This past October I flew back to the Midwest for a very special occasion: my cousin (the only one who's truly close to my age) was getting married in Chicago, and I for real needed to be there. I hadn't been back home in two years, and it was high time to visit a long list of people. Somehow, with a bit of luck and a decent South West deal, the stars aligned and I was able to afford round trip tickets. Huzzah!
I was able to spend ten days total in the 773 / 219 area. I was hopeful that it would be enough time to see friends, family, run around my double hometowns, and enjoy the wedding. I say 'double' hometowns because although I was mainly raised in Indiana, I was born in Chicago. When I was three, my parents decided to move an hour and a half straight east across the border into Michigan City, Indiana - closer to my grandparents. (On a clear day, standing at the edge of the lake, you can literally see the skyline of Chicago directly across Lake Michigan. The Sears Tower is always the easiest to find.)
Even though the bulk of my time was spent in MC, I spent most major holidays in Chicago at my Aunt's, with the rest of the family. Once I hit high school and met my best buddy Kim, we started to make monthly (sometimes weekly!) trips into Chicago on this bad boy:
The South Shore Line.
|Source: NICTD Wiki|
This train, with it's bright orange seats and goofy 'almost-like-a-trolley-but-not-quite' style, makes you think it would have faded into obscurity a long time ago. The tracks run directly down the middle of a predominant road, and drivers are expected to continue along right next to the train. There's plenty of space, but people from out of town always freak out. (You can tell because they literally stop driving and hold up traffic until the train is gone from sight.)
Somehow this quirky train route held on, and I was ever thankful. It took me to Chicago - more specifically to Belmont and Clark, which was basically heaven on earth when I was in high school.
|Source: Yo Chicago|
A shot of the Belmont Red Line Stop.
Later, after my brief stint at Ball State, I finally got to live downtown for a bit while I attended Columbia College Chicago. When I rejoined the workforce, I lived in both Albany Park and Irving Park with Isaac. After that, we made our way to Missouri, and then Oakland where we live now. I've bounced around quite a bit, but somehow I always make my way back to the windy city.
Sad to say, during this most recent trip I barely got to see the Loop... or any of downtown really. From the moment I landed it was a constant hustle, but as we left the O'Hare airport, I spotted this guy out the window:
I took it as a good sign, and headed home to my grandparents' house to eat awesome food and catch up with my Dad.
The day after that started THE WEDDING business, and we made our way into the city to celebrate the union of an amazing couple. We partied joyously and generally rocked out - which took up most of the weekend.
A whimsical first dance.
My now-married-cousin, Jenny, looked absolutely gorgeous for the whole thing. The aura of happiness that surrounded the whole day was beautiful and inspiring. Her wedding reception consisted of a giant white tent bedecked with lights and a dance floor, and beautiful, huge outdoor fireplaces. I had a blast.
After I had recouped a decent amount of energy, I snagged some much needed friend time (A quick moment with Tina; a bit more time spent with Joe, Char, and Ryan - three fine gentlemen and scholars) and managed to accomplish a goal I'd been meaning to complete for four years : to revisit the Michigan City beach.
Stop 29 in Long Beach, to be exact.
So I raided the grocery store for epic cheeses, crunchy crackers and crisp beer, and had a picnic with my Dad. It was exactly what I wanted it to be, and just being able to stick my feet in the sand (and water!) was a wondrous thing.
Clear, crisp freshwater. The best!
We played cards (a valiant battle was fought), ate lunch, and decided to look for cool rocks.
Dad scoping out the territory.
His discovery! We guessed it was quartz.
There are many, many cool rocks - some of which are perfect for skipping across the water.
At one point I decided it was time to write my name in the sand.
Then I got up close and personal with some Zebra Mussels.
I think they're a bit pretty... it's too bad they're such an invasive and destructive species. Beware the small but fierce Zebra Mussel!
More snack breaks ensued, and then an attempt to track the sun...
Which resulted in my favorite picture from the trip:
Sun, you are crazy. Crazy beautiful.
We called it a day, and headed home.
A bit later in the week I got to have lunch with Kim's Mom, Jeanette!
It was wonderful, and I had one of the best sandwiches of my life (for serious) at Panini Panini. I am a firm believer that pretzel bread makes everything better, and this place definitely delivered.
Jeanette and I had an epic chat, and I mentioned that I wanted to take pictures of two more of my favorite Michigan City spots. Before I even had a chance to ask, she had whisked me off to the car.
I was able to see the The Old Michigan City Lighthouse...
and The Michigan City Public Library!
Might be hard to tell, but I believe the building is supposed to look like a stack of books. (Designed by the architect Helmut Jahn.) It's also entirely possible that I made that up as a kid, and have believed it ever since.
I spent a lot of time in that building when I was much younger, and I miss the egg chairs that used to be tucked into every nook and cranny. There's also a beautiful open air courtyard hidden from view in the middle of the building... which to my young self was the next best thing to The Secret Garden... I was always trying to sneak out there. It's public access, but it felt more magical if I had to sneak.
It should also be noted that six days into the trip I started to lose my voice, due to massive amounts of talking. (Especially with you, Joe! I'm positive we could discuss music, internet things, and the antics of people for aeons.) I just felt like there wasn't enough time for all the stories that needed to be exchanged, so if I wasn't listening, I was continuously chatting. On a late night drive back home, Sir Joe and I ran into an unexpected spirit guide - a little red fox. He looked a lot like this wild guy.
|Source : Featured Creature|
I wish I had a few more pictures... like of the wedding, or when I went to visit my Mom. Getting to see my Mom was awesome. I literally have no words, other than awesome. She's a wonderful lady. Remember that crazy train up at the beginning of the post? It can also take you the opposite way to South Bend (home of Notre Dame University), where she happens to live. Michigan City is situated right smack dab in the middle of Chicago and South Bend, which was hella convenient as it allowed me to complete a tri-city Midwest tour.
As I was flying back to Oakland, I was lucky enough to grab a window seat. I realized then, that mountains will never, ever stop amazing me.
And that was my journey back home.
America, you need to hop on the bullet train wagon soon... we need other options besides flying, driving, or the chaos that is greyhound. We could class it up, go straight 50's style - dark, detailed woods and soft seats with picture windows to watch the countryside speed by. It could be great, that's all I'm saying.
I would also accept teleportation devices, but alas, they're taking far too long to burst into existence. ^-^