Archive for the ‘Chicago Trip’ Category

I don’t remember much, but I got the t-shirt so I must have liked it!

Sorry that the last few days haven’t really had much in the way of new content.  It’s getting toward the end of this epic road trip and quite honestly I’m ready to be home again.  The other factor conspiring to prevent me from posting much has been that most of this part of the trip hasn’t really had much going on other than driving for hours each day.  I guess it’s a good thing I like to drive then.  heh

Yesterday we started out in Santa Rosa, NM and made our way through Albuquerque and on to Flagstaff, AZ where we stayed for the night.  While in Albuquerque we visited the American International Rattlesnake Museum.  That place was very cool!  If you ever find yourself in Albuquerque, and you’re looking for something to do, check this place out.  From the outside it looks like a small shop that sells snake and reptile related souvenirs, but once you step inside, and pay  your entrance fee, you’ll find a LOT more!  Peter and I spent a couple of HOURS here before we had to get back on the road.

Once we escaped the educational and entertaining clutches of the Rattlesnake Museum we set course for Petrified Forrest National Park.  This is really a pretty small park that isn’t far from Holbrook, AZ.  We got there kind of late and were warned that the park would be closing in less than two hours.  Each of us paid our fee to enter the park and we did a whirlwind exploration of the park from one end to the other.  We saw the petrified trees, we saw some of the “painted” desert and we even saw some petroglyphs left by pre-historic inhabitants of the region.  We also took a bunch of photos that I’m going to have to retro fit into the post another time.

From here we drove to Winslow, AZ hoping to find a place to eat.  Unfortunately Winslow is kinda tiny and sadly seems to be a dying community like so many along Route 66.  Other than a couple of fast food places, the only place Peter could find that was open was a place called the Brown Mug Diner.  It looked a little dubious to me and I wasn’t really in the mood to experiment with my evening meal, so we decided to push on to Flagstaff where we knew there would be many more opportunities for a less scary meal.  Along the way we saw a few signs for the Cracker Barrel in Flagstaff and since I’d never eaten in one, that’s where we went.  They make a decent meal for a very good price in my opinion!

After dinner we went in search of lodging for the night.  Lucky for us, the Best Western Pony Soldier Inn had one more room available.  I can’t say I was overly impressed with our accommodations, but at 11PM I’m not going to throw much of a fit if the bed is at least usable and has clean sheets.

After a somewhat restless night (the room was too hot for my tastes) we got up to a sparkling day.  Peter and I had been discussing options for the final couple days of our trip and we discovered that Flagstaff is just a hop, skip and a jump from The Grand Canyon.  Peter had only been there once as a child and it had been years since I’d been, so we decided to take the detour and spend part of the day at the South Rim of The Grand Canyon.  I’m very happy we did!

We parked at the Yavapai Point Observation Station and spent almost an hour hiking along the rim and taking pictures of the canyon.  I showed Peter where I had hiked in the canyon as a teen and told him about how long the trail is to the bottom from the South Rim.  We moved the car down to the village market parking lot and hiked from there to the park headquarters and on out to the rim trail.  Then we hiked along the rim down to the Bright Angel Lodge where we had a late lunch.  All in all a couple miles of hiking and several hours spent photographing the spectacular beauty of the canyon.  Once again, like most other times in our trip, the weather was fantastic!  You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day!

Eventually we decided we needed to get back on the road if there was any chance we’d get back to San Diego within the next couple of days.  After a quick stop at the gift shop to pick up the obligatory t-shirt, we headed back out of the park and on toward the conclusion of our journey.  Tonight we have taken our rest at the Best Western Kings Inn in Kingman, AZ.  At this point I think the plan is to make a run for San Diego and home tomorrow.

Get your kicks, on Route 66

We’ve been on Route 66 for a couple of days now.  Most of it has been along Interstate 40 but Peter has found a few isolated stretches where we get to follow what must have been the original highway.  It has that feel and is just fun to drive on.

I’m sorry I missed blogging about our day yesterday.  One of the places Peter felt was important for us to stop was the memorial at the site of the Oklahoma City Bombing.  We were able to spend an hour or so at this very well designed and poignant memorial for the people who died in that tragic event.  Words alone cannot express the depth of emotion one experiences here.

Today we visited the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK.  I am impressed at the work that has gone into making the experience there something to enjoy.  The museum is laid out in a series of rooms that follow the history of Route 66 from the early days of it’s conception and construction in the 1920’s to when most of it was decommissioned starting in the 50’s and ending up in the 70’s.  Each decade has a room full of memorabilia and information presented with some musical accompaniment from the relevant decade.  It ends with a short film cut from a longer Route 66 documentary.  The exit to the exhibits drops you right in the gift shop of course where they have some really great Route 66 souvenirs for sale.

After spending way too much time at the museum we boogied on down the highway until we stopped at a “restored” Phillips 66 station in Mc Lean, TX.  I’m sad to say it didn’t seem so much restored as it did just painted over with some fresh paint to hide the rust.

We moved on to the Cadillac Ranch where we spent some time admiring this piece of evolving public art work.  The sun was low in the sky as we left and Peter suggested we stop for dinner before proceeding on to our hotel for the night.

We’ve run across Famous Dave’s BBQ many times on this trip and found it tasty and delicious when we tried it so we headed to the nearest one we could find.  Someone asked me why we’d eat at Famous Dave’s while we were in Texas since there is one in Vista near where we live.  There were two reasons why really…  Famous Dave’s is a known quantity where we knew we’d enjoy the food.  Both Peter and I have had enough BAD BBQ to really appreciate having good BBQ when we can.  The second reason was mostly that we wanted to find some place quickly and not spend a lot of time deciding, so Famous Dave’s it was.  As far as the BBQ went, Dave’s didn’t disappoint.  Tasty and delicious as expected.  However Peter had a different experience with the Key Lime Pie.  When he’d had the pie at Famous Dave’s in Wisconsin, it was tart enough to make his jowls pucker!  Here in Texas it was merely “Meh”…  I’m sad to report that Peter didn’t even finish his pie.  🙁

After dinner we got back on the highway and literally drove into the sunset.  It was blinding, brilliant, and beautiful.  As pretty as it was however I was very happy to see the last of our star slip below the horizon so I could stop squinting at the road.  We were on our way across the Texas/New Mexico boarder heading for a town called Tucumcari, NM.  Unfortunately when we got to the hotel we planned on staying at, we were turned away.  They had a water main break and didn’t have any water so couldn’t rent any rooms.  Bummer.

We drove on to Santa Rosa, NM and will start from here tomorrow.

We’re On Route 66, the good, the bad, the downright ugly

Well… we started back toward San Diego yesterday.  Trying to find the parts of Route 66 in Chicago to follow out of town pretty much proved to be a bust.  There were events happening near downtown Chicago that prevented us from turning into the city on the roads we needed to follow.  We ended up kind of circling around the city to the south and picking up the highway out of town and on to St. Louis.

We stopped in Springfield, IL to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.  That place is awesome!  I wish we’d had a full day to spend here.  Unfortunately since most of the museum is sponsored by commercial interests, they don’t allow photography in most of the museum areas.

We made good time the rest of the day and drove almost all the way to St. Louis.  We found another Best Western to stay at, and actually got the last available room.

This morning we drove through St. Louis and crossed the Mississippi for the second time this trip…  We took and hour or so to stop at the St. Louis Arch and grab a few pics!  We’ve been exceptionally lucky in that every time we’ve visited a landmark where we wanted to take pictures the weather has co-operated splendidly!  Storm clouds part, the sun comes out, and blue skies peek through fluffy white.  It was a great day to visit the Arch.

Back on the road after visiting the Arch we tried picking up Route 66 as it left St. Louis as part of State Route 100.  Unfortunately the locals seem to have decided to just route the road through the business district of the suburbs.  We passed every conceivable type of business on our way out of St. Louis other than those that could be directly related to Route 66.  Not to mention all the stop lights and traffic along the route sure didn’t make it very fun.

We eventually merged back into the interstate and made good time for most of the afternoon.  All along this segment of the interstate pieces of old Route 66 can be seen right along side the highway.  In many places it is used as a frontage road giving access to local businesses and homes.  In others it’s little more than a dirt track used by farmers to get between fields.  There were even strange stretches where the road would go for maybe 200 yards, then abruptly end with a bunch of “road closed” signs only to pick up again 50 yards further on and run a mile or two before another bunch of “road closed” signs would interrupt it again.  In one place the old route dips below the interstate where it is buried by the roadbed of the interstate itself only to come out in a park on the opposite side and dead end at a collapsed bridge over a small river.  It was strangely sad.

Later in the afternoon, Peter found a long stretch of road that followed the old Route 66 path, so we left the interstate to drive the rest of the way to our today’s destination on this alternate piece of road.  It was almost magical to be away from the interstate driving down what could only be described as a “country lane” that after a few twists and turns went straight for mile after mile.  There was still traffic here, but much of the commerce that once existed along this stretch of road had closed down.  Probably to move closer to the interstate.  This didn’t seem to bother the farms or cows we were passing any.

We’ve reached our destination for the night at the Best Western – Precious Moments Hotel in Carthage, MO.  This place is huge and just a little odd, but almost deserted unlike the hotel we stayed at last night.  Probably has more to do with it being Sunday night than anything else.

Some Photos from Chicagoland

Peter tells me there will be some folks who will be very jealous over this one.

A couple from our day at Wrigley Field

Chicago steakhouses are pretty kick ass!

The nice place we stayed while in Wrigleyville.  It had one of the nicest rooms we’ve stayed in.

A few from our day Downtown at the Sky Deck

The Field Musem

Adventures in Chicago

The last couple of days Tim and I have been enjoying our Chicago adventure. So needless to say, I’ve been doing my best to give him a good Chicago experience.

The first night I decided to introduce him to real, deep-dish pizza.

The one that most people are familiar with is Pizzeria Uno. Uno is credited with inventing the deep-dish pizza back in 1943. Even though they invented this amazing food genre, when they franchised across the country, some of the goodness was lost. So the only Pizzeria Unos that are truly amazing are in Chicagoland.

So I didn’t want to take Tim there.

I asked around, checked many web sites, and the name that kept coming up was Giordano’s Pizza. Most people felt that Giordano’s had perfected the genre. So despite the fact that I hadn’t been before, I thought I’d give it a try.

We walked the seven blocks (burning off the calories in advance) and found our way to the restaurant.

The problem with bringing Tim to a place with pizza is that we have an amazing pizza in San Diego in the form of Filippi’s. Filippi’s is what I like to call “Lava flow” pizza, which has so much cheese that it looks like its about to devour a small village in its cheesy goodness.

Tim was not going to be swayed easily. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be, since Giordano’s, although tasty, was nothing to write home about.

We also got to go to a Chicago Cubs game. Our friend Paul was supposed to come with us on this trip but was unable to since he got ill. Because of this, he was kind enough to buy Tim and I tickets behind home plate. And they rocked! If you’re going to go to the Cathedral of Baseball, it’s always nice to have good seats.

Chicago is also the land of meat, and not for those people who think vegetables are more than a side dish. Of course I had to take Tim to a Chicago steak house.

Morton’s or Lawry’s would have been excellent choices, but both are available in California. No, Tim needed to go someplace that could only be found in Chicago.

My choice: Gene and Georgetti’s. G&G has been around for 67 years, and one of the places Frank Sinatra used to come for steak. The type of place where the waiter’s are curmudgeonly and professional. Where the food is completely devoid of pretense.

And we were not disappointed. We each ordered the Filet with blue cheese and sautéed mushrooms. Oh my! I was seriously in a cow based, food coma! Our waiter Tony was fun, skilled, and just a good guy to give you food advice. Gene and Georgetti’s was definitely a good place for a steak.

Today we went touristy. We took the “L” train to downtown and went to the Sears Tower. In case you didn’t know, the Sears Tower is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere (It was the tallest in the world until 1998)

They not only have a great observation deck, but this evil thing they call the SkyLedge. The SkyLedge is a bunch of big, glass balconies that jut out from the 103rd floor. It’s glass on each wall, as well as it’s ceiling and floor. It’s very cool, but can be quite disconcerting to “walk off” the roof!

Afterwards, I got to do what I came to Chicago to do: Eat a Vienna hot dog!

Now there are those deluded people who think that New York has the best hot dog. They are entitled to their (horribly incorrect) point of view. However, Chicago clearly wins hands down.

During the great depression, people worked hard to get enough money for a meal. The Chicago hot dog was $0.05, and not only had the delicious, 100% beef hot dog, but a “salad” of fresh ingredients, including two tomato wedges, a pickle spear, onions, day-glo green relish, and sport peppers. It’s a meal in a bun!

Not only is it economical (The 2010 price is $2.50), but exceedingly yummy!

Finally, we head to the Field Museum. The Field Museum is the Louvre of Natural History Museums. It’s amazing! They have more cool stuff in storage than most museums have in their collections!

Unfortunately, Tim hurt his back, and now we’re back in the room.

All and all, a great visit to the Windy City. I hope I’ve made Tim a fan, who will return again someday.

Tomorrow, off to Sprinfield, IL., via Route 66!

Winded in the Windy City

Whew!  We’ve finally arrived in Chicago yesterday!  I know I promised pictures, but I failed to take in to account how flat everything is here.  I’ve really had no chance to get much of a view of anything.  All I’ve got are a couple of photos from walking around near Wrigley Field.

Other than hit rush hour traffic, the first thing we did when we got to Chicago was take my car in for it’s 15K service.  We drove around some pretty typical Chicago neighborhoods trying to figure out how to get into the entrance for the service department at Mid City Subaru.  I ended up walking up to the building and asking how to get in.  They actually had to open a garage door for me.  I suspect they keep them closed most of the time to prevent theft or unauthorized people from wandering into the service areas.

From there we headed down the road to our hotel.  We’re staying at the Best Western Hawthorne Terrace.  It’s surprisingly small at only 83 rooms, but really nice and only a short distance from Wrigley Field itself so we can walk to see the Cubs play today.

Minnesota is a state be-hind

Sorry that I don’t have any new pics for you folks today.  We’ve been racing across the state of Minnesota so we could reach Madison, Wisconsin today.  This will make the final leg of our trip into Chicago a very short day and we’ll be able to do more when we reach the city.  I promise much more in the way of pictures then!

The one thing I think I can report is that the farmers in Minnesota seem to have really adopted the idea of Wind Farms because we passed many very large wind generators along the route today.  Most of the highway was along very low rolling countryside with very little in the way of noteworthy topography.

Honestly I think driving across the Mississippi was probably one of the more exciting things to happen today.  Just wish we’d had some time to take a couple of photos, but there didn’t seem to be a good place with a view to stop and do that.  Most of the view is obstructed by trees when you’re not actually on the bridge over the river itself and the river looks more like a narrow lake at this point than a river.

I’ll lobby Peter to stop on the way back so we can get a couple of river pics.

(L)Across the Mississippi

We just crossed the Mississippi at Lacrosse, WI. This is the first time I’ve ever crossed the Mississippi in a car. We are about two thirds of the way through the day’s journey at this point.

Most of the highway through Minnesota was generally pleasant as we made our way through low rolling hills and farms, about 20 miles west of Lacrosse the road became almost unbelievably bumpy. It really got to Peter (more likely his bladder) because he sped up and took the lead into Lacrosse and made for the nearest Starbucks! One iced latte later and Peter is a much happier person.

Through Minnesota and on to Madison Wisconsin

In an attempt to make the day of our entry to Chicago shorter we are going to make today another long day. This part of our journey doesn’t have too many places we are interested in stopping at so we’re just trying to make good time instead without killing ourselves in the process.

I did want to comment on our hotel last night… We’ve discovered not all Best Westerns are created equal. Not only was the one we stayed at last night more expensive but it was also of poorer quality than others we’ve stayed at. We also had to deal with a hotel full of hormonal teenagers on some kind group trip. I could hear the giggling, shouting and general senseless noise making until I finally crashed from exhaustion at around 2:30am.

If you ever find the hotel you intend to stay at full of teenagers, just do yourself a favor and move on to somewhere with fewer rampaging hormones. You’ll be happier for it.

Day Nine: How We Crossed South Dakota In A Day (Eastward HO!)

We were very happy to find our cars snow free this morning.  That didn’t stop today from being bone chillingly cold.  When I started my car this morning I had a moment of thought about parts of the engine being frozen.   For much of our trip across South Dakota the temperature rarely got above 50°F and the wind blew so hard all day that even in the warmer areas it was still pretty darn cold.  I’m glad to report we encountered no more snow and only a light mist of rain all day.

Most of today was a basic boring drive across the largely flat grass lands of South Dakota.  There were two highlights to our journey today however.  First thing this morning before we started our long drive across the state, we trekked over to Mt. Rushmore.  Even as cold as it was, we took our time to leisurely walk up the promenade to the viewing platform of the visitor area.  As we have so often on this road trip, we lucked out on the weather being nice enough to aid in our picture taking opportunities.  We spent maybe 45 minutes to an hour walking around the visitor area taking pictures of the mountain and surrounding countryside before we had to retreat back to our cars to get warmed up again.  It is interesting to note that visitors are currently required to pay a $10 fee to park at the visitor center.  However if you read the ticket you’re given carefully it says it is good until the end of 2010.  Kind of a Mt. Rushmore fun pass!  Buy your ticket today and come back again for free until the end of the year!

The other place of interest we visited today was Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota.  Wall Drug is known far and wide for the bill boards they’ve placed for hundreds of miles in every direction that entice visitors with promises of “Free Ice Water”, “5 cent Coffee”, “A Six Foot Rabbit”, or even a “T-Rex in the Wall Drug Backyard”.  Fans of Wall Drug are known to place signs of a similar nature to those mentioned above with directions and distance to Wall Drug in places all over the world.  Wall Drug was a lot of fun, and the history presented here is pretty interesting.  I would like to have spent more time here, but we had to get on the road so we could make it to Sioux Falls for the night.  If you like kitschy Americana, and have the opportunity to visit Wall Drug, try to plan for at least a couple of hours to give yourself time to wander around, enjoy the experience and even get something to eat.  Definitely don’t forget your free ice water.

After Wall Drug, we got back on the road and sprinted the rest of the way to Sioux Falls, SD.  We got in well after dark but were lucky enough to find the hotel kitchen still open for a few more minutes.  Full bellies and a long day of driving and I for one am ready to hit the sack.

But before I do, I have more proof of the “imaginary animals” I’ve been seeing that Peter hasn’t.

See?  There really are six foot tall rabbits and giant jack-a-lopes!   Shhhhhh!  Don’t tell Peter about the Jack-a-lope behind him!  I don’t think he knows it’s there!