I went to Chicago last week for a conference, and stayed an extra day to spend time with my family in the area. I may have overdone things, but I’m happy with all the things that I got to do. 

The flight out of Boise left at 5:30 in the morning, so with my two hour drive time, I woke up at 2 am and hopped in the car. My husband drove, and I managed to nap, which is super unusual for me in a car. But I figured if I were going to go to a concert that evening with my family, then I needed to get some rest while traveling. 

To that end, I went into sensory deprivation on the plane. Once I was securely in my window seat, I pulled a scarf over my eyes, stuck ear plugs in my ears and used my newly acquired travel pillow to get comfortable. I don’t know how much I actually slept on that leg or the next one, but I know I at least dozed on both the flight to Denver and the connection to Chicago. In Denver, we had a relatively long layover, so we hunted up some breakfast. I enjoyed a nice plate of shrimp and grits with spicy sausage and an over easy egg that was actually cooked over easy.

Arriving around 3:30 pm at O’Hare meant that we had a long drive to our hotel near Navy Pier, but at least I got to show my coworkers both the El and Metra trains so they could see the difference. We all agree that Boise needs light rail. 

At the hotel, there was just time to check in and get settled before my dad and bonus mom picked me up. My dad drove us over to the Vic, and we miraculously found street parking less than two blocks away. Inside, we realized that we had standing tickets and not all of us were up to standing the whole show, so my brother asked for and received dispensation to take some seats upstairs. They were not good seats, but we could hear just fine and see most of the stage. 

They Might Be Giants put on an awesome show, with the first half being songs from the album John Henry, which put it right in the sweet spot for my brother and I. There were a few songs I wasn’t familiar with in the second set, but They know their audience, and finished up with encores of Birdhouse in Your Soul and Istanbul, Not Constantinople.

After the show, we stopped by the bar where my sister-in-law was working and had a bit of a chat. I didn’t end up getting to bed until about midnight, but it was totally worth it for the lovely show and the time spent with family.

Sure, I was dragging a bit for the conference, but it was nothing a good cup of coffee couldn’t fix. I should have bought one, because the conference coffee was just bad. 

And I did manage to get some good information from the sessions I attended, including one on a boat. Of course the boat ride would have been nicer if the sun had been out. Instead I felt like I’d been transported to Seattle, it was so foggy. On the other hand, the clouds did provide a nice break from the heat wave of the day before. 

That evening, I tried to enjoy the conference festivities, but I found the dinner food to be disappointing. And I’d pinned high hopes on the cannoli they had for dessert, but the humidity left the crust soft and I didn’t finish eating it. 

I only stayed through the performance of the special musical guest (Mark McGrath, who put in a very nice short show) before I was ready to turn into a pumpkin. My decision to leave brought three of my coworkers along with me, and we all walked back to the hotel together.

Back at my hotel, it took 30 minutes for them to replace the empty body wash in my shower, which left my tired self in tears before it arrived. All I wanted was a shower, so I could go to sleep. It was quite stressful for the hotel to prevent me from that shower by what felt like pure incompetence (not checking the body wash either when the room was cleared or when they made the bed earlier in the day).

After my wonderful shower, I got right to bed, because I’d agree to meet a coworker for a run in the morning. I wasn’t sure about running in Chicago, because in the past I’ve been sensitive to exhaust and gotten asthma attacks. 

Not this time! I ran close to 12 minutes miles, pulled along by my coworker’s long legs. We ran by a large group of people doing yoga on the beach, and swimmers in wet suits with buoys trailing. We got nearly 3 miles in on a loop, having run north along the lake and then back.

Then it was time for another cup of bad coffee to get me through the rest of the conference. I tried not to drink too much water, because the bathroom situation was terrible. Always a line at the women’s, and very few stalls ensured the line moved slowly. A lot of it didn’t seem very accessible, with the bathroom spaces being quite tight.

After the final session, I walked about 30 minutes to a restaurant to meet my family. At Tanta, I started with a non alcoholic drink named after a volcano – and it lived up to its name, deliciously sweet with a sharp bite of ginger and habanero.

The food was amazing, served family style so I got a chance to taste just about everything ordered in addition to my lomo saltado. 

Afterwards, I bid farewell to my parents and accompanied my brother and his family for the rest of the trip. 

I was glad to have a relaxing night at his home, watching movies and eating the dinner my brother made (much better than the conference food).  

The next day, I spent some more time hanging out with my brother, including watching him do his workout. I mean, I did mine too, but mine is simpler and didn’t take as long, so I also spent time judging his form. 

And, on the way to the airport, we stopped at a comics shop a friend from high school had opened up last October, Goblin Market. I have been wanting to go there since it opened, and I did a happy dance upon entry. My friend was not there, but I let her know that I was. It was beautiful! So nerdy! So many books! 

I promised myself I would get a stuffed animal, but I didn’t have a lot of room in my carryon, so I needed to choose carefully. I ended up with a shish kabob of comfort foods from Squishable. It feels wrong somehow that the toy is not called a squish kabob, but that’s what I’m calling mine. 

After dropping off my nieces, my brother drove me to the airport.  We took turns picking songs to share with each other, and I muppet-danced in my seat while trying not to freak out at all the Chicago driving. 

Once I got past security, I got myself a jelly donut from Dunkin. I love those donuts, but rarely get to have them since there’s no Dunkin in Idaho. And the last time I got one in Chicago, there was hardly any jelly in it, which was quite sad. This one was good and helped to sustain me to Denver. That flight went off without a hitch, but by the time we landed I was exhausted and hungry.

The first sit down eatery I came across was Vino Volo. I looked at the menu without much hope, but then the server pointed out the non alcoholic drinks section and I saw Limonata. That was it, I’d find something to eat here as long as I could have a Limonata to drink. 

I ended up getting bruschetta and a pizzeta, of which I ate all but one piece. The server was actually confused by my use of the word ‘Limonata,’ because no one had ever ordered it by name before to her. They would just point to the San Pellegrino section and ask to try the lemon one. I’d first had Limonata in Italy when I was 16, so it carries good memories along with its delightfully sour flavor.

Full and sleepy, I headed to my gate to find a place to sit and wait for my flight. I was about to select one when I realized I could go outside and sit. The corner of the Denver Airport in which I find myself had a kind of patio (nonsmoking) with some funky chairs and foot rests. I settled down with only a little trepidation because I couldn’t see my flight on the digital board. The board out there appeared to only show flights once the departure time was close. 

And it did eventually appear… with a delay. The delay grew, a few minutes here, then a few more. 9:45 departure became 10:02, but we weren’t even finished boarding by 10:02. And then we had to wait for another flight to send over luggage. I didn’t get back to Boise until nearly 1 in the morning, and didn’t get home until nearly 3. 

Sunday was spent recovering – I drank plenty of fluids and a good number of snacks. It was a good trip, overall, but something in glad that I don’t do very frequently. I’m hoping my parents come out to Idaho soon to visit me so I can see them without dealing with the city.

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