As Friday is my one real "day off," last week Leigh Ann and I decided on a whim to give ourselves a tour of the greater Chicago area. Little did we know that...
a) The day we chose to go on our adventure was the same day the Chicago Blackhawks decided to display their manly northern power by winning the Stanley Cup. Every hockey fan in the tri-state, Lake Michigan area was shirtless and screaming in the streets, blocking off entire streets and making the already-complex challenge of traffic navigation even more so with their celebratory ruckus.
b) The streets of Chicago are not exactly in a neat, orderly grid pattern. Ergo, three lefts do not necessarily make a right. Nor does walking down one street mean that you continue to be parallel with the next street twelve blocks later.
c) Franchesca, our trusty Ethiopian GPS (gifted to us by kind strangers who care for the directionally challenged) was faithful and helpful until we needed her the most. When that time came, the poor dear confusingly repeated, "Recalculating... recalculating..." A real person - in this case, a true Chicagoan - is preferable in times of directional crisis.
d) When trying to navigate a new city, if you find yourself walking past a neighborhood school and then a row of apartments, and then less manicured lawns, and then warning signs about feeding the rats, you may not be getting closer to popular tourist areas, and your best options are to turn back around or ask a Salvation Army employee BEFORE you walk three more miles.
e) If you must take a bus back through the five miles of residential area you just walked before finding said Salvation Army employee, make sure to carry exact change - as in, not just $5s and $20s. The bus driver will keep the change as "tip" without mercy. Even if you are handicapped.
Once we learned these valuable and surprisingly crucial travel tips, we did enjoy a $4 Dove ice cream bar, a photo shoot at "The Bean," an authentic deep-dish Chicago-style pizza, a stroll through a garden, an awed gaze from the foot of the Sears tower, and the company of a good friend and Chicago city-dweller. It was a beautiful day, and was as windy as I imagined it would be. Thankfully, our residential romp was in the west loop, so more safe and clean end of town. Getting out of the city was much easier and faster than getting in. Overall, successful adventure - many lessons learned, many sights seen... and now I can say I've been to Chicago!
If you ever want to check out the windy city, I actually recommend that you go with someone who is just as clueless about the town as you are - the adventure is sure to be much more exciting and amusing... the next day. :)