Monday, July 12, 2010

Every day is an adventure in Chicago

My Kind of Town
I think it does a person good to have an adventure every now and then. You know, wake up in the morning, do something spontaneous and out of the ordinary – like hopping on a train to Chicago.

“You’re out of your ever-loving mind!”

That was my wife’s first reaction to the idea. I’m pretty sure that’s the reaction every wife has when confronted with spontaneous ideas from their husbands.

“We can’t afford a trip to Chicago. What are you thinking?”

And that’s always the second reaction – the money issue. But since I had my mind set on it – and a Discover Card in my pocket – we hopped on the train for a five-day adventure to The Windy City.

Riding a train to Chicago is not like flying to Chicago. First off, nobody checks your shoes for bombs. Second off, a train doesn’t have wings. It goes low and slow. Sometimes it stops and backs up, which would cause mass hysteria if a pilot ever tried to do that in a 747.

“We’re sorry ladies and gentlemen, but see that freight train beside us, the one with 538,999 cars? We have to wait until he passes us, and then we’ll be on our way to Chicago. Sorry for the delay.”

Navy Pier's Fireworks
The point of an adventure is not how quickly it can be accomplished. The point is the journey, the companionship, the shared physical discomfort which makes the destination that much sweeter. You’ll enjoy the comfort of your hotel so much more after trying to sleep sitting up in coach, listening to strangers snore, knowing full well you can’t hit any of them.

“Well, if YOU snore, I’m slapping you silly,” my wife said to me. “I might hit you five or six times just because I can.”

Twenty hours later, our Chicago adventure continued with a taxi ride to the hotel, a walk down Michigan Avenue, supper at a fancy restaurant, and watching the sunset from the top of the John Hancock Observatory.

“Welcome to the John Hancock Observatory,” the recorded voice in the elevator said. “You are now on the fastest elevator in all of North America. You’ll rise 1,000 feet in 39 seconds, and your stomach will arrive soon after that. Barf bags are not provided, so if you toss your cookies, you’ll have to clean them up yourself. We hope you enjoy your visit to Chicago.”

The second day of our adventure included a trip to The Field Museum, a walk along Lake Shore Drive, and lunch at the best hot dog joint in America – Hot Doug’s, The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium.

“Hi Craig, what’ya been doin’ this summer? Me, I went sky diving. It was sweet. Other than that, I’ve been constantly drinking. Drinking until I can’t remember my name. Have you been to that new club? Me, too. Nice. Oh really? I met this one girl and we hit it off, but I’m not ready for a long-term relationship. What ya doin’ this weekend? Drinking? Nice. Me too. Maybe we can meet somewhere and pass out together like the good old days.”

Chicago at Dusk
That was part of the conversation we heard while waiting 72 minutes in line to get a hot dog. I’d tell you the other part, but this is a Rated PG story. The hot dogs were great, by the way.

After Hot Doug’s, we made our way to Navy Pier, went on a boat ride, ate supper at Billy Goat Tavern (I kid you not), and then watched a fireworks display over Lake Michigan. We took the bus back to our hotel because by this time, our feet were worn down to bloody stumps. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

Day Three, our last day, saw us searching for souvenir T-shirts, eating Chicago-style deep pan pizza for lunch, and then making a mad dash to the train station for the long ride back to Texas.

The lady at the hotel asked me, “So, what brings you to Chicago, business or pleasure?” I told her we were just coming for lunch then heading back home. But honestly, we went to celebrate 25 years of marriage. Twenty-five years of riding together low and slow, with just as many stops and backups as the train we were on, but always getting to our destination together.

Like I said, it does a person good to have an adventure every now and then, if only to wash away the dust of everyday living from your shoes.

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