Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Chicago 2006

I had a longer lapse in my posting because Pooteewheet, Eryn, my friend Kyle, and I all loaded into our little car and drove to Chicago for a four day weekend. The trip originated because another friend of mine had casually dropped a message in my email, not even sure it was my email, that he was having a gaming weekend in Joliet. Both Kyle and I, and even Pooteewheet, had gamed with him and his friends back when he was my age and his kids were Eryn's age. Now his kids are graduated and married and he's a grandfather and the kids are playing games with him and his friends. We hadn't seen them for something like fourteen years, so it seemed about time, even if I haven't played Dungeons and Dragons since it was in a previous set of books. We decided we'd play for one day while Pooteewheet and Eryn went to visit Pooteewheet's sister, and use the rest of the days to do some touristy Chicago fun.

So we drove in all day on Friday, taking a break at the Dells to have breakfast/lunch at Denny's. Not the corporate chain, but the small town restaurant that predates the chain that serves a much better omelet. In the evening, we made it past the first Illinois toll road, despite Illinois' attempts to convince us it wasn't possible to ever get through the backed up trafic, doubled back on the advice of a kindly old man at the oasis, then shot south and east to Joliet. It seemed like we spent forever looking for Lou Malnati's Pizza that evening, but it was a pretty good slice of pizza and fulfilled our mission to have some Chicago deep dish. Had we known we'd be eating deep dish for dinner the following evening as well, we might have chosen something else.

We stayed at the Hotel 6 and Joliet which, as we entered, had a woman waiting for a man who pulled up and then paid for their room in cash. It's so romantic when spouses play act.

So Saturday was gaming and went as gaming always does - just a lot of shooting the breeze and catching up. But we did find out Bob volunteers at the Shedd Aquarium, which is where we were going on Sunday, so he called in some complimentary tickets for us and gave us a free parking pass. Gold. However, he greatly confused us when he noted that he had a girlfriend named Nickel the Turtle. At first I thought she might be another volunteer at the Shedd, but she turned out to be an actual turtle in the tank where scuba volunteers maintain their licenses. The Shedd Aquarium is a nice aquarium - lots of animals, and the dolphin tank is amazing. It's so big that you can't see the dolphins on the other side of the tank until they get closer or flip to their white underbellies. Nothing at all like the Minnesota Zoo.

By the way, Bob, if you're reading, the truck stop is not the best place for breakfast in your neighborhood. It's the Route 30 Pancake House, about three miles past the Motel 6. It seems to be run by a Greek family and the menu is extensive, delicious, and includes things like gyros omelets and Hawaiian omelets. I strongly recommend trying it - it was much better than Diamand's.

Back to the Shedd. Eryn was interested in this snake, which is sort of creepy all bundled up there behind her.

I had my picture taken inappropriately touching a giant fish that Amazonians used to hunt to feed their families, but which are now worth too much not to sell instead.

This is more inappropriate fish statue touching. This statue is actually called "Man With Fish", although with me there, it's more like Men With Fish.

Our real reason for going to Chicago was to eat. We stayed in a Hotel 6 to live on the cheap so that we could lay out more for dinner. In particular, we went to try some Chicago sushi restaurants. On Sunday night we went to Kamehachi, close to downtown. Kyle had an oyster shooter. It looked pretty nasty, but he assured me it was good. I stuck with the saki instead. Kamehachi has a nice sampler of sakis. They'll give you three in decent-sized glasses to drink with your meal and you can have the quality or not-as-quality series. The sushi itself was a little on the pricey side, but very good, with some good rolls and even a few styles of white tuna, which seems to be hard to find in Minnesota. Kyle encouraged the waitress to subject him to something new and she brought him a fairly spicey roll and a fish cut from tuna cheeks...an $8 cut - yikes. But cheaper than than $4500 suite you can get on Michigan Ave. in Chicago...so everything just has to be put in perspective.

On Monday we went to the Museum of Science and Industry. It's basically the Minnesota Science Museum if you hopped it up on steroids. There were so many things to see and only about 5 hours to see them. I think we may have covered about 30% of the place. LissyJo will be disappointed to know we didn't get as far as the prenatal development displays. But I did take a look at the anatomical slices. They sliced up two people - one lengthwise, one widthwise - and put the 1" slices between glass. It was rather morbid, but fascinating, to see all the organs and muscles, and even eyelashes. Until you got to the sphincter - that was mostly just nasty. We saw train displays, airplane displays, circus displays, robot displays, genetics displays, castle displays...even the bathroom seemed like a display. There seemed to be over fifty stalls all around the outside and another fifty urinals in the center - it was hard to picture the crowd at the museum when all those would be needed.

Here's Kyle, Pooteewheet and Eryn playing with what's basically a very big EyeGames.

This is Pooteewheet putting her screaming face on a statue at the Enterprise exhibit. Not the Star Trek sort of Enterprise - the industry and marketing kind. Fortunately there weren't too many kids around as this is sort of scary in an Orwellian way. Eryn loved this part of the museum because there was a climbing wall with a soft map that was meant to show how business was like climbing a wall, and video games where the point was mainly to point and click to demonstrate running a business.

There was also a full sized submarine. When they said they had the U-505 there, I pictured it just sort of sitting next to the museum and rusting away, not completely enclosed in a reinforced sub pen within the museum building. The tour was too short, at least compared to the one I had with my Dad in Sydney, Australia, but it was still interesting to walk around it and through it and see all the details about how it had been captured and subsquently moved to Chicago.

And Monday was another night of Sushi, this time at Tsuki, which was considerably fancier, although actually a little less expensive and in an easier neighborhood to park (up by Lincoln Park - we actually found on-street parking). Not that it matters how fancy a place is if you're there around 4:30 p.m., as you're likely to be the only ones in the restaurant (there were kids at both restaurants on the nights we were there - bringing them in early before rush). Kyle tried another oyster shooter and liked the presentation better (below - oyster shell on the side). However, he also tried Oni - sea urchin - and looked as though he might heave. The rolls weren't as good. But the Green Tea ice cream was so good Eryn got her first ice cream headache. The steak Pooteewheet had was delicious for non-sushi folk. And the duck sushi...yep, duck sushi, lightly seared and smoked and laid on rice with some wasabi...was mouth wateringly amazing. Absolutely worth the trip for that alone. Kyle was skeptical about the quail egg on the wasabi tabiko, but enjoyed it after he was eating it. So overall, it was a positive dining experience.

Eryn is starting to get pretty handy with her chopsticks. You can barely see the plastic clip under her fingers to make them into big tweesers, but the night before she was eating her food with no clip and still managing fairly well. She's a big fan of soy sauce.

Monday night we left Chicago and spent seven hours straight driving back to the cities. If we could have avoided the seven lane toll area that routed into 3 lanes on the other side of the toll booths, it would have been 40 minutes faster, but we still managed to get home a bit earlier than I thought we would. Nice thing about owning a Ford Focus with 35 mpg or so is that you only need about a tank and a half to go the whole way, so you don't have to waste time stopping to refuel the car and yourself, if you can stay awake.

1 comment:

Steve Eck said...

I like the Shedd Aquarium, it is a great aquarium.

On the other hand, the last time I went to the Museum of Science and Industry I didn't like it as much as I had when I was a kid.

The sub is pretty cool though.