Just What the Hell Is Going on Here?

Hi, I'm Kevin, and I'm a truckaholic.

I work in what used to be the apparel center of the Merchandise Mart, so I have the more challenging task of tracking, trekking and luring trucks into my area since the parking situation is abysmal and where the scattered parking does exist, foot traffic is lacking. My office looks out on that beautiful stretch of bridge lined with 20-minute-only parking spots and I often dream of the day when I can walk downstairs to a line of trucks, just ripe for the picking. Yeah, unicorns are real too.

All snaps are taken (poorly in many cases) with my trusty little iPhone. All opinions are my own. I mix tenses with reckless abandon just to piss off anyone who'd notice. I have an active imagination, think in Proper Nouns and overshare (no, really?).

I relish the fact that today's interwebs empower anyone with balls enough to pretend like they matter to actually do so. I suppose that's not so different from the real world, maybe just a little more accessible for those of us who lean a bit more to the geekier side of life.

By day, I weave the front-facing end of our corporate website, including transforming our print products into fully interactive digital versions. In addition, I direct our online reputation and digital strategy in the social space. By night, I build websites for both fun and profit, with less time for fun these days. And on a good day, I can design my way out of a paper bag. I rarely get to make a site that is here just for shits and grins, so I'm having a blast doing so.

Follow my #foodtruck50 progress on twitter: @foodtruck50 and keep tabs on my antics on instagram, username sharednoms.

The short version

Let's just say that I am obsessed with food trucks here in Chicago. I first made it my goal to hit them all this summer (2012). Realizing there are some that just never hit the Loop, I downgraded that to 30. But that seemed a bit weak, so I bumped it to 50 and I plan to do that before the end of (astronomical) summer.

I started out just posting my daily conquests as a Facebook album. But now that I'm building a rapport with truck operators and organizing outings at work whenever I can, I felt this mission was a bit bigger than that. And so I started kicking around ideas on how to properly document this insanity. Tumblr? Blogger? Posterous? Nah...I build sites for a living. Time to man up.

And so, here we are (and it's a work in progress). I finished my first mission of eating from 50 different food trucks. Now it's on to even more missions. I'm just having way too much fun.

The long version

Ok, so why food trucks? Why now? Why 50? Why this site? Why, why, why?

Well, to answer all that, a little about me first. I am a self-taught cook and baker who at one point spent almost two years as a personal chef. I even enrolled in the culinary program for a bit at Elgin Community College. No it's not CIA, no I didn't finish (much as I wanted to). Point is, I like food. I like good food. And I have an entrepreneurial side to me that just won't quit.

Many reasons led up to stopping my short-lived food career, but it's always been in the back of my head. Maybe someday. Maybe a nice little coffee shop with amazing sandwiches and pastries. Or a pub with ridiculous beers and out-of-this-world grub. Maybe a juice bar with healthy options. Just can't get it out of my head.

So I cook all the time and bake whenever I get the chance. The baking has slowed down, but mostly because I'm recently on my own again and I've moved away from the neighbors and divorced out of the social circles that would revel in my experiments, both failed and successful. I was "the dessert guy" and we're not talking your boxed crap or no-bake cheesecake either. So holidays yes, but not much else these days.

But cooking...look out. My kids are over a few times a week and I am never one to part with leftovers, so there's no stopping me in the kitchen. And the advantage of cooking for just me is that I get to play with whatever I choose at times.

Why does all that matter? I work downtown and have no need...ever...to go out for lunch. Sure I head out on the rare occasion with coworkers just because, or to celebrate a birthday or what not. Sorry Chicago...my hard earned tax dollars barely enter your coffers. Instead I keep it local to the neighboring communities of good old Pingree Grove.

Enter the food trucks.

This just hit me on all cylinders. It's entrepreneurial. There are some really unique food options. The food is personal: in most cases I'm talking with the person directly involved in making the food I'm about to enjoy. How often does the chef of a restaurant come out to your table? Exactly. It's fun: there are no guarantees. Breakdowns. Menu changes. Sell-out items. Parking issues. Weather issues. It's all part of the chase.

So I laugh at the aldermen/restaurateurs who cry of unfair advantages. If I go to a restaurant, I know it will be there and not around the corner or across the street. If the weather's crummy, it generally will be open. If there's an item on the menu, it's usually available. If I want something off menu, or to change up a menu item, I nearly always can. I can sit down, relax, and eat my food. I can even hit the head if the need arises.

Completely. Different. Ballgame.

I like to fight for a cause I believe in. So when I learned about the obnoxious rules Chicago is hitting these trucks with, I decided to what I can. Vote with my wallet. I now have even less reason to go to a brick and mortar. I'd much rather support the underdog and have a blast while doing it, making new friends along the way.

And then it became a game. I got others interested as I urged them to join me. The response was nearly universal: "Oh yeah, the food trucks. I remember seeing one [last year, last month, the other day]." And once I was in, I was all in. First determined to hit them all, I realized that wasn't logistically feasible. So I downgraded to 30. Problem is, I was already at 22 by that point. Fine then, 50 trucks. It's a nice round number. And it'll be a challenge.

My Facebook album was getting lots of interest, likes, drools, screen licks...you name it. But it wasn't enough. And when I set my sights on 50, I realized this thing had grown bigger than just my social networks. So the seed for this site was born.

Now I can recount my journey in a more complete way. I can reach a larger audience. I can promote the trucks. I can add all the bells and whistles I want. (Did I mention that I'm a web architect?) And here's the kicker: I can write it all off! (Yeah, that web architect thing.)

That's a whole lotta win, my friends.

So sit back and enjoy. I still have a lot to do. And no, this thing won't end at 50.

See you on the streets!

Who is that dashing young lad?