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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Road Trip: Illinois Railway Museum, Indiana, & Wisconsin

Our next day on the road we had a real "railroad day"- beginning and ending the day with trains! We found- by simply following road signs heading north out of Chicago- THE BEST RAILROAD MUEUM EVER: the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL  As “railfans” with the Elkhorn Inn, an historic inn catering to railfans, we are always either chasing trains or on the lookout for things having to do with trains, so we were stunned to realize that we didn’t even know this great museum existed! The Illinois Railroad Museum is not only an educational and historic preservation organization, it has what is probably the largest operating demonstration railroad showcase on the North American continent! This museum is truly a Museum in Motion: little streetcars clang across Depot Street on the car line, a thundering steam train whistles past on the mainline, and gleaming streamliners whisper by! The main passenger boarding and alighting area is built around an 1851 depot (from Marengo, Illinois), the oldest continuously operating passenger station west of Pittsburgh. Another visitor boarding point is the 50th Avenue rapid transit station built in 1910 and removed from Cicero, Illinois. This is truly an “interactive” museum- their artifacts don't just sit there gathering dust, they move! We had a lot of fun walking though many of the barns to see their amazing collection of railroads and engines, and talking with the volunteers who restore the engines and keep them running, and getting to tour and sit in the driver’s seat of a snow plow train. We even took a ride on one of the main-line trains!

                                                    Chef Dan, back in the galley!
                                                    Getting a tour of the snowplow train
                                           Elisse in the driver's seat of the snowplow train!

We stopped at the Warm Glow Candle Company, basically so I could be photographed with The Biggest Candle In the World: 
But wound up not only having a really great lunch there, but buying some incredibly cool hand-made Halloween light bulbs, made locally in Indiana!
It's a huge, fun store with a gazillion things to look at, touch, and smell, and we loved that everything was made right there in Indiana by real people!

On our drive north through Illinois and Indiana to Wisconsin, where we spent the night, we drove through some very, very beautiful countryside: fields of corn and farms and cows, the light changing and lighting up the fields in different ways as the day lengthened... 
See? We really Did make it to Wisconsin! LOL  
We had dinner in the Wisconsin Dells after Eagle-Eye Dan spotted a sign for Buffalo Phil’s, a restaurant offering “your dinner delivered by train”! We thus got to end our day of trains bringing back my happy 1960s childhood memories of The Hamburger Train diner on Queens Blvd. in NY! J Our super-nice waiter took pix of me with the train delivering our beers and food, too- after our phone, Nexus, AND camera batteries all died simultaneously! So much for the wonders of modern technology!                             
                                         Buffalo Phil's train, delivering beer and burgers!

Thank you to our wonderful waiter for this photo of me with the Buffalo Phil Burger Train!
Next: heading north again!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Road Trip Days 2 & 3: Chicago!

Dan is a Chicago boy. He hadn't been "home", however, in about 30 years, so I deliberately routed our trip to Canada through Chicago, so he could see family and show me the Chicago of his youth- and we could eat a little Italian Beef, too!

We had a voucher from Hilton for our two-night stay at the Chicago Waldorf-Astoria , and upon checking in they upgraded us to a high-floor suite for being “Diamond” Hilton Honors members- so now you understand why we’re loyal- and that made it a truly great stay! The view from our balcony was spectacular, both at night and during the day when we could see the “fields” on the roof garden opposite our room! With both a fab shower and Jacuzzi for two, a fireplace, the full-size-bottle bar with ice, REALLY nice service, and (best of all) that delightful balcony offering a totally splendid view of The Windy City, we have to say that Hilton really made our limited time in Chicago the best it could be…

The first thing we did when we hit Chicago was eat Italian Beef at world-famous Al’s Italian Beef because I had to experience “the real McCoy” Dan had tantalized me with for over 10 years! Then Dan drove me around Chicago and showed me his Garfield Park childhood…

Dan's Chicago childhood...
Dan's Chicago childhood...

                                         Stuffing our faces with Real Chicago Italian Beef...

                                                          Livin' Large at the Waldorf...

              What ARE they growing over there!?

Recipe from the Waldorf Mixologist!

                              Chicago at night- the "Gold Coast" area near the Waldorf...

We had dinner around the corner from the Waldorf at  Hugo’s Frog Bar and Fish House ...

and wandered around the “Gold Coast” area, which felt fun and safe. That evening at the Waldorf's Bernard's Bar, I got to try the Yamazaki (Japanese whisky), and the Waldorf Mixologist, Tom Hogan, invented a delicious drink for me using Illinois liqueurs, crushed pink peppercorns and herbs, and wrote me the recipe!

The next day morning we wandered around the Gold Coast neighborhood and had a leisurely, lovely brunch of croissants and house-made bacon at Little Market American Brasserie:

Dan’s family had the “Dan-apalooza” at his niece’s beautiful house that afternoon: we were late, thanks to that AbFab Chicago Suburbs Rush Hour Traffic From Hell! They had delish Italian Beef from Portillo’s for dinner, so we got to try two of the best versions of Italian beef in the city!

The Waldorf doormen, who told us that they have seen basically Everything, also said that a couple driving a truck with a freezer on the back, who were on their way to go moose-hunting in Canada was a new one... LOL 

Our last morning in Chicago we treated ourselves to an elegant gourmet breakfast in the Waldorf's restaurant, Balsan, which I jokingly refer to as probably the most expensive breakfast in the known universe! But the truth is that it was delicious, the service was charming and gracious, and it was worth every dime!

Before leaving town spent a delightful hour at the glorious Garfield Park Conservatory, where Dan has happy childhood memories of warming up on frosty, Chicago school days. We bought some of the conservatory’s coffee and honey, too! And then we were Back On The Road Again!

Road Trip! Flying the Wright B Flyer in Ohio! A travel MUST-DO!

Road Trip Day 1: Flying the Wright B Flyer, Miamisburg, OH

I finally managed to surprise Dan- with a flight on the Wright B Flyer! :-)

I have been trying to surprise Dan since we met in 2001. No chance. It's totally impossible to surprise someone when you live AND work together 24/7! But when I planned out our road trip across the USA to BC, Canada online I Finally found something I thought I could surprise my US Army Retired Aviation hubs with- a flight on the Wright B Flyer, the ONLY flying copy of the Wright Brother's production plane used by the US Army in WWI!
I routed our trip through Dayton, OH, which I knew was "the" aviation capitol of America, and in researching cool aviation things to see and do in the area I found the Wright B! I learned that if you join the museum for $100 you can have a "fam flight",
and I called the museum and booked one for each of us, and kept my mouth shut,
(which was REALLY hard to do...),  tantalizing Dan only with the promise of a "surprise" somewhere on the road...
We left Landgraff, WV later than I had hoped, and got to Dayton, OH too late to visit any of the many aviation museums I'd hoped to get Dan to... And when we woke up in Ohio the next morning to rain, I was almost in tears. I had to finally tell Dan what the surprise was Supposed To Have Been, as I was positive there was No Way they would fly us in the rain… We went to the hangar anyway, to at least see the plane, joined the museum for $100 each, and hung around yakking with the pilot and volunteers, hoping for a 5 minute break in the weather... and when it finally happened, the wonderful Wright B Flyer pilot flew us! It started raining while Dan was taxiing, and my flight was totally in the rain, but it was magic! And Dan LOVED it! :-) And I LOVED it! Flying in that plane, even for a few, brief minutes, gives you a TOTALLY NEW appreciation for the true miracle of aviation and the utterly fearless people who made it happen- with cloth and string and sticky tape!! Don't forget- this was a US ARMY MILITARY plane- two seats, foot pedals, and open to the wind and the weather! And not so long ago- my dad was born in 1918, and this was what the US Army was flying!

Dan in the Wright B Flyer- ready for take-off!

                                Dan, taxiing...
                                                          Dan- airborne in the Wright B!

                                                              Elisse, getting ready to fly!
                                        Elisse, landing in the Wright B- in the rain!

Each flight was only 5 minutes, as the plane is not allowed to leave the airport, with less than a minute in the air and only about 80 feet off the ground (and I SO wanted it to go on and go higher- even in the rain!), but it was amazing- a truly unique experience- headphones, goggles, rain, and all- that is only available there: the Wright B is the only flying copy of the Wright Brother’s plane in existence, and it no longer travels anywhere. If you are "into" aviation on any level this is total MUST-DO!

The night we arrived we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Franklin, Ohio (close to Miamisburg and the Wright B), and had a fun dinner at Chappy's Tap Room in Moraine, OH, where we enjoyed some good ribs and a beer sampler:
Elisse w/her ribs and beer-sampler, and Dan with our Captain Morgan's Private Stock!