Last Friday I went around Downtown Chicago. It was awesome. Chicago is a great city.
Public transportation is really easy. I took a train from 91st – Beverly Hills to LaSalle Station right downtown. I got on the 12:35pm trains and came back on the 5:20pm train. For the most part the trains are clean and comfortable. The trains are actually Double-Decker so you can sit up high. It's nice, easy, and efficient. Wish Baltimore had good public transportation like Chicago.
I mainly walked around downtown with no finite plan on what to do or what to see. First I was aimlessly walking around then saw the Chicago Public Library building on State St. It's an absolutely beautiful building. I would recommended stopping in there. I did walk and see Buckingham Fountain (pictured above) and stopped in at the Chicago Architecture Foundation. I wanted to do a tour, which is a highly suggested thing to do in Chicago, but it was too late in the day. I also considered going to the Art Institute of Chicago but you know it was 3:30 and the museum closes at 5. I did walk around the to on the “Magnificent Mile” which is the shopping center of the city. It's got some great stores, most which I would not go into, but it was fun to see it anyway.
What do I not like about Chicago? Gas prices! They are ridiculous. Over $4! No thank you Illinois. I will not be moving here. If there were lower… I might consider it.
On Thursday I drove from Lincoln, NE to Chicago. This was about a 500 miles drive. I was rejuvenated in the morning with a good breakfast at a Staybridge Suites in Lincoln, NE. I had a waffle, eggs, 2 sausages, and some coffee. Usually I am not a coffee drinker but I needed a little something. I also got into the Jacuzzi for a little while before getting on the road. It felt relaxing on all my muscles. I tried to stretch the night before and in the morning. Overall Staybridge Suites are nice and I would recommend them. However, I was a little upset when I was checking out of Staybridge as they had a “Arena Tax” and “Room/Occupancy Tax!” Wtf is that? Seems like a fee not a tax to me.
I mostly drove through Iowa all day on I-80 East. Iowa is not as bad as one might assume. They have Free Wi-Fi at a majority of the rest areas. Over 30 minutes though, then you need to pay. At least the rest areas are nice compared to a lot I have seen. The nicest places it seems to stop for a bathroom break I have found is state Welcome Centers. It makes sense since they want to encourage tourism.
I listened to a few things. Pimmslers Learn & Read Russian program which I got for Free on cassette at the Bookthing. Don't ask me why I want to learn Russian… you know… if it's Free it's for me! Russians is hard but I sort of learned a few words. I did need to do the first tape twice, but a little everyday. I also listened to Guns N Roses. Any Rock music is great for a roadtrip. When I was heading into Chicago I listened to James Herriots Animals Stories from the book All Creatures Great and Small.
I almost had a bit of a heart attack at rest area. When I opened the passenger car door to get out a drink… my nice camera, a Canon Rebel, fell out of the bag onto the pavement. I thought I might have broken it! Luckily I did not. The damage was just small scuffs.
When I was coming into Chicago I got a little lost. The GPS kept throwing me in weird directions then loosing the satellite signal. It was late, dark, and I was in a bit of a bad neighborhood. I thought I had gotten a map of Chicago before I left, so I pulled over and looked in my trunk… uh… oh … shit… no Chicago map! Argh! Well I called my relative and asked to GoogleMap it. Should have had a map. You can get Free ones through AAA or at Welcome Centers. They are quite useful to still have when mapping out routes through states and figuring out faster routes when there is traffic. Especially your GPS goes on the fritz!
I stayed up late the night before writing. Until about 2am. It's hard writing on the road and finding the energy. If you are a traveling writer, you need to get used to writing when tired or find a good day to write.
Today was pretty uneventful unlike my day in the Rockies. I was mostly driving along I-80 through Nebraska. What do I know about Nebraska? Nothing except the “Oracle of Omaha” is from this state, better known as Warren Buffett one of the richest men in the world. I doubt he drives along I-80 though.
I made one long stop at a gift shop called Ford Cody in North Palatte. It was a little tacky. I did find what I thought was the only cool item in the store. Belts! They had some great handmade belts with Buffalo and Wolves on them. They did not have the Wolf design in a 32, so I got the Buffalo one. I thought I should have one cool thing to remember about Nebraska and my road trip.
I drove a little over 500 miles from Greeley, CO to Lincoln, NE. Funny thing is I could have kept driving probably without a problem. I am really not that tired from driving today. I think I am used to it now and prepared for it. I listened to “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy” while driving. It's was much better than listening to “Cover Her Face” which I still have no idea what the story is about. The Bourne series had all background music and a good narrator to make the story exciting. Tomorrow I will listen to the third installment in the series “The Bourne Ultimatum.” I picked up these cassette tapes at a great place in Baltimore called the Bookthing. They give out free books and sometimes old cassettes are there. I did consider getting a better head unit to install in the Accord, but I don't mind using cassette taps. It's nostalgic to use them.
I stopped and I am staying in Lincoln, NE at the Staybridge Suites here. When I checked in I was talking with Sarah, the girl working the front desk, about my road trip. She was said, “I am taking a trip soon from LA to Minneapolis. I am looking for any tips.” I was quite proud that someone had recognized and asked me a master road tripper for advice. (Ok… that's a bit of a stretch.) I said “I would recommend getting a cooler and putting ice and drinks in there. That way you don't have to stop when you are thirsty. You can also put food and snacks in the cooler.” We also talked a little about… Warren Buffett. I asked “I guess Warren Buffett is popular in Nebraska?” Sarah, “Yeah we don't have many people to be proud of.” He definitely is an amazing guy to have built up such an immense amount of wealth. At least Baltimore has Micheal Phelps.
The rooms at Staybridge are very nice, comfortable, and well-appointed. I like the suite concept where you have a kitchenette with a fridge, dishwaher, and microwave. It's more inviting experience when you stay in a hotel.
On Tuesday I went to the Rocky Mountain National Park. It was absolutely amazing! The mountains and scenario were stunning. I took a lot of pictures, but you had to be there to experience it. The smells, sounds, air, creatures, and winding roads made it an unforgettable experience.
My relative, Jack, made a very good suggestion. He said, “You should go up on Trail Ridge Road.” This is the road that leads way up to the top of the mountain in the Park. On the top there are deep drops and no barriers which makes the drive exhilarating. I saw many RV's and Motorcycles going up the road. I was just fine in my Honda Accord which was easily maneuverable on the winding road up the mountain. The immense power of the mountains did draw power from my engine though. I definitely felt it going up.
The best part of going to the park is just pulling over at one of the many little parking areas and exploring on foot. There are lots of amazing places you can walk around in the Rocky Mountain National Park. See the pictures below!
Coming back down was exciting as well. You need to pay attention to your driving. You can not and should not simply coast down the mountain or you could overheat your brakes. The great thing about Hondas is their automatic drive selection. Most automatic cars only have “D” or “L” for selecting your gearing. Hondas have “D4” “D3” “2” “1” which seems unnecessary. However I found going down Trail Ridge Road it was very useful to have these options. I mostly stayed in D3 but switched sometimes between D3 and 2 when I was getting to close to cars or going to fast. Having the option to keep the cars gears below 3 or 2 gears was useful. Great idea Honda!
Even the drive from Greeley to Estes Park was nice. The road leading into Estes Park was basically made right through a mountain it seems. So when you are driving up you are just getting a small taste of what is to come. The drive was only about 1 hour from Greeley where I was staying. I listened to “Cover Her Face” on the way up to the Park and somewhat back down. For some reason listening to the narrator made me very sleepy. Don't know why that well spoken British narrator was making me tired, but he did. It was probably the Shakespearean training.
My only wish is that I had more time to look around the Rocky Mountain National Park. It was $20 and the pass was good for a week. It was well worth it for the day. I would recommend planning out more time to explore if you go up there.
I think Colorado is my new favorite state. I hope to come back soon!
Yesterday I got started off better due to a proper night's sleep in a Comfort Inn in Green River, Utah. The room though was a little overpriced I thought. Usually they are better than what I experienced. A quick look on TripAdvisor confirmed my feelings even more.
I drove along I-70 East through the Rocky Mountains into Colorado. Forget Utah… this was incredible. All the mountains were really beautiful. Driving was a little nerve racking. Most people don't know how to downshift, since I saw most cars excessively using their brakes. All you need to do is put your car into a lower gear if it's manual or “L” if it's an automatic. I could feel the cars power diminishing in Utah when elevation was at 5000 feet but at 9000 feet going alone I-70 the 4-cylinder was truly being tested. I was pushing down the accelerator pedal, “What is something broken? Oh yeah my car has lost power from the elevation!” Cars will lose about 3% of power for every 1000 feet. For a little Accord, that makes a difference. I did not mind going slow since I got to see the scenery more.
For music and to keep myself alert I hooked up my iPod and listened to CarTalk, The Rolling Stones, and the comedian Dane Cook. Rolling Stones is great for a road trip and so is CarTalk. Yeah I know I said NPR was bad and will make you fall asleep, but CarTalk is great for road trips. It's so funnty and entertaining to listen to people's relationships with their cars. CarTalk is the only NPR program I listen to. What other shows are on NPR? Who knows?
Driving by yourself is nice because you stop and get on the road quickly again. I tend to stop for a few minutes giving myself and the car a break. Cars are working hard too! I seem to be able to make good time and distance on my own. Having the cooler helps with nice cold Gatorades too.
When I got into Denver I walked around the 16th Street Pavilion. It's basically an open mall with all sorts of shops. Shuttles run up and down the street so you can get to shops easily. I stopped in at Pinkberry for the first time and got a chocolate Yogurt with a waffle piece. The Yogurt was really good comparable to YogurtLand. They had some interesting things in the Pavillion like decorated upright pianos for anyone to play. You heard music all up and down the street. I thought, “If they had pianos on the streets in Baltimore they would all have graffitti on them.” To my surprise I did not see any pianos that had been vandalized in the Pavilion. Most seemed to be out-of-tune though.
After that I made my way up to Greeley to stay with a relative. Colorado is a great state.