Road Trip: 12 Hours in Chicago, IL

Illinois was absolutely, 100% the "you just had to be there" state during our road trip. Since it's where my family comes from, I'm biased. I have no memories of Chicago as a child. Those are all saved for Oglesby, the tiny town my mama grew up in, and the one we spent the most time in as kids, my siblings and I. It's where I got my love of summer storms, of cicadas singing, of obscene humidity. It's what made me fond of small towns and the folks in them, so different from the sensory blitz of San Francisco and the strip mall suffocation of its suburbs.

I was surprised at how well I still knew my way around the area. We drove up and down the main street, peeked into a few storefronts, snapped some photos in front of the old house, and found my Grandpa's name on the WWII Veteran's Memorial in a peaceful little park a few blocks away.

When we were young, we ran free and wild up and down the one or two-mile stretch of the main road. My sister and I danced around in the attic, imagining we were my mom and her friends going crazy over The Beatles. I almost got struck by lightning in a swimming pool once. We'd linger in the general store, play Bloody Mary at night in the elementary school bathroom across the street, suck on Otter Pops in every color all day long.

Oglesby is no longer the way it was in those days, but it's still there and home for so many lovely memories for me, so we decided that we'd take a little detour and swing by. I hadn't been back since my grandmother died when the petite was just a baby. You know, dying is scary and hard and awful, but you kind of can't help but envy how she went - sitting happily on the screened-in back porch, drinking a beer and playing cards with one of her girlfriends. It was a stroke. I'm really glad she and my daughter got to meet before we lost her.

My mom held onto the house for awhile, rented it briefly, and then finally let it go. A new family lives there now. Wild bunnies just hop around willy-nilly in the open fields! We barely caught this one on camera. Isn't it cutie pie?

Then it was time to get back on the road, so we waved goodbye and made our way to Route 80.

Welcome to The Burnham, a very old and beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of Chicago. Everything was gorgeous and the staff were amazing about tending to the pups as well as us. We were so flustered when we finally arrived, starving and delirious and late for dinner with friends. I didn't manage to snap a photo of the view from our room, but it was stellar!

Mercat a la Planxa, a Catalan-inspired tapas restaurant next door to Grant Park, is located in the Blackstone - another very old and very pretty hotel. I think we ordered half the offerings on the extensive menu, sangria flights and cava cocktails, and it was just a really brilliant, well-done meal.

"And now it's time for some arm circles, ladies!" 
We didn't plan to all dress up in jewel tones. It just happened! Bottom left, on the right, is the one and only Nadarine - you might know her from her blog series Shower Beer Saturday - a worthy pursuit of the best beverages for consuming whilst showering. (Don't lie, we've all done it. Right? Right.) 

We'd gone 1400 long miles since Salt Lake, and this night was exactly what we needed to push us through the last thousand miles: easy, witty conversation with dear friends, exquisite food and drink in a pleasant setting, an enchanting nighttime walk through the city with locals, and to rest our heads in a posh, comfortable hotel room when all was said and done, drunk and sated.

"Elevator goooooooooooooooooooin' up!"

We were out much too late for our early morning departure - I think we got five or six hours of sleep, but oh! it was very much worth it.

It was a gorgeous, bright blue day when we woke up, so we took the dogs for a little walk near some fountains with church bells clanging in the background, and then walked to Intellegentsia for our coffee and pastries before powering through a little emergency shopping. In that short time we both fell in love with the place. Next to Wyoming, we'll definitely make it a priority to get back to Chicago whenever we can.

That's it for now, I'll leave you with these daytime shots (hey! I found some from our view!) of us looking very sleepy and like getting in the car to drive Erie, PA is a terrible idea. The next road trip post will have FIREWORKS because it was the 4th of July when we were in Erie. Exciting! OK, not really, but we're lucky we caught fireworks at all.