April 20-25, 2022
A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single StepLao Tzu
After (many) months of planning with various hiccups along the way and the final nail-biting waiting for the Covid antigen test result at the airport, we are off!
We had a good flight and we got through the formalities at O’Hare pretty swiftly and have our passports stamped so we have 90 days to explore the US of A!
We are staying with Jo’s friend and former colleague, Krista, and she is the perfect host. We’re tired from the journey so our first evening is a low key meal and couple of drinks at the bar at the end of the street, F. O’Mahonies, which do some of the best cheese curds in the country (mmm – delish!). Richard is relieved that this first bar serves (hard) cider (phew – panic averted!). The next few days, we will explore some of the sights and take in the local culture.
Our first full day
On Thursday 21, we do the fantastic Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise (highly recommended). A Chicago Architecture Center volunteer gave us an overview of over 50 buildings along the Chicago River. The tour goes into how Chicago grew from a small settlement into one of the world’s largest cities in less than 100 years.
After the boat trip we found The Northman Cider bar by the river was open for its first day of the season. It was a hot day and we needed our thirst quenching so it would’ve been rude not to try it out…
Then, on a tip from the boat guide, we spent some time walking around some local parks (Lakeshore East and then Maggie Daley, Butler Field and Buckingham Fountain). We saw people doing a Segway tour (always good fun but we didn’t have time so will save that for another time).
Grabbed a sub-style sandwich at Potbelly – nice food and customisable, suspect we’ll be back if we find them along the way
We then met with Krista for a sunset roof top cocktail and dinner at Upstair’s At The Gwen – a mid-level roof terrace down town which had a good view, nice fire pits and good food and drinks.
Then onto Rosa’s Lounge for our first taste of live music and the blues! We’d booked for ‘Thursday Night Live’ Blues Featuring Lil Ed Williams and got that and loads more. Local legend, 86 year old, Mary Lane was in the crowd and got on stage to sing several times, and sassed with Lil Ed all night long. Willie Buck did a set, and loads of others switched in and out including Boney Fields. Audience was only about 30 in a room that could hold 100, but it was, nevertheless, a great atmosphere. We lasted until just after 1am, the band, including Mary, were still going but we were done in! Super busy day with an amazing show to end it.
The Uber home was funny – a young girl driving a Mini-clubman – no way were three of us getting in the back and she wasn’t happy clearing two years of trash off the front seat for Richard! She mellowed by the end of the trip after some of Richard’s fascinating roundabout and Docent talk!
The next day (Friday 22) we had a slow morning after the night before! The weather forecast of rain and more rain was correct and so a day at museums and exhibitions was in order.
First stop was the Newberry Library for Crossing: Mapping American Journeys exhibition. Some great maps and exhibits on how the europeans expanded across the USA, in various transport methods and at different times, provided us with a good overview of the history and context of various routes and areas we’ll be travelling through over the next few months.
Our next stop was the Chicago Cultural Center for Jin Lee: Views & Scenes exhibition of photos which had some interesting but not particularly beautiful images. We also saw both the glass domes in the building – the famous Tiffany dome and the Grand Army of the Republic stained glass dome – both spectacular and beautiful.
We had a lovely dinner at Beatrix on N. Clark St. before taking in some stand up comedy at Lincoln Lodge – a proper showcase with a compere (Alex Dragicevich) and six acts including Deanna Ortiz, Gena Gephart, Jared Goldstein and Geoffrey Asmus. Stand up is always a good way to get an insight into the local issues and it was good to see that the Lodge has a real educational focus with peer and educational support for comedians as they develop their careers (seemingly quite different from the UK).
When in Chicago – baseball!
Three days into our time in the US and it was time to go to our first baseball game and what a game and venue: the famous Wrigley field to see the Pittsburgh Pirates play the Chicago Cubs. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon and Krista had got us great seats along the 3rd base line. Neither team are doing well right now, so who knew what might happen….. 0-21 was what happened – insane score, Cubs smashed the Pirates all over the place. Pirates made about three hits in total. An exciting game and one it will be difficult to top. Stopped at O’Mahonies on the way back – as you do.
Saturday night we dined at Wilde with Krista’s friend, Jame, then on to Delilahs for drinks. An amazing bar specialising in whisky and punk/rock/grunge music. Best Islay whisky collection Jo has ever seen outside of Islay including a bespoke Islay whisky created with the bar (Kilchoman Delilah’s and Jack Rose Collection Sauternes 2016) which had to be sampled and was delicious! We spent a long time talking with Sally and Mike, the owner of Delilahs. By the time we left at 1:30 ish a trip to Kenya was planned for 2023…
Our last day in Chicago was a lazy Sunday, a chance to hang out with Krista and to regroup and get ready for the next stage of the journey. We ended our time in Chicago in style with a wonderful steak dinner at Gibsons Italia which had a great view of the river bend and downtown from our table, fabulously well seared steak and a delicious spread of sides. We even got comped a dessert that no-one really needed (but we ate it all!)
Monday morning, Krista dropped us at the airport to pick up the car. Thank you to Krista for a wonderful time in Chicago!
We had a choice of cars: Chrysler 300S or Audi A5 Sportback. The A5 would be like a not as good version of what we have at home, and a much smaller boot than the Chrysler so we took the beast which will be perfect for cruising around the country. Fully blacked out! 3.6L V6 but only makes 300bhp, 2022 model with ~1680 miles on it. Eventually got the Apple Carplay working which improves the entertainment and navigation, but the built in cellular and satellite radio will help when we have no mobile signal.