On the off chance that any of you are wondering what happened to the usual photo of me standing in front of the “Welcome to X State” sign for Illinois, there isn’t one. I had so much fun in the state that I forgot to take one.
That’s not true. Again, rain sorta hampered the photo-documentation portion of the trip from Wisconsin to Pittsburgh, where I am now. But Sufjan Stevens’ “Come on feel the ILLINOISE” album has played a big part in the soundtrack for this trip (iPod whilst riding es bien) so I felt it a worthy replacement.
We did stop in Chicago for the night at my aunt and uncle’s very sweet pad in Lincoln Park.
Chicago is an awesome and underappreciated city, at least by those of us out in freaky California. Lincoln Park especially has a beautiful look and unique personality to it – with brownstones, painted iron gates and grass and trees (how novel – nice work, Daleys) lining many of the streets, it just feels comfortable. It’s got a personality that is hard to describe. It’s vibrant and proud with deep roots and heritage but still modern and progressive at the same time (including having some of the most aggressive environmental plans in the US – again, thanks to Mayor Daley). I think the preservation of many of the old buildings helps to keep that feeling alive. Chicago is not trying to be anything (european, cookie cutter etc). It’s just Chicago. Anyway, I like it.
I got to tour parts of the city in between rainstorms with my dad and aunt, checking out the old neighborhood where my dad spent some time (and also heard about where my parents met and lived for a while), Lincoln Park, and the beautiful Lakeshore area with a main drag that passes some of the best scenery in the city north to south along Lake Michigan.
Indiana – nothing to report there. Lots of flat farmland, Notre Dame, Larry Bird’s hometown (French Lick??) and echoes of John Cougar Mellencamp in my head, wailing about the heartland here. Rain prevented exploring anything but the interstate service plaza (yay! another Subway and Starbuck’s!) as we buzzed across the 160 mile stretch of the state.
Speaking of.. that’s another reason to take the back road. You could stay on the main highways all the way across the country, do all of your business at the road side rest areas, and see nothing but the same mega-plexing big box shit that you see in urban sprawl America. It sucks! Get off the Interstate, meet some people and get a little flavor for the area. It might take a bit longer but it’s a helluva lot more interesting. Novel.
Where were we? Oh, right. O-HI-O. If I had pictures, I’d have blogged about this on it’s own and titled it, “My Mommy’s Mommy in Maumee”. And then you could punch me. We stopped in Maumee, OH, south of Toledo, to see my grandmother, Bema, and her sister, Pat. The visit was short but sweet. The ladies treated us to dinner in town and some good conversation about my heritage on my maternal grandmothers side. For those of you that still think I’m a walking Leprechaun, I’m sorry to dissapoint. I’m about 25% Irish. That’s it. Maybe a smidge more. 25% German, 25% Austrian/Croatian (depending on what side of the Austro-Hungarian empire’s rule we’re talking about), and 25% English. Or so. A true American Mutt. Anyway, it was great to see you, Bema. And thanks for taking care of her, Pat!
In Costanza’s father’s voice, “Ba ba ba BAAAA!” We have arrived. After a 240 mile ride from Maumee, we crossed the state line into Pennsylvania, and, after a stop for some grub at my dad’s namesake, Jerry’s, near Beaver Falls (another rival for In ‘n Out)
eventually made it to Pittsburgh, the original final destination for this trip, my former home and current home of my mom, dad, bro, niece and nephew. Here’s a pic of my mom’s place in Sewickley where I am now:
This is also, sadly, the end of the short trip with my dad. But it’s great to be home, to take a huge deep breath after 36 days and 7100 miles on the road and a whole lotta looking at the view below,
and finally back with the family and some truly comfortable and familiar surroundings again.
But it ain’t over yet.. Over the next three weeks, I’ll be visiting Buffalo, NY, Burlington, VT, Boston, NYC and Philadelphia before flying out for the great wide world on 9/13. Stay tuned..