Chicago Stories and Tips

Getting Together

Boarding the L Photo, Chicago, Illinois

Now, keep in mind that I come from a town of less than 10,000 people. Even though I am very comfortable in places like London and Paris, I am very nervous when attempting one of the large US cities. What amazed me about Chicago is that even though it is obviously a large city, it didn’t intimidate me once I was there. What a great choice for our get-together.

After having received an email from Dan asking me to be one of the speakers the first evening at Cubby Bear's, I had something else to worry about. I mulled over several possible topics to speak on, and finally, at the last minute, I decided to tell everyone how many mistakes we made on our first trip to Europe. Everyone seemed to be able to empathize with us as we stumbled from one blunder to the next. The fact that we are still traveling is a testament to our refusing to be defeated by our own stupidity.

I had hoped to hook up with some of the other guides before we attempted the L ride to Cubby Bear's, but thanks to my handy laptop, we had a map with directions in hand as we headed out. Chicago has the best site for telling you exactly how to get from point A to point B and which form of public transportation to use. Even the country cousin could manage this.

Cubby Bear's offered a great chance to reconnect with guides we have met before, Lorrie, Arlene and her son Mark, Brenda, Graham, Bill, Tony, and Dianne, and also some new friends, Carole, Natalie, Fleance, Ed, Paul, Sierra, and all the wonderful staff members who worked so hard to make our weekend so successful. And yes guys, I managed to get my super-sized umbrella home. We all sat around munching on snacks, sipping our drinks, and filling each other in on what we had been doing since the last get-together and where we had been traveling. It was great fun, and I think all of us were reluctant for the evening to end.

Friday morning saw most of us gathered at the Navy Pier to begin our architectural tour. Kay joined us at this point after a daybreak flight from Washington. We all took our seats (okay, plastic chairs) on the deck for the 1-hour tour that highlighted such things as the Wrigley Building and the Sears Tower. It was, however, not limited to just that. We learned a lot of information about the history and building of Chicago, from its humble beginnings as a fort through the Great Fire and into present day.

When the tour was over, we split into two groups. The more energetic contingent headed off to bike along the lake. The rest of us headed off to the Navy Pier to grab a bite of lunch before taking the water taxi to the Sears Building. Oh, the best-laid plans: when we arrived back to take the taxi, it was to find that it was no longer in service. After consulting the man at the booth, we decided to walk. I would guess by now that you know this was a terrible idea. It took us over 45 minutes to complete the walk, which made us 15 minutes late for our meeting with the Igo staff for our trip up the tower. Luckily for us, Tyler was still out front and told us that we were only a few minutes behind the other Igo staff members.

Since we didn’t catch up with the other staff members until we got to the observation desk, we had to buy our own tickets to get to the top. (We were reimbursed on Saturday.) After purchasing your ticket, you go by elevator to the second floor to see a short film about the construction of the Sears Tower. You then get in line for the elevator ride to the top. Be prepared for your ears to pop and your stomach to lurch: it is a fast ride. It’s all worth it when you get to the top and see the stunning views you have from every angle. If you have the time, along the inside wall of the deck you can read the plaques about the history of Chicago.

On Saturday morning, we met up with the other guides and the staff, including Tony, at the Field Museum. The Tut exhibit drew immense crowds, and that for me detracted from my enjoyment, but it certainly was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of moment.

After we had a viewed the exhibit, a group of us met on the steps and decided to go to Chinatown. We were going to take the bus, so we walked around the building. After waiting a few minutes, we decided to take the L. It was around back where we had started. Actually, that was quite lucky, because we met up with the staff again and Tony, and we all headed off together.

At some point, the members ended up with Tony at the Phoenix Restaurant eating dim sum and talking about what we like and don’t like about some of the new upgrades. Thank you, Tony, for being so patient and for really listening to us, and also thank you for knowing what to order, because I didn’t have a clue. It was all wonderful.

Saturday night, a group of members under the direction of Carole met in Greektown for a fantastic meal, and we were joined by Dawn ,who was one of our founding guides. The food was delicious, the company was delightful, and the service was beyond perfect. We all hated to see it end.

And for Al and I, it did end here. We flew out at noon on Sunday, so we didn’t get to Millennium Park, but I still think it was the best get-together ever. Thank you to all the staff for the hard work you put into making everything so fantastic.

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