America 2019: Day Twenty-One (Friday 7 June)

We were ‘Jesus save me’, blue jean baby
Born in the USA
Trailer park truck stop, faded little map dots
New York to LA
We were teenage dreamin’, front seat leanin’
Baby, come give me a kiss
Put me on the cover of the Rolling Stone
Uptown down home American kids
Growin’ up in little pink houses
Makin’ out on living room couches
Blowin’ that smoke on a Saturday night
A little messed up, but we’re all alright

                                                                                                                             – Kenny Chesney

Friday 7 June

Sadly, it’s that time again – our last full day in Chicago.

Nice Twitter farwell from Mark Jaynes, The Voice of the Indianapolis 500

I woke up after more than eleven hours of sleep feeling a lot better than I did yesterday morning, so that was good. Mostly packed my two bags – one suitcase and my trusty Nike sports bag – in preparation for our very early departure tomorrow morning. We’re on a 7:20am flight west to Los Angeles, so we’ll have to leave the house at 4:30am or thereabouts. That’ll be a rather large shock to the system.

We headed downtown this morning. It was a beautiful day in the western suburbs so it seemed like the perfect day to see some of the Chicago sights. Kat wanted to see Navy Pier and hire a bike to ride north along Lake Shore Drive. Which seemed like a great idea, except that when we got within about ten minutes of the Lake Michigan shoreline, the fog descended and we couldn’t see anything more than about ten feet in the distance. The ferris wheel was basically empty. From Navy Pier, you couldn’t even see the looming Chicago skyline.

Instead of riding the wheel or a bike, we walked the entire length of Navy Pier – something that I’d never done before – and stumbled upon a graduation ceremony for the latest batch of cadets from the Chicago Fire Academy, complete with fire trucks and ambulances on display. I felt bad that the fog ruined what would otherwise have been a very iconic view for the newly-minted members of the CFD. Proud day for those men and women and their families.

In keeping with the theme, we drove to the upper west side and visited the main filming location for Chicago Fire, Firehouse 51. The three ‘Chicago’ shows are some of my favourites, and it was cool seeing where both Fire and, later, PD (at District 21) were filmed. Interesting that they are actual real locations, working police and fire houses, rather than sets constructed especially for the shows. It really has been a trip for seeing filming locations across this city.


Back to the suburbs in the early afternoon. We stopped first at Brian and Debbie’s to say goodbye, then went around to Matt and Jaimie’s. We actually saw Matt and Brooke on the way, practicing throwing pitches – softball playoffs start tomorrow! – and I loved that when we rolled the windows down to shout out “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,” Matt, without so much as a second’s hesitation, yelled back, “Oi, Oi, Oi!” We’ve clearly been hanging out too long!

After giving the kids their gifts and posing for the annual photo – featuring Kat this year – we drove over to Downer’s Grove and the Outback Steakhouse there. We had a booking for twenty people and made it to a grand total of seventeen: the Brown’s and the Weller’s joined us. It was two tables, adults and kids, and I think a good time was had by all. The kids had all sorts of things coming to their table, including bacon and cheese fries for appetisers, ribs for mains and very chocolatey concoctions for dessert. On our side of the wire, it was Bloomin’ Onions, Fosters Tall Boys, margaritas and lots of meat. Fun, fun night, even if the whole Outback thing is rather atrociously and cliché Australian.

Nathan, Kat and I dropped in on Mike and Jane’s house on the way home, so we could say goodbye to Jane and Bri, and have a photo with Bri and her hula hoop. Then we were off to Arrowhead, for a few beers with Matt, Scott, Zeke – and Mike joined us later. As usual, there was lots of talk about sport, Australia, and lots of laughs. Sad when we had to bail about 11:00pm but we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow, starting very early with a flight to Los Angeles.

Chicago, it’s been – as per usual – fantastic. Can’t wait to get back soon. It really feels like home here, with so many wonderful people. I love you all and am grateful to know you. Thanks for the continued hospitality and friendship.

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