This is the warm up day to the real Plucky action, in that most of our day was devoted to the mundane parts of travel-plane flight, baggage claim, rental car-and then hampered by traffic so deadly slow it took us more than an hour just to clear the Chicago area. As a result, we've had to put off our death-themed mini golf course experience for the end of the trip, but all things are better for greater anticipation.
But all was not lost! We were barely within the cushy confines of our much upgraded Plucky Mobile (not that there was anything wrong with Plucky Buick, but the view is good from this fancy Jeep), our mascot, Plucky Bunny (a stuffed animal version of the emblem of the ice cream factory we will be later visiting on this trip, and a fetish object for Mary, a gift from her pal Robin some time ago) in place, when we had to pull a screeching U turn in order to score a fully loaded Chicago Polish sausage from Nicky's, a local hot dog institution since 1969. Ah, now we feel better! We also dashed across the road for our very first White Castle burgers (what? They are small! Like appetizers!) and found that between the "fast food perfection on a bun" and "over rated" opinions we fell in the latter camp. No matter; it's the experiment that counts.
From there, not much to report apart from hot and cold running corn fields, and a flock of birds so dense it looked enough to our paranoid eyes (well, traffic was bad and so were the burgers, so we were feeling a bit oppressed) like a cloud of locusts, which would totally just figure. But we arrived safely in the teaming metropolis of Bettendorf, Iowa, after passing through one of those small towns that just needs a lick and a promise to be the perfect setting for every Hollywood small town movie ever. Charming. "Yeah, you should see it in February," said Rick, already feeling the home town heebie jeebies. (He grew up in Cedar Rapids, which is tomorrow.)
Now we are in our unexpectedly stylish rooms in the Isle of Capri in Bettendorf. Well, actually, Mary is soaking her toe-it hurts, thanks for asking, but she's plucky, and she has a bag of chocolate donuts which is a good spirit lifter-while Rick is entertaining his charming local relatives. Because we both write about Vegas quite a bit, we've stayed in more than a normal amount of casino hotels, and we were pretty surprised by these rather fancy digs. The hotel appears to stick too closely to a somewhat out of place Caribbean theme, including a Muzak calypso version of "Amazing Grace" that we could've done without, but the newer Paradise tower is done in that streamlined, dark wood modern design that is all the rage, and the rooms, which are quite spacious, come with a flat screen TV and king sized squishy white beds that Mary is eying with the eagerness borne of a need to elevate a foot in comfort, are as good as, if not better than, any mid-range Strip hotel such as MGM Grand, Treasure Island, and The Mirage.
More on the hotel tomorrow after we've had a chance to do a proper exploration, including talk of casino action.
Rick's family says hello… making the much appreciated journey for a much too short visit were Plucky uncles and aunts and cousins and spouses of cousins, and Rick enjoyed it greatly and was sorry he couldn't spend more time with everyone. But lots of beer and good company is always an antidote for a too early morning, a too confining plane ride, and a much too busy traffic nightmare no matter how brief. Beer and good conversation, like chocolate, fixes everything.
Finally, after winning Cow with an absurd score of 2-0, in keeping with the theme that today was merely prep day for the real trip, Mary is magnanimously calling today's match a warm up frame. But tomorrow-the gloves come off.