Road Trip to Chicago
(July '06)

Click on any of the thumbnail images to view a larger image.

I hadn't driven between Atlanta and Chicago since I moved to Atlanta 11-1/2 years ago.  I'd been wanting to drive so I could get some things from my mom's house that she had been storing.  There was a car I was considering buying, and Cheryl suggested using the trip as an opportunity to really get to drive one a lot by renting one for the that's what we did.  Sadly, between the car rental and the skyrocketing gas prices, it cost more to drive than fly, but at least I got my stuff and to see friends and family...Plus, since Cheryl will be "too pregnant" to travel for the winter holidays, the trip was the only time to see my family before the baby is born.

We stayed the first couple nights in Chicago with my friend Gary and his wife Terrie, and then we stayed in a hotel that has Sleep Number beds to try them out because we're considering getting one.

I guess between the car and the bed, this was a "try before you buy" vacation.  ;-)

On the way up to Chicago, I wanted to stop in Carbondale, where I went to school (SIU).  I hadn't seen it since around 1987, and wow, has the town changed, though the campus is mostly unchanged.  We also had to go check out Giant City State Park, just south of Carbondale:

Cheryl near the entrance to a small cave.
Me, at the beginning of one of the trails.
Me outside my old dorm.  (The window at the left was my room.)
The shortest way to my classes used to be across a train track and then across a busy road (unless I went way out of my way).  Now, right outside my old room's window is this ramp, which goes up and over the tracks and the road and comes out right where I used to need to go.

I know, I know...why would you care?  No reason.

We took my mom to the Chicago Botanic Gardens.  I didn't take many pictures there, but I snapped a few:

Ummmm....grass and flowers.
Flowers, grass and the bell tower.
An area of their little lake.
Another area of their little lake.
A redwing blackbird

The next day, my sister Gwen took us to see Millennium Park, downtown -- something new since I'd been to Chicago:

The concert area, which is all open seating and the concerts are all free!  (Okay, weird looking, but the sound is amazing.)
Looking at the skyline from the seating in the concert area.
Same thing from further away...
...and another angle...
...and yet another area...
...and one last shot.
  These faces, which face each other from about 100 feet apart, change every few minutes  (they're projected like rear projection TVs)...and they're fountains...
...fountains that "spit" water for kids to play in...
...and then turn to walls of falling water.  (Okay, so it's hard to see the water falling in a still picture, but it's pretty cool to see.)
The sculpture "Cloud Gate" (aka "the bean"), taken from near the concert area.  It's polished stainless steel.
Doesn't it look like a giant blob of mercury?
A really close look at the reflections...
...and looking straight up at the center from underneath, you can see where maybe it gets its "Cloud Gate" name from.
Another center shot, a little more zoomed in.
Me taking this picture of me and Cheryl.
Yep, it looks like a bean!
The bean in the foreground, the concert area in the mid-back, and a tiny part of the skyline behind it.

Of course we had to stop and see my grand-nephew Henry (yes, my niece and her husband had a kid before me and Cheryl....and they'll have a second one a couple months before we're due!)  Anyhow, Henry is now 2 years old, but...well...let's just say wow! (smart, smart, smart)

Henry on his tricycle.
Henry getting on his "sea horse" (what he calls it).
Henry playing in the sand.  (I used to love my sand box.)
...same, plus a view of the side yard of my niece's house.
"Hey, where are the Olympic tryouts?"
Can you believe he's doing this when just two years old?  And he's FAST at it...
...though he might be a bit confused about how to come down the slide.  ;-)  Not really.  He just likes going down on his tummy.

Henry got the awesome swing set / slide / etc. (above), which they figured would take him a couple of years before he would be using all of the things on it.  Well, Henry proved them wrong!  Remember, he's currently just two years old!

Henry Climbing Video Watch Henry climb...and climb...and climb  He's a little monkey, for sure!

NOTE: To watch the video, you'll need a broadband internet connection of at least 1 Mbps...or a lot of patience to download it because it's 18 MB.
Henry's Talents Inside, Henry showed off some of his talents for us, from playing instruments to baseball.

NOTE: To watch the video, you'll need a broadband internet connection of at least 1 Mbps...or a lot of patience to download it because it's 19 MB.

The next day, we took a drive out to the Geneva / St. Charles (IL) area and went for a brief (about an hour) bike ride:
Cheryl.  (She didn't know I took this -- I just pulled out the camera and snapped it while we were riding.)
A great blue heron and an egret.
The great blue heron taking off
Ending the photos was a stop past my old house in Wheeling, IL....for those of you who know me and remember my old house:
The tennis courts in the park behind the house are gone!  They've been replaced by this.
The house has been repainted (no longer white with yellow trim), and is this horrible color that looks especially bad with the roof's color...and the new owners added a windmill (odd) to the back yard, and a nice tree.  That big tree didn't even exist when I moved out 11-1/2 years earlier.

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