Archive for June 28th, 2009

Chicago, day 1

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Dylan spent the night with us on Thursday so that we’d increase our chances of getting out the door on time. I’d worried a bit about the kids not going to sleep because of the anticipation of our trip. My worry was doubly misplaced. Dylan is the most determined and business-like kid when it comes to going to sleep and Reid was tired enough to settle once I laid with her. On the other hand, I woke up at 2:30 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I finally got out of bed at 3:30 and snuck out to do some last minute surfing. I was calculating the amount of money we were going to save by visiting museums and using my membership card from the science and technology museums in Ottawa, when I stumbled on the site for the Adler Planetarium, which I’d dismissed as too old for the kids, and discovered they have a Sesame-street themed exhibit. There was a good reason for me being awake, I guess. Needless to say, I got everything into the car, even the kids, by 5:00 and we were pulling out of the driveway as the clock on the dashboard changed to 5:00 am. I’d have left early but poor Uncle Chris didn’t deserve to suffer from my inability to manage my excitement.

Reid and Dylan were drowsy when I put them into their seats but wide-awake by the time we hit the main road. As I drove to Leamington, they were exchanging “guess what …” statements about school and soccer and life in general. We added Uncle Chris to our merry band and headed for Windsor. After a quick pit stop, which made me wonder how many of these we’d need on the trip, we went through the Windsor-Detroit tunnel and spoke to the US Customs Official. For a long time. He didn’t ask about why we were driving someone else’s vehicle, as we’d expected but there were many other questions about where we were going, who the kids were, who they were to each other and us, etc. Uncle Chris said – and was absolutely correct – that the level of scrutiny would be appreciated if your child were missing. It was worth it for us, too, then. The kids fell asleep just outside of Detroit and that boded well for our day.

We got to the Lincoln Park Zoo about noon, or maybe 11:00, I have trouble with time changes.  Since the zoo doesn’t charge admission, there are many entrances and we were lucky enough to get a parking spot just opposite one. We got the kids into their umbroller-style strollers, added CamelBak water backpacks. The about-to-enter the zoo photos show Dylan and Reid sucking on them, just like the ones from the Toronto Zoo last year. There were a number of hands-on discovery carts throughout the zoo. A guide explained to the kids about herbivores, carnivores and omnivores using a series of animal skulls and a human skull. Another let them hold a few different horns and antlers and showed them pictures of the animal that matched the horn/antler. They have all of the usual animals, except elephants. The enclosures aren’t as big as at newer zoos but the animals seem well-cared for. The small size makes for a more manageable walk. Dylan and Reid rode on the 4-car train that runs in a circle and loved it. Dylan is train obsessed and wanted to go again but we didn’t. On our way to the car, we stopped and rode the endangered animal carousel. We were lucky to get on the last ride of the day – they were quitting early because of a concert being held at the zoo but I hadn’t realized that. The kids had asked about riding the carousel several times and each time I’d said that we’d go at the end since it was close where we parked (and because I didn’t want any objections at leaving). I was just about hoisted my own petard!

We drove along Lake Shore Drive to the Sheraton Hotel and Towers. The traffic was heavy but it gave us time to gawk at the boats and beaches. I checked in while Uncle Chris and the kids got our bags and things out of the van. The hotel is one of those that only the bell staff are allowed to drive the luggage carts. Riding on luggage carts is one of the highlights of staying in a hotel, in Reid’s mind. We got settled and then went to Buca di Beppo for supper. The fellow who seated us at Buca di Beppo walked us through the kitchens so that we could see the places where they baked the bread, prepared the entrees and salads and dessert. The kids got chicken cacciatorre and spaghetti and Uncle Chris and I split an order of lasagna. The entrees on the regular menu were set up for 2-3 to split or 3-4 to split. I don’t know what happens if you’re dining solo or with someone whose tastes are widely different. We dragged our tired selves back to the hotel and I wasn’t at all sad that we’d decided against the Art Institute of Chicago‘s free Friday evening. It’s still on my list of things to do on another visit but I don’t know if I could’ve gotten to the hotel under my own steam.