2013 Chicago Sister Trip Log

Sunday , September 29

We left Oklahoma City in the dark at 6 AM and stopped at the first MacDonald to get a cup of coffee and to enter the address of the hotel in Springfield in Chris's GPS. The Divine Miss G did not like it when we got on the turnpike. She kept recalculating and we kept hurling insults at her. Luckily, she took it well. She wouldn't give up, however, and we were forced to turn her off and depend on the GPS on my iPhone.

With the first toll I used a new app, "Let's Go Dutch" to record our expenses. It is going to be a grand way to keep track of what we spend and who owes who what. It is so simple and straightforward. Of course, a pencil and pad is simple and straightforward too, but that would require some math skills that have faded in this digital age.

I had a bit of trouble getting my iPhone and iPad to recognize Chris's hot spot WiFi. That's why she got it-- to use on our vacation. Thankfully, I finally figured out that I had to turn on her phone first. Duh! Ain't technology wonderful!

As we drove northeast the sky turned a rosy gold at the horizon as it got lighter. We loved the pockets of foggy mist in the low lying areas alone the road, and I tried multiple times to get a good shot of it through the windshield. It helped pass the time even if I didn't get a decent shot. We were nearly to Tulsa before we knew it.

A thick fog made it a challenge to get through Tulsa, even though Sunday traffic was light. We took an unfamiliar route and the signs were impossible to read until we were right on them. Then, of course, Chris's cataracts didn't make it any easier. She drove slowly, though, and put on her hazard lights.

I was really needing a break, but finding a bathroom would have added to the challenge of getting through Tulsa, so we decided to wait until the MacDonald's over the highway at Vinita.

We relaxed somewhat when we were on the Will Rogers Turnpike, even though it was foggy on and off for quite a ways. We could see much better by the time we got to the halfway point at Vinita --well enough to see they were tearing down the landmark MacDonald's.

I began to keep my eyes peeled for a rest stop, or anyplace that promised relief for my growing necessity. We exited the turnpike at Miami, Oklahoma because there was a sign for MacDonald's. It was considerably off the highway, however, in the middle of town, but nothing would deter us at that point. While we were there I got a senior coffee to go and Chris got a hot chocolate, grumbling because I paid under 50 cents, and she paid well over 2 dollars just because she doesn't like coffee.

After the Joplin exit we began to see the bluffs that always remind us of home and childhood vacations in the Ozarks of Missouri.

We stopped in Springfield for lunch at Braums, where we had our regular Sunday dinner: apple/walnut/chicken salad and a double dip ice cream. We had to remind them to put on the bacon on the salad. What is it with Braums and bacon? We had to bring the absence of bacon to the attention of the Braums in Oklahoma City, too, the first time we ordered it there.

The rest of the way to St. Louis seemed to go by quickly. Missouri looked more and more like Missouri. I called Warren just before we got to St Louis to see how he and Rosie Joy were doing. She ate a little, he said, and although she expects me home any time, seems to be adjusting to my absence. I am sure she will be even better tomorrow, once she decides I will be gone awhile. I just hope Warren will be able to resist the temptation to feed her too much real meat to compensate.

Chris's hot spot WiFi seemed to be using a lot of juice. Even though we had it plugged up, if we were using the internet, it was using charge faster than it was taking it. It seemed to come and go some, too, but over all, it is good to have it along. I was able to work on the laptop while we were driving and it did make the time go faster -- for me, anyway.

I'm certainly glad we had the internet because the GPS on my phone was proving to be much better than the Divine Miss G. It took us through St Louis in good shape. We caught a glimpse of the beautiful old capitol building, but I was unable to get a shot of it, even a bad one.

We were glad we were going through St. Louis on a Sunday because we didn't have to worry about traffic, just staying in the correct lane, which proved to be enough of a challenge. The big arch seemed to move all over the place but of course it was the road we were on that kept changing directions. We followed the signs, though, and once we got across the Mississippi River, it was easier, as we headed up 55 to Springfield, Illinois.

Neither of us had been in Illinois since before Mike's death in 2005 when we went to Quincy to visit Kathy. This time it would be to see our brother. We are all getting older. David is the oldest at 72, and not in the greatest of health. It could very well be the last time all three of us get together. The last time was at Mom's funeral in May of 2008. That was five years ago.

We arrived at Springfield and had no trouble finding the Ramada Inn. It was a nice place, and promised to be perfectly comfortable for a couple days. After we checked in and got settled a bit, Chris called David. He didn't pick up and she had to leave a message. After twenty minutes, she tried again and finally got him. Rose was at work and he had been running some errands. He hadn't eaten supper, either, so we decided to go out to get a bite and get a head start on our visit.

We were later to discover the wisdom behind David's request that we just honk when we got to his house, and he would come out. He had a plan for introducing us to the dogs the next day that will not be threatening. That, however, would have to wait until morning. It was already getting late to eat our evening meal.

We went to Tai Pan, Dave's favorite Chinese Restaurant. They had delicious Hot and Sour Soup and the Crab Rangoons were to die for. We ordered a huge meal, and could not eat it all by any means. Dave took some home and some for the dogs, as well. It was quite dark by the time we drove back to Dave's house and let him out at the curb.

We had made plans to meet at his house in the morning around 8 or so... whenever Chris woke up and got around. Since she did not sleep well the night before, we didn't want to set a definite time in case she wanted to sleep in a bit.

Chris collapsed in bed not long after we got back to the hotel. I stayed sitting up in bed working on the Macbook until ten or so. I like to keep a journal of our trips, and the details are easily forgotten if I don't record them right away.

Monday, September 30

Chris and I were up and having breakfast by about 7 AM. The hotel has a nice breakfast room and a fairly good selection. I just had a blueberry muffin with cream cheese. Considering that I normally eat nothing but coffee for breakfast, it was a lot, and certainly more than I needed. I never was very good at passing up free food.

After alerting Dave that we were leaving the hotel and on our way, we went by a grocery store to get pain reliever pills for Chris and shampoo and conditioner for me to use in Chicago. It gave Dave and Rose time to get ready for the big introduction.

Rose took the biggest dog, Hugo (185 lbs) around the block so he could meet us on neutral ground before we went to his territory. Their other dog, Brandy (160 lbs) was not so territorial, in fact she was pretty shy.

Once we were introduced properly, the dogs were both friendly enough, but oh, my goodness, how they slobbered and shed. I'm not at all sure I could live with dogs so big. Rose provided "slobber cloths", but my jeans were wet and every place else they decided to rest their enormous heads. I believe they -- Hugo, anyway -- were as needy as Rosie Joy, demanding constant attention. It is a lot easier to accommodate a 7 pound dog, however.

We decided to drive 20 miles Northwest of Springfield and tour Lincoln's Old Salem. The historic site is a reconstruction of the village where Abraham Lincoln spent his early adulthood. I remember going there when we were young, and it was interesting to see how people lived so many years ago. We took oodles of pictures and would have seen the whole village or even tried to hike some if Dave had been up to it. He and Rose have both had joint replacements in the last few months.

Most of the buildings were not empty, but were furnished with things that the original inhabitants might have had. Very interesting. Chris especially liked New Salem. She loves old buildings and seeing their tools for daily living, and imaging how they lived in those days.

I'm more intrigued by the great pictures one can get in such a place. We both took plenty of photos, as we are wont to do. David had to sit down often and was always looking for a bench where he could wait while we wandered around and peeked inside the buildings. Getting old is a bitch!!!

It was well after noon by the time we went to lunch. We ate at Smokey Joes, a barbecue place that Rose and Dave especially like. We ordered an appetizer of fried pickles, which were good, but we really didn't need. The meal was ample and delicious.

After lunch we went back to Rose and Dave's house to feed the dogs. We also got a tour of their back yard and basement where they keep several snakes, one named Alice. Hmmmm! He says it was not named after me.

They had a huge passion vine in the backyard, with lots of fruit ripening on it. The variety, Passiflora Incarnata, is one I used to have in my old garden, and would love to have again, so they gave each of us a couple dried passion fruits so we can try to start our own. I believe they are hard to germinate, but I will try.

When we were ready to leave the dogs did not want us to go. I guess that was it because Hugo nipped at me. It didn't break my skin, but it made me nervous enough. If he had wanted to hurt me, the 185 pound dog was certainly capable of it, and could have done a lot of damage to my wrist. Dave really scolded Hugo, and he left the room so we could leave.

When we left Dave and Rose's again, we went to Washington Park, a beautiful park with a small atrium. I especially liked the wonderful orchids.

It also had a huge carillon, but alas, they were not playing when we were there. The park was lovely though -- really lovely. I'm glad that David and Rose suggested we go there.

After Washington Park we drove to Oak Ridge Cemetery, Illinois largest cemetery and the resting place of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's Tomb was impressive. Being Monday, it was closed, but we were not really disappointed at not being able to go inside of the huge granite monument. Actually, what we enjoyed mostly about the cemetery was driving around the oldest section of it, looking at the old grave stones.

After we left the cemetery, we went back to Dave and Rose's house. They went in first and made sure the dogs were closed up in the other room, so we wouldn't have a repeat of the nipping incident. We visited in the living room and watched videos of Dave's elephant days. It was really interesting. I had never really had the opportunity of seeing him put the elephants through their paces like that.

We went to Dairy Queen for supper, where I had a tenderloin sandwich. I hadn't had one is so many years. We called it a night after that, and dropped Dave and Rose off at their house and went back to the hotel.

I had homework to do for the church -- putting the video of Sunday's sermon on the website and transcribing sermon notes for next week to upload for the QR code in the bulletin. I also downloaded all the photos from my camera for the day to my laptop. Chris went to bed at 9:15 and I was up past 11:00 PM.

Tuesday, October 1

Chris and I checked out of the hotel, and had a nice breakfast of sausage and eggs in the hotel breakfast room before we hit the road again. We left about 8 AM and called Kathy so she would have an idea when we would be arriving.

I caught up the journal as she drove up 55 toward Chicago. We estimated that we would get there around 11:30. We were just a little later than that, but not much. The GPS on my phone got us to within the very last block, then it got two streets switched. I called Kathy, though, and we figured it out really quickly. Her garage door opened as we pulled up.

It was so nice to see Kathy in person again. Playing Scrabble and Word Chums on the iPad is just not the same. She looked trim and happy and we all got a good hug in before we entered her townhouse through the garage. Her cat KatyKitty, investigated the new arrivals, but soon accepted us, especially, Chris.

Kathy had some nice chili soup and dill bread waiting for us for lunch. It tasted really good. I hadn't had dill bread for a long time, and it is one of my favorites, which, I'm quite sure, is why Kathy made it.

After our delicious lunch, we decided to go to the Chicago Botanic Garden. It was not that far away, and a wonderful place. I'm so glad that we got there early enough to fit that in. It would be my favorite destination of the whole visit. I couldn't stop taking pictures.

We walked around most of the afternoon, then went to the grocery store on the way home to get some half and half and bacon. We would get the rest of the groceries for our time at Kathy's after we talked about what we wanted to fix. Chris and I love to cook and preparing our meals is one of the things we enjoy on our sister trips, so we had cautioned Kathy not to stock up on groceries for our visit.

When we got back to Kathy's we had BLT sandwiches on dill bread and apples for supper. Very good. After supper we talked about what we were going to do during our visit and what meals we would have. Before we turned in, we had a grocery list and a rough itinerary, which would be changed as we went along.

Wednesday October 2

Kathy and I slept on mattresses on the floor upstairs in a small extra bedroom that doubled as her computer room. It was a little crowded, but I slept fine. Kathy insisted that Chris take her bedroom, since she has the most trouble sleeping, and she did sleep well. It was virtually the first night since we've been gone that Chris got a decent night's sleep.

After I showered and dressed we took a hike around the lakes that Kathy walks around most mornings. It was a beautiful walk and we saw several egrets and herons. I loved the walk. It was especially nice because I always see pictures Kathy posts on Facebook taken on her morning walks. Chris waited on a bench while we did the second lake because she was hurting, and I had to admit after we got back, my feet were hurting pretty much, too. It is sad that we can't do the hiking we used to do on sister trips. No more two-mile hikes for us. Getting old sure puts a damper on our fun! Still, we have much to be grateful for, and I am trying to accept the limitations of age with grace.

When we got back to Kathy's around nine we started a load of wash and had breakfast. We toasted homemade whole-wheat raisin cinnamon bread -- and spread it with butter. It was delicious, and we got the recipe from Kathy so we can make it at home.

After we rested from our morning walk around the lakes, we headed out for Morton Arboretum, a place a friend had recommended. It was a bit of a disappointment after the Chicago Botanic Garden the previous day. The tacky scarecrows along the way seemed to be the big attraction. When I asked about where the flowers were, I was reminded by a docent that it was a "tree reserve," after all. I should have known that because of the word Arboretum, but I think all the wonderful flowers at the Arboretum in Dallas made me expect more flowering plants. Virtually the only flowers at the Morton Arboretum were at the entrance.

It had taken an hour to go there and another hour to go home and it cost us $7.00 a person. We did have a lovely lunch there, but after just an hour of walking around -- even taking turns pushing one of us in a wheel chair -- we were ready to cut our losses and go home. I took hardly any pictures. To be fair to the Arboretum, it should be stated that Chris and I were both nearly to the limit of what our legs and feet could take for one day, even with breaks in the wheel chair that the Arboretum furnished free to wimps like us.

We went to the grocery store on our way home, armed with our list, and bought all the groceries we would need for the rest of the visit. Back at Kathy's we made bread -- two loaves of the white bread that Chris and I make all the time. It is a simple recipe and is our current favorite. (Click the picture of the loaf for the recipe.)

While it was rising, we fixed supper -- Spoon Bread and a wonderful salad. Kathy already had a big bag of salad stuff, and all we had to add was tomatoes and some of the bacon leftover from our BLT sandwiches. It was great.

After we cleaned up from supper, we played Hand and Foot for most of the evening, though we did have to stop and eat some of the fresh bread when it had cooled. We're only human! Kathy really liked it too, and I suspect she will make it some, even though it is not as healthy as the whole-wheat she usually makes. We played Word Chums on our iPads until about 10:30 and time to go to bed.

Thursday October 3

We toasted our homemade bread for breakfast, and ate it with honey and peanut better, of course. You just can't beat it!

Around nine we left Kathy's townhouse, intending to drop by her daughter, Kelly's, home to meet her grandson, Max, before we went downtown to see Garfield Conservatory. When we got there, Kelly mentioned that it looked more likely to rain tomorrow than it did today, and that we ought to consider changing our plan and do the architecture tour today -- then Garfield tomorrow, since the conservatory is mostly indoors.

We were a little apprehensive about swapping our days without taking time to consider what all would be involved, but our attitudes soon changed. Kelly's outing had been canceled for that day, and at our urging, she decided to come with us. She even volunteered to drive. We were so glad. It was so fun with Kelly and Max along. We didn't have to worry about where we were going because Kelly knew where she was all the time and how to get to our destination.

We were no sooner on our way that it began to rain lightly. We decided to forge ahead and take our chances. After we arrived downtown and found parking -- and with Kelly's expert guidance -- found a bathroom in the Trump Tower, we bought our tickets for the architecture tour. It seemed prudent to buy rain ponchos and a big umbrella at a convenience store close by, then we waited at a MacDonald's out of the rain until it was time to board. Oddly enough, our spirits were not dampened at all by the rain. We were ready for anything.

Miraculously, it quit raining just as we prepared to board the boat for the tour. Crew members were there to towel off our seats, so we were all set. It was dry and cloudy the rest of the time, and even the temperature was perfect. We had a wonderful time on the tour and took a million photos. I didn't get the least bit queasy even though I was up and down and walking around the boat to get the shots I wanted. It was great!

Kelly drove us around downtown Chicago -- then by lots of interesting places as we made our way home. She told us the names of the buildings, even, but alas, I didn't take notes, and have long since forgotten what was what. She is a wonderful tour guide, though, and we had fun.

We stopped for lunch at Giordana's for Chicago-style deep dish pizza -- a must for any visit to Chicago. It was yummy. Max slept through the entire meal, so Kelly saved him a couple pieces to eat in the car when we left. He was happy -- we were happy. It worked out perfectly.

There was more sightseeing after lunch and then we stopped and had ice cream at a place George loves, even though he wasn't with us. I had a double dip cone with Moose Tracks... yummy.

Predictably, we weren't hungry when we got home, so we waited awhile and then had a Harry Norton Salad when we finally were ready to eat again. We had toasted homemade bread with it, of course, with honey.

Friday October 4

After we dressed, ate some toast and coffee, we were in no hurry to get started with the day. We didn't want to get caught in the traffic rush, so we sat around and played Word Chums for a while. Then we headed out to the south side of Chicago to Garfield Conservatory, getting there around eleven, and parked in the free lot provided. Garfield Park and Conservatory is a big place with over 2 acres under glass and over 9 acres outside with plantings and paths. The neighborhood is not the greatest, but we felt safe enough during the daytime.

There was no set admission fee at the Garfield Conservatory, though they did request a donation at the main entrance. It takes quite a while to see just the inside plants and flowers. We didn't stray too far away from the gardens around the greenhouses. The plantings were very nice, albeit, not quite as wonderful as those at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Still we enjoyed ourselves very much and took a lot of pictures.

Around one in the afternoon we were ready for lunch and walked two or three blocks under the city's Green Line "L" tracks to a restaurant recommended by the staff at the Conservatory. We ate at the Inspiration Kitchen, splitting fried green tomatoes for an appetizer and Fried Catfish PoBoy Sandwich. It was good, and since we weren't going to get to frying any ourselves, it was good to have our catfish, a favorite that has become a tradition on our sister trips.

On our way home from the south side of Chicago, we dropped by a place called Diddier Farms where Kathy buys fresh produce. She bought vine-ripened tomatoes, then we went back to Kathy's and downloaded pictures and such.

We baked sweet potatoes, heated up some rotisserie chicken, roasted brussel sprouts and fixed a salad for supper. It was yummy, and probably the biggest meal we cooked while at Kathy's.

George dropped by that evening with some Chinese takeout, which we put in the frig. We decided to eat it the next night instead of the leftover Chili from our first night that we had planned to finish. Kathy dipped up her chili and froze it for another day. It was beginning to look like we had bought too much food on Wednesday.

Again, we played Hand and Foot and Word Chums until bed time. Before retiring for the night Kathy started some whole wheat bread in her bread machine for our sandwiches the next day. It would bake early the next morning, and be done in time to make our sandwiches with lovely fresh bread. We have all been spoiled by making home made bread all the time.

Saturday October 5

After our usual toast in the morning we packed a lunch of deli turkey sandwiches on fresh made whole wheat bread and chips, then went by Walgreens and waited at a nearby Starbucks for them to fill a prescription for Chris.

We then drove northeast to Waukegan to a harbor and walked around in the areas where we were allowed. I would have liked to walk out on the dock to take pictures, but they have locked gates preventing the general public from entering. The sun was out just enough that there were a few reflections and we got a few good shots from the shore. We didn't dawdle too long because they were predicting rain in the middle of the afternoon and we had more to see.

We drove further north to Illinois Beach State Park and had a lovely time walking along the shore and picking up beach rocks. The weather was lovely, and it was one of my favorite times on our vacation.

When we went back to the car we discovered the keys had been locked inside so we called AAA and waited. My shoes were in the car, so I had to be careful where I walked for a while. The guy from AAA had a difficult time finding us because the park is six miles along the shore, and our directions were evidently falling short of adequate. Finally a park employee happened by and helped us by speaking to the AAA guy on Kathy's cell phone, and then driving out to find him. God bless him!

The man from AAA did not inspire much confidence. He didn't seem to have the best equipment for the job. With some difficulty, and advice from Chris, he did eventually get the car unlocked.

It was well past lunchtime when we finally ate our lunch at a picnic table near the beach.

After lunch we drove north to North Point Harbor. It was cloudy and the temperature was still very mild, but there were few reflections. They didn't let us out on the private docks there, either, so we just walked around the perimeter and took what shots we could.

Kathy and I were feeling the need of an afternoon caffeine fix, so before we headed back we had a coffee at the Tropics, a restaurant-bar at the harbor. It was very pleasant to sit outside on their deck and sip our drinks.

It started raining soon after we started back to Kathy's house. The rain was coming down in sheets and we could hardly see, but we did finally make it home. We all needed to take some time to try to relax after the harrowing drive home, so we didn't do anything but set around for a while.

We had a wonderful meal of hot and sour soup and some rice that we fixed with leftover chicken and some of the Chinese vegetables that George brought last night.

After supper -- for our last night there -- we made the wonderful dessert of ice cream, pie crust, fried apples and toasted pecans that has become another sister trip tradition. It was really wonderful and a nice way to end our time at Kathy's house. Even Kathy, health conscious though she is, had a nice big helping of it.

Sunday, October 6

We woke around seven, packed our bags and got ready to go. After we had breakfast of toast and peanut butter, we said our goodbyes and left. It was sad to know it would probably be a long time before we saw Kathy again, but it had been a lovely visit, and it was nice to see Kathy's retirement home.

At some point going south through Chicago and Joliet, we decided it might be nice to go through Quincy instead of St Louis... and then through the Ozarks instead of down the turnpike to Springfield, MO, where we intended to spend the night. We drove on a two lane highway from Springfield, IL, to Quincy, but it was a nice drive with lots of nostalgic scenes. There was a time or two when we got off on the wrong road, mainly due to the negligence of the navigator (that was me), but we always made it back to the right one. We enjoyed the change from interstates and toll roads and big highways with very little to see that told you much about the people who live in the area.

We stopped in Quincy and had lunch at the Maid Rite, a childhood haunt. I had another tenderloin sandwich, a favorite from our younger days and impossible to find in Oklahoma City. Chris had a barbecue beef sandwich. We had dessert, too, mainly because we remembered the great vinegar pie we had there during our 2005 visit to Quincy, a pie we have made ourselves since then. The waiter, however, said they didn't serve vinegar pie anymore. We ordered coconut cream pie instead because they said it was a "good seller", but sadly, the crust was store bought and the filling was really just mediocre. Alas, that is one of the unfortunate things about being a decent cook. One is often disappointed with restaurant fare -- and we can be be incurably picky.

We didn't have time to drive through the old neighborhood, or South Park, where we played so many hours as children. It would have been nice, too, to have had time to stop and visit Janet, our cousin who lives in nearby Fowler, but we were a behind schedule, anyway, so we didn't call, and hoped she would understand when she found out we had been so close.

Going through Missouri by way of the Ozarks took us on lots of two lane roads, certainly more interesting than the interstates, but when it go a little rainy and kind of darkish, I worried that we would not be to the interstate when it got really dark. Thankfully it lighten up when the rain quit and we had daylight more or less as we drove through the prettiest part of Ozarks that can be seen from the road.

We had intended to go to Springfield to spend the night, but opted for a Holiday Inn in Lebanon because it was already dark by the time we got that far. It would just add one more hour to the trip in the morning. After unpacking and calling Warren we went across the street and had a nice salad at the Waffle House. Who knew the Waffle house had such good salads?

Monday October 7

The hotel was nice and I got a good nights sleep on a real bed. After a breakfast at the Holiday Inn, we were on the road by about 7 AM. We did take the turnpike the rest of the way, anxious to get home. The time went by quickly and we were home by early afternoon. It was a lovely trip, all in all.