Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Big City Bound

On Saturday I ditched Jerry for 24 hours. I left him in the capable hands of Bob and Joan and I went to Chicago to spend the day with Erin and "the girls" for her bachelorette party.

A few weeks before that, Linda and I were talking about travel plans, etc. for the wedding weekend. I told her I wanted to take some extra time either the week before or the week after to visit with some family and friends, but hadn't nailed down plans yet. She said that if I was in the area the week before, I could come help the girls celebrate at the Cubs' game. Well...I made my travel decision right then and there! I love the Cubs (I know...there should be a support group somewhere) and I've never partied on one of the rooftops before and it sounded like a grand idea. So that was the plan. It was windy and cold and rained in the 9th inning...the Cubs lost 9-0...and we had a wonderful time! :)

After the game, we met up with the guys who were doing the bachelor thing on another rooftop. Just a short time trying to talk in a crowded, noisy bar and we parted company with the "youngsters". Linda, her friends, Ann and Barb, Nan (the mother of the groom) and I went to get Linda's car and go downtown to the Embassy Suites where she had booked rooms for us. One of the wonderful things about getting older is that you get smarter. I have no idea how long the younger crowd hung out in Wrigleyville, but we had a great evening. Linda had gotten us tickets to see a play at the Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. Hmmm...a play--okay..."Shakespeare"?--well, let's see..."musical"?--try to keep an open mind. It was called Murder for Two and it was hilarious!! There are only two actors...one is the detective and the other is all 6 suspects and a couple of little kids. I don't know when I've seen more talented actors or when I've enjoyed anything so clever. If you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it.

By the time the play was over, it had stopped raining. So we stayed on Navy Pier to see the first Saturday night fireworks of the 2011 season. All I can say is..."ooooo" and "ahhhhh". Beautiful. Then we walked back to our hotel and stopped to get something to eat. So there we were eating French onion soup and sipping margaritas (mine was a rum and coke) at midnight. Ahh...the good life.

I got up early and enjoyed a full hot breakfast at the hotel and then caught a cab back to Union Station and the train back to Dwight and was picked up by Jerry, Bob and Joan. Wow...I felt like I almost met myself coming and going on those train tracks. But what a fun 24 hour visit to a city I love with people I really enjoy. Nan, Barb and Ann were all new acquaintances even though I've heard enough about them to feel like I knew them. But they are all a lot of fun and once you meet them you feel like you've known them forever. So the following week at the wedding, I felt like I was seeing new friends again instead of meeting strangers.

Thanks, Linda, for inviting me to join you all for that weekend. It was great!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Two for the Road

Day two of our trip got us to Streator...finally. Most people driving from here to there take I-75 to I-24 to I-57 to Champaign, Il., and then take I-74 to Bloomington and go north on I-39. But when we get on I-74 just a little west of I-57 we turn north on state route 47. It's a decent road and even though it's only 2-lane it just feels nice to slow the pace a little after all the interstates and start to enjoy the familiar farmland. This year lots of those farmers' fields had standing water in them. As soon as we get as far north as highway 116, east of Pontiac, we start to see the wind farms. Even though the residents are now used to the sight of them, they still fascinate us. There were none of these when we moved away 20 years ago and now they are plentiful in that area.

When we got into town, we drove by the house where I grew up. It's in a sad state of disrepair. My mother always kept the place neat and pretty. But we didn't linger we went on to happier things...like the house of our friends Bob and Joan. They know that when I come to town I'm on a quest to eat pork tenderloin sandwiches. So for dinner they took us to a place that has good ones. Yum.

The timing of our trip was such that we rolled into town just in time to catch our sister-in-law, Sharon's, performance at Engle Lane Theater! She has been active in local community theater in Streator and Morris for many years, but we've never seen her in anything or seen any of the shows she's written and produced. Engle Lane began as a community playhouse in 1960 and has been going strong ever since. Last year it was badly damaged in a tornado on June 5th. They had their grand reopening in April of this year, so it was exciting to see the new facility. It's beautiful. The performance we saw was "Pop"...a very up-tempo revival of songs from the 50s, 60s and 70s. It was a real toe-tapper and I'm so glad we got to see it...and Sharon. Bravo!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On the Road Again

Day one of our trip to Illinois was the usual plan. Go about half way and stop for the night. We had made reservations at Cadiz, Ky.

When we're traveling, we like to stop at wineries along the way. Having made this trip MANY times in the last 20 years, we know where most of them are. But this time, we found a new one; Beans Creek Winery in Manchester, Tennessee. We stopped in for a taste and to get a souvenir glass (they were out of glasses...we'll have to go back another time -- oh, darn!). After tasting, we decided on a few bottles to take with us. Jerry asked about the name of one of them..."Bonnaroo White". The girl told us it was named after an area around there where they have a music festival. Okay. So that's cute. After I got home, I happened to see something on the news about a music festival called Bonnaroo! It's quite the thing. This year was the 10th annual 4-day festival held on 700 acres of farm land near Manchester. The main attraction is the music -- performed on multiple stages. But there are also tents like the comedy tent, "this tent", "that tent", "the other tent", the silent disco tent, the cinema tent and the Broo'ers Festival (breweries) tent as well as a graffiti wall, a giant slip and slide and lots and lots of food. It's been hailed as "The concert event of the summer", "Best festival", and "One of 50 moments that changed rock and roll". Wow. Who knew? We'd never heard of it. But I feel stupid now knowing the attendance is routinely between 75,000 and 80,000. That's a lot of people that know something I didn't.

But "stupid" is something I'm kinda getting used to. Farther down the road was Clarksville, Tennessee, home of the Beachaven Winery. We've been there many times and like their wines. But as we were nearing there, I told Jerry that we were too late. It was about 10 minutes to 5:00 and I didn't know their hours, but assumed that by the time we exited and took the short drive to the winery they would probably be closing. A little while later, it dawned on me that when I changed the clock in the car (and my watch) I set them an hour in the wrong direction! It was only going on 3:00 when we were in Clarksville! Duh!!

I shouldn't use the word "stupid". Jodi and Jeremy have told the kids it's not a nice word. Savannah and Emery call it the "SP" word. But when I was growing up it wasn't a bad word...just an accurate description. And like Forrest Gump says, "Stupid is as stupid does".

PS: If you're in the Manchester, TN, area but don't like crowds, you might try visiting the nearby town of Bugscuffle. It's a dot on the map, but the population is so small it's not even listed.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Whirlwind Vacation

Last weekend my niece, Erin, got married in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Since we were making the drive up there for the wedding, we decided to extend our time and see lots of family and friends. I'm always torn about making the trip. I relish spending time in Illinois with people I love and don't get to see often enough. When I'm there, I'm "home". Something about it just feeds my soul. But it's hard to leave home this time of year and be thinking about all the plants we've put in that are now suffering from heat and lack of water...and wondering if we will come home to a green swimming pool. So we didn't want to be gone much over the 11 or 12 days we had planned on. But with folks in 4 different cities to visit with, it felt like a "quick trip". Jessica was here for part of the time to take care of the cat, the flowers and the pool, but then she and Jodi drove up for the wedding so that left about 5 days of "unattended consequences". She took the cat to the vet for safe keeping (keeping the house safe from a bored kitty cat), put water globes in some of the potted plants, put lots of chlorine in the pool, locked the door, set the alarm and hoped for the best. Everything was fine except that the air conditioning went out and it was in the mid to upper 90s every day that we were gone! So it's a good thing kitty didn't stay here.

The trip was great and even though it seemed like we were gone for quite a while, the time we had with each person was actually pretty short. There's lots to remember and talk about and I'll just write about each in it's own time. Maybe that will get me back to blogging. For now I'll just say it was great to get away and, as always, it's great to be back home.

PS: I'd rather drive than fly, especially with all the different places we go to visit. But I sure wish I could click my heels together to get home rather than driving for 13 hours!