Okay it really wasn't that much of an adventure, I just like the way that sounds LOL.
What it really was, was a trip to Chicago to attend training, specifically the Paralegal & Investigator Skills Workshop put on by the Office of Defender Services Training Branch. Since my husband had already scheduled to take this week off, I took a few extra days so we could turn it into a vacation of sorts. In order for us to be able to afford to do this, we drove instead of flying.
Tuesday: Indiana = Corn
We started off our trip on Tuesday, taking most of the whole day to travel. We went up into Ohio where we had lunch in Chillicothe (Bob Evans). Then on to Indiana. I had never been to Indiana. There were fields of corn EVERYWHERE. It was a pretty long, boring drive, about 7 1/2 hours, I think.
We had reserved a room at a Super 8 in Hammond, Indiana, just outside of Gary. I had wondered beforehand whether they had some kind of Jackson 5 museum, knowing they grew up there. I wish now that I had at least driven by the family home, which I saw on the news after Michael died. The hotel itself was okay, nothing fancy, but adequate for our needs. Best of all it was free thanks to our accumulated Wyndham rewards points. We had dinner at a restaurant next door, Johnel's. They had a huge menu with everything from sandwiches to steaks to seafood. It was a family type restaurant and the food was very good. It was a nice place to have a relaxing dinner after our long drive (approx. 7.5 hours?).
The only problem with our hotel was location. It was the noisiest place we have ever stayed! It was right beside the interstate exit so we heard lots of trucks all night. But also heard sirens and people and I don't know what else. The cooling system wasn't the kind you could just turn the fan on and leave it on - that would have helped tremendously. Instead it went off and on all night. We didn't get a very good night's sleep. Since I use ear plugs I probably got the most sleep :)
Hello from Indiana
Wednesday: On to Chi-town! Lincoln Park and the Shedd Aquarium
We got up early on Wednesday. This was my only full day in Chicago so I wanted to make the most of it. Unfortunately, that meant we entered Chicago in the middle of morning rush hour! I am glad I don't have to drive that every day.
I love zoos, so I thought a good place to start the day was Lincoln Park, which includes a FREE zoo, the Lincoln Park Zoo. We started at the Farm-in-the-Zoo section, since I love goats and cows and I knew they had some hands-on stuff. Unfortunately, everything I read said they opened at 9:00 a.m., and it was true that the GROUNDS open at 9:00 a.m. But most of the exhibits don't open until 10:00 a.m. So I was able to see the animals, but not pet the goats as I had hoped. Oh well.
I didn't get to see the apes because the exhibit wasn't open yet either. I intended to go back to it after we were done but by that time we were so hot and tired I skipped it. It was very hot that day, even though we started out early. The zoo was okay but not the best I've ever been to certainly (you do get what you pay for). But I liked it and appreciated that they try to keep it free so everyone has access. I especially enjoyed seeing the tiger have lunch, watching a crow sneaking in and eating the polar bear's food, seeing meerkats up close, etc.
When we were watching the rhino, there was a zoo employee walking around with a rhino horn. He stopped and talked to us, let us feel the horn, told us what it was made of (it's like our fingernails) and answered some questions about the rhinos. I thought it was a great idea having employees wandering around like that to interact with visitors, although he was the only one I saw. The rhino was so cute too. She was a 4 year old female and will be old enough to breed in a few years (hopefully with their 26 year old male). She was so playful, running around her enclosure. She got in the mud then ran over and stopped in front of us to show off to the guy (I think his name was Gaylen).
The zoo pictures:
Lincoln Park is a lovely place. It also has a conservatory, nature museum, beach and there was a farmer's market type thing there too. Unfortunately, by the time we were done with the zoo, as I mentioned before we were just so hot and tired all we wanted to do was get to the hotel, so we didn't visit anything else there.
Walking through Lincoln Park
We stayed at the same hotel where the seminar was being held: The Hyatt Regency on East Wacker Drive. It's a nice hotel and pretty expensive. I was very happy we were able to check in even though it was several hours before official check in.
The room was very nice. It had a very comfortable bed, a 37 inch flat screen and was very roomy. Our room was on the 4th floor and overlooked an intersection where a little grocery store is located. We turned one of the couches around and spent a lot of time looking out that window.
After we got settled in our room, we went downstairs and had lunch at the hotel in Bistro 151. Part of it is in the right of this picture - this is the lobby looking down from the floor where you check in.
Our hotel was on the Chicago River, near where it empties into Lake Michigan. It's a lovely area!
Regarding our hotel - although it was very nice, for the amount of money we paid some things were a disappointment. There was no bath tub, only a shower (and the way it was designed, most of the time you ended up with a big puddle of water on the floor directly in front of the toilet). There was a nice plasma tv, but not many channels to watch. And finally, I think it is outrageous that they charge almost $14 a day for internet access! Which of course we had to have. It helps so much in planning, finding your way around, reading restaurant reviews, etc. Not to mention checking email and Facebook :)
After we had lunch, we set off for the museum campus. We decided to take a bus. The bus system is great - there are buses coming along every 15 minutes for the most popular runs (museum campus, sears tower, etc.) We stationed ourselves in front of the Wrigley Building and waited. It took longer than 15 minutes but eventually it got there.
I couldn't decide between the aquarium and the museum of natural history. I really wanted to go to the museum more, but the aquarium was open later, and by the time we got over there (after waiting for the bus and traveling across town) we would have only had an hour and a half in the museum, so I opted for the Shedd Aquarium. It is right on the lake and it's such a nice area.
The aquarium was a disappointment. It's nice, and they have a lot of exhibits, but it just wasn't as good as I thought it would be. The biggest disappointment for me was the dolphin area - you could see them from below, through a window looking into murky water, but you couldn't access the area above, where they would jump out of the water and you could really see them. I don't know why it was closed. I thought they also had some kind of shows with the dolphins and whales but never really saw information on them. From below, we could see the dolphins play. Sometimes they would swim down to the bottom then up as fast as they could and jump into the air. I would like to have seen that from above!
We did get to see the beluga whales up top and they were my favorites. They are so pretty!! They swam around and would come up and spray.
Here's a short video of the whales. The people talking on it aren't us - they were standing beside us.
We took the bus back to the room. We decided to get off before the place we'd gotten on, thinking it would save us time. Unfortunately, we didn't really know where we were and got off too soon then had a little trouble finding our hotel! Not a big deal, except we'd stopped at a 7-11 and gotten a case of water and some pepsi and were carrying that back to the room. I was soooo hot and tired by the time we found it! LOL! It is confusing with all those buildings that look alike!! Not to mention there are is another Wacker Drive (North Wacker? we were on East Wacker) and Wacker Place.
Anyway. We decided to stay in the rest of the evening. I had a nice long cold shower and we settled in and watched TV and watched people outside. For dinner, we ordered pizza from Giordano's, which was close by. We decided to try their thin crust, thinking the deep dish might be too messy or get soggy on the way or something. It was GREAT pizza - one of the best I've had, and I've had a lot of pizza.
Thursday & Friday: Back to Work
Thursday my seminar started. I left my room at 7:30 a.m. for registration and breakfast. The seminar started at 8:30 and went until 5:30. Over the next few days, I spent most of my time learning. The seminar was great. I learned a lot and it was very interesting. At lunch, we ate in the hotel again, then I went back early to read the big stack of papers we'd gotten just before lunch. During the course of the seminar, we worked on a sample case and were periodically given more information and documents. We listened to lectures some of the time, and some of the time worked in small groups talking about the case and practicing skills such as interviewing. In one session on Friday I learned to use Microsoft Viseo - I don't even know if I have that in the office but hope I do as I have some ideas as to how I could use it to benefit the attorneys I think. I met lots of interesting people. The neat thing is that the majority of them work in federal public defender offices. Some were in private practice, but all of us did the same kind of work, on the same kind of cases, and there were people from all over the country. I'm really glad I got to go.
Thursday evening, by the time were were done, I still hadn't read all of the papers and I was tired! I didn't really feel like trying to figure out where to go or what we could do, and I didn't really want to fool with buses or cabs to get somewhere. We did walk around outside a little bit. We had dinner at Stetson's Chop House, a very nice restaurant in the hotel. I think it's the only time we've ever spent over $100 for a meal! And we only had water to drink! LOL. I had a very nice filet. The service was excellent and quite fancy (all one person did was refill drinks and sweep up the crumbs between courses). We even had sorbet between salad and main course. Not that I had salad. Dave had the price fix meal which included salad, an entree (he had salmon) and dessert. I chose the filet and a twice baked potato, and Dave shared his dessert with me (a marvelous chocolate torte with real whipped cream and raspberries). The kitchen was open so we could watch them cook. I wanted so badly to take pictures but was afraid that was too tacky!! LOL. At the end of the meal instead of mints we were presented with chocolate covered strawberries flash frozen with dry ice, the smoke from the dry ice swirling around them. I didn't think I liked chocolate covered strawberries but these were awesome!! I was glad we splurged and had such a nice meal, and even more glad we were able to just get on the elevator and go back to our room.
Friday I was in training again all day. We had lunch at Houlihan's, which was close by. The food was very good (it had Friday's type food only it was all freshly made in-house) but they had the a/c on so high it was freezing and that was uncomfortable. Friday evening we took a long walk, including down by the river on the River Walk.
The river is lovely but when you are down there beside it, it stinks soooo bad!! LOL Very strong fishy smell. So we didn't walk down there very long. While we were down there, this gentleman, whose name is Bela, stopped me and asked if I would take a picture of him in front of Trump Tower LOL. He was quite a character. I need to go email him the pictures.
Unfortunately I couldn't really get a good picture of Trump Tower with him, but here is the building:
And here's us sitting on a bench watching people:
By the way, although I guess sea gulls are as common in Chicago as pigeons, I really liked them, since we don't have them around here.
This is the view from our room at night. We don't have many (any?) hummer limos around here:
Friday night, again I really didn't feel like going anywhere or even deciding where to go out of all of the places in Chicago, and we ended up ordering pizza from Giordano's again so I could try the stuffed crust pizza, which is kind of like deep dish only with an extra crust. It wasn't nearly as good as the other one.
Saturday: On the Road Again:
On Saturday the seminar ended and we were ready to go home. It took us awhile to find the interstate (they need more signs for goodness sake!) but that allowed us to see a little more of Chicago. Then we made the long trek back home.
Overall I had a good time in Chicago. I hope someday I can go back when I don't have to work for most of the time, so that I can take in the many sites and museums I missed and try some of the restaurants. There are so many things to do it is overwhelming! I didn't make it to many of the things I wanted to see. I'd like to go to the navy pier, the beaches, Grant Park, the Field Museum of Natural History and Union Station to name just a few!!
Chicago is a beautiful city. There is amazing architecture and so many things to see. The people were so nice - we weren't treated rudely by anyone, either on the street (which is a madhouse sometimes trying to cross streets and such) or in any of the shops or restaurants. It is also very clean, considering what a big place it is and how many people are walking and driving around. I look forward to returning some day.
I'll leave you with pictures taken downtown as we walked and rode around:
Monday, June 29, 2009
Okay it really wasn't that much of an adventure, I just like the way that sounds LOL.