We opted for a drive to St. Louis and hopping on the Amtrak from there to Chicago. Lee had never ridden a train before. My one experience on a train was when Judy Earnest loaded a bunch of dads up for a Girl Scouts father-daughter weekend trip to Kansas City from St. Louis.
The Lincoln Service between the two cities is a little over five hours. Riding a train is a lot easier than driving and is cheaper, too. Our round trip ticket was $48 per person. Interesting sights along the way are included.
Central Illinois has several wind farms, one that is huge. Jeff Lack and I were talking about one in particular (he became very familiar with that part of the country over the past two summers when his son, Andy, was playing baseball up there). I could not figure out the configuration for giant turbines, but Jeff said they're staggered and on 40 acre plots.
The tracks run right past Joliet Prison made famous by the Blues Brothers back several years ago. Sitting next to it is a minor league ballpark home to the appropriately named Joliet Slammers.
We got to the hotel early, dropped our luggage off and sat out to explore Chicago, also appropriately nicknamed, the Windy City. The sun was out and so it was a brisk, but pleasant walk. We were right downtown on Wacker Drive along the Chicago River.
A couple of blocks over was Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile home to many retailers, hotels and restaurants. Lunch was at the Rain Forest Café. All told we probably walked a couple of miles. After checking in at the hotel, resting for a short while and cleaning up we started out again; this time to the Navy Pier.
Later that evening we had dinner at Harry Carey's Restaurant on the pier. This wasn't the original Harry Carey's but it was fine. The evening was capped off by a fireworks show staged on the pier and a walk back to the hotel.
The next day we caught a cab and went to the Field Museum. The museum is over 100 years old and became known as The Field in 1905 in honor of its first major benefactor, Marshall Field of department store fame. We spent several hours there and could have spent several more but for the fact there was another attraction that apparently needed our attention.
While there we saw exhibits featuring whales, the history of chocolate around the world, sat thru a 3-D movie about the museum's T-Rex exhibit and went "underground" to see a bunch of plants, roots and bugs. They were showing off nematode worms like the little buggers were something special. I didn't want to tell them I know a fellow in these parts that's spent his lifetime trying to kill them. After all, Grover Shannon might want to visit The Field one day and I wouldn't want to prejudice them against him.
The other attraction we had to visit - Soldier Field, home to the Chicago Bears is right beside the museum and I thought maybe we would visit it since the Bears were playing the Minnesota Vikings that night, but I was wrong -- the attraction was the eight stories of the Macy Department Store building. The store was only a couple of blocks from our hotel so a cab ride had us back there within a few minutes.
We were not there long and headed back to the hotel. At that point Lee spoke up and said, "You know what I'd like to do?"
Immediately, I thought, "She's changed her mind. We're going to the football game."
"I'd like to go back to the hotel, put my tennis shoes on and go for a good walk," she said.
What? What have we been doing for most of the past 24 hours? We had walked around downtown Chicago, back and forth to the Navy Pier, up and down three floors at the museum and she wanted to go walking.
She contented herself with going to the indoor pool and steam room.
The meetings were good and informative, beginning with a Sunday evening reception and dinner (several of us at the table were tracking the Cardinals -- Brewers game on our phones and sharing updates) and was capped off with a Monday evening dinner at Tommy Gun's Garage.
The train tracks in St. Louis run within a few blocks of Busch Stadium and as we came by on Tuesday afternoon there were about four tractor-trailer trucks lined up to enter the stadium, another one coming out and plenty more parked out on the street. My thought was that the team will probably make enough off of this series to pay Albert Pujols his $30 million and still have enough left over to afford a middle infielder.
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It's not uncommon to go on trips like this and run into someone from home. That didn't happen this time.
However, on Thursday afternoon I went to Dyersburg and stopped off for a cup of coffee at one of the convenience stores in Hayti. Walking into the store I looked up and saw Tom and Pat Todd.
They were just getting back from a 34-day tour of the northeast where they got to see a lot of pretty leaves as fall is in full bloom there. Pat has apparently become a big fan of the maple syrup made there that is much more pure than what we buy in grocery stores.
I think Tom said they had put about 5,000 miles on their motor home.
Bud Hunt is regional vice
president, publisher of the
Daily Dunklin Democrat, Daily Statesman, Delta News-Citizen, Missourian-News and
North Stoddard Countian.