May 28, 2019

Chicago (plus thoughts on PGH drivers)

Last week, I went to Chicago with Scott. He was going there for work. The Corps of Engineers has an office in Chicago and the districts in the midwest all met up there for a few days of professional development. Spouses were invited to go along and they had a separate program planned for us. There are only between three and six active duty soldiers at each district, so this wasn't a huge group to begin with. There were no other spouses there from Pittsburgh, so I met the ones from the other districts.

This was a very positive experience for me when it came to dipping back into the military world. We've been away from a base for two years now and this helped to reaffirm why we're doing what we're doing right now; the career path, the moving three times in three years, etc. All of these other spouses are also living in regular towns, with no military population, and they feel the same way I do. It's comforting to know there are others in the same boat. That's the nice thing about military life: someone has already been in your shoes. Plus, these other couples are where we hope to be in 5 or 10 years. It's reassuring and helped me focus on the big picture.

Chicago River at night. 

Northerly Island. A Corps restoration project.

Shedd Aquarium. We listened to a presentation in the boardroom about invasive species. Then they let us look around for two hours. I didn't need two hours but it's a $40 admission otherwise, so I'll take it. 

I always think piranhas are so pretty. They look to be covered in glitter.

View from our hotel in The Loop

River during the day.

Navy Pier

Real Chicago deep-dish. I was THOROUGHLY impressed. I count it as possibly the best pizza ever. Scott prefers thin crust.

I expected the bean to be bigger? And like in the middle of a big open area downtown? 
We ate at the Park Grill, underneath it. It wasn't the best food I've ever had. The pizza and salad at Gino's the night before were better. 

(Most pictures that were taken are group pictures and I don't post random pictures of random people on here...especially people I just met. So this is just the random scenery.)

One of the funniest things I noticed about Chicago was how quiet it was. One night, as we were walking back to the hotel (about a mile), we were the loudest noise around: no traffic, no honking, no screeching tires or tailpipes loudly shooting out exhaust. Which led to a discussion on how terrible Pittsburgh drivers are. (This is another moment when I thought PTL, it's not just me.) For example, if you come up to an intersection, no one takes the right away. It can be so clear who has the right away, but a Pittsburgh driver will wave you on, even if it's their turn. When you decline (because it's their turn), they'll honk, throw up their hands, flip you off, and screech away.
It's very true that highways and roads out west are designed to MOVE people from place to place. Even when the traffic in Denver instigated the worst road rage I've ever felt, the road was 4 lanes wide on each side and meant to shuffle cars quickly from one end of the city to the other. On the east coast, roads were not built that way. Everything is slow and sluggish and inconvenient. (I mean, I still disagree with just about all things Colorado. Turns out lots of states are dumb.)

Scott's coworkers and I discussed what trouble they've had with the schools around here; it's not that they're bad schools, it's that they aren't used to people moving in and out and are not military-friendly. It's so disappointing to hear, because I get it: I see that the cliques have already formed in the playgroup we go to. The system here is designed for kindergarten registration and high school graduation and nothing in between. On our end, we've never had so much trouble when it comes to licenses, permits, and registering vehicles, and doing taxes, and paperwork, and etc, etc as we have had in Pennsylvania. It's because there's no military population.

Anyway, the whole other layer of me going to Chicago was that I would be leaving Wells in Pittsburgh. Luckily, we live in a place that is less than 3 hours from our families and had options for this. Scott's mom and sister graciously stayed at our house for the week and took care of this baby-dog combo. (I probably should've brought them a souvenir now that I think of it, but I didn't get any to begin with...I'm enjoying the age Wells is because he's not expecting things like that.)

Before this trip, I'd never left Wells for more than three hours, so it was a big step. Though, the idea of leaving him was much harder than actually leaving. Getting everything ready and explaining his routine was the hard part. Plus, he was teething again so that couldn't have been easy on them.

My overall impression of Chicago was that is was so much nicer than I expected. I already said it was quieter, but it was also cleaner. Granted, we stayed in The Loop, but we walked miles and miles all over the city every day. We weren't hanging out in the crime-ridden parts of town, but even the touristy parts of NYC are gross and overcrowded and all concrete. Chicago wasn't like that. The parks department actually takes really good care of the place. I still don't know that I'd want to be stationed there (though everyone who was just loves it) because you'd have to live in the suburbs and commute in an hour+ by train (for Scott) and that just seems really inconvenient and it'd be just as cold all winter as it was in Pittsburgh. I'm not a big city person, clearly. I like drivable cities and I don't think they have a lot of those in the east.

I told him to pretend that he liked me in this picture. He was sick and I was sunburned.

All in all, a very worthwhile trip. I got over my air travel phobia, as I still haven't quite recovered from the Delta Nightmare of 2017 and I have discovered that, since having a baby, I actually get MORE motion sick than I used to. The plane, the subway, the tour bus. All a nightmare. I skipped the boat trip for this reason and just sat in the Navy Pier shopping area for an hour.

Anyway, I also jumped on this opportunity to go because all we had to pay for was my plane ticket and I didn't have to do any of the planning. I hate planning for travel. Since our anniversary was over the weekend, I figured it was a good time AND I'd never been to Chicago AND we hadn't been on a trip since July 2017. I would still 100% go back to San Diego than hang out in Chicago (I still think about the food we ate in San Diego), but I would definitely recommend a late spring/early summer trip to Chicago. It's definitely windy, though. Check the weather. I almost stopped to buy a coat but then decided to tough it out because I didn't want to tote it home.


  1. Love Chicago!! You're making me crave their pizza now.

  2. Chicago is one of the places I want to visit - apparently everyone I know has been and I've only flown in/out of O'Hare and drove through on our way to Alaska, but have never stopped to explore.

  3. I have never been to Chicago...I worked just minutes from there once and never made it to the city...

  4. Looks like we hit a lot of the same places! Chicago is really clean. I would NEVER want to live there for various reasons, but it's a fun city to visit. The driving downtown, though, was terrifying.


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