We got up rather early on Monday (23rd), and got ready for leaving Madison. Tim drove us down to the bus stop, and we climbed on and dozed off while the bus driver took us back to Chicago
We got off of the bus outside the Union Station at 1:30pm, and hailed a cab to take us to the Palmer House Hilton, where we would spend the next night. This was another reservation made through HotWire, and once again they’d placed us in a room with just one bed. And this one was TINY. We went back down, and a nice guy at the check in desk helped us get into a more spacious room with two beds.
Louis at the Corner Bakery close to our hotel in Chicago
Then it was time to hit the streets of Chicago, but first we brought a map and a bunch of brochures to a Corner café, had some lunch and marked off the interesting spots on the map. Our hotel was just a few blocks away from the Sear’s Towers, smack within the Loop. But we saved the towers for the next day, and headed for the Art Institute of Chicago. We got there just before closing time, and walked pretty fast through the many exhibits to get to the painting we had to see - the “American Gothic”.
American Gothic. Photographed at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The museum was amazing, and really, really big. If we’ve had more time, we could probably have spent several hours there. Selma was sad to miss out on Liechtenstein, Echer and Warhol, but hopefully there will be opportunities to see some of their works later.
We made a run for the Chicago Institute for Contemporary Photography, located just a few blocks south of the Institute of Art - but alas, they closed early and we just missed it. So instead, we just went for a walk through downtown Chicago, looking at the architecture, checking out a few stores, taking in the big city life.
Back at the hotel, Selma spent part of the daily hours online while Louis got part of his daily hours of sleep. Then we headed back out and a cab took us up to the Union Station (again! The station was our pivot of Chicago!) - where we bought tickets for our trip to Boston. Then we headed uptown to Kingston Mines, a blues club Tim had recommended. We bought some food and got settled just as the first band got up on stage.
Les Getrex at the Kingston Mines blues club
Les Getrex looked just like a bluesman should look. And he and his band played a few classics that got our feet moving. But the great concept of Kingston Mines is that they have two stages, and two bands takes turns playing one hour sets on the alternating stages. And the second band really got it swinging! Their name was almost as long and hard to remember as “Grill Bill and the Hotdogs Featuring Odd Bob”, but if we’d remembered it - we’d recommend them! (Google helped us out: J. W. Williams & the Chi-Town Hustlers!) Their guitarist was fantastic, and the lead singer had an amazing vocal specter.
J. W. Williams & the Chi-Town Hustlers
We went halfway into the second set with Les Getrex, as he started to get pretty annoying - running around with a tip jar pleading for money. And it was getting pretty late, and as usual we had a check-out to adjust to.
Back at the hotel, Selma fell asleep within a few minutes (the beds were wonderful!) - and Louis followed suit short thereafter.
Chicago - day two
Our original plan was to stay in Chicago until Wednesday. But as we know that our schedule for the east coast is rather tight, and after experiencing the value of being one day ahead, we decided to leave town a day earlier.
Still, our train wouldn’t depart until 10pm, so we had a whole day to spend in Chicago. First we got our luggage down to Union Station, where we, as first class travelers, could keep our bags stored for the day in a first class lounge. If only we had such a thing in Grand Junction! The lounge was great, with free soda and snacks, comfortable chairs and couches and TV sets - just what helps get your mind of a major delay.
We walked from the station to the Sear’s Towers, first looking for a place within the building to have a late breakfast. After tanking up at the Corner Café again, we headed for the Skydeck entrance. The admission was $13 each, but fortunately we got a little more than just a view of the city for the money. First, we were shown a movie about the building of the towers. Then we got up to the 103rd floor, where panorama windows AND the beautiful weather presented us with a spectacular view of Chicago. In the center of the room was a display of Chicago history, trivia and some fun facts for the kids. It wasn’t suuuper interesting, but made the admission a bit more worthwhile.
Brad posing in front of the Chicago skyline
With the towers crossed off of our list, we went back to strolling the streets - looking at the many architectural outstanding buildings and checking out some stores on our way. Selma had put all her valuables in her bag, and wasn’t too light on her feet. Louis was getting really tired, and after a few hours we decided to get back to the lounge to take five.
The five turned out to be hours, as we never managed to get back out. Selma took a few walks outside to stock up on water, food and cigarettes, but mostly we just hung out in front of a TV showing a Chicago Bulls game.The train was set to leave at ten, but sleeping car passengers (like us) were put on two hours prior to departure, and got pampered with some wine and cheese as they boarded the coach passengers.
Louis chillin’ in the AmTrak lounge
Selma decided to try to avoid the nightmare of a night she had on their last train ride, and popped a Melatonine pill before getting into the top bunk in our roomette. This time, the rooms were equipped with a full bathroom - that is, a toilet and foldable sink by the foot of the bed. We aren’t that close yet, so we talked our car attendant to let us use the toilet in an empty room instead.
And lo and behold, after reading a few pages and with the help of some calming and comforting music, Selma was