Monday, August 18, 2008


Last weekend was not particularly good. It started off nicely on Friday, but Saturday was one of those days were every minute decision I made turned out to have extremely poor consequences and pretty much spoiled the rest of the weekend. And they weren't even big decisions, just little stupid things like what time to go into the lab to take care of the work I couldn't get completed on Friday. I won't bore anyone with details and I would actually rather not even recount it in my head.

Anyway, my weekend was capped off with the sad news that one of my cats from a former life had passed away. Although I hadn't seen him in over a year, the news really got to me. He was like a giant orange friend to me for seven years. He may have driven me crazy for a lot of that time, but he was always friendly and doing things that made everyone laugh. I miss him. Rest in peace, Rocky.

Rocky (2000-2008)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Review: Lamborghini Gallardo

After two very long entries this week into this blog, I think I will keep this one short and toss in a bunch of photos from Kim's birthday celebration which included the rental of a Lamborghini Gallardo. Having never been the passenger in a vehicle like this before, I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew it would be impressive, but WOW! It's more of an experience than a ride in a car. People stare and lean out of their vehicles and yell things like "That car is sick!" at you when you pass by. It will toss you back in your seat when it accelerates to 110 with ease (in a 45 zone - nice job Steven!) and you can feel the car lower down to achieve a better grip on the road. It was incredibly impressive. My favorite reaction post-Lamborghini ride was "It's the Batmobile!" How nice it must be to have money. If only I could afford one (and the insurance to cover it).

Here is my quick review of the Gallardo:

Appearance: Wow!
General Performance: Wow!
Handling: Wow!
Acceleration: Wow!
Storage Space: What?
Fuel Consumption: Who cares?
Additional thoughts: Wow!

I assume that this vehicle was crafted by the Hand of God. How else could something this majestic this have been created?


Hood logo.

Side view.

My "stylish" shot for the day. This is the side mirror looking back at the air intake on the passenger side.

Even the tailpipes look cool.

I believe this is the first photo of myself that has appeared here, but it won't be the last. I was reluctant in the past to post photos of myself, but, who cares. This is my brother (driver) and myself (passenger). Notice the family resemblance?

I thought this photo was pretty sweet, not just because of the lines of the car, but also the quality of the paint job. You can see a perfect reflection of myself in the the fender while taking the shot.

Life Goal: High-Speed Chase

PRELIMINARY NOTE: When reading this post, please keep this in mind - I know how to drive and I know the capabilities of myself and my vehicle. I won't do anything I'm not comfortable doing or has the possibility of causing harm to myself or others.

I have a mental list of things that I would like to do in my lifetime. I have referred to these as "life goals" (before "The Bucket List" movie existed). After the recent ordeal at O'Hare Airport in Chicago on Sunday, I am going to cross one of them off - be in a high-speed chase. The odds of myself being in a legit high-speed chase are pretty slim - neither being a police officer nor having criminal tendencies. I never really figured out what kind of scenario would place me behind the wheel being forced to keep all of my concentration on driving because everything depends on my performance. The trip to O'Hare on Sunday may be the closest I will ever come, so I am officially crossing it off of my imaginary list.

Recently (by coincidence only), I've been playing Project Gotham Racing 4 on the Xbox360, but I didn't realize that it was going to be like a warm up. Sunday, I got to live it (well, Saturday as a passenger in the Lamborghini and Sunday driving the Mustang). The last time I was in Chicago, I decided that I would rent a "cool" car to drive. When I go to Chicago, there tends to be a lot of driving involved since my brother and sister-in-law (Steven and Kim) live in a suburb in northern Chicago. I found that Hertz at the O'Hare Airport has the Ford Mustang as one of their "guaranteed" vehicles (as in you request a Mustang, you get a Mustang - not this "or similar model" bullshit with almost all of their other rentals).

I am not a "Ford person". My first car was a 1983 Fold LTD (if you guessed that the LTD stands for "limited", you'd be wrong, it actually is an acronym for "piece of shit"). After this vehicle, I vowed to never own a Ford again. The car was that bad. But, driving a Mustang for one weekend was not breaking my promise. It's a semi-sports car and I have never gotten to drive a car designed for fun and power. Plus I kind of wanted to see if Ford had made any advancements since the 1983 models. They have, but I'm still not going to buy a Ford.

The Mustang was fun to drive and has considerably more power than my 2003 Nissan Sentra, but the visibility is so poor that constant vigilance is required. Passing cars on the interstate was much more enjoyable, but (before Sunday) with all of the road construction in Chicago, there weren't many opportunities to pass, or drive very fast. But it was still fun and worth it even before the debacle. The bright spot in the day (in my opinion, probably not Megan's) was the drive from the suburb of Libertyville to O'Hare Airport. Mapquest posts the distance between the hotel and the airport as 29.25 miles with an estimated time of travel of 39 minutes (assuming the speed limit is not restricted for road construction). I would guess that with the speed limits dropped to 45 for nearly the entire route, that the trip should have taken at least 45 minutes.

Here is the Mapquest route.

Here is a crude representation of the route with the road construction marked in yellow.

Because of the construction, there were three lanes (one express lane and two regular lanes separated by cement barricades) and the barricades were also on the outsides of the lanes. There were intermittent shoulders in the express lane, but not on the regular lanes for most of the trip. When we left the hotel at 650am, I knew that we were going to be cutting it damned close in arriving at the airport. Nothing could go wrong or we would miss our flight. Our only chance to get there on time would be to do some fancy driving. Fancy driving I did (not that it ended up mattering in the end, but I didn't know how the day would turn out).

Just before getting to I-94, we hit a red light. After stopping and looking, no one was around - after a brief debate I gunned it through the intersection and sped onto the highway on-ramp not looking back. I made it into the express lane and got my speed up to the 90-95 range. This is a tight road with the construction with barriers on both sides of the lane, but I wasn't worried. Since it was still before 7am, there weren't many cars on the highway, but there were a few. Luckily, when I approached cars in the express lane, the shoulder became wide enough that I was able to squeeze the car by. That's right, I jammed on the gas and blew by cars on the shoulder of I-94. I managed to keep my speed above 70 even through the passing and kept the speedometer between 90 and 95 almost the entire way. I briefly touched off 100, but the road was just too narrow to drive any faster and not worry about slipping up and slamming into anything.

I hit the correct exit for the airport, slowed down enough to pay the toll and flew down the ramp to the rental return exit. Total time of the drive 23 minutes. Fuck yeah! That's an average speed of 76 mph. Actual speed limit for almost the entire trip - 45 mph. The city claims to have cameras up around the city to deter speeding. If, indeed, they do... I expect to get a handful of tickets - speeding, running red lights, speeding, passing on the shoulder, speeding. I hope that putting up the signs is just a method of deterring speeding and an empty threat, because otherwise... I'm totally screwed.

I have never driven like that before and the Mustang will have a special place in my heart for performing as it did. It was quite exhilarating to drive like a damned madman, but it's probably not worth it to do very often... if ever. I was too afraid to look over at Megan. I have no idea if she was scared to death that she was going to die in that Mustang, or if she was enjoying it, or if she was too upset/angry/worried about getting to the airport to really register any such feelings about the trip from the hotel to the airport. Maybe she will share her thoughts in the comments section...

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Day Lost In O'Hare City

Warning! Typically, I censor myself pretty tightly when I write on this blog. Today, I'm throwing that concept aside because I kind of just feel like swearing. Anyway... consider yourself warned.

Megan and I made the trip to Chicago for Kim's (ilaxstudio) birthday celebration, which included the final part of Steven and Kim's wedding gift - a ride in a Lamborghini Gallardo (more on that in a future post). The flight out there was easy and quick (no delays), getting the rental car was smooth (a red 2008 Ford Mustang) and getting up to Steven and Kim's place was no problem. The weekend was nice and visiting with all of the family that came into town for the event was fun. The return to KC on Sunday, however, was a different story.

The alarm on my phone was set for 530 am to make our 8 am flight out of O'Hare airport, which in itself (by my estimation) would qualify as the second largest city in Illinois. Here is the approximate timeline of occurrences for the day.

530 am - The alarm goes off. I wake up and silence it.
530 and 10 seconds - Back asleep - FUCK!
645 - Megan wakes up screaming "Wake up! It's 645!" (SHIT! How did that happen?)
650 - We have packed and gotten in the car after checking out at the front desk (How we did this in 5 minutes, I have no idea).
713 - Arrive at the rental car return station 29 miles from the hotel (Fuck yeah, I'm a madman).
715 - On the bus back to the airport.
725 - In line at the check-in station outside the airport.
732 - Are informed that we were 7 minutes too late to check our bags outside (FUCK!!!) and have to go to the line inside.
745 - Get through the line inside and are informed that we were too late to get on the plane at all (FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!!!!!). We are transferred to the "standby" list for the next flight to KC.
755 - We get through security and walk the 1.2 miles to the terminal for the 950 flight.
800 - Now notice that our 8am flight to KC has been delayed until 820 (What the fuck? Why didn't they tell us the flight had been delayed - we could have made that).
805 - I rush back to the gate for the original flight... to find it uninhabited. Check with other gate employees who inform me that once the flight has been loaded and the door closed that they can't do anything. The plane is being "balanced" and fueled and that putting anyone else on the plane would upset the "balancing". My response - "that's the biggest load of horse shit I've ever heard, you just don't want to do anything you lazy sack of crap." My vocal response - "OK, thanks."
810 - Back to the gate for the 950 flight that we may or may not be able to get on to sit/stand and wait. Megan is not happy. Waiting is uncomfortable.
950 - We are informed that the flight is full and our standby status is rolled over to the next flight to KC at 1220, but our bags went out with the 950 flight.
1000 - I decide that we could try to fly to another city if we could get guaranteed seats, then we could rent a car and drive back. We find there is a flight to Wichita at 11am.
1020 - After racing the 2 miles to the gate for that flight. Where they stare at me like I'm from another planet and tell me to go call the airline's ticketing number.
1030 - The airline ticketing number tells me that they can't do that over the phone and I'd have to go back to the ticketing counter, outside security.
1045 - Back in line at the ticket counter.
1105 - Are informed that we can transfer our tickets to Wichita for the difference in price plus a transfer fee. The grand total for this transfer including the credit for our current flight- $1,000. Thats one fucking thousand dollars. We consider driving to KC from Chicago (7 hours).
1115 - The employee behind the counter takes pity on us and for a $100 fee, she gets us guaranteed seats on the overbooked 1220pm which is now the 105pm flight. How she did this, I do not know. She claimed that she is not supposed to do this, but was willing. We thank her profusely and ask her if she is allowed to accept tips. She refuses. More thanking, then we head back through security.
1145 - We finish lunch inside O'Hare City, then see that the 105 flight is now the 145 flight to KC (seriously?!?)
100 - Waiting is still uncomfortable. Megan is still unhappy, I have resigned myself to reading to pass the time. Two Arab women claim the empty seats around us for themselves and their twenty poorly behaved children in the age range of two to five.
102 - Megan has had enough and finds another location to wait.
130 - Flight is delayed another 10 minutes - now 155pm.
150 - Plane has still not arrived at the hangar despite the expected departure time in five minutes.
155 - Plane arrives and begins unloading.
220 - We have boarded and leave Chicago.
330 - We land in KC to actual applause from the passengers.
335 - Manage to find our bags, which have not been lost or stolen despite arriving in KC 3-4 hours ahead of us.
415 - Drop Megan off at her place.
500 - Arrive back at my place.
545 - Eat some leftover pasta from Thursday night.
730 - Pass out on couch watching television.

Yes, I was well aware that the mistake was mine and I bore the responsibility of correcting it. I did. We made it back to KC in one piece out only time and a little money. I did get to catch up a little on exercise though, walking eight to nine miles inside of the airport pretty much took care of that. And I read half of a book. Megan is no longer unhappy, so I guess everything worked out. But crap, what an ordeal. There was one more thing that I will write about tomorrow... I kind of (in some way) fulfilled a "life goal" in the process of the ordeal. But more on that tomorrow.