Chicago Road Trip, Day 1

[Photos will come later; I’m having trouble uploading photos or captures to my netbook at the moment.]

Diamondqueen, the Hooligans, and I set off this morning for our four-night Chicago vacation, all packed into my sister’s little cherry-like PT Cruiser because the family’s van developed an oxygen sensor problem on Saturday. Considering the compression of personal space and the fact that the video player for the kids wasn’t working, things went fairly smoothly for the first part of the trip. We lucked out with clear, blue-sky cloud-scudding weather and very moderate temps.

One sight that amazed us was the fields of wind turbines north of Lafayette, Indiana. The last time I travelled this route was 29 years ago, and there definitely weren’t any turbines then,

We were chugging along until we reached the I-80 junction; then we saw a notice that there was an accident and the right two lanes were closed. Sure enough, traffic on the ramp was crawling along, and all the lanes on the interstate itself were clogged. Since we weren’t sure if a wrecker had even been brought in yet (and were very concerned about everything grinding to a halt for hours), we got off at the next exit, which took us into Gary, Indiana.

I’d always heard bad things, but downtown Gary was unbelievable. Beyond the expected blight, old, ornate buildings were literally falling down all around, with roofs caved in and walls crumbling. We were pretty anxious to get out of there, but Mrs. Garmin (my sister’s GPS), kept trying to send us back to the interstate with the traffic jam. I kept insisting we ignore her as we tried to find our way to I90. Finally we spotted a casino. Diamondqueen pulled in and reprogrammed Mrs. Garmin to take us from the casino to I90. This time the old electronic bird cooperated, and we were finally headed toward Chicago.

Originally we were going to make a side trip to the outlet mall in Aurora so Diamondqueen could feed her Dooney & Bourke habit. On the map it appeared it would be simple enough to stay on I90 until we reached I290, then take the directions we had from the mall to our hotel in reverse. We didn’t anticipate just how horrible the traffic would be, a nasty snarl complicated but our total lack of knowledge of the city. Diamondqueen wound up being happy for her little car as she jockeyed and cut in and out. Finally we made it onto I290 and had some breathing room, but we’d gone only a few miles when we spotted another backup ahead.

This time we exited into a neighborhood were the police we saw were wearing bullet-proof vests. Diamondqueen checked the street names later and found we had been joyriding through Cicero. We gave up on the outlet mall, swearing we’d welcome a long wait in the lobby of the Essex Inn rather than suffer any more traffic misadventures. As it turned out, we got to our hotel fairly easily and were checked right in.

The kids perked up as soon as they saw our room: A darling little bedroom/sitting room combo (“bijou,” as Hyacinth Bucket would say) overlooking the garden balcony and Michigan Avenue, with a view of the Field Museum beyond the park trees. What thrilled the Hooligans and their mother most of all was our discovery that the sitting room couch was actually a pull-out bed. They’ve been arguing who would draw the short straw and have to sleep in the same double bed with me. I snore, apparently quite badly. J.Hooligan had wanted a rare Pokeman card from S., so he traded her a number of things for it, including a commitment to sleep with me. With the sofa bed, I’m not only sleeping alone; I’m also in another room behind a closed door. This delighted them as much as the cute room and the neat view.

We all lay down for a nice rest then. I don’t know what ensued in the bedroom, but I spread out on my nice sofa bed and took a nap. We roused for dinner around five o’clock local time. I’d found out there was a pizza place just a couple blocks over from our hotel. It was crowded, but we slipped in for a table just before it got really busy. After our dinner, we walked across the street from our hotel to Grant Park and over to the Buckingham Fountain. We looked out at the boats on Lake Michigan, strolled through the rose garden, made friends with some squirrels, and watched several bunnies.

Back at the Essex, we stopped to take a look at the pool and to get some goodies out of the vending machines. The rest of the evening we lolled around the sitting room, Diamondqueen at the desk with her netbook, me humped over the coffee table trying to write this post while J.Hooligan bounced on the sofa and lectured on the requirements of karate and S.Hooligan called continually from the bathtub.

Tomorrow, Navy Pier and the dubious wonders of the American Girl store.


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