A Chicago diary… Bob and Dad on tour in 2005
3 days in Chicago

A chance to add another ballpark to my quest to see a professional game played in each stadium.

A chance to see not one but two games played at Wrigley Field.

A chance to see the Boston Red Sox play at Wrigley Field.

And a chance to spend a few days with Dad.

That’s what had me back in my old room, spending the night before we left on our trip, listening to Mom and Dad try to set rings for their new cell phones.

It was kind of strange kicking off the trip this way. No dogs in the bed for one thing. While I usually struggle to fall asleep without Lady and Travis in some way wrapped around or on top of my legs… the word from Tigg was that the two of them spread out, collapsed on my pillows and snored all night without me. Yup, my best friends.

As we get packed we really aren’t certain what to expect. When I booked the tickets on-line, I wasn’t able to enter any information other than our first and last names… which are the same. The site didn’t accept middle initials. I have called a couple of times to make sure that the reservations didn’t get kicked out or canceled… and have been told that it was a good thing I did. Just a note to all of you providers (and users) of automated services out there… I called one time to confirm the reservations, honestly tried to use the automated system, but it wouldn’t tell me that there were two reservations, so I had to stay on the line and eventually connect to a representative on the phone. Nice planning for any possibility there folks.

I’ve put together some things to do… a few restaurants, information about the Sears Tower (check out the results of everything in “The best of Chicago”)… and it’s time to get going…

Day one, Thursday, June 9, 2005

Our flights from Warwick to Chicago have a very good chance at forever maintaining the position of strangest statistic I’ve ever encountered in a plane.  (Yes. It’s Warwick. Not Providence. T.F. Green Airport is in Warwick, Rhode Island.)

We are flying US Airways out to Chicago, and have a connection in Philadelphia. Watch these scheduled times…

Depart Warwick: 9:50am

Arrive Philadelphia: 11:04am

Total time in the air: 1 hour, 14 minutes

Depart Philadelphia: 12:10pm

Arrive Chicago: 1:27pm (Chicago time is different... add an hour)

Total time in the air: 2 hours, 17 minutes

That was the schedule. In reality we…

Arrived Philadelphia: 10:45am

Arrived Chicago: 1:27pm

Why is that so strange? Well, those times reflect when we actually landed on the ground in those cities. We saved 19 minutes of flight time. The problem was, we sat on the runway in Philadelphia just after landing… and didn’t move… for 30 minutes. And then it took an additional thirteen minutes to get to a gate. Why? Because we were too early. So… we saved 19 minutes on the flight and actually ended up spending more time on the plane than we were originally scheduled to.

We’re sitting next to Erica on our first flight. She works at an area hospital and is making her way down to Georgia to visit her brother… he’s in the military and stationed there. She’s also engaged and working on her wedding plans. (Congrats again Erica and good luck.)

The conversation with her began when she starts offering stuff to Dad… gum… goldfish. Quite a nice girl… friendly, generous.

The plane is an A321, and as noted anyone looking at the time sheets must think someone messed up…

Left Warwick… on time… 9:50am.

Arrived Philadelphia… 10:45am… early.

Arrived at gate… 11:28am… late.

It turns out that because we were so early, a half hour was spent trying to get an assignment at a different gate because the one we were supposed to go to had a plane parked there. Then, after arriving at the new gate we were told to wait because the plane had now departed for its flight from our original arrival gate, and apparently the people in charge of gate assignments weren’t buying the idea that we had already reached the new gate… so they were telling the pilot to go to the original gate.


Looking around the terminal waiting to board the second flight, it seems like there are quite a few Boston fans waiting. Hmm… this might be a big thing. Dad and I hand our boarding passes over and… well… I screw up… (almost)

We’re walking behind a couple that has two young boys with them. The older man and both boys have Red Sox hats on. So… naturally…

“You going to the game?” I ask.

The woman turns and looks at me with terror in her eyes. “Umm… no… couldn’t get tickets…” she says while looking at the boys and then to me with a silent message of “yes you idiot, we are going to see the Red Sox play at Wrigley, but the kids don’t know that so please shut up…”


The second flight of our day is on board a 737-700… and that has me thinking. I used to save the emergency information fliers as a kid. I had one from every plane I was on from about the age of eleven until roughly ten or twelve years later. Don’t know why I stopped collecting them, and I don’t know what happened to that collection. But I’m not sure if I could keep pace today anyway. Growing up it seemed so easy… 737 or 727 or DC10. Not much else. Certainly not an airbus or all of the express jets that are around now. Jeez… a flight halfway across the country on a commercial airline today seems to be more often than not on a plane that is barely bigger than the “puddle jumper” I took from Miami (Florida) to Marathon (Florida Keys) back in 1994.

I also find myself paying attention to the instructional video playing safety information as we taxi out to the runway. They are showing the segment where they talk about lighting on the floors, along the aisle, that leads to the exits. I don’t see any strips that could hold lights or any other item that resembles what the video suggests is going to happen in an emergency. And here’s a question… do they check the life vests before every flight? I reached under my seat, didn’t feel anything that seemed to be a life vest there. So now I’m wondering about that… and if I should ask for a life vest just in case it really isn’t there.

Is there anyone out there that understands O’Hare Airport? Anyone? Because Dad and I get off the plane, find a phone to use to call the car rental agency the way our reservation tell us to, and then we set off on an adventure of a hike to the pick-up point. Oh I am very serious… an adventure. Down an escalator… out of the terminal… down an elevator… over to an information booth… around a corner following the footsteps on the floor and turning at a big trash can (A trash can! They gave us directions at the information booth using a trash can!)… find the hidden elevator located behind a screening wall… wait for the elevator, and then nudge all of the people that are sneaking in and trying to cut us off even though we were there longer than them and part of an organized line… take the elevator back up… try to find out where we are located, then use an exit and wait on the side of the road. It took us almost fifteen minutes to walk from the gate to the car rental pick-up area to catch our shuttle.

Ahh… but every so often what goes around comes around. Make no mistake, we weren’t inconvenienced by the late arrivals at airport gates or by the long walk. We weren’t having a bad time at all. Things were going fine. You could say that the world hadn’t been running smoothly up until that point though.

All that changed when we got the keys to our PT Cruiser… the one with three… 3… three miles on it. We waited with the rental agent for ten minutes because they literally had to take the protective plastic off of the exterior. And while we waited, we talked with her about what the area was like. Our hotel was a Super 8 only a few miles away and we picked up a few options for meals and such while we talked.

We went to the hotel and checked in, and it turned out to be a fabulous choice. I had looked at a few locations… some closer to Wrigley… and kept finding the same basic problems. The prices for rooms got better the further away from Wrigley or the city I looked. And, the differences were substantial enough that the option of renting a car and staying near O’Hare turned out to be much less expensive than staying near the places we were planning to visit and trying to find a cab… or pay for one. Other than hearing a plane on the first night, we were never disturbed by the airport. And, I don’t remember seeing many cabs at all.

We had decided to head over to see Wrigley Field this afternoon, mainly for two reasons. First, we wanted to check out our directions and the parking situation so that we would have an idea of what to do on Friday. Making a couple of mistakes and finding no parking wasn’t something we wanted happening under the pressure of an approaching game time. And second, we thought that since the Cubs weren’t playing today, we might have a chance to see some of the area… a bar or some food, walk around the park, maybe a souvenir stand or two… without the pressure of a game day crowd.

The plan worked perfectly.

It took us about 45 minutes to travel from our hotel to Wrigley Field. Not too bad considering we were in traffic for virtually the entire trip. One interesting thing about Chicago is that it has to be the first city I have ever seen with a ton of highways that is desperately in need of another one or two.

We drove along 90 and got off at the West Addison exit. Just about every time my father has taken me to Fenway, we have driven along the Veterans Parkway. We both felt reminded of that drive as we went along Addison. In a way, we found that interesting because of the history of the parks, the way the teams represent their communities, and how for decades the neighborhoods have grown and developed around the fields. Nothing really that we know of to justify the similarities of the drive falls into those categories, but it could be an interesting project to research.

The door to The Cubby Bear.

After passing through Wrigleyville, we parked on Clark Street and walked up to The Cubby Bear… recently voted one of the best sports bars in the country, and I certainly wouldn’t dispute the claim. Although it was incredibly quiet on this Thursday evening, the food was fantastic. (For the record, I had a buffalo chicken sandwich that was great, although it got a bit messy toward the end. Dad had a ribeye sandwich.) Jennifer was out waitress and she took fantastic care of us.

After eating we decided to walk around the park. Turns out that over the years Wrigley Field has developed an amazing sense of community. The bars, shops… heck, let’s just say the whole area… is known as Wrigleyville. And it is impressive. To be honest, it is the best community immediately around a park that I’ve ever seen, and I don’t know if I’ll see anything else that’s even close. (Yes, I’ve been to Fenway lots of times. And the stuff they do now is very nice and fan friendly, but it’s a business move. Fenway is great, but this is a neighborhood.)

At the corner of Addison and Sheffield...

If you walk along West Addison… from the corner featuring the famous sign at North Clark to the statue of Harry Caray at the corner of Sheffield… there isn’t a single place where you cannot see a bar, a restaurant or a gift shop. In fact pretty much only in the center of the portion of Waveland Avenue, that runs parallel to West Addison along the left field to center field section of Wrigley’s exterior, is there a place surrounding the field where you wouldn’t see a souvenir store or stand, but you’d still see bars and all the other great attributes of Wrigleyville. It’s quite the place.

I should also point out how clean and well kept the neighborhoods looked. Small gardens all over the place, almost no trash on the ground, and amazingly comfortable to walk around.

This picture is for Tigg. She takes photos of flowers and plants when we go on vacation and puts together framed collages when we get home. The one she did for Australia is gorgeous. I took this in a small garden along the street near Wrigley Field.

As we walk away from the Caray statue and turn up Sheffield, we see them. The stands built on top of the buildings across the street. This has always been an interesting part of the Wrigley history that you hear about on television, but man does it hit you when you see it in person. How important are the roofs of nearby buildings at Wrigley? Well, go ask Budweiser. They basically bought one of them. But these stands are pretty neat. Think about it… people are buying seats to watch a game from across the street.

This picture was taken at the Saturday game, June 11th. A beautiful day for a ballgame. And, if you look closely, you can see the stands built on top of the buildings across the street from the outfield. Also visible is the Budweiser roof.

As we get to the left field entrance there’s someone that appears to be from a maintenance or grounds crew taking a cigarette break. Another guy is walking in carrying a briefcase. As he passes the first man, he says “the World Champions are in town.”

Great moment.

We head back to the car and are off to head to the top of the Sears Tower. To get there, I decide to head over to Lake Shore Drive and use that to get to the city.


Even if you’ve never been to Chicago, there is a very good chance you’ve heard of Lake Shore Drive. And you probably just shrugged your shoulders and thought something like “yeah, alright, it’s a road, running along a lake… Lake Shore Drive, I get it… big deal.”

One view from the top of the Sears Tower. This one is basically to the southeast, with the Field Museum and Soldier Field near the water of Lake Michigan.

And you would be incredibly wrong.

Don’t feel bad. I was wrong too.

Absolutely stunning view. Gorgeous.

There are a few events and some construction going on, so we need to actually go past the turn I wanted to take in order to head over to the tower and the parking garage its web site directs you to.

Across the street is the Washington Mutual Building, which is… as many of the buildings in Chicago are… unique and it catches our eyes.

Looking down on the south side of the tower.

We watch the video, head to the top, and spend about perhaps an hour wandering around. It’s very quiet, which seems a bit unusual to me for a couple of reasons. First of all, we’re very close to sunset. I would like to guess this place would be incredibly popular around sunset (the hours make me believe that you’d have to make some fancy arrangements to be there at sunrise, but it would be worth it). And also, since the work day is over and this would also seem like a tourist destination, having only a handful of people around seems a bit odd.

North to northeast from the Sears Tower.

The views are great… we’re having a good time… until the phone call is finally made that will mess us up, more or less completely, the next day.

I don’t remember who called who. Was it Dad calling Mom to brag about where we were? Was it Mom calling Dad to find out how things were going? Whatever. Tigg is out with my Mom and sister looking at materials for a bathroom renovation that my parents... ok, not my parents... that my Mom is planning. The phone was handed to me, and I was standing on the Skydeck of the tallest building in America listening to a description of bathroom floor tiles.

(It should be noted that after all was said and done, my mother later decided on an entirely different set of tiles.)

Dad and I head back to the car and off for the hotel. Along the way back I introduce him to Cold Stone Creamery. Great day.  Beautiful city.

Day two, Friday, June 10, 2005

We head to the lobby of the hotel for breakfast… one of those special breakfasts that is advertised in a way that leads you to believe there will be a chef working at an omelet station. But it’s just pastry, juice and coffee. Not too bad though, and a decent assortment.

We leave at 9:30am and are pulling onto North Halsted Street at 10:15am. Clay is just opening up the First Express Parking lot, and we pull in. We talk to him for a few minutes, because we have questions about what parking might be like on Saturday. We are going directly to the car rental agency so we can drop off the car and get to the airport for our flight.

A short… and scenic… walk to the ballpark follows.

“20% off all Garciaparra items!”

That’s the sign that greets us as we walk into Wrigleyville Sports. We had been here briefly the night before, and I don’t recall seeing the same sign. Considering the weekend… with the Red Sox in town… Dad and I find it hysterical at first. Later we find signs offering similar discounts on Wood and Prior merchandise… but still. The moment was good.

Dad is trying to find something for the grandchildren, and that’s where things are going kind of crazy. Remember the phone call from the night before? Well, Mom had asked Dad if he had found anything for the grandson. He said no, but after that call began looking around more carefully at things. So now, he’s in the children’s apparel section, trying to figure out sizes. And, naturally, two men looking for kid’s clothing is just falling into the stereotypical comedy you would expect it to be. Apparently, every name brand making clothes for kids thinks a 4-6 is a different size. We both know that no 12 month old baby wears the 12-month size cloths. Things aren’t going well. More phone calls. We end up deciding that with a trip to Disney approaching, there are plenty of other things to get for the kids at another time.

The gates are open, and we head inside.

As we walk around, Dad is in his glory. He’s wearing a World Series champions t-shirt, and he’s talking to everyone. And I mean… every… one. Ushers. People wearing Boston hats. People wearing Chicago hats. Heck, at one point we’re down the left field line taking pictures, he sees Nomar walking around on the field, and he starts looking for a way to get closer to the wall without alerting alot of other people around us that haven’t noticed Garciaparra on the field.

Back under the stands, we decide to get something to eat. Having grown up on the best hot dogs in the game... Fenway Franks (I’m biased... I admit that... they are good, but not as good as the ones they served when I was 10)… I am sold on the no game being complete without one, and always have to get at least one hot dog. I probably will change my approach as we get to more stadiums in our quest to see a game played in every one… since many of the newer ones feature tremendous food options. But here there’s a stand here selling Chicago Dogs, and we try them. Great stuff… better than the regular hot dogs. Even was able to get peppers for mine at the condiment station. I do have a question about the souvenir cups though. Who makes these things? The large cups are basically disposable considering the quality of them.

On to the seats we go.

The game was great, but I leaned if I wanted to see the pitcher.

For today’s game we are sitting down the right field line, in aisle 239. Funny thing about Wrigley… if you have been brought up at a stadium like Fenway, you don’t realize that poles being in the way is odd. I have no view of the pitcher from my seat. I can see the very back of the mound, and the very front. No pitcher. And you know what? I don’t care either.

A woman sits down in the row in front of us. She’s wearing a fantastic shirt that says “real women don’t date Yankees fans.” Here’s her story…  In the bottom of the second inning, she starts laughing as a “Yankees suck” chant breaks out two aisles away from us. In the bottom of the third, she takes out her cell phone and calls someone that apparently is sitting some place in aisle 211 to tell her that she heard a “Yankees suck” chant and was surprised it didn’t happen before the second inning. Her friend hadn’t heard a “Yankees suck” chant yet. Oh, and by the way, Cubs fans agree that the “Yankees suck.” Hey… I don’t make up the news… I just bring it to you with as much accuracy and unbiased talent as I have.

See? The view was pretty good overall.

A few thoughts about the game, taken directly from my notes…

  • How is Neifi Perez hitting .300? How? Doesn’t seem possible.
  • Why is Jeromy Burnitz hitting clean-up? His average is so-so at best this season, and all he ever does is strikeout or… crap… hit a home run. 1-0 Cubs.
  • If you’re looking to start a really big fire some place that you don’t actually want a fire, Alan Embree is the man to call. Heck, if Corey Patterson hadn’t hit teammate Neifi Perez with a wicked shot, the seventh inning might still be going on right now.
  • Hey! No gimmicks. No sponsors. Just advertisements on the scoreboard occasionally with a contest or two along the way. But no major-company prize patrol with air cannons firing shirts into the crowd. It’s refreshing actually.
  • Saw David Ortiz hit two home runs, and saw Greg Maddux pitch... and... umm... saw Maddux hit a home run. 
  • 20 runs… 7 homers… Cubs – 14 runs and 20 hits… Game time? 2 hours and 52 minutes. Try getting those stats in an American League park.
  • Dad’s observation – Having a great time with the Cubs fans. Very pleasant to talk to and fun to be around. Seems like there’s a relaxed atmosphere with everyone getting along and laughing as opposed to the tension that seems to run between Yankees fans and Red Sox fans when those two teams face each other. (There was a huge “Welcome Red Sox Nation” sign that we used as a marker for the street we turned on to get to our parking lot.)

We leave the game and are heading home when I ask Dad what he wants for dinner. We decide to stop at Outback Steakhouse. The meal was good but we weren’t thrilled about the parking. They set it up with a very confusing valet station. The lot was narrow and not that big, and we easily could have parked our own car and been eating an appetizer by the time they had taken our key and given us a receipt. Coming out I would had been five miles down the highway before our car pulled up. So why didn’t we park it ourselves? Because the flow of traffic just about forced you to stop at the valet stand. Cones and all sorts of things moved you to it and made navigating the lot incredibly confusing.

A funny thing happens getting on the highway. I get to watch Dad try to jump out of the car, dive into his seat and crawl under the dashboard all in one motion. As we approach the top of the on ramp, I spot a stop light. Having seen them in California and recognizing the device used to help merging traffic, I stop. Dad on the other hand hasn’t seen one before and seems to think the only possible reason for me to use the brake is a horrendous crash that he can’t decide how to prepare for. When I point to the light that has just gone green, he’s surprised but relieved.

Another visit to Cold Stone is in order to wrap up the night. Tomorrow we head to our second game, and then the race is on to get to the airport.

The loss that afternoon isn’t quite as stinging as we watch the early results between New York and St. Louis. The Yankees are down 7-1 and Jason Giambi looks so horrible at first base that words haven’t been created yet to describe this level of bad play. They eventually lose 8-1. Go Cardinals!

Day three, Saturday, June 11, 2005

The fixin’s at the grand hotel breakfast buffet are a bit scarce today. Dad and I decide to head down the road to Krispy Kreme. They charge us for our coffee, but the doughnuts are free. Pretty sweet deal.

We drive over to the same lot on North Halsted, and Clay points us to a spot. We talk with him for a few minutes… nice guy, and so far we have found nothing but great people in the city to talk to… and then head on our way. We have a flight leaving at 8:40pm to head home, and we figure that we can leave as late as 6pm and still make it… but that will be cutting it very close. Later start today though, with a 2:15pm first pitch scheduled.

Not too much different today for us. Dad has a shirt he wants to get and he has been scoping out a few places that are displaying it. (He eventually gets it at a stand along our walk, and has proudly worn it several times this summer.) But we’ve already done the majority of our shopping, so we take our time and decide to stop in the McDonald’s across the street, buy two sodas and sit down to wait for the gates to open.  It’s actually surprisingly refreshing. It has been incredibly hot, so the air conditioned restaurant works perfectly for a few minutes of relaxation.

We head inside and again catch batting practice. We wander around a bit, stopping to talk to some of the ushers. Our seats are better today, in the outer segment of our section, but between home and first. Today we are sitting in aisle 226 and I don’t have a view of first base. Different pole, same basic story. And again… having too much fun to notice.

Today we buy the smaller souvenir cups with our hot dogs. This time we get the sturdy, last forever but the wives don’t seem to love them as much as we do cups we thought we were getting yesterday when buying the larger drinks.

Today’s game is much closer, but ultimately heads to the same result… a Boston loss. Started out exciting enough, with the Red Sox jumping to a 4-0 lead. In the end, the Cubs take this one 7-6. But something funny happens in the ninth inning. It had happened before while we were there, but this time it is amazingly loud and strong and I’ve never really felt many moments like this at a sporting event.

As the Red Sox bat, a “let’s go Red Sox” chant begins.

And that’s met by an equally enthusiastic “let’s go Cubbies” chant.

Both sides go back and forth, with each group filling in the natural pause that comes in the other groups efforts. The ballpark is shaking.

“Let’s go Red Sox… Let’s go Cubbies… Let’s go Red Sox… Let’s go Cubbies…”


This game goes 3 hours and 2 minutes. We get in the car at 5:32pm and start heading out toward the highway. Naturally, all of the roads we were able to use Thursday, yesterday and even earlier today are being redirected into different routes tonight. At 6:58pm we make it to drop off the car, get on the shuttle, and arrive at O’Hare by 7:20pm.

Now I was pretty much ready to end the story here. Nothing happened at the airport that was any different than what you would expect…

  • Automated check-in windows we couldn’t use because we have the same name. We stand in line.
  • A line at the security check point.
  • Getting done with everything, grabbing a sandwich (me) and smoothie (Dad) and sprinting to the gate. Because after both of the lines and a quick trip to the restroom, we had to grab dinner on the run in order to get to the gate for boarding.
  • And arriving at the gate just in time to see no plane outside and find out the flight has been delayed.

All of that is pretty standard stuff, and pretty predictable. In fact, evidently Dad has some sort of smoothie membership card. I don’t quite understand it, and Mom was trying to explain it earlier to me. The whole thing is based on all of this traveling to Australia and such that they have been doing. But silly me… I didn’t listen. And since delayed flights are now the normal result of things at the airport instead of those days when I was younger where airlines refused to have late departure times, I’m stuck with no great stories.

Except one.

And the one I have sums up traveling today for me, so I want to share it.

We get on the plane and I happen to have some headsets in my backpack. During the announcements as we are heading out to the runway, it is mentioned that we can listen to the flight transmissions from the cockpit. My Dad and I exchange an interested look at this information. Something different. Could be fun. We plug in, set the station, and wait. A few seconds of garbled talk and static, but nothing for our flight. And then… silence. It didn’t work.

And that my friends is usually the way with flying today. A whole lot of promise… saving money or some method of increased convenience… with nothing announced ever delivered.

When I get home at around 1am I’m greeted by a wife that’s asleep, a teenager on the computer that doesn’t realize I’m there and two dogs that are jumping all over me. Life is good.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com