Thursday, May 23rd, 2002
I left my usual Starbucks at Park and Preston in Plano just before 11:00 PM on Thursday night, May 23rd, stopped at the ATM to load up on my cash limit as I would be traveling outside Bank of America country, and BOFA charges $5 to use my debit card at a third-party ATM (on top of the ATM fee).
I made decent time up to Oklahoma City. Not yet exhausted, I stopped at the Kinkos in Norman to look up some nighttime activity, but clubs were closed and the city seemed dead, perhaps by the rain. The nighttime view of the capitol as I drove through downtown was worth seeing, though. I continued on to the new store at Rockwell and NW Expressway. I actually owe Jack and Ron of KISS 99 thanks, because when they interviewed me they informed me about this new store, which as of this writing is not yet listed on the Store Locator. But I called up a nearby restaurant, confirmed that the Starbucks was indeed open for business, and when I arrived at the intersection I saw it right away. I parked in the parking lot of the Hobby Lobby to await the Starbucks’ opening at 5:30.
Friday, May 24th, 2002
I did not awaken ‘til 6:30, but that was fine with me because I needed the sleep for the long drive up to Kansas City. In preparation for the drive, I order a double espresso rather than my usual half-short coffee. I took my photograph and moved on towards the store at Pennsylvania and Memorial, which I had already visited but needed to reshoot, without the cars in the way. On the way, I stopped at Albertsons and Kinkos to try and find a phone number for KISS 99, so I could tell Jack and Ron I was in town. I had e-mailed them the night before, but they had yet to call and I didn’t hear them mention me on the air. They finally did call, however, just as I was about to cross into Kansas and on the line with Sprint PCS technical support. They left a message to call, but the number they left was the request line, and, after four tries, I still failed to get through. But I tried dialing back the number on the caller ID and, surprise, surprise, they actually picked up. I held on while they completed a contest, and then they put me on the air and asked about my present trip. I thought it was neat to do an interview while I was actually on the road, and it helped make the nearly 300 miles to Kansas City pass more quickly.
I make good time to Kansas City and decide I have enough time to reshoot some photos, so I go to Kinkos and review my Kansas City page and make a list of four stores to reshoot. US-50 and Chipman was the only new store, but I got daylight shots of 119th and US-69, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Gladstone, and finally I-29 and Barry before moving on up I-29 towards Omaha, before 3:00, thus avoiding any rush hour (don’t know when it begins in KC, though, or if it even extends north on I-29).
The good weather I had been experiencing changed by the time I reached Omaha, and it began to rain, thus slowing me down and making it more difficult to shoot the two stores. Fortunately, the rain was not heavy, but it got worse. After visiting the two stores, I looked up restaurants in the local weekly and headed up to Mother’s Good Food. The red beans and rice were good, and I was craving a decent meal, but I lost too much time waiting for a table. However, I didn’t waste the time, using it to begin reading No Logo, a book by Naomi Klein in which she rails against brands, including Starbucks. When I left Omaha, I pooped out too early and didn’t even make it to Des Moines before having to stop at a rest area. Then again past Des Moines. And finally one more time at a gas station before I finally reached Minneapolis around 10:00 AM, not 7:00 AM as I had hoped. The persistent rain throughout Iowa did not help matters any. But those three hours turned out not to be important, as I would later modify my route through Wisconsin.
Upon hitting the Minneapolis area, I first visit the Apple Valley store. But before drinking the Starbucks Coffee, I head over to Caribou Coffee to pick up some Hoof Mints for a coworker back at the office. And while there, I decide to give the coffee (another?) try, just to avoid being accused of being a Starbucks zealot who refuses to try anything else. I tried it, and I didn’t like it. Back to Starbucks. I reshot a couple of Burnsville stores and then worked my way northward. During my drive up I-35, about 9:00 AM, I had called a few massage ads from the local paper and managed to schedule a much needed massage and shower along my route, near I-94 and Lyndale. Along Lyndale I also discovered a Spanish restaurant named El Meson, and made plans to hit it for dinner if I finished in time. And I did. My bouncing around the Minneapolis metroplex went just fine, and I hit all the stores I needed except the two downtown that were closed for the weekend. I even had time to make it as far north as Forest Lake, and then blaze down I-35 to enjoy a hearty meal at El Meson and then visit two more stores towards I-94 eastward before heading into Wisconsin before it darkened.
I had already blown my chances to visit the two Madison stores before they closed at 8:00 and 8:30, so I started to think about my route and wonder whether I should just blow past the Madison stores and head straight to Milwaukee. I hadn’t even paid close attention to the map of Wisconsin, so when I passed an exit for Green Bay I was surprised. I reviewed the map and realized that I would travel fewer miles by heading straight to Green Bay first and then to Madison and Milwaukee. So at the next exit I traveled through Eau Claire and wound my way through town until I picked up SR-29 eastbound straight to Green Bay. For a state road, I was able to make pretty good speed. My only mishap was being pulled over for a headlight, which turned out, fortunately, not to be burned out. The officer pointed me towards a conveninece store down the road, which did not have the correct bulb. But I fiddled with it in the slot and it turned on. I drove without headlights, though, until it was just too dark too see, shortly before reaching Wausau, where I started looking around for a Wal-Mart, but I must have passed it. I found some other large store that was out of my particular type of bulb. So I just crossed my fingers that the headlight would stay lit ‘til Green Bay, and it did. About 10 miles shy I slept for a few hours behind a Shell station. Then I rolled into town towards the Starbucks and passed through downtown, where I noticed a 24-hr restaurant, the Blackstone Restaurant. I had me some pretty good biscuits and eggs and bacon, and almost witnessed a fight between a man and woman. He was about to go after her but the other folk calmed him down. Excitement over, I finished my late breakfast and drove out to the Starbucks to await its opening.
The sun comes up earlier this far north, so when I awoke around a quarter of 5:00 AM it was starting to get light and I was having trouble getting back to sleep. So I went ahead and took a few shots of the Starbucks, just in case it might start to rain later, and then went back to the Blackstone and took a photo, having recently decided that it might be interesting to photograph interesting and other places I visited while on my Starbucks tours. Thankfully, I managed to get a bit more sleep when I got back to the Starbucks, and woke up again shortly after 7:00 AM. Had my coffee and tried to shake the cobwebs out and set out on the road towards Madison. Actually, it was US-41 which goes to Milwaukee, but at Fond du Lac I picked up US-151 to Madison. When I hit town, I passed a Kinkos and stopped to offload my photos and check my mail. By some wacky coincidence, the NPR show To The Best of Our Knowledge, based out of Madison, WI, was on, and the topic was diners, and one of the segments was an interview with my kindred spirit, the guy behind Project Denny’s.
I grabbed a bagel sandwich and went on to polish off the two new Madison stores, and then on to Milwaukee, or rather the burbs. First Pewaukee, then rather than getting back on the freeway I took Capitol Drive instead in the hopes of passing a store that carried the headlight I needed. But I saw nothing before reaching 124th St. and reshooting a store, the last one I had left, I think, from a set of photos I shot with my camera on the low resolution setting. But on the way to Menomonee Falls I asked at a Jiffy Lube and they pointed me towards a nearby AutoZone. Headlight fixed, I relaxed, visited the Starbucks, and then took a short detour for another shower and massage, where I think I managed to doze for a few seconds at a time. A few seconds makes a big difference! Then two more stores before heading down towards Chicagoland, with a stop at the first Starbucks in Kenosha, WI, the home of Al Molinaro, who played Al on Happy Days.
Finally I reached Chicagoland, with enough Starbucks remaining to make the nearly 2000 miles I had already driven worthwhile. Up to that point, I had only visited 23 new stores, but I would visit another 39 Chicagoland, nearly twice as many. I started with the northern suburbs, the one area that I had never quite cleared out, and I managed to visit eight stores before they shut down (early on Sunday night, especially in the burbs). I had one tense moment on the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway when a suburban that was tailgating me took offense when I slowed down for safety and decided to try and run me off the road. I followed and called in his plate number to the police but they probably didn’t do anything. But the kicker was that the Barlett store, where I was headed, had already closed—the barista had given me incorrect information. But I had some good fortune as well, when a friend in Philly called me and suggested I stay in a hostel instead of out on the street. The hostel listed in my booklet was closed, but my friend looked up a couple of others on hostels.com and gave me some numbers. The Chicago International Hostel, near Sheridan and Devon, was indeed open with vacancies, so that’s where I headed after I finished up with Starbucks and managed to get me a good night’s sleep in a bed and a decent shower in the morning.
I awoke around 6:00 or 6:30 AM, not quite totally refreshed, but wanting to get on my way before any traffic, even light Memorial Day traffic, got on the road. I was able to blaze down Lake Shore Drive past downtown to see if a new store a Roosevelt and Wabash had opened (because none of the nearby stores I called could tell me). It was open, and then I hit the one in Little Italy, on Taylor, and then a few reshoots, Chestnut St., and then it was time for TOAST!!! I discovered Toast on Webster and Halsted during my previous trip to Chicago, and I fell in love with their breakfast. The atmosphere is a little too shi-shi (can somebody point me towards an etymology of this term)—towit: the manager-with-an-attitude frowned upon seeing my toothpaste on the counter—but the food is great. Hunger sated, I spent the rest of the day bouncing from Starbucks to Starbucks, managing to hit 18 in all before they closed down (early for Memorial Day). Unfortunately, I ended up going out west to St. Charles without calling and discovering the store had closed at 6:00. The Geneva and Aurora stores were also closed. But 18 is a good number, especially since I got those pesty Woodstock, Crystal Lake, and Lake Zurich stores in the far northwest out of the way. These stores had eluded me for years (because of time constraits). 18 was perhaps a too many, as a matter of fact. Though I’ve had more coffee during earlier trips, for some reason, I started to develop a pretty bad headache towards the end of the day. After visiting the Downer’s Grove store on Ogden, I drove out to I-294 intended to park outside the Starbucks in Crestwood, but I spotted an “oasis” (service area) and parked there instead. But I started feeling really bad, and even four Tylenol could not stave off a major headache. I felt so bad I needed to spread out, so I lowered the seat (I have a hatchback) and moved stuff around so I could spread out. I don’t usually do that because of the hassle of moving things around. But I felt like crap. I did managed to sleep however, and around 2:00 in the morning I felt better. Good enough, in fact, to feel bored enough to head back up to Chicago to see if I could find some fun. I managed to avoid getting into any trouble, and eventually I headed down to Crestwood to await the 5:30 opening of the Crestwood Commons store.
I had called my boss the previous day and managed to approval to come into work on Wednesday instead of Tuesday, which gave me time to hit Indianapolis. So on Tuesday morning I quickly polished off five stores in the southern part of Chicagoland and then headed out to a store in Merrillville, IN, and then down towards Indianapolis, with a stop in West Lafayette, home of Purdue University and the nearby Tippecanoe Battleground. One thing I noticed about the drive towards Indianapolis south on I-65 was how undeveloped the land was right up until I reached the I-465 loop. In most other cities I’ve seen as large as Indianapolis, development along the interstates extends pretty far out from the loop.
I moved on and hit Indianapolis around 10:00 AM, and very quickly managed to polish off six stores in the northern part of the city, drinking a shot of espresso instead of coffee at five of them. So I was shaking something awful in a short period of time, and buzzing hard. I managed to schedule the massage that I had been seeking, in large part so I could shower before visiting my friends down in Louisville. It was over near the Indianapolis Speedway area, and I was glad I had not arrived two days prior, during the 500. I’ll admit I feel bad to what I did to those poor ladies bathroom after all that espresso, but when you gotta go… Anyhow, after the massage I had just enough time to visit a couple of stores in the city proper, reshoot Conseco Fieldhouse, and get out before the rush our, visiting two stores in the southern burbs on the way southwards towards Louisville. And thus ended the Starbucks portion of my trip.
In Louisville, I had dinner with some friend, on their own road trip, from Dallas, visiting family in the area. But either fatigue or all that espresso or the rich food or all three combined to make me sick. I felt nauseated halfway through my Linguini with Sweet Thai Chili Sauce, and I couldn’t finish. I said my goodbyes and head homeward, towards Nashville, but didn’t get very far before stopping at the first rest area with a headache more serious than the previous evening. Which sucked because I was blowing my schedule. But I just could drive no more, and had to sleep a few hours before getting back on the road to Nashville, where I stopped at the Waffle House in a bad part of town (always an exciting experience), wandered around looking at the drug dealers, hookers, and cops (all of whom eyed me suspiciously) and then moved on towards Memphis, hoping to push on and clear before the rush hour. But I started to feel exhausted and dizzy and had to stop at the first rest area. By the time I moved on around 5:30, it was too late and I hit Memphis during rush our and lost a good 30 minutes to an hour clearing the city. After a quick drive through breakfast in West Memphis, I still had time to hit work at a reasonable hour, except I needed one more bit of sleep, but less than an hour. All told, I hit work around 4:30, much to the chagrin of my boss who had been expecting me to get something done. And thus endeth that road trip!