We entered Chicago from the South side. For those of you that aren’t familiar, this is the part of the city that has earned Chicago the affectionate nickname “Ch-Iraq” with it’s staggering crime rate. We were due for showers so we decided to stop at LA Fitness to work out and freshen up before we went to see our dear friends Chris and Candice that live in Lincoln Square. That was the plan anyway.
Kyle noticed that we were leaking coolant from behind our rear passenger side tire which, as any gear heads reading this will know, is a rather unusual place for a coolant leak. Turns out that either Ford or Crescent Cruiser (the company that turned our van into a conversion van back in the 80’s) did us dirty by running some coolant lines directly between the rear axle and frame to our rear AC evaporator (a design Kyle now firmly disapproves of). Being overloaded in the rear, the ruthless potholes in Michigan did a number on one of the more vulnerably placed hoses. Needless to say, repairing the van took precedent over working out so, being somewhat unaware of the neighborhood we were in, Kyle took off in an Uber for supplies while Kate and Meatball braved the parking lot people of South side Chicago.
Clearly, Kyle fixed Morty and everyone survived, but man was that a shitty afternoon.
Once the van was all stitched up, we made our way to Chris and Candice’s, which has become something of a home away from home for us over the past few months. The difference in the city from the last time we were there in March to June is quite remarkable; from cold, snowy, and vicious to vibrant and full of life. From sun up to sun down, the streets of Lincoln Square were lined with cheery faced residents tending their beautiful gardens like bears waking up from hibernation to experience the sunshine of Spring. During the warmer months, there’s a market and/or festival in every neighborhood every weekend so there’s never a good reason to stay indoors.
We’ve always liked Chicago. It’s a very cool city, but we had only ever been there in fall or winter before this trip. Had we experienced spring time in Chicago first, we may have been tricked into being residents by now. Spring and summer are truly magical in places with such extremes in weather between seasons.
We spent our time with Chris and Candice doing the usual; eating delicious food, listening to rad music, and checking out art. During this visit, we made a hell of an attempt to check off a wing or two of the Chicago Institute of Art. At a million square feet, moving to Chicago for a year or two and going regularly is probably the only way to see it all. We’d definitely be skipping school like Ferris Buller if we had the opportunity to spend our days staring at the works of Monet, Van Gogh, and O’Keefe (just to name a few). With a finite supply of hours in a day and neurons to expand consuming art of this magnitude before your brains turn to mush, there’s no way to process it all in one visit.
We always cherish our time with Chris and Candice. It’s rare to find such a compatible couple to spend time with, but this friendship is a match made in heaven. We had to part ways before our stay was over, but we know its only a matter of time before we find our way back to each other.
Kyle’s mom, Tammy and brother, Dillon came to visit us toward the end of our stint in Chicago. Since neither of them had ever been before, we saved all the typical “first time in a city” activities to do with them. We strolled through Millennium Park to visit the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Cloud gate, better known as the Bean (which was filthy).
**Dear Chicago, clean your bean! Dear Tourists, you don’t have to touch it with your greasy deep dish digits, just take your photos and move along**
Then we rode the train to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Having never ridden the train, squeezing into a packed car at rush hour was about as authentic of a Chicago experience as they come. After moseying through the zoo, continued through some beautiful neighborhoods and right to the most important destination of the day: Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. We both have dietary restrictions that make pizza less than fun for us, but Tammy and Dillon got full dose of Chicago deep dish – yet another check off of the city scavenger hunt.
From there, we took them to Reckless Records in Wicker Park to browse and then for some much-needed drinks to wash away the attitude that oozes from the staff there. Kate picked out a drink she knew mom would like which she liked it so much, she ordered another. This is a lot for mom and the giggles lasted for hours.
Roaming the streets of Chicago talking shit about anything and everything with the family was a real hoot. Humor runs deep through the veins in both Kyle and Kate’s families. As the pizza and drinks started to settle in our bellies and the sleepiness crept up on us, we slowly made our way back to our air b&b and tucked in for a night of takeout and believe it or not, left over pizza.
Unfortunately, mom and Dillion couldn’t stay long and in the morning they had to jet off back to Florida. We obviously love them a lot and can’t wait for them to visit us again on our Vantastic Voyage.
PS: Before we left Chicago, we were lucky enough to meet up with our good bud Larry Fulford who just happens to be one of the smartest and funniest guys we know (hence the lucky part). If you ever have the chance to catch him doing some stand up comedy, do it. He took us to a legit hole in the wall Chicago dive bar, Spyners Pub, and we loved it. We also finally had a couple of shots of Malort and loved/hated it as much as any person rightfully should.