We were in the third week of our retirement road trip and things were going swimmingly well. Our stay in the USCG Lighthouse at Rawley Point was an incredible experience and gave us an opportunity to relax a little while taking in the beauty of the shores of Lake Michigan. We have a link to our visit here.
The next destination on our trip through the Heartland was the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, about 150 miles to the south. We had a room in the Navy’s Gateway Inns and Suites located on the base. The training center is approximately 40 miles north of Chicago and the plan was to spend four nights here. Our visit would include some sightseeing, a visit to Chicago’s Art Institute, taking in the Chicago Jazz Festival, and last, but not least, a trip to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game against the San Francisco Giants. An ambitious schedule to be sure, but we were rested and ready for it all.
We were up and in the Breakfast Room on Friday morning with plenty of time to finish an ample breakfast before hopping on the train from Great Lakes to Chicago. It was the Friday before Labor Day and there were quite a few travelers in the Inn. I love seeing young military families enjoying themselves…family time is sometimes hard to come by for sailors and soldiers. As we left the Breakfast Room, we asked for directions to the nearby train station from the very helpful lady at the front desk and off we went.
The depot was a very short distance from the front gate of the Navy base. We were looking forward to the train ride. Helen (adorable wife) and I both enjoy trains and this would give us an opportunity to see some of Chicago’s north side. Furthermore, we are not really big city people and by taking the train we could still get into the town easily without the hassles associated with traffic and parking.
There were a number of Navy Trainees in uniform at the train station heading into Chicago for a day of fun. I grabbed a quick picture as the train moved into the depot. The ride in took almost an hour with the stops. From the train depot at Union Station in Chicago, we walked a few blocks to catch a bus to Wrigley and were greeted there by Cubs hysteria. There were fans everywhere and because the Cubs were leading the pennant race, most were at fever pitch. This was an important game.
The D & D Diamond Club near the Stadium was where we grabbed a quick lunch of sliders and fries. The restaurant was packed with Cubs fans ready for baseball, and we walked to the stadium with a group decked out in Cubs gear singing “Go Cubs Go”.
It was a beautiful day for baseball in sold-out Wrigley Field. Our seats were located in the upper deck on the third base side. We had a great view alongside some very rabid Cubs fans. I watched with amusement as the Old Style beer vendor came through. This veteran beer salesman could balance a case of beer on his knee while opening a can with one hand and grip a wad of dollar bills with the other. I gathered that this was not his first ball game. He returned several times as the wad of bills multiplied.
The game moved quickly. Cubs’ star pitcher, Jon Lester, did not give up a hit to the Giants until the seventh inning when Hunter Pence rocked him for a home run. Nevertheless, that was the only run given up by Lester and he pitched a complete game—a rarity in baseball these days. With the score Cubs 2, Giants 1 in the top of the ninth inning, 40,000 Cubs fans were going nuts, and when Lester pitched a third strike to the Giants shortstop for the final out, the crowd erupted.
We left the stadium as the fans were all arm in arm singing once again, “Go Cubs Go”. It was as much fun as any sports junkie (like me) could have. Even Helen, a casual sports fan, loved every minute. I purchased a Cubs visor and vowed allegiance to “my Cubbies” forever. We walked the entire way back to Union Station for the train ride back to Great Lakes…a great day indeed. As the great Cub, Ernie Banks always said, “They should’a played two”.
The next two days were given over to sightseeing and enjoying the awesome music of the Chicago Jazz Festival. The details of that experience and our visit to the Art Institute of Chicago will be offered up in next week’s Easin’ Along, but I did want to share a little of our trip along the Chicago River to view the incredible architecture that makes up the Chicago skyline.
It was our last day in Chicago and we had been told that this experience was a must, so we caught a ride with a young female Uber driver who dropped us off at the docks for a ride with Wendella Cruises (link). We presented our Military ID cards and were promptly given a $10 discount and thanked for our service then went to wait for the next tour. Being Labor Day weekend, there was a large crowd in line, but it moved quickly. We took seats in the front row of the upper deck and soon left on a 75-minute tour.
Our tour guide was very professional and gave a very detailed presentation of the architecture and the history of the many buildings along the river. My regret is that I can’t remember the names of them, but I was able to take pictures and have some of them here and will have much more on the Picture Gallery when they are uploaded in a Picture Gallery. Come back and see many of the buildings developed over a 130-year span of architectural innovation.
Looking forward to having you back next week. We’ll still be in the Windy City and just Easin’ Along on our wonderful retirement road trip.