Leg Four: Columbus to Chicago, 355.8 miles
Thursday, September 6th: We made a pit stop at Tim Horton’s for coffee and doughnuts, then another at my Aunt R.‘s work to say goodbye, then got on the road for Chicago. For some reason, we were a bit more distracted on this trip and stopped several times. First at the amazing Amish Cheese Shop, where we got gifts for folks, some goodies for the fridge in our Chicago hotel room and a sandwich for lunch.
I drove a lot of this leg of the trip, but we switched out shortly before Chicago, in the land of the wind turbines. They’re beautiful, but they also kinda freak me out. There’s something about their enormous size and how slowly the blades turn, and that they turn at different speeds.
We got to Chicago just in time for rush hour and about the only smart thing we’d done was switch drivers. At least Mums was fresh for that hellish experience. Chicago rush hour is no joke – and we know Atlanta traffic. Between the multitude of tolls and the suddenly-upon-you barriers that you can easily t-bone yourself on, we were quite aggravated. Chicago has three or four different events most nights and I had been thinking about finding a milonga since we were getting in pretty early and didn’t have plans with family yet. But after the 6+ hour drive, traffic getting into the city, the less-than-fun experience of unloading the car and getting everything up into the room, then taking the car to the lot a few blocks away and walking back to the hotel, I was pretty tired. I let Mums talk me into a quiet dinner at the hotel restaurant and an early evening.
A word about our hotel. The hotel we’ve stayed at before was sold out one of the nights we planned on being there, so Mums scrambled to find another place while we were in Columbus. She found The Write Inn, in the “Frank Lloyd Wright historic district” of Oak Park, across the street from a Hemingway museum and full of “old world charm.” (Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway are the dueling scions of Oak Park). There were such mixed reviews online that we were a bit uncertain, but we decided to take a chance. We ended up being very glad we did. It was inconvenient in a few small ways which mostly related to getting our things in and out and the parking situation, but we really enjoyed it as a home base during our visit.
The Write Inn
And that first night, we had such an amazing meal at Hemingway’s Bistro, inside the hotel. It was a bit expensive, but the food was incredible and the atmosphere was really relaxed and elegant. Even when somebody put on a bunch of Bajofondo tango music, just to taunt me. If I’d had any energy left, I would’ve figured out where to tango and gone that night, after listening to that. As it was, we watched President Obama’s speech at the DNC from the comfort of our hotel room. I didn’t mention this in the Columbus post, but I noticed the big campaign push while we were in Ohio, which is always an early indicator of how the election’s going to go. And now, here we were in the President’s home state, just in time to watch his speech.
Friday, September 7th: As usual, Mums woke up early, which meant I woke up early. We walked around, discovering the area around the hotel, which is packed with great shops and restaurants, but we had some trouble finding a hot breakfast. We ended up having coffee and quiches at this awesome coffee shop called Red Hen Bread. We continued our walk, finding the post office to mail our postcards and a movie theater and an amazing book shop called The Book Table. That place is dangerous! We both ended up buying a few books. Me, Victor LaValle’s Big Machine and David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary. Then, we had the best Indian buffet lunch I’ve ever tasted at Khyber Pass and saw The Words at the Lake Theater. We missed the first couple of minutes and both of us were a little stunned at the end. I could feel it coming, but I still felt surprised when the movie was over.
Me in love with the food at Khyber Pass
Then, we went to my aunt and uncle’s place to see everybody. My brother and his girlfriend had just gotten into town and my dad came up from the city, where he was working. Two of my cousins were off at college, so we didn’t get to catch up with them, but their younger twin brothers were home, and learning how to drive! I haven’t seen them for a few years, so it was hard to believe they were old enough. They are two of the most intelligent and conscientious kids you have ever met. They’ve had their own business for years, in fact. Whenever I worry about kids these days, my cousins reassure me that there are some good ones out there.
It was amazing to spend this time with our family, but my tentative plans to tango in the city flew out the window.
Saturday, September 8th: We met Norm and Trouble, my brother and his girlfriend, at Delia’s Kitchen, a great place we’d found on Lake Street the day before. There are so many great places in just a few blocks of Lake Street. Afterwards, we did a little shopping for Grammy‘s birthday dinner that evening. We dropped them off at the house, but ended up staying the rest of the day, ourselves. Except for practice driving sessions with both of the twins (funniest experience ever) and picking up my dad from the L station, I spent the day hanging out and helping prep for the Big Dinner. Grammy‘s 88th birthday was quite the event. She didn’t know that Norm, Trouble, Mums or I would be there and she seemed so completely thrilled to have almost the whole family together.
Between dinner, pictures and Norm (guitar) dueting with one of the twins (piano) on “Greensleeves,” we were all together till almost 1 a.m., so tango didn’t work out on Saturday, either. The twins were determined to help me get to tango, however, so earlier in the day, they’d helped me hatch a plan to finally, finally, tango.
Sunday, September 9th: On my last full day in Chicago, I met the twins and their dad at Red Hen Bread for breakfast. I did some work, finally catching up on a few things. Then, there was a flurry of plans and then a hectic pulling together of those plans as Norm, Trouble, the twins and our younger cousin and I all met at the L station and went into the city. My brother and I are different as night and day and I was a bit stressed wrangling the cousins while he was more laid back. It turns out there was construction on our line and we had to switch and then walk a few blocks, but one way or another, we made it to our destination. Which was the Art Institute of Chicago’s south garden where the Tango Guerillas have a free, public class every Sunday. Chicago also had a summer dance series going on as well – they are absolutely spoiled for dance. This Sunday, they had a class featuring Enriqueta Kleinman, which was pretty amazing. Several members of the Tango Guerillas quickly took me and my posse under their wings, especially the cousins, which was really nice of them. After the class, Norm and Trouble took the kids out for dinner and I stayed for the milonga, having an absolute blast.
Later, I saw that I missed a flurry of phone calls from various family members. It turned out one of the cousins was late for a family obligation and we all had to rush back to the suburbs. I ended up taking the L back on my own while the others caught the train from another station and my dad tried to meet up with all of us from a third station. It was really comical, but we all ended up getting back about the same time. Late, but happy after our day in the city.
That night, Mums and I packed and watched the news, waiting for word about whether or not the teachers would strike. We had to call it a night before we got our answer.