We left on a Friday. Our kids had day camp till 2pm, so we used that time to drop off our dogs, run some last minute errands and to pack the car. We headed out on I-88 west, and had to make a stop for an early dinner at one of our favorite all time places, Brooks BBQ. The nice thing about Brooks is they have a playground for the kids. Aurora had some fun with my decade old digital camera, but complained that the twins would not stay still for pictures. Sister friend, welcome to my world.
With our bellies full of yummy BBQ goodness, we were back on the road. Till they needed a potty break.
All of my lovely Bingo games had been played out. As darkness descended we brought out the movies. From the back seat, Aurora asked if we are going in circles. She kept seeing McDonald's golden arches every 5 minutes or so on I-80 and wanted to be sure we weren't lost. We assured her we weren't.
This was our first go around booking a hotel room. We decided not to book out our trip ahead of time. We instead used Hotels.com to book as we got close. That first night, I picked up a Penny Saver and saw the rates were cheaper than on Hotels.com. I called a few of the hotels to be sure one of them had a room available, but didn't think to ask the rate. When we arrived, we were told the rate in the Penny Saver wasn't available on weekends. Being that it was one of the few hotels that said they had available rooms, it was past midnight, and we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, we took it. Lesson learned, trust that on the day of, Hotels.com has the best rates going.
We woke up not to free breakfast, but kids free breakfast. The kids were all thrilled to get hot chocolate and pancakes, except for Mariella. Usually she is a happy little soul, but she did not seem to enjoy being taken out of her routine at all whatsoever.
We had found out that we would be passing near to Twinsburg Ohio where there is a large festival of twins. I figured it would make a great pit stop. What I did not figure was that there would be a large thunderstorm passing just as we got to the gates. So we go to see the festival, but did not go in. We did however get this great Shaggadelic picture. (The theme of the festival in 2014 was Twinstock, so all 60's all the time baby).
We continued on our trek after a quick lunch at Dairy Queen. The thing about Ohio, it is flat and there are a lot of tolls on I-80, a lot of dime and nickels here and there, but they have the most fabulous rest stops.
We popped up into Michigan for dinner, just to add to our state count and Leo wanted to drive through the mitten. There we found some awesome Mexican food (Who knew?)
We bedded down for the night, this time in my Hotels.com find, the Hammond Indiana Super 8. It was cheap and my review can tell you all you need to know.
DAY 3The next morning we headed to Chicago. Leo always wanted to visit Downtown Chicago, especially since I got to go without him once. It was just like he dreamed as he grew up with Architect and Engineers and it showed quite the majestic buildings and such. We and brunched at the West Egg, home to the famous Mister Mister and then took a jaunt over to Navy Pier. As I bought our tickets for the Big Ferris Wheel, the girl behind the counter spied my St. Rose ID. She too was an alum. Who have thought over a thousand miles from home, I'd run into another Rosebud?
The Ferris Wheel is what eventually brought Mariella around. I think she finally realized why we were doing this trip.
As fun as Chicago is, and I'd have loved to stay longer, the road was beckoning. We got stuck in a lot of traffic near the airport, the roads under construction throughout the Chicago metro area, and there were a ton of tolls getting out of there (and not nickels and dimes this time).
It was smooth sailing once we got to Wisconsin however. It was a little sad that we missed my dear aunt, who had lived there for years, but had just moved back to the east coast a few months prior. I did take her advice and hit the Wisconsin Dells for dinner. My goodness is that place a trip, it is so Wisconsin's Vegas, in the middle of nowhere for no good reason, but to separate tourists from their dollars. It does have a good atmosphere though, family feel for sure. For those that are familiar with Lake George, multiply that by a factor of 10. We had dinner at a great little spot complete with Gluten Free pasta for me (YUM!). The kids would have loved to explore, but we had to make up some ground lost to the Chicago traffic.
We stopped after a long day. I had hoped to make it to Sioux Falls, but playing tourist and the traffic (did I mention the Chicago traffic?) delayed us more than we had planned for. We did find a wonderful little hotel this time with one of the friendliest staffs that I have ever encountered. This hotel got a pretty good write up from me. The hotel offered laundry, which was clean and right by our room, so I took full advantage. The pool, or lack thereof, was the only down side as it was closed for repairs.
The breakfast at this hotel did not disappoint. Not only was it free, there was bacon, eggs, bacon and biscuits in addition to the cute little boxes of cereal the kids so enjoy along with bacon. The waitress was super sweet too and she kept bringing the bacon.
Before getting on the road, we stopped at Walmart for the makings of a picnic lunch. They were out of ice to fill our cooler (and I had not thought ahead to take ice from the hotel) so I went into the attached Subway, offered to buy a drink to get ice, but the girl wouldn't take my money. Love that Albert Lea, Minnesota.
It is true what the say about Minnesota. There are 4 seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter and Road Work. We encountered plenty of road work. At one point we were diverted off the highway and literally into a corn field, during a thunderstorm, like that movie TWISTER, Dorothy the robot was hanging out our trunk ready to take some weather readings. We were all thinking "this is how it ends."
Will our fair travelers make it out of the corn field? Will they live to tell the tale? Find out in the next installment. . .