Our first Day in Chicago

Chicago Travel Blog

 › entry 1 of 8 › view all entries
This is the patio I put in before we left on vacation. It has nothing to do with the trip, but at least it bumps my other pictures farther down into the blog

It has been a long day so far. We began by getting up before the birds or our cats. My cat, ChaChi (Don’t blame me, my daughter named him) just gave me this look that said. “What the hell are you doing up?” Then he put his back down and went back to sleep. Smart cat. But, at 3:30 AM my alarm went off. I had sense enough to move the alarm to the other side of the room, ‘cause I knew it would be rough. But after I hit the shower I was fine. We finished all of our last second packing and were in the car by 4:30 AM. Margo’s Mom was driving so we headed across town. As our flight was at 6:15, and the airport is 35 minutes away, we were going to cut it close.

Hot Tub. We put this in, too. 105 degree water when it's 102 outside. Oh, well wait 'til winter
But, I figured there weren’t going to be many people competing for the highway or going thru security. I was right, we made it 20 minutes before boarding started at 5:45 AM. That included a Burger King stop for breakfast. I have never checked food through security before, but my daughter insisted on BK, as she can’t stand McDonalds breakfast. And there was no BK on our concourse. Anyway the security people didn’t care, except for the open drinks. I got water and left it sealed. The girls had Cokes. Security made them take a sip to make sure it wasn’t liquid explosive or poison or whatever. I understand the precautions, and would rather be safe than sorry. Still it does seem a little silly to make a 17 year old take a sip or her drink, and then pay no more special attention to a 20 something Middle Eastern man. I’m not one of those ones who thinks “profiling” is bad. When blonde-haired blue-eyed females start taking over aircraft, we should be singling out all potential members of the Swedish Bikini Team for frisking.
The Billy Goat Tavern-It inspired the Cheezborger, Cheezborger skit on Saturday Night Live, and Bill Sianis, the orginal owner is responsible for the infamous "Cubs Curse"
If I was a screener I would be for that anyway, but right now its college age Middle Eastern men. If the innocent ones don’t like, perhaps they could complain to their government. Which in turn could take care of their own back yard and quit making their problems ours.

 

Anyway, enough soapbox preaching, back to the vacation. We touched down about 15 minutes behind schedule in Midway, but I allowed more than enough time to get to our hotel and check in. Our taxi driver drove just like the ones I remember from Tijuana. Many lane changes and some horn usage. In TJ I think the horn sounds automatically with the raising of the middle finger.

Chris, our Tour Guide. He did a great job!
That happens at each intersection. This guy wasn’t that bad.

 

We checked in. The hotel, Best Western River North, has 7 floors. The pool is on the top one. Our room is on the 6th floor. We have a view of the Chicago skyline and the street. But before we got anything unpacked, we lost power in the room. I called down, and they said “Oh, we must have blown a fuse. We’ll Maintenance right on it.” They were good to their word and we had power. Five minutes later we were walking out the door. Now waiting for the taxi and our then the drop off in front of the hotel did not prepare us for the weather. We arrived in Chicago at 9:30 AM, so it was relatively cool.

Margo and Jessi
Relatively. Our walk to the Billy Goat Tavern fixed that. It’s only 95 degrees and 70% humidity. Since we left 102 degrees and 7% humidity, we felt right at home. Hot as hell.

 

 

I had us walking to our first destination. It should be about the longest we have to walk this trip, not counting shopping. But shopping walking doesn’t count, right? (That’s the estrogen in me demanding equal keyboard time). We arrived at the Billy Goat Tavern, on Lower Michigan, for lunch. Parts of Chicago have an upper level, for normal commuter traffic and lower level for deliveries, garbage pick up, and other city services.

The Wrigley Building. It's amazing what you can make with chewing gum
So for the most part there are not many businesses in the lower part. The Billy Goat Tavern is one. It’s a city landmark, made famous three ways. First, the Cub’s Curse originated there. Second, Mike Royko, a long-time columnist made it his home away from home, and finally because John Belushi and Bill Murray immortalized it on Saturday Night Live. You remember “Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger. No Fries. Chips. No Pepsi. Coke.”?. Well, this is where they do it. But, from our experience they have added a money making twist. You order a Cheeseburger, and the guys says “Double Cheese. Double Cheese the best”. Most everyone, us included upgrades. The meat is a tad thin, so it is better to go for two patties. And honestly, that was a very good hamburger. The bun, somehow, just made the sandwich. Jessi ordered a grilled cheese, and it was good too. The place is packed with pictures and news articles chronicling the life of the tavern since 1918.
The Mercantile Exchange. This thing is huge!
We didn’t spend a lot of time reading, but I was already familiar with some of it through my research for this trip. The Cubs Curse originated back in 1945. To make a long story short, the owner of the tavern, one Bill Sianis, a Greek immigrant, and quite the character, wanted to take his goat into Wrigley Field, for the World Series. The Cubs were quite the dynasty in those days winning the division on regular basis, and having a couple of World Series championships under their belt. Well, the goat was denied access, even though he had a ticket. Sianis appealed all the way to the owner, Mr. Wrigley himself. Wrigley said no, because the goat stinks. This pissed Billy off, and he said “The Cubs they ain’t going to win no more.” And they didn’t. Even though they were the favorites and had a 2 to 1 lead in the series they blew the next three games. Billy sent Wrigley a telegram that said “Who stinks now?” I grabbed a T-shirt to send to Tuni.
The Sears Tower
I’m sure she will get a kick out of it.

 

After that we grabbed a bus, which is going to be our normal mode of travel this trip. The subway is pretty good, not as good as NYC, but pair it with the buses and you don’t need a car. It’s too damn expensive anyway. It’s $20-$25 per night to park at your hotel! Imagine what you pay, even if you can find a spot. Our hotel is about the only one left that has free parking for their guest. We will take advantage of that later. Back to our adventure. We got on our bus and continued east to the Navy Pier. The Navy Pier used to be exactly what it sounds like, an old navy pier. It was built in 1918 and after it outlived its usefulness, it just sat around decaying. About ten years ago it was revitalized.

Jessi, Margo, and me. We took a Seadog tour of Chicago
It now has an IMAX, Children’s Museum, two stages, a beer garden, and dozens of shops and restaurants. There is a huge Ferris wheel, several other rides, and a couple of boat tour companies. That latter was our primary destination. I wanted to get a look around town and learn a little. The 75 minute Architectural River Tour, at 1:15 PM, sounded just right. Our guide, Chris, a skinny black college student, was very good. He was both knowledgeable and funny. He started out by asking how many locals were on the tour. When no one raised their hand, he said “Cool. Then I can just make stuff up as I go and no one will know the difference.” We learned a bit about some buildings and some Chicago history. A guide book would have helped retain the knowledge. But the important fact is that as a result of the Chicago Fire (1871) that burned a huge part of the downtown, created a virtual blank slate for the architects of the day.
The Beer Garden at the Navy Pier
As Chris put it “Architects from all over the world came calling and said ‘We would like to build a building, and make it ………’ Chicago would say “Hey. You had us at “like to build a building. Go for it.” They did and Chicago came back even stronger than ever. We turned around at the Sears Tower and headed back. But, the last part of the tour was a ride on Lake Michigan. Our tour boat is actually a speed boat. So we got to tool around lake Michigan at 30 knots or so. Plenty fast with no windshield. It was a hell of a lot cooler than the pier itself.

 

After out boat ride, we walked around the pier itself.

I should look happier, huh?
We weren’t going to stay that long. We were tired and wanted a nap. We poked around a bit. The girls got personalized necklaces, and scouted out Teddy Bears at Build-A-Bear. I didn’t see anything I wanted, but we all agreed we wanted to ride some of the rides when we came back.

 

We bused back to the hotel, and arrived at roughly 4:30 PM. I worked some on this journal and keyed our expenses in the computer. We do that every year to stay on a budget and to help plan for our next vacation. The girls were already out cold. It was about 5:30 before I went to bed. We got up at 7, and walked over to Hooters, another tradition. I usually get a photo of me and the Hooters girls and Jessi gets some piece of clothing with the city.

Margo and Jessi, on the El. It told them to smile big
Some people collect Hard Rock Café shirts from around the country, Jessi does Hooters. Personally, I’m with her. I also pick her up something when I travel for work. I’ve gotten her shirts from St. Louis, Orlando, and Ontario, CA that way. She’s gotten Honolulu, Las Vegas, NYC, and Amarillo that come to mind. The food was normal and once we actually got a waitress, the service was good. But, the ambiance/mood at this restaurant wasn’t “fun”. There weren’t a lot of signs like “Caution: Waitress under the influence of peroxide” or such. But, how bad could it be? Beer, food, and pretty girls in short tops and shorts.

 

We grabbed another bus and headed back to the Navy Pier.

The Navy Pier at night
By the time we actually got there it was about 9 PM. After waiting for a bus, the transit time, and talking with Maurice, we only had about an hour to mess around at the Pier. Who’s Maurice? We Maurice is this heavy black guy we met on the bus. He got on a stop or two after we did. About half way to the pier, he calls his girlfriend, Linda. We know this because, while not obnoxiously so, he was loud enough to here. Nothing unusual until he got to the end of his conversation. He closed, several times, by telling her “I love you like a rat loves cheese”. Romance Chicago-style. We were all suppressing  laughs. Well Maurice is also a self appointed goodwill ambassador, so when he saw we were from out of town (The map and camera couldn’t have given us away, right?) he felt obligated to talk to us. That continued outside the bus. I had my antenea up for some sort of scam, but he just likes to talk.
The Chicago Skyline
He said he was 52, and worked for the city, in the nearby Water Filtration Plant. He had his city badge on, which he proudly showed us, to prove it. By his account he was almost to his 34th (I think) anniversary there. He didn’t look 52. He was fond of giving advice to Jessi. Such pearls as “Don’t marry a guy unless he had $5000 in the bank” and “Don’t have no babies until you get that $5000”. I would have taken a picture of him, but we didn’t want to encourage him further. He seemed sane enough, but you always wonder.

 

We said out Good-Bys, and went back into the shop portion of the mall. The girls got a bear each. I was 9:30 and we figured that we wouldn’t get much more accomplished in a half hour.

The Navy Pier
45 minutes later, we got a bus. First we waited for the wrong one, and then the right one never showed. We finally grabbed the Free Trolley. It was unairconditioned (not a trivial sacrifice), crowded, and dropped us off with 3 blocks left to walk, instead of a half. But, we were going to stop by a grocery store anyway, and this allowed us to walk right past it. So I guess things worked out.

saxon says:
really enjoyed reading this
Posted on: May 16, 2011
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
This is the patio I put in before …
This is the patio I put in before…
Hot Tub. We put this in, too. 105 …
Hot Tub. We put this in, too. 105…
The Billy Goat Tavern-It inspired …
The Billy Goat Tavern-It inspired…
Chris, our Tour Guide. He did a gr…
Chris, our Tour Guide. He did a g…
Margo and Jessi
Margo and Jessi
The Wrigley Building. Its amazing…
The Wrigley Building. It's amazin…
The Mercantile Exchange. This thin…
The Mercantile Exchange. This thi…
The Sears Tower
The Sears Tower
Jessi, Margo, and me. We took a Se…
Jessi, Margo, and me. We took a S…
The Beer Garden at the Navy Pier
The Beer Garden at the Navy Pier
I should look happier, huh?
I should look happier, huh?
Margo and Jessi, on the El. It tol…
Margo and Jessi, on the El. It to…
The Navy Pier at night
The Navy Pier at night
The Chicago Skyline
The Chicago Skyline
The Navy Pier
The Navy Pier
The Wrigley Building
The Wrigley Building
Trump Tower under constructions
Trump Tower under constructions
The Chicago River
The Chicago River
Closeup of the Mercantile Exchange…
Closeup of the Mercantile Exchang…
Merchantile Exchange
Merchantile Exchange
Chicago Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
The Billy Goat Tavern is a Chicago icon, established in 1934 by Bill Sianis. Bill Sianis is famous as the caster of the Cubs Curse. The story of which… read entire review
Chicago
photo by: mahoney