A lot of people had advice on what I should do when I get there. I should go to the Navy Pier, go to a ball game, or definitely try the food. The only thing I wanted to do in Chicago, since I had only a short window of time, was see Sue the Tyrannosaurus at the Field Museum — one of the most complete T-Rex skeletons ever found. Being a lifelong fan of dinosaurs and a fan of the Dresden Files, it was the one thing I had to see.
The work-related training course I attended in Schaumburg ended early on the last day, and I set off to the city. My hotel had no courtesy van, so I called a taxi and paid the 20 bucks (yeah) to get to the nearest train station. When I got there, I found the station itself was closed but a woman I met there said, “Don’t worry you can buy tickets on the train.” When the train showed up I got on, got my card ready, and told the ticket guy I needed one to Chicago. He took one look and said, “We don’t take cards.” I explained I didn’t know and the station was closed, he didn’t seem perturbed, but said, “Well, you’ll know for next time.” It didn’t help too much and I felt like I’d stolen a ride, but the fact that it was a cash-only enterprise and used hole-punchers like the Wetzel’s Pretzels discount card I got at the Woodfield Mall was a little unusual and very different from my last experience with mass transit in Washington DC! I was lucky the ticket guy was nice; it must happen a lot.
I rode into town with my head down (since I was a ride-moocher) knowing essentially where I had to go. Walk east from the station and I’m not too far from the Field. It would be a good walk, but I had all day, and how often am I in Chicago?
Once I got to the station in the city, I got out the GPS on my cellphone and started walking. Trusting my GPS, I immediately turned a couple times and traveled along a road for which I couldn’t find a street sign to name it. I passed some interesting city blocks and traveled a bit before I saw something that was awry. I passed small coffee shops and a place that packed eggs…it didn’t look like I thought it would. I saw a few buildings in the distance that I thought might be the outskirts of the town and thought, “I was further out than I thought.” I kept walking, then took a right, and out of the corner of my right eye, I saw the city…
Now I should mention I live in Nashville, which I always describe as a medium-sized city with a small-town mentality and big-city problems. Chicago as it turns out is a MASSIVE urban center. The kind that you really can’t miss…unless you start walking WEST on Randolph Street from Ogilvie Station and take a right on Aberdeen. In my narcissistic mind I had been walking a certain direction…so I just assumed it HAD to be correct! Finally spotting one of America’s hardest-to-miss cities, I headed east on until I hit a dead end then snaked around until I got to Fulton and headed North on Desplaines. Once I got to Grand Avenue, I stuck to it like glue and headed east all the way to Lake Michigan.
Once I saw the Navy Pier I knew I was golden…however I also knew the Navy Pier was north of the Field. I turned south and started walking, keeping the lake to my left. I added the sounds of sea gull caws and rigging clattering to my audio repertoire and spotted the Field in the far distance. I admit I was getting tired, but the idea of seeing Sue kept me going.
I finally got to the large, well-kept park outside the museum and headed up the cleanly cut hills to the Field steps. Once I got to the museum, I saw a sign that said “The Field will close at 4pm, last admittance will be at 330” for an apparent event. It was 3:27…I had JUST made it.
When I got in the woman at the desk said to someone, “There are more coming in. I’m taking this one and the next one and that’s it.” She told me the museum was only going to be open til 4, I said that was fine, and she let me in and the person who came in behind me.
But there was Sue, standing tall in the center of the museum. There were tables and serving areas being set up everywhere, but I didn’t mind. I took pic after pic to make sure I had all the angles. I visited the gift shop, got an “I saw Sue” pin and a T-shirt…and left, all in under the 30 minutes I had until the museum closed.
I then walked back (went to the wrong station, I ended up at AmTrak instead of Ogilvie…it was at that point I decided I’d get a MAP instead of a GPS next time…) and got back to Schaumburg around 6.
I’m looking forward to going back to Chicago to see all the things I walked by at a good clip to get to the museum or to the train station home. I know how to get train tickets and what it costs to get from point A to point B (and generally how to get there) so it’ll be MUCH better next time.
I learned a lot from this trip, which turned a less-than 3-mile walk into an 8-10 mile adventure of narcissism, faulty technology, and idiocy.
In the end, Sue was very worth it…but I had to leave her in Chicago, probably for the best. It wouldn’t have worked out anyway, long distance isn’t good for any relationship. Plus, I think she may be a little too big bone-ded for me anyway 😉