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Los Angeles native. Tennessee transplant. 

Route 66: Final Days in Chicago

Route 66: Final Days in Chicago

Chicago meant a lot to me. Just for the fact that it was the end of my journey on Route 66 — a trip I had been planning for so long — and also being so much closer to my final destination of Tennessee, meant so much. But then also being able to see my friend Madeline again and reminisce about the memories in Italy where we met made it even more awesome. I also knew that my dad, uncle, and grandparents spent a good part of their lives near Chicago, so I was excited to see that history.

When we actually arrived in Evanston, where Madeline lives, we stayed up talking for a bit before planning out the next day. I didn't pre-plan Chicago. It was the only place — aside from Kansas City — that I didn't really care that much about what we did. I really only knew about the "Chicago Bean" and Chicago pizza (more like pie — my dad had frozen Chicago pizza flown in a couple times), but didn't have any other expectations of what Chicago looked like or what I anticipated experiencing.

I didn't even realize until this trip that Kanye is from Chicago and he's not saying in his lyrics "shy-town" but "CHI-town". #uhduh

Over the next three days, this is how we ending up spending our time in, and a little bit outside of, Chicago aka "Chi-town":

Just outside of the city of Chicago:

Final days Route 66 approximate expenses: $185.53

  • Gas: $39.53
  • Food: $50
  • Experiences: $96
    • $19 360 Chicago
    • $7 Tilt 
    • $19.50 Skydeck Chicago
    • $35.50 Wendella Boat Tour
    • $15 Art Institute of Chicago (discounted because we came after 4pm)

See below for trip details, video, and photo journal...


The 360 Chicago Observation Deck is located on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center with amazing views of the city and of the Lake Michigan water over 1,000 feet below. 

I'm glad we chose to do this view in the day time and that we went to Skydeck Chicago — the view with the glass ledge in Willis Tower — for sunset into night. It was so beautiful to see all the water below. It's so many shades of beautiful blues. 

I also opted to go on the "Tilt" which is an additional $7 and it's probably so that this observation deck can compete with the glass ledge at Skydeck. With Tilt you are positioned on a glass wall and tilted so you can look down below you. I sort of thought we'd tilt a lot further, but it barely goes down more than I'd be able to see by just looking through the window itself. I feel like the description was a little more thrilling than the actual experience. I still enjoyed it though. Looking through glass to the ground below and contemplating the meaning of my life as I imagine falling through the glass to my death is always on my to-do list ha. #no 


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This was the first building we actually went inside of in Chicago. Madeline wanted to show us. She didn't actually remember what it was called — Chicago Cultural Center — but it's so beautifully constructed inside with all the mosaic and murals and architecture that we stood and looked up at the ceiling for a good while before exiting. We also found Bacon on the ceiling ;)


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The Chicago Bean!!! I was really excited to see this attraction. I had a friend I met in Italy named Matteo and he was from Chicago (doesn't live there anymore though unfortunately) and he told me all about it and was an incredible artist and would draw things like the Chicago Bean. I didn't understand the attraction so much, but once I saw it for myself, I realized how ridiculously cool it is. The way the mirror material is warped creates unique and clear representations of all the people that are surrounding you for this tourist attraction. 

The location of it is also so prime. We passed it a couple times just walking to other attractions.

During the day time there are a lot of crowds and it's really busy. But Krystal was really insistent on seeing it at night as well. So, after a very long day, we went to see it at night. Only a few people were around (I think it was probably 10 or 11pm?) so Krystal took some photos and I took some and I sat on the steps falling asleep because I was so tired.

That face from the last picture we took that night was my "I'm done taking pictures today. LET ME GO." face haha.


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The Crown Fountain is right next to the bean and also something worth spending a little time at. You can walk on water and pretend like you're drinking the computerized person's spit like Madeline's doing above. Or you can just sit on the side and observe how the projected video images of people's faces change and eventually open up their mouths to have water flow out of them.

From their website:

"The fountain consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images from a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens, a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out...The collection of faces, Plensa's tribute to Chicagoans, was taken from a cross-section of 1,000 residents." 

Krystal lived in New York for a year after college, and there's a place called Shake Shack that was her favorite. It only recently opened a location in Los Angeles, but before Chicago, I had personally never heard of it. 

I wish you could have seen Krystal's face when she found out there was Shake Shack in Chicago. It became an immediate priority to enjoy and devour. 

I definitely approved. #hamburgers&fries&shakesfordaysss


Madeline told us about the Art Institute of Chicago and how the Degas exhibit was being featured, but most importantly to me, that there was an exhibit that featured a bunch of miniature rooms. 

I don't know why I love miniature recreations. Maybe it's from playing Barbies and everything's formatted to fit their lifestyle and I always loved building up the houses and their lives and all the details that I could add to it.

The Thorne Miniature Rooms put my Barbie doll living to shame. They're intricately detailed replicas of "European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s" on a scale of one inch to one foot. 

You start on one wall and make your way around to the room you're in to see how the interiors have changed over those centuries.

Krystal and I actually got inside the museum around 4pm — which allowed us to get a discounted ticket. So we only had an hour, and made an action plan so we could see the exhibits we each valued most.

Other than the miniature rooms, the only other exhibit I really wanted to take some time in was the featured Degas exhibit. I had read "Degas and the Tiny Dancer" when it was originally published in 1996 and loved that book.

When I saw the actual sculpture of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, and read more about the construction and history, I had tears, actual tears, almost ready to drop. I don't even know why. I guess that's why art can be so subjective. Unfortunately the Degas exhibit is no longer at the Art Institute, but they do have so many other on-going and special exhibits. It was somewhere we probably could have taken all day to visit.


I don't remember how we even found out about the boat tours, but I personally love tours. I've come to find this out within the last couple of years. They just offer a lot more information that I would have never gained on my own. Especially when you're actually seeing what they're talking about right in front of you. It just makes more sense. And doing a boat tour sounded like the perfect relaxing way to watch the sunset.

So we chose the Wendella Signature Lake & River Tour that took about 90 minutes and went from the Chicago River through the Chicago Lock to the waters of Lake Michigan to view the 26-mile skyline. It was the perfect time and a great ride. I loved the part through the river too and learning about some of the architecture surrounding the river. It was a way to see parts of the city I probably would never have seen or learned about just by walking by it.


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One of the first things we did in Chicago, aside from going to the Chicago Cultural Center was standing in line and getting to view Chicago from way above — 1,353 feet above to be exact. 

The timing worked out really well. Although waiting a good 20-30 minutes to get on the glass ledge was not super fun, we made it to the viewpoint to see all below and around us right after the sun had disappeared beneath the skyline, and all that was left was the saturated colors turning into darkness as the city lights started to appear. It's actually my favorite time of sunset. 

And the glass ledge — which extends 4.3 feet — is an experience I wouldn't recommend for people who are scared of heights, because you can really see so much beneath you. I loved it though.

This was definitely one of my favorite things we did.


City Walking

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Walking around the city itself — day and night — was pretty thrilling. Some places were dirtier or felt more unsafe than others, but we stayed together and made sure we were aware of our surroundings. I especially loved walking around at night. It felt quieter and more peaceful but still so alive.


One of the most miraculous moments of our Chicago trip happened at Navy Pier. 

Krystal and I were in a crunch for time and trying to fit a bunch of things in again. But I really wanted to go on a ride and see Navy Pier. It was getting pretty late, and we were pretty hungry so we weren't sure if we would be able to fit it in. We debated about getting food first, but then we looked at the closing time and realized that we had ten minutes to get there. TEN MINUTES. Driving alone would take about eight from where we were. So we Ubered as fast as we could over to the pier and ran to the rides. 

It was 7:59pm when we came up to the ticket window but it was already closed. All the rides had pretty much shut down. Except for one. THE SWINGS.

So we ran again to the swings and the attendant who was just about to close off entry informed us that we didn't have a ticket so she couldn't let us on. "But we wanted to buy a ticket and it was closed. Technically we still had one minute..." She considered it for a moment and out of the absolute kindness of her heart and probably to appease our eager faces, she LET US ON THE RIDE! 

I'm pretty sure that nothing could top the feeling I had of swinging at that moment. I took in every second of that ride. Feeling the cool air and the metal of the swing, taking in the view of the pier with the water just after it. I was in Chicago! #notforgotten


We knew that we could not leave Chicago without going to a top notch pizza joint and having the Chicago pizza. I called my dad for a good recommendation and he told us about Pizzeria Due. We didn't have to wait long (thank goodness — this was what we ate after the pier when we sacrificed food to go on the ride) until we had our table, made our choice, and out came some of the best pizza ever. Or like, pie that's pizza. Whichever way you want to look at it, it was so good


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We didn't really get to downtown Chicago immediately the night after we arrived. It was another rest day. Madeline and I took her dog, Rufus, to a dog beach in the morning while Krystal slept in. I loved seeing a body of water in front of me again. It wasn't the Pacific Ocean, but it was really beautiful. The weather could not have been better — deep blue skies and little white clouds. And Rufus has the most gorgeous eyes and is so friendly. It made me miss my dogs at home with my mom. But it was good to have another furry friend around.

Madeline drove us around the town and pointed out some known sites like Northwestern University, and the Bahá’i House of Worship. We didn't get to go into the house of worship, but the grounds and architecture were stunning just from the car.

We also went to a couple eateries like Prairie Joe's — which is one of Madeline's favorites — known for their delicious shakes.

Evanston is a lot more low-key than the main city. It felt like a little oasis compared to the city's more bustling atmosphere (although I will say we spent most of our time in Chicago in more touristy places and areas). I considered stopping in Evanston and not going to Tennessee at all. But then I thought about when winter comes... and decided maybe in the future.


Barrington

I mentioned previously that my dad's family lived near Chicago for a good amount of time while he was growing up. In my mind I thought it was the first two years of high school and then they moved to California, but it turns out that it was all of his high school years, and even longer for my grandparents and uncle. 

My dad told me the address in Barrington where their house was so Krystal and I drove over on our last day together, and we found it! The real deal! The best part was Facetiming my grandma and grandpa, dad, and uncle and letting them see it to tell me what the differences were. 

I knocked on the door but no one seemed to be home. It was a little awkward because there wasn't really a sidewalk or area to park on the side of the road so we just pulled into the driveway, and I really hoped there wasn't going to be police called on us or something as I took pictures ha.

My dad also mentioned that there was a little lake area nearby where they used to spend a good amount of time in the summer. So we went over there and Krystal drank her last (of six) root beer(s) that she got from the Pop's Soda place in Oklahoma. And then, coincidence of coincidences, the mailman pulled up nearby and Krystal grabbed her postcards to send them on their way. She was one happy camper.


The last thing Krystal and I did together — before the blur of rushing to the airport — was do a temple session at the Chicago LDS Temple. For us, this was so wonderful to be in the temple and spiritually up-lifting. All the temples look so different on the outside, but the spirit is the same. It feels like coming home.

After our really peaceful experience, we went straight to the airport. We were already cutting it pretty close...and then, when we were about ten minutes away, Krystal rechecked her flight and realized that we were heading to the wrong airport. It was actually at another one about 20 minutes away. #storyofallthetripsitake

Semi-freaking out, I drove as fast as I could. We had minutes — seconds — to spare so our goodbye was a sort of desperate just-let's-hope-you-get-on-the-plane but like you-probably-won't-so-this-isn't-goodbye kind of goodbye. We had even called Madeline and her parents to tell them, and they doubted any hope of making it in time. I figured I was going to drop her off and pick her back up.

By some great miracle though, she got on the plane. I can't say I wasn't a little disappointed — I had already prepared myself for her coming back and staying another night.

We shared so many amazing memories on this trip. And Steph and I as well. And Madeline and Whit and Nancy and John and Rachel and Charity... I owe so many people a tremendous thank you for really being amazing hosts, companions, supporters, and above all, friends. 

Thank you.

 

The Grand Finale: Taylor Swift's 1989 tour

The Grand Finale: Taylor Swift's 1989 tour

Route 66: Day Eleven

Route 66: Day Eleven