Chicago

See All the Main Attractions of Chicago for Only $35 Per Person

That’s $35.00 per person for three days!!

Not bad, eh?

Okay. So about our trip to Chicago… correction, our SECOND trip to Chicago.

We took our first trip with our boys. Which was fun, but we really didn’t get to do anything WE wanted to do. We spent our time touring museums, which was fun, but I know Kevin was disappointed because we didn’t have time to actually tour the city.

So we went back. Just me and Kevin. And did I mention this was our first trip, just the two of us, in twelve years?? Every other time, we’ve taken the boys. Which was fun, don’t get me wrong, but getting to hang out with just my husband and best friend in the world?

Awesome sauce.

We flew out of Branson. We had planned on using some of our frequent flyer miles (we have so many now that Kevin and I can take THREE round-trip, er, trips now), but honestly? It was actually cheaper to fly out of Branson than it would have been to cash in our miles. And besides, we wanted to cash those miles in on longer flights, like to either coast, than to a city only a little over an hour away.

Branson airport is tiny. As in DINKY. And it looks like a lodge. In fact, it’s so small, that it has one runway – for both take offs and landings. And it was a heck of a lot better than having to drive all the way to St. Louis, which is four hours away, as opposed to Branson, which is only 45 minutes away.

We flew Air Tran and, meh, there wasn’t anything exceptional about it, but then again, I wouldn’t really want there to be. It’s cheap for a reason – don’t expect the royal treatment, but we got up there and back safely, so that’s all that matters.

I actually wanted to stay up there a bit longer than we did (it worked out to be 2 1/2 days), but Kevin didn’t feel comfortable leaving the boys alone for longer than that and it actually worked out better this way anyway – Chicago is great, but we were ready to come home after two days.

We stayed at the same hotel – the River Hotel on Wacker street. (I know – what a name!!). It was $179.00 per night (we booked it through hotels.com), and though that sounds expensive, actually, that IS expensive, it was worth it to us because the hotel is right across the street from the Chicago River in the heart of downtown Chicago so it was close to everything.

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The room itself is small, but we actually upgraded to a room with a kitchenette when we got there, so we saved ourselves breakfast money by just eating cereal every morning.

The hotel has a filtered water station (FREE) near the elevators on each floor, so we also saved ourselves money on bottled water while we were there, too.

We flew into Midway Airport in Chicago. Which is actually a little ways from downtown. I was a little worried about how much money we’d have to spend in taxis while we were there, but I needn’t have worried – when we landed, I noticed that we could take the train directly from the airport all the way to downtown (the orange line). It cost us $2.25 per person to take the train, thereby saving us probably close to $30 or $40 dollars (including tip) if we had taken a taxi from the airport to our hotel. True. We had to lug our suitcase around, but we only took our one big suitcase, since it was only Kevin and me, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal. In fact, Chicago’s public transit system is pretty efficient and we didn’t take one taxi the entire time we were there.

BONUS!

We arrived at our hotel around noonish on June 6th. We checked in, then set about collecting brochures from the lobby and walking around the area to familiarize ourselves with the layout. Kevin noticed quite a few trolleys parked across the street from our hotel and a kiosk with people surrounding it. It was the Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Company. For $35.00 per person, you could ride the trolleys and Double Decker buses around Chicago for three days.

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They stopped at 14 popular attractions around the city and you could get off, and get on, as many times as you wanted within that three days time. They even had a few night tours so you could see the city lights. Since we wanted to see many of the places the trolleys/buses stopped at, we thought it would be the perfect mode of transportation for us – and it was. We. Had. A. Blast!!! I HIGHLY recommend taking the Trolley/Double Decker Bus tour if you’re in Chicago.

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You get to see so much within a small amount of time and you really DO get your money’s worth. In addition to the rides around town, you get a free t-shirt, free popcorn at a famous theater and free candy at one of their best-known candy shops. It was like a scavenger hunt.

The weather was perfect the entire time we were there. (Unlike last time, when it rained on us the entire time). In fact, we rode the Double Decker bus late afternoon on June 6th, just to get an idea of the route, and I got downright cold. (Which is saying a lot, considering I’m NEVER cold).

The next day, we hopped on and got off at Navy Pier.

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We were both a bit disappointed with Navy Pier. You hear so much about it and indeed, it’s touted as the most popular tourist attraction in Chicago, but I guess I was expecting a little more … SOMETHING. Nearly all of the buildings were empty and the picture above? Is pretty much it. I think one reason it’s so popular is because of the Children’s Museum, otherwise? There simply wasn’t that much there. Still. I’m glad we went and the view of the Chicago skyline was certainly worth the trip.

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We hopped back onto the trolley and hopped off at Millennium Park. It was packed and I loved it.

We saw the coolest fountains:

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Sculptures …

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And little parks within the park …

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An outdoor amphitheater …

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And of course … the Bean.

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That pretty much pooped us out the first day we were there, but we were ready to go on the second day. We got up and around early on Friday, our last day there, and took an architectural boat ride down the Chicago River.

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We wanted to take this tour because it would give us a different perspective and it was really interesting to hear the stories behind all of the fascinating buildings in Chicago – it was well worth the money.

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Afterward, Kevin finally got to eat a Chicago-style hotdog …

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… (did you know that if you put ketchup on a Chicago-style hotdog, it’s considered an insult to Chicagoians?)

I actually ate at Wal-Greens for lunch because of my funky diet and really, all I wanted was some fruit.

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Then we hopped back onto the bus and got off at the Sky Deck at the Sears Willis building.

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We were 103 floors up and we got to step out onto a glass box that extended outside of the building.

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It was weird and exhilarating at the same time. It felt like you were literally walking out into nothing. But the view was spectacular …

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… and it was worth the money. (We got a two dollar discount by buying tickets through the Chicago Trolley/Double Decker bus people. Yet ANOTHER reason to take this tour if you’re ever in Chicago).

After the Sears Willis building, we started walking.

And walking.

And walking.

We were trying to find these stupid things …

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They’re called “Headless Torsos” and though they were sort of cool to walk among, I’m not really sure they were worth walking two miles and sweating off lunch for.

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I knew the Buckingham Fountain was close and we HAD to find it. Remember the impressive fountain at the beginning of the “Married with Children” series? Well. We found it.

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And it was even more impressive in real life. (It actually shoots water straight up into the air like that on the hour, every daylight hour).

By the time we found the fountain and took some pictures, we were both pretty tired. So we sat down and dangled our feet off the edge of a pier to relax and breathe in some Lake Michigan air.

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It was so peaceful.

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We topped off the day by taking one last ride on the Double Decker bus to see Chicago at night.

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Our flight left at noon on Saturday, so we had plenty of time to check out and ride the train back to Midway airport. The train was practically deserted on Saturday and it was a relaxing trip back. We got back into Branson about 2:00 and we were back home by 3:00 in the afternoon.

The house was still standing and the boys didn’t look too malnourished, so I’d say this trip away from them was successful. 🙂

Chicago was fun, and we really enjoyed ourselves, but I’m not sure if we’ll ever go back. There are still a few things we would have liked to have seen (the Planetarium and the Natural History Museum), but it’s not something we can’t live without.

Next? We are planning on taking a short, three-day cruise down the Pacific coast in October … of this year. Oh yes we are.

And next summer? We’re thinking about renting a cabin in the Rockies and hiking some trails. And maybe taking a quick trip to Las Vegas next year, too. We’ll see.

Life’s too short to stay in one place for long, don’t you think?

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Chicago – June 2012, a set on Flickr.
Chicago

We’ll Be Back to See You Soon, Chicago – Part Three

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And that pretty much sums up the weather we had when we went to Chicago.

(We went to Chicago back in March. I’m just now updating … because I work full time during the days, update websites at night, clean house, spend time with the family and workout in between all of that. OMG – who has time to blog anymore??)

We slept in our first day in Chicago. I love when we do that – I mean, I want to go exploring but what’s the point of vacation if you can’t take it easy and actually get some sleep?

Exactly.

Actually. We slept in too long. (Much to Kevin’s chagrin. He’s a go-go personality and it drives him nuts to sleep past 7:00). We would have gotten an earlier start, but with teenagers in tow, it’s easier said than done. Not to mention when you share one bathroom for four people, it’s sort of a juggling act.

We finally left our hotel room around 11.

A taxi was waiting for us when we exited the hotel. He was actually waiting for someone else, but said he would run us over “real fast.” The customer that he had been waiting on called him and I could tell he was getting anxious to get back to his original customer. But Kevin tipped him well, so hopefully that was enough of a “thank you.”

The Aquarium was quite a ways from downtown Chicago and by the time the taxi dropped us off at the Aquarium, it was pouring rain. Luckily, I had the foresight to bring along two umbrellas and Dude and Jazz shared one and Kevin and I shared one. We were also lucky that the rain was coming straight down and it wasn’t windy because even though we stayed relatively dry, if it had been windy, we would have been soaked.

When we arrived at the Aquarium, we were shocked to see the line snaked around the building. We ended up waiting in line for about an hour in the pouring rain. It finally stopped raining when we reached the awning into in the building.

We laughed about it, because really, what else can you do at that point?

(I wanted to take a picture of us standing in this long line in the pouring rain, but I was afraid I would ruin my Canon, so I didn’t. Just trust me when I say, we were one of about 100 people waiting to get in that day).

At least the rest of the day had no where to go but up from that point on. And it did. We really enjoyed the Aquarium.

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There was so much to see and do, but I’m glad we only allowed half a day because by the end of the day, we were ready to go.

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We saw a cute dolphin show, and otters, and penguins, and sharks … we even paid a little extra so we could see the jellyfish exhibit.

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Aren’t jellyfish creepy? And fascinating? And creepy?

*shudder*

In between looking at aquatic animals all day, we ate at the food court. It had stopped raining, but a thick fog rolled in and it looked like this outside:

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Then it started lifting and all we could see was the bottom half of the buildings:

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It was like the fog was it’s own character out of a mystery story. But it was also equally cool how fast it moved in and out of the area.

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We stayed at the Aquarium until it closed. And I wish we had more time to sit and watch the penguins and otters play, but by the time we got around to seeing their exhibits, we only had about 30 minutes left until closing.

I think the boys really enjoyed it. They weren’t brooding, so I’m taking that as a good sign. ha!

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By the time we left, the rain and fog had moved off, but it was pretty overcast and COLD.

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Our next challenge was to figure out how to get back to our hotel, which was downtown, about ten two miles away.

We were going to hail another taxi, but every taxi that came along was snatched up by another desperate tourist trying to get back to their hotel.

So we took a chance and got onto a bus that we hoped would get us back downtown … somewhere. Kevin and I had walked to an EL train station while the boys were getting ready and bought a bus pass for all of us as we were planning on trying to ride the bus to the science museum the next day, so we had bus fare on us and got onto the bus.

It was a bit stressful getting back as we really had no idea where we were or where the bus would stop along it’s route. Once we saw a familiar road, we got off. We only ended up walking just a few blocks back to our hotel, so it all worked out okay. I used to get SO STRESSED when it came to traveling and especially when I wasn’t sure how I was going to get somewhere or where I needed to go, but I seem to be mellowing with old age, because it doesn’t stress me out as much as it used to.

We made it back to our hotel and Kevin ordered two medium (which ended up being HUGE medium) pizzas from the Italian restaurant inside our hotel. We had so much pizza left over, that we put the left overs into the fridge and ate the rest of it the next night. Even thought he pizzas were ridiculously expensive, it actually worked okay because we got two meals out of them AND didn’t have to think about where/what we were going to eat for dinner the next night.

(Now we can say we’ve had both New York AND Chicago-style pizza – the real deals, not the store-bought versions).

The next day, we got up earlier to head to the Science Museum, but we ended up burning a lot of wasted time trying to figure out which bus would take us there. Actually, we knew which bus would take us there, we just couldn’t figure out where to board it. It was bus number 6 and though we saw plenty of bus number sixes, they were all on the wrong side of the street. We walked about five blocks before we finally gave up and hailed a taxi.

It didn’t rain on us that day and the line wasn’t nearly as long, so we got in fairly quickly. We paid a little extra for the Mythbuster’s show and it was worth it – the boys really enjoyed it. We all enjoyed it.

I really love science museums. And this one was huge. In fact, we could have easily spent two days JUST at the science museum. We got there around 10 and we really had to book it through in order to see everything. (We ended up staying until closing time).

We saw trains …

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… planes (a real 727, actually)

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… tornado machines …

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… various machinery contraptions …

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… (Kevin’s favorites) …

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…stagecoaches …

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… giant ball … er … thingies …

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… falling shadowy dots that you could “catch” with your arms …

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… and periodic elements …

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(In fact, we really had fun with the periodic elements table … take a look …)

… there was one area that had an entire floor of small machines that you could experiment with, I think Kevin could have stayed in this area all day, quite frankly …

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… we even saw a full-sized submarine …

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I know. How cool is that?!? Unfortunately, we didn’t go on board because that was extra and we had already paid for the Mythbuster’s show.

And speaking of which …

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One experiment, you had to try and dodge a bullet…

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… and try and run through a rain shower without getting wet first walking, then running …

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… remember the episode with the telephone books?

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I wish we had allotted more time at the Science Museum, though I think we saw everything, we had had to walk through pretty quickly so as not to miss it.

We should have started with that museum first.

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(Look closely. Do you see Dude’s face on the juggling man? I don’t know why I thought this was so funny, but I nearly peed my pants laughing. I think I was delirious, if you want the truth).

We had a great time at the museum.

And we had a really good time in Chicago.

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And I can’t wait to go back.

In June.

As in, ONE MONTH FROM NOW!

That’s right. Kevin and I are going back, without the boys this time. We’re flying out of Branson (we got one HECK of a deal on flights), and staying another two days. We plan on hitting a lot of the architecture tours that we didn’t get to do last time. I can’t wait to take more pictures and see so much more of Chicago.

I just pray the weather is better this go around. But just in case, I’ll be bringing our umbrellas again.

Thanks for sticking this post out. I know it was long, but I really wanted to write this out so I can MOVE ON TO OTHER THINGS. Sheesh. Talk about dragging a trip out.

Chicago

Hello Chicago – Part Two

(We went to Chicago back in March. I’m just now updating … because I work full time during the days, update websites at night, clean house, spend time with the family and workout in between all of that. OMG – who has time to blog anymore??)

We left Wednesday right after I got off work. Well, not RIGHT after, I went home, changed, finished packing, loaded up the car, got some gas, stopped at Taco Bell for dinner, got to our hotel in St. Louis, got up the next morning and went to the Amtrak station first.

We stayed at the Drury Inn in St. Louis, the one right next to Union Station. We stay at that hotel a lot, actually, because it’s easy to get to, is downtown and serves a mean breakfast the next morning. (Even though you’re paying for that breakfast in the cost of the room, still, it’s super nice not to have to stress about where you’re going to eat and it’s so much more satisfying than eating donuts and bagels that come with a continental breakfast).

We drove the two blocks to the Amtrak station and parked in the long-term parking. It was in a gated parking lot and though that’s better than nothing, I was still a wee bit nervous about leaving my car out in the open, in downtown St. Louis, right next to the train tracks.

We pulled our luggage to the building next to the parking lot. Only. It wasn’t the train station and we didn’t realize that until a railroad worker shooed us away. It was another building, up on a hill. And we had no idea that was where we had to go because there were no signs – at all.

We walked into our half of the station (the other half was for Greyhound passengers). We used the handy kiosk station thingy and printed off our tickets. Which was nice since we didn’t have to stand in line – not that there was a line. We were planning on checking our luggage, and when we asked where we needed to go to do that, we were “advised” not to check our luggage. There would be plenty of room to store our luggage on the train, for free, and if we checked it, it would be an extra thirty minutes to collect it.

Already then. We wouldn’t check our luggage.

The Amtrak employee told us that the train was running late and though we were supposed to take off at 7:55 a.m., we would actually not depart the station until 9:00 a.m. The train, which was NEVER late, I overheard a regular passenger say, was running late because they had had a lot of rain in Texas and there was a flooding problem. So. The one time we decide to ride the train, it’s late. Swell. This sort of reminds me when we took the boys flying for the first time and missed our connecting flight in Dallas and had to have the airline pay for our room – not exactly a good first impression, then or now.

So. We had to wait an hour in the St Louis train station. Which wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if Mother Nature would have left me along. But if there’s one thing about pre-menopausal women? It’s the sheer unpredictability of when the b*tch will strike next and this b*tch would NOT leave me alone. And I didn’t have very many supplies on me because I wasn’t expecting there to be a problem. But oh boy, did I have a problem. So I was stressed out about that.

Then. We had some weird guy doing chair exercises on the seats right in front of us. He would do reverse push ups (his hands were on the seat behind, his legs outstretched in front of him and so long that Kevin actually had to move his legs out of the way). And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he would then abruptly stop what he was doing and get on the floor to do push-ups. Then, he would abruptly stop those, sit back down and grab his head like it was about to explode from his shoulders all the while mumbling and huffing and puffing.

He was clearly on something because he simply couldn’t sit still. Luckily, he got onto a Greyhound bus and we didn’t have to deal with him on the train.

The boys were sitting on the seats behind us. And at one point, Jazz leaned back to tell me, “Hey mom. I just had a guy ask me if I had any weed on me.”

Awesome. When was the train going to arrive again?

When the train finally arrived, we lined up and walked to the platform. The day had been overcast and by the time we got to the platform, it was raining. The platform didn’t have any sort of awning, so there we were, about forty-some-odd people, pulling our luggage behind us, waiting to board the train, in the rain.

Talk about stupid. Why wouldn’t they have some sort of awning out there??

A lot of people grumbled about being soaked when we finally got onto the train. And then, to make matters worse, there wasn’t enough room for all of us and they were one car short. So people were scrambling to find a seat and since we were the last ones to board? There weren’t any more seats, nor was there anywhere for us to put our luggage.

This trip was getting off to a GREAT start.

So, there we stood. In the aisle in the train wondering whether we were going to have to stand the whole trip to St. Louis. We were directed to walk to the very last train and a bunch of us stood in the aisle while we waited for Amtrak to connect another car for us.

WHY they couldn’t have done this BEFORE we boarded the train is beyond me.

But it was interesting to see them attach another car and once they did, we found our seats and settled in. In fact, we nearly had the whole car to ourselves and it was quiet and quite roomy. There was a foot rest on the seat in front of us, and our seats reclined back, so it was actually very comfortable. We had had to store our luggage on a rack on another car, but once we got on our way and things settled down, Kevin and Dude went to the car, collected our luggage and brought it back on to the car we were in so we wouldn’t have to stress about finding it later.

Five and a half hours later, we were in Chicago.

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It was raining when we got there, but soon cleared up. Taxis were waiting outside and we didn’t have any trouble finding one to take us to our hotel. Which was right across the street from the Chicago River.

I thought it was really cool that the streets were actually bridges that connected the city on both sides of the river. I also thought this building was cool, too. See the cars parked right at the edge of the buildings on the bottom?

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One good shake, and those puppies would fall off those structures and into the river.

We arrived about 4:30, so we really only had enough time to get settled into our hotel and walk nearby blocks so we could get a sense of what was nearby. I took a video of our room …

I think the hotel used to be an apartment building because it wasn’t very big and in fact, the rooms were sort of tucked into various angles of the building, but we liked it and we LOVED the location.

We found a nearby WalGreens, bought some breakfast food, took it back to our hotel room, then we went to Qdoba and ate dinner. Kevin wanted to walk around so more, but by that time, it was getting dark and I wasn’t sure that was such a good idea. I’m sure we would have been fine, but … Chicago? At night? I wasn’t taking any chances. So we stuck around the hotel room and watched TV. We were pooped anyway from a long day of traveling.

The air conditioning in our room wasn’t working that great, so we ended up sleeping with the window open to allow the cool night air to come in. I had to get up a few hours later though and close it because there was a siren about every five minutes and it would wake me up.

Dude slept on the pull out sofa, and Jazz slept on the sofa and chair cushions on the floor. The boys wanted to do it that way so they wouldn’t be in each other’s faces all night long.

Oh. Kevin and I did walk several blocks until we found an “L” train station. We thought we would be able to get to the Aquarium and the Science Museum by riding it, but alas, no.

Plan “B” was to ride the busses.

Plan “B” actually involved A LOT of walking.

We see sharks next.

P.S….

https://twitter.com/#!/writefromkaren/status/188663229533257728

Seriously. No idea. I need to get away from work more often and pay attention to “real life.”

karen1

Chicago

So … About Our Chicago Trip … Part One

We didn’t really have a reason to go to Chicago – in fact, I hadn’t really aspired to go to Chicago in my lifetime. The biggest reason I chose Chicago was because it was simply a destination on the Amtrak route and I thought, “what the heck. Why not.” And since the whole purpose behind the trip was to experience the Amtrak train … we went to Chicago.

And I chose Amtrak mainly because when I started thinking about our last big family “hurrah”, (not implying that the boys will never go on vacation with us again, but let’s be real – they’re [nearly] 20 [!] and 17, and we’re reaching a point where they don’t really WANT to hang out with mom or dad anymore … which is normal. I get it), I wanted to do something that everyone would enjoy. And by everyone, I mean Dude.

Dude HATES to fly. He used to be deathly afraid of it. And though it still scares him a bit, we’ve been on so many flights now that he at least doesn’t feel like he wants to vomit whenever we fly anywhere anymore.

Both boys used to be crazy about trains. Especially Dude. When Dude was about three, he was absolutely OBSESSED with trains. Whenever he was around trains, he would actually tremble with excitement. And when we set up the train tracks, he would sit for hours and simply watch them go around and around.

It was almost spooky how obsessive he was. (I wish he would get obsessive about his future, but that’s another post).

Jazz was also crazy about trains. Though not AS crazy as Dude. He was really into the Thomas Trains and in fact, we have a huge plastic tub of Thomas trains/tracks that I have INSISTED on keeping so our grandkids could play with them someday. (Though from the sounds of it, I might only get grandkids from Jazz because Dude is pretty adamant about NOT wanting kids. This attitude sort of crushes me [did I sour my son on kids because of the mistakes I’ve made with him? I worry about this], but I’m hoping he outgrows it. Because after all, I felt the same way when I was his age. Kids were okay, as long as they were someone else’s).

I remember my mom telling me how much she and my dad enjoyed riding the train down around the Branson area and I thought, “Amtrak! That would be a different sort of experience.” And that’s when I started looking into Amtrak routes, etc.

Since there isn’t an Amtrak station in Springfield, I started looking at St. Louis and voila! Chicago was a nearby destination.

That was the thought process behind going to Chicago. No offense to Chicagoians, but I hadn’t really thought of making a trip up there until that moment.

Let me preface this trip account by saying, we enjoyed the train ride. Yes. It was LONG. (Five and a half hours to get from St. Louis to Chicago). But it wasn’t AS long on the way back and I think it was mainly because I kept myself busy. I had a little trouble reading on the train at first, it sways and is sort of bumpy, and I had a little trouble focusing on the words, but once I got the hang of it, it wasn’t that bad. Even though I get motion sickness being a passenger in a car going across town, I never once felt nauseous on the train. And I think it was mainly because we could get up and move around and the area was so big and comfy that I didn’t feel cramped or closed in.

Riding the train is cheap. I don’t mind telling you that it cost $200 dollars for all four of us round trip. That’s about a 1/8 of what it would cost to fly. So, if you can endure the time factor, and just prepare yourself to keep yourself busy the entire trip, it’s quite worth it and we will definitely ride Amtrak again in the future.

I was a little worried about the type of people who would ride the train; it is public transportation, after all. And I’m sorry if that makes me sound like a snob, but I’m just keeping it real here – you know there are always those “odd” people who seem to gravitate toward public transportation, but quite honestly, it was simply regular janes and joes and everyone was quite respectful of everyone else’s space. In fact, I was surprised by how quiet everyone was (though there were the two college-aged girls that sat directly behind me and Kevin and who would NOT SHUT UP the ENTIRE TRIP back to St. Louis. And I must have counted A MINIMUM of 500 “ums” and “likes” in their conversation. Really girls? How about helping to dispel the whole valley-girl college image by using adult language. Thanks).

We rode the Texas Eagle train up to Chicago. It was a double decker sort of thing and though it was cooler than the Lincoln Service train we rode back, it was more cramped. The Texas Eagle had a scenery car and a dining car and Kevin and I sat in the scenery car on the way up to Chicago, though there wasn’t that much to admire since the weather was overcast and rainy on the trip up there.

There weren’t that many little kids on the train, but the few that were on there really seemed to love it. I think the parents loved it, too, because the kids could run around and they didn’t have to stress about losing them – where were they going to go? It was a relatively safe place for them to stretch their legs.

We didn’t take advantage of the dining car. The meals were extra and though we still had to pay extra for the snacks on the snack car, the prices weren’t that bad, really. They also gave away small bottles of water so overall, I was pretty happy with the food choices.

You had to go downstairs to use the restroom (on the Texas Eagle – the Lincoln Service was just a one-level train), and the restrooms are like airplane restrooms. Unfortunately, I was in the restroom quite a bit on the way up there as Mother Nature seemed determined to mess with me at that specific point in time, but that’s TMI and moving on …

No Wi-Fi on the train. That sort of sucked. In fact, it would have been pretty AWESOME to have Wi-Fi but oh well. You can’t have everything. The boys spent most of their time fooling with their 3DS’s, listening to music or sleeping.

In fact, it was sort of hard NOT to sleep on the train. With the constant rocking back and forth, it was hypnotic and whenever you walked through the cars to get to the scenery/snack cars, there were a lot of people stretched out and fast asleep. (The train had quite a few people, but there was still enough seats where you could claim two seats to yourself and since there were no armrests between the seats, you could actually lay down and go to sleep).

I had meant to take some pictures on the train, but I just never got around to doing it. (I was pretty distracted fighting off Mother Nature on the way up there and on the way back … well … I don’t really know why I didn’t on the way back – lazy I guess). I felt a little weird taking pictures, I guess, because there were so many people and the few pictures that Kevin took with his phone sort of made the people around us uncomfortable and in fact, one guy moved away from us.

So boo – I dropped the photographer ball on that one.

So that’s my overall impression/thoughts on the train ride. I would recommend it to anyone who is willing to spend the time to get somewhere. It’s like driving somewhere, but WAY more relaxing and comfortable. The prices are reasonable and as long as you take plenty to occupy yourself, it’s not that bad at all.

Next, I’ll tell you about the crazy man in the St. Louis train station who would not stop doing chair exercises and about the guy who asked Jazz if he had any weed on him.

And the weather? Was not that nice to us.

More later …

Chicago, Work Stuff

Back From Chicago … and Planning Another Trip

We got back home about an hour ago.

Actually, we got back into town about 7:00 p.m. But we stopped to eat at Taco Bell, went over to my in-laws to eat cookie cake and sing happy birthday to Jazz, THEN we came home.

And this was AFTER riding the Amtrak train from Chicago to St. Louis for five hours and driving another 3 1/2 hours from St. Louis to Springfield.

So yeah, I’M BRAIN DEAD.

I simply can’t write anymore tonight. But I’ll write about our adventures and share some pictures very soon.

Now? I’m collapsing into my own bed and (hopefully) getting a full, uninterrupted, seven hours of sleep.

And then it’s back to work tomorrow … unless they suspend me. My boss left me a voice mail Thursday, but honest to God, I forgot to call her back so, who knows if I HAVE a job to go back to. Her message didn’t say NOT to, but it was rather a question as to whether I had gotten the shot (no), or if I planned to (no). So. I figured if I was suspended, surely she would have called back and told me not to come in on Monday, right?

RIGHT?!?

At any rate, I’m going to work tomorrow and we’ll see what happens. If I get suspended, then I’ll come home and blog about Chicago.

I know you’re rooting for me to get suspended so you can hear more about Chicago – don’t lie! (*grin*)

And don’t jinx me. Cause I really do love my job and I really don’t want to get suspended.

UGH. I can’t do this “am I going to be suspended this year or not” every single year thing. It’s exhausting. (To live and to write about).

P.S. Kevin and I are thinking about going back to Chicago in June – just me and him. OH YES WE ARE!

Chicago

Chicago Plans

I’ve spent most of my Sunday fighting yawns, drinking coffee and researching our Chicago trip …

… that’s coming up in about three weeks.

Whoa.

We’re driving to St. Louis, are staying at our favorite Drury Inn (seriously ya’ll, the “complementary” breakfast is pretty darn awesome. Course, it’s not totally complementary, it’s included in the price of the room, BUT STILL! It beats going out the next morning and looking for some place to eat), then boarding the Amtrak train the next morning to Chicago!

ALL ABOARD FOR SOME FUN!

(Yeah. That was pretty corny).

Kevin found a hotel. He’s pretty awesome when it comes to researching hotels in new places. (Fine. He’s awesome pretty much all of the time). It’s called Chicago’s River Hotel and it’s a two-room suite with a Queen-sized bed and a sofa bed for the boys. It also includes a kitchenette which will hopefully save us money on food. (At the very least, we can eat breakfast and keep some snack foods on hand).

Here’s a picture of our room:

I’m a little worried the sofa bed will be too small for two tall young men, but we’ll likely take the cushions off the sofa/chair and make a bed on the floor for one of the them so they won’t be in each other’s faces all night long.

The hotel is right across the street from the Chicago river and in an area close to pretty much everything. I think we’re going to try and NOT rent a car and use the public transit systems instead. I’ve been looking into Shedd’s Aquarium and the Museum of Science & Industry and we’ll likely spend most of our time at these places. We would also like to go to Navy Pier and Magnificent Mile. We’re only going to be there for three days (2 1/2 when you take into consideration that the train doesn’t actually reach Chicago until about 2ish), and that should be enough time for us to see some fun stuff before boarding the train back to St. Louis.

We’ll be traveling back home on Jazz’s birthday, so we’ll likely treat him to some place nice for dinner that evening.

I’m really looking forward to this trip. It’s going to be a lot different than anything else we’ve ever done and the boys act like they’re really looking forward to riding the train up there and back, too. I think Dude is more relieved than anything else – no flying.

I asked off for some time in June. I’d like to take a long weekend with Kevin someplace. We haven’t really figured out where we want to go yet, but we have A TON of frequent flyer miles burning a hole in our online account. 🙂