America 2022 – Day Sixteen

Give me a Saturday night, my baby by my side
David Allen Coe and a six pack of light
Old dirt road and ill be just fine
Give me a Sunday morning that’s full of grace
A simple life and I’ll be okay
Here in small town USA

– Justin Moore

Thursday 1 September

If you’ve read any of my blogs to date, you won’t be surprised to know that I went out for a walk this morning, heading away from downtown Wheaton to a nature reserve called Lincoln Marsh. Did a loop around the marsh – partly boardwalk and partly bark pathway – then found the Prairie Path, which was once a freight railway and now is about sixty miles of connected pathway out here in the western suburbs of Chicago, a brilliant idea.

We were getting ready to head downtown when some local council workers arrived out the front of our Airbnb to do some work on the driveway. Prior to that, there was a steel sheet over the driveway just as you turn off the street, the legacy of what appears to have been some sewerage works, which made quite a noise whenever we drove over it.

Apparently, this work was in the cards, but – according to the worker who came and knocked on our door when they were basically finished working – someone had forgotten to tell us that we can’t drive across the new concrete driveway.

Problem: our car was parked up beside the house. Cue more apologies from the construction workers, with the advice to just drive over the grass and kerb onto the road. We aren’t allowed to drive over the driveway until after 9am tomorrow.

That sorted, and with a Starbucks stop – those caramel Frappuccino’s are starting to become very addictive – along the way, we drove to downtown Chicago. Like right into downtown, we parked at Navy Pier and walked out of the underground garage into the bright sunshine, in the shadow of the famous ferris wheel, and with a spectacular view of downtown Chicago – a view I have definitely missed.

We hired bikes from a tent near Navy Pier and headed north along the lakefront, past a number of well-populated beaches, to North Avenue Beach, where there are spectacular views looking south, of the Chicago skyline, dominated at that angle by the Hancock building and Navy Pier. There is also a pretty good café set inside a ship, which overlooks the volleyball nets and allows you to look further north up Chicago’s Gold Coast, towards Evanston and Winnetka. A great spot for a bite to eat, and, in our case, a sneaky Bud as well.

Fuelled up, we rode south, past Navy Pier, and down along the shoreline of Lake Michigan in a southerly direction – eventually, we would have crossed into Indiana and then Michigan – to Soldier Field, where the NFL’s Chicago Bears play. We looped around the oldest and smallest pro football stadium in America and back to downtown via the Field Museum.

We made stops at Buckingham Fountain and Millennium Park and the iconic Chicago “Bean” – I mean, you can’t come to Chicago and not see that iconic location – and had our second beer for the day (vacation life!) to “refuel”, then rode back down to Navy Pier. By the time we returned our bikes, we’d ridden about 17km/10mi and were definitely in need of a rest.

Dinner in at the house tonight – Thai from a place in Lombard, courtesy of GrubHub, which is Uber Eats, basically – before we drove over to Arrowhead golf club, where we’ve had some very memorable nights over the years, to have some beers with Zeke, one of the guys we got to know through Matt Alley. Fun to reconnect and talk mostly American travel. And before you ask, no, we aren’t drinking orange juices, just hazy beer, brewed locally.

It’s the first weekend of college football, with a couple big games tonight, including Purdue vs. Penn State that featured a few local players. Surprisingly, at around 10:00pm, they announced last call and by 10:30pm, with the game still very close, all the TVs were turned off, and we were basically chased out as the staff packed up and quite literally shut the doors behind us. Not sure what the go was – in the old, pre-COVID days, Arrowhead was open and serving until 11pm, especially on nights there’s a big game. Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve been at a bar ‘til closing time, so I felt a whole lot younger than I am.

After a few beers, I’ll need a good night’s sleep tonight as we are meeting Jamie and the kids at Herrick Lake for a walk at 9am.

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