My Kind of Town?

editors note: I did write this on Sunday, but had some issues transferring the pictures, so things got delayed until Monday.

OK, so as promised last week, tonight is going to be the recap of “The Dee’s Take Chicago”. Or in my case, re-take! This whole trip to Chicago was really for Grace. I lived in the big city for about 5 years combined and grew up within a stones throw for the first 18 years of my life- visiting the Grand Lady many times.

As mentioned in last weeks entry, we traveled from the Keweenaw to Geneva Lake for my mom’s memorial service, as well as to grab any things from my mom’s house we wanted to keep with us. Our trip started pretty bright and early on Friday morning. We drove to Harvard IL to catch the train to Chicago. There were a lot of “firsts” for Grace and Nora on this trip, the first first was to travel on a train. The trip from Harvard in the far NW of the Chicagoland area takes around 90 minutes, as it makes pretty much all of the stops all the way there, but is still a much better way to go than driving. I really do not know how long it would take via driving these days, but back when I would take the train in, it would be close to an hour without traffic. So despite having to make all the stops, I think we still came out ahead as far as commuting time. 

Once reaching the station in Chicago, we were met by a friend from Jacobsville of all places. She lives in Chicago and when she heard that Grace and I were going to go there, she convinced Nora to tag along and be with her while Grace and I painted the city. She took us to her apartment and then we grabbed breakfast. After that, she drove us to our hotel, where Grace and I dropped of our luggage and then it was off to the Shedd Aquarium. From that point on, it was just Grace and I for the next 44 hours or so. 

It was so cool to watch Grace’s face light up as we drove around the city and she saw the mightiness of the buildings and other features of the city. I can only imagine what it was like for her to see all of this at her age. By the time I was her age, I had been downtown at least a dozen times and had driven right past it on the Kennedy expressway and south Lake Shore Drive probably 30 more times.

I can say that it has been probably 40 years or more since I have been to the Shedd Aquarium, so it was quite the experience for me to see all that had changed in that time. The giant tank that is the cornerstone for the aquarium is still there and has not changed much at all. It is so huge, it probably will never change either! I was able to snap a shot of Grace in front of it while a shark swam by in the background. A new exhibit in the past 40 years is one where persons can reach into a shallow tank and “pet” the stingrays.

We spent a good chunk of the afternoon taking in all that the Shedd had to offer. We ended exiting out of the front of the building, which meant that we had a bit of a walk to get to where we would be able to flag down a cab. Add to that the fact that it was the first day of Taste of Chicago, and traffic was a nightmare in the Grant Park area. we ended up walking over to Michigan Avenue and then north up that until we were past the Art Institute, that is where the mess of humans and vehicles dwindled to regular Friday afternoon traffic and we flagged down a cab to take us to the Blackhawks store. We picked up some merch at the Hawks store and then got to our hotel where we checked in and then I collapsed for a brief while before we had to get ready for the next adventure of the day.

That next adventure was to take the elevators to the 95th floor of the Hancock building where we would have dinner at the Signature Room. My date put on a beautiful dress for the occasion and I did my best to keep up with her look. Unfortunately, the weather decided to be uncooperative with us for our dinner and provided us with a beautiful view of nothing but the gray of clouds. Just as we were finishing up our meal, the clouds tried to depart and did enough so that we could at least look down and see the ground and specks of people walking below, as well as glimpses of some of the buildings around us. After dinner, we strolled back to our hotel room, relaxed and eventually drifted off to sleep.

The next day found us grabbing breakfast at an off the beaten path restaurant, which proved to be very popular despite it’s quiet neighborhood location. As we approached, we saw a line reaching down the sidewalk and my mind immediately starting thinking of a plan “B” for breakfast. However, we got very lucky and upon reaching the hostess station, we were met with the person seating folks. She asked how many in our part and immediately after I said 2, she pointed to a table outside and said “take that one”. I was very happy that we did not have to stand in line or find another place to eat and the food was most excellent!

With full bellies, we flagged down a cab, which took us to the Wrigley Building where we then took the shore hike to do the one thing that probably all tourists do when they visit Chicago in the warmer weather. That being go to see Cloud Gate, or “The Bean”. I had seen it when I was in Chicago around 6 years ago, but Grace really wanted to see it and I really wanted her to see it, so that is what we did.

After that, we worked ourselves back down to the museum campus and took in the Field Museum of natural history. That is a rather enormous place and I explained to Grace that because we had more plans for the day, two of which required being to them at specific times, we would not be able to take in the whole museum. So once in, she studied the exhibit map and came up with a game plan. I was a little surprised by some of her choices, but learned that one of the things that really interests her from history is the Egyptians. Of course one cannot visit the Field and not go say hi to Sue, so we took in a brief documentary in the discovery of Sue and how her remains were removed and then reassembled. After that, it was time to go visit the old girl herself. It was my first time seeing Sue as well and both Grace and i were amazed at the size and look of that T-Rex skeleton. It is the most complete skeleton of a T-Rex ever found (to date) and was discovered right here the good old US of A, more specifically the Badlands of South Dakota.

Time was ticking and after visiting with Sue, Grace and I moved on to the next event of the day, which was to take the elevator to the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower. Actually, you take one elevator to the 90-somethingth floor and then another to the 103rd floor. Once there, you pop out onto the north side of the building. The weather for that high observation point could not have been better. Clear skies and fairly low humidity, so the visibility was about as good as it gets for the summer months.

We worked our way around the windows. I pointed out some of the things we were able to see, including the building where I lived with Burt and Baileys just before moving to the UP. The big thing to do while on the observation deck of the Willis Tower is to go into “The Ledge”. Actually there are 5 of them and not just one. They are boxes made entirely of glass that extend out of the building, so once out there, it feels like your floating just outside the building. There being 5 of them and so many visitors wanting to go out into them, you have to wait in line for almost an hour to get your chance to be in one. Your time in one is limited based on how many are in your group. They have attendants at each ledge that will let you know when your time is up, as well as take some pictures of you out there, which you can choose to get or not get when you get back to the ground floor. You also have enough time to take some shots of your own, so I snapped a shot looking down and of Grace lying on the glass floor. I have to admit that it was worth the wait. I am not one for lines at all, but it was cool to be out there!

The final event of the day was to head up north to Wrigley Field to take in the Zac Brown Band. We got there with plenty of time to spare (didn’t concerts used to start nearly on time?). We watched the stadium fill up with others, as well as watch the band members come out of the outfield wall and walk over to the stage. It was a great concert, Grace’s first, and now she is hooked, already picking out concerts that she would like to attend!

After the concert, back to the hotel and then off to bed. On Sunday, Grace and I had breakfast in the hotel and then headed back to the train station to meet up with Nora and head back to Harvard.

Back to the events of last week, it was another pretty busy week with things on the to-do list. Nora Grace and I were able to paint all that needed to be painted in the apartment above the shop. We also got some of the flooring done. We should be able to finish the flooring this week and then all that will be left to do is trim and build some kitchen cabinetry. It will then be done and I will have that monkey off my back!

Grace was challenged to a kayak race by our neighbor. She is quite competitive and does not lack for confidence, so she quickly agreed. It was decided to have the race yesterday afternoon. The finish line cannot be seen from the starting line, so Nora and I decided to be at the finish line and watch them come around a point and head for the finish line. Grace was the first to appear and had a sizeable lead at that point. Her lead only grew as the race went on and she finished about 2 minutes before her competition.

So that gets you ll caught up on not just the last week, but the big city trip. Have and great week ahead and…

Good night from the Keweenaw..