Illinois

We headed to our 20th state of the trip, Illinois, after having a great time in St. Louis, Missouri.

Our first stop in Illinois, “The Land of Lincoln,” was the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in the city of Springfield. We had recently finished the audio book called “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” about Lincoln’s unconventional run for the white house and his even more unconventional cabinet he assembled from those that ran against him or opposed his candidacy. Needless to say, we kind of have a thing for Lincoln, especially Marlaina. So, coming to his library had been something we were looking forward to and it did not disappoint!

We then went to pay our respects at his tomb. Legend, says that for good luck you should rub Lincoln’s nose on the statue outside his tomb. Marlaina wasn’t interested in luck, and decided that he would probably like a temple rub instead.

For a late lunch we stopped at Obed & Issac’s, a really cool brewery and restaurant. We shared an open-faced sandwich topped with fries called a “horseshoe” which apparently is Springfield’s signature dish. Feeling a bit adventurous, we opted for the lamb patty, which was awesome. Marlaina enjoyed her beer flight as well.

After dinner, we visited Lincoln’s home he and his family lived in right before he ran for president. It is so impressive how the home and the entire neighborhood have been preserved.

When we were finished in Springfield, we hit the road for Peoria to stay with our good friend Natalie, who we also met in band. As you follow our blog, you will find that us band geeks stick together!

We arrived at Natalie’s place and had a nice time chatting with her and her husband Justin. Their two toddler daughters were asleep and Justin volunteered to hold down the fort so us girls could catch up. We went to downtown Peoria and did a bit of late night dining at an Irish pub and jibber jabbered the night away.

Natalie and Justin set out fresh linens and blankets for us and we made ourselves comfortable in their living room.

In the middle of the night DB heard an adorable little voice, “I’m thirsty.” DB opened her eyes and saw Natalie’s younger daughter grab a water bottle off the kitchen table and she slurped up the water extraordinarily fast. DB urged her to slow down. Then the little one asked “Are you my Tía Shirley?” and DB explained that we are her mommy’s friends and told her to go back to bed and she did.

Daylight was barely peeking in through the blinds of the living room when we both heard two little adorable voices ask “Are you mommy’s friends?” We looked at each other and smiled and then the two sisters decided to take out all of their toys. LOL

We got out of sleepy mode, got dressed, and we went on a hike with Natalie and both of her daughters in the forrest park behind their apartment complex. The kids made sure that we spotted plenty of wildlife in the park – deer, squirrels, and spiders.

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Then we all had a very satisfying brunch at Childer’s Eatery, where the servers surprised the girls with their own pancake bears. So cute!

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After we ate, we headed to downtown Peoria to check out the river front area and we had some ice cream.

We temporarily parted ways with Natalie and her girls so we could go to Target and stock up on some toiletries. When we got back to Natalie’s place, she and Justin were getting a lovely homemade dinner on the table. It was a beautiful and tasty meal. It was so good that we didn’t even think of taking a picture. You will just have to trust us that it was wonderful: the lemon and herb salmon, with rice, and garden salad with fresh golden tomatoes from their community garden!

Once again, Justin (who is working on his doctorate!), volunteered to hold down the fort while us ladies went out to pound some brews. Our first stop was the Peoria Brewing Company. We sat outside and listened to a live band, enjoyed the freshly brewed beer and the free popcorn.

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Then, we drove downtown to an awesome little bar called 8Bit Beercade. They had a large selection of beers and as long as you are drinking, you can play as many arcade games as you want!

The next morning, we woke up to a box of donuts and apple fritters that Justin picked up while we were still sleeping. After we had breakfast with the family it was time for us to hit the road. We can’t thank our good friends Natalie and Justin (& their two adorable daughters) enough for their hospitality. It was so good to see you and spend some time with you!

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We hit the road for Marlaina’s old stomping grounds when she was a Navy recruit – Chicago!

On the way to Chi-town, we stopped at Starved Rock State Park. It was very crowded, and hot – we did not stay very long.

We made our way to a long-term parking lot near midway airport. We left Becky and we took the free shuttle to the airport and made our way downtown on the train. We checked into our room at Hotel Felix. When we got there they had a box of chocolates waiting for us since we booked the room with our Expedia VIP points.

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The first order of business was to get ourselves some traditional deep-dish pizza. We walked over to the legendary Lou Malnati’s. The wait was long, but not absurd. We were seated outside at a cramped table. We ordered the salad and the Malnati Chicago Classic which is described on the menu as: “Made with Lou’s lean sausage, some extra cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce on Buttercrust.™ It’s authentic Chicago!”

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DB was very impressed with the pizza, Marlaina, not so much. Marlaina had never been to Lou Malnati’s during her time in the Chicago area when she was going through her training in the Navy. She had been to Giordano’s a few times and her memories of their pizza were much better in her opinion than the offerings at Lou’s.

Next, we walked over to Intelligencia coffee to meet Marlaina’s friend Alex – her buddy from her days on the Monroe High School Speech and Debate team. We had a great time catching up and discussing important topics like Star Wars, RV rentals, and Game of Thrones.

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When we parted ways with Alex, we walked over to “The Bean,” which is actually called the Cloud Gate. It was very crowded, so we didn’t get any good pictures. We then strolled back to our room taking in the beautiful views of the riverside and enjoying the perfect wind-free evening.

 

The next morning we walked over to a marketplace called Eataly. We had a lovely Italian sandwich, a hazelnut cake, and a latte to start our day off right.

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Then we headed to the Art Institute. We scored discount tickets to the museum and for the hop-on-hop-off bus at a corner kiosk. Our recommendation is to skip ordering your tickets for those activities on the internet and do it at one of the kiosks on the street corners instead – we saved about $30!

The museum was wonderful! When we first walked in we were so grateful for the air conditioning! Most importantly, the collections are super impressive! We were so happy to be able to see “American Gothic” in person.

After our time at the museum, we hopped on the hop-on-hop-off bus and took in the sights of the city on our way to the Hancock Tower.

Our friend Alex recommended we go to the Hancock Tower since we didn’t want to pay to go to the Willis Tower. We stood in line for about 30 minutes to take the free elevator to the Signature Lounge. We were feeling fancy, so we got ourselves the seafood platter and one of their delicious fruity cocktails. Both were overpriced, but they were good enough that we didn’t feel ripped off.

The views of the city were excellent! Well worth the visit and the wait!

Then we decided to head back to the hotel to rest up a bit and figure out where we would go for some drinks later on. We got in line for the hop-on-hop-off and each bus that came around was so crowded. Finally, we were able to wiggle our way on to the 3rd bus. It was really annoying, but we made it to the North River neighborhood in one piece. We found ourselves hungry again and decided to have another traditional Chicago staple – hot dogs at Portillo’s.

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We got to our room and rested for a bit and then walked over to Second Story Bar  for some drinks. It’s a small LGBTQ bar that is cash only. They serve up stiff drinks at great prices, fabulous music videos, and free microwave popcorn. We didn’t stay out late because we had an action packed day planned the next morning.

To have a less crowded experience at the bean, we woke up really early to get some pictures.

Next, we walked over to the famous Buckingham fountain.

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Next, we took a slightly-scary Uber ride back to our car at the long-term parking. We found Becky just the way we left her and had a hearty breakfast at Three Sons.

DB did a great job of driving us back into the city. Luck would have it that we were able to find a reasonably priced meter spot for the car just two blocks from our hotel. We grabbed our stuff, checked out, and headed to Garret’s Popcorn to get some of their famous fare. When we go there, we could not find parking within a 5 block radius! DB dropped Marlaina off and the plan was to run in and run out as DB sat in the car behind a construction sign in a no parking zone. When Marlaina turned the corner, the aroma of the caramel popcorn goodness hit her nostrils, then she was hit with the vision of the outrageous line wrapped around the building! Marlaina ran back to the car and we decided to forget about the popcorn. We left good old, but crowded Chicago and head to our next destination – Michigan.

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