Doug and I were travelling on a slushy Deerfoot Trail at 3:45 a.m. to catch the 6:20 a.m. departure on United Airlines to Chicago. It was the cheapest flight option that day, and we liked the idea of getting in early enough to gain another half day of sightseeing. Or, at least, we liked it until the alarm went off so early!
We arrived in Chicago at 10:45 a.m. (Central Time). After a lengthy line-up at the car rental, we set out to Lang Bed & Breakfast located in East Rogers Park in one of the northern parts of Chicago. There we met Bruce and Wayde who own and manage a charming bed and breakfast in a beautifully appointed house built in 1919. We stayed in the Stencil Room so named because of the hand-painted stencil patterns on the fine leather walls coverings. Check out the classy rooms: www.langhousechicago.com and a lively video of Chicago highlights: http://www.langhousechicago.com/page/gallery
The City of Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States at 2.8 million; however, the metro area is 10 million. Winter continued to be with us: wind, rain, with occasional sleet and snow throughout our three day stay. With the temperature hovering just above the freezing point, we walked along Lake Michigan where the waves—up to 16 feet in height—looked like we were experiencing a major storm on an ocean. We quickly learned why Chicago is called ‘The Windy City.’ Refuge, good food, and drink were found at the Public House, a pub near the Red Line L train stop at Jarvis Station, a couple blocks from the b&b.
Bruce and Wayde have transit cards which resemble a credit card that they give to visitors when they check-in at the b&b. Visitors are asked to leave approximately $20 on the card so that the next tourists can use it on the buses or trains until they become familiar with the system. This is a great idea, and we filled up the card at a station once we understood how to do that.
On the morning of April 14th we took bus number 147 which stopped just across the street from Lang House. The bus route runs along the lakeshore. The waves weren’t quite as high as yesterday, but it remained foggy and rainy with a moderate wind. We got off downtown and then walked to Navy Pier. Navy Pier is a 3,300 foot-long-pier, and we walked every foot of that pier from one end to another and back again. It was almost deserted outside with some families inside entering and leaving the Chicago Children’s Museum and a few people in the food court area. We didn’t go on the Centennial Wheel because of the weather. To see what Navy Pier is like in good weather, I checked the following link: https://navypier.org/support/about-us
We took the bus back from Navy Pier to the Red Line Train. Wrigley Field was a short walk from the train stop at Addison. I had purchased great infield seats for the afternoon Cubs baseball game. We lasted five innings and left when the Braves were up 10-2. Later, the Cubs came back and won the game 15-10. We wanted to see Wrigley Field—which we did—but that’s probably the coldest I’ve ever been. Not even the purchased Cubs blanket which I later had to add to the already full luggage helped. The locals were dressed in full winter gear.
We had decided to park the rental car in the b&b garage and use public transit so the trip to the museum on April 15th took about 90 minutes; however, we did get to see a great deal of the city. That morning we also saw the weirdness or uniqueness of a large city—depending on how you view a stoned young man doing his own rap version with all the jerky dance moves and vulgar words anyone could possibly know for about 15 minutes on the train. An announcement repeatedly said: “No gambling or soliciting on the train.” I felt like adding: “No more bizarre entertainment either!” Most people ignored him so Doug and I tried to do the same although his performance was more extreme than anything I had seen on my C-train trips when I worked in downtown Calgary. Doug and I were glad to get away from the racket when we disembarked to catch a bus.
There are so many museums in Chicago that we knew we couldn’t possibly tour all of them. So we selected the Museum of Science and Industry in south Chicago. We were told that is not a neighborhood to walk around in but we were surrounded on the bus and at the museum by people of all ages. This museum is almost beyond description with its diverse and detailed displays. A few notables: the Pioneer Zephyr Silver Streak (a diesel-electric streamlined train from the 1930s), a replica of the Wrights Brother’s airplane, a U-505 German Submarine captured off the West African coast in 1944, and on and on. If you’re interested in a preview of this amazing museum, here’s the link: https://www.msichicago.org/
We could have spent one, perhaps two days there. But, we had to leave because we had booked an Architectural Tour on the Chicago River. Before I leave the subject of the museum though, I want to mention a family history link. The building was originally built for the 1893 World’s Exposition and then opened as the Science and Industry Museum in 1933 during the Century of Progress Exposition. In 1933, Lloyd (my father, aged 12 at the time), my Grandparents Lester and Beula Lohr, and my Great-Grandfather G.W. (George) Lohr drove from Erskine, Alberta, to the Chicago World Fair. They also visited my Great-Grandfather’s brother, Solomon Lohr, and family in Mt Carroll, Illinois. Doug and I would visit descendants of that family later on this trip.
My grandfather was intensely interested in trains and had an elaborate model train set complete with a painted wall, tunnel, and other landscape features in the basement of their farm home. When I walked into the model train area at the Chicago museum, I was instantly a child back in my grandparents’ basement watching in fascination as the model train ran. I wonder if Grandpa Lohr got his ideas for his model train set from that visit to the exposition in 1933.
We took a taxi to the Navy Pier because of time limits. By this time, it was raining quite steadily so when we boarded the open boat, we were handed rain ponchos. Doug and I had rain coats so we actually sat on our ponchos. The tour was a chilly ninety minutes long, and a well-informed guide talked about all the buildings along the Chicago River including Willis (Sears) Tower (the top of which was totally shrouded in clouds), Old Post Office, 360 Chicago Observation Deck, Wrigley Building and others. My favorite was the Wrigley Building built 1921-1924, the Wrigley corporate headquarters until 2012. The website is informative with photos: http://www.thewrigleybuilding.com/
We left Chicago the next morning and drove to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Our goal was to visit the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn; however, there were no appropriate bed and breakfast locations in Dearborn. Ann Arbor is a pretty city, population 121,000 which may/may not include the total University of Michigan student population of about 45,000. We checked in at the charming Avalyn Garden b&b: http://avalyngarden.com/ Lee greeted us, showed us around, and then Doug and I walked through part of the campus and had dinner at a restaurant that Lee recommended.
On the walk back to Avalyn Garden, a man asked us for directions. He had recently moved from Beijing to attend university. Usually he took the bus but had decided to walk and was lost. His phone battery was depleted so with the maps on my iPhone and after a call to Lee at the b&b for assistance, we hope the fellow went in the correct direction. By then, Doug and I were on the wrong side of a ravine so we needed to call Lee back for directions as there didn’t seem to be a way across the ravine. When we got back to Avalyn Garden, Lee and Doug each had a Guinness and we visited until after 11 p.m. The interesting part about b&b owners and innkeepers is that they go the extra mile at all hours of the day and night for their customers.
There’s much more to this road trip story, but I’ll finish and post it another time. Thanks for reading.