America 2017: Day One (27 July)

It’s whispered from a tractor on a flat Midwestern plain
The fields are dry and dusty, there is no sign of rain
It floats out a kitchen window, somewhere in the south
If the river gets much higher, they’ll float away no doubt
You can almost feel it in the air, an American prayer

They’re gonna be alright, they’re gonna carry on
Help from above will come back strong
I got faith in us, I got faith in Him
The clouds will part and the sun will shine again, amen

                                           – Dustin Lynch


Thursday 27 July
Wheaton, Illinois

America, so good to be back!

It’s been a little over a year since I left Los Angeles on a Sydney-bound flight in early June 2016 after an unforgettable experience at the 100th Indianapolis 500 and a great stay in Chicago afterward.

So much has changed in the United States since then. Aside from the obvious political developments that I’ve vowed to myself not to get into a discussion about whilst here, the Cubs broke their long World Series drought and two of my least-favourite sports franchises won titles: New England a Super Bowl ring and Pittsburgh their second straight Stanley Cup championship.

This will be a short visit. Just over a week, in fact. Back out again next Friday evening, and what a busy week it’s going to be. I’m here for the wedding of my good mate Kevin, who I’ve known as long as I’ve known anyone else in Chicago. I have a feeling it’s going to be a very memorable weekend.

Chevrolet Kruze – our wheels for the week.

It’s a long flight to get here, but everything went smoothly. I was on a Virgin Australia flight from Sydney to Los Angeles – upgraded to Economy X, which was nice, and the middle seat next to my aisle seat was empty, which was even nicer – that actually arrived early. We were the only people in the customs hall, so getting through the process was easy and smooth.

I met my good mate Nathan in Los Angeles (he had taken a Qantas flight over from Sydney) and we headed up to the Admiral’s Lounge – thanks, Nath – for a few hours before getting on an American Airlines flight to Chicago-O’Hare airport. That flight was on time, and we ended up actually getting into Chicago early, due to a much shorter travel time than they first anticipated.

Then, we had a smooth run through baggage collection, got over to the hire car company to collect our vehicle for the week and managed to miss the worst of the traffic (it can be and usually is nothing short of absolutely murderous around the peak commute times) on our way to Glen Ellyn and the Giordano’s Pizza Restaurant there.

Chicago is famous for it’s deep dish pizza and Giordano’s is probably the finest proponent of it. The entire pizza takes 45minutes to cook, and even the small size is a giant meal. We met Mike, Bri, Frank and Ivana there, and to go with my Chicago deep dish, I enjoyed a 312 beer, a local brew (312 is the Chicagoland area telephone code) that I got turned onto a few years back at a Blackhawks game, and some great company.

Night One dinner crew: Frank, Nathan, me, Mike, Bri and Ivana.

Coming back to Chicago feels a lot like coming home. The people here are awesome, and tonight was no exception. Even though I was pretty tired, it was impossible not to have fun. Thanks for making the first night so memorable.

Now, some sleep will be great. I’ve been on the go for the best part of a day, with only the occasional snatches of airplane sleep that, as anyone who’s done any long-haul flying will know, isn’t anything like real sleep in a real bed. I went Sydney to Los Angeles on a Virgin Australia flight, had a few hours transiting in Los Angeles, and got on an American Airlines service to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Shout-out to Mike, Jane and Bri for letting me crash at their pad tonight.


So, a big sleep coming up tonight to recharge the batteries ahead of the big weekend, then we’re off to Suttons Bay, Michigan – about a six hour journey out of Illinois, through Indiana and north through the Wolverine state – for the weekend.

Nice to be back.

Looking forward to tomorrow.

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