It lived up to its name.
We got to Chicago a little after noon today and checked into our hotel that is right near the lake and across the street from Grant Park. We had heard about some storms coming in Milwaukee, but we hoped the weather would hold off as it has this entire trip. It looked like it would when we first got here: the sky was blue with just a few clouds floating around.
I had gotten some ideas of what to do from people who had been to the city, so we decided to just walk around and hit as much as we could in the one day that we had. We went through Grant Park, which was really nice. They had the Taste of Chicago festival in the park, but we decided not to go to it. I figured we would get lost in there and not go to the other things we were interested in.
Right above Grant Park is Millennium Park. It is — hands-down — the coolest park that I have ever been to. The first thing we saw was this fountain thing that had two massive brick pillars on each side with water cascading down them. Kids were running around in the middle just splashing in the very shallow water. Every now and then, faces would appear facing each other on the pillars. It looked like it used fiber optics. Either way, the faces were of real people and they moved, blinked and looked around. Eventually, the faces would look like they were blowing and water would come pouring out of their mouths while the kids ran up to get right under the stream.
Next we walked over to the grill and got some lunch. This area usually has an ice skating rink, but 90 degrees is a little warm for that. They had covered it up and put some tables and a bar on there.
Every person that told me about Chicago told me about the Cloud Gate sculpture. Except they didn’t call it that. They called it “The Bean.” It’s pretty understandable why. “The Bean” is a huge sculpture that looks just like a bean with that is made up completely of mirrors. You can walk under it and look up and see all the people around the inside of the sculpture. You can put your hand on “The Bean” and look like you’re holding yourself up in the air. The coolest view is to look at it from the street side and you can see all the buildings on Michigan Avenue stretched out around “The Bean.”
It may sound weird, but it’s a huge tourist stop. And lots of fun to take pictures with.
We walked farther into the park where there is this massive amphitheater with an interesting sound system. Instead of a lot of speakers at the front, there is decorative scaffolding that criss-crosses the lawn area with speakers hanging over the seating area. From there we walked into a nice little garden area that had a creek running through it. A lot of people were sitting on the edge with their feet in the water, so I had to join. The water was freezing!! But it did cool me off a little bit.
It was about 3:30 at this point, so we decided to go ahead and catch a bus up to Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the last few free zoos around. It was a pretty nice zoo, but nowhere near as big as the North Carolina one, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It meant that we were closer to the animals and they didn’t have as much room to hide. We saw gorillas, kangaroos, lions, tigers, zebras, bears and giraffes! The gorillas were amazing to watch, so human-like. My favorite was a big silver-back who was laying in front of a fan at the edge of the cage. He was just curled up and ignoring everyone. There were two chimpanzees sitting up on a rock and they were facing each other. One looked like he was picking stuff out of the other’s eye and trying to clean it off. Then it looked like the first was kissing the other one on the cheek. It was so amazing watching them all interact.
The lion started growling when we walked in. It growled continuously for a few minutes and echoed throughout the room. Scary, yes, but impressive.
After wearing ourselves out around the zoo, we hopped back on the bus to the Millennium Park area and got some dinner. Paw-Paw decided he was done walking — understandably, I think I was, too — but Madison wanted to go over to Navy Pier. We took a path along the lakeside to get over to the pier and watched all these people sitting on their yachts and enjoying the weather and water.
The pier is filled with restaurants, shops and a couple of theaters. It was fun just walking around for a little bit and looking at some gift shops. We found out that there were fireworks that night, so we had an incentive to hang around for a while. When we got down to the end of the pier, we ran into the beer garden, which had a stage set up right by the sidewalk. A band was setting up, so we decided to sit down and listen. When the Modern Day Romeos finally came on, it was an hour and a half after they were supposed to start.
They were pretty good covers band, but the lead singer had a nasally voice that reminded me a little of Tom Petty. But anything that he lacked in voice quality he made up with stage presence and showmanship. He had a wireless microphone, so he would just jump off the stage and dance around with the kids and just have a good time. They were a lot of fun to watch and you could tell they were having a lot of fun. If you go to their Myspace, you should find a picture of Madison and I that they took while we were sitting there.
They played for about an hour, then stopped for the fireworks. We were in the perfect spot to see them. We just had to turn around and could see them shooting off from a little platform on the water. They had music that went along with the show and they went together pretty well. I was impressed.
The band got back on, but we decided that it was about time to head back. First, we went to the big ferris wheel on the pier. It was a nice view of the city at night from the top, but both Madison and I have a weird, irrational fear of ferris wheels, so most of the time we were talking about all the things that could go wrong.
We didn’t want to walk back, so we tried to figure out the bus system. We got on a bus, but we weren’t really sure where it was going to go. Luckily it went the direction of our hotel, but turned off earlier than we wanted, so we were stuck walking the last 10 blocks. It wasn’t too bad, though, and it felt nice outside. Once again, my feet and legs hurt from all the walking that we’ve been doing.
Tomorrow we’ll be heading to Dayton, Ohio. We’ll probably get there in the afternoon and will just relax for the night. The next day we’ll go to the Air Force museum there and stay one more night. From there it’s on to Pennsylvania. We’ll be back in the Eastern time zone.
We’re on the home-stretch.