Three cities. Two stadiums. A total of 1,996 air miles traveled over 84 hours. Yes, I had the genuine privilege of shuttling between both of our division playoff games this weekend, a trip that brought us one golden prize: The second-ever postseason matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears -- an NFC Championship Game that will most assuredly make us the Epicenter of Humanity this week.
I won't pretend it was some kind of Excellent Adventure. Odysseus, I am not. But I tried to jot down some notes along the way to give you a feel for what it was like to witness the Packers and Bears advance within a day of each other. Don't worry. Whenever it got boring, I just embellished.
(All times local.)
Friday, 3:30 p.m.: During a snow-driven drive to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, I turn on local sports radio. A Packers fan named Carl calls in from what he says is the bathroom in a Stuckey's in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Carl is part of a caravan of Packers fans driving to Atlanta and seems concerned for his safety. Hilarity ensues.
Friday, 5 p.m.: The airport feels like the Metrodome concourse: Spilling over with people looking to get out. The flight monitors are on the fritz, so I follow a guy wearing a Falcons No. 7 jersey with "Vick" on the back to the Atlanta gate. I start looking for worm holes.
Friday, 7 p.m.: The guy sitting next to me, who incidentally reminds me of Marty McFly, says his kids missed the entire week of school in Atlanta because of snow. (No insult intended here. After all, I myself am usually associated with the cast of "Freaks and Geeks.")
Saturday, 9 a.m.: Look outside the hotel window to see at least two piles of snow. Starting to wonder about McFly's idea of a "storm."
Saturday, 4 p.m.: Heading to the Georgia Dome with NFC South colleague Pat Yasinskas, I notice the shoulders and part of each outer lane of I-85 still iced over. Now I see what McFly is talking about. Apparently, Atlanta has gone green when it comes to snow removal: Sunlight will eventually do the trick, I suppose.
Saturday, 8:20 p.m.: Pull out my stopwatch to test the delay between the live action and the television screens in the press box. It's 23 minutes. I keep my mouth shut to avoid the wrath of hyper-sensitive Falcons fans.
Saturday, 10:15 p.m.: Start searching the excellent database at pro-football-reference.com to find examples of a better playoff game than the one Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is putting together. Not many instances are popping up.
Saturday, 11:30 p.m.: Laugh as Rodgers starts ticking off games he might have played better in during his career, including an appearance in the Insight Bowl. Please.
Saturday, 11:55 p.m.: Walk back to the press box to write. I'm struck by how confident the Packers are that they will advance to, and win, the Super Bowl. "We've got that swagger going now," receiver Donald Driver says.
Sunday, 2 a.m.: Return to the hotel and start packing in anticipation of a 5:45 a.m. wakeup call. Debating whether to sleep. Cable TV is showing "Bette Midler: The Showgirl Must Go On." Sleep it is.
Sunday, 7 a.m.: Arrive at Atlanta airport to see Fox analyst Mike Pereira, the NFL's former vice president of officiating, scheduled for the same flight to Chicago. Pereira tells Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune that the rule that cost Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson a touchdown in Week 1 should be changed. Nowwwwwwwwww he tells us!
Sunday, 8:30 a.m.: Arrive at Chicago-Midway and begin desperate search for coffee. See a policeman holding a cup of Dunkin' Donuts and ask him where he got it. He points across the street and said he brought it from the train station. I resist the urge to ask how he got more than 3 ounces of liquid past security. I guess 3-1-1 applies only to some people.
Sunday, 8:45 a.m.: Get in a cab and cruise up Lake Shore Drive before encountering a standstill at the 18th St. exit. Our cabbie screeches into the left lane, floors it for about a mile and then cuts off the line at the last possible moment. He is tipped accordingly.
Sunday, 12:15 p.m.: Watch No. 82 of the Bears catch a 58-yard touchdown pass and check a roster to see who he is.
Sunday, 12:17 p.m.: With the Bears holding a 7-0 lead, I suggest it's time to start discussing a Packers-Bears matchup during our Countdown Live chat.
Sunday, 3:30 p.m.: Get freaked out for the second time this season by Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, who hasn't removed his tinted contact lenses before giving media interviews. The dark part of his eyes are red. I keep my distance.
Sunday, 7 p.m.: Wander a Soldier Field parking lot with NFC West savant Mike Sando, who isn't entirely sure where he left his rental car.
Sunday, 8 p.m.: Celebrate our arrival at the Epicenter of Humanity at a deep dish pizza joint. But I'm shamed upon arrival after Sando tells me he dropped 38 pounds this season with a new exercise regimen. Let's just say I am currently suffering from the furniture disease. I order a salad and sulk.
Monday, 11 a.m.: Touchdown at NFC North blog headquarters. Let's do it all again sometime soon!