Chicago – That Toddlin’ Town Sep27


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Chicago – That Toddlin’ Town

Memories, new experiences, hurdles, and making new friends are all things I anticipated we would encounter on this trip. All but the last have certainly been true, but it turns out that making friends while on the road is challenging. Only now, upon reflection, does it make sense that making new relationships would prove difficult. Since we tend not to stay long enough any place to really become connected to its people and the median age of others doing what we are is much, much higher. Good thing ‘making friends’ wasn’t or isn’t a top priority. However, both Lin & I are really feeling the absence of these connections.



Thank heavens we have planned to meet up with old friends & family along the way. One shouldn’t underestimate the power or value of connecting with friends. This got me to thinking about the definition of friends, acquaintances and besties. I save besties for those I could call at 4 AM in need of something, and hopefully not, but including, bailing me out of jail. Besties tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear. Acquaintances are those who know you on the surface, but with whom deep dark secrets or desires are not shared. Friends are everything in between, where the decision is mutual to know & cherish the authentic self of one another. I am so grateful to have some many I call friends and even a few besties.

Angelic friends

Angelic friends

Blessing were abundant on July 29th when we arrived in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. It had been over a year and a half since we had seen one another, but my relationship with Karen runs deep & we picked up right where we left off. Karen & her husband Forrest welcomed us for 10 days so I arrived with dinner already made as an early token of our appreciation. That first night was a late one as we chatted & chatted long into the night. Sort of like we forgot we had 9 more nights together.

The next few days were a combination of relaxing, laundry, and RV repairs. Specifically tires and an alignment. Five new tires would have been a big hit to the budget, so we opted for just two new front tires, which would later prove to be the wrong decision. Live & learn, but only after a small tantrum, but more on that later.

Passing time in between chores

Passing time in between chores

I enjoyed making meals in a spacious kitchen, a couch big enough for both Lin and I to lie down on, a ruby red LG washing machine that whistled when it was done, and their cat & dog, but not all at the same time 😉 Now Karen might grow a beard or wear banana peels as a thong before she referred to her kitchen as large, but in comparison to ours it was palatial.

IMG_2561 The weather was warm, but after a couple of days lounging, it was time for some exercise – despite the heat. We drove to the Highland Park neighborhood and began following the Green Bay Trail bike path. Before too long we found ourselves at a crossroads, we choose right. We rode around the beautiful neighborhood & gawked at the mansions. And then just ahead according to our phone’s map was Lake Michigan, which looked more like a tropical ocean with the way the light was radiating. Not seeing an easy way down, we locked up the bikes at the top of the knoll and wandered until we found a way.

Once at the beach, several posted signs indicated no wading or swimming, but I just had to put my toes in. And so I did, but if I’d been asked, technically I was washing my feet. I didn’t see a sign prohibiting that! I’ve never been one to abide by rules that don’t have good rational. I’m not a rule breaker, just to break rules, ok sometimes, but not so often anymore. Mostly, it’s when logic and sound judgement override some seemingly irrational rule. We left before the beach wading patrol arrived and we cruised back and found a lunch spot, chosen because it had umbrellas & signs for cold beer.

Lake Michigan Lake Michigan no signs

A few nights later we joined 15,000 people to hear Steely Dan at Ravinia, an outdoor amphitheater. Notice I didn’t say see, because we didn’t in fact actually see them. We opted for the budget friendly tickets on the lawn. Beside it’s much easier to picnic when spread out on a flat blanketed surface versus balancing a plate, glass & utensil on your thighs.



In preparation for the outing Lin & I decided to go to the fancy grocery store, Mariano’s. Karen offered up a few directions, which might have been helpful if we were locals. Not to worry we had a phone & the GPS, both of which failed us, so I ended up calling the store in hopes of getting more specific directions. No luck, the gal who greeted me on the phone wasn’t from the area & could only help if she knew where we were coming from. Heck, I didn’t know. We’d made so many wrong turns and turned every possible way that I wasn’t any help either. She put me on hold to get some help, but never returned.

vortex21 Best we could figure was that we were in some sort of vortex, like the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz because only upon arrival did the actual location show up on our GPS. We finally found it and wow, what a store it was. Sort of puts Whole Foods to shame. I tried really hard to exercise restraint & self control, but I was only mildly successful. In the end the picnic was delicious and the sweet cream dip was finger licking good – literally. Fingers seemed to be the utensil of choice, even over strawberries.

Book of Mormon Playbill To celebrate Karen’s birthday a group of six of us drove into the city to see the Book of Mormon. It was irreverent and funny with amazing harmonies and loaded with religious zingers. Not recommended for the actual religious fanatics. We rounded out the evening at a Cuban restaurant, that was BYOB, a new trend it seemed – well at least to us anyhow. We brought wine and they added the fixings to make sangria – what a fun idea! Now Karen isn’t a big birthday celebrator, she would rather ignore it, but none of us were going to let that happen. I suggested she might find something other than age to celebrate, like perhaps the fact that she was still 5’5″ and hadn’t begun to shrink. This pleased her and has been a running joke since. Can’t remember the name of something, well it must be because she’s 5’5″. Got heartburn three times a day, that damn 5’5″ syndrome. Need to go to bed at 9:00 PM, well being 5’5″ takes rest. Creating these one of a kind memories is exactly what I needed after five months on the road. This day in particular gave me a sense of community, palling around with friends, new and old.


One Saturday we drove to Woodstock, where part of the movie Groundhog Day was filmed. Although it wasn’t a goal of mine, I think I’ve been to almost every Woodstock in the US. According to the atlas, it turns out I’ve got two more to tackle, Georgia and Virginia, so now it’s officially a goal. Our purpose that day was to covertly look at an inn for sale, pretending to be potential future guests and making no mention of our knowledge that the inn was for sale. Karen is a terrible liar, surprising as it might be for an attorney, but I have to say she pulled it off pretty well, believable in fact. We gabbed the entire way there and back, just like old times, jumping from one subject to the next. Somewhere along the way a barbecue came together for later that night. It was great to meet a few of their friends, another much needed recharge for the soul.

We managed to fit in one more outing, starting with a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright home & studio in Hyde Park. An interesting tour of the evolution of his private residence along with some scandalous facts – well at least for the time.



FLW was an architect whose main purpose seemed to be creating the perfect balance between form and function. He believed in harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture.


From there we had one more thing on our to-do list: revisiting the Wicker Park neighborhood & making a stop at Francesca’s Forno. We ventured out this way during our last visit to Chicago and had fond memories. This time didn’t disappoint either, the Moscow Mule and other nibbles were as delicious as before. Most notable was a very simple corn salad, which will be included in an upcoming post under Good Eats.

Francesca's Forno Chicago

It was a bittersweet departure. Bitter to leave my friend behind and sweet to have shared 10 days together. I’m so grateful for their hospitality, well beyond the more commonly acceptable stay of 3-5 days. Perhaps this too is another way to define a friendship of bestie status. But the cup starts to run a little empty when the span of time grows beyond a year, so I’ll need to ensure my cell phone allows for unlimited texting and plan another visit before too much time goes by. Much like children, pets and plants, friendships need to be neutered, I mean nurtured. I am blessed to have so many acquaintances, friends, besties and one main squeeze to nurture.