Saturday, June 24, 2006

Chicago, So Far

As if it is even a real question, but to answer, yes, Val and I are having a great time so far in Chicago, and our city/downtown portion of the visit ends late today, when we visit Val's cousin, Beth, and family in Beecher, Illinois.
The drive here was pretty good; as you know, we took the Ontario to Michigan to Indiana to Illinois/Chicago route, and the driving went excellent, speed and scenery wise. The Ontario drive is always good, and we took the route to Sarnia instead of Detroit to miss the major backups at the Windsor Bridge and just driving in Detroit. The wait at the Sarnia Bridge, VERY similar looking to the Peace Bridge, if shorter, was about 10-15 minutes, with two vehicles getting serious going-overs, but we went through with just few questions in about a minute. I drove from Buffalo to somewhere in Michigan, when we stopped for a pee break and to gas up. Val is a major road warrior I have seen in action before, and she drove the rest of the way.
MIchigan driving was OK (the speed limit was 70 MPH for cars, 55 for trucks, the second apparently advisory), but things got a bit similar after a while. And no, we didn't see Michael Moore as we drove through/past Flint. Fortunately, at the pee stop we made just before Michigan became Indiana, there was a sign posted to avoid a certain part of Chicago (the Dan Ryan Way), which we would have taken to get to our hotel. Otherwise, before getting to Chicago, the only memorable site was Gary, Indiana, which we could still smell in the car and elsewhere after we got to Chicago.
After some confusion on where to get off Route 94 (mine, mostly), Val, the former Chicago resident, decided to get off at Route 41, which would take us all the way to the cross street for our hotel, the Marriott Courtyard downtown near the Northbridge area. Of course, this route would take us all the way from interesting South Chicago through various areas, past Soldier Field (very impressive, even from the car and later from a bus), lots of museums and other sites, over bridges, past parks, to the point where I recognized areas from movies and television programs.
Our hotel is rather nice, the kind of hotel Val and I could never afford and would never think of paying for, but our $100 a night bid gave us the opportunity. We are located near tons of things, walking distance from the Magnificent Mile (lots and lots and lots of high-end and other retailers, specialty shops, clubs, restaurants, etc.), and the Chicago Transit Authority one-day $5 pass allowed us to save money from the normal $2 per ride fair and got us everywhere we wanted to go.
We swam, ate dinner and did some shopping and site seeing Thursday, and when we came back to the hotel room, we dropped and were asleep by midnight (I almost never go to bed before 1 a.m. on work nights). The queen bed, larger than our full at home, was taken advantage of, and I slept until 8 a.m. We then commenced a full day of activities Friday, which was Val and my fourth anniversary, including visiting the John G. Shedd Aquarium, which was simply amazing with its sea otters, Beluga whales, dolphins, sharks, incredible reef fish; the only bad part of that visit was the unbelievably rude, boorish people. After a few had walked into or cut off Val (who walks with a cane, as many of you know), instead of just walking in front of her to make a path, I started using my 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame to walk directly into people, until some families finally got the message. We also bussed and walked to the Hancock Building and looked just next to it at the building in which Val's late uncle and aunt, Al and Pauline, lived.
The rest of Thursday was more shopping and site seeing, a visit to the Navy Pier (more on that and its changes according to Val later), dinner and back to the hotel room for more serious sleep. As I write this this morning, as we complete our packing and leave for breakfast and a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry, I am drinking a complimentary cup of Starbucks coffee, good but not as strong as it usually is at an actual Starbucks; I would prefer the stronger cup.
We'll probably won't write more until we get home, as our free WiFi ends when we leave here.


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