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July 2010, Chicago © R. Craig Collins, 2010

(To Chicago, 2002)

The annual Fusion conference, for our school's eLearning environment Desire2Learn, was going to be in Chicago, but I did manage to bring Susann and Diane with me... they figured they might have enough to do while I was in workshops.

July 10, Saturday
The girls had Starbucks for breakfast on the way to the Austin Airport FastPark, and we missed most of the traffic and got over to the terminal and through Security about 11:00. The plane was scheduled for 12:05, so we had time to grab some Schlotsky’s for lunch. The American flight was 20 minutes late, but we managed to board quickly (seats on row 24 and 25 in the Super 80) and take off about 12:20; they hustled and we arrived on time at Chicago O'Hare's Terminal 3 at about 2:45. We traded our voucher for tickets with Go Airport Express, boarded the shared ride van right about 3:00, and we pulled into the Marriott door about 3:45. After checking into 2628, with the tiniest sliver of a view of the lake, I checked out facilities.

Chicago Marriott Room 2628

Diane had heard of a place that she though was close by, so we walked to Wabash and Delaware, and realized we were at the wrong end of Wabash... (On our small site seeing map, below, we were at the top of the pink line, near the top. The hotel is near the middle of the map, at the red bed symbol... it looks close on this small map, but it was just under a mile each way.)
So we headed back and found a great little place for Gyros. We wanted to walk about a bit more, but it was threatening rain, so we headed back to the hotel and sat it out.

Small map of sites in Chicago

When it cleared, we grabbed umbrellas and walked about a half a mile to the John Hancock Tower, up Michigan Avenue... AKA the Magnificent Mile. We rode one of the fastest elevators in the country to the Hancock Observatory, arriving about 8:00pm. The building itself is 100 floors and 1127 feet high. 4th tallest in Chicago, it is the 6th tallest in the US.

From the Hancock Observation Deck, in Chicago From the Hancock Observation Deck, in Chicago From the Hancock Observation Deck, in Chicago
Approaching the John Hancock Building

View towards Navy Pier

Close up of Navy Pier

From the Hancock Observation Deck, in Chicago
From the Hancock Observation Deck, in Chicago
From the Hancock Observation Deck, in Chicago
Looking Southwest, toward the Willis Tower

Lots of green space, even in skyscrapers

The girls taking in the view

From the Hancock Observation Deck, in Chicago
From the Hancock Observation Deck, in Chicago
From the Hancock Observation Deck, in Chicago
Diane had to 'wash' Windows to pay her share Toward the Gold Coast, north

Susann and Craig as the sun sets

Hancock Observatory
A better shot of the John Hancock building

From the tower we walked back to the park at Wabash and Chestnut where Diane had spotted a gelato stand.
Chicago Gelato stand

After returning to the hotel, we watched car auctions on TV until we crashed.

Sunday began with a walk up State street to join our Tastebud tour. A walking tour with architecture, history, and stops at uniquely Chicago eateries, we started at Pizano’s. Founded by the son of the gent who invented deep dish pizza, our group of 13 sampled thin and deep dish versions.

Follow the blue line on our big walking trips map from fork and knife to our next stop, Sarah's where the celebrate the invention of the Brownie at the Columbian Worlds fair, at Navy Pier.

Chicago map
A Chicago cow, art project
We strolled past the Talbot hotel, which had one of the Chicago art project Cows... in ladybug colors, on the wall. I just loved all the great buildings, new and old.
Chicago architecture

We then walked through the Drake Hotel, near Lakeshore Drive, and then past the Hancock, historic Water tower (one of the few structures to survive the Chicago fire)...
Chicago Water Tower Chicago Pump House

... and then back across to Downtown Dogs, for Chicago style... Vienna beef dogs, neon relish, peppers, pickles spears, onions, and mustard... never Catsup. We walked down Rush street, a restaurant row that used to be wooden mansions before the fire... we saw St. James Episcopal church... another survivor of the fire, and could see the burned limestone left un-cleaned at the top.

St. James Chicago Fire scars
We went back later, a beautiful church, near the Catholic seminary and Cathedral.

Back near the hotel, we had some cajun food by a now famous Chicago chef, Heaven on Seven.

Heaven on Seven, Chicago

Then it was off to the historic, yet hole in the wall and under a road, the Billy Goat Tavern for cheeseburgers. This place is famous for the Cubs billy goat curse, and the now infamous John Belushi routine that he copied for Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger... no coke... Pepsi... routine.
Yes, it is a dive, yes they are 'rude', but it was fun.

Billy Goat Tavern, Chicago

Then it was over by the Wrigley building, the river walk, and views of the Tribune building, and the Hotel Intercontinental, with its dirigible mooring dome at the top.

Chicago Tribune Bldg Chicago skyline Chicago Riverwalk
Near the river walk

River Walk

Chicago building details Chicago Intercontinental
Tribune building Details of Intercontinental/Tribune buildings Intercontinental

We finished with ice cream at the Purple Pig about 3:00, and then walk south of the river to get free slurpee's to celebrate 7-11 day. Then we wandered the River walk.

Chicago Riverwalk Chicago Riverwalk

After cooling off and registering for the conference, the events started that afternoon with an Architectural cruise down the Chicago river. We walked from the hotel down near Navy Pier and boarded the Chicago Line boat. We sat near the back where they had an awing, because we saw the rain coming in. Below are just a few of the shots I took... Great guide, lots of history and details...

Architectural Cruise Architectural Cruise Architectural Cruise
Trump Tower

Approaching Navy Pier

The Aon and Aqua buildings

Architectural Cruise Architectural Cruise Architectural Cruise
Trump Tower, Sheraton, Wrigley Building

Marina City

Jeweler's Building

Architectural Cruise Architectural Cruise Architectural Cruise
Reid, Murdoch & Co Building

Wrigley Building

Civic Opera

Architectural Cruise Architectural Cruise Architectural Cruise
Civic Opera, close up

Willis (Sears) Tower

Carbon and Carbide Building

Architectural Cruise Architectural Cruise Park tower
River City Fountains Park Tower

 Scroll below to see more                        

As we walked back, exploring for places to eat dinner, the rain hit again... no way to travel far, so we dashed across the street from the hotel and had pasta at Buca de Beppo.


Craig         Girls
After the morning keynote, I was interviewed by Desire2Learn for some TV/YouTube spots   Starbucks
After lunch, I had my presentation on supporting Desire2Learn   Shopping
About 5:00 was the Desire2Learn product release event    

Desire2Learn had some computers set up, so the girls were checking what we could do that evening, as the Marriott was upgrading their wireless and we could not surf in our hotel room. They joined me to set up for my Tuesday poster session, and then we headed out.                        

We took the Red line to Roosevelt, this time going to the correct end of Wabash and at breakfast deli food at Eleven City Café. Then we took advantage our of metro passes and just jumped on the Orange Line and went around the Elevated loop in Downtown, before getting back on the underground Red line to Chicago and State... near the Hancock. We toured the Hershey and Ghiradelli facilities before the ladies decided on treats at Hershey, and we made a quick stop in Border’s to see if we could find any travel material for our Zürich trip. Back down Michigan to the hotel, and crash time.


Craig         Girls
Attended presentations   Starbucks
Had a great time at my Poster session   Lincoln Park Zoo
Attended presentations   Lunch at Golden Cup

Desire2Learn has a big bash, Fusion Pier2Peer, and it was Tuesday evening in the Grand Ballroom, at the end of Navy pier. They provided a Shuttle that gave us a quick little run around town, and then it was the 1/2 mile walk to the end of the pier for the festivities.

Pier Map

Inside the Navy Pier Grand Ballroom

Big James Band
Big James and his band

After more pizza and desserts, we walked around the Grand ballroom, and up and down the pier (to get a non-Pepsi drink for Diane... hard to find in Chicago...)

From the Navy Pier From the Navy Pier From the Navy Pier
From the Navy Pier From the Navy Pier From the Navy Pier
From the Navy Pier From the Navy Pier From the Navy Pier
From the Navy Pier From the Navy Pier From the Navy Pier

Navy Pier Ferris Wheel
The Ferris Wheel closed at 10:00pm, so we left the party and got one of the last rides of the night. From there it was a short walk to Gateway Park where we caught a Trolley back to hotel.

Craig                                      Girls
Presentations                    Shopping (Water Tower Place, where they got trapped near the American Girl doll crush
Closing Session                Lunch at Pompeii bakery, near hotel.

After my last session, we met by the computers and planned our last evening. We first headed out to the bus stop on Michigan and rode up to Oak Street beach.

Oak Street Beach in Chicago Oak Street Beach in Chicago Oak Street Beach in Chicago

From Oak Street, we walked to over to the Red Line, and rode up to Wrigleyville, and Wrigley Field.
Wrigley Field Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field Wrigley Field

We stopped into a Starbucks to cool off, and check the area out on the free wifi on our iPod Touchs, and got back on the Red Line down to the loop, where we expertly rode the 'L' to within two blocks of the Cultural Center, near the Chicago Theatre.
Wrigley Field

Next, we walked past the correct turn three times (my fault, the icon on the map was misleading...), but we finally found the Cultural Center, and the Tiffany Dome.
Tiffany Dome at the Chicago Cultural Center Tiffany Dome at the Chicago Cultural Center

We had great views of Millennium and Grant Parks from here, as we cooled off. We saw the famous Cloud Gate (silver bean), and Amphitheater.
View from the Chicago Cultural Center View from the Chicago Cultural Center View from the Chicago Cultural Center

We headed over to the parks for an up close look at the art and amphitheater, and got some great views of the Cultural Center, and the city.
Too hot to stay for the symphony, but we got up close to the Cloud Gate before heading to the Willis (Sears) Tower.

Chicago Cultural Center Chicago Skyscrapers Ampitheatre, Chicago

Cloud Gate, Chicago Cloud Gate, Chicago Cloud Gate, Chicago

The Willis Tower is now the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and we rode up to the 103 floor where they have the SkyDeck and its views...
View from Willis Tower

... but since we last visited, they have added a clear box OUTSIDE, where you can stand outside the building, and look down.
at the Willis Towerat the Willis Tower

at the Willis Tower at the Willis Tower

Views from the Willis Tower
at the Willis Tower at the Willis Tower at the Willis Tower

View of the Museum campus from the Willis Tower at the Willis Tower at the Willis Tower
The Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum

Willis Tower
The Willis Tower from ground level

From the Tower, we walked by to the Old Quincy 'L' station, with its wood and wrought iron.
Quincy 'L' Station Quincy 'L' Station Quincy 'L' Station

We were getting hungry, and we decided to head back to the hotel, and look for something close... even though the girls had already been, they said we could go to the Pompeii bakery for what was like sandwiches made with pizza... not quit a calzone... very unique, and very good.

We finished about 8:30pm, and decided to grab a bus back to Navy pier, to watch the fireworks. We stopped at Bubba Gump's so Diane could by a shirt, and the found a nice spot near the ferris wheel for the show at 9:30.

Fireworks at Navy Pier Fireworks at Navy Pier Fireworks at Navy Pier

We got back to the hotel, and started packing up, and as usual, crashed shortly there after.

Our shuttle wasn't due until 10:45, so we went across the street to Cosi for breakfast... they have square bagel sandwiches, and the girls got coffee drinks, plus a few cookies for the trip.

We circled a bit of the city on the Go Shuttle to O’Hare, but got in about 11:45, and got through security. We settled for McDonald’s for lunch, and caught the flight to Austin just after two... same seats as before, but more empty seats this trip. We arrive on time, and only had a short wait for the shuttle to the parking lot... where we discovered the driver of the car had left the dome light on, and drained the car battery. But, a quick jump, and we were on the road to Lakeway, to visit Susann's niece, Merri.

We had pub food (and great fried jalapenos) at a nearby Sports bar, and headed back home, with 4 year old AJ.

Even though it was late, it was still in the 90's outside, and the we found a VERY HOT house, and a frozen over AC. So we used fans to survive the night until the AC thawed out, and slowly returned the house to normal. After his game in Round Rock, I drove up and got 11 year old Kyle, and brought him back home to join his brother AJ, while the parents were on business trips.

During the weekend that followed, we visited the Mayborn Museum where they had a Lego Castle exhibit, and the Dr. Pepper Museum.

Monday, Diane had her Baylor College visit, and Gracie took the kids to the Waco /Zoo. Things finally returned to normal about 4:00 Monday evening, when Scott picked up the boys.

What a great trip
Chicago stuff