Chicago on my mind…

I was scrolling through my photos and reminiscing on my trip to Chicago last August before traveling to NYC.

Overall, I had a great trip. There were a few rocky family interactions, but lessons learned. I saw extended family, a few friends, one of my favorite bands, my White Sox, and got to eat my favorite foods. Best of all, I got to soak in the city, walking, taking the “L” (elevated trains, it’s what we Chicagoans call it), and enjoying beautiful, mild summer weather.

Even though I moved away and I have a life in Texas now, I doubt I will ever feel as free and as comfortable as I do hanging out in Chicago, whether downtown or in other parts of the city.

I love you, Chicago!

Nothing like Chicago-style food!

I heard about Wiseguys – A Chicago Eatery about a year ago but Husband and I were afraid to eat there. We have been disappointed while eating at other places claiming to have Chicago-style deep dish pizza and other items, and didn’t want to be disappointed again. But, we decided to throw caution to the wind and give it a shot.

The verdict… we were pleasantly surprised to each enjoy an Italian Beef with mozzarella cheese last night. The picture does not do the sandwich justice! We were out running errands today and decided to go back and each get a Vienna beef Hot Dog . Husband got a true Chicago-Style Hot dog with mustard, onion, relish, tomato, sport peppers, pickles and celery salt, while I broke the rules and got a Hot Dog plain that I then covered in ketchup. This is sacrilege for true Chicago-style hot dog aficionados, but I’m not a fan of mustard, nor tomatoes or raw onions. However, we both enjoyed our hot dogs immensely. We now have a place to go to scratch our Chicago food itch once in a while. If only we could find a local pizza to fill our void for Chicago Thin-crust tavern style pizza…

Going Home Part II

In just under four months, I am excited to say that I will be briefly returning to Chicago again, this time to watch the first session of the Laver Cup and to see the White Sox play the Cubs on the Southside.  What a surprise it was when Brother invited me to join him and his best buddy for some tennis and some baseball! 

The trip I took in March brought out a lot of feelings. I had, honestly, avoided going back to Chicago because of the conflicted relationship my parents have and because out of sight, out of mind is much easier than to admit feelings. I was pleasantly surprised to have any stretch of time during which my parents got along in my presence; sadly it was short-lived. Though most of the news focuses on the bad things about Chicago and I myself spent a good amount of time voicing my displeasure with the politics and policies of Chicago and of Illinois, it was tough to see all of the places I missed. Walking around downtown Chicago is awesome, with many great places to eat, things to do, and just seeing the buildings. I am truly grateful for the time I had to enjoy the city and to see my parents acting like people, instead of enemies. It was also great to see a dear friend, chatting with her for a few hours on my last day in Chicago.

I live in Central Texas for many reasons, though not for the food. Many people think that food in the greater Austin area is great, and I beg to differ. To each his own.  Also, there are some cool places and attractions in the Austin area, but Austin’s downtown is not on par with any of the major cities. You have to go to specific areas for shopping, movies, and other activities, not because it is a growing city, but rather this is the way it has evolved. It is my personal belief, that too many people in the  Austin area have a slacker mentality, lacking integrity and much urgency about anything. Obviously we have found enough to like about living in Central Texas that we have stayed for almost five years and bought a house, but one of the best trade-offs is the weather and not having to shovel snow as we did in Chicago.  We both prefer the sun and heat over snow and cold.

Anyhow, I look forward to not only seeing parents (we are all going to see tennis together), but my brother and his friend, and that we will get to enjoy our hometown together for the first time in five years.  It’ll be good!

Going home… Part 1

I hadn’t been back to Chicago in close to three years until last weekend. The last time I went back was when my mother-in-law died. I was there with Husband helping to tie up loose ends, discard old, out of date, no longer needed items to prepare for selling the house, and to attend the funeral. I was there two weeks, and I didn’t want to be there. The little free time I had was spent watching my parents argue and, when my schedule finally allowed for visiting friends, we couldn’t make it happen. It sucked!

Both Husband and I have complicated families, and we  have felt the effects even miles away. I almost cancelled this trip  a day or two after I decided to book the flights because of the drama attached to going home. Ultimately, I chose to go because my Dad needed an angiogram to further assess blockages in his heart. Knowing that Brother and Sister-in-law had just visited,and the possible severity of the situation, I went  –  on my terms.

One of the greatest and most surprising parts of the trip was on the first day when I spent eight hours with my parents and they both made an effort to get along. First, we ate lunch at Wojo’s, a neighborhood hamburger joint. Later on,  my Dad gave me a lesson in how to hold, load, and fire a semi-automatic weapon with a laser target and dummy ammo. This was lots of fun and gave him great joy on the day before he ended up with a stent to clear  two heart blockages. I was also able to spend a lot of time with my Mom throughout  the weekend,  and  we were able to eat Beggar’s pizza while watching the White Sox. I wish my parents could be those well-meaning people toward each other more often, and live a happy life together… However, I am grateful to have had that time with them.

I found time to walk around Downtown Chicago for a few hours on Saturday afternoon. I browsed at stores,  visited a few new places (Maggie Daley Park and Dylan’s Candy Bar to name a few), and stopped in at the Chicago Cultural Center. My Grandfather took my Brother and I to many events there, and sometimes we would just stop to rest in the café sitting area after lots of walking. This was a tough but good stop for me to make, and  it was great to see some art while remembering Grandpa.

All photos taken by Chrellie

Road trip!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Trains, Planes, and Automobiles.”

On my own to one destination across the country, I would likely opt for an airplane as I did for my recent NYC weekend trip. It made sense to keep the travel as concise as possible on a relatively short visit with my Brother and his girlfriend, especially with the real possibility of crazy rain or snow between New York and Texas. Also, for this reason, I fly nonstop, as I don’t which to be stranded at an in-between spot due to bad weather somewhere else.

However, I see the value of a road trip, especially with someone you love AND get along with. this very important when you are driving through the middle of nowhere confined to an enclosed space! Boyfriend and I have taken many road trips, some for fun but also for family reasons and moving to Texas.  Also, it is important to like driving because the trip will not enjoyable if driving is a chore. Taking periodic breaks helps.

Two of our road trips lasted about two weeks and involved multiple states. The Southern Road Trip took us to Louisville, KY;  Lynchburg, TN; Atlanta, GA, Hattiesburg, MS; New Orleans, LA; Houston, TX; San Antonio, TX; and Austin, TX before we headed home. That road trip taught me lessons about planning with friends you haven’t seen in years and involving them integral parts of your trips because this trip should have included Columbus, MS and didn’t because we left Hattiesburg unexpectedly and kept going. The details need a post of their own, enough said. The Mountain Time Zone Road Trip took us to Colorado State University/Fort Collins, CO; The Royal Gorge/Canon City, CO; Billy The Kid/Fort Sumner, NM; Santa Fe, NM; Moab, Arches National Park/ Moab, UT; Utah State University/Antelope Island/Salt Lake City/Ogden/Logan, UT; Bear lake and Idaho State University/Pocatello, ID; Grand Tetons National Park/Jackson, WY; and South Dakota State University/Brookings, SD. Whew!

Two months later, we took a short trip around the Midwest to Mankato, Minneapolis, and Duluth, MN and to Winona, WI. The Mountain Time Zone and the Midwest trips were taken to help Boyfriend and I determine to where we wanted to move but we chose the Great State of Texas over the rest for many reasons. If we had not driven to and around some of these destinations, we have missed out on some really cool things and also the things that would help factor into the decisions we made.

I like having a semi-structured plan on our road trips with room to add destinations we hear about or to re-route if needed, which is easier to do driving than it is with coordinating flights to multiple locations. Boyfriend is very good with a map and he has navigated us through a good portion of our American adventures.  In fact, we have only been lost using printed directions from MapQuest and Google. So much for technology!

We technically took a road time this past summer but it was just to the Chicago area and back to Texas due to Boyfriend’s mother’s death and for him to tie us loose ends. I only hope we can plan another fun road trip for summer 2016, but I know we plan to take a few short trips around Texas to state parks or to Fredericksburg.  We have only lived in Texas for a little more than two years and there is much left to explore!

How do you like to travel?

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