"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Conrads in Chicago, Part 2: A Pieceful Day

The snoring briefly stopped for Matthew to stir at the clicking freewheel and snicker as I stood in my bike lycra amid the three of them, sprawled out in my living room like discarded laundry in growing daylight. It was 6:45 and the five drinks tossed back last night were apparently early enough...I felt strong and rested for my weekly Saturday morning ride.

65 miles and two out of four sprint "victories" later, I arrived home just before noon (would normally have been about 10:30 but our ride up to Evanston was marred by flat tires and newb unpreparedness) to see my dog, Jack, doing the snoring on the floor. The cousins had taken him to the park after grabbing brunch at The Abbey and run him into the ground. In fact on the way out, he'd simply sat down, refusing to walk anymore. They carried him home.

We had a 2pm date at Piece to meet Maggie, her friend Amanda, and her cousin Meg. I was beyond hungry from my earlier ride, and the half-pint of ice cream I ate for recovery immediately after only lasted so far.

Located on the edge of Wicker Park, near Six Corners, Piece is owned by Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, and brews award-winning beers and slings New Havem, CT style pizza. After catching Cheap Trick at the Taste of Chicago in 2007, a friend of mine and I went there for some pie. As he was relieving himself in the men's room, my friend realized he was standing next to Nielsen himself. Rather than impose at that personal moment, he waited to reach the sink before complimenting him on the Grant Park performance.

"Thanks!" Rick belched, and then added, "...was hot as fuck up there."

We were already on our second round of beers - with such names as "Worryin' Ale" and "Fornicator" (an IPA) - when Maggie et al walked in. Trying to get seven people to agree on a pizza would take longer than a UN resolution to pass, so we settled on two larges, a red for us and white for them. With the anchovies on one half and clams on the other, ours smelled slightly worse than a run-down fishing harbor, but it tasted wonderful. I ate more than my fair share, but it was pushed upon me since there was so much. The salty cheesy doughy meal perfectly filled the groove my hunger craved.

It was enough to keep the overall experience positive even with the slow service and three screaming babies behind us.

We then tried the newly-reopened iCream ice cream spot around the corner next to American Apparel on Milwaukee Ave. - made to order ice cream and yogurt with mixed results. The whole store resembles a nightmarish lab, done in an ashy-white color. The employees doing food prep are dressed in the same, head to toe. Each ice cream maker steams like the dry ice punch we used to drink at Halloween parties when kids, and the process is almost too complicated. Choose ice cream or yogurt, choose flavor(s), choose mix-ins and toppings. Seems simple enough until your eyes glaze over at the amount of possible combinations. Upon standing outside with my rather bland blueberry with strawberries, I realized I missed out on rootbeer, burnt sugar, and cream soda. Ironically it all sort of took the fun out of ording ice cream. We finished trying each other frankencreams and split up to catch game two of the weekend.

Much better seats this time around:

The Sox took this one, 5-3 to even the series. We each got a round of beers again, and after splitting the nachos, we all got out of there for about $30, not counting the seats, which the cousins had treated me to in exchange for the luxurious sleeping quarters. I think I got the better end of that bargain, but I'd make it up to them.

My phone, the piece of shit that it is, died mid-game. Since the dawn of digital address books, I've been unable to remember a single phone number. I briefly got it on long enough to get some important numbers for the night into Philip's phone, but it crapped out again before getting the last one I needed, permanently. We tried some creative outreaches through mobile Facebook on Matthew's phone from the next bar, but we never did in touch with anyone else.

That next bar was Margie's Pub. A first for me. A nice dive with nice people. Alberto was celebrating his 30th birthday and we had many $2 Old Styles in his honor. We actually started off with four boilermakers - which I unbelievably had to explain to the old bartender (you'd think those would be a staple in this place).

Mat showed up with Lori, his girlfriend who'd I'd not seen since Italy, and we had more Old Styles. We chatted and caught up, and they were soon on their way to meet more old friends on their week-long stay in Chicago from DC. We too said our goodbyes to them and Alberto and stumbled our way out the door, on the way to Resi's Bierstube.

Resi's is a favorite of mine. A classic Northcenter holdover from area's German roots. Kinda dirty and austere, with berber carpet and wood paneling, Resi's has a short but authentic beer list and serves some of the best Kraut comfort food in the city. Its beer garden is still one of the best kept secrets in town.

Late at night it's the best place to mingle with an unassuming crowd under soothing low light amidst the home country chatchkies while pounding some seriously heavy beers.

We started off with Spaten Optimater, a dark, malty, and yeasty 9 percenter served in giant glass steins:

...oh yes. Jagers, too. Well, four.

After finishing up with a round of whatever was on special, we hit the road at 2am for grub. We could have stayed out later but it had been a long day for all of us. No bus was coming, and the next burrito option was at California, less than a mile, so we started walking.

Along the stretch of Irving between Western and the river is a bunch of industrial buildings on the north side. As we passed an open window, Matthew pointed inside to some dude lying on a bed in the midst of a horribly messy office, watching TV. It was hard to if he was awake or not, but upon listening, he was watching an instructional video on how to make love to women.

We snickered quietly for a bit, and then I let out one of my trademark whistles, with two fingers in my mouth, the ones that make your ears ring and pisses everybody off. I didn't stick around to see it, but Matthew said Casanova-in-training came up off the bed by about three feet.

Burritos and tacos purchased, we found an immediate cab home, where upon we ate, drank the PBR in the fridge, and entertained ourselves with youtube.

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