This is what the trip was all about. Meeting up with my Sticky Chickies.
We all met over the course of a year on an iVillage.com message board, where we were TTC (trying to conceive). Most of us were TTC #1. Some were able to get pregnant but kept miscarrying. Some were hoping #2, #4, or #5 wouldn't take too long, but wanted support while they waited. We were spread out throughout the U.S., Canada, and Brazil. As we supported each other through the wait, through fertility medication side effects, through the joys of positive pregnancy tests and the heartache of miscarriages, and through life's trials in general, we became close. Eventually we decided to move our group to a private website so we could share photos and more personal information. Several of us have met already, but this was our big meet-up in Chicago (a central location). As it turned out, only 6 could attend, along with 5 babies and 3 husbands.
Here are the current stats:
24 babies. 5 currently pregnant (2 of those are already on round 2 while in our group). 2 whose relationships are in trouble so they stopped trying. 2 who still haven't found success. Some have moved on and only check in occasionally but a lot of us communicate regularly. These women have kept me sane over the last 2.5 years. I wasn't going to Chicago to meet scary strangers. I was going to see my dear friends.
I took Amtrak to Chicago. I've been wanting to go on a long train ride and it was actually cheaper than flying round trip. Nathan dropped me at the train station around 3:30am. I dozed a little and woke up to this beautiful sunrise.
The train was so much fun! They had water cups and a spigot just like in the Little House on the Prairie book. The seats were roomy and reclined wonderfully. There were curtains on the windows, a dining car, and a conductor who actually punched my ticket!
As we passed through remote parts of Utah, I saw sooo many junked cars and older cars. It was like vehicles came into town but never left. Check out the ancient trailer and older car in the pictures below.
I saw all kinds of towns. Beautiful ski resorts, big train stations, small train stations...even spots where the train basically ran through someone's back yard and stopped for 2 minutes to let someone jump off.
We crossed a massive river. The Mississippi, I think?The train ride wasn't without adventure though.
#1 - The bathroom locks were a bit finicky. Sometimes they would jiggle to the unlocked position. An Amish man burst in on me once. Fortunately the trip was almost done, because I didn't want to face him again.
#2 - The lady in front of me apparently didn't believe in deodorant. She got riper as the trip neared its end. She liked to sit with her arm stretched over the back of her seat.
#3 - We picked up a drunk in Denver. I went to the cafe car to buy juice. He was in line trying to buy a beer, but got in the employee's face and got kicked out of the cafe car. While that was happening, a woman was talking to another employee, explaining that the drunk had sexually assaulted her in some way as they were boarding. She was so shaken up that she simply got on the train crying and didn't calm down enough to report it until about 30 minutes later. Well, they called the cops in the next small town. We stopped at a crossing and let off the conductor and the drunk, let on the cops, and we waited for about 45 minutes while the woman informed the cops.
#4 - There was a huge lightning storm as we crossed Nebraska at night. I fell asleep watching the frequent flashes. Apparently there were also tornado warnings. The train had to cross the plains very slowly, so we arrived in Chicago 3 hours late.
#5 - I ate lunch in the dining car on the second day. It was supposed to be a "do-not-miss" experience on the train. They had tablecloths, real plates and silverware, and vases with fresh flowers. If your party didn't fill a booth, you were seated with strangers. One man at my table was from Europe. He was on a 4-week vacation and had traveled through Canada from east to west and was on his way through the U.S. going east, with various stops in major cities. This wasn't his first trip to the U.S. The last time he came, he was on a 3-month vacation. Wow!
#6 - I was trying to keep food costs low, so I packed an entire jicama (sliced). Have you ever eaten an entire jicama in one day? It's the perfect travel food, because it fills you up, quenches your thirst, and crunches to keep you awake. But that was a LOT to eat.
Finally I arrived in Chicago. I had to ask 4 people for directions before I successfully got to the El station that would get me to my hotel. Once I got to my hotel, I showered and had dinner in the lobby restaurant with my friend who was also staying there. I had 5 feather pillows on my king bed. It was scrumptious.
I rode with friends to downtown and we had brunch at this really nice restaurant. The server was super nice, even with all the babies and special requests. He let me try the freshly made flavored lemonade to see if I liked the flavor that day. He brought a dessert sampler when he found out it was someone's 1st birthday.
Parking costs were INSANE! So was traffic, actually. The public transportation system was superb. I'm sure the parking costs are partially to encourage people to use it, and I can understand why it's so well-used....both to avoid traffic and parking fees, and because it's so convenient.
We headed over to the aquarium, which wasn't really my thing. I was having trouble figuring out the "aquarium" setting on my camera so I took a lot of bad pictures. This snapping turtle was super old. They found him in the '30s.
After the aquarium, we had to try Chicago deep-dish pizza. It was so tasty! Add that to my list of kitchen experiments - I want to try making it.
This is how I looked the entire time I was there....sweaty and greasy. It was cloudy/rainy and the humidity was horrid. It was even humid inside.
I said goodbye to everyone on Saturday night. On Sunday, I took the train and bus to church, and hung out in my hotel room. Got lots of scripture reading done on this trip. On Monday morning, I checked out and headed downtown bright and early. It was my last day and I had a lot to pack in, to see everything else included in my City Pass. (Oh, quick shout-out to the hotel, the breakfast buffet was awesome! You could even make your own waffles!)All the tall buildings were shrouded in fog. I would hate to live/work in a building like that.
I usually rush through museums, but my schedule was rushed even for me. I had one hour for each place, with 30 minutes travel in-between. First stop was the Field Museum. I took pictures so I could enjoy it more later.
Next stop was the Museum of Science and Industry. I really wish I'd had more time here. Anyway, I was walking through and suddenly I saw the car my sister's BIL invented! How cool!
I skipped the planetarium and went to Willis Tower (previously known as Sears Tower), but alas, visibility was zero. Honestly I don't think there would have been a good view any day I was there. I learned lots about Chicago's history from the displays inside. Now I know where this expression originated!
This is me standing on glass 103 stories up. It was scary to step out even though I couldn't see very far.
One last thing to try before I flew home - a Chicago-style hot dog! It had no ketchup and left my mouth on fire. Quite the experience.Somehow, I got a slice of pizza home without it spoiling. Nathan enjoyed it. He deserved it too, because he washed pots and pans so I could come home to a clean kitchen. I'd left him disposable plates/utensils but he needed a few pots.
Oh my gosh I can't believe how long it took me to put this together. One last topic - Bathrooms! I saw quite the range of bathrooms.
- Bathroom stalls with huge holes in the wall between them. I held my bag up for some privacy.
- Handles where you pulled up for #1 and down for #2.
- Automatically advancing plastic toilet seat covers (O'Hare airport). If there hadn't been a line, I would have taken a picture. Google it for a video. Very cool.
- A long trough that had automatic water, soap, and dryer at every spot. This was the coolest ever, and naturally was at the Science and Industry museum. Again, if it hadn't been so crowded.... Seriously, you just stuck your hands in the trough and scooted them under the desired item.
I'm sure I forgot to mention something or another. It was an adventure full of new things. A once-in-a-lifetime trip. I'm so glad I went.