Sunday, March 06, 2011

A Chiditarod Afternoon

What I can tell you, is that it was cold.

An El train ride and bus transfer later and I was standing on Wolcott and Grand, waiting for what has to be one of the most amusing and unusual events in the city of Chicago. I had known about the Chiditarod for about two (or possibly three) years, via Krueger. While I had been invited to go several times, I had not yet managed to be in country at the right time to actually enjoy it. Finally, by fate, or by design, I was in the country and ready to enjoy the ride.

The Chiditarod (for anyone who is not aware) is the world’s largest bar crawl/food drive/masquerade ball/shopping cart race. It’s set up and run along an ethos that is rather well known to burners, mostly that people have a great time and leave no trace of the event behind. Aside from that as people participate in the race groups collect food and donations for the Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation, helping the hungry while boozing it up=Score! Last year they managed to collect seven thousand pounds of food, and over $10,000 dollars for the Anti-Hunger Federation. All that while engaged in the bar crawl masquerade good time. Fun!

So, being in the city I worked out directions, got up early, had the worlds most delicious lox and bagel at the shop down the street from the apartment, jumped on to a train and a bus, and well, there I am on the streets of Chicago at noon on a blustery afternoon.

Good times.

The day before the weather had been what I would call warm, almost balmy. With this in mind I wore a windbreaker without a hat. The next morning headed to the train I thought it might have been a good idea to bring my hat, but I wasn’t dying, and it wasn’t that cold.

By the time I got to Wolcott I knew I should have brought my hat. It was seriously cold. It was also windy. And it had started to snow. You have to love Chicago weather.

I could tell I was in the right place thanks to a couple of factors. First there was a band in the middle of the street. Good sign.

Then, there was a gate. Inside the gate were peeks of multicolored insanity, people shouting, jumping, and moving with much general mayhem.

Finally there was the odd assortment of people lined up on the street by the do-not-cross tape, and a collection of photographers lining the street at both ends.

Definitely in the right place.

Announcers stand on the rooftops and goad the crowd below, reminding them of rules. On the sidewalks people via for positions and try to figure out where to stand to take photos of the start.
I freeze. Seriously. It’s cold. It has started to snow and the wind was blowing like mad. The wind was blowing strong, through skin and straight down to the bones. However, I figured I could endure anything for the time it would take for the race to start. It was supposed to start at noon.

At 12:30 the jumping pirate troupe leader on the roof jumps up and down and says about fifteen minutes to launch. The wind blows harder and I feel like heading on to the bar rendezvous. However, I had been told enough times that being there at the start was the most fun. With that in mind I figure it was worth time for waiting.


As the countdown finally finishes the gates open and the Chicago Urban Iditarod Shopping Cart Race/Hunger Food Drive commences.

We had men in corsets.

We had gnomes.

British punks.

The Barnes and Noble Rollers.

Ninja Turtles.

The Jamaican Cool Runnings team



Honestly, there were close to 144 teams altogether, and I don’t have time to talk about them all. Also, I only saw half of them take off through the gate. There was pushing, shouting, jumping, screaming, a gnome running back for his hat. And when it was all over I watched as a troupe of cows pushed their cart down the windy Chicago street and realized I was freezing.

I was also a touch lost. I’d been told that the bar rendezvous was about a mile away and started walking (the whole time thinking that in Korea I’d have a cab by now). The rain sprinkles that I had been enduring were starting to turn into real biting snow. I was freezing and dreaming of a cab, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a cab drives by. As soon as I see it I put out my hand, hopeful, but not expecting anything; the cab had gone by so quickly.

To my amazement the cab stopped. I jumped in and five minutes later was out of the cold and hugging Krueger on the street where he directed me into a warm Five Star Bar and commanded I get myself a glass of pirate-buttered rum that promised to be warm.

I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with Chiditarod volunteers, observing the check-in, sending people back to play games in the bar and, happily, on the receiving end of bribes to get teams out of the checkpoint early.

Being in the checkpoint allowed me to also see some of the teams a bit more closely.

Like Bananas, WWF Wrestlers, the Turtles, the Huns, Girl with random upskirt…

And angry married guy. He was seriously angry. Every two sentences included “because I’m married” or “you know when I am married” which included classics like lack of decision making, brutality, wives, etc…mostly we didn’t listen. Angry married guy definitely didn’t get out of the checkpoint early (hint for next year, need more bribes!)

Event also included the Force. Always good to see her.

In the end I had to leave with the Force, mostly because I needed to get back uptown for a dinner date. Fortunately Krueger and the rest of the crew were headed to the finish line at the Bottom Lounge. Reports say that this year the Chiditarod raised over $13,000 dollars, although the food count is not yet in.

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do it next year. Gods willing I will try to officially volunteer or run on a team.

Edit: My totals on last year's haul, are from what I understand, off. The Chiditarod in 2010, via the Chiditarod website: Raised: 14, 525 pounds of food

The results have not been posted for 2011.


Cynthia said...

Yeah...angry married guy almost got sucker punched by that point!!! He was such a pain in the ass at check-in. Loved the post!! Foxy

Saradevil said...

I know, he was SO FREAKIN angry.

Dude needed to chill. His wife could have put him in a diaper!

Anonymous said...

Very nice write up, thank you. That was me, the gnome that went back for the hat (our girl's gnome hat, no beard...therefore no chin strap to hold it in place). I thought I was going to get stampeded by wrestlers and ninja turtles and end up in the happy garden in the sky.
We are the Area 3 All Stars. This year we where Lady Gaga, Traffic Management Authority and Gnomes. Chiditarod is always a good time and for a great cause. Hope you make it next year.