Family on the Cheese Road (continued)

,and Adventures in Chicago

Having traversed Québec, Ontario, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Ohio again; and visited sister, aunt, in-laws, grandparents, we embarked on our final driving leg back to Chicago.

We had four days in Chicago where Eric attended the American Cheese Society conference and I had a chance to unpack, chill out and enjoy the great city as a tourist.



Wednesday was perfect for driving, temps in the seventies and partly cloudy. We retraced our miles back through Columbus and on into Indiana. Eric had the cruise control set on 70, as usual, and we were purring along with the light traffic. The traffic slowed, as often happens on Interstate highways for no apparent reason. We passed a sign that said, “Up to $1000 fine for speeding. Speed Limit 65.” Then traffic speeded up again, as did we. We were at the back of the pack.


Eric said, “Uh oh. There’s a cop behind me with flashing lights.” He pulled over. The cop said, “Do you know you were speeding?” Eric said, “Not really, just going with the traffic.” Cop, “71 in a 55 zone.” Can you spell SPEED TRAP? MAINE plates in Indiana. Bad. Good news, not a $1000 ticket, ONLY $150.

I once got a speeding ticket in North Carolina. We were on our way to leave the Peugeot with Brian in Athens when we moved to California. On a curvy, mildly hilly back road through the countryside, I noticed a new, blue Mustang come up behind me. I was putting the Peugeot through its paces on the excellent driving road and thought I”d see if I could outdrive that Mustang. Our game went on for a few miles until flashing lights came on in the Mustang’s windshield and his siren pierced the air. No fair. Sixty in a 45 zone, or something like that. He invited me to sit in his Mustang and pointed out the features of his rig. He handed me a $65 ticket for the pleasure. I never paid that ticket. I transferred ownership of the Peugeot to Brian in Georgia, and flew on to San Francisco. I figured I wouldn”t be in Carolina anytime soon.

We were closing in on Indianapolis and I said, “I can”t believe we passed through Indianapolis and didn”t even think of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.” We decided it was an EZ off-on from I-70 and proceeded west on W 16th Street, saw the back of the stands and a road that said ENTRANCE. “Turn right,” I said. Eric kept driving. The road goes under the track and into the infield, I just wanted to take some pictures from the infield. Eric kept driving. I took pictures from the car, “Here’s the back of the Grandstand,” I said.

“Is this a driveby?” Eric pulled over and stopped. Said he wanted to see the Art Academy in Chicago, and if we stop at the speedway, that he might not be able to see the Art Academy. He left it up to me. Nice negotiating ploy. I said, “Drive on.”
It seemed like only minutes out of Indianapolis that Chicago was in our face. We pulled up in front of the Travelodge and were immediately confronted by one of Chicago’s finest. “You can”t park here. Move it!” Eric said we were only unloading. I got out of the car. The cop said, “Move it!” Eric drove into the parking lot across the street. Welcome to Chicago.


The Travelodge had good bones but was showing its age. Our room was huge and the bathroom and wet bar (they called it a kitchenette — it had a bar sink and a microwave) were new. Greater still, we could unpack for more than one day. It was after five and the Art Academy, just a block away, was closed. Get this; we were on Harrison Street (a street name from out Newton past), just off Michigan Ave.

In Chicago, Eric had cheese obligations and I had tourist obligations, so we didn”t see much of each other. Eric taught me to receive and send text-messages, so we could communicate. He would be in seminars and such and wouldn”t often have his phone on. That was easy and it worked great, but I didn”t get hooked on doing it for fun.

I didn”t take my usual morning walk, ‘cause I figured I”d be doing some walking; and walk I did.

After sleeping in and a shower and my V8 (we stocked a six-pack in the fridge) and some in-the-room coffee, I walked out the front door onto Harrison Street at 9:15. I had no plan, except to find and visit Millennium Park. Walked north on Michigan Avenue and just two blocks from Harrison at Jackson, I found the Chicago Architecture Foundation Bookstore and Gallery right there. It used to be in the bottom of the Hancock Tower, but now they have a fantastic space in an historic skyscraper, albeit, on the “other end” of Michigan Avenue. They offer tours, as well as books and gifts and I signed up for the Modern Skyscrapers Walking Tour at 1pm. I really wanted to take one or more of the bus tours, but I had only Thursday available, the way of the traveler.


The Great Lawn and Jay Pritzker Pavilion by Frank Gehry


Cloud Gate by British artist Anish Kapoor


That’s me, smack in the middle

With three hours to kill before the tour, I continued north on Michigan to Millennium Park. I knew about Cloud Gate from Amy and Nick, but I had no idea how many and diverse elements made up the park. My favorite is the Crown Fountain designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. It consists of two 50-foot high glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. One thousand faces of diverse Chicagoans were photographed and a video image is projected on one side of each tower. Each image is up for 5 minutes. At one point the person smiles, at another their lips make a pucker (as if to blow out a candle) and water spews out from their lips into the pool. Great fun. Children frolicked in the inches-deep water.


Crown Fountain by Spanish Artist Jaume Plensa





After the park, I continued north on Michigan as far as Wacker Drive (at the river) to see what I could see. And what was that? The city is dense and powerful. Nearly all of the architecture is thoughtful and well executed, although some is not to my taste. And finally, the fun part of the city is on to the north. I had always stayed at the north end of Michigan where it meets the lake.


Chicago architecture from our hotel window

The Chicago Architecture Foundation walking tour was thorough and well done. The leader was equipped with a headset and we followers were equipped with receivers and earpieces so that she talks into our ear, no matter the emergency vehicles, overhead trains and such. Chicago is a big, vibrant city. Chicago is a noisy city.

stone and steel

The architecture featured began with the Modernist Mies van der Roah buildings of the sixties, the time when the steel structure began to be expressed, rather than covered by brick or stone. It continued through the (god awful) Post-Modern and on to the New Modernist, where the modern is not so hard edged and experimentation is possible.

This was my day to see the Cubs at Wrigley Field, their first day back from a road trip.

It was no strain getting to Wrigley Field. The Red Line station is at State and Harrison, less than two blocks from the hotel. The lady in the station said, “put $4 on the Chicago Transit Authority (remember the 60’s band?) card to get to Wrigley Field and back.

The ride was longer than I remembered, maybe a half hour underground and the last few stops elevated.

I walked into Wrigley a little before noon and picked up a Bud on the way to my seat. $5.75! (At the Giants ballpark, it’s $8.75!) I like Wrigley! SWEET SEAT! First row, on a rise above an aisle, about half way up the lower deck, at first base, and IN THE SHADE. Perfectomente! Worth the bucks.

wrigley_seat.jpg wrigley_my_bag.jpg

my bag on my seat back… then rigged on the rail


Hey, they sell cold beer in the stands here. I like Wrigley! But they gots no Jumbotron, or any other informative devices, other than balls, strikes, outs, line score and who’s at bat. But the seats were pretty wide with good legroom and the weather was perfect; in the low 80s with low humidity and puffy clouds.

Sandy, a pert, 50ish woman breezed into the seat next to me just as the game started. At the inning break, I asked, “Do you use these seats often?”

“I own these seats,” she said. “When I sell one on Stub Hub, it’s always fun to see who shows up.” (It’s not gonna be rifraf for a hundred bucks.) She lives in Phoenix but used to live in Chicago and often has business in the city, so she kept her season tickets. She’s small with a good figure. Nice to talk to, but doesn”t need to talk. We got along fine and the game was good. Cubs 2, Marlins 3.


fans standing for the last pitch

Game over. I followed the crowd out and saw three doors that said MEN IN. I go in and there are plenty of troughs, no wait, the wait is getting out, as there is only one door out. Go figure.

There was a big crowd to get into the CTA building, but once through the turnstile, I moved right along and up the stair. As soon as I hit the platform, a train came in. I got a seat. It was nice and cool on the train.

I was on my own for dinner and took the Subway to the Chicago Station area (north to where the action is) and had a great dinner.

I walked back State to the Grant Street station. It was still plenty warm, and seemed to be more humid than during the day. State Street was hoppin” with people on a Friday night.

Back at Harrison Station, the underground is decorated with poetry from the nearby Columbia College.



Welcome to the Columbia College Chicago English Department Poetry Gallery.
The poems in the Harrison Red Line Station are by undergraduates and graduate students in the Creative Writing Poetry Program at Columbia. Our students and faculty also worked with Jones College Prep students, whose poems appear in the station.
The Gallery features selections of haiku. Originating in Japanese lyric style verse, haiku is a minimalist style poetry, traditionally in 17 syllables, that dramatizes moments of awe, radiance and sudden insight in the midst of everyday life.







I don”t fall to sleep, I falter — the way a body lurches at a train’s sudden stop.

Indeed, this area of Chicago has a number of educational institutions, occupying blocks at a time; hence, the lack of fun stuff that one finds to the north. Roosevelt University, DePaul University, Robert Morris, and Harold Washington College are in these blocks, as well as Columbia College and Jones College Prep,

I was a volunteer cutting cheese at the American Cheese Society’s 25th Annual Festival of Cheese in the Hilton Chicago Ballroom. That occupied the day and evening. See CHEESE ROAD and Eats on the Cheese Road, for all the cheesy details.

cheese_room.jpg cheese_close.jpg

SUNDAY July 27, 2008
We were up early to pack and go. Overnight, the leftover cheeses had been moved to Kendall College, a school of culinary arts and hospitality management, in northwest Chicago. Blocks of cheese were for sale there for $1 per pound or less. That was right on the way to the airport, so we stopped in for the sale. Eric blew eight bucks on fine cheese, but I had to pass; no room in the bags and besides, I had about seven unrefrigerated hours to go — four on a crowded, stuffy airplane. Not a good idea.

When Eric dropped me at O”Hare, I felt bad that he had two or three days on the road with no company. I went in the terminal and got a Bloody Mary at the Jazz Bar near my gate. I felt better, I”d be home soon.

I texted Eric a few times over the next days to follow his progress until he was safely home. Sunday night he camped in Ashtabula, Ohio near the Pennsylvania border. Monday, he made it to Plymouth NH, and stayed with his friends, Amey and Scott. Tuesday, home, “Home is good. Thx 4 keeping in touch,” read Eric’s last text message.


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