Category Archives: Illinois


A relatively easy drive from Milwaukee put us in Evanston, IL by about 6pm on Saturday. We quickly learned how active Kenny’s social life at Kellogg is, as we rushed off immediately to tailgate the Kellogg football game with his fellow classmates. I was so surprised to see a college football stadium with food options inside. This ain’t Cornell football baby. After the game we went back to the center of Evanston to watch a fight at a bar slash hear lots of Kellogg students tell us how much they love Kenny already and how he was cast as “The Most Interesting Man in the World” in their video. Of course! We packed it in earlier than most other students as we had a big day ahead of us.

It was up before 6am so the boys could prepare the dry rub on our wings and we could pack up the car for the 3 hour drive up to Lambeau Field in Packers country, Wisconsin! With fingers crossed the weather would clear, it rained the entire drive up and we arrived to a sea of poncho-ed tailgaters grilling up food and drinking beers in driveways and front yards. That’s right. While there is a big parking lot it sells out faster than there are fans, so the homeowners outside Lambeau sell spots in their driveways and yards to fans who then park, tailgate, and use their port-o-pottys for $20. Is this something that happens at other stadiums? This was my first professional football game, so it was all new to me, but this was crazy. I mean, every year, every home game, these people stand outside and direct cars onto their grassy lawns, and rent toilets! What? So insane.

Disappointingly the rain did not let up, so we had to tailgate in the rain. We poured a round of bloody mary’s and got to cooking in the trunk of the car (ingenuity folks). Luckily this haphazard attempt at sautéing onions and peppers for our sausages was noticed by our neighbors and they kindly offered us some space under their tent. They came PREPARED – full tent, big pop up grill, loads of food. It was much appreciated. The brats we’d bought in Madison were delicious, but no star in comparison to the wings the boys cooked up. After downing our food and a handful of BL’s we started to make our way into the stadium. Our seats were great, as damn well they should have been for the price tag! Holy NFL. Luckily the rain let up pretty much as soon as we entered the stadium, though of course we’re all wearing long underwear and rain gear in anticipation of four hours of cold wetness.

The highlight for me was byfar my cheesehead which I had negotiated for in exchange for a budget blowing for a day of pure football. Lambeau was a great place to do it though. Those Wisco fans are good people.

::mmm cheesehead::
::mmm cheesehead::

Kenny was a champ and drove 3 hours both ways, so with little brother being the responsible one, Alan .. well, he had a good time. And his good time culminated in knocking over a frying pan and open flame in the trunk of the Subaru when we attempted to make a second round of brats post-game.

Needless to say, the next day was a low-key one for us. We got bagels at Bagel Art in Evanston – mediocre and pricy! I dropped off my bridesmaid’s dress for Jaim’s wedding to get tailored. Then we sat on the couch catching up on our favorite TV shows online, both of us on separate computers with headphones in our ears (to be fair this was essentially the first time we watched TV since leaving LA, and we watched very little over the course of the 3 month trip). And that was the extent of our day. We did make it out at night for some Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza with Kenny. They are famous for Chicago style pizza. I actually tried it before on my last cross country trip when I drove Concord, MA to Los Angeles, CA with my mom five years ago. It’s solid, but I’m still a thin crust girl. Afterwards we checked out the view of the Chicago skyline from Kenny’s roofdeck, which was impressive. The boys watched (more) football and it was off to bed.

::Chicago, as seen from Kenny's::
::Chicago, as seen from Kenny’s::

I think that football game threw us into a tizzy all week, because we were kind of off our game the entire time in Evanston. I don’t know if it was travel catching up with us, or a multi-day hangover, or starting to miss the creature comforts of having a home and a routine, but we were slow here. The next day we had decided to go into Chicago, but it took us until about noon to get out of the house to do it. From there it was about an hour on the L to get into the city.

We started wandering around Chicago somewhat aimlessly, walking past the Art Institute, by the Chicago River, and up to Michigan Ave. We stopped at Portillo’s for lunch and Alan had a Chicago dog with all the trappings (mustard, relish, fresh chopped onion, chopped tomatoes, a pickle spear, and peppers, served in a poppy seed bun). I was sausaged out from the game and opted for a pasta dish. I had never heard of Portillo’s but it is apparently famous for its dogs. It’s kind of kitschy, and you order from windows like you do at a mall food court. Food hit the spot though. After lunch we continued wandering, meandering up Lakeshore Drive, and through the south edge of Lincoln Park, which is a charming part of town full of brownstones I imagined choosing between. It was here that we and others stopped to observe a dog that was stealthily creeping up behind a squirrel while his owner was caught up on a cell phone conversation. Everyone’s saying, “no way, he couldn’t catch it..” Then… he caught it! This was the most wildlife in action moment all trip! Who would’ve thought it’d be a domesticated animal in a public city park?

One thing I noticed – and loved – about the L station: the drop-off area is called the Kiss-n-ride! How cute? Kiss your lover as you drop them off! Adorable! Also, there was a Dunk’s at our L stop, so amaze-balls all around. After we got back to Evanston, Alan and Kenny went out for food and partying with Kenny’s friends. I opted to catch up on sleep and a night of weird depressing movies that Alan would never want to watch 🙂

The next morning Alan got breakfast at Delbe’s Corner, and I picked up a pastry at Bennison’s and we did some “work” back at Kenny’s. I know that it seems like without jobs one would never have “work” but there is a surprising amount of time that gets spent on what is now our “work.” It’s just that we don’t get paid for it. What work, might you ask? Well, I won’t bore you with the details, but all the normal life stuff that people do (like paying bills, going through e-mails, reading the news, etc.), then there are a whole host of other things that you normally don’t have to think about while employed, like getting health insurance, traveler’s insurance, car storage, plane tickets by the bundle, hotel accommodations, research on the dozens of cities and locations you’re visiting so that you know what to see, editing photos, writing content for blog posts, constructing blog posts [I know, I know it seems like we didn’t do much of that… but I promise they’re coming!], and so on. This is not an explanation proffered to garner sympathy, it’s simply an explanation as I find many people expect we have nothing but time on our hands now that we travel full time. It’s not surprising that people think this, and I certainly thought it would be more like that myself. But life is always life and there are always things to deal with and work on.

Anyway, for lunch we met Kenny at Bat 17, somewhat of a Northwestern student must-see. Their sandwiches are GINORMOUS. I could barely eat half of my egg salad sandwich. The boys split some mean meaty sandwiches. I was tempted by the expansive beer selection, but opted against it. It was back to the apartment for some more errands and then into Chicago for a steak dinner.

We took a cab into the city during one of the most intense lightning storms I’ve ever seen. So intense. The restaurant was a typical fancy steak place, complete with a table of two businessmen and hookers sitting at a table near us. I ordered a peach and burrata salad which was really good. I honestly don’t even remember if I had any steak. (Meat is not my typical splurge item – I opt for desserts, pasta, pastries and cheese, and not always in that order. Do you think I will enjoy Italy?!). Though the boys certainly did (and bacon, obvs), which they thoroughly enjoyed. Alan and I smiled seeing Cristom’s Marjorie wine on the wine list (you might remember that from our Oregon wine country post). The rain let up on our ride home and the air was so clear, it afforded some epic views of the city’s architecture. Maybe it was just the rain clearing, but I felt that in Chicago there is a space between buildings through which you can enjoy the sky, versus New York, where every space seems to be filled with noises, sounds and smells. The thunder picked up again over night with intensity unlike that I can ever remember. Or is it just that I’ve forgotten what thunder sounds like having lived in LA for five years?. Either way, I was glad I had my thunder buddy for life (We’re not scared of thunder cause it’s just god’s fahhts! Ohh, I love quoting the movie Ted).

The next day we slept in and got a late start. While the boys went for chicken wings (for breakfast), I decided to use this as an opportunity to try 5 Guys for the first time (yeah, also I guess breakfast). They are EVERYWHERE now. We saw SO many on the road trip. Yet you have to drive miles from West LA to find one? Well, I suspect this is because they have NOTHIN on In-N-Out. My take: super messy meal. I got the little cheeseburger “all the way, no tomato” and fries (it’s well documented on this blog that I love tomatoes, but I hate fast food tomatoes and I don’t like ‘em on my burger). The portions are huge, the food good but not amazing. They do have this cool soda thing were you choose from a digital menu of dozens of flavors of soda. We took our greasy food back to Kenny’s, ate on cardboard boxes leftover from Kenny’s move and then settled in to a day of insurance torture.

So. You may have seen my public outcry for help on facebook as we were trudging our way through this health insurance catch 22. Here’s a quick summary: we had a 60-day window to elect coverage under COBRA after leaving our jobs. That expired at the end of September. With only a few days to that date, we began the process of trying to get insurance that wouldn’t cost the arm and three legs that COBRA does (something like nearly $700 a month per person! Yikes!). So here, in a nutshell, was the conundrum: we gave up our apartment in LA and have no “home” anywhere, anymore. For all intents and purposes we still consider ourselves CA residents as we have CA drivers’ licenses, pay CA state taxes, have a car registered in CA, all our belongings are in a storage facility in CA, and we intend to reside in CA once we finish travelling. But, we have no family in CA, so our mailing address is now at my parents’ house in Massachusetts where my loving parents sift through our junk mail, magazines, and bills and tell us when important stuff has come our way (Thanks Mom and Dad!!!). But, we can’t get insured in CA with a MA mailing address (Romney Care), and we can’t get insured in MA because we are not residents of the state (and had no interest in paying state taxes there as well, obtaining MA licenses (which isn’t even possible since we don’t reside there!), etc etc). We tried and tried to level with insurance brokers at countless companies, explaining our situation to people who agreed with us how ridiculous it was, and people who hung up on us, and said things like “well you could use a friend’s address, but I’m on a recorded line, ma’am so I can’t advise you to do that.” Absurdity.  We finally found a traveler’s insurance company that we thought would do the trick, but the coverage would not kick in until we left the country. Ridiculous? Yes. Absurd? Yes. But we were about to get to Vermont, where we could easily drive into Canada for lunch. Easy peasy right? Except I left my passport in a safe deposit box in Los Angeles that only Alan and I have access to open. GAH. (Another example of the exceptionally poor planning we did before leaving!!!) I even looked into flights to fly home for a night to pick up the passport. Well I’ll spoil the ending for you guys and let you know that this drama went on for a long while, and it was eventually resolved. We got a temporary insurance plan that covers us until the end of the year. And we did not need to leave the country, though we did realize I needed my passport to apply for visas (another headache we dealt with later on – I’m looking at you India, China and Uzbekistan. Why so many hoops to jump through just to boost your tourism industry!?). Again, crisis was narrowly averted, as while in Vermont we filled out a power-of-attorney for our friend Mike in LA to get into our safe deposit box and Fedex us my passport. Huge thank you to Mike and the kind ladies at Merrill Lynch who gave us the idea (no thanks to you, Citibank, who said there was absolutely no way around it)!!!

Anyway, after a long day of annoying stuff, we met up with our friend Kris who had recently moved to Chicago, for drinks and appetizers at a nearby bar. It was great seeing him, and a good way to finish out our somewhat strange time in Chicago. It was wonderful (as always) seeing Kenny, but while he was busy with classes and school work, Alan and I had hoped to be super productive. Man, we were so off our game. And this feeling of un-productivity and un-funness (again, only with respect to insurance and other BS, not at all un-fun hanging with the brah-in-law) was further exacerbated on our thwarted attempt to leave Chicago. Having a 10-hour drive ahead of us, we started the day with more fruitless calls to insurance brokers. By mid-morning we had our things together and were preparing to leave town. Alan pulled the car around to the front of Kenny’s building, parking right where it states “no parking,” so that we could load the car up more easily. Once loaded, Sven refused to start again. He had quite the tantrum, rolling down the windows in a weird creepy slow way that led us to believe there was an electrical issue with the car. We called Volvo roadside assistance for a tow truck. Unfortunately the Volvo dealer in Chi-town was booked and couldn’t guarantee getting the car in same day, so we had to opt for a dealer outside of town. Not to mention everything we owned was in the car, and we had no place to put it, having left the keys to Kenny’s inside his apartment while he was off taking his first mid-term. The tow truck took over an hour to arrive. We’re watching our clocks and counting in our head the progressively later hour that we’ll be arriving at our next destination. Well, thankfully a battery jump gets Sven going, and we call the other Volvo dealer in town again to see if they can just squeeze us in for a battery replacement. Sure they say, no problem. Here’s a 1:30pm appointment, come on by. And come on by we did, arriving at 1pm. In the waiting room we take advantage of the wifi dealing with – you guessed it – more insurance calls and other fun errands. Good times. The only highlight was Maury playing on the waiting room TV, until the guy changed it to ESPN. Uncool. Well, we wait and wait until 5:30pm creeps up and they tell us they tested the battery and it’s 100% fine, and they have no idea what’s wrong with the car. GRR. (It took 2 more Volvo dealerships in Vermont and Maine to finally figure it out, maybe). So we head off on our 10 hour drive to New York, most of which it was pouring rain out, arriving at our crappy, middle of nowhere hotel at 3am. Huge thank you to Alan for driving after such a no good, terrible day!

Despite this being the most annoying day of the trip – there were some redeeming factors. First, we entered the Eastern Time Zone! WOOHOO! That felt good. We knew we had made it almost the whole way across the country, and it felt like our “old” home, having both grown up in Massachusetts. This was also the start of a stretch of the trip traveling through a handful of states we were both already familiar with. So homey indeed.  Second, the initial part of the drive out of Chicago, through the first bit of Indiana, the rain had let up a bit and the views of the city skyline were so clear it was disarming. The buildings looked superimposed on a green screen. Lastly, and most important, we were now in Olean, NY, only a few hours drive from Ithaca, NY to see my alma mater and celebrate our one year wedding anniversary!!!

Illinois: Evanston and Chicago

I need to catch up and Chicago is a well-known and well-covered city, and we mostly hung out with Kenny (first-year MBA student at Kellogg), so this will be a fairly cursory overview of our time in the Windy City.  By the way, many assert this nickname has little to do with weather and actually refers to the hot air bellowing from politicians.

September 14, 2013 (Saturday, cont’d) – On the drive from Milwaukee down to Chicago we noticed the Apple Holler was packed and saw a sign for Wilmot Ski Mountain.  We arrived in Evanston around 6 pm.  Evanston is a Chicago suburb and home to the Northwestern University campus.  With a population around 75k, it is a small city in its own right.

The Northwestern Wildcats football team started the season ranked well inside the top 25.  They have since collapsed to mediocrity and perhaps beyond, but locals were excited when we were there.  So our first activity was attending a small Kellogg tailgate on the golf course by Ryan Field, a couple “L” stops away.  The scene was pretty good.  Food options at the stadium were better than expected.  The ‘cats started slow against Western Michigan but finished strong, though we left at halftime and took the free shuttle back to Evanston.


After a quick visit to BK we went to JT’s to watch the Mayweather vs. Alvarez fight, which was lame.  Kenny already knows tons of people here and the MBA students like to drink.

September 15, 2013 (Sunday) – See my post on the Packers game here.

September 16, 2013 (Monday) – Today was a lazy day.  We walked to Bagel Art where I got a Lox & Key on an everything bagel.  It lacked the overall size and lox quantity of a NY bagel but cost less at $8.95 and was pretty good.  Jenni dropped off her bridesmaid dress at A-1 tailor and she thought they did an OK job.  I caught up on some Newsroom and Boardwalk Empire episodes back at the apartment.

For dinner we walked to Lou Malnati’s (a respected deep-dish chain) on Sherman Ave for some famous Chicago deep dish pizza.  The pizza was good but I would say the Malnati’s salad was more impressive.  We washed it all down with a bottle of pinot noir then went to Forever Yogurt for some make-your-own with an even more impressive topping selection than what is typical these days.  Back home we enjoyed nice views of the Chicago skyline from Kenny’s roofdeck, followed by a Samburu board call and Monday Night Football.


September 17, 2013 (Tuesday) – We revisited the 7-minute exercise routine and then took public transport into Chicago.  It takes much longer than I would have thought, especially in the middle of the day when commuter trains do not run and “L” line changes are required.  More than an hour later we disembarked at the Monroe stop and walked past the Art Institute to Lake Michigan and then cut back in at the Chicago River.


From here we walked north on Michigan Ave and saw the Tribune Tower with its embedded rocks from various historically important sites throughout the world.  See more information on prior link.

We browsed in a couple shops and then headed west on Onatrio Street to Portillo’s.  We were after another Chicago classic, the Chicago Dog.  This is an all-beef frankfurter with mustard, relish, fresh chopped onions, red ripe tomatoes, crisp kosher dill spear and sport peppers on a steamed poppy seed bun.  It hit the spot and was within budget at $3.  Jenni got mostaccioli in red sauce which was OK.  Portillo’s is like an amusement park with lots of neon and two levels.  There is a drive through in back.  And if it is good enough for The Fridge, it is good enough for me.


We returned to Michigan Ave and walked to Oak Street Beach where there is a lakeside path with lots of runners and cyclists.


Then we headed west yet again and saw a dog stalking a squirrel in the park.  I figured there was no chance he could catch it, but I was wrong.  Heading up Wells Street we passed Concord Lane which looks like it would be a great place to live.  A New Leaf is a fabulous floral and plant shop (yeah, I said it) with a little garden and all sorts of accessories.  This would be a good place to shop for gifts.


I heard the roof deck at Hotel Lincoln is nice but we did not make it.  Ditto Toast for brunch.  By the way, this is all in/around Lincoln Park.  I knew Kris just moved there and heard it was a nice part of town so we were happy to amble through on our way back towards Evanston.  And indeed we really liked this neighborhood.  It reminded us some of Boston with its brownstones and many homes on the historic register.  We walked on Armitage to Halstead and took the purple line by DePaul University.


Jenni was after some quiet time so Kenny and I met some of his friends at Tommy Nevin’s before a KWEST Arubacao group dinner at Cozy Noodles and Rice with BYO beer and wine.  After this we hit 27 Live for a Kellogg band performance.  Kenny told me that not only is the day after Thanksgiving Black Friday, but to MBA students the following Monday is known as Black Monday because so many return to school having broken up with their significant others.

Oh, most important, during video presentations made by MBA student groups a week or two back Kenny had been cast as The Most Interesting Man on Campus.  A legend, already.

September 18, 2013 (Wednesday) – I got the very tasty Black Belt breakfast sandwich at Delbe’s Corner and Jenni a pastry at Bennison’s.  We did laundry then met Kenny for an excellent lunch at Bat 17.  One can order a full-size sandwich but we got the regular size which was plenty large.  Kenny and I split a turkey reuben and a chicken salad while Jenni got egg salad.  The gorgonzola cole slaw was on point.

That evening we took a cab to Chicago Cut for a big steak dinner.  The spectacular lightning show over downtown eased the pain inflicted by our awful cab driver.  As soon as we walked in we saw Grant Hill.  This good sign was supplemented by the two high class pros sitting at the table behind us.  Décor is red leather and velvet chairs with high ceilings and big windows to enjoy the river front location.  Kirkland & Ellis has their office in this building.  My steak was not as thick as expected but it was great.  The creamed spinach was, too, and the lobster mac and cheese was good.  We also got the Neuske bacon – triple cut, which was different than I expected but my notes are too shoddy for an accurate description.  I think it was more like different styles of pork belly vs. your now-typical Peter Luger style thick cut bacon.

September 19, 2013 (Thursday) – Another lazy morning followed by Jenni’s first foray into Five Guys while we got a double order of wings from Buffalo Joe’s on Clark Street.  The wings were crispy but slightly dry.  They were still tasty, but I was appalled they only have ranch and not blue cheese.  Waffle fries with a side of cheese sauce probably would have been better if eaten immediately rather than carried home.

Nice mosaic in
Nice mosaic in “L” station

Things got hectic when we began to grasp the difficulty of health insurance logistics and visa issues.  We had left Jenni’s passport in our safe deposit box in Los Angeles yet one of the travel insurance plans we thought would suffice for our full medical coverage would not take effect until we left the country.  And it can take a while to process visas and we knew we would have less than two weeks back in Los Angeles in November before flying to Chile.  I will not bore you with all the details, but the important part is that it is nigh impossible to get health insurance if you do not live anywhere and Jenni almost flew back to Los Angeles to get her passport.  Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and this situation now seems to be under control.

Kris came over after work and we all walked to Bar Louie for beers, a daily special $5 martini with blue cheese stuffed olives, tasty chicken nachos and some other bar snacks.  Thanks again to Kris for his generosity in supporting us three voluntarily unemployed degenerates.

September 20, 2013 (Friday) – This was one of the worst days of the trip.  After some more frustrating health insurance calls, I moved Sven from his parking spot to load him up for our drive to upstate New York, and when I tried to restart him he failed us.  Kenny was in the middle of an exam and keys to his apartment were now locked therein.  After waiting more than an hour for a tow truck to arrive, it turned out we could jumpstart the car.  Which worked fine and then we drove to the Howard Orloff Volvo dealership and arrived at 1 pm for a 1:30 pm appointment.  The space is comfortable with free wifi and juices and a fancy coffee machine, but they took forever and we finally left at 5:30 pm with no conclusive resolution to our car troubles.

Already about seven hours behind schedule, I missed the ideal highway turn.  All I can say from this jaunt through Indiana is it has basketball players and people who drive in the left lane for no apparent reason.  And a very poor value toll at $7.90.


It rained for 4+ hours and we arrived at 3 am to our tolerable Microtel in Olean, NY.  I was thankful we booked this stop a couple hours short of our destination of Ithaca, NY.  Despite the misery, it was a milestone day as we entered the eastern time zone.