Thursday, August 12, 2010

Julie & Hannah vs. the USA - Part I

My good friend Julie and I have completed our incredible road trip across the country.  Because our trip was nine days and included six stops, I'll break it into three parts.  Today, we'll cover the first two legs: to Des Moines, Iowa and to Chicago, Illinois.

But first, here's a little peak into our pre-trip planning: GROCERY SHOPPING!  Notice our almost all of our food is orange, yellow, or red?  Peculiar...


I woke up to this text from Julie: Good morning with the Colorado sunrise!  One of the last ones in a couple months!

So we left bright at early.  6:00AM is not a fun departure time when you go to sleep at midnight.  The nerves, I tell ya!  We set out across northeastern Colorado and headed towards Nebraska.  Julie was out cold as we approached the "WELCOME TO NEBRASKA" sign and I almost missed it thanks to the fake construction zone--we're convinced that they just make construction zones to inconvenience people because we always see lots of cones but no workers, no machines, no half-finished projects.

Driving through Nebraska, we made a pit-stop in Lincoln.  I had to see the University of Nebraska, particularly Memorial Stadium.  Check out the enemy's turf, you know.  Well, enemy for another two season.  (Pshhh, Big 10...)  Here I am with Tom Osborne and Brook Berringer.  I totally thought we were going to get harassed due to my CU sticker on my car.  No such luck.

After hitting up Target for a near-pointless trip, and making sandwiches out of the back seat, we continued on through the eastern part of Nebraska and on to Iowa.  Unfortunately, we missed the "WELCOME TO IOWA" sign--if there was one.  But Julie snapped about 50 pictures of the gigantic windmills as I rocked out to our new CD.  (I made a CD for each state, so we had something to look forward to at the borders.)

No offense to all you native Iowans out there, but I had some pretty low standards for this mid-west state.  I was just expecting some blah scenery, but WOW!  So, so green and the most gorgeous blue skies with amazing clouds.  We should have pulled over for some corn field cloud watching or something!

We got to our destination--near Des Moines--about thirty minutes before schedule.  Here's the part where I finally tell you that little secret of mine about not staying in hotels.  I got in contact with churches in our six destinations to put us in touch with people who would be willing to house us for a night (or two).  Des Moines, Chicago, and Orlando came through and worked out.  (THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!)  So we headed straight to our host family's house.  They had dinner prepared--the most delicious chicken and corn, of course.  Followed by an even more delicious Italian dessert.  We walked around their property and visited with the family for a while, watched a little CSI and some Harry Potter, then hit the hay for some sleep.

Here we are with two of our host sisters--Leah & Hope

Our amazing host mom, Becky

Thanks again!!  You guys were great.  And totally right, Iowa sweet corn is way better than Colorado's.


In the morning, we set off for Chicago after a yummy breakfast of eggs and toast.  Good-bye Iowa!  We were expecting to get into the Windy City closer to dinner time--4:00ish, but according to the Garmin, we would be arriving by 1:15.  We stopped for gas in this little town called Lyndon and decided to take a picture their sign since Illinois was lacking on a sign too.  By the way, if you ever want to stand in a 15 minute/4 person line for the bathroom, try the Conoco!

And here's my favorite happening of the day.  Julie, much like a West Point cadet (from what I've seen), can sleep in any place at any time.  Here she is out cold mid-text.  I wish I was kidding.

Thanks to the lovely Garmin, we got lost and actually got in around 2:00.  (We followed a mini van into the city that had the left blinker on for literally 10+ miles.  Julie loved that one.)  Visiting Chicago also completed #56 on my 101 Goals!

Since we were about 2 hours early, we decided to head out and see the town.  Our first stop was Millennium Park to see the famous Millennium Bean!  Here's my favorite picture of the Bean, even though we're not in it.  (I'm trying to save you from a photo over-load because I still have so much more to go.)

After that, we hit up Chipotle for a super late lunch.  Slowest Chipotle ever, don't even get me started.  We walked up and down State Street.  Julie convinced me to go into H&M for a bit of shopping.  (Neither of us left empty-handed.)  We walked around downtown a bit more, then headed back around to Forever 21.  (Both of us left empty-handed.)  Here is the most perfect Chicago picture you could possibly find...for me anyway.  Hello, story of my life.  Or the trip at least.  Had to get the photo.

After a while, we decided to go back to the car and get on the search for Harpo Studios--where Oprah films her show, etc.  We walked all the way around the building, trying our hardest to just sneak in, but no one was falling for it.

Next on our list was Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.  Driving around and searching for both Harpo and Wrigley got me--I feel--pretty acquainted with the city.  I got it down fairly easy, but it's not too difficult to navigate, especially if you're driving around the same five blocks lost for a while.  Not that that happened or anything.  On our way there, we pulled up next to a Chicago police car at a stop light and we see the driver handing the passenger this big cigar so we both start cracking up.  The cop rolls down his window and says, "Oh, you caught us smoking a blunt."  Hilarious.  But we continued on to Clark & Addison to see the home of the Cubbies.

Here we are with Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks.  (Okay, okay, he is the most famous Chicago Cub.  You win, Dad.)

It was so lovely being outside Wrigley Field just as the Rockies finished their sweep.  (Yeah, Rocks!!!)

We drove around and saw some different streets in and around Lincoln Park--including DePaul University.  As the sun started setting, we drove back into downtown and it was gorgeous reflecting off the buildings.  Of course that's when my camera decided to die.  But we drove around looking for parking so we could pick up Maureen--our Chicago host--from the train station.  When we got to her apartment, we vegged out for a bit before heading to bed after a long, long day.


For day three, we had a whole day set aside to see Chicago, Illinois even though it felt like we jam-packed the whole city into the first afternoon.  We set off pretty late, compared to the other days so far.  But we successfully navigated the public transit in Chicago all on our own!  Much thanks to the help from Natalie, though.  We took the bus out to Navy Pier and walked around for a bit out there.

After that we walked around downtown a little bit and stumbled upon the Magnificent Mile while searching for a Best Buy to ask about my camera battery.  (I charged it the night before but said it was low after about 30 minutes at Navy Pier.  Not okay.  Luckily, it lasted all day because I conserved it by not taking many photos.  Lame.)  After we spent some time on the Magnificent Mile, we went to Ed Debevic's, a restaurant notorious for mean waiters and chaos.  It was all right--decent food, but since it wasn't very busy, the waiter said they weren't on their mean game 100%.

After a late lunch, we continued to walk around downtown and search for the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower).  Thanks Mapquest for directing us to 233 Wacker Drive, not 233 South Wacker Drive.  Thanks, thanks.  But we got to cross the Chicago River and see some more skyscrapers--and possibly Ed from Jillian's season of The Bachelorette.  (????)

We decided not to go up to the top to save some money, so we just sat outside for a while and watched this couple break up.  Good times.

After that, we walked back to State Street and successfully navigated our way north to Lake Street to catch the Blue Line again and go back to our house for the night.  After a while, we decided we couldn't leave Chicago without getting some deep dish pizza, so we headed to Giordano's in Logan Park for dinner.  We had to convince them to change the channel so we could watch the season finale of The Bachelorette too.  Lucky.

Our incredible host--Maureen

Our other hosts--Natalie & Stephanie

Thanks so much girls, you made navigating all the tourist attractions in Chicago so much easier and hanging out after two long days a lot more fun!


  1. I'm so sad that we didn't get to go to Ed Debevics! Definitely looks like y'all packed a LOT in, and I thank you for sending me all these wonderful links. I looked at them on the way there, but my iPhone wasn't being very nice about commenting on certain blogs at the time ;)

  2. I just realized that you have word verification on, so that might be why I was having problems. It's easy to turn that off if you didn't know!