Sunday 1st December
It’s Packers game day and my first task is to take an Uber back to Liberty Airport to exchange luggage. Upon arrival at the Delta lost baggage desk I can see my small suitcase next to the customer service agent. I’m relieved that it’s not been lost or taken by the wrong person. After an exchange of bags I taken an Uber back to my Airbnb so I can getting showered and change into my Packers game day clothing. Once I’m ready I take a bus to downtown Newark and after walking around I finally find a diner open called Central Restaurant. I take a seat at the counter next to a local Packers fan called Nate and his niece Shania. They too will be going to the game and ask me how I’m getting to the MetLife Stadium and after I respond trains they kindly offer me a spare seat in their car. A friend of Nate’s has provided parking in the tailgate zone which is pretty handy as there isn’t much around the stadium. Nate and Shania take me to their mate Ronnie’s tailgate, a guy whose dad owns the Central Restaurant. I leave pretty much as soon as I get there as Aussie Packers fan Adrian rings me to send details of his tailgate. It’s a short walk over and I’m reunited with some Packer fans whom I first met at Texas Live before the Cowboys game a couple of months ago. During our tailgating one of the guys notices Packers CEO Mark Murphy and we end up taking a group photo. I introduce myself, telling him my story and he replies that he has read about me! He seems a nice, down to earth guy and what a lovely surprise to meet him in the tailgate zone just outside the stadium. I purchased a cheap ticket on Stubhub a couple of days ago so I walk in with plenty of time before the game begins. It’s a nice stadium but a combination of winter weather and the Giants poor season contribute to a small crowd. As I’m walking to my seat I get a text off James Radish telling me that some of the Bay Port staff are in town and that he’s given them my contact details. I immediately get a text with a photo of an electronic ticket with seat details so I walk back to the other side of the stadium. I watch the first half with the Bay Port guys as there are so many spare seats around the whole stadium. Overall the Packers improve from last Sunday’s poor performance in San Francisco with Rodgers throwing for four touchdowns in really difficult snowy conditions. By half time the whole playing surface is covered in snow! Adams carries 6 receptions for 64 yards with 2 touchdowns and our defense intercepts young Giants quarterback Daniel Jones three times, with the picks setting us up 10 points and sending the Giants to their eighth straight loss. But at one point the score was 17-13 to the Packers with a Giants comeback looking strong. However Rodgers and the Packers offense respond with a 14 play, 75 yard march for an Adams touchdown and from then on it looks likely the Packers would hang onto their lead, and they do. During third quarter I leave the Bay Port guys to catch up with my mate Justin, who is attending his 51st straight game and also going to the Big 10 championship final on Saturday night in Indianapolis. We make travel plans, deciding upon driving down on Saturday, attending the game, heading to Lafayette after the game, sleeping at a motel for a few hours then travelling onto Green Bay for the Packers-Redskins game the next lunchtime. Once the Giants game is over we walk over to the train station to catch a service to Secaucas Junction from where I will change for Newark Penn station and for Justin New York Penn station. It’s a short journey and due to the cold weather I feel like a hot drink, so I walk to a nearby Dunkin Donuts for a peppermint tea. I work on my website whilst sipping on tea and after a google search I find that there aren’t many restaurants not only located around my Airbnb but also downtown Newark itself. But I do find a Chinese restaurant with good reviews not far from my Airbnb, so I take a bus and order to what turns out to be a nice meal, which I eat whilst watching the Sunday night game between the Texans and Patriots. I’m feeling really tired after a super busy weekend of travel and football so go to bed once the Texans have a sizeable lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
Monday 2nd December
I check out of my Airbnb at 10 and take a bus to downtown Newark. I’m heading back to Central Restaurant for breakfast. Today I go for eggs, potatoes, bagel with cream cheese and a cup of herbal tea. The total price is a mere $4.78 including taxes, one of the best value breakfast meals that I have ever had in America. I walk over to Newark Penn station to catch a train to New York Penn then change for a train to Northport, Long Island. I’m catching up and staying with Steve and Elise from the Electric Forest music festival that I attended in Rothbury, Michigan last June. The second train journey is a lot longer than the first with a change along the way. I’m picked up by Steve and Elise but the drive takes less than a minute to their apartment. It’s great seeing them again and we chat about our travels since leaving the festival. Steve kindly organises lunch from a nice Mexican restaurant across the road and we spend the afternoon watching DVDs/Netflix. They ask me if I wanna do anything but after last weekend’s travels I’m fine just relaxing. Early evening Steve drives us to a place called Dave and Buster’s, a venue that combines dining, drinking and video gaming. It’s so much fun playing classic arcade games such as The Terminator and Super Mario Kart sometimes with or against Steve and Elise. The food is good too and we end up losing track of time due to the ton of fun that we are having. Dave and Buster’s also have lots of TV screens showing sport and I get to sit down and watch the final quarter of the Seahawks-Vikings Monday night prime time game. A Seahawks victory sends our rival NFC North opponents down to a 8-4 season so the Vikings will be trying to win all their remaining 4 games, including the Monday night showdown between the Vikings and the Packers in a few weeks time in Minneapolis to win the division. We get back to the apartment around midnight and it’s straight to bed for me.
Tuesday 3rd December
Although I slept on a couch (sofa) last night I wake up at 9 having had a great sleep. I was so tired I think that I would have slept the same amount of time on a long distance flight. The morning is spent working on my website, updating social media and watching Netflix. I’m really getting into The Mandalorian and like most people I simply adore the small green baby alien like creature. Elise kindly organises brunch with the most delicious item being a bagel with cream cheese. Steven and Elise both claim that Long Island bagels are the best due to the water being of a higher quality than in the city and this bagel turns out to be one of the best that I have ever had. Whilst they are running some errands I get to watch more Netflix and then get showered and changed for a visit to the city. I’m catching up with some friends that I also camped with at Electric Forest. By the time we get to Penn station it’s now peak time so getting busy and crowded as commuters will be heading back home. I don’t think I could have a lifestyle whereby you spend a few hours a day just on travelling to and from work. As we are walking towards an Irish bar, Elise points out a good place for pizza. I’m in New York so it would be rude to say no and the pizza is pretty good - not the best pizza ever but so nice that after one slide I go back for a couple more - I’m gonna go back to being a health nut upon returning to Australia! We arrive at the meet up bar at half 5 and it doesn’t take long for the others to drift in after they have finished work. Danae, Katherine and Shannon were a fun and nice group of ladies to camp with at the festival and it was cool of them to say goodbye to me as they were leaving to take the shuttle back to New York on the last (Monday) morning. It’s funny that Steve and Elise camped just north of me whereas the girls were based to the south and I thought they might recognise each other but they didn’t. I’m a bit of a social butterfly at these events, making lots of new mates, just like most things in life! We talk about making plans for Electric Forest next year, which I plan to attend before returning to Perth. Tickets go on sale soon and it would be so good if we could all camp together as I met tons of awesome people at my last (and very first) Forest. For food we order some light appetisers to share and over a couple of hours I really enjoy both reuniting with fellow Forest people and creating new unions and friendships. The girls have work tomorrow so leave us to commute back home. We walk over to the Rockefeller Center to see the huge Christmas tree. As expected it’s pretty touristy but I get to see the tree and a couple of other buildings well decorated in the Christmas spirit. To get back to Penn station we walk through Times Square, the most touristy place of all, stopping by in Hershey’s Chocolate World. I’m tempted to buy something but I decide to be good (and healthy) by only having a couple of samplers and fun sized chocolate from the bag that Steve purchases. The Pig and Whilst Irish bar is just outside Penn so we have a quick stop before making the hour and a half journey to return to Northport. Again it’s close to midnight when I get to sleep again but I’m not as tired as I was yesterday.
Wednesday 4th December 1100 KM 700 M
I’m up at 9 and leave Steve and Elise’s apartment around half an hour later so catch a train back to New York. I stop on the way to the station at the deli that Elise got yesterday’s brunch so that I can get another bagel with cream cheese - so good! I’m having a light breakfast as I planned to meet up with my mate Adrian for lunch before I head back to Newark airport. But I get a message from Adrian on the train saying that he’s fallen sick and will be leaving work soon to return home. After arriving at Penn station I walk to a nearby Dunkin Donuts for a warm cup of tea and to make plans for the next few hours. There is a nice Indian buffet restaurant not too far away called Dhaka, located in an area called Murray “Curry” Hill as there are so many places to eat for South Asian cuisine. I spend a couple of hours munching on small plates of food whilst reading. I don’t have the will or energy to do anything touristy. As I’m walking back to Penn station and thinking of something to do before taking the train to Newark airport, I see a sign for English football. The first bar I walk into is pretty busy but the other Irish bar a couple of doors down is a lot quieter and at the bar I chat to some American and Irish Manchester United fans watching the Manchester United-Tottenham game. I only stay for the first half as I don’t want to cut it fine and it turns out to be a good decision as my train is delayed. Furthermore there are security delays at Newark airport. My flight is also delayed so that upon arrival at O’Hare airport I find that I have missed my connection to Green Bay. But at least American Airlines provide me with a meal voucher for dinner and a hotel room to sleep for the night. I take a shuttle from the airport to a Holiday Inn, which is actually a nice hotel. It doesn’t take me long to get to sleep after a pretty hectic day.
Thursday 5th December 320 KM 200 M
My flight for Green Bay is scheduled at 8:20 so I’m up early. I take advantage of the free breakfast once I’m showered and ready and after eating I hop back onto the complementary shuttle service to O’Hare airport. I head to the customer service desk to cancel my flight for my return to Green Bay as there is no point in going back for just one night as I will be traveling through Chicago again tomorrow for my trip to Indianapolis for Saturday night’s Big 10 championship game. So I decide to book a Greyhound coach to Indianapolis leaving at noon and work on my website whilst waiting for my bag. Once it arrives I do a thorough inspection to fully ensure that it’s the right one! I take the blue line train to downtown Chicago and stop in a Starbucks for a nice hot cup of herbal tea and to organise accommodation for my short stay in Indianapolis. It’s my lucky day as after sending a couple of Couchsurfing requests I get a confirmation from a host, who is also going to kindly be picking me up from the Greyhound station in downtown Indianapolis. I use the remaining spare time to check my social media, contact my host family, let James know that I’m not going to be able to come to Bay Port today and try to relax. Since my flight got delayed it’s been slightly stressful as I have had to change all my plans and make new ones - that keep on changing, consequently making it harder to relax! Justin was supposed to come down to join me in Indianapolis but his new boss won’t let him take Saturday afternoon off so can’t make the game. Now I thought about flying back to Green Bay but there are no direct flights with short layovers in O’Hare and after yesterday’s saga I don’t want another missed connection. Plus I would have to get up at 4am Sunday morning to catch an Uber to Indianapolis airport, a journey taking 20 minutes and in addition the Uber might take a while to arrive due to the time of the day. I decide to take a break from my phone and buy a take out sandwich from a Jimmy John’s located next to the Starbucks for my coach journey. It’s a short walk over to the Greyhound coach terminal and thankfully during the day the place is a lot more bearable. I’m also grateful that the coach service to Indianapolis is on time and as it’s leaving Chicago I have a light bulb moment. Why not take an early morning coach service from Indianapolis to Chicago then another coach to Milwaukee and get Justin to drive me up to Green Bay!? Not only will I be able to sleep longer on the bus but it will be much cheaper and I will arrive into Green Bay around the same time as I would flying. It turns out that there is a 2:40am coach from both Greyhound and Megabus that gets me into Chicago at 5am and then a Greyhound at 6am taking me into Milwaukee at 8am and if Justin picks me up from the Milwaukee Intermodal Center we will be in Green Bay around 10. I run this by Justin and he will be able to take me back to Green Bay for the Packers-Redskins game at noon. Hallelujah! I eat my sandwich on the coach and switch my phone off for a much needed break and also take a nap, waking up in the small town of Lafayette. Located west of town is the Wabash River and straight over the water is West Lafayette, home to the Purdue Boilermakers, whom the Badgers defeated in their last home game of the season. The total journey takes just under 4 hours and as Indianapolis is in eastern standard time I arrive into the downtown Greyhound station just after 5. My Couchsurfing host John is kindly picking me up and we spot each other as soon as I’m leaving the terminal. He laughs after I tell him about my crazy travel plans past, present and future. We stop by at an Aldi supermarket to pick up some food for dinner. John’s home is in the southern suburbs but is still only a short drive from Indianapolis. The other Couchsurfing host is Mahdi, originally from Algeria and whilst we wait for him to come back home from work, John and I get to know each other more. John is of Irish descent so over our chat he is drinking hard liquor and telling me about his roots in Ireland. He’s interested about my family background in India as John has visited the country a few times, but yet to make a visit to the state of Punjab. Mahdi arrives back home just after 7 and dinner is easy to make as it involves placing ready made pizzas into the oven. Over dinner I get to know more about Mahdi. He moved to America under the green card lottery system and works as a manager for Amazon. So I thought I had my travel plans organised but then my good mate Tristin rings me from Madison. I congratulate him on his Ironman performance in Patagonia, Argentina. He replies that he wasn’t happy with his finish time but I tell him not to be too hard on himself and how it’s a great achievement. Tristin is thinking of coming to the game on Saturday and wants us to take it in turns to drive throughout the night up to Green Bay! John and Mahdi laugh when I tell them how my travel plans keep on changing. I watch the Bears-Cowboys game and like most football fans I find it difficult as to why the Cowboys are playing so poorly this season, considering their talented roster. The Packers play the Bears next Sunday at Lambeau for our last home game of the regular season and hopefully we can eliminate their slim wild card playoff ambitions. As soon as the game is over it’s lights out and I’m off to bed.
Friday 6th December
I don’t have much planned today as I’m so tired from a busy week of travels. John kindly cooks me breakfast and I spend the morning trying to book tickets for the Electric Forest music festival in Rothbury, Michigan. I’m in the waiting line in the website for an hour or so before I finally get through and by that time all tickets are sold out. Next year it’s their 10th anniversary special so lots of people would like to go. Mahdi has cooked up some amazing food so I don’t need to leave the house for lunch. The afternoon is spent working on my website, relaxing and napping. I wake up at dinner time and John, Mahdi and I all eat some more amazing food. It’s Friday night and my last night in Indianapolis so John drives Mahdi and I to downtown to visit some bars. It’s mainly Ohio State fans in town but I get to mingle with some Badger fans. John and Mahdi leave me after an hour or so and I get an Uber back around midnight. Tomorrow is a big day and then a big night of driving so need to get some rest.
Saturday 7th December 320 KM 200 M
It’s Badgers game day and the 2019 Big Ten Championship title game. I spend the day relaxing as after the game I’m gonna do some driving whilst Tristin sleeps. Fortunately I manage to take a nap and get some more rest before Tristin arrives at Mahdi and John’s house at 4pm. They were great hosts and I write in their Couchsurfing journal how appreciative I am of their kindness and generosity. The conversation was great, food unbelievable and hospitality amazing. I can’t thank them enough and maybe one day I will be able to host them back in Australia. Tristin and I try to find somewhere downtown to eat but everywhere is so busy and after a short Uber ride we find a decent spot for food. We take an Uber back downtown and stop at the Wild Beaver Saloon to catch up with my mate Ian from Bucky’s Rescue Unit. He’s been a big fan of my football adventures around America and all of his other buddies are both keen and eager to meet me. Ian and his good mate Michael are planning to attend the game but currently don’t have tickets. After a can of Redbull Tristin and I walk back to his car to pick up my flag and head over to the stadium. We travel through a designated tailgate zone where they are playing really loud music so we don’t stay there long plus we want to arrive in plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere. Whilst lining up we meet a journalist called Joel Christopher, who used to manage Rich Ryman of the Green Bay Press Gazette and has also read my article. Our seats are in section 247 and the fans around us are mainly Ohio State. Now Buckeyes fans have a reputation for being a bit crude and rough at times as witnessed by some of the heckling and abuse that Tristin and I received walking around downtown. But the ones seated around us are nice so I get to make some new mates. It’s a tale of two halves for the Badgers with a great first half to take a 21-7 lead. At one stage Wisconsin were up 14-0 thanks to some nice work from quarterback Jack Coan. The Buckeyes manage to claw it back 21-14 but then right before the half Badgers score again to keep the margin at 14 points. I thought we had a psychological advantage having dealt a major blow to an Ohio State comeback but second half they outscore Wisconsin 0-24 to secure a 21-31 victory, clearly proving why they are the number one team in the country. That’s two defeats to this Buckeyes team with another second half capitulation. But I’m still proud of this Badgers team. It was just a shame they couldn’t get the momentum from the first half going. Tristin and I leave a couple of minutes before the end to beat the traffic and for the first couple of hours I will be doing the driving whilst Tristin sleeps in the back. Now I thought I would wake him up at Lafayette but due to all the rest that I had today combined with BBC Radio 1 Dance Anthems and Annie Mac Friday night shows, I drive all the way to Chicago. As soon as we are in the southern suburbs we stop for fuel and food and change seating. I can’t wait to sleep in the back.
Sunday 8th December 320 KM 200 M
It’s Packers game day but first we need to get back to Green Bay. I fall asleep around 2am and wake up in the suburb of Howard just before 5. I’m not getting Tristin to me drop off at my host family’s place as I don’t want to wake everyone up. I manage to sleep for a few hours before taking an Uber to the house. Everyone is up and ready and so I quickly get showered and changed into my game day clothing. Nick and I will be going to the game together and it will nice for both of us to have a boys day out. Heather kindly drops us off at Badger State Brewing tailgate lot 2 but there is no sign of The Fromigos. They have packed up and gone to a bar! Nick and I mingle with some other fans before going to lot 1 for my Shotski pouring duties. On the way we stop at the VFW tent to say hi again to Tristin and also bump into Eric. It’s crazy that last night Tristin and I were watching a college game in Indianapolis and afterwards drove 640 km (400 miles) to get back for a Packers home game at Sunday noon! Once at lot 1, as per usual, I revel in my role, trying to get as many people to have a drink, particularly Redskins fans. It’s great to see Scott, Justin, Matt and Jon with Nick helping to explain the rules as I’m pouring drinks. We arrive at our section just before the national anthem and just like last night I get to meet some nice new people. The Packers start well to go 14-0 up by the end of the first quarter but the rest of the game is a struggle with the Redskins defense restricting us to one field goal apiece in the last two quarters and no points whatsoever in the second quarter. But it’s a game the Packers are expected to win and they do so, but just not in style. And our defense restricts the Redskins to 15 points so a slim win of just 5 points. Yet a win is a win as they say and Packers go 10-3 for the season, a great achievement for our young coach and young team. After the game Nick heads back home but I decide to hang out a bit longer. Today and next week will be the final home game of the season and I quietly reflect on how much fun I have had in this great town. Whilst leaving Anduzzi’s Sports Bar I notice a women wearing a British flag. Caroline and Craig are from a small town in Hampshire called Farnborough and came to town just for the game. I want them to experience some real dive bars so take them in an Uber to Symbas and Boehmers up in Howard. They really enjoy listening to both my football and non-football travel stories, particularly cricket too! I’m back at the house not too late. What a weekend!