectator at even if you are not familiar with all of the rules of play.  It has a relaxing, slow pace to it that goes well with day drinking.  There is also an added element of fun when you go to a day game – almost like you are playing hooky.  And, let’s be honest, the person sitting next to you probably is.  But night games are fun too.  Especially when they can fly the “W”.

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There is so much to see and do around the park as well.  There is no shortage of bars, restaurants, and shops (to get your gear on).  You can also relax in the sun in the new park area on the Clark Street side.  Or you can take a stroll around the park itself and check out the statues and brownstones (some of which have rooftop views).  It feels like a big block party when you go to a game.

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I will have a second post that will cover the new hotel and other recent improvements to the park and the game day atmosphere.  Baseball season doesn’t end until October – get out and see a game!

Raging Waves Water Park

I am here to tell you right now that you do not need to be a kid to go to a water park.  You also don’t need to have kids to be granted admission into a water park.  Why should they get to have all the fun anyway?

Water parks with big slides are even more fun and Raging Waves Water Park in Yorkville is just that place.  They have quite the variety, too.  There is the zero-depth pool that, every 15 minutes or so, turns into a wave pool.  The lazy river winds around the middle of the park so that you can see everything from the comfort of your inner tube.  And then there are the slides.  Body slides, single person inner tube slides, and multi-person tube slides.  With so much to choose from, you are guaranteed a good time.

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We arrived as close to opening time as possible.  This ensured us a few beach loungers near the wave pool.  They also have cabanas that you can rent but we chose to lounge in the sun.

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The cost of the park depends on what you are willing to pay for or do for yourself.  I found discounted tickets on Groupon (naturally).  You only need to rent an inner tube if you want one for the wave pool.  All other rides provide them or you have to get one from the lazy river.

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No food or beverages are allowed IN the park but there are many options for you to choose from.  You are also more than welcome to leave the park and eat your pre-packed lunch in the parking lot.  Just make sure you get the hand stamp for re-entry.

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Make sure you check the FAQ page before you get there.  There are some height requirements for some of the slides (don’t laugh – some of us “shorties” need to know) and other restrictions you might want to know about ahead of time.  So, get out there and be a kid again before the summer is over!