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 (Donât blame me, my daughter named him) just gave me this look that said. âWhat the hell are you doing up?â Then he put his back down and went back to sleep. Smart cat. But, at my alarm went off. I had sense enough to move the alarm to the other side of the room, âcause 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 . Margoâs Mom was driving so we headed across town. As our flight was at , 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 werenât 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 . That included a Burger King stop for breakfast. I have never checked food through security before, but my daughter insisted on BK, as she canât stand McDonalds breakfast. And there was no BK on our concourse. Anyway the security people didnât 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 wasnât 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. Iâm not one of those ones who thinks âprofilingâ 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 donât 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 wasnât 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 âOh, we must have blown a fuse. Weâll Maintenance right on it.â 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 , so it was relatively cool.
Margo and Jessi
Relatively. Our walk to the Billy Goat Tavern fixed that. Itâs 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 doesnât count, right? (Thatâs 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. Itâs a city landmark, made famous three ways. First, the Cubâs 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 âCheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger. No Fries. Chips. No Pepsi. Coke.â?. 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 âDouble Cheese. Double Cheese the bestâ. 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 didnât 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 âThe Cubs they ainât going to win no more.â And they didnât. 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 âWho stinks now?â I grabbed a T-shirt to send to Tuni.
The Sears Tower
Iâm 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 donât need a car. Itâs too damn expensive anyway. Itâs $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, Childrenâs 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 , 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 âCool. Then I can just make stuff up as I go and no one will know the difference.â 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 âArchitects from all over the world came calling and said âWe would like to build a building, and make it âŠâŠâŠâ Chicago would say âHey. You had us at âlike to build a building. Go for it.â They did and Chicago came back even stronger than ever. We turned around at the SearsTower 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 werenât 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 didnât 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 . 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 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
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. Whoâs 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 âI love you like a rat loves cheeseâ. Romance Chicago-style. We were all suppressinglaughs. Well Maurice is also a self appointed goodwill ambassador, so when he saw we were from out of town (The map and camera couldnât 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 didnât look 52. He was fond of giving advice to Jessi. Such pearls as âDonât marry a guy unless he had $5000 in the bankâ and âDonât have no babies until you get that $5000â. I would have taken a picture of him, but we didnât 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 and we figured that we wouldnât 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.