Friday, July 13, 2012

Asian Eyes' USA - Nashville and Chicago

The rented Subaru from Hertz
 I went to school in USA back in the early nineties. It was countdown to the final week before I leave America. The five of us -Tan, Wai, Low, Tony and I, had planned out this week long journey across America Midwest south-north-south. I remembered the Hertz (www.hertz.com/) car rental at Mobile airport allocated a white brand new spacious Subaru (www.subaru-global.com/) rental car for us. It was registered under my name and when I drove it out from the parking space it was full of power. Little that we knew that we will put in 4,000 miles in that baby in 1 week! At home we loaded all our provision - foods, tidbits, blanket, clothing and not forgotten our trusted Rand McNally's (www.randmcnally.com/) The Road Atlas book, our road guide as GPS was not known yet at that time. We fetched the rest and began our journey in the morning wee hour where Tony drove and I navigated. Wai had brought along a 'Radar Detector' to detects patrol trooper who used using radar gun during speed trap exercise. It was not legal in some states but what the heck. Great, at least we can take care when to and when not to speed.  
My recent copy of Road Atlas for 
just $5.25 from Walmart
 We were driving from north bound on I65 from Mobile. I have gotten used to read the road atlas and able to call out the highway exit couple of miles ahead. First stop was Montgomery, the state capitol of Alabama. We relieved ourselves and had breakfast at a local restaurant joint. We proceeded on, bypassed Birmingham and took a detour to visit Huntsville for sight seeing and lunch. Huntsville is also know as "The Rocket City", famed for its space missions. We took a few hours to tour the US Space and Rocket Centre before we continued on. Tan took over the wheel while I was still the navigator. At the border entering into the next state, Tennessee, we pulled over to take a photo with the state's welcome billboard. As in some American movies, state trooper hide behind billboard to nab speedster. We saw a couple of state troopers did that, thanks to Wai's radar detector. We knew we were nearing Nashville, where Zak had previously stayed in, when almost all the radio channels blared out country music. It was the pop country music that I had grown up with - Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers' "Islands in the Stream", Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again", John Denver's "Sunshine on My Shoulders", "Take Me Home, Country Roads", "Leaving on a Jet Plane", among others. There were more songs, but I did not catch their names, but the music were soothing. We stayed overnight in Nashville in a local Motel 6 where all 5 of us cramped into 1 room apartment, on a Xmas' Eve. No count down as we were dead tired and retired early.
 The next morning, it was Xmas Day. Most shops were closed so we headed north towards Louisville, Kentucky. I drove while Tony navigated. We stopped by a McDonald's joint for breakfast and then continued on to Cincinnati where we had planned to do some visiting. The place that stroke me most in Cincinnati was its Botanical Garden which was actually a huge greenhouse. It was winter, so I least expected a full bloom of flowering plants and the oranges tree were full of big oranges the size of 2 fists. Many people throng the garden and they were friendly lots, with  hello and waving exchanged in seeing us 5 Asians in the heart of America. Guess it was Xmas spirit. A huge Christmas tree was fully decorated with colorful Yuletide paraphernalia. We had our lunch in the garden and the atmosphere was simply superb. It was late afternoon when we moved on.
Yuletide decoration marked 
Xmas Day
We entered into state of Indiana, posed for picture at the welcome billboard, passed Indianapolis and arrived Chicago around evening. The thing that hits us when we started to see Chicago's skyline was the ice along the road. "It must had snowed yesterday. Look at the ice at by the roadside" I told my friends excitedly. "I wish to see some snow falling down tonight" replied Wai. "Oh, Oh" I exclaimed out loud. "What is the matter" asked Tony. "Know what, I forgot about tire chain for snow driving. Also I had no experience in snow driving" I admitted as a matter of fact. "Should be no problem" Tony added. "If we need one, we can go to any local Hertz car rental kiosk and asked for tire chain". As it turned out, we did not need tire chain the entire journey. Just our anxiety for nothing. In Chicago we went straight to Chicago's Chinatown for dinner. I had 'Char Siew' rice and some dim sum dishes. With a full stomach we took a stroll along Chinatown before looking for a Motel 6 nearby. The Motel 6 was by the beach of Lake Michigan and that night was really windy. The weather was cold, nearly 0 degree but I can hardly withstand the wind chill factor which felt like -15 degree. Now I understood why Chicago was called "The Windy City".
 We were early to rise the next morning as we had planned to spend the entire day in Chicago before moving further inland to Minnesota. As we got ready, I had a walk along the beach of Lake Michigan.  The ice from 2 days ago snowfall was still on the ground and we had a few snow fights. We had to stop when the snow fight turned to ice fights as chunk of ice was thrown about. We had Dim Sum for breakfast at Chinatown before we headed to the famed Adler Planetarium. Too bad  the planetarium was closed due Boxing Day holiday. We make do with snapping of some photos outside the landmark before we headed to Sears Tower, reputed to be the tallest in America at that time. It was opened and we went up to the observation deck for a clear view of Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan.
Outside Adler Planetarium in Chicago
 The day we visited Chicago fell on Dec 26, also known as Boxing Day. It was not the boxing as in Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman fight, but rather the day after Xmas where people boxed up their present. This was the day where shops decided to have clearing sales to get rid of all stock instead of boxing them up. Therefore Boxing Day is synonymous to shopping galore, called shopping-day-after-Xmas, much like the shopping-day-after-Thanks-Giving. We had some great bargain on branded goods. I bought 2 pairs of snicker - a Nike and a Reebok, 2 pair of Levi jeans and a Ray-ban sunglasses, all items sold at just a quarter of its retail price. 
  I ended the day with the smile on my face, having seen the snow for the first time in my life. I dream of frolicking in the snow, and secretly devise a game plan the next time I see snow again.

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