BOURBONNAIS, IL - AUGUST 06: Fans of the Chicago Bears watch a summer training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University on August 6, 2011 in Bourbonnais, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Bears start training camp on Wednesday. (Hooray!) It's a worthwhile experience for fans to take the trip down I-57, but you should read our tips before you go.
- Allow plenty of time to get to Bourbonnais. I-57 is under construction, and exits around Bourbonnais will be closed. Check for alternates before you leave the house so you can win an argument with your GPS.
- Drink water, eat enough food, and wear sunblock. Ensure your children do the same. It's been crazy hot in Chicago this summer and there are few places to avoid the sun at training camp. You want your trip to see the Bears to be enjoyable, and not end with a trip to the emergency room.
- Take advantage of the different themed events. The Bears have special nights for Armed Forces, families, and other groups. Check the schedule here. And while we're on the subject ...
- Adjust your expectations on autographs. If you head to Bourbonnais with the goal of only getting a Jay Cutler autograph, your trip has a pretty good shot at not going well. Though Cutler -- and Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher and all of the Bears stars -- have a good record of talking to fans, there is also no telling if their days will allow for much autograph signing. They may have meetings, media obligations, or even a bad day at practice keeping them from the autograph line.
If you are too worried about just seeing a star, you may miss out on a great experience with a less-known player. When I took my nephew to training camp a few years ago, we were entertained as Alex Brown took a fan's camera to give her a ton of shots from his perspective. Tommie Harris engaged the two sides of the autograph line in a chant, gave away his gloves and shoes to a young fan, then took Greg Olsen's gloves off his hands to give away, too. If all were worried about was seeing Urlacher, we would have missed out on the fun.
- Line up early for autographs. If you wait until practice is over you won't get a spot on the line.
- Don't be the adult who cuts in front a kid for an autograph. Seriously, don't be that guy or girl. It's gross.
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