I love thunderstorms, but I do not like flying tree branches. And, really, the Dakotas have the best ones; their lightning is BLUE! I got to see quite a bit of stormin' goin' on while in the midwest! It all started very early Thursday morning...
After three tries to get on a flight PDX to MDW, I finally got on the 130p, which (after the two-hour time difference) got me into MDW around 730p, CST. I was starving by this point so when my aunt & uncle (& mom; she got in earlier in the day) picked me up, we headed to Olive Garden for dinner, then drove about an hour to their house.
Mom & I stayed at D&R's house for two days before DW and JH came in to start our annual GIRLS' TRIP. So, Friday we slept in, and decided (even though uncle D left us his car) to just hang at the house. My cousin, B, was up first. After chitchatting with him for a few minutes, he asked if cousin MJ was up. Nope, so he went down to wake him (something along the lines of, "M! Get your ass outta bed! Your favorite cousin is here!"). MJ and I visited for about an hour, then he had to get ready for work (he's the manager of one of the four restaurants inside the FOUR WINDS CASINO in Michigan).
Mom and I read, I computered (haha), and watched a little t.v. before Uncle D got home (early). Aunt R was home about an hour later, so after packing up some picnic stuff, we headed out to a small state park about 1/2 hour away to watch an outdoor folk concert (my aunt & uncle are huge fans -- Sons of the Never Wrong). Definitely NOT my kind of music, but whatever.
We got there while the "opening band" was still playing, and set up our chairs. It was cloudy and trying to rain, but we had umbrellas, and the tickets DID say "rain or shine"... About five minutes later, B called R and told her about the "huge storm, with up to 85mph winds" that was supposed to be headed straight for us. About that time, the announcer came onstage to ask us to wait in our cars for a few as they were going to postpone the start of the concert about 15 minutes...
No sooner had we gotten back to the car that the dark clouds rolled in... then the rumbling... then the rain... then the lightning... then, the piece de resistance, the winds! The Element was rocking like the bed of newlyweds! A few people left, but we stayed. After about 20 minutes, the winds started to die down, so when the Parks Director came around, we thought he was telling us it was ok to go back in, but no... "Concert Cancelled; sorry!!" Ok, I guess we just donated to the local public radio station, then.
Since we were hungry by this time (we WERE going to eat at the park), we drove another 1/2 hour (through felled trees, flooded streets, and power outages) to the casino. We ended up having dinner at M's restaurant, then got a tour of the casino, ending with B's restaurant (he had to get back to work). Seems their kitchens lost some power until the generators kicked in, but the slots (of course) did not. :) Then, once M got home, we ended up staying up for two more hours, talking & catching up. Side note - I finally got behind the truth of his extreme dislike of Princess' bio (he was living nearby when MG and I were married, and we worked together for a while, as well... I knew MG didn't like MJ, but I know now why MJ felt the same).
Saturday, R made muffins & pancakes, and laid fresh fruit out for breakfast. Uncle D shared some interesting family history (apparently my great-grandfather worked for Brinks for 30+ years). Then it was time for showers & packing up... our condo was waiting! Took us a little over an hour to get to Chicago, but we found our building just fine, got checked in, and I sent a message to DW. JH texted me about 1/2 hour later, telling me they were on the "L" headed our way.
After we all got settled in (we were renting a 2br, 1 3/4ba - that means no tub; just shower - unit on the 27th floor in the middle of downtown Chicago -- awesome), it was time for dinner... and there was a nice Italian place right around the corner! Drinks, dinner, then a walk around the neighborhood, and it was definitely time to crash.
Sunday was Father's Day; we spent the morning meandering through Millennium Park and checking out a few other points of interest nearby, then Uncle D came out (R was supposed to join him, but she was sick) for a CUBS (vs Angels) game with us! As with the Yankees game we saw a couple years ago, and the Saints game we were in town for but didn't go to, the CUBS won. It was so great to see all the dads there with their kids... all ages, too!
At one point, I texted Ace to ask what the kids did for him (he had all three kids at home while I was on vacation), and he replied, "AK got me a cute plaque, DK did dishes, and MK gave me an awesome card that says how much she loves me as well as a book about dads. Oh, and they're not arguing at the moment." Cool. Even though they drive us batty at times, I love those kids. After the game, we went to Gino's East Pizzeria for some deep dish Chicago-style pizza!
Monday, we met up with our "Chicago Greeter", Doug, and took a three-hour walking tour of downtown Chicago. We got a lot of architectural history, and got to see a lot of cool things. Chicago's history is interesting; if you ever have a chance to go, I highly suggest meeting with a greeter!
Lunch was next on the agenda; at a great place just a few blocks from Millennium Park (can't remember what it was called), then we were off to the river cruise! We entered off the Riverwalk, and took the Wendella boat. It's an hour and a half, with a little on Lake Michigan, too. Afterwards, we did a bit of shopping (gotta get those souvenirs).
Since that was our last night in Chicago, we returned home to freshen up and chill for a bit before dinner; we had 630p reservations at Le Colonial for my birthday (a Thai/French place). When we were done, we headed back to pack up and check loads. We were all able to get on an 830am flight home; mom & I back to the PNW and DW & JH back to Northern California.
Next year: probably Boston!