Prior to our month in Hawaii, we planned to spend a layover week with my brother, Peter, and his girlfriend, Jess, in Chicago, Illinois. Fortunately, we have wonderful family in New Jersey who were able to keep our truck at their house and give us a place to return to (thanks again Aunt Pat!). After packing everything we would need for 5 weeks in both Chicago and camping in Hawaii into two large backpacking packs, we set off from Newark, NJ early in the morning for the Windy City.
Peter picked us up from the airport and showed us his spartan existence in the Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn. It was great seeing him after 4 months apart, and his apartment's location was extraordinary. We got settled in the next morning and Peter went off to work for the rest of the day. Nat and I went out to explore the town. We checked out a great little breakfast spot right down the street Peter and our Findmeglutenfree.com app (lifesaver) recommended called Blackberry Market. We picked up delicious gluten free muffins (which they offer day-old ones at only $1.25) along with our much needed morning coffee and began to feel human again. We finished breakfast and continued our stroll around the town to get our bearings and check out where Peter has spent the last 5 months. Glen Ellyn has a cute downtown and convenient access to the train into the city. It struck us as a lovely place to settle down in your small mansion with 3 golden retrievers and two kids named Blake.
Peter returned from work and we got some excellent non-morning zombie time to hang out with him, swapping new music and amusing Youtube videos before crashing hard after a long day of travel. Peter had to work again the next day but got off early so Natalie and I took time to unpack our bags, and catch up on some sleep before running some errands when Peter returned. After some minor adjustments to the stove to cook our dinner (chicken pan), Peter picked up Jess and all four of us were able to hang out a bit before bed. Friday we had a full day of relaxing including seeing 'Deadpool 2' and eating at Fire and Wine, an amazing restaurant with an excellent gluten free menu, in Glen Ellyn. At the movies we had ordered a bucket of Corona's and continued being our smart-ass selves before the movie started. Apparently the guy sitting behind us thought we were funny because he ordered us all another round on him! Thanks rando nice guy!
Saturday we took the train into Chicago proper for our first look at the city. The train system worked amazingly well, so much easier to buy weekend long passes at a reasonable price on your phone vs. standing in a long line that makes you miss the last bullet train to the city (looking at you Caltrans). Getting off the train we went down to the French Market and Peter bought and shared an awesome gluten free Nutella crepe. Walking out of the market onto the Chicago streets was a surprising experience to say the least. They were clean, well laid out, and full of friendly people. Walking around and seeing the river and parks in full memorial day swing, with festivals in the process of setting up, was a great way to experience the sensory bombardment city life can provide. We usually avoid cities or other populated places around major holidays because we are anti-social curmudgeons, but we unusually enjoyed being surrounded by the unwashed masses. Furthermore, we did not expect to find 'The Bean' in Millennium Park interesting in the slightest but we actually thought it was very cool (especially the underside). Though it was fairly grimy thanks to the horde of tourists touching all the surfaces. Admittedly, we were members of that greasy mob making Chicago's shining beacon duller one smudge at a time.
After seeing the rest of Millennium Park, we visited the planetarium and the 12th street beach. The planetarium was eyeopening. It apparently takes the vast beauty of the infinite universe being juxtaposed against loud, selfish mouth-breathers to really understand Agent Smiths diatribe to Morpheus in The Matrix about how humanity is just a self absorbed macro-virus.
The beach was also really cool. Nat, Jess and Peter grabbed some Chicago-dogs while I ate a lovely lukewarm tupperware bowl full of Spagot*. It was bizarre to realize we were eating lunch along freshwater lake watching the 'waves' lap against the sand, as it looked just like the ocean. We walked back downtown along lakefront break-wall. With the calm lake washing onto the walkway from time to time and the city skyline in the background, it made for a really unique experience. We took a break from the heat with a few beers before getting Nat some deep dish pizza , which apparently was just alright. I had more Spagot which was nice and warm at this point.
The next day brought us back to the city though sadly the crepe shop was closed on Sundays. We went up to the Chicago Zoo and met up with Jess's sister, Demi, and their mom. I cannot express how amazing this free city zoo was, they had great habitats and very healthy active animals. Demi had just moved to Chicago, and Mama Wolfe was up helping her get settled in her swanky new apartment. After brunch we checked out Demi's sweet new pad, which had a killer rooftop deck that overlooked downtown, the zoo, and the coastline. The Sunday train schedule was fairly limited, so we Ubered back to the train station and headed home. Jess and Nat went out to get super cool matching piercings and Peter and I goofed off before we all went out to Tacos at A Toda Modre. We also attempted to complete the Bomb Game, but we apparently need eight hours and four gin and tonics to be back at Christmas level proficiency. Before Jess left on Monday, we all went bowling and had discounted beer for memorial day. Bowling is way more fun while drinking, and also made Jess improve her game 110%. The last day Peter, Nat and I saw 'Solo' (boo no free booze guy and there were noisy kids with shitty parents) but overall a good movie. We had to spend our last moments packing back up for Hawaii, as Peter had to go to work, and we hung out that night getting some last tacos. We woke up early the next morning, 2am, and got to our flight to Maui. Thanks Peter!!
It was a great trip 10/10 would live in a serial killers empty apartment again.
Song: Kazoo Kid Trap Original Mix - Mike Diva
Quote: "What about me!!!"
*Spagot – A meal that came about by slow cooking gluten free spaghetti, jarred pasta sauce and sub-par meat balls for 6 hours, then cooling down so it forms a solid block of goop. Can be eaten hot or cold, best at outside temperature. Not to be confused with Spagut**
**Spagut – Spagot, but with macaroni. Sauces and meats may vary.