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ErikR’s First Plane Ride: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Sleep and Love Flying at 6 in the Morning

~ A Boston Trip Memoir by Wayner ~

Thursday, August 1

The Stevens Point contingent (ErikR, Scott, and Wayner) met at the Stevens Point Bus Garage around 2:30 in the afternoon. After a quick visit to Scott’s apartment to pick up some luggage, we were on the road to Madison at 2:50. The trip went fast as we listened to the sounds of Tenacious D and the Smashing Pumpkins. Per Erik’s “two hour door to door” estimate of travel time, we arrived at Jeremy and Lisa’s apartment just before 5. Our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 8 so we all went to State Street to eat supper. The locals recommended the “Radical Rye”, a made to order sandwich shop. The chow was delicious and reading the Onion while dining made the experience all the more enjoyable. After stopping to get Lisa some ice cream (where the author was verbally berated for wearing his Minnesota gear in Madtown after the Gopher’s National Hockey Championship), we loaded up and drove to the Dane County Airport.

Check-in went quickly since we mostly had carry-on bags. Only Jeremy’s bag of pillows and blankets required a detailed search. As we approached our gate, the first words we hear from the gate attendant are “mechanical problems”. Most of us took those words in stride; however, Erik got a little bit tense as this flight was his first commercial airline flight ever. We spoke some more with the gate personnel and learned that a red warning light was on in the cockpit. They told us to hold tight and wait for an update at 8:30. We sat down with the other five passengers that were flying with us and each did our separate thing. Lisa flipped through “Redbook”, Erik and Scott talked business, Ivy pulled out his laptop for some “Collapse” action, and Steve read a book on social psychology.

8:30 came around and the plane was no closer to leaving Madison than before. The gate lady reassured us that the mechanic was doing the best he could and still had a few more tests to run. Erik jokingly wonders aloud what the stupidest thing is that the mechanic has ever said! Lisa’s craving for a Bloody Mary led her, Jeremy, and Steve to the airport bar but by this time in the evening it had already closed. Returning to our gate to find a still grounded airplane, we learn that the stewardess can only work until 10:15 due to FAA-mandated workday limits. She informs us that if the plane wasn’t boarding by 9:30 that we wouldn’t be flying tonight. We hold out until the last minute before accepting the gate attendant’s offer to put us up in some hotel rooms for the night. American Airlines drove a hard bargain but we were able to settle on three rooms and a free shuttle ride to the hotel. Our hotel, the Best Western Inn on the Park, was in downtown Madison adjacent to the Capitol building and State Street.

Our new revised itinerary was to leave on the first flight out the next morning (6 am) and arrive in Boston around 1 in the afternoon. In order to check in and get to the airport in plenty of time, we would need to be up at 5:15 am. After check in at the hotel, we unwound by watching “Seinfeld” as Lisa called up her new roommate Jen. Well aware of our early wake up call, all of us (except for Erik R who stayed at the hotel to read a message from Dirty) headed down to State Street to satisfy Lisa’s craving and meet her friend. The locals took us to State Street Brats. The author is surprised at how busy the bar is for a Thursday night, but then again we are in Madison! We hang around the bar enjoying our beverages and discussing Scott’s paintball business plan until 1 am. After parting ways with the lovely Jen, we head back towards the hotel.

Hungry after all the drinks, we stop at Casa Bianca’s for some pizza. We crack up as we listen to the drunkards moan about how they have to be at work at 9 the next morning. Lisa pokes her head in and mentions how we are flying out of town in 5 hours! In the midst of high-fives and cheering for our die-hard dedication to State Street, we head for the hotel. Lights go out close to 2.

Friday, August 2

We drag ourselves out of bed at 5:15, load up our things, and meet in the lobby for our shuttle ride back to the airport. Scott, Lisa, and Steve quickly work their way through check in and security without much hassle. On the other hand, the Iverson boys weren’t lucky. Erik’s sandals were checked for explosives and Jeremy’s laptop had to be turned on and inspected before they could board the plane. The plane had no mechanical problems this time and we left on schedule. This connecting flight was taking us to Chicago O’Hare where we would transfer planes and then fly directly to Boston’s Logan Airport.

Before we know it, we are already descending in to Chicago. Over our short layover we find some breakfast at McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. We arrive at our gate a few minutes early and find some chairs. By now we all feel pretty wiped out from our late night and early rise this morning. They call our row number and once more Scott, Lisa, and Steve cruise through the security while Erik and Jeremy get caught AGAIN! Lisa and Steve brainstorm ideas as to why Erik and Jeremy got searched again and settle on the fact that two brothers with a strong A-Rab name like Iverson must surely be terrorists!

Our flight leaves without a hitch and we still remain on schedule to arrive in Boston around 1 pm. A poor seat draw put Steve and Scott in the very last row of the plane (with a fine view of the engines!) while Erik, Jeremy, and Lisa sat three abreast right above the wing. Apparently the view was AMAZING, but all Scott and Steve could do was watch the privy door open and close. We get to Boston ahead of schedule, round up our baggage, and give Dan a call to let him know we made it. Steve advocates taking the T (the subway in Boston speak) or the bus, but the others remain firm in hailing a cab. We specially request a minivan cab and one arrives shortly. All in all, the ride cost about $30 but it got us where we needed to go.

Dan’s dorm was right in the heart of downtown next to Boston Common and rather close to the waterfront. We met Dan and his friend Julian inside and took our bags upstairs to his room. Dan lives with 5 other IBM student employees in his suite but otherwise it’s pretty much standard dorm décor and size. Dan takes us out along with Julian to the Purple Shamrock restaurant for lunch. We get some hearty meals and even order 24-ounce beers all around except for Julian who was only 18. After lunch, we take care of the typical tourist trap attractions by visiting the statue of Paul Revere and seeing the church where the lanterns were hung to signal the Brits’ method of attack (one if by land, two if by sea). For the remainder of our afternoon we returned to Dan’s dorm and napped until suppertime.

One cannot say that he has visited Boston unless they sample some of its seafood! Dan recommends McCormick and Schmick’s for dinner. This restaurant’s seafood is so fresh that it has to print its menus daily to account for new arrivals! We sample the salmon, shark, trout, lobster and even some of their desserts. The bill was huge but nobody left there on an empty stomach. With full tummies, we boarded the T for Jillians, a pool hall/arcade/dance floor/bar right behind Fenway Park. Unfortunately, the Red Sox were out of town the weekend that we were there, but it was still awesome to see the Green Monster in person. We drop some more money on drinks and a couple of games of pool per person. It’s getting pretty late but our night was not yet over!

We once again board the T for a MIT frat party to which Dan has been invited. It takes a little bit of wandering and a few instances of direction asking, but nevertheless we find the party. The frat was a pretty impressive building. It’s about six stories tall and had a spiraling staircase that surrounded an open foyer area in the center. We climb all the way to the top story and discover a ladder leading to the roof. All of us scale up to the roof and enjoy a spectacular view of the city lights and the Charles River. We are all in luck as tonight is a special night at the frat because they are having a beer dice tournament.

Beer dice is a local incarnation that obviously owes its development to the frat environment. The game setup is simple. All you need is two dice, four mugs, a long table, and plenty of beer (the frat exclusively used Wisconsin’s finest, Milwaukee’s Best!) Divvy up your group into teams of two. Fill four mugs full of beer and place two of them at each end of the long table. The object of the game is to hurl a standard six-sided die into a mug of beer approximately 15 feet away. Accomplishing this feat would force your opponent to down the entire mug before play continues. An opponent may also be made to drink by hitting the mug on the fly or on a bounce with the die. In this situation, the opponent has to drink one half of the mug. If the thrower fails to hit the mug, the opponent can catch the die before it hits the ground and force the thrower to drink half of his mug. However, if the catcher tries but ultimately misses the catch then they have to drink half.

We watch this long enough to see an elusive “sink” and even a “double hit” (where a single throw hits both mugs). Dan’s cronies fare pretty well in the tourney but lose in the championship round. By now it’s getting close to 3 in the morning so we hail a couple of cabs (since the T stopped running at midnight) and go back to Dan’s dorm.

Saturday, August 3

With two late nights in a row now, we spend the good majority of Saturday morning sleeping. Erik and Jeremy slept on the floor in Dan’s room, Lisa got the couch, and Scott and Wayner slept across the hall in the TV lounge. We all shower and clean up and walk to Quincy Market for lunch. Quincy Market is a long building filled with tons of restaurants. One could easily find anything under the sun here to eat. Due to long lines and relatively high prices, we take the easy way out and get some pizza. Afterwards, a few of us got some ice cream.

After lunch we perused some of the shops around Quincy Market so Erik could find a memento for Dirty. These stores didn’t do the trick so Dan directed us to Newbury Street. Our walk takes us through the Fashion District of the city. Jeremy and Dan make stops at the Banana Republic and the GAP to look for some new clothes for Dan’s trip to New York to present his summer project. We continue down the street exiting the Fashion District and coming into a more eclectic area of shops. An interior furnishings store catches Lisa’s eye and we make a stop there. All this walking on a beautiful day wears us out and we stop at a TGI Friday’s to get something to drink. A few num-nums are ordered but some of us opted for just water. On our way to the end of Newbury Street we listen to a female Christian singer playing her guitar outside a music shop and walk past the Berklee School of Music. We catch the T at the next station and return to Dan’s dorm.

Back at the ranch, Lisa and Scott took naps and Erik, Dan, Jeremy and Steve talked and played some cards. Since we sampled seafood the night before we decide on Italian for tonight’s meal. Dan took us to the “Little Italy” section of Boston. He knows a few good places but they all look packed, as it’s a Saturday night around 7 pm. We stumble upon a restaurant called “Caffe Pompeii” that just so happens to have seating available for six. The food and dessert was great and the prices were reasonable too.

After dinner we rode the T out to Cambridge for an American Analog Set concert at a bar called TT & The Bears. A bunch of other IBM employees had plans to come see the band so Dan picked up some tickets for all of his guests. The music of American Analog Set (www.americananalogset.com) can best be described as experimental rock. The sound they created was rather mellow with soft vocals, dreamy guitar solos, and a great rhythm section. We spent most of the time there in the back room chatting, drinking, and playing some pool. Occasionally someone would go check out the band, but after awhile the place was jam-packed and sweltering. Around 1 am we checked out of the bar.

Once again we are too late to catch the T so we have to be creative in finding our way back. Dan proposes that we walk back because then he could show us where he works and we would get to pass through the MIT campus. It’s a great night out and we gladly oblige his offer. We see Dan’s office building, a few dorms and athletic facilities at MIT, and the Charles River by night. In fact, we crossed the river at a bridge that marked the end of the warmup area for the Head of the Charles Regatta (which the author has rowed in twice)! After close to an hour of walking we arrive back at Dan’s dorm. We continue on around the corner to a late night pizza shack that serves huge slices for cheap! Unfortunately they have closed down their drink selection for the evening so we walk another block to the 7-11. Dan picks up a Coke, Steve tries a Pepsi Blue (YUCK!), but Scott goes all out and gets the Mountain Dew Slushie!

Now approaching almost 2 in the morning, the question is called about going to sleep since we have a flight that leaves Boston at 6 am. To allow enough time for check in and travel to the airport we would have to leave Dan’s dorm at 4 am. The guys decide that going to sleep for 2 hours would be pointless so they just want to stay up. Lisa has a different perspective and hits the sack as soon as we get back. We spend our last few hours in Boston throwing some cards around and browsing a PEOPLE magazine that Lisa had left out. The four o’clock hour rolls around in a hurry and we finish packing up our bags, wake up Lisa, and make our way down to the lobby of Dan’s dorm. As we thank Dan for his hospitality and making our brief visit to Boston a great one, we hail two cabs and cruise through the empty city streets to the airport.

Another $40 less richer, we arrive at the airport and rendezvous at the American Airlines check in counter. The airport is still pretty active even at 4 am on a Sunday morning! It takes us about 30 minutes to get through the check in procedures and security measures. On our way down the concourse Erik remembers that he hasn’t gotten any mementos yet so we make a detour to the airport gift shop. Erik finds something but Jeremy gets the prize for best purchase since he bought a Cheers t-shirt for his mom even though we never visited the bar! Our next conscious memory is the stewardess coming on the speaker telling us to buckle our seatbelts as we begin descending into Chicago. A dazed walk through O’Hare transfers us to the small connecting plane that would take us back to Madison. The flight was once again a blur and we safely arrive in Madison around 8 am.

The author’s craving for a Reuben omelet led the group to Mickey’s Dairy Bar for some plentiful morning eats. Mickey’s was as busy as the author has ever seen it and it takes us a few minutes to get a table for five. Gorging ourselves on pancakes and eggs, we spend some time reminiscing about our hectic but highly enjoyable weekend and our plans for the coming workweek. The caravan swings by Jeremy and Lisa’s apartment to drop them off but leaves soon after since Erik has some schoolwork that needs to be done. We roll out of Madison just before 9 and make it back to Stevens Point by 11. With that, the trip to Boston had come to a close.

The Moral of the Story

  • Expect to be mocked when you have the balls to wear college gear of the NCAA Division I Hockey Championships in the hometown of a competing college.

  • Letters from your significant other can make your first flying experience a more enjoyable one.

  • Bars are ALWAYS busy in Madison.

  • Mmm…girl hockey players!

  • Never fly with your brother if you are both terrorists.

  • You can’t see jack from the last row of seats in a plane.

  • You can ride public transportation all day for the price of a single cab ride.

  • The mark of a great seafood restaurant is menus that are printed daily.

  • You CAN teach an old lush new drinking games.

  • You never really appreciate Wisconsin water until you travel.

  • Pepsi Blue = Horrible

  • Mountain Dew Slushie = Caffeinated Treat

  • Airport gift shops are lifesavers!

  • Nothing beats a Reuben omelet to get you moving in the morning!

  • And finally…
    Boston RULES!!!!

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