Friday, September 23, 2005

Chicago, Chicago

Things have been very busy over the last few weeks, which is the main reason that I haven't been posting as frequently and the few posts I have put up have been so short. Here's what's been going on...

First, I changed jobs about a month ago. I was working for a well-known online travel agent; now I'm working for a major financial company. The pay's better, I work with people I knew from the-job-before-the-job-before, and it's only half the driving distance so I save time and gas money.

Second, my number-2 son Donny graduated his class as a Navy recruit and so last week we drove to North Chicago for the graduation ceremony. The trip up wasn't too bad because Kate and I were able to share the twenty-odd hours driving duty. The only big problem we had was with the motel.

Kate had organized a room at the Belvidere-Slumberland Hotel in Waukegan. When she called, the guy she spoke to ("Raj") promised us a room for $40 a night and said that because he'd had problems with credit cards, he didn't want us to pay over the phone and that rather we should wait until we got there. That seemed a bit strange but we went with it.

Somewhere past Lincoln, IL we decided we'd better call the hotel as we were still a few hours out and wanted to make sure we still had a room, even though Kate had told Raj that we probably wouldn't be arriving until late. Raj wasn't there and the guy who answered the phone told us, rudely, that that had no record of us. It turned out that Raj didn't work at that hotel but at another one nearby, possibly called the Bel Air. Shortly after that, number-1 son (Jc) called from home to say that Raj had called to tell us that if we were didn't get there soon he'd have to let the room go.

We let the room go ourselves by simply not calling back or showing up. I have no idea who the hell Raj really was, what his relationship with the Belvidere-Slumberland hotel was or what he was playing at but we didn't like the sound of it one bit. We decided to find somewhere else. Luckily, Kate had printed the list of local motels and started hitting the cellphone while I drove up the last hundred or so miles, and soon we had a room arranged at the Great Lakes Motel, whose motto should be "$35 rooms for less than twice that!"

The room was mostly clean and tidy but was definitely way overpriced - $65/night even with a Navy discount. No microwave, no fridge, no way to make tea or coffee. We bought a bag of ice at the gas station next door and dumped it in the sink to keep drinking water, milk and sodas cooled. On the day before we left (i.e. our fourth day there) the management noticed this and moved a fridge in from another room (so at least one of the rooms does in fact have a fridge, but I won't even guess how much it costs).

So, for anyone else planning on visiting Navy recruits at Great Lakes, be warned: the staff at the Belvidere-Slumberland are rude; if you find another hotel/motel near that one and someone named Raj works there, back out slowly with your hand on your wallet; and remember that the Great Lakes Hotel is overpriced but OK as a last resort - if you take an ice chest and your own means of making coffee.

Also, I thought Texas drivers were bad but Illinois drivers are, incredibly, much worse. At one point, running at 65 in a 55 zone (purely because everyone else was going so fast that doing 55 would have actually been more dangerous) one asshole passed me doing at least 75 on the shoulder and looked at me like I was the one doing something wrong.

Now, griping over. The trip had lots of good points and on the whole we enjoyed ourselves a lot.

Waukegan Beach is awesome. It has sand; it has waves; you can't see the far side of Lake Michigan. If you didn't know better you'd swear you were on a coastal beach, except that the water isn't salty. The beach itself was mostly clean and has drums set up at intervals for garbage, and it seems that most people use them - but all the same, watch out for dogshit and shards of glass from broken beer bottles.

The Navy Pier in Chicago is great fun - plenty of places to get food and drinks (although being touristy the prices are higher) and lots to do, such as taking a speedboat ride or a trip on a tall ship, or even lunch or dinner aboard the Odyssey (lunch $50, dinner $84, for a three hour cruise). There's a small fairground and a museum of stained glass.

The trip back was a killer; Kate and I both started with symptoms of bad colds on the day we were due to leave. Kate's got so bad she couldn't drive so I did the whole thing non-stop except for 10-15 minute breaks for leg-stretching and coffee-buying. We started from Chicago at around 1pm Monday and got home just after 8am the next morning - 19 hours. Amazingly, I didn't start to get drowsy at the wheel until we were all the way back to Denison, TX - less than two hours from home.

The way we understand it, Donny has nine weeks in engineering school before the next break, so we'll be planning another trip up there I guess... except this time, I think we'll be planning to fly :)



  • Yes Chicago is fabulous! I really love it! We had great fun on the Navy Pier. On the three hour tour thing? Remember that the Gilligan's Island people were also on a three hour tour. Otherwise you could end up on some damn deserted island eating nothing but coconuts and wiping your bum with coconut husks. Oh, and this - "Great Lakes Motel, whose motto should be "$35 rooms for less than twice that!" while true is very funny. Still, it's close to the base.

    By Blogger Kate Ford, at 1:39 AM  

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