Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Disappointment in Chicago

 May 24-31, 2022
Joliet, Illinois

Back on I-80 heading east, and back in the wind. Not bad, just a reminder that it's still with us. Of course we are on our way to spend time in the windy city!

Arriving at Hollywood Casino RV in Joliet is a bit like arriving at "life before people", as the hotel and casino seem deserted. Alas a human does check us in. The park is very nice with grass and trees, and good space between concrete sites. There are "indications" that when wet, the grass area gets very muddy, and very deep! 

Apparently soft grass isn't always best.

We're here a week with water and 50 amp. Rain in the forecast for some of the days, but we desert-dwellers are still not tired of the moisture! 

Wednesday we head out after noon to see Wrigley Field. Like Lambeau in Green Bay, it's an iconic place we really should see. On our way into Chicago we pass by the White Sox stadium, which at the time seems like it's really close to downtown.

I'm fortunate that I was driving out in the desert at age 11, and in downtown Los Angeles at age 16. I'm comfortable in busy city congestion, able to appreciate this incredibly beautiful city. While I'd never want to live in any city again, I very much enjoy visiting these vibrant megalopolitan spaces.

Lake Shore Drive skirts downtown.

Lake Michigan on the east side of the drive.

Getting to Wrigley Field through tight streets of multi-storied residents and little neighborhood shops now makes the previous stadium seem like a rural destination! It's also having some renovation done and feels like a huge monolith that was just dropped there. It's an impressive place. No easy parking so we drive around and check out what we can see. 

Quite possibly the most "interesting" thing we've seen anywhere are these bleachers on top of the building across the street from the stadium!!

The el train really says Chicago to me.

One of the "little" things on my list is the Frank Lloyd Wright "Robie House". I didn't arrange for a tour but am able to find temporary parking to check out the exterior. Built at the University of Chicago campus and surrounded by other incredible buildings, the trademark Prairie style is a stunner.

Across the street is this vine covered church.

Bricks and trees are the theme of the neighborhood.

We stop for what I hope will be my make-up birthday dinner. Nope. Mediocre and the fish bone that sticks in my throat for a few seconds really ruins it. Soooo, that special meal is still out there!

Tessa is overdue for a hair cut so one early morning I drop her at Petsmart while I run errands. I also stop for the best breakfast I've had in years at the Rosemary Cafe. I even bring Bill back later in the week.

A rare latte for me. So good!

Smoked salmon benedict with a little cream cheese and capers. Divine!

Rain grounds us for most of the pre-holiday week with perfect dry temps starting on Saturday. For some reason I'm thinking that the city will empty out for the three days - folks will be on the water and out in the countryside. I'm proud of myself for purchasing Big Bus tickets and nearby parking days in advance. We're prepared!!

Could not have been more wrong. Chicago is where the world goes for Memorial Day weekend! I'll be happy to get on top of the tour bus and stay there. The address for the parking is Lower Wacker. What I don't know until we're underground is that we're underground! Dark, rusty, no signage, lots and lots of cars, a nightmare. There's no turn for the address of the parking lot and finally we resurface having missed our destination. Then the real fun begins as all directions take us to the street that's closed for the parade. Parade participants are also jamming all surrounding streets en route to their starting point. Traffic is at a crawl, sidewalks are curb-to-wall with people, the couple of tour buses we pass are already full. We're discussing several options, trying to enjoy what we're sort of seeing of this beautiful city, still wanting to do the tour if we can park. 

Then we aren't. With this traffic the bus will take much longer, and if we hop off we might not be able to hop back on. Finding convenient parking is probably unrealistic. Even parking outside the city and taking mass transit doesn't sound practical.

Congestion in every layer.

Only at the turns we want to make.

Peeks of city sights through security and crowd control.

Both of us vote for sanity over exploration and forfeit the $140 I was so proud of spending in advance. I am sooo disappointed, have been looking forward to seeing all the things we missed last time we were here. Bill is stoic. I'm sure all my whining and complaining is adding to the "fun" of the day for him!

Like missing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the first time due to crowds, this miss doesn't have to be our only shot. There are many options for returning which I very much want to do. 

At one of the many extended stops we come upon Agora. Created by a Polish artist who says she drew on her fear of crowds when creating these 106 headless statues. How appropriate today.

I'd love to take the architecture tour next time.

The Burberry building is beautiful, and very shiny!

The next day we are ready to exchange urban for rural exploring. So different from the city sprawl of Los Angeles that covers every inch in every direction, 30 miles outside Chicago we're in huge country properties and acres of farmland. 

It's a pretty, breezy day in the low 80's. Relaxing and peaceful. Ahhhhh......

Kankekee State Park along the river of the same name. Very nice bike trails, electric-only campgrounds that would fit our 35' but not anything much bigger.

A world away from the 20 story condos of the city.

Rare round barn on a working farm.

Like it knows it's the official kick-off to summer, Monday hits near triple digit temps with 45% humidity. I sleep late and we have a lazy day off the highway, in the air conditioning, preparing for our departure the next morning. 

Tuesday we continue east to Indiana Dunes State Park. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Into Illinois - a Short Birthday Stop

 May 21-24, 2022
Geneseo, Illinois

Our original plan took us into Wisconsin and Minnesota for a few days before moving south to the Chicago area. When I made changes attempting to reduce fuel consumption I removed that route, added a couple days to Dubuque, and added a four day stop in Geneseo, Illinois. Figured it would be a nice peaceful stop before the big city over a holiday weekend. Only one thing went on the list - a lovely birthday dinner at the one nice restaurant. 

The 90 mile drive on Saturday is the first travel day without wind! I almost forgot how much I enjoy driving the motorhome, even with the rain of the last 25 miles. Not a lot of variety, but Iowa into Illinois is green and pretty with more rolling hills. They seem to have planted corn a little earlier here so the brown fields become light green, and add different textures. 

Geneseo Campground is in the tall hardwood trees and quite lovely. Of course after our Dubuque stop the bar is pretty low :-)) Their website is very detailed and I knew our space wouldn't get satellite, but we have 50 amp FHUs. Level, gravel pad with grass space that is muddy from the rains we drove through to get here. Sewer is a stretch into the neighbor's outdoor space, but on the plus side, they're motivated to move their camp fire pan to the other side :-)))

Checking out the little town as we always do, we find that every eatery is a bar and grill with pub fare. With the exception of the Cellar where I'm looking forward to my birthday dinner. It's a cute historic village with vintage Victorian homes surrounded by lots and lots of corn and soy bean fields.


There are a lot more trees here than anywhere since we left Colorado. With agriculture everywhere else, the hills look like dams around the fields.

Sunday is the birthday, and I'm not cooking. Breakfast at the Sunrise Cafe is okay. No problem with my special dinner coming up. This is the first place we've been with blue skies to the horizon. Between the dust from the winds and then all the storm clouds, the blue is a great birthday gift!

The Cellar opens at 5 PM and we're there before 6 PM. It looks lovely and smells great!

They're booked. It's graduation weekend. Apparently my birthday isn't on their calendar. Lame.

We end up driving 24 miles to find something that isn't pub food. Shouldn't have bothered. Brothers Family Restaurant is busy but we're able to get a table. My spaghetti is disappointing. I eat less than half. Take a piece of red velvet cake home. A tiny piece. It's fine.

Between my whining we both laugh. Whatcha gonna do? Take a raincheck on the birthday meal and move on.

And moving on is what we decide to do. More rain expected for our travel day on Wednesday, so even though we really love the park, there's nothing to do or see, and our next stop confirms our spot is available a day early. 

Monday we laze around, do laundry before 10 days without sewer hookups, enjoy the blue skies, and trees swaying in the light breeze.

The grands are all growing too fast, all healthy and happy. We miss them bunches.

Granddaughter Reese loving the water park.

M&M giggles with Mom.

Oliver with Mom and Dad

Elliott helping Dad make breakfast.
Tuesday we head east on I-80 for a week in the Chicago area.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Balancing Expectations in Dubuque, Iowa

 May 16-21, 2022
Dubuque, Iowa

After two days of no winds in Solon I'm again unpleasantly surprised to wake to their return on our Monday morning travel day. With just 75 miles, and heading north, it won't be that bad.


Instead it's exhausting, with the worst side winds I've driven. Otherwise it's a lovely drive with pretty views all the way. 

And then we arrive. At Dubuque County Fairgrounds. Where I'm expecting an RV park. Not a storage yard.

There are eight other rigs to the right, we're the only campers. Can't park beside the rig because they drive the mowers in and out of the garage beside us. Every day. 

Home for five days.

Kevin greets us, we're expected. The "site" has FHUs with 30 amp, and it's easy to get level. Hoping for no rain as the whole place is dirt. Apparently stock car practice is scheduled during our stay - the track is 100 yards from where we're parked :-)

I've been looking forward to this Dubuque stop, but it's not starting out how I pictured it!

Bedroom view at our last stop.

Bedroom view this stop.

Our first day I get caught up with laundry, a bit of cleaning, and a good dose of laziness. We venture out for dinner to Rhody's which has great reviews. Mediocre would be a compliment.

Back at home there's a car show in the front parking lot, and the expected stock cars are practicing on the track. The wind is back. It's all very loud.

We laugh. Every place isn't the Tetons, every day isn't October-in-New England lovely, and every meal isn't Santa Fe stuffed sopapillas.  

I routed us through Dubuque so we could visit the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, which sounds awesome. We've been to the headwaters in Minnesota, and seen her waters run into the gulf in Louisiana, so learning more about this important body of water seems like fun!

A surprisingly small museum with interesting information on the river's history, influential people connected to it, and our obsession with mapping all of the country's rivers.

There's always something new to learn about places you've already been.

The only river with stingrays is the Amazon, but they're fun to see here. So soft!!

Turtles are always cute.

A single pair of Wood Ducks with a handful of other water fowl.

Tessa fell in love with the otters at the aquarium in Corpus Cristi, but this very active pair doing flips under water send her in the opposite direction. They're really cute, but too fast for me to photograph!

The alligator is handsome and looks healthy, but his habitat is indoors and very small. Sad.

This large belt driven machine shop in the restored boat house is fascinating to watch.

Of course there's a paddle boat in the court yard.

The family business! Sand and......

It's worth a visit, but doesn't live up to my expectations. The animal habitats are small with no outdoor access. The river is nearby, but doesn't feel like it has any connection to the facility. Some of the exhibits are well done, while others are difficult to follow. 

One of the "things" I added late to the list are the downtown murals. There are a lot of them so I figure we can start out with a few on our way home!

"Pachamamma" (an Aztec Goddess) by Luis Valle

"Redemption" by Gaia. Really classes up the pawn shop!

Not downtown, but I love the simplicity.

By Martin Turner - honoring the city's founder.

Dubuque is the oldest city in Iowa, and it feels very different than other places we've been in the state. Lots and lots of red brick. More diverse, little regentrification, a sense of deep history, a slower pace.

Like the capitol in Des Moines, the county courthouse is visible from everywhere in the city. Completed in 1891 to replace the original 1839 building. It's a beauty!

So much brick!

1887, looks new. Sadly, there's very little information on this beautiful building. 

Early dinner at Catfish Charlie's is good except Bill's red beans and rice has three (!) beans in the whole bowl. At least the rice and sausage are tasty. As are the gator bites! 

Back at home it's peace and quiet with no wind. 

Thunder storms expected for Friday so we get out on Thursday to see what we can see. 

Eagle Point Park began development in 1908 with beautiful stone and wood buildings being added in the early 1930's. It is a stunning natural space along the Mississippi River, just north of downtown Dubuque. 

164 wooded acres

Prairie School landscape and architecture throughout the park.

Standing in Iowa, looking at Illinois and Wisconsin.

Lock and Dam No. 11

Just outside the park is the Mathias Ham House - lovely exterior of limestone ashlar.

Mines of Spain is an historic district (one of five) of the Dubuque area. In 1796 the Governor of Spain granted 186 acres along the Mississippi to Julian Dubuque for his mining operation. Dubuque named the area in honor of the grant.

Julian Dubuque Monument

The monument surrounds Dubuque's grave. Buried here March 24, 1810.

Mississippi River to the south.

Downtown Dubuque to the north.

Nicely done interpretive center. 

Videos, exhibits, bird-watching lounge, and artifacts.

Even with all the rain we've had, these are the first wildflowers we've seen!

The small vertical elevator (Fenelon Place Elevator Company) is on my list, but I'm not feeling it when we get downtown. Next time. 

Instead we look for the remainder of the murals, and check out the incredible architecture in this oldest city in Iowa. 88 degrees and 40% humidity makes the air conditioned Jeep a nice option for another afternoon.

The 14 ton Tower Clock was moved here in 1971 from its original 1873 location atop a three story building on Main Street. 

Love this ornate window with the reflection of a vintage neighbor. 

I see a huge blank "canvas" perfect for a mural!

Wish they had painted this beautiful "Justice" there instead of the narrow alley where it's hard to see.

We can't find four of the murals listed in the Voices' Production information, but those we do are amazing. The size and quality are so much more than I expected. I learn later that some are rotating, and no longer here. Definitely the best collection I've seen in any city. 

There's a lot, but I want to remember them all. Might be more than you want to see if they're not your thing - I'll understand if you bail :-)

"I Am a Man" is a temporary installation painted last month on the side of a building scheduled for demolition. Part of a downtown discussion program sponsored by the art museum.

"Solidarity" designed by Shelby Fry, artist credit is given to The People of Dubuque, recognizing volunteers who painted the piece in 2020.

"Automate" with employees of the Dubuque Brewery and Malting Company. 

"Ada Hayden" by Gaia. Ada was the first woman to receive her PHD from Iowa State University. The family who commissioned the piece owned a florist shop.
"Bird Dog" by Werc and Gera

"Wisdom" - a much smaller piece - by Nate Dee.

"Young David" by Starfighter, an award-winning artist from Los Angeles.

"Rising Sun" is the largest, taking up a half block, by Chicago artist Zore.

Unidentified - full size and vibrant colors.

"Odd Fellow" was completed by artist Werc during the 2017 eclipse.

"Cut Flowers" by Amanda Valdes who has pieces throughout the world!

"Undercurrent" by Werc, with windows into the soul, and a nod to the nearby Crystal Cave.

"Wild Rose" by Israeli artist DiDi.

One of two "Portal" pieces by Hoxxoh. I'd thing twice before parking in front of it!

Probably my favorite since I couldn't find the bison. "America Needs a Hug" by Werc and Gera is on the side of a lovely Victorian building.

"Ascending" by Clarke University art department. 

On the back of the same building as "Ascending", it is unidentified. 

"The Fate of the Santa Clara" by Miles Turner depicts Christopher Columbus' ship the Santa Clara, also known as the Nina.

Another car show with live music joins us on Friday night. Trains with loud whistles pass by below us at different times of the day and night - we love trains but the 1:30 AM one is a little annoying. Mowers and heavy equipment are in and out of the garage next door starting at 8 AM. I don't start until 9 AM.

No other people join us in the adjacent rigs so when the fairgrounds shut down at 9 PM it is very quiet and dark - so silver linings :-)))

Friday's expected thunder storm doesn't materialize so we head out to see our pal Jim's recommendation. I didn't realize the Field of Dreams site was just south of us - an unexpected adventure! 

The location has a very sweet and exciting history since the 1989 (gasp!) Kevin Costner hit movie, including the MLB game played on the new adjacent field last August (7800 people attended). The dream continues on August 11 when the Cubs play the Mets here!

Even after all these years, it's easy to see the story playing out.

The lack of corn definitely changes the field. The new MLB field in the background.

Fun to see fans "pose" for photos on this iconic field.

I'd love to hear what the idea was ......

Our time in Iowa ends as we're on to Illinois on Saturday. The longer we were in Dubuque, the more we liked it. And the "iffy" site at the fairgrounds is probably a place we'd return to - inexpensive, safe, and one of those places we'll laugh about every time we think of it :-)

Beautiful Iowa