Louise Speaks: Day 26. We arrived at our camp site very very late last night, but at least we made it. We are at Lehmans Campground in Marenga, IL, northwest of Chicago. We are parked right by a duck pond and the quacking is driving Gracie crazy, but what a beautiful sight. One of the reasons for picking this site is that Enterprise will pick us up here. Since we are going to be spending 2 days touring Chicago, we thought it best if we rented a car as driving through Chicago in a 26 foot RV probably isn’t a good idea. Now it is the weekend so we “thought” it would be less crowded than during the week…well not our best idea. I had planned this trip so that we would be in Chicago on days when there was not a Cub game. However, since we spent 8 days at Winnebago that threw the schedule off, and I didn’t recalculate, so there is a Cub game today. This is going to be interesting day.
If you’ve been following the blog for the past 3 years, you know that we are trying to complete the book, “1000 Places To See Before You Die” by Patricia Schultz. Most of the things she focuses on are of course tourist attractions, but in additions she loves hotels and restaurants. So as we go through Chicago, we are going to be stopping by many hotels and restaurants. With parking being close to impossible, our stops are going to be just that. It’s going to be Thelma driving me around so I can stop at these places, take a picture, pick up a brochure and if I’m lucking asking a few people why they think they are in Patricia’s book.
Our RV Park was about 50 miles north of Chicago and by the time Enterprise picked us up and took us back to their office we didn’t get to our first stop until 11:00. I map quest all the stops so we did have a route. Our first stop was Gino’s East Pizza, supposedly one of the best places to eat Chicago style Pizza. Our next stop and another thing Chicago is famous for was Super Dawgs, a very busy hot dog stand. The next stop I have no idea why Patricia picked this place but apparently it is a very high price Thai restaurant. This may be so, but we were almost afraid to drive through this part of town. To me there was nothing special about Arun’s Thai Food, so maybe the inside and the food makes this restaurant special.
After visiting these restaurants it was time to head to Wrigley Field. It wasn’t until we approached the ball field that I realized, oh crap, there’s a game today. But I was still able to get pictures of the famous field sign, and feel the excitement of game day. There were people everywhere. I don’t know what time the game even started, but it was buzzing from all directions. Luckily one of the bars that Patricia mentions was right at the same corner that I was standing at to take my picture. Turns out Cubby Bear Lounge is a pretty happening place on game day. They have a second floor bar that they called Cubby’s Upper Deck…kind of cute. I got to go inside to speak with the door man and asked for a menu or something with their logo on, and nice as he was he handed me some ice water in a bottle that had their logo. Not what I had in mind, but I appreciated him trying so hard to find anything with their name on it, This bar was hopping and I’m sure it is even busier after the games as it is right across the street.
From Wrigley Field it was off to some of Chicago’s entertainment. Chicago is famous for comedy clubs and improv training as some of the best comedians come out of Chicago. So Patricia had us go visit The Second City comedy club and the IO Comedy Club that trains comedians. Even though it was Saturday it was too early for either of these clubs to be open, so it was stop by, take a picture and we were on our way.
As is Patricia’s favorite stops are hotels. There are many hotels in Chicago as Patricia’s choices were The Drake, with the famous Cape Cod Room and the Ritz Carlton. I was really hoping to see the Cape Cod Room as you are still able to see Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio’s carved initials in the world famous wooden bar. There is also a “Wall of Whiskies and Wine Bottles”, a collection of bottles saved from prohibition days. In any other city we would speak with the front desk and ask for a tour or to at least see a room, but not in Chicago. The streets were packed and there were cars and people everywhere. So once again it was take a picture and jump back into the car.
By this time we are close to exhausted with going up and down the streets of Chicago. As if the traffic wasn’t enough, they were doing construction on almost every street and every other street was a one way street. So even if we found what we were looking for (thank God for a portable GPS) we had to go around the block several times just to find a place to pull over so that I could jump out. Chicago is amazing with stores like Home Depot, or Office Max right on the main streets of Chicago. There were people shopping and eating everywhere you went. I thought they drove bad in New York, but the cabbies in Chicago are down right crazy. We had thought of just parking in a garage but it was $35 for the day and since we had no idea where our stops were and they were so spread out, it was still easier to drive around and go around the block several times than to park and walk.
We were right in the center of Chicago. The buildings were so tall around us that even the GPS lost signal, which was not good, since we had no idea where we were going. There are two corners right across from each other that house two of the more famous pizzeria’s in Chicago. Due to their location, history has it that there is major competition. I’m not sure which one was there first, but the second one definitely didn’t earn points by opening right across the street. Pizzeria Due and Pizzeria Uno were both packed, so I don’t think there really is a competition…they both seem to be doing well.
Taste of Chicago is an annual summer event that was held just a few weeks ago. This is when different restruants and food vendors provide food in a tasting fashion. With the city as crowded as it was today I can only imagine what it was like during a Taste of Chicago. One of the spots that Patricia mentions in her book is Billy Goat Tavern. Now we had the address and drove by where it was suppose to be at least 10 times…we just couldn’t see any sign of a restraunt or a tavern bearing that name. So I told Thelma to just drop me off and I’d find it or ask for directions. I walked and walked and it just wasn’t anywhere to be found. The building with the address we were looking for had many business under one roof. There was one space, a corner space, that was under construction, so I just assumed that was were Billy Goat Tavern was and it was just being remodeled. So I go to the street to wait for Thelma, and just happen to look to my right, and there is a sign saying that Billy Goat Tavern is under ground, or on the lower level. You think maybe Patricia would have mentioned that fact…another sign that Patricia has not been to Billy Goat Tavern. But I found it, so I can cross it off the list.
With all the driving we did today, we were able to drive up and down the Magnificent Mile, which has five of the 85 tallest buildings in the world. In fact 5 of the 10 tallest buildings in Chicago are on the Magnificent Mile. There are several things we wanted to see, but again without parking it was simply impossible. Things like the Lego Store which exhibits lifesize or larger than life characters at the main enterance of the mall. It would have been nice to go inside the Tower at the Ritz Carlton which is Oprah’s residence. And just going to the top of any of the buildings for a view of the city…but that didn’t happen either.
Chicago is famous for it’s Museums and there is an area known a Museum Campus, which is a 57 acre museum park. This park sits right on Lake Michigan and it houses the most notable museums that are all dedicated to natural science. The Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History are all on this campus. The park is also the site of Soldier Field Football Stadium, which was quite impressive.
We saw many other things today, but they weren’t on the list for today so we will visit them tomorrow…at least now we’ll know where they are. We still have an hour and a half drive back to camp, so we were done with Chicago. I’ll wait until tomorrow to give Chicago a rating, but let me just say, for my first trip to Chicago, I was not impressed. I’m hoping for a better day tomorrow.