Originally published in February 2015 for WindyCityCurling.com.
Although I’ve always wanted to, I have never had the opportunity to do much traveling.

That is one intriguing thing about curling.  When “The Big Spiel” was announced, I thought this would make a good road trip.  Rounding up a team, Windy City Curling made its way to Minnesota.

THE DRIVE
We lucked out in terms of weather.  Although, Phil was ready for anything.

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We left on early on a Thursday and missed a lot of the snow storms that hit the area.  Only a couple bad spots.

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The drive went pretty quick.  Lots of talk about curling, the hope of expanding our club, and some international curling (which Phil is an expert about).  The first hour of tunes went to Phil, the driver – meaning French country music.  None of us in the car, including Phil, speak French.  Most of the drive, luckly, was dedicated to 80’s and 90’s rap and hip-hop.

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HOCKEY NIGHT IN MINNESOTA
One of the highlights of the trip was heading to the Xcel Energy Center to see the Chicago Blackhawks square off against the Minnesota Wild.  Greg and Phil were in full-blown Chicago regalia … meanwhile yours truly is actually a Detroit fan.  So, I was rooting for Minnesota.

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For those who didn’t know, Charles Schultz (creator of Peanuts) was born in Minneapolis and grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Meanwhile, outside the weather was a bit nasty.  The Minnesota faithful were a bit late getting there.  I’m guessing at puck drop, the stadium wasn’t half full.

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It was really cool having Jessica Schultz from the US Olympic Team join us for the game!  Flashing back, I was able to interview Jess about a year ago for the blog.  We kept in touch throughout the year, and she was able to join us for the game.  The weather caused her and her friend Lysa to miss the first period, but they made it just as the Wild scored their first goal of the night.

IMG_0327 (2)Pictured (left to right):  Lysa, Jessica, Dan, Phil, Greg, Greg’s friend

It was cool to get to know Jessica more.  You could tell in her eyes and smile that she just has this natural spark for life, which was really cool.  She was heading to Honduras the week after on a mission trip – she works as a Physical Therapy Assistant.  Heard more about her future, getting ready for a half marathon on more.  Truly, an awesome person.  Everyone, stop now and go buy a Rock Life hoodie.

CLUBS AND FOOD (probably a little too much about food)
The Big Spiel took place in three different clubs in the Twin Cities area.

Four Seasons Curling Club
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Four Seasons Curling Club is the home of the US National Team Performance Center and Curling Night in America.  This was also the first rink we visited in our trip to Minnesota.  (Notice in the picture how the left-most sheet is empty — let’s just say the game went quickly).  The club definitely felt new, almost having the “new car smell.”  It was a great sheet of ice, and interestingly had sponsor logos in the houses.  I’d say that this was a distraction, but out team definitely had a bit of nerves (a bit of a theme for the trip).

But, lets talk about food.  The ongoing joke leading up to the bonspiel was the search for a Jucy Lucy (a cheese-stuffed burger).  We had one at Gabe’s, the restaurant at the Club.  The Jucy Lucy is a brilliant invention, as I’ve always disliked restaurants that throw a cold piece of cheese on a burger.  Gabe’s had some truly tasty food, including the gouda fries which one of our competitors had.  The walleye fries sounded good as well.

St. Paul Curling Club

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Eight sheets of ice for 1,200 members – St. Paul Curling Club is the largest curling club in America.  Although I have very little experience in curling, this felt like the home of curling.  This two-story club features a great restaurant and bar one the second floor.  Uniquely, this club’s second-floor men room actually had a window view to the curling ice below.  I was a bit worried that I’d accidentally step too far back from the ‘privacy wall’ at the urinal …

Now, my favorite meal of the trip — even surpassing the Jucy Lucy (yes, that’s spelled correctly) and the Walleye I had at the Wild game — was poutine.

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Bacon, gravy, cheese and french fries.  This was the first time I have ever had this tasty dish, and I put the half marathon training on the shelf.  Words can’t describe the deliciousness.

Our second, Phil, had a fun experience at St. Paul.  He had wanted the chance to meet US Olympic Skip John Shuster, who happened to be curling on the sheet next to us.  I’ll link to Phil’s story, in his own words, further below.

Frogtown Curling Club

IMG_0448Pictured (left to right):  Dan, Phil, Greg, and Nate 

We were only at Frogtown for one draw, but is the home of “The Shot.”  Take a look at the link below for an article written by Greg.

Frogtown is a converted-hockey rink that now is a dedicated curling ice.  We had heard throughout the weekend that it was going to be really cold at Frogtown – the curling ice is not insulated.  But, to be honest, Frogtown felt like home to us.

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With tables, lounge chairs and couches – it just felt like home.   Pinball machines in the corners, and I swear I saw someone had a 12-pack of Blatz.  There was a few people, underneath a few blankets, enjoying the competition up close.  The previous draw, including our friends from the Houston Curling Club, were watching from the warming room.

A GREAT TRIP
From a venture to Surly Brewing Company, a late-night ‘magic’ find of a Mexican restaurant at 3am (assisted by Siri or all things), and a hilarious stop for beer at a place called Dancing with the Sands (where I even was answering their phones on their behalf), the trip to Minnesota was a great trip.  We never even stopped on the Minneapolis side of the Twin Cities.  And personally, I still want to visit some touristy places like the Mall of America or even St. Paul’s Cathedral (which Red Bull was setting up a giant ramp for an event later in the month).

It’s funny, Phil kept saying how cool it would be to live in the area.  He’s not the only one who thought that.  Great job TCCA, St. Paul CC, Frogtown CC and Four Seasons CC.  Great job St. Paul.