Windy City Stories: Wanderers

Words: Mark Aquino
Images: Mark Enriquez | JD Lazaro | Mark Aquino

The sunlight stared at me as I gradually arose from my deep slumber. The remnants of alcohol and steak flavors lingered in my mouth as I struggle to open my heavy eyelids. “I’m never drinking again” – I murmured as I help myself to a bottle of water to quench my parched mouth. I gulped the cold flavorless liquid hoping it would rapidly cure my hangover. The throbbing head, lethargic mood and the feeling of my body out of sync were starting to get to me but last night was worth it. I stare at my phone questioning, gazing at the clock, wondering why I woke up earlier than the usual. I then realized we were in a different time zone – that meant we had an extra hour for activities.

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I look over and noticed Mark and JD already awake. We had two separate agendas for the day. JD and I planned on exploring downtown Chicago while Mark stayed behind for photo-shoot sessions.

 

We headed over to the hotel’s dining hall to satisfy our famished bodies. We tidied up the room and before you know it, Mark’s first photo-shoot session started. I remember her gleaming gold hair, radiant skin, gorgeous smile and her pleasing personality. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – she was beautiful. Alexis was the first subject of the day. We were able to capture Mark’s professionalism and talent behind the viewfinder as the camera closes its shutter to capture the beauty and the art beyond the lens.

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My phone rang. Our friend parked near the lobby to pick us up. We left Mark behind and headed downstairs to meet our friend, Kevin Tomsa. Kevin is a young ambitious kid that loves cars in general. He is one of the admins of a well known Evo page on Facebook. He was kind enough to drive us around and gave us a tour of the Windy City. Our first stop was at Misoya – a well known ramen joint with multiple locations. It had it’s own waiting room. I was told that it gets really busy there. I ordered the Miso ramen with Tonkotsu and added some chilli paste on the side. The noodles were just right, the broth was rich with flavor and the chilli paste had the right amount of heat. It was a good meal overall. A bowl was able to fill me up and somehow cured my hangover. I was ready to explore Chitown.

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We had a little detour, we stopped by a Krispy Kreme plant per Kevin’s recommendations. Truthfully, I’ve never had a Krispy Kreme donut before. A red neon sign lit up and so did Kevin’s face. Hot donuts were available. We got a free sample of warm, original glaze donut. On my first bite, I think I felt my pupils dilate. The sudden rush of sweetness raced through my palette, momentarily blocking my other senses. I saw the gates of heaven open up. Pretty dramatic but that’s that best way to describe that moment. Kevin grabbed a box loaded with donuts to go as we continue our drive to downtown Chicago.

 

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Our first stop was at this giant bean looking structure that also acts as a tourist magnet. Known as the cloud gate – it was constructed between 2004 and 2006 and designed by Anish Kapoor. The design was inspired by Liquid Mercury.  Coincidentally, we saw our NYC friends from PRIME, Fly AutoMotion and RAVSPEC at the park. I guess this structure really is a people magnet. We walked around Millennium park for a bit before deciding to explore a different area. It was a beautiful place with open spaces. Most visitors flocked the bean. JD captured a little essence of life in the park.

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We walked back to the garage and decided to drive towards Upper Wacker drive. The architectural skyline was amazing from there, the scenic view was breathtaking . We reached the end of the road and basked in the scenery in front of us. From there we drove down through the depths of Lower Wacker. It’s a different “underworld”. We parked and walked along the river. This city surprised me, I wasn’t expecting something like this at all. This was a part of town I never got to explore when I lived here. It has its own beautiful secrets and definitely has a lot more to offer.

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The sun was sinking fast and it got colder by the minute. We decided head back to the suburbs to link up with Mark and Ricky at a car wash before we head to a car meet hosted by JDM Chicago.

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After the cars were washed and looked squeaky clean, we drove over to Culver’s – a local fast food chain. The car meet was held there as well. We saw our friends from Four Star Society – a local car crew consisting of friends with badass cars. We went in and grabbed a quick bite as cars started to fill the lot. We got to see a sneak peek of one of the East Coast’s best CT9A. This Evo is by far my favorite and it went on to win the Best of Show at Wekfest but we’ll get to that later.

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A little house party was organized and we accepted the invitation. JD and I hopped in Rob’s VIP themed Lexus. Rob is a long-time good friend of Mark ever since they were back in the Philippines. His car was on air suspension and had no problems cruising the mean streets of Chicago. At the gathering we met up with more of our East Coast friends. There was a little project going on. Anime vinyl was getting installed on a BRZ for the show – talk about time crunch. We didn’t spend much time at the party as we needed to be up and early for the roll in to Wekfest the following morning. By this time, the weather was already bitter cold….and I was wearing shorts. We headed back to our hotel and snoozed in the comfort of our beds. It’s been a long productive day for us. In what felt like a minute of sleep, the alarm suddenly goes off….nobody got up. As usual, we were late. More on that in our final entry.

Stay tuned for more as we attend the best car festival – Wekfest.

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