Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Four

The fourth day of our weekend getaway would have started with church at St. John Wheaton. It’s weird to think that this Sunday, not only are we not going to be there, but nobody is.

I had planned to stop at the Popcorn Store after church, so the children could each pick a selection of candy. I’m happy to hear that store is currently able to do curbside popcorn orders, but it’s not the same without looking at all the candy displays in the shop!

I always wear Pinup Girl Clothing to Combo Breaker on Sunday. I had a really good outfit planned this year, too…my purple plaid Long Jun skirt paired with an Animal Crossing t-shirt. I even had new Animal Crossing pins for my lanyard!

The finals on Sunday are always so exciting to watch, and other than some pool time, I think we would have dedicated most of the day to Combo Breaker. I really loved seeing Tekken 7 last year, and I was really looking forward to experiencing some “Good Ass Tekken” with a hype crowd again this year!

I had big plans for Memorial Day…stay tuned!

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Three

I had another big day planned for the third day of our trip north. First things first…we always take a family picture on the Combo Breaker Floor. Actually, that’s always one of my favorite moments of the trip. I’m pretty bummed that we’re missing that picture this year, so here’s a look back at the family photos we took during our first four Combo Breakers!

After a morning visit to the event, we were going to head to Brookfield Zoo. This has become one of our favorite Chicagoland locations, (we can spend a good six hours just walking around), and it would have been our second springtime zoo trip (to go along with two winter visits). You never see the same thing twice, and we were really looking forward to discovering something new!

I think this would probably have been the night we went to dinner at Alfie’s Inn, too. This restaurant has become another favorite place on our journeys, and they make a mean patty melt!

After dinner, we would have headed back to the hotel for a swim, and an evening of Combo Breaker fun. Now, I know that there’s no way the floor would look like this on Saturday evening, so empty and organized, but I really this picture!

Eventually we would have headed back to our hotel room…I wonder what was supposed to be airing on the Food Network tonight?!?

Up next…the third and final day of Combo Breaker 2020!

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Two

The second day of our trip north for Combo Breaker was going to be A Big Day…it was the day we were going to to hop on the Metra and go into Chicago for a day of fun!

I had a lot of things planned…first we were going to take a water taxi to Navy Pier and ride the Centennial Wheel. After riding The Wheel at St. Louis Union Station last October, we were very excited about the idea of seeing the Chicago skyline from a similar vantage point.

We also planned on visiting The Bean, something we’ve done every time we’ve attended Combo Breaker (even the one year that we missed having our downtown day), and I’m sure we would have fed some pigeons, too, because that’s something we always seem to do.

I had hoped to stop by the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, and maybe the American Girl flagship store (although I’m still not sure how I would have convinced the boys to go along with that!). And of course we would have stopped at the former Marshall Field’s to pick up a box of Frango Mints before heading back to the Ogilvie Transportation Center to catch a train back to Schaumburg!

We were planning on going to Kuma’s Corner for burgers one night, and I think after a day of walking around downtown Chicago, we would have really appreciated that meal and a chance to relax. The “Lair of the Minotaur” burger, with caramelized onion, pancetta, bourbon poached pear, and brie looked especially good to me, but I was also looking forward to seeing the special.

After dinner, it would have been time to check out all that Combo Breaker 2020 had to offer. We love walking around the event the first day, and just taking everything in, from the vendors’ area to the main stage to casuals, and everything else! You never know what you’re going to see!

We always stop by the Gaming Generations booth to buy whatever catches our eye. The children were really disappointed about missing out on that opportunity this year, so they were really excited when Gaming Gen opened an online store, and they were able to order the plushes they were hoping to find at the event!

After that, we probably would have just headed back to our hotel room to relax and watch the Food Network, because our Chicago day is always exhausting. Sometimes, if we have the energy, we do go for a swim to relax, though, so that was always a possibility!

Up next…a visit to Brookfield Zoo!

Farewell, Pheasant Run

Tonight is Pheasant Run Resort’s last night in business.

What can I say about a place that in just a few short years brought our family so much joy, and helped us create so many special memories?

The first time we went to Pheasant Run in 2016, I was the one who was excited. It had always been that “fancy place out west” when I was a child growing up in Chicago’s suburbs, and I couldn’t believe we were actually going to have the chance to stay there! And we had so much fun exploring the resort that first trip…swimming in the indoor/outdoor pool, visiting Bourbon Street, and of course checking out Combo Breaker (my first, but definitely not last, fighting game tournament experience), at the Mega Center.

After that first long weekend, it became a place we all looked forward to visiting. As we approached St. Charles, no matter which direction we were coming from, we’d compete to see who would catch the first glimpse of Pheasant Run’s impressive tower. And as soon as we were settled in our room (seriously, the should have named it the Markel Room, because we stayed in the same tower location three out of the five times we were there!), and admired the view from the top of the tower, which on a clear day included some of Chicago’s tallest buildings, we always wanted to hit the pool first thing. There were also lots of Combo Breaker memories made over the years in the Mega Center.

Pheasant Run made me feel like a rock star, and helped me make some dreams come true. In 2018, upon arriving in our room, we found fresh cookies and milk and a lovely note waiting for us, and I felt so special. And in 2019, we had a full goody basket of cookies and candies, chips and sodas, plus Kane County Cougars caps and vouchers for tickets to a game during our stay, which was an experience I had always wanted to have…do you see what I mean about feeling like a rock star? And in between those two stays, Pheasant Run hosted us for a Christmas weekend, which allowed us to make some extra special family memories, including taking the children into Chicago to experience a full city Christmas, another dream of mine.

I am so sad that the sun is setting on Pheasant Run, a Chicagoland staple for hospitality and entertainment since 1963, but I will always be grateful for the memories we made there!

Markel Family Combo Breaker Getaway–Day Five

On Sunday, we stopped by Combo Breaker just as the pools were starting for the day. Since we were dressed for church, I took a picture of the Fab Five in their Sunday best:

And as is my tradition, I made sure to get a picture of myself wearing Pinup Girl Clothing on the Combo Breaker floor:

We then went to church at St. John Wheaton, where we unexpectedly ran into someone we knew…the Lutheran church is so small!

And then a stop at Oberweis for ice cream:

The lemon-blackberry was delicious!

After some lazy time in the hotel room, we went down to Combo Breaker for the Tekken 7 Top 8. The crowd was on fire, and I think this was my favorite fighting game to watch!

Ryan received a medal, as he has every year he has attended in one way or another:

That was the end of Combo Breaker, but we still had a few fun Chicagoland activities planned!

Markel Family Combo Breaker Getaway–Day Four

Last Saturday, we were really hoping the rain would miss us, because we had lots of outdoor plans for the day…and for the most part, it did!

We started at Brookfield Zoo, a place we visited in January. We wanted to see what it was like in the springtime, and we wanted to see the Brick Safari LEGO exhibit (more details on that in the future)!

After a quick stop at the hotel, we headed to Giordano’s for a dinner of appetizers (calamari, a sampler platter, a wings flight, and fried cheese curds), plus a very delicious dessert (Nutella cannoli bites):

And then we made the short trip to Northwestern Medicine Field to see the Kane County Cougars, a Class A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, take on the Beloit Snappers:

We didn’t stay for the whole game…at 9 pm, after two-and-a-half hours of play, they were still in the sixth inning, and the Cougars were winning 8-1 (the final score was 10-1), so feeling confident in the Cougars imminent victory, we headed back to the hotel for a little more Combo Breaker fun:

Next up: The final day of Combo Breaker!

Combo Breaker 2019

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a week since Combo Breaker 2019 began! Here’s a look back at some of my favorite moments, including some shots taken during the Tekken 7 Top Eight, which I think was my favorite game to watch this year:

The best part was Ryan being on staff this year. He worked really hard the entire time we were there (we barely even got to see him), but he also got to be part of something really great!

We’re already looking forward to Combo Breaker 2020!!!

Markel Family Combo Breaker Getaway–Day Three

Day three of our vacation was also the day that Combo Breaker began, and of course we had to get a family photo while we were all in the same place (which didn’t happen very often this year!)!

A highlight for whichever children have money to spend is visiting the Gaming Generations booth to buy something video game related. This year, it was all plush, and the nice folks selling them even gave us a discount for being frequent shoppers!

Walking through the resort, we discovered that Pheasant Run had set up this nice table of treats for the gamers to enjoy as they came through the lobby:

After a swim in the Garden Atrium pool (which was surrounded by casuals set-ups for the first time this year, and provided us with a nice soundtrack of buttons mashing), we headed back to Medieval Times for the third year in a row, and for the third year in a row, we got to support the Yellow Knight of Navarre. This year, Ladybug received one of his carnations!

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were exhausted, so we didn’t even stop by Combo Breaker again…just a bit more Food Network before we crashed!

Flashback Friday–Fun at Pheasant Run Resort!

I’m so excited that it’s almost time for our annual getaway to Pheasant Run Resort! Here’s a look back at some of the fun we’ve had over the years at the pools, on Bourbon Street, and of course, at Combo Breaker in the Mega Center!

No Coast. No Kings. Combo Breaker 2018

I’ve shared bits and pieces about this year’s Combo Breaker, held in the Mega Center (plus a ballroom) at Pheasant Run Resort, as I’ve recapped our trip north, but now it’s time to take a closer look at the event itself!

I think we spent more quality time at Combo Breaker than ever before this year. We actually saw a final in its entirety! We watched more top eights than we ever have, too. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Ryan play this year (he competed in the Mystery Tournament again, but we missed it), but we did see him hard at work volunteering many times, because he was busy with running brackets and being part of the security team all weekend!

We saw the cosplay contest this year, and following it, we got to see Samus up close, and I asked if I could take a picture:

We also spent more time at the arcade this year. I love how there was something for everybody to play…even me! I stuck with the pinball tables, but the children enjoyed lots of different games, including Crazy Taxi, Killer Instinct, Bubble Hockey, Hydro Thunder and Duck Hunt. It’s also always fun to take a walk through the vendor area, and some of the children bought something with the money they had been saving. And there were game-themed Redbull beverages again this year, which I find very amusing!

I think the most exciting moment of the weekend, though, was when Ryan was given this medal. He earned medals at the previous two Combo Breakers he went to (fifth place in Tekken Ball in 2016 and seventh place in the Mystery Tournament in 2017), but this year, he didn’t advance far enough to be in contention for an award. On Sunday, however, he was given this medal in thanks for all the hard work he did helping with setup and the event itself…we are very proud of him!

So that’s it for another Combo Breaker. The staff and volunteers worked so hard, often behind the scenes, to make this another fantastic event. It’s clear, even to someone with no familiarity with fighting games like myself, how much blood, sweat and tears goes into making it happen, and making it run smoothly. And even though I neither play nor truly understand fighting games, this has become one of the highlights of my year, because the community is so great, the energy and enthusiasm in the Mega Center is so fantastic, and the event is so well-organized, that it’s impossible not to love it and have an amazing time. After three years in attendance, Combo Breaker is firmly in “family tradition” territory, and we are already looking forward to going back next year!