Midwest Tour 2006 pt 1 (A Gay Hope)
I'm back! (didja miss me?)
Our friend Rita had convinced a bunch of us that we should tour the midwest and see AJ's and my hometowns of Indianapolis and St.Louis, as well as visit our friends Steve and Anjana in Chicago. Most of our other friends thought were we crazy. Going to the midwest? In the middle summer? A landlocked state that voted red (well okay, only two of three states we were visiting voted red but still)? Rita is a bit crazy, but I love her for it (not despite it).
When Rita had originally suggested the idea to us, I don't think I totally took her seriously. Why in the world would anyone WANT to go to St. Louis and Indianapolis? Why would anyone willingly spend money for an airplane ticket and use up precious vacation time to visit the midwest. Aren't there way cooler places that we could visit? Aren't there more interesting locations to vacation at?
And in truth I sort of ignored the idea. Sure, I agreed to it, but in the back of my head, I always thought that Rita was joking just a little bit. And even as the plans firmed up, and Rita and Damon requested vacation time, and Karen and Ben bought their tickets, AJ and I ignored it. When we eventually gave in to the reality that we had to buy our tickets or else it would be impossible or outrageously expensive to get tickets to the landlocked states, I still thought to myself that the midwest trip wasn't real. It wasn't going to be a vacation in the real sense of the word. Vacations are foreign places you go to, places to relax like Hawaii, or places you sightsee like Paris. St. Louis and Indianapolis are neither relaxing beach towns, nor are they sightseeing meccas. And they certainly weren't foreign to AJ and I. This wasn't going to be a vacation in our definition. It was just a quick jaunt home and back - but we'd have a few friends in tow who were going to be bored to death.
I was wrong. It ended up being a vacation in every sense of the word. It was chill, it was fun, we saw the sights, and we bonded by road tripping and played card/board games. It was reinvigorating and energizing and relaxing all at the same time. Who knew that the midwest could be so fun? We piled into an SUV and drove around the middle of the country, and we sweated a whole lot. We even spent a day at a lake water skiing (or for some - tried to water ski - more on that later). It gave me a whole new appreciation of home and of vacation. It was just what I needed.
I flew out on a redeye last Thursday to Chicago to see AJ race for the Gay Games. The rest of the gang were going to meet up with me on Saturday. AJ was on summer break (ah...the perks of being a professor) and had flown out in the beginning of the week to compete in cycling. AJ loves to cycle. He's done the AIDS lifecycle/CA AIDS RIDE 6 times and he's signed up for a 7th ride next year.
AJ had originally signed up for the Gay Games four years ago (they were in Sydney then), but the cost of flying out there and the lack of time he had to train for it didn't quite work out. He never made it. So this was his first Gay Games competition. In fact this was his first time racing since high school.
Obviously he was nervous. As usual, he was exceedingly neurotic about racing, and was upset with himself about the lack of training. At one point he contemplated pulling out of the race, but I convinced him that he needed to go. I told him that he didn't have to think in terms of winning, but in terms of just going to the race and having a good time. And what gay man could not have a good time at an event called GAY GAMES?
In truth, I knew that he would inevitably win a medal or two. He was unsure. But I had confidence and faith in him and his ability. And win he did. The Monday after he left, he called me up at work extremely excited. He had just won the gold medal for the criterium race!
Well I was excited as all get out. But I had high expectations for the upcoming races, as well as the final race that I was flying out there for. Our friend Steve was awesome and picked me up at the airport. We drove back to his place to drop our stuff off and then I showered and took a 45 minute nap. Rested, we took off to see AJ compete in the team trial race!
The race took place in the middle of nowhere. I hadn't a CLUE where it was, but it wasn't in any part of Chicago that I was familiar with. It was out in the woods somewhere - pretty much the middle of nowhere.
With only 45 minutes of sleep (I so can not sleep on planes) I hung around watching hot men cycle around shirtless, as AJ and his teammates warmed up. Of particular note was a Dutch hottie named Marteen. Even AJ fully admitted that he was hot - despite being slightly older and white. It probably helped that he was incredibly nice, had a hot accent, and was an incredibly stronger cyclist with a killer grin and killer body.
I also got a chance to chat up the St. Louis Team (including a cute cyclist who claimed to be straight...but AJ and I am not quite so sure about that) as well as hang out with some non-cyclist friends of competors, one who had driven up from St. Louis to see her ex compete, and another who lived in DC and it turned out works with our friend Cara in Los Angeles. Small world.
It was amazing to see AJ and his teammates (the Gutterbunny Boys) start the race, taking off in formation. They looked fantastic the way they went from the starting line to single line formation. They finished strong, with all five on their team ending together - something a lot of the teams did not do. Unfortunately they weren't strong enough to win. AJ and his team (the GutterBunnies Boys) ended up taking silver in the race. To their credit though, the only team that beat them were a group of gold medal triathletes - the Chicago Razors.
The rest of the day was spent napping after the race. We later all met up for dinner with the cyclists and their friends and then walked over to the John Hancock building where we were able to get seated before everyone else in our elevator at a window both no less. We later tried to sneak into the women's bathroom (which is where our friend Anjana said has the best view of Chicago) but we were busted. Alas.
The following day AJ and I met up with Karen and Ben and Rita and Damon and celebrated AJ's FOUR medals (three silvers, and the one gold) at the Gay Games closing ceremonies. We were entertained by the Cheer Chicago Cheerleaders, Dallas Cowboy Linedancers, a twirling rifle corp, and Cyndi Lauper decked out in a rainbow dress and rainbow flag singing True Colors accompanied by a solo violinist.
AJ is wearing three of the medals in the photo to the left. He said that all four were too heavy so he had me wear one (yeah, I felt like a poseur wearing it too). It's a tough life AJ has, having so many medals....
AJ was also able to finagle a Team Indiana visor from someone from Team Indiana (which is what he's wearing on his head in the photo). He's a hoosier through and through. Go figure.
Post closing ceremonies, the gang headed over to My Pie (a local pizza joint) and got some deep dish goodness. We headed back to Anjana and Steve's to get some much needed rest and to play card/board games. The trip was just getting started and we had already done so much!
Sunday we had brunch, packed up and left for Indiana. But that's a post for another time. Check back for more on the midwest trip - and in the meanwhile, jump over to Damon's blog entry for an introduction to the gang who were foolharded enough to travel to the middle of this fine country in the middle of a crazy heat wave. What were we thinking?!?!?!