Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Fun - July 2010

Robert and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on February 22, 2010! We wanted to take a trip but we knew it would have to be later in the year since Robert's job as outage coordinator keeps him working long hours and unable to take vacation pretty much from Feb. - May. Then, Rachel got accepted to a 4 week ballet intensive in MI and we decided to let her go, knowing we might not be able to have quite the trip we were hoping for. Robert was pretty surprised that I would sacrifice the trip, knowing how much I'd wanted it but, I really wanted Rachel to have the opportunity to attend this particular intensive. So, we decided that we would send Rachel to MI and hopefully be able to enjoy a short trip to pick her up at the end of her camp. The Lord blessed us unexpectedly this spring so we were able to plan a trip after all!! We decided that we would fly Rachel to MI and then we would drive up at the end of her camp to see her performances and bring her home, stopping in Chicago for a few days on the way north. The highlights of the trip follow.

Monday, July 12, 2010

We left Fort Smith about 10:00 a.m., stopping in Springfield, MO for a late lunch. We considered spending the night in St. Louis but decided to go ahead and get most of the drive to Chicago out of the way on day 1. We stopped for the night in Ratoul, IL. Our drive was great. I've never seen so many cornfields in my life!! There were some beautiful farms along the way. I have traveled through quite a few states in my life but I had never been through Indiana and Illinois.

Illinois Cornfield

Tuesday, July 13
We arrived in Chicago about 11:00 a.m. First stop was the Museum of Science and Industry and Lake Michigan. We parked at the museum and walked under Lakeshore Drive to see Lake Michigan - wow! It's so pretty and felt like we were at the beach : ) We walked back to the museum and spent a few hours exploring the exhibits. Very cool place - we could have spent a few more hours there. We'll keep it on our list of places to visit next time. We drove further north on Lakeshore and got checked in at our hotel, The Ambassador East, in the Gold Coast area. The hotel is on a quiet, mostly residential street about 2 blocks from Lake Michigan. We could see a bit of the lake from our room. We got settled in and then started the first of many miles of walking we did in the city! We stopped at the Water Tower Visitor Center and bought 3 day CTA passes that are for the buses and El. We had great Chicago pizza at Giordano's, thanks to the recommendation of several friends. The hotel porter asked if we were going to have pizza while in town and when we told him Giordano's on the recommendation of friends, he said we have good friends!! Thanks LeAnn and Janine! After dinner, we took the bus to Navy Pier and enjoyed a few hours there. We then walked down Michigan Avenue and back to our hotel.

Lake Michigan
Navy Pier

Wednesday, July 14
The first adventure today was taking the bus to the Farmer's Market at Lincoln Park. WOW! What an awesome farmer's market! We enjoyed strolling through the booths and seeing all the great produce and baked goods. We bought some raspberries and enjoyed while listening to some music. We walked a bit through Lincoln Park and then took a bus back to State Street. We had an awesome lunch at P.J. Clarke's. Spent the afternoon exploring more of the city by bus, the El and walking, of course - shopping at Macy's, texting pics of Joffrey Ballet studios to Rachel (love ya girlie!!), exploring Millennium Park and taking pics at Cloud Gate. After returning to the hotel we had a quick dinner and then headed for Burnham Harbor. We took a three hour sunset/Navy Pier fireworks sail on the tall ship Red Witch. It had been a hot day but on the water it was nice and cool. A very fun evening! As if we hadn't experienced enough of the transportation options of the city, we hailed a taxi for a ride back to the hotel.
Joffrey Ballet
Cloud Gate @ Millennium Park
Helping raise the sails

Thursday, July 15
We started the day with a late breakfast at Lou Mitchell's. Located at the beginning of the old Route 66, this place was like walking back in time. The food was oh, so good! Can you say fresh squeezed orange juice, double yolk egg omelettes, and fried potatoes? Robert says this was probably the most expensive breakfast we have had but it was so good and there's nothing like going to a good old-fashioned diner every now and then. We took a peek in Union Station and walked along the Chicago River for a bit before taking a water taxi to Navy Pier. We considered taking an architectural river cruise but decided to just take the water taxi instead. In the end we were glad we opted for the shorter water taxi to the pier as it was pretty hot on the river and the architectural cruise was 90 minutes in the sun. In the past two days we had done so much walking that by this time, I had shin splints and was exhausted!! We decided to spend the afternoon visiting "Sue" at the Field Museum of Natural History. This was a museum that we could definitely pass up on our next visit to Chicago. It was a good escape from the heat of the afternoon but we didn't enjoy it near as much as we enjoyed the Museum of Science and Industry. We spent an adventurous hour trying to get back to the Magnificent Mile by bus as rush hour was starting. I'm still not sure how they got that many people on that bus!!!! At one stop we finally decided we could probably manage to get off the bus so we did. We caught the next one and it was nearly empty : ) We enjoyed a really nice seafood dinner at Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish house, followed by a little people watching in the park across from Tavern on Rush. It was fun watching the valet's parking all the $$$$$ cars and then watching them try to open a car they had locked the keys in : ) We made our way out to the shores of Lake Michigan and enjoyed spending some time at the water on our last night.
View from the water taxi
Another view of the river


Friday, July 16
Today we said goodbye to Chicago and headed for Flint, MI. We got a call from Rachel while we were stopped for lunch and she said if we made it to Flint before 5:00 to call her as she had a three hour break between rehearsals. We made it to Flint about 4:30 and stopped by the Whiting for a quick hello and of course, a great hug! It was so good to see our girlie, even for just a moment. A month is a long time, you know!! We checked into our hotel in Flint and then drove about 20 miles north to Frankenmuth, MI to visit Bronner's Christmas World. I ordered some Nutcracker ornaments from Bronner's last year and somehow remembered it was close to Flint. It's the largest Christmas store in the world so, of course we had to shop a little! After we had had enough of Christmas in July we drove to the Bavarian Inn Restaurant to try a little German food. Let me re-phrase that - it was A LOT of German food!! Neither of us had ever had German food but we really liked it. It was fun to try something new. I'd love to go back to Frankenmuth for a visit if we are ever in the area again. It was a really neat little town.

Saturday, July 17
Today is the day - We get to see Rachel's end of camp performances! We spent a lazy morning at the hotel then walked across the street to visit Flint's Farmer's Market. They have an awesome market - part of it is in a permanent building and is open year-round with fresh meat, chicken, cheese, wine, and produce. During the spring, summer, and early fall there are booths outside selling produce, flowers and homemade salsas, etc. After visiting farmer's market's in Flint and Chicago, I think I'll have to try the Fort Smith market soon. We met Bob and LeAnn (their daughter was in Flint as well) for lunch and then we went to the matinee performance of the Magnus Midwest Dance Intensive at The Whiting. Rachel's level danced their ballet piece in the matinee performance and all levels were cast in the finale. After the matinee we went out for a light dinner with Bob and LeAnn. We had fun with our waiter who liked to hear our southern accents! The evening performance was great and we loved seeing Rachel perform her jazz piece. Fun to watch our mostly classical ballet dancer in a jazz piece with a blonde, bobbed wig as part of her costume!! The evening performance was followed by a nice reception and we finally got to see our girlie again - all dressed up. She spent her last night back at the dorm with her friends, enjoying those last few bittersweet hours before the girls would all say goodbye and head back to their home studios.

Post performance family pic

Sunday, July 18
We moved Rachel out of the dorm and were on the road by about 10:15 a.m. We stopped for lunch in Lansing, MI, dinner in Effingham, IL and made a stop at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO before stopping for the night on the west side of St. Louis. Enjoyed hearing Rachel's stories from her month in MI along the way.
Flooded Mississippi River @ St. Louis
Gateway Arch

Monday, July 19
We were on the road by 8:45 a.m., made a lunch stop in Joplin, MO and were home around 4:30 p.m. It was a great trip and it's good to be back home with everyone back under one roof. Now the unpacking and laundry begin ; )

Thank you, Lord, for blessing us - first, with 25 years of marriage and secondly, with a fun trip to celebrate.