USA Road Trip Day 4: Omaha > Chicago

Entering Chicago

Trip Taken: 2010

Holiday Inn Express

I think the Holiday Inn Express in Omaha is the first time I saw a housekeeping maid that wasn’t black, hispanic, or Asian. My maid was a white woman pushing around the cart with the mop, towels, and extra toiletries. The Holiday Inn Express was actually fairly well equipped. I woke up early to get the breakfast served downstairs. It consisted of whole grain cereal, strawberry yogurt, and bacon. I love mixing cereal and yogurt. It’s like a parfait without the restaurant. My brother also had left over rib tips from our barbecue dinner the other night. I took one piece in addition to my breakfast.

One other thing I noticed about this Holiday Inn Express is that there was an active gym that seemed to attract the community. When we checked-in at night, there were still a lot of people in the gym and pool. Not just business people either, but whole families. The families were strictly relegated to the pool. In any case, it was very lively for a hotel pool.

Traffic to Chicago

In order to get to Chicago, we had to pass through Iowa and most of western Illinois. I thought by Illinois we would be past the fields and fields of corn. Iowa had corn fields along the freeway as expected but I didn’t really expect that in Illinois. I guess it’s true what they say about corn; it truly is king.

One very cool thing about the drive to Chicago is that we had to cross the Mississippi river at the border of Iowa and Illinois. I had visions of Huckleberry Finn floating down his raft and Tom Sawyer adventuring along the banks. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any steamboats along the river or anybody yell out Mark Twain. Maybe I have to go further south to Missouri.

The last few miles into Chicago are the worst because of weekend traffic. For some reason, the afternoon traffic is different in Chicago than it is other major cities I know. When it is time to clock out from the work day, for some reason the traffic into the city is worst than it is than the traffic going out. It’s the opposite of Los Angeles traffic. We were probably stuck there for a good hour and a half before we got to the hotel.

Downtown Chicago and the Loop

Law Student riding away

The Loop is basically the heart of the downtown area in Chicago. The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is located here. Chicago Bar and Board of Trade are also located here. It’s called the loop because lines do a loop around this area before they return back to the outlying neighborhoods. My first impression of Chicago was this area. It perfectly represented American architecture. It had clean cut lines from the art deco influences, the functional minimalism from Bauhaus brought during the turn of the centry, and flourishes of Beaux-Arts like Union Station. The layout of the roads were also symbolically American; the streets lined up north-south, east-west.

The Standard Club was our hotel and was right smack in the middle of the Loop. It looked like an old school boys club. Dark woods were de rigeur in terms of decoration. It was a very nice hotel with great amenities. I think this was the first time I had turn down service in my adult life.

After we had settled down, we walked around a bit and actually took the elevator to the observation deck of the Willis Tower. It was pretty cool to see Chicago at sunset from high vantage point. We could see the Hancock Tower from where we were. There was also a glass edge at the south side where it looked like you were floating off building. You could literally see the ground where you would land if there wasn’t the glass holding you up.

Dinner at Mia Francesca

I had made plans to meet a former colleague (actually more like boss) of mine who now lives in Chicago. I know he loved Chicago and what better person to show me a little bit about Chicago. He showed us the Lakeview neighborhood, which included Wrigley Field. There were apartments right next to it that had bleacher seats to see into the stadium. The neighborhood felt homey and very up to date. All the buildings looked like they were well-maintained.

We stopped by a bar called Sheffield’s before heading off to dinner. I had a beer against my better judgment. I am a total lightweight but I downed a whole pint. This would come to bite me in the ass later. A pint is no one-third liter. Mia Francesca was packed to the gills and was an excellent Italian eatery. We had asparagus bruschetta and snap pea salad for appetizers. I had a Frutti del Mare pasta which I couldn’t really enjoy because of this buzz I was feeling. Apparently, I decided to by a sleepy drunk instead of a laughing drunk that night. We said our goodbyes after dinner and I immediately began expelling the contents of dinner at the Belmont Red Line stop. I held it in for the subway ride but finished expelling at the State stop. I should have known my limit. I just hate not being able to socialize without having the ability to drink. It kinda sucks. So with my head buzzing, I fell asleep on my rather comfy rollaway bed.

Parting Words

The trip to Chicago from Omaha took about 8 hours and we crossed Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois to get there. Any readers out there have any tips about non-drinkers? I could really use the help. Last time I asked at a travel show, they showed me to a sobriety association. I can’t drink. I am not a drunk.

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.