Thurs. July 26, 2012- Illinois to Wisconsin:
There is no better way to start the day than with a free iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, thanks to the White Sox hitting a run in the fourth inning of course. I was on my own for the morning; mostly because my intention was go to on a massive condensed shopping trip and due to the excitement of being in Chicago crossed with being an hour behind in time zones, this little adventure commenced rather early. I did not mind, there was plenty of stuff to do before the shops opened. It is not hard to figure out that I made a beeline for Cloudgate. It was barely 9am so I got to experience the Chicago morning rush hour on the sidewalks; it was a lot better than the tourist crowds. Cloudgate was fairly empty; I guess not a lot of people go there first thing in the morning. The seagulls had taken over and were perched precariously atop the giant silver Bean. It made me giggle and love Cloudgate that much more. I loved it so much in fact that I killed my camera battery taking pictures of it.
The previous day I had seen a few people with Forever 21 shopping bags and it struck me as slightly odd that they would be so far south, Magnificent Mile being north of us, about a 40 minute walk. It bugged me but I let it go. The next day I soon found out why, they were not in fact avid walkers; a new Forever 21 had opened up closer to Grant Park, near the new Target. This was clearly a new secondary shopping area for people too lazy to walk to Magnificent Mile, let alone the mall that is even further north. I got to the stores too early, but the opening times were staggered. I would browse one shop, while waiting for the next one to open. There were a few that did not have hours listed, so every time I passed by I would try the door. I tried to go into Charlotte Rousse four times to no avail. I kept circling the block, trying doors, I felt like a shark. On my way back to the hotel I saw some street art that was light bulbs on little poles glowing blue and Eiffel 65’s song Blue playing from hidden speakers, further affirming my love affair with Chicago. I reconvened with Brent and we headed to the Rookery hoping that this time it would be open, and it was. But only the foyer was open to gawking tourists, we weren’t even allowed to walk up the fancy marble staircase.
Part of the reason for the laisse-faire attitude in the morning was that Hot Doug’s (where we were going for breakfast) was not open until 10:30am and it was finally time to head out for some weird hotdogs. I say weird because we looked at the menu for the day and had decided on alligator (my choice) and kangaroo (Brent’s choice) sausages. That is unless the website was lying and intent on breaking my heart. It was faster to see some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings along the way than to follow the original plan for the day and do those after Hot Doug’s. The first one was a house he had designed but the house number did not match what we had found, maybe it was a way of keeping people away? It was still very obviously his work if you knew what to look for. The second stop on our mini-tour was Unity Temple, his masterwork. You had to pay to go in but then were free to wander around. It was easy to see why he called it his masterpiece; the design was just gorgeous if not fully thought out. The glass ceiling tiles turned the temple into a sauna. We were roasting in there. The third and final stop was also a residential house but it was blatantly obvious that it was a FLW-design, not to mention it stood out from all the other houses around it. The house was almost completely surrounded by trees and obscured from view.
At this point I was getting really hungry and I feared I would turn hangry (hungry and angry, not a great combination). I snacked a bit on what was left of our bag of Garrett’s Popcorn, but I was starving. It was hot dog time, I had developed a craving. We got there and our jaws dropped. The line was out the door and around the block. I jumped out of the car and ran for the line; Brent drove off in search of parking. I thought for sure he would come back half an hour later, but surprisingly there he was 5 minutes later. And then there we were in line for almost an hour, surrounded by the most infuriating people imaginable. It was unbearable. I really thought I was going to scream and my hanger (yep, I had gone hangry) was getting to me. We did get a few minutes of relief when we were in between the door and the secondary door in a small foyer, just us, no annoying people talking about the stupidest things. The owner, who was working the register, is a saint for having to deal with these kinds of people. I surmised that it was undecided people slowing down the line, I was right. There should be two lines, a regular line and an express line for people who know what they want. If you stand there too long and don’t order you get sent to the other line. That is how it should be; the world would be a better place.
My alligator sausage came with a giant lump of feta cheese on top; I was not at all heart-broken when that lump just slid right off as I took a bite. There was just enough feta residue left on my sausage to create the flavour the chef had wanted, without me having to ingest feta or feel its weird texture (which is lumpy). The alligator had just a slight kick of spicy to it, delicious. The kangaroo sausage was not as good, and it was topped with goat cheese, goat cheese that did not just slide right off. I won this round. It was worth having to put up with those irritating people in line and the cherry soda made me smile.
State #26 (for me), Wisconsin also welcomed us with a big wooden welcome sign. You could tell we were in Wisconsin; one of the first things we passed was the Mars Cheese Castle. We saw a license plate that said Jehovah; you could say we were Jehovah’s Witnesses. We set out to explore Milwaukee and no sooner had I pointed out a sign in a bar that said they offer discounted beer when it rains, it started raining. Thankfully we were only a block away from the hotel so we backtracked to get our jackets. And good thing we did because the rain did not let up, it was awful, just a torrential downpour as we tried to explore Milwaukee. In the rain we searched for the stature of Fonzi which was supposed to be by the river, not near a bridge over the river. I really thought this was going to be another American Gothic incident, but trying to get to the riverwalk we found him. Along the riverwalk we also saw the statue of the WWII duck (I forget the story). It was still raining, we found the Safehouse restaurant but Brent was not hungry yet and we did not have enough time so we continued on to the building being scaled by ladybugs, and that is just what it was, a building with giant ladybugs on the side of it. The other stuff I had on my list of things to see in Milwaukee were too far to walk to in time.
We suddenly found ourselves with more time so back to the Safehouse we went. We went in and there was a door, but it was locked. I pushed a random lever and the wall slid open. We went in and again found ourselves in a small room, and again the wall slid open. We were in. For starters we had the deep-fried cheese curds; we were in Wisconsin after all. We should have stopped at that, the mains were subpar. I had chicken tortilla soup that was way too salty and Brent had an awful sandwich. I could not resist ordering a shot so I could keep the shot glass, the drink tasted like candy. We had two options when leaving the restaurant: leave through the regular door OR go answer a phone, put in a quarter and listen to instructions. We wandered around looking for it, went into a phone booth and put in a quarter, all we heard were sound effects. We put in another quarter, more sound effects. No instructions. We got out, realized it was s ound-effects booth and that the exit was to the left of us. And we were out of quarters. We had to settle for the regular way out. We walked down to the waterfront, wherein my stomach really started to hurt. I blame the cheese-curds and soup. We wandered over to a war memorial and had a great view of Lake Michigan from it. The rain had finally let up and it was actually getting pretty hot outside. It did not help me feel better, my stomach was dying, my shoes were damp and we were walking towards the bright sun. All I could do was complain.
We left our coats and my camera at the hotel and headed out for the game. We barely made it to the elevators before realizing we’d forgotten the tickets and the water. So many busses kept passing us by, all different routes, none of them going to the stadium but eventually it arrived. The stadium was big and fancy with lots of food options, they even had cupcakes! Mind you, I was in no mood to eat. I had one bite of Brent’s bratwurst and even that was too much for me. We got free military print Brewers hats, which apparently only a few people got. There was an old woman beside us who caught a foul ball and instead of giving it to the kids in front of us, she kept it for herself. She even went so far as to show her friends, taunting the kids in front of us who had turned around to look. When we got up to go wander around we left our stuff behind and we wondered if she was going to steal our hats, she had yelled something at us about them as we left. When we came back she retrieved them from under her seat to give back to us. She totally wanted to take them and was counting on us to not come back. While walking around there were a bunch of people chanting Polish, and I was a tad confused, until I looked down on the field and saw that there were different types of sausages racing. In the 8th inning the Brewers hit a homerun which resulted in fireworks and the mascot going down a twirly slide in the outfield. We had seen the mascot earlier while wandering the stadium, he slapped Brent on the back. Leaving the game, we had to sit on the bus and wait. The bus was not allowed to leave until the game was actually over. When the bus driver said it was time to go the entire crowd let out a cheer.