Sunday, June 28, 2009

On the road again.....

Scott spent the week at the Illinois Institute of Art — Schaumburg which is located in Suburban Chicago. His Mom took him down Monday night as he was on the chaperoned program where they put the students up at a local hotel and their time off campus is closely controlled but fun.

For example, one night they went to one of these large arcade places that features a multitude of games and activities, another night they had the Second City Comedy troupe come in and do an improve session with the kids. There is a very large mall close to the school and one night the kids were all let loose there where they had dinner and shopped. So, in addition to learning, there was lots of fun.

Scott, as those who read my blog know, is major artistically talented and he plans to use this talent in the real world. The Illinois Institute of Art is where he wants to go to school after he graduates high school next year, so, the fact that they were offering the program was a great chance for him to go down and experience the school first hand.

Yesterday was open house, where the parents were invited to attend a presentation at the school, and a showcasing of the kids works. They also wanted us to take our kids home afterward; imagine that!

So, the X and I headed down in our cars as she had business out of state the next day and was going to head that way after the function at the school.

I arose at 5:30 AM (On my Saturday off no less!), did my exercises with my dumbbells, got ready, and was out the door at 6:45. No sooner did I pass the City of Grand Rapids, did I see a familiar vehicle approaching from the rear. I saw this as it came up to pass:

Of course it was the X, or Racer X as I like to call her when she is driving. For those of you not familiar with "Speed Racer", Racer X was a character in the you can now see my clever turn of the phrase regarding the X! Below are some shots of the road I took while driving.

The X and I chatted on the cell phone for about20 minutes and I decided that the easiest thing to do would be to follow her even though I had a GPS and printed directions. We also chatted a couple of other times as well about Scott, Danielle, and other things. The hands free setup I have in the Mustang is very cool when you need to talk on the phone! If music is playing, either off the radio, or via the iPhone, which can stream music to the car stereo wirelessly, the music is stopped and the call comes over the car stereo speakers. There is a microphone I installed up in the headliner which picks up my voice. After the call, the music resumes.

So, since she knew the way thus began three hours of an exciting real time racing game! The speed limit in Michigan is about 70 and her speed was averaging about 77 while in state; reserved for her, but perhaps it was the vicarious presence of police cars. Her driving experience here paid off, at one point of the journey I had only seen one police car, she had seen three! Chasing her across three states as she weaved in an out of traffic at times was quite challenging!

Friends had advised that even on a weekend the portion of the trip through Chicago itself could be fraught with delays, but the X remarked later that was the first time she ever made it through that area so quickly. We barely took 3 hours and 15 minutes to make it to the school which is about 15 minutes past Chicago itself. We made a brief rest stop about 10 minutes from the school, and then because we had made such good time and were almost an hour early, the X texted Scott who was still at the hotel. We headed over to pick him up and sign him out, collecting his luggage from the room where they had consolidated all the students possessions. This would be a real time saver later when most of the visiting parents would have to go from the campus back to the hotel. I'll bet it was quite crowded and I was glad we did not have to do that.

After visiting and meeting some of his new friends, we left him there and headed over to the school as he wanted to ride the bus from the hotel with his classmates. Below is an exterior shot of the school, a display inside, and some student artwork.

We signed in at the the Illinois Institute of Art, and were ushered upstairs for the torture phase a few minutes after 10 AM. Torture because the room we were in was facing the sun and the AC was failing miserably at keeping the room, which was packed like sardines with the parents of students in the summer program, cool. It has to be at least 90 degrees. A chirpy, high energy admissions person was there and seemed, by the volume and copious amounts of verbage issuing forth from her in a never-ending stream, to be unaffected by the heat. She assured us later in the presentation that no way were the classrooms overcrowded like this for the students.

Finally the presentation started with an overview of the past week's program, which centered around an all girl band at the school. The kids all had to do things around this, such as photography, videos, conception drawings and posters, costume design, etc. Scott's group, and I am not sure how this related, designed levels for the popular Unreal game and also did video capture of the band. After this, we were given an overview of the schools degree programs and costs. The tuition was surprisingly affordable but housing costs were ridiculous! Four students share a two bedroom apartment for $800/month per student. We talked to one of the locals there who said his son and three friends rented a much nicer place for $1700/month, split 4 ways that's less than half the cost of the schools housing which does not include food or transportation to/from campus.

The sales pitch over we did a quick walking tour of the school which also featured the adventure of the elevator that would not work. After again wanting to emulate a tin of sardines with us overheated parents they crammed us into this one elevator that would not work. In fact, it dropped a few inches much to the screaming delight of the passengers! Now they wanted us to march up the stairs to the fifth floor. Fortunately by the time we would have to have headed up another elevator arrived in a different shaft that got us upstairs. I was glad not having to walk up multiple flights of stairs in that heat!

We took a look at some of the other projects and at Scott's work. Some shots of the Unreal levels he worked on are shown below:

Scott began saying goodbye to his friends, exchanging hugs with all of them. Scott explained to me later he had been adopted like 'the little brother' of the summer program, and the girls thought he was cute the way he got flustered when they paid him any attention. This is not a bad thing I explained to him! I have never had that problem in my life, nor could I see it as a problem!!

We started back home. I had him ride with his mom since she would be out of state for several days and we stopped at the same rest place she and I had hit earlier. Scott knew there was a Panda Express there and was coveting noodly Chinese food goodness! I fueled up the car and met them inside, and Scott had to settle for KFC as there were no noodle dishes that day at Panda Express. I bought him and his mom, pictured below, lunch and watched them eat.

It was not until this second visit that I realized that the food court and facilities were actually perched across the highway so it could be accessed from wither the East or West bound highway. This view out the food court window showed me this clever arrangement:

On the way out Scott announced he was still hungry so I got him some Cinnamon sugar coated pretzel sticks from Auntie Anne's. The X, Scott, and I said our goodbyes and headed back home. A Taste of Chicago was going on in the city and I missed the express lanes going back through Chicago so I got stuck in some minor traffic but nothing too terrible. The trip back though did take just over three and a half hours. Scott napped most of the way, though we talked a bit. He did like the school and the programs and does want to go there in 2010.

The X, who had zoomed past us at one point, phoned a couple of times with traffic reports and help hints on how to make sure to avoid them and get home which I thought was nice of her. I was happy it was a nice day for driving and bad weather did not impact the journey! The Mustang and I do enjoy a nice cruise, and other than the area going through Chicago it was a nice drive for most of the distance.

One thing that really freaked me about about the trip home was I discovered an interesting fact in Indiana about 25 minutes from the Michigan border. There were a number of pulled over cars (speeders I guess as the speed limit in Indiana and Illinois was 55). At first I thought the police had been on the attack of those owners of Mustang GT cars until I realized they were unmarked police cars! How clever! How evil! How sneaky! Who would suspect a nice looking Mustang GT to be an unmarked police car!!!

We arrived home around 4:30. I unloaded the car, turned on the AC as Danielle had left 5 hours earlier with her grandparents and left the 50" plasma display and receiver on. In a closed room they produce a goodly amount of heat! After about 30 minutes I climbed onto the exercise bike. In the first few minutes I was certain I would never be able to finish my 75 minute work out, but I did and in fact went on to do 90 minutes and 2.5 miles extra! Today, I am also dreading my exercise session which will commence shortly. (A footnote here, I did an bit of an extra workout, but only an extra mile or so.)

Danielle's grandparents dropped her off in the middle of my exercise session, I explained I could not talk too much while exercising as I set a pretty strenuous pace after the first few minutes of warm up. Mom expressed some concern over the extent of my exercising (A session on the exercise bike literally soaks my entire shirt with sweat) and I assured her so long as I stayed in my target heart rate range, I was OK.

Danielle was heading over to a sleep over so I barely got to see her. I ordered Scott a sandwich from Jimmy John's. Just like the last time I ordered they lost the order and claimed a problem with their on-line system. I mentioned to the driver this was the second order in a row this happened to; was this going to be the norm. He stated he could not help me as he was just a driver, so, I went online and wrote a complaint to the home office of Jimmy John's. We'll see if anything comes of that.

Scott's friend Greg came over a bit after 8 so I amused myself largely with TV until I retired around midnight. In spite of my early rising and extra exercise when I got back home, I did not sleep well for some reason. I did get a nice nap though between 6 AM and 9 AM.


David Louis Harter said...


That is an excellent documentary of your Chicago adventure. The story and photographs are great, and Scott's artwork is (as always) amazing!

Watch out for those unmarked cop cars!

- David

Chris said...

David - I am pleased you enjoyed it; it's the longest post I have done in awhile. Quite the effort it was!