23 July 2009


As some of you may already be aware, things are not so great in the boating industry right now. So my company is obviously struggling a lot - we're in Chapter 11, actually, which is not at all happy. To mitigate costs (or something), all corporate employees were furloughed for a week in the month of July. This is my week. Instead of sitting home bored, sad, and feeling poor (which I am absolutely not, I know), Andy and I decided to take a little trip. So here were our adventures in Chicago:

Day 1: Adventures in Rail Travel
We woke up nice and early on Sunday morning and Andy's brother gave us a ride over to the St. Paul Amtrak Depot. Turns out this was going to be the cheapest way to get us to Chicago, plus Andy (and I) really like trains. I'd never actually ridden a passenger train in the US, so I was pretty excited. Even if it was SUPER early for a weekend. And I was fighting a nasty cold (in July - it's just wrong). So we sat around in the waiting room with about 100 other people waiting for the 7:30 train. And waiting... and waiting. Amtrak frequently runs behind, apparently, and we didn't get on the train until 8:40 or so. I could have used that extra hour of sleep. But no worries, there was plenty of time for that on the train. Once on the train I discovered that it's much more roomy than, say, the TGV, if a little run down. But we had really comfy seats and there wasn't a huge crowd so it was nice. If you have 8+ hours to spare to get to Chicago from St. Paul, it's not a bad way to go. And we saw some really pretty countryside. Even for Wisconsin. :-) We arrived in Chicago around 5ish, found our hotel right downtown (courtesy of Andy's dad's Marriot rewards points) and settled in. It's amazing the difference between downtown Minneapolis on a Sunday night and downtown Chicago on a Sunday night. One is deserted and the other is bustling. I am sure you can figure out which is which. Also, we had dinner at the restaurant that inspired this skit on SNL. Classic.

Day 2: Fishes!
So before I go into too much detail, just know that public transportation in Chicago is a wonderful thing. Buses, subways, the "El" - it all works together like clockwork and we never had to wait more than about 5 minutes for a bus. Yay!

So that first morning we enjoyed the free breakfast at the hotel before heading over to the "Museum Campus" a bit south of the loop. First stop: The Shedd Aquarium. Incidentally, here's the view of Chicago from there:

Nice, right? The Sears Tower is on the left. More on that later. Pretty soon there will be many, many more photos on my Flickr page. I have too many to post them all here. But suffice it to say that the aquarium does NOT disappoint. Way impressive. They even have wales!

Post-aquarium we headed out to the Polish-American part of town. After much walking in what we though might have been the wrong direction, we stumbled upon Red Apple, an authentic Polish buffet style restaurant. I ate a ridiculous amount and it was fantastic. Hmm... potatoes and sausage.

We headed back to the loop and pointed our feet in the direction of the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the sights I wanted to see based on many, many viewings of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." It rivals many of the museums in Paris in terms of quality and sheer square footage. There is an entire room of paintings by Monet - probably about 2 dozen of them, including several of the famous haystacks. It was wonderful and I'm really glad we went. Here are two photos I took for my beloved parental units:

They also just finished construction on a new wing of modern art - Jackson Pollack and Salvador Dali make appearances, among others. It was totally worth it. Then we had a Art Deco Architecture walking tour of Chicago. There's a building that looks like a champagne bottle, it's awesome.

Finally on Monday, we met my cousin Sarah and her soon-to-be husband Brent for drinks and dinner at the Citizen Bar. It was great to catch up with them and see them outside of a giant family get together. Thanks for the great welcome, Sarah! They'll be here in MN in a short week and a half for their wedding, yay!

Day 3: Pirates and one of the world's tallest buildings
We started early again on Tuesday, this time destined for the Field Museum and, more specifically, their special exhibit on Pirates! There are ads all over town, including temporary pirate statues sitting on bus benches. Awesome. The Pirates! bit did not disappoint, nor did the rest of the museum. I think you could easily spend an entire day there but we did need to eat so left for a late lunch at some point. Here's the museum:

Also nearby is the "new" Soldier Field, home of Da Bears:

They inserted a whole new stadium into the old facade. It's as weird looking from all angles as this picture might lead you to believe.

After lunch of some Chicago style hot-dogs (yum!), we felt pretty museum-ed out so it was time for the Sears Tower, another thing I've wanted to so since seeing Ferris Bueller. Note: I will always call it the Sears Tower, as will everyone in Chicago, but it is technically called the Willis Tower now. However, souvenirs in the gift shop still say Sears Tower since they only changed it as of last Thursday. They just installed these glass balconies that jut out from the side so you can look all the way down. Here are our feet:

102 stories is a long. way. down. There were a few people who simply weren't brave enough to step out there. And I was almost one of them. Tuesday was capped off with a trip to the new Comiskey Park (aka U.S. Cellular Field) for a White Sox game. Andy got over his deep-seated hatred of the Sox to enjoy the game, I think. We had pretty good seats, considering it was the super upper deck:

And the view when walking out of the park is nothing to sneeze at either:

Day 3: John Hancock and the Planetarium
On our final day in Chicago, we thought we start with yet another really, really tall building - the John Hancock center. Note: If you only have time for one of them, the views from John Hancock are much better than those from the Sears Tower. And there is an audio guide! Here are some photos:

See that bulding in the lower left corner? Our hotel is the building just to the right of that. Sweet, right? It was lovely.

Beaches on Lake Michigan, looking north from the John Hancock center.

Navy Pier - we definitely rode the Ferris Wheel. It was awesome. We rounded out the day with an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River (awesome), a visit to the Planetarium, and a short side trip out to Wrigley Field so I could take this photo:

Finally we boarded the MegaBus for our trip back to Minneapolis. Aside from A/C that was up so high that we had to buy a blanket at the rest stop, it was pretty speedy. I arrived home this morning and took an epic nap. Life now returns to normal, albeit without any work tomorrow.

12 July 2009


Ok, first things first - Le Tour de France has started and I am fascinated as usual. The difference being that, this time, I have someone to be fascinated with. Andy and I have been watching avidly even if it's not terribly exciting so far. Andy feels (as do others) that Lance is going to take it all. While I agree that that is his plan, I am not so certain that he'll be able to do so. Until we get to the Alps, nothing is certain. But, in exciting news thus far, my favorite obscure French cyclist won a stage! Thomas Voeckler, who no one has heard of, was a national hero for a day! Yay Thomas! Plus, his team needed the morale boost after a terrible team time trial. If you click through to that video, the commentar says, essentially:
Oh, the first rider goes down, followed by his teammates trying to break behind him. There was nothing they could do. This early in the Tour, it's a small catastrophe for Bbox who already had the worst time on the road of those teams who had already started. They were already off to a bad start. It's here we can see that this route was not really ideal for a team time trial - there were many arguments against it and it seems they may have been right.
So yeah, not a good day for Thomas and his friends. But Voeckler did save the day a bit later on, yay! I may have stood up and cheered when I watched it on TV. :-)

In other news, I had a weekend full of non-televised biking myself. On Friday, Andy and I took the 5 Lakes, Creek, River tour with a small detour into St. Paul. My dad is right - the path IS better on that side of the river. Some photos (warning to Mom - you may want to look away. I know how you feel about the Lock & Dam):

It was 20 miles, about an hour and half or so. Not too shabby, but not even my longest ride of the weekend! You see, I just acquired some new bike gear that required extensive testing:

Everything was on sale, I promise! So after watching the Tour on Saturday, we went for a 25 mile ride in VERY WINDY conditions - seriously, I was pretty knackered at the end. We headed out west then looped aroud back towards downtown before heading home. It was lovely. Finally, today, we took an extended Lake/Creek/River tour. I had a small falling-completely-over-while-at-a-complete-stop moment, but nothing serious. We made it almost all the way over to downtown St. Paul before heading home. A good time was had by all - and I went 30 miles today, bringing the weekend total to 75 for those of you playing along. I'm a little sunburned but I am happy to report that the shoes and pedals are AWESOME. My knee doesn't even hurt at all after all that biking 3 days in a row, yay!

Ok, back to a terribly exciting evening of laundry and watching le Tour replay. Happy Sunday, all!

07 July 2009

Lions Club

I was sitting at my desk today, minding my own business, when from out of nowhere I hear the distinctive sound of a marching band. And a good one at that. Keep in mind that I am 28 floors above street level, so the fact that I could hear them at all is pretty impressive. I looked out my windows to investigate and this is what I saw:

I apologize for the lack of interesting things to see in the video. The most important thing to note is the sound - see how loud it is, even with my crappy camera recording? It distracted me off and on for the entire FOUR HOURS that the parade went on. It turns out the International Lions Club convention is in town and there are upwards of 15,000 attendees expected. I think all of them walked down Nicollet Mall today for this parade.

It was also just a holiday weekend and I am happy to report that a good time was had by all at the annual visit to Canterbury Park. Although I did miss last year - I was visiting the Michigan contingent last year and participating in a parade. The only similarity this year is that EMSA came along this time too:
I think a good time was had by all. As usual, there are more photos on Flickr - see the link to the right. Also on Flickr - photos from Sha's bachelorette party and wedding, and from the Twins game we went to yesterday. After the Twins game, Elissa and I headed over to the other side of the river (St. Paul, for those of you playing along at home) for the No Doubt/Paramore concert. It was FANTASTIC. Gwen Stefani was really on and participated with the crowd. And I am now only slightly more deaf than I was before.

Tonight I have big plans to watch the TdF TTT (Tour de France Team Time Trial) on tape delay. Please, don't spoil it for me in the comments! I love the Tour. Plus, I get to spend a lot of time enjoying the French countryside without having to buy any pesky and expensive airplane tickets. Score.