September 7, 2015

SURPRISE PIT STOP: Chicago!

Chicago was a whirlwind of sights and sounds and, in Bixby's case, smells.  I had planned to go only for a couple of afternoon hours, but on Monday morning, I got a response from a Couchsurf host saying I could crash at his place that night.  I'd never Couchsurfed before, so I was apprehensive, but I said I'd be there and texted my WWOOF host to say whoops, I'd be there tomorrow instead.  The four-hour drive out of Indiana, for some reason, flew by.  I passed fields of wind turbines, and people complain about eyesores, but there was some alien beauty about the giant white structures turning in the breeze.
okay, this isn't appetizing.  i promise it was good.
Once we got to Chicago, the first order of business was lunch.  Couchsurf Adam had suggested I eat at Big Star, so that's what I did.  Super dog friendly, it was mostly a giant patio with a menu full of fancy tacos (the Zanahorias and the Walking Taco were DELISH).  And fortunately for Bix, we were right next to Wicker Park, which has the tiniest dog park in the back.  Park might be a misnomer since it was paved (???), but he got to romp as best he could and meet Astrid and Odie, who understood how to use a paved dog park.
sea turtle (his head is to the right) (aquariums are not easy to take pictures in)
We headed to the Shedd Aquarium, which came highly recommended.  But I'm cheap and bought the $8 ticket instead of the $36 ticket, which turned out to mean we didn't get to see a single dolphin, and I was really excited to see dolphins.  I thought all we were missing out on was the shows, but nope.  We only got to see the fish and turtles.  So that didn't take long, and I went outside and felt silly for spending $22 to park at such a boring place, and then I decided screw it, let's go to the natural history museum too.
bixby meets his very distant relatives
bixby visits the cat altar
bixby gets dramatic in africa
bixby fits inside a dino footprint!
The Field Museum turned out to be a million times better than the aquarium.  We only had two hours there, so we kinda had to blaze through all the exhibits at top speed because holy COW they had so many things to look at.  There was a huge Egypt exhibit in the basement, a thousand million taxidermied animals (which Bixby was not fooled by), a tour of Africa through time, and a whole big section of dinosaur bones.  We didn't even make it to the People of the Americas exhibit, but I did buy Tooth & Claw dinosaur beer in the gift shop to share with Adam.  Other great things about the Field Museum: there was no line, the museum wasn't at all crowded, the woman gave me my ticket FO FREE, and after I called and made sure it was okay to bring Bixby, not one of the security guards said a word about him.  And I got to dork out for a full two hours by myself and didn't worry at all about staring at the skeletons for a creepy amount of time.
bonus small child
Museum closed at 5, so it was time for THE BEAN.  Since I realized I could go to Chicago, the one thing I absolutely wanted to see was the Bean, and we did.  We got there by walking along Lake Michigan (my very first Great Lake!!).  The water was full of sailboats for me and ducks for Bix and it was hot and sunny and we were booking it and my heart was happy.  We zipped past this huge gorgeous fountain and through Millennium Park, which was very nice and I wished I could have spent more time exploring the gardens, all the way to Cloud Gate, where the Bean is planted.  It was big and silver and smudgier than I expected.  A nice guy with lots of tattoos took a picture of me and Bixby in front of the Bean while it reflected the Chicago skyline, like you're supposed to, and a woman who did not look like anyone official told me I wasn't allowed to have dogs in Millennium Park, and BANG BOOM we took an Uber back to the museum parking garage, with an added bonus loop because the driver missed a turn.
Then we went to meet my couch-for-the-night and its owner.  Adam lives between Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village and has a super cushy couch and a TV with lots of channels, including but not limited to one that was playing Home Alone 2 twice in a row.  So yeah, my Couchsurfing experience was a pretty great one!  He gave me the spare key and suggested I go to a pizza place called Pizano's and then took off to play softball.  I did what he said, and the food at Pizano's was delicious but the service was TERR-I-BLE.  I don't know if the waiter was that thrown off that my date was a dog, or if it was his first night but he forgot to give me a regular menu, a beer menu, and a fork, and my salad was wrong. But real, live Chicago-style deep dish pizza?  A+.  I met a guy named John at the restaurant, he was there by himself too and was taking a break from studying.  He's a theology grad student, and we talked some about faith, and I told him about some of my experiences on the trip, and he told me about how he came from a mega-church in Texas but was also into acting, and then we got Frostys.  Adam and I watched the second half of Home Alone 2 together (did you know that movie is GREAT?  in a really awful way?  and Tim Curry is in it??), but then he had a big business thing in the morning so he went to bed, and I fell asleep entirely un-creeped out.  Brilliant!  Couchsurfing also gets at A+.
Because I'm an idiot, I had forgotten that Ben Apple, a very lovely person who I've been friends with since high school, lives in Chicago with his new(ish) fiancee.  When I remembered, I texted him right up and we made plans to meet for brunch, so in the morning he and I got bagels in Old Town near Second City.  He's the first friend I've seen since August 5 that I didn't have to make, so that was good for the soul.  He has actually done some WWOOFing too, except in Ireland, so we compared stories and he told me about Chicago and we did a little Old Town walking.  And then it was back on the road!  Goodbye Chicago, goodbye Ben Apple, goodbye Couchsurf Adam and Pizano's John and Uber John and Waiter Nolan (sorry I bailed on the bar and couldn't tell you), goodbye Wicker Park and Field Museum and Bean, goodbye all the many Muddy Buddies I ate in under twelve hours, goodbye pizza and tacos and bagels, goodbye!