Last time we were here, it was almost winter time and not very warm. With the wind chill added in, cold enough to make me head straight for the nearest North Face emporium to buy some breeze-proofing. Fortunately, this time we’re better prepared, but the Windy City is just that and this time, quite temperate.
Our Emirates 777—300ER touched down at O’Hare a few minutes early on Wednesday afternoon, after its 15 hour marathon from Dubai. On top of a nine hour flight from Cape Town and a two hour change of planes, it was predictable that our physical and mental reserves would be close to exhausted. A hang up with the usually achingly slow immigration and security process saw Mrs P hauled into a separate screening area to sit and wait (me with her) while someone delved into her personal information. After about half an hour, her passport was returned and we were told we could go – seems the fingerprint scanner hadn’t captured her prints properly – I wonder why they think it’s OK to be so faceless, officious and couldn’t just tell us what the problem was at the time.
But things were about to get worse for these weary travellers.
The Thrifty car rental documentation told me that I had to phone them to get a shuttle bus to collect us from terminal 5. That didn’t work – all I got was the “Press 1 for a headache, press 2 for irritation… and press nine for …rip someone’s head off.” Useless idiots.
A nearby airport guide eventually told us that the shuttle bus would arrive anyway, so we waited. And waited and eventually, for our sanity and to prevent us both from falling asleep at the bus stop, hailed a cab.
I suspect that the the cab driver couldn’t have found his arse without a mirror on a stick and definitely couldn’t find the Thrifty lot even with his satnav. Without increasingly frustrated yelling from me, he would probably still be myopically driving around the airport, meter running, trying to work out where the hell he was.
And yes, he still shouted at me when I didn’t give him a tip on top of the $15 the three minute taxi ride cost. Twat.
Thrifty didn’t seem to give a flying toss about the disappearance of their shuttle bus when I told them, but nonetheless did quite a swift job of the paperwork and with Mrs Garmin in full dominatrix mode, we set off for I90 and the South Loop.
I think some aeons ago when Ms. Garmin was new, I set a default a million menu layers deep and now un-findable, to avoid toll roads. So we drove the entire length of Milwaukee Avenue (12 miles, almost 20 kilometres) parallel to the I90, instead of said tolled Interstate. On the one hand, it was a blessing because at 2 m.p.h. and a zillion sets of traffic lights, I managed to avoid mowing anyone down, or swerving violently from lane to lane as my attention lapsed due to what was fast becoming life threatening exhaustion.
Of course, the downside was yet another hour of travelling.
Our hotel was where Ms. Garmin assured us it would be. A miracle as things often aren’t when she is in charge. Bags in our room, we fled for the bar, several shockingly expensive (e.g. Heineken@ $5 – R75) nerve-relaxing drinks and a tumble into bed not long after 20:00.
Awake at 02:00, I got up and read the South African and UK newspapers on line and then thought I might just manage an extra couple of hours back in bed. I did, but it was still just after 5 when the jet lag woke me up to tell me how tired I was.
Bah. Travel with the Pertons has always been spelled a d v e n t u r e.
At 07:00 I wandered across the now raining State Street (yes, that great street) to seemingly the only breakfast provider in the area. Coffee and BLTs in our room – nothing wrong with that. And there we sat, still half asleep staring at the rain, wondering whether we could be bothered to stir ourselves to get a bus into the city and do some of what we came here for.
Some time later, the über convenient 29 bus delivered us into the city, which was shrouded in low cloud and mist. Fortunately, the rain held off and we were able to wander the streets, stopping to buy a few essentials; a SIM card (for a phone-based satnav backup – essential if you think a Garmin is going to get you where you plan to go without freaking out at least once in every city), some toiletries, a couple of craft beers and a more than acceptable local diner-style lunch.
In the mist, the city looms and its skyscrapers photograph well in the Fuji’s Acros black and white, delivering OOC JPGs of exceptional quality, requiring little additional editing. Tomorrow, we must prepare for our departure and find the Route 66 sign on East Adams Street – that’s where it all begins.
Our couple of days R&R passed easily enough, allowing the jet lag to subside. Now it’s time to hit the road. We are planning to motor west, after all.
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Progress !!! Vélib bicycles in the Windy City !!! Al Capone, eat your heart out !!!
Paul, I’ve never had one of those novelty talking book guide machines. Having done the army ordnance map reading course, I’m at home with maps – it’s great fun with my wife as navigator, she revolves the map round and round so that the direction in which we are travelling is “due north” (up the page – towards the roof the car), all the time, and then gets hopelessly confused. It’s OK, because being a doggie person (they call me “the dog man”, around here), I have a built-in GPS . . . like all my dogs do. Besides, the chatter from the voice on those machines drives me nuts, when I’m trying to read the road (& traffic) ahead.
Some people swear by them – I’m more likely to swear at them.
If you peer through that mist, across the lake, to Hamilton, you might catch sight of my cousin Tim – he’s lived & worked there since the 1960s, and is married to a Canadian – we don’t believe in racial purity, he’s half danish and half spanish/moroccan/whatever, but missed out on the french (my father’s side of the family), so he headed to the Americas after he graduated.
Good luck tomorrow, and keep the photos/diary flowing, so we can track your progress.
PS – keep calm at those American airports – they could frisk you, and I leave it to your imagination what that might mean.
I don’t know your schedule but a couple of hours south of Chicago on US 66 is Pontiac IL, a town of unusual museums. In addition to several dedicated to Route 66, there are quite excellent ones on the Pontiac automobile and the gilding arts.
Have a safe trip.
Thanks. We stopped briefly in Pontiac today. It looked very interesting, but we didn’t tarry too much – this is day 1 and we haven’t yet got a feel for the distances involved and what our travelling times will be. We could always come back again 😉
What is your westerly end point in the U.S., and by what route?
We’ll get to the end of Route 66, then head for our hotel in Marina del Mar.
While i can relate to troubles associated with arrival after a long flight (although it’s usually my wife who is a bit more disheveled than I), I just wanted to correct one point: I90 from O’Hare to the city of Chicago has ZERO tolls, so I’m not sure why our dominatrix had you take Milwaukee Ave (which btw, depending on time of day may have been quicker anyhow).
I have to admit, I’ve been looking fwd to your travelog but it’s starting off sounding quite a bit like what Americans are frequently accused of when they travel abroad. Hopefully, it’s just the initial frustrations taking their toll. For example, $5 for a beer is actually quite reasonable, not “shockingly expensive”.
btw – great shot of Marina City – i bought my first condo in that building there shortly after college.
If you live in a country with a currency that has plummeted by 60% against the US$ in recent months, believe me $5 is shockingly expensive. In any bar in South Africa, that $5 would by at least two equivalent Heinekens, in some, a third.
Hopefully once you’re out of the city and adjusted to the timezone, your mood will improve. But if the FX is going to be an issue, then perhaps you should have delayed/cancelled the trip, because there’s no getting around that (nor is it worth griping over). When the USD was weak, we missed out on visiting Europe, but I knew I’d be bitter the whole time. And for the past 5yrs or so, we haven’t spent more than a few days each summer in Switzerland b/c the Franc is off the charts (literally), even though we used to spend a month on Lago di Lugano.
Yeah, a week since we arrived and we’re getting into it now.
Go West, young man! Enjoy yourself, and repport accordingly, so that we may sharein your adventures and delights! Oh, and beware. Your stated destination (Marina del Mar) seems to be in Florida. Do you mean Corona del Mar, or Marina del Rey?
Ah, how that brings back memories of arriving in LAX and being shaken angrily in a bus to wait for hours at the car rental service for cars that weren’t ready at promised time and never arrived, only to leave in something much smaller than paid for. Some day, very soon, some über-style company will wipe the world clean of those shitty services. But it’s only the beginning of the trip and the fun part is to come. Enjoy every second.
BTW, fab pics of the misty buildings and bluesmobile. Feeling transported already.