Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Green Bay vs. Philadelphia November 2003

                                                      Monday Night Virgins

    In April 2003 I was visiting friends in Kitimat, British Columbia, I was on the phone getting the "ok" from Mike and Sam, for our first Trip to Green Bay. We were Packer fans and loved the toughness of The Pack's QB Brett Favre.

    An added bonus was Green Bay just did a 100 million dollar upgrade to their Stadium. Every Packers season we watched was filled with drama, and we loved it.

     The season schedule had just come out and I was on top of it. THE TRIP:We booked through Packer Fan Tours for the November Monday night game versus the Eagles. We had End-Zone seats and 2 nights at the Hilton Garden Inn.  THE GUYS: Myself a young man recently engaged hungry for good times and pizza, My brother Warren a "party animal " and Jack the bake to my shake..... (SHAKE N BAKE!! that just happened)
     By the time football season had rolled around, we had decided that it would be a road trip.(my favorite) We also added on a special little treat for ourselves a visit to The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio. (that's another story) We had no idea what kind of trip we were about to embark on. Title Town Here we come!!)

     The Packers were 1-4 going into the Monday night game. The last 5 weeks had been painful. Either way we were excited to get there and have a good time. We left on a crisp November morning with a dusting of snow on the ground. Headed down the 400 northbound to our first stop, Sault Ste. Marie.

    When we arrived at our hotel,The Sleep Inn and it began to snow. We checked in and decided to go to dinner and a movie. We watched the Matrix 2 and dined at a Italian Restaurant nearby "Joey Calzones" and the food was delicious. I remember only having one problem there they had "cute" bathroom signs that said Maria for girls and Guido for guys spelled out in cursive (hard to read cursive mind you), at the time I had read "Mario" on the "Maria" sign and walked right in to the girls bathroom and on the "To catch a predator" TV series.... Not really, but a 10 year old girl did not looked impressed and I felt like a bit of a perv and really embarrassed. Sam and Mike were very entertained by my story, when I got back to the table.

     The next day was cold and there was about 3 inches of snow on the ground. Bundled up we were off, First stop the border (woohoo). Which back then was like 3 phone booths across a road. With no problems we were in Michigan, hell bent on getting to Green Bay before night fall. The drive was a very nice one, as you drive through winding roads around Scenic Lake Michigan. 2 things that stuck out in my memory was a big Paul Bunyon at a restaurant and one town had a spaceship on every mailbox...  I remember the excitement that filled the truck that day as we came up the highway with Lambeau Field.

    When we had arrived at our hotel, it was in the later in the afternoon. We were tired but Mike had seen the Packer Store was open and strongly encouraged us to go there, we decided we would walk.

     On this short walk we took ridiculous pictures at the old packer hall of fame site and pictures of the stadium and surrounding monuments. We went into the very nice store and bought 3 "cheeseheads!" of course. I remember in that store hearing the song "Over an Over Again" by Tim McGraw and Nelly for the first time, and now when I hear it, I can put myself back in that store.(I love that) When we left the store we took some time to look over the stadium, It was awesome!

   When we were walking down the concrete stairs from the store to the huge parking lot, a rather large bus/RV pulled up and there was a couple people standing there with pens, footballs and cameras. At first I wasn't sure, then my brain put the puzzle together. I say to the guys "Holy Shit! That's the Madden Cruiser!".  "No way" Sam and Mike said slowly in disbelief. We were like little kids and we were in the right place at the right time. I remember it seemed like forever for them to exit the cruiser, we could make out Maddens silhouette almost like Alfred Hitchcock. The whole ABC Monday Night team got out of the bus doing the smile and wave routine.  Madden signed a kids football waved and was gone. Star Struck with smiles ear to ear, we walked back to the hotel.

     That night we decided to order pizza (shocker) I called the front desk and asked  "Where does the best pizza come from?" the friendly voice replied "that would be Green Bay Pizza Company, try the stuff crust!". Mission accepted! We ordered the stuff crust pizza. When it arrived we were starved and it smelled awesome. We opened the box and discovered their version of a stuff crust was quite different from the one I was used to.(Pizza Hut) What they do instead of putting cheese in the crust, they have an entire pizza crust with sauce with another pizza on top of it. Basically a pizza on top of a pizza... I know it blew our minds too.  We enjoyed some beers and pizza while we watched the Sunday Night Football Ravens vs Rams game. It was a good game and great pizza.

    The next morning we woke up and ate the leftover pizza, resulting in an almost unavoidable situation when men room together..... The dreaded but expected (when traveling with Sam) clogged toilet...

    After the embarrassing exchange of the plunger, we decided to explore Green Bay and Appleton area.  We seen amazing High School football fields, browsed in the local Best Buy and was pleasantly surprised  to hear some of the co-workers asking each other if they were going to the game. (small town, big stadium) We ended up stopping at the Hallmark store, we had a long conversation with the owner of the store a nice man with glasses, we ended up finding out he was going to the game and he was a former neighbor of Andy Reid's(Eagles Head Coach) and bought some ridiculous football helmet type toques, with chinstraps. Everywhere we went had a buzz in the air about the game.

     5:00 pm we left for the tailgate party, the weather was grim, cold rain was falling and it didn't look like it was going to stop. When we arrived it was Awesome! Delicious MGD draft all you can handle, shelter, good music and great food. It was there I fell in love with the bratwurst and chocolate chip cookies (not necessarily in that order). The weather had went from rain to a wet snow more than once. We were ready for whatever mother nature was going to throw at us.

      I remember an amazing ice sculpture of MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL on ABC as we walked up to the gate. We were so pumped entering that stadium!

     We were 30 rows up in the end zone and we actually seen the Hallmark store owner, as he was walking up to his seat. We gave him a drunken greeting, that broke the ice with the crowd around us we made "Game friends". I remember being completely jacked up when they announced the team, and especially Brett Favre who was playing with a broken thumb. 70 000 fans can't be wrong! We were loud.  Being in the stadium is nothing like watching on TV.

      It was a close hard fought game and really wet. The beer kept us warm and we were having fun. I had to be reminded the next day about standing up in the middle of the third quarter. When everyone else was sitting quietly, and yelling "LETS GO MINNESOTA" at the top of my lungs. Then was quickly pulled down by Sam and Mike. I still don't know why I said that, but when I look back on it, it was like second sight. (With Favre eventually ending up in Minnesota.)

     The Pack was Defeated 17-14 by a Mcnabb and Westbrook Eagles Offense. It was a tough loss. Heartbroken, voiceless with a smile on our face. (and very very thirsty) we headed back to our Hotel.

     When we got back to the hotel room it smelled like pizza, we cracked open some beers, warmed up and got some dry clothes on. We had the most glorious sleep.

     Looking back at these pictures I wish I had taken more. Back in the disposable camera day. It was a first for us and we had a great time. We had learned a lot about Green Bay and ways to improve our next trip and what to keep the same.  Green Bay is truly the holy grail of football.




Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Top 10 Tips To Get Away.

                         Top 10 Tips To Get Away                  

    One of the best things that a person can do is spend time with good friends. Make memories that make you smile. So don't just sit there! Plan a weekend getaway with friends, hit the clubs, see a concert, See your favourite sports team play, Camp or even Glamp. The possibilities are endless. Just make sure you stay somewhere for at least 1 night. Here are some guidelines I have made up, after numerous successful attempts at the "weekend getaway. "

       A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking - Earl Wilson
  1. Invite your friends - Pick  four dates and start asking friends that you feel comfortable asking, the more people the cheaper it is. Be up front with them and tell them how much it will cost, how much you should save for outings or food while away. Can't find friends that will spend money on a getaway? Get new friends!(not joking)
  2. Get everyone's input - Even make a night of it, you will have fun discussing the possibilities. This will really get the ball rolling
  3. Save Money- The reality of a weekend getaway is that you will spend money. So be smart, start saving it.
  4. Pick the right place- travelling in groups usually is cheaper, so step it up a notch and stay in a nice place. Thank me for that tip later...  Don't be afraid to use for reviews but go with your gut instinct when you choose.
  5. Pack right and Pack Light- pack just enough to get you through your trip. 2 reasons: Smaller bag and less laundry to do when you get home.... If you are planning a camping trip, Try and bring the essentials and for the food list, write down what you think you need and cut it down 40%. If your doing a shopping weekend bring a big bag and pack half as much stuff, so you can bring your new stuff home.
  6. Do Something Cool - See a concert or a sporting event, go to the spa or shopping. Make it Great. (or make your own man Olympic's, See Picture up top)
  7. Effort-  Do your homework and put some effort into planning the trip. You will feel the excitement, the more it unfolds. Your enthusiasm is contagious and people will notice your effort. Go all in. Your trip will be one of legend! and talked about for years.
  8. Food- Planning ahead on what you might need for snacks or quick meals will save you money. Most resorts have kitchenettes these days, so look for a place with that type of suite. Don't forget to eat out at least twice, after all you are on vacation. 
  9. Let your hair down- Have fun! that's what you guys or girls are there for, who cares if your head hurts a little bit in the morning and you spend all your money. 
  10. Make it an annual event- If you end up having a great time (which you should, with these stellar tips.), start planning for next year. Building lasting friendships and memories.
   These tips have worked for me. Just ask my friends they'll tell you that I put a lot of effort into my outings. Its borderline obsessive... 

Have Fun Planning.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Return to Detroit- On Stranger Tides


 After a magical 2009 season with the Minnesota Vikings, rumors were swirling that Brett Favre would retire. "Favre Watch" is what it was called. Hoping for one more kick at the can, I was keeping an eyeing on the Detroit Game at the end of the 2010 season & with my luck by week 2 of the season I picked up 2 front row tickets off of E-Bay, face value for the pair!. Plan was to see Favre play one last time....

    When January arrived hopes to see Favre play were slim, the season really turned out to be a disaster.

 My brother had grabbed 2 tickets exactly 4 rows behind mine, to make it a Mancation type of event. THE GUYS: Myself a family man, huge football fan. My best friend Jack, my little brother Sam and his(our) friend Ed.  THE PLAN: leave 3:30 am Sunday morning get passed the border (with cheap beer in hand) and call the hotel to let them know we were getting there early. Start tailgating as soon as we get to our room, followed by tailgating in the same parking lot as we did last time & order from the same Pizza Papalis. Drink and stuff our faces with delicious pizza before our walk to the game. Why try to recreate the wheel, right?

 Sunday arrived and I had slept for about an hour because I like always was too excited. I started the pick-ups, everyone was smiling and Warren had muffins! (Who doesn't love muffins?). We’re off.... stopping at 2 Tim Hortons,  a gas station, the duty free and a Nice border guard(not really) on the way. With all that going on we still made it to the Greektown Casino Hotel by 10:00am we had no problems getting checked in early which was a huge relief. We all felt very relaxed in our very nice room, we were pumped for the day.

 We had decided that the hotel room could no longer hold us we wanted to be down with the fans at the parking lot. So we arrived at our old stomping grounds from back in Sept 09. Bundled up for the weather, which was a chilly -7! The tailgating began, along with the laughs!!

On this day I also did the nicest thing I had done all year, I gave a homeless guy a beer because he asked for it (kinda like jesus) He was a nice man on tough times. Remember it was January 2nd & we were freezing our butts off, so we ordered a delicious large one from Pizza Papalis which we ate up rather quickly. Having found out that Favre would be sitting out we picked up our pride and put our faith into Joe Webb. Time passed quickly with good laughs and in no time we were off.  Four of us decked out in Vikings Gear; we were there to have fun regardless of who was throwing the ball for our team.

   We walked about a 100 Steps and we could here Lions fans being true diehard fans of their own yelling at us as we walked by. One guy yelled "Are you kidding me?!" at my Brett Favre Flag. I laugh at it now, but then it wasn't that funny. It was a big change of scenery from a Sunny September Sunday, Where we had the last laugh. A different wind was blowing; the Lions Fans new today was not our day that there team would have the last laugh. They were right.  It was a bad game for us Vikings Fans. The only good parts were the awesome front row seats and when Jared Allen had a Pick Six. In no time it was over. We were grumpy and had enough of these Lions Fans.

   As we walked with our heads held high out of the stadium, we heard the Lions fans start up, one dude yelled "Vikings Suck". NOW ITS ON! Sam with his very quick wit says back "Remember 0-16?!?! I do!" then they kept exchanging harsh (funny)smack talk, when I look up to my right and a very LARGE Black Man with a Lions Jersey, a Phantom of the Opera mask and a scowl on his face was looking right at our group. It was apparent he had not liked my brother's comment "0-16?" he said "why does everybody got to bring that up." I say back to the gentleman "he's been drinking, don't listen to him." (Meaning my brother) I said with a smile trying to diffuse his anger, and Warren yet again had won over the lions fans with his persistent smack talk.  As I’m saying to myself "please let us just get back to the hotel" and by this point my brother noticed this situation I was in.(Large unhappy black man). All was good though, he was a nice man.  We made it to the hotel safe and sound, thank god!

     After a much needed 3 hour nap the young guys were up first and dressed to kill. Jack and I decided to go out for a bit with them but we were in rough state. We had a buffet dinner which was pretty good with lots of selections. We headed off to the casino. We stuck to coin slots while the young guys headed to the card tables. We lost some money and decided to head back to watch the rest of the games on the boob-tube. 15 minutes of relaxation and the phone rings its Sam “Meet us at the bar we just won some money!”  I was in shock “ok we’ll saddle up” The night was then spent in the hotel sports bar drinking beers and watching the end of the game. It was a perfect way to end the night, until the desire of tasting good burger came to mind. It was an all out desperate search for a Burger at 11:30 at night. After a long search in the casino, No Burgers... a harsh reality check. So we decided to retire for the night.

     Sam and Ed decided to order room service. A brilliant idea. Jack and I opted out of the room service, we were more tired than hungry. Although it did smell good when it got there. We watched TV & settled into bed until the 3 of us were awoken to the sound of the shower and a horrible gagging noise "What the hell is that?" grunted Jack. "ya? what is that?" said Fred. Me on the other hand knew exactly what it was. I have heard it once before in a Minneapolis Hotel about a year before.  I said rather quickly "Its my brother throwing up in the shower... Its alright go back to sleep." a quietness filled the room for a minute. "Why?" Ed and Jack both said tiredly "I don't know but he's done it before" and then we laughed ourselves back to sleep. 

    The next morning we decided to leave around 10am. It was just 10 minutes to the border and once we were there, the guard says to us "tough season for you guys"  quick witted reaction from my brother again "That's Right Last place Champs". After a chuckle from the guard we're back in Canada! Hungry for Breakfast!
  Looking Back we braved the cold and the fans in Detroit. Also the weight loss I have had since then is pretty noticeable. Great memories and a bad game. That happens far too much for die hard football fans.... Speaking of die hard I remember talking to a fan he said "if this was the  Pontiac Silverdome and you were cheering for the away team, and you talked good smack, they would've probably killed you..." This stuck with me the whole game.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Our First WIN!

A Victory for the Good Guys

     Yep that's me having the time of my life with my Brother and Best Friend and Dad (not in the picture thanks to the size of my head) watching The Vikings defeat the Lions. It was a great day.... Why was this such a great day? Because we had finally gone to a football game where our team won...1 out of 3 tasted pretty good that day and so did our cheap border beers.

  It all began at an ungodly hour of 4 am my dad picked us up in his pickup truck and we were off. I was asleep in no time (since I  had no sleep from the night before cause I was so excited!) Once we hit the duty free around 9 am we gathered up our supplies for the tailgate party. Onto the border, which went rather well other than a little football smack talk from the border guard and an awkward moment when the truck's back window wouldn't go back up. Once we made it to Detroit we started hunting for our tailgating parking lot. Once we found it we started to enjoy the beautiful day, with cold refreshments which led to the porta-potty on the other side of the parking lot and endured a bunch of smack talk from the lion’s fans because they were "Preseason Champs”. When we finally got to the porta-potty it was gross, looked like someone was living in there.

     For Lunch we ordered  pizza from Pizza Papalis It was HUGE and Delicious. Different from any other pizza I had. (Oh ya if pizza was a church id be its Rev.)

 After a 10 minute walk we were at Ford Field which is a really nice place, especially in row 25 30 yard line Vikings Side. We were ready for an awesome time, which we had rubbing it in to the Lions fans to where it was borderline cruelty. ALL DAY! Is what we said at the top of our lungs after every play. Those poor Lions fans! (What goes around comes around in football karma... which at that point we didn't care .) It was a great game.  

                         Watching our team win was a dream come true. Victory was so sweet!

                            We heckled the heck out of those Lion fans as we were leaving.

      After the game we headed back home. A quick search from the ever so friendly border patrol continued by the 4 hour trip home complete with a stop at Taco Bell and porta-potty.  We arrived back at home close to 10 o’clock at night, tired but in Football Bliss.

      I decided to share this Story first out of all my Sporting events that I've been to because of the happy ending, which isn't always the case. Sharing memories with these great guys is the reason why I travel. It makes Life Memorable and Interesting.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Travel Addiction - Are you like me?

     Do you remember going on a big road trip with your parents when you were a kid. A vacation that you could never duplicate, one that you could smell and taste the ocean air, those memories are so vivid I can put myself back in time and feel like I was there again.
     For me it was a road trip to Myrtle Beach South Carolina my parents my brother and I in a 1987 Monte Carlo SS.  Every time I hear Kokomo by the Beach Boys I can put myself back in that car for a few seconds and it feels great. I can also put myself back into my running shoes, running down the pier screaming at the top of my lungs SHARK!.  After just seeing a herd of dolphins majestically jumping out of the water, like a postcard.  (its safe to say that the movie JAWS messed me up as a kid)
     That Vacation was awesome.  I’m pretty sure that’s when my vacation “obsession” started. Now that I’m a parent I want to make those same types of memories for my kids the ones that stand out for the rest of their lives.
     Since That Myrtle Beach vacation as a kid, I have traveled to many places and sporting events pretty much going broke living my dream. But I’ve found Vacations and Mancations even Girl Getaways are a necessity of life.   So please join me as I recall my greatest travel memories and discuss my future travel dreams and destinations and share them with you.  Don’t Be afraid to ask travel questions, through my “obsession” I have become an Amateur travel agent….

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