4.16.2013

Chicago: Day 2

After checking out of our room, we put our luggage into the rental car and set out for the day. We spent all of sixty seconds outside before we turned right around and went back for more layers. The doormen were laughing because Steve's jacket was in my bag, and they thought he was going outside in just a t-shirt. It was cold

Inside the parking garage, we passed JLo's car, parked in the middle of two reserved stalls. I initially stopped to take a picture of the license plate because I had JLO. . . the Junior League of Ogden. . .  on my mind. Steve quickly inspected the vehicle, a high-end electric car made by Tesla, and deduced that it was actually very likely to belong to Jennifer Lopez. She owns twenty-something cars, so why wouldn't one of them be a Tesla?


This is the Wrigley Building. We walked past it at least ten times on our trip. It was built in the 1920's as the headquarters of the Wrigley gum company. The Wrigley Building was Chicago's first air-conditioned office building. I love the clock on the south tower. Every city should have a landmark building with a clock. 


Each bridge tower on the Michigan Avenue Bridge is adorned with a sculpture commemorating important events in Chicago history. The Southeast Tower's sculpture, titled Regeneration, depicts Chicagoans rebuilding the city after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871:


"The Great Chicago Fire in October eighteen hundred and seventy-one devastated the city. From its ashes the people of Chicago caused a new and greater city to rise imbued with that indomitable spirit and energy by which they have ever been guided. Erected by trustees of the B.F. Ferguson Monument Fund, 1928."

Looking south on Michigan Avenue:


This picture shows the two towers of the Wrigley Building. The south tower is 30 stories tall and the north tower rises to 21 stories. In 1931, a walkway was added at the fourteenth floor to connect offices of a bank, in accordance with a Chicago statute. I love the angles of the buildings.


We stopped at Firecakes on Hubbard Street for breakfast: 


I picked the Maple Glazed Pineapple & Bacon donut, and Steve picked the Coconut Cream. They were both delicious, but his was better.


Steve told me to stop to take this next picture because it is "so Chicago". Chicago's transit system is called the "L" (sometimes written as El or just L, short for "elevated"). It is the second largest rapid transit system in total track mileage in the United States, after the New York City Subway. The oldest sections of the "L" started operations in 1892, making it the second-oldest rapid transit system in the United States, after Boston. Although the "L" earned its nickname because large parts of the system are elevated, portions of the network are also in subway tunnels or on ground level. We should have taken the Blue Line from the airport to our hotel. We would have avoided some major expenses, and I regret not experiencing the "L".


Our next stop was at the one and only, Mr. Beef. Steve didn't actually tell me where we were going. I think he was worried that I might have objected to walking three miles out of our way for an Italian beef sandwich.


Mr. Beef is a Chicago icon. It's been featured on Travel Channel's Food Wars and also happens to be one of Jay Leno's favorite restaurants. 


A few years ago, Steve almost opened a copycat version in Ogden called Mister Beef. 


No frills, they are all business. You can read more about them here


I think this was called the hot and sweet sandwich. I went and saved a seat while Steve ordered our food. I should have taken a picture of the line of people waiting to order. And I really should have taken a picture of the guys making the food. Because they were all dressed in sweats. For reals.


Everyone else was ordering cheese fries, so Steve figured they must be something special. It just meant that they gave you a small plastic container of nacho cheese to go with your bag of fries. I think they were probably the worst fries I've eaten outside of a school cafeteria. (The sandwich was amazing.)


I wanted to take more pictures, but I was also trying not to look too much like a tourist. I don't know why I cared. . . Mr. Beef had all sorts of classiness like this:


Steve might not appreciate that I include this. . . But as we were sitting at the counter, eating our lunch, the man next to us, dressed in a business suit, let out a loud burp. He made absolutely no attempt to excuse himself. I was slightly appalled, but then again, I was the only female in a restaurant full of men. Where the staff apparently had a dress code including sweat pants and possibly no bathing. A few minutes later Steve went ahead and let out a burp of his own. I glared at him, waiting for an explanation, and he responded with a grin, "What?!? I think you can do that here!"

We could have concluded our trip right then, and Steve would have been a happy man.


Here's more of the "L". There's a whole lot of noise and smell that just can't translate through a photo.


Our next stop was the Original Gino's East of Chicago:


Gino's East is famous for their Chicago-style pizza. And for its interior walls, where thousands of people have signed and carved names and messages:


The deep dish pizza is cooked with the toppings on the bottom, then cheese, and then the sauce. 


We got our pizza to go and thought we'd eat as we walked. But it was just too cold, so we decided to go eat inside the Rock N Roll McDonald's:


The Rock N Roll McDonald's is one of the most famous McDonald's locations in the world and was once the busiest in the United States. It's a bilevel restaurant with plasma televisions, two green roof gardens, leather chairs, a fancy McCafe on the 2nd floor. And an escalator: 


On our way towards the Navy Pier, we passed The Shops at North Bridge. We were ready to warm up again, and since the Junior League Fundraiser was the next night, I thought I'd do a little dress shopping.

I found lots of nice options at White House Black Market, but they were too short. All six of them. The lady helping me just couldn't understand why they weren't long enough or why I would want to cover up my legs.

This dress from Nordstrom was a lot more expensive, but it was long. And classy. Steve told me I could save it and wear it to his funeral. I'm hoping I can come up with lots of other places to wear it as well.


By then, my knee was really hurting. I injured it a couple of weeks ago at my first (and last) dance class at the gym. (It's an awesome class with the best teacher ever. I am just a horrible student.) So when we saw a sign for bike rentals, we figured that would be the best way to see the rest of Chicago. We rented a tandem bike from Bobby's Bike Hike. And intentionally left the Nordstrom bag with my new dress behind the counter. 

We rode down to Navy Pier, which is on the shore of Lake Michigan: 


Phineus and Ferb's Perry the Platy-Bus was at the Family Pavilion. Steve cracked me up when he said that we needed to stop and see if there was anyone famous on the tour.


The Navy Pier is Chicago's number one tourist attraction, and many of the activities are geared towards kids: Chicago Children's Museum, the Funhouse Maze, an IMAX theater, and the Pier Park with a ferris wheel, swings, carousel, remote control boats, miniature golf. There are lots of other attractions as well: sightseeing cruises, dinner cruises, The Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, oversized art sculptures, and an interactive animated fountain. Unfortunately, it was at least twenty or thirty degrees too cold to enjoy anything.


This is the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse, acquired from the U.S. Coast Guard by the City of Chicago in 2009: 


It was at this point that Steve claimed he couldn't feel his fingers anymore. He said he was colder than he had been all ski season. 


It was cold. But not too cold to stop me from taking a few more pictures: 


We decided to ride our bike back to our hotel to get more warm clothes. Unfortunately, we got stuck behind this Segway tour:


They were slow. And blocking the entire sidewalk. It was really obnoxious.


We finally passed them. But then Steve couldn't figure out any way to get back to our hotel, other than to get on Highway 41, which was congested with rush hour traffic. I asked him to let me off the bike and told him I would run across traffic and catch up with him later, but he made me stay on the bike. So much for thinking we were just going for a carefree ride down to Lake Michigan. I was afraid we were going to die. I actually visualized getting hit by a car and imagined my helmet-less head skidding across the pavement. You have to understand, with Steve on the higher seat in the front, I was completely blinded and couldn't see a thing in front of me. I had to trust Steve. . . and did I mention it was Steve's very first time riding a tandem bike? I begged him not to let us die. And good news, we didn't. We made it over to the bike path safely and then stopped to take a picture of the traffic.


Riding the rest of the way to our hotel was only slightly less frightening. We rode under bridges and through tunnels (at least they were warm!) Steve weaved around cement posts and right next to blankets and boxes set up by homeless people. I have never been so relieved to arrive at a parking garage. I sat inside the car, with the heat on full blast, while Steve dug through our luggage for more clothes. He also ran over to the drugstore and bought us gloves, which made the rest of our day much more bearable.

Then we rode back to Grant Park because I wanted to see Buckingham Fountain. Most of the park was closed off with barricades, and it was actually fairly difficult to find. There were long lines of porta-potties, rows of garbage cans, and dozens of large covered tents. Steve wondered if the President was coming, but it turns out that the city was setting up for the Shamrock Shuffle, an 8K race sponsored by Bank of America. I wondered why they were having a race called the Shamrock Shuffle in April. . . shouldn't that be on St. Patrick's Day? But then I remembered how cold it was and realized there's no way they could convince 40,000 runners to run a race two weeks earlier in the season. (I think there was a twenty degree rise in temperature between Friday and Sunday, so the runners didn't freeze.)


Buckingham Fountain is one of the largest fountains in the world. But since the water wasn't on, we were the only tourists there. The fountain, dedicated in 1927, was donated to the city by Kate Buckingham in memory of her brother, Clarence Buckingham. From mid-April to mid-October, Buckingham Fountain operates with regular water shows, shooting water 150 feet into the air. The fountain represents Lake Michigan, and each of the four sea horses represent the states that border the lake: Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana.


We had to do some crazy navigating through the park. (That translates to riding through the lawn and carrying the tandem bike over some cement barricades.) But we finally made it over to Millennium Park:


Cloud Gate, the sculpture affectionately nicknamed, "The Bean", was actually at the top of my list of things I wanted to see in Chicago. That's where all of the tourists were. 


Designed by Indian artist Anish Kapoor, the sculpture was selected in 1999, during a design competition. The proposal consisted of a structure measuring 33 x 66 x 42 feet, featuring a seamless, stainless steel surface. The sculpture's mirror-like surface and elliptical shape, inspired by liquid mercury, was intended to reflect and distort the city's skyline.


Experts believed that the design could not be implemented. There were concerns that the surface would retain and conduct heat, making it too hot to touch during the summer. 



There were other concerns that the extreme variation between temperatures would weaken the structure. And that graffiti, bird droppings, and fingerprints would detract from the aesthetics of the surface. 



The sculpture, weighing in at 110 tons, was built using 168 stainless steel pieces welded together and then highly polished with no visible seams. Cloud Gate was dedicated on May 15, 2006, and was almost instantly nicknamed, "The Bean". 


Cloud Gate is considered one of the greatest pieces of public art in the world. It has turned into more of a destination than a work of art. The final cost of the sculpture was $23 million dollars. No public funds were used; all money came from donations from individuals and corporations. 


"The Bean" has become Chicago's second largest tourist attraction, behind the Navy Pier. The lower 6 feet of Cloud Gate is wiped down twice a day by hand, with the entire sculpture is cleaned twice a year with 40 gallons of liquid detergent. 


We also went and saw The Crown Fountain, but they don't turn the water on until May and one of the glass brick towers was being repaired. I think they should build something like this in Ogden and display pictures taken by Only In Ogden's, Bryan Smith. 


We took a much safer route on our bike ride back to our hotel. Steve dropped me off and then rode the bike back to Bobby's Bike Hike by himself. Seconds after Steve dropped me off, I called and texted him to remind him to remember the Nordstrom bag. But he didn't answer and never saw the messages. 

When he returned to the hotel empty-handed, I was a little concerned. I immediately got on the phone and started calling the shop, but they were already closed for the day. Steve ran back to Bobby's Bike Hike, but nobody was around and everything was locked up. I frantically searched their website from my phone, looking for an email address or any other form of contact. A few minutes later, Steve called back and suggested that I write something on their Facebook wall: 


The owner of the store called me within three minutes. And someone was there to open the door for Steve within twenty minutes. 


Social media at its best. Great customer service too! 

Then Steve and I walked passed to dinner at Mercadito, a vibrant restaurant combining traditional Mexican with creative flair. 


It had a vibrant atmosphere, and with a full staff, they were turning tables left and right:


We had some incredible agua frescas, and then we ordered a trio of guacamole: traditional, elote, and pina. There were other varieties to choose from as well: mango, poblano, and toreado. I am really excited to introduce some new guacamoles, like these, at Sonora Grill. I ordered some Platanos Machos and began trying to convince Steve to bring fried plantains back to the menu. He ordered the Arroz y Frijoles. The black beans tasted very similar to Sonora Grill's, but their rice was exploded and not very good. I would expect exploded rice at a place like Javier's, but I don't know how nicer restaurants think they can get away with it. 

We had the Brochetas: skewers of grilled shrimp & chimichurri, grilled steak & salsa toreada, smoked chicken & mole-q sauce. It was really good and I loved the way it was served, but crazy to see what sort of pricing they can get away with in a big city. The Brochetas were served with very small, two-bite tortillas. And by skewers, that means a wooden stick with one piece of shrimp, one piece of grilled salsa, one piece of chicken. The cost? Thirty-four bucks. 


After dinner, we went to a movie. Because sometimes I have to let Steve pick what we do. I was in no way hungry, but I got myself some popcorn because it's the only thing that can get me through a movie these days. This was when Steve told me he would give me $1000 if I could stay awake all night long, but he later retracted his offer. Our flight back to Salt Lake City departed Chicago at 6:00 am. Which meant we needed to be at the airport by 4:00 am. Which meant we needed to return our rental car by 3:30 am. Which meant we would have to leave for the airport by 3:00 am. . . which explains why we didn't get a hotel room for our second night in Chicago. 

We walked back to our hotel to get our rental car out of the parking lot. Our jaws dropped when we inserted the parking stub and saw our parking fee:


Feeling rather poor, we tried to figure out what to do with the rest of our night. We drove through Chinatown. We drove by a White Sox baseball game at U.S. Cellular Field. We drove to Target so Steve could take a nap in the parking lot. (I stayed awake.) And then we finally just drove out to the airport, returned our rental car, and took the shuttle to the airport. 

Wow, that was a long day. 

The baggage check-in area didn't open until 4:00 am, so we were stuck waiting for a couple of hours. We found the most comfortable place we could, a side hall of the Hilton O'Hare Hotel. That's when I asked Steve to pass me my computer. And that's when we realized I had left it underneath the bed in the hotel room. 

A whole lot of franticness ensued. The hotel had asked for my cell phone number when we checked in, just in case we were to leave any items behind. Why hadn't we been called? I couldn't remember the last time I had backed up my computer. Why hadn't I backed up my computer? I started thinking about all of the pictures that were on my computer. I started thinking about how I had spent the last week scanning folders of documents from my filing cabinet. Even more reckless, the file with all of my passwords was left open because I had just looked up our frequent flier numbers. But mostly I couldn't stop thinking about all of those pictures. . . I was so upset that Steve called the hotel for me. 

He was put on hold. 

New guests had already checked into the room. 

They would not be able to contact the guests or check the room for my computer until the morning. 

The next few hours were somewhat miserable, worrying about the fate of my computer. We called the hotel back in the morning, but they said they hadn't yet obtained permission from the guests to look for the computer. I made the third call myself, later that afternoon. They had left a message with the guests and still hadn't heard back from them. And for security purposes, they were unable to look around in the room or remove anything without the guests permission. . . as if that was my scheme, to call around hotels and say I'd left a computer there the night before. . . 

Anyhow, we finally got a phone call saying that the computer had been located, and arrangements were made to ship it back to us. Expensive arrangements, but arrangements nonetheless. I wasn't very impressed with the way Radisson Blu handled everything, and it was kind of a sour way to end our trip. But that's okay. I don't think that will be my last trip to Chicago. 

These are the things I want to do on my next trip to Chicago: 

1. Go to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) In 2009, retractable glass boxes were added, allowing visitors to look down through the floor to the street below. . . 1353 feet below. 
2. Ride the L.
3.  Take pictures at Cloud Gate. (I don't think I could go back to Chicago and not go see this again. Too much fun.) And see The Crown Fountain in operation. 
4. Go to Lurie Garden
5. See Buckingham Fountain.
6. Spend more time at the Navy Pier. Go to the Funhouse Maze. Spend some time appreciating the sculptures. 
7. Play on a beach at Lake Michigan. (Because the next time I go to Chicago, it will be warm.)
9. See views of the city from 360 Chicago (formerly known as the John Hancock Center Observatory). 
11. Eat at Girl and the Goat. (We called to make a reservation for dinner, but the next available opening was four days later at 10:00 pm.) Let's be honest, I'd also want to do a lot of the same eating we did on this trip: Topolobampo, Mr. Beef, Mercadito.
12. Go to a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field

I'm thinking my next trip will need to be longer than two days. . . 

4 comments:

Rachael said...

Sounds like you guys got to experience a lot of the highs and lows of Chicago. Really hope to see you next time you come. We'll take you to the beach!

Min said...

My name is on the wall at Gino's Pizza. Did you see it? It said "Mindy from Utah '99". I'm sure it is still there. . .

byoung said...

jake will be so jealous, he is dying to go!

Rebecca said...

That is really awesome about the bike shop getting back to you so fast! Impressive!!! That is a crazy busy itinerary!