Bean there done it!!

As soon as our feet touched the ground of Western NY we started planning our next adventures. The short time from July 20th to September 5th saw us attend a couple of concerts, Chicago and Jay & the Americans. We adopted two lively kittens named Tipsy and Navin who keep us entertained.  And we planned our next trip to visit our grandson, Hunter, who is in the US Navy and stationed in the outskirts of Chicago.  All of this activity meant the trip to Chicago came up pretty quickly, and the next thing we knew, it was time to pack our bags and get on the road to Chicago.

Our first stop on the long drive to Chicago was Put-in Bay, a small island in Ohio, where we visited Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial.  This site commemorates the historic War of 1812 battle which took place in Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. A few short years later…okay, almost 200 years later! Hunter was born on the same day as this historic naval battle. Appropriate that we were heading to visit him at his duty station with the US Navy.  While we just saw a sailor and a ship on a Great Lake, we didn’t say been there, done that. Instead we decided to visit him to and hope that something new would happen.  (Hint: It did!)

The next day saw us head out of Put-in Bay.  Along the way we stopped at Indiana Dunes National Park and did a small hike. The hike along some marshes gave us the delight of seeing a white egret and some sandhill cranes.  The hike left us a bit sandy and our shoes caked with the wet sand, but well worth it to get out in nature. Next stop was a visit with an old friend from Dave’s from his days at Shenandoah NP.  We connected with Ken Mehne who retired from Indiana Dunes and reminisced about old times and discussed new adventures that awaited us all. Finally, knowing that we needed to get on the road to Chicago, we headed out and said our goodbyes to Ken.

We settled into the hotel and got ready to meet with Hunter the next morning. Morning came quickly, and soon, we were at the Great Lakes Naval Station where we waitttttttttttttted for him to finally arrive. Strolling up, he joined us to head out to Chicago to see the sights. First stop, the Navy Pier where we parked in a garage, noted where we were, and set off to explore the area. A sandwich for the starving sailor was one of the first tops. Next we wandered around the pier looking at the activities that abounded. Since we had tickets to a Cubs game at 1:20, we headed back to our car, where we wandered around a bit looking for our car. We tried using the plate reader that helps you locate the care, but no such luck.  We tried several options to find the car before we finally found it, right where we left it! Next stop, the game.  The Chicago Cubs versus the Pittsburg Pirates at Wrigley Stadium, which was built in 1913! Arriving to the parking lot on-time, we hopped on a little yellow shuttle bus and headed to the stadium. The game was entertaining from the start to the video replay end. The energy and enthusiasm of the spectators got us into the spirit of the game and the last minute comeback of the Cubs kept us on our feet and our voices rose in excitement. The Cubs in the last inning went from being down 6-4, to winning 7-6 on a questionable call that saw the hitter safe at 1st base.  Next stop: Millennial Park where we parked, took a picture of our parking spot, memorized our car plate to use the plate reader, and then set off to find the “Bean”, an artwork made out of metal that we did not think it would be interesting, but instead entertained and interested us. We, like the other thousands of tourists, took a variety of selfies and pictures with the “Bean” as the backdrop.  Next stop was dinner at a local pizza shop recommended to us by a group of cops in the park. Soon it was already 8 pm and we knew we had to leave to get back to the car to get Hunter back to base at 10 pm. We walked, and walked, and walked, and walked and could not find our car. We went up and down, asked a few people and could not find where we parked. Finally, in desperation, Kathy asked some random strangers on the street for help, where they promptly told us they were just visiting Chicago.  They did suggest that we ask the hotel clerk. Coming in, we explained we were hopelessly lost, and told her that we were by a “dance” theatre. She directed us to go out, cross the street, turn right, and then we should be there. We were quite skeptical, but to her credit we found the subterranean garage, found the car, got on the road and managed to get Hunter back to base only one minute late. (They didn’t court martial him). As we wandered the streets of Chicago for one hour, up and down several street levels, put ~~6000 steps on our pedometers, when we realized that the city of Chicago was  like a 3D map.  Our best laid plans did not account for multiple street levels that were everywhere in downtown Chicago.  We probably walked over our car multiple times, but on the wrong level of Earth!

Sunday dawned bright and early. After church, we headed out to pick up Hunter where we again waittttttted for him to saunter up to start the next day.  First stop was the Willis Tower or, for us old-timers, the Sears Tower, which was again in the heart of Chicago. This time we were prepared, we took a picture of where we were at, texted the address of the parking garage to ourselves, and then took a picture of the outside of the garage.  We were not going to make the same mistake again. We planned. What we didn’t plan for was it was a holiday weekend and there were no tickets available for Sears Tower. We did, though, find our car the first time.  Next stop was the Chicago Aquarium where we managed to avoid getting towed and parked during the “cheap” time of the day.  Heading over to the aquarium, there was another sign that informed us that they were sold out. Checking on-line Kathy saw that some tickets were available between for an access time of 4 pm. Asking the gate attendants about that, we were told to purchase tickets online and we should be able get into the aquarium.  Apparently,  it was only sold out for those trying to buy tickets at the aquarium.  The visit was fun. We saw a variety of fish, reptiles, and even a few beluga whales. At one point, Hunter and Dave, randomly upon seeing a yellow submarine, broke out into song, “We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine. “  It is a bit of weirdness on how grandfather and grandson think alike to break out in song at the same exact moment with the same exact song.  Soon it was time to head out. We found our car on the first try!!!  (It is much easier when it is not in a garage, but instead in an open-air lot!) Next stop was dinner, which was Greek food, and then back to the base. While we only had a short four days, we packed a lot into that short time. Most importantly, we saw our grandson whom we love very much. Thank you, Hunter, for serving!!!  We are very proud of him and his service to our country.  Tomorrow we start the journey home.  (Our next few trips are already planned)

The journey home started with a pit stop at Pullman National Historic Site Pullman National Monument (U.S. National Park Service) ( which was appropriate for the Labor Day holiday. The labor strike at the Pullman factory was a contributing factor to the founding of the holiday.  Today was the grand ribbon cutting ceremony to open up the park and visitors center. Lots of cops, NPS law enforcement rangers, and even a smattering of secret service agents couldn’t stop Dave from “sneaking” into the park. We were turned away from entering the park by a NPS LE ranger who said, “Sorry.  It’s closed unless you have a ticket.” Dave confidently responded that he has snuck into places with tighter security, which he has. This park was no match, Dave confidently walked up to the main gate, charmed the interpretive ranger, and was allowed into the park to wander around and look at the sights.

Next stop was to visit the another War of 1812 battlefield, River Raisin National Battlefield.  River Raisin National Battlefield Park (U.S. National Park Service) (   It was a good ending to the trip, considering we started the trip visiting  Perry’s Victory and International Peace monument,  Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial (U.S. National Park Service) (  another War of 1812 historic park.   Now it was time to just buckle down and hit the road. We had a late night stop for dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  Dave’s dinner came out and Kathy waited and waited for her meal. It arrived after Dave was finished and full. For once, Kathy was eating while Dave was waiting for her.  The next day saw us arrive home and visit with our kittens who didn’t seem to notice that we had been missing. It was still good to be home.


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