September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
Hicks in the big city
Now, be sure to understand that I am a hick. I live on a rural gravel road next door to the middle of nowhere by choice (OK, well not the dusty gravel part, but I made a very conscious decision to live in a rural setting.)
Let's run a few numbers: The greater Chicago metro area has a population of almost 9.7 million people in a 17-county area which consists of 10,800 square miles; about 2.7 million live in Chicago proper. That is a lot of people. The entire state of Iowa has about 3 million people in a space of 56,000 square miles. Population density of Chicago metro is 1,318 people per square mile; population density in Iowa is 54.8 people per square mile. You get the picture.
I am fond of space around me; I am fond of fresh air and open places. I also really like grass. To be honest, I was not extremely excited about this trip. Turns out, I would have willingly stayed for another day or two to be able to see more.
We were lucky enough to catch a ride with our friend Meg, who, despite having grown up in a tiny town in northeast Iowa, drives the big city like a pro. We were able to stay at another friend's house, which really kept costs down. We packed coolers of food so I could avoid those scary restaurants where you have a stroke just looking at the prices.
I learned that the Field Museum is every bit as cool as a Smithsonian Museum; I learned that the Alder Planetarium is fun, and that the Shedd Aquarium is cool. We had a good connection, and got to go behind the scenes at the aquarium, including hold a non-stinging kind of jellyfish that they actually cut up and feed to the other jellyfish. Scott and our kids went up the Sears Tower and the John Hancock building (I prefer to stay closer to the good Midwestern soil) and they saw the giant bean in Millennium Park, also known as the Cloud Gate.
Unfortunately, we also learned what the inside of University of Illinois Hospital looks like. On our first day in town, our 12-year-old son, wearing open toed sandals, pulled open a heavy door and caught the toenail of his big toe. Of course it didn't rip it clean off, but left enough attached that someone with steady hands and a sterile scissors had to take care of it.
Fortunately, Sam is like his dad and has blood that clots quickly as well as a high pain tolerance. We walked many miles from the public "El" train/ subway system to the sites we visited. He was a trooper and only wanted to stop and rest it once in a while. He even walked down about ten city blocks which were packed with other pedestrians without getting it stepped on.
A slightly crazy side note - one of the nice security guys at the Field Museum who helped us out had spent a summer as a camp counselor in Prairie du Chien, which is where my husband grew up and is 18 miles from our home (start playing It's a Small World After All).
We rode the public transportation and I never felt threatened or unsafe. There may have been a few people who were mentally unstable, but not the scary kind. People were generally kind and very helpful. No one treated us like the hicks I thought we were, or thought we were ignorant country folk (or they were too polite to let us know).
We saw many fabulous things, and I must say having Chicago-style pizza (the sauce is on top of the cheese and other toppings) on top of a townhouse while the sun went down was simply awesome. There were only about 15 stars visible in the night sky, compared to the thousands we can see on a clear night, but I will have to admit not having gritty gravel dust everywhere was kind of nice, too.
Chicago, I must say, is a great place to visit even if I wouldn't want to live there.