Wed. July 25, 2012- Missouri to Illinois:
Yet again we found ourselves in a hotel that did not offer free coffee or breakfast, thankfully the GPS knew the way to a Dunkin’ Donuts, and oh there just happened to be a Jack-In-The-Box across the street, and it just so happened to be open 24/7 and it just so happened to serve a full menu, unlike McDonalds where we would have had to eat their breakfast food. Jack-In-The-Box was better than McDonalds, but not as good as Hardee’s, they do get points for having curly fries, but in the end it was lackluster and I do not see myself going back there again. I had to traverse a construction site to get to Dunkin’ Donuts and I almost fell into a hole at one point. I thought I would try something new and I went for the blueberry flavoured coffee, it was weirdly good. No sooner were we back on the road than we passed by the Crossroads Route 66 Diner, it would have been a much better breakfast but I like to think that it was closed at that early hour.
I regretted not having downloaded some of the tracks from Cruis’n USA; it would have been perfect for the five hour drive ahead of us. Halfway through the drive Brent woke me up, suggesting I play the license plate game. I am not sure if this was suggested to keep me awake because he was bored, or he thought I was bored. In any case I took to it right away, at first just casually calling out state names as we saw them. Soon I was really racking them up, I was nearing 20. Then I was nearing 25, I was losing my mind, we were so close to downtown Chicago, nearing our exit off the freeway, I just needed one more state to have seen half the states, I got screwed over by seeing a Canadian one (obviously does not count as a state), I had seen some really far flung ones and it was all down to the wire… and it stayed there. In 2.5 hours of driving I had seen 24 different states and 3 provinces. A nice fun game had turned high stakes with me screaming because I could not see the license plate because another car pulled up.
We checked in at the Wyndham Blake hotel and it was a mad dash from there to the subway, we were running late for the afternoon White Sox game. The way the transit system works is that you load money onto a card and swipe it, apparently we looked like we did not know what we were doing because we were being helped by a transit employee. It was a long wait for the subway, and those things are loud when they roll in to the station, it all somehow made the TTC seem reasonable.
The game was set to start at around 1pm; in the middle of the summer this is not an ideal time to have an outdoor baseball game. It was unbelievably hot. Everyone was just drenched with sweat. There were showers around the stadium and just crowds of people crammed under them. People were splashing themselves with water at the bathroom sink and the line-ups for the water fountains, well; there actually were lines in front of them. Hunger and heat led to the both of us just devouring a plate of nachos, they were disgustingly good and salty and cheesy. The heat got to me and I caved an d had a Snickers ice cream bar, which was reasonably priced at $4 (as in Toronto-price, turns out in the US those things cost you about a $1 regularly). When the White Sox hit a home run there are fireworks and spiral spinning things light up, but the fireworks are not nearly as effective in the middle of the day and you cannot see the spinning things lights. The seats were so hot they actually burned my legs and I had to resort to sitting on my purse. A fat guy in front of us spilled his drink on the guy in the row in front, and the fat guy’s wife had to wipe up the poor chaps head. We left early because the game was slow, it was ungodly hot and we had no intention of being stuck in that hot sweaty mass of people all heading for the subway.
It felt so good to have a shower as soon as we got back, getting all the sunscreen and sweat off. I had to change my clothes as well. It was bad. We grabbed our trusty map and headed out to explore Chicago some more. Our first destination was the American Gothic Statue, but we passed by a Garrett’s Popcorn and figured we might as well; it would save us some time and give us something to eat on the way. The way we were walking though, we were heading straight for Cloudgate so American Gothic was bumped down the list again. It was a good call because we got to wash the caramel off our hands (the popcorn is so damn greasy). Cloudgate was amazing as ever, I just love it, it is easily one of my favourite sights I have ever been to. We got to the Chicagio Tribune Building and there was no sign of American Gothic, we circled the building to no avail. I walked over to a tour guide guy and asked him, he thought I wanted the American Girl store, so I said “No, the statue of a farmer holding a pitchfork, standing beside his wife” and he just stared blankly at me and confessed that he was not even from Chicago. I moved on to the next guide who laughed and asked who told me about it, for it had been taken down two (!!!) years ago. I was furious. First they take down Forever Marilyn, now the internet lies to me about American Gothic?! He said it was a temporary thing and that they always change the statue there, but the last two times I went there was nothing. When was the last time I was there? Oh, I don’t know, two years ago? As in when American Gothic was supposed to still be there?! AAHH!!!
The next few blocks we walked in silence, I was so flipping angry. We were looking for Macy’s that was formerly a Marshall Fields store where there was a supposed Tiffany glass mosaic ceiling. We found Macy’s easily, no map needed, I directed us. We stepped in, glanced up in anticipation… and saw nothing. It was a stupid regular ceiling. I nearly lost my mind. I was about to give up, but we went in further, and looked up yet again… and behold there it was. For a second view we went to the top floor, it was gorgeous and must have taken forever to make. It also brightened my mood significantly. Gold Coast Dogs was just up the street, I think hunger was also making me angry. I had the steamed dog, Brent had the chargrilled. They were OK hotdogs, but by no means better than Portillos/SuperDawg/Byron’s. On the way back to the hotel we chanced upon Chagal’s mural “Four Seasons”, something I had wanted to see but had forgotten to look up and there it was. It was very pretty and you could walk all the way around and admire it. He signed it a bunch of times, and his signature varied, it was a bit odd, I chalk it up to creative insanity. There was a Target on the next street over, calling me like a beacon, but I did not find anything good there sadly.
Back at the hotel we placed an order for deep-dish pizza with garlic and Canadian bacon from Giordano’s, one of the deep-dish pizza places we had missed last time. Unfortunately in that time of ordering the pizza I managed to drink half my soda. We sat around drinking one glass of water after another, we had not thought ahead and brought water with is while out walking. We walked to the Rookery (which I found out you can go inside of) and peaked in but we were too late to go inside and look around. The pizza was so heavy and it smelled so good, it was tempting to just eat it right there in the middle of the street but we managed to get to the hotel. America’s Got Talent was conveniently on as well. The pizza was so good and so greasy and so unbelievably cheesy. For dessert we topped off with a bit of Garrett’s popcorn, but I had eaten almost 2 whole slices, it was too much food. While watching AGT I got the worst news of all: it was going on a 3 week break for the Olympics!!
We did not have too much time to recuperate after eating all that food, it was time to go out again. We were going to a jazz bar for college night. We got to Buddy Guy’s Legends bar and quickly realized we were the youngest ones there, there was nary a college student to be seen. I had a drink made with Maker’s Mark. We had gotten the last seats in the bar and the music was great. Two hours later when we went back outside, it was 11:30pm and it was still boiling hot outside. It was unbelievable.
Overall Chicago, two years later is mostly the same but also a lot has changed. Target opened up downtown, there are a bunch more Garrett’s Popcorn out postings (we passed at least 4, when last time there were 2 locations total), Gino’s East also had a third out posting (across from our hotel) and Cloudgate is as awesome as ever. But the Chicago Tribune Plaza, where there is supposed to be a new statue each time: sucks.