America 2018: Day Fifteen (6 September)

My old man’s that old man,
Spent his life livin’ off the land,
Dirty hands, and a clean soul.
It breaks his heart seein’ foreign cars,
Filled with fuel that isn’t ours
And wearin’ cotton we didn’t grow

He’s got the red, white, and blue flyin’ high on the farm
“Semper Fi” tattooed on his left arm
Spend a little more in the store for a tag in the back that says ‘USA’
He won’t buy nothin’ that he can’t fix,
With WD-40 and a Craftsman wrench
He ain’t prejudiced, he’s just made in America

                                                                                                                   – Toby Keith

Thursday 6 September

Another year, another trip that’s flown by. Today is our last day in Chicago. The best way to get over that depressing fact? Looking ahead – nine months (late May) and I’ll be back for the 103rd Indianapolis 500-mile race down in the Hoosier state.

But what a last day!

Right off the top, the best news of the vacation: Jane and Mike had their baby girl a week or so early. Not quite early enough for Ava to meet her new favourite Aussies, but considering I was sure she’d come literally the moment I got on a plane to go home, this is good. Everyone is happy and I couldn’t be happier for them. 

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Whoever organised the weather for our last day in the Midwest didn’t do a very good job. It rained most of the night and was raining this morning when I woke up. Still, after all the food I’ve eaten in the last couple weeks, I need my exercise, so I ran through the rain to the gym and ran on a machine for about half an hour. Not the same as running around the neighbourhood (and nowhere near as much fun) but certainly much drier.

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Packed my bag and threw a few things in my second bag. I’ve picked up some huge bargains here, especially down in Missouri when we were at the outlet stores last Monday, and am taking home some nice shirts and shorts for the coming summer.

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Thanks, Brooke!

With the weather still second-hand mid-morning, we went over to the cinemas at Cantera and watched the new Mission: Impossible film. Not a huge fan of what Tom Cruise does in his personal life, and I’m surprised that that doesn’t affect his box office draw, but it doesn’t seem to – and there’s absolutely no doubt that the guy knows how to make a cool movie, and it’s insane that he does most of his own stunts. The tickets cost less than $8 each, which is basically stealing. Nice recliner seats, too. And we were about the only people in there.

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Back to the Alley’s for dinner with the kids at 5:00pm (and some group photos, which came out really well) before Matt, Nathan, Graham and I went to watch Miles’ football scrimmage. Pretty cool watching a bunch of kids emulating their football heroes. The most amusing part of the experience was probably Matt’s despair because Miles, playing centre on offence, didn’t seem interested in blocking anyone. Which, for the uninitiated, is probably the most important part of playing centre, other than snapping the football back to the quarterback.

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Speaking of football, tonight was the opening game of the NFL season, the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Atlanta Falcons in Philly. After the scrimmage, Matt, Nathan and I headed over to Arrowhead where we were joined by Allan, Scott and Matt’s good friend Zeke – a good bloke, trust me – for some beers and football.  

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Probably more beers than was smart, considering the early flight I have tomorrow morning. Oh, and some outrageous stories. The old favourite $800 Uber ride in Wisconsin, Vegas shenanigans…so much laughter that my cheeks hurt. Scott Weller, the future mayor of Wheaton, is a born storyteller and he had us in stitches. Not for the last time, and I daresay not for the last, either.

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Got home just before midnight after a narrow Philadelphia win and some farewells. As always, sad to say goodbye to the Alley’s and everyone else I know over here. Gets harder every time. These people feel more and more like family each visit. Only nine months ‘til I come back, which is something to definitely look forward to. 

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So, tomorrow: a 5:00am wake-up call – gonna be real rough – for an 8:50am flight from Chicago out to Los Angeles. Catching up with one of my all-time favourites, Nate Morton, out there for lunch and no doubt more laughs because he’s that kinda guy, and then an 11:45pm flight from Los Angeles back to Sydney. All things being equal, I’ll be home around 7:30am on Sunday morning. 

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Looking forward to going home, but not happy about leaving…if that makes any sense? Gonna close out strong tomorrow in LA. 


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