America 2017: Day Thirty-Eight (27 November)

We work in the factories and the fields
Assembly lines, the coal mines
And the steel mills
That’s what we do but there’s more to us than that
If you wanna know who we are
It’s on the logos of our caps

We’re Mountaineers, we’re Volunteers
We’re the Tide that rolls, we’re Seminoles
We’re a herd of Longhorn steer
We drive Ford and Chevrolet
Cheer 24 and 88
We crank up our music Friday nights
On two thousand country stations
Yeah, we’re one big country nation, that’s right

 

– Brad Paisley

Monday 27 November

Arlington Heights, IL

Another really great day. The weather was great and although it clouded over a little by the time we got to downtown Chicago, after a scenic trip down the Gold Coast on Lakeshore Drive, the weather was still perfect.

We parked at Navy Pier, one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, and I was surprised by how few people there were around. Granted, it was the first day back to school after the Thanksgiving break, and it wasn’t exactly peak tourist weather, but the place was like a ghost town. A far cry from the madhouse it is during summer.

Following the now-mandatory coffee stop, we walked through the heart of downtown Chicago to Millennium Park, home of what is probably the most-photographed thing in the entire city: the reflective silver structure fondly known as The Bean. You can rest assured that I took my fair share of photos there, and at the nearby skating rink, before we walked some more – you can by now probably guess the theme of the day – down to the Christmas markets in Daley Plaza.

If you like Christmas decorations and food, you can’t go past these markets. Honestly, if I wasn’t worried about having stuff survive the fairly violent transit of suitcases between here and Sydney via Los Angeles, I would’ve bought a lot of stuff. Then there was the food – too bad it was close to lunch or I would have eaten and drunk up a storm.

Speaking of lunch, where else would we go in Chicago than the famous, iconic Portillo’s? Home to amazing beef and sausage sandwiches (and lots of other tasty stuff) it’s a Windy City institution that I’ve become a major fan of over the years. Sausage and beef sandwich with hot peppers is my go-tom, and it tasted as good this time as ever.

Some of us had dessert – actually, surprisingly, not me, but dad! – so we figured the best thing would be to continue walking. So we left Portillo’s and walked down to Lake Michigan, reaching the shore of that mammoth lake at Ohio Street Beach. That’s a great spot for views of the Chicago skyline, especially if you like the John Hancock Building (which I do).

From Ohio Street Beach, we walked around the foreshore, past Navy Pier, to Maggie Daley Park, back through Millennium Park to Starbucks for an afternoon coffee. Well deserved, I might add, because we’d already walked something like 18,000 steps according to my Garmin watch. Even if that number was a little off, we still covered a fair amount of distance…and had a great time doing it! Chicago is tailor-made for walking.

Back to the car, and off across town to United Centre. Fondly known by hockey fans as the Madhouse on Madison thanks to it’s rowdy – in a good way – atmosphere when the Chicago Blackhawks are on the ice. The UC is perhaps the best place to watch NHL in the United States. Fans are passionate, smart and they’re loud. Especially when the Hawks are good, and they’ve been as good as any team recently, winning three Stanley Cup championships since 2010. Those are good numbers. They’re good.

Also good? The hats we were given at the door. They helped produce one of the best photos we’ve taken in the last six-weeks, one that’ll surely have plenty of reaction from back home, not to mention over here. I haven’t had such memorable headgear at a sporting event since the KFC bucket at the T20 cricket last year!

Chicago also boasts one of the great anthem singers America has, soloist Jim Cornelison, and a tradition that dates back to the First Gulf War, in which the fans – more than 21,000 of them, the largest venue for hockey in America – cheer loudly and raucously from the first note to the last. I’d almost forgotten the power of the anthem here, with so many people cheering. It’s a very loud way to start the contest, and a tradition that you won’t find anywhere else.

We had wonderful seats with a perfect view of everything. And there was plenty to watch on a very eventful evening at the rink. The Hawks jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead, and coasted from there, winning 7-3. The game was the complete opposite of last Monday night in New York City. There, we saw two great goalies in a fantastic duel, and tonight we saw…well, let’s just say the goaltending wasn’t quite at the same standard. But it was a lot of fun, and I love singing the Hawks goal song “Chelsea Dagger” by the Fratellis, especially seven times.

Of note: Hawks rookie Alex DeBrincat scored a hat-trick (three goals) halfway through the second period. At nineteen, he becomes the second-youngest player in a century’s worth of NHL history to achieve that feat. And, as is tradition, the game stops whilst everyone tosses their hats onto the ice.

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A really good day! I’ll sleep well tonight.


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