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Driving across the States

A few short weeks into my stay, we drove from Minnesota to Illinois to visit Mitch’s grandma and to see the sights of Chicago.

This is no short drive, but after 13 hours in a plane non stop, it seemed very easy. We stopped in Wisconsin a few times, once for picking apples which was handy to have Mitch on side for, as he is familiar with apple variations from working in an Orchard for a time. It was my first time picking apples, I was nervous about choosing the wrong ones and thought if any had a worm in it, it would've been mine! We were also able to choose two pumpkins from their field too, which we planned to carve for Halloween however they unfortunately went bad very quickly and didn't make it for the trip home.

We also stopped along the way for another hiking trail and were blessed with perfect weather. It wasn’t getting too cold yet despite the one day to Duluth where I was lucky to catch a glimpse of snow on the ground.

We spent several hours walking up the mountains of Devil’s Lake. It was so beautiful being there at the peak of Autumn as I was able to once again see all the colours of the leaves falling off the trees right before my eyes.

As beautiful as the scenery was, this was no easy hike. We huffed and puffed our way to the summit where we were greeted with breathtaking sights high up in the trees of the lake down below. It was well worth the hike to witness such beauty. The trick now was getting down the other side, which required us to carefully pick our path through treacherous looking rocks that didn't even look like a path. Not halfway down this side, I was thankful we didn't choose this path to go up because gosh would that have been one hell of a workout. But we made it down slowly, constantly stepping aside for the more confident hikers behind us so as not to hold them up, and made it to the abandoned train tracks which were reminiscent of Stand By Me. We then followed those back to the car to be on our way to Illinois. Fun Side Note: As one does, we needed the bathroom at some stage here and it was just a hole in the ground! There was NO plumbing at all!

~ Scroll through the Wisconsin Album ~

As someone who experiences severe motion sickness, I was drugged up on Kwells for this whole trip, so I was a little drowsy, but was still able to enjoy the apple picking and hiking. Before long we made it all the way to Chicago, which is also where I discovered that Autumn allergies were a thing. My nose was itchy and runny and my eyes watered on that first night there!

Our first day was spent relaxing at Mitch's grandmas house and driving around some of the suburbs where Mitch grew up. Our adventures in the heart of Chicago began the day after with an hours drive to the city to visit the Art Institution of Chicago. We made sure to see and take photos of all the artworks featured in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, a favourite of Galactidad's that I've seen many times. It was really exciting to see all the buildings and artworks that I'd seen in movies! The Institute was HUGE!! We saw paintings from Picasso, Monet and Van Gogh, sculptures from Ancient Greece, armour from a time of knights and horses, a wall of stain glass, and a bunch of questionable contemporary art.

We finished off the day by trying out a place called 'Potbelly' which is basically Subway if they actually knew how to make a sandwich... and viewing the giant Bean. We tried to check out Buckingham Fountain however we had just missed the time of year to view it with the water and lights on, so all we could see were the green tinted copper sculptures. The drive home was long with all the after work traffic, and we found ourselves on Lower Wacker Drive, which was a fascinating road since it is all underground, going right beneath the city! I'm sure glad I wasn't driving because it's a road from hell and the traffic jams were unreal, but we made our way through, after a long wait, and headed on back to Grandma's.

~ Scroll through the Art Institute Album ~

On day two we headed to the Science and Industry Museum, although this was the day that the traffic seemed to intensify. It took two hours to reach the city that morning! It was lucky we left so early in the morning so we could still spend all day at the Museum which was filled with planes, trains, and automobiles, outlining the advancements of our human race in technology and transportation. The first section we visited here reminded me of the Questacon museum in Canberra, as it had interactive displays on tornadoes and other natural disasters. The interactive aspect didn't stop there, the Museum was filled with activities. We went through a Mirror Maze which sounds kind of uncomfortable, but with the lighting and framing of the mirrors making it into an endless forest of magical archways, it wouldn't have seemed out of place in Middle Earth.

We viewed a model train set, shrinking the entire city of Chicago including the tiniest of details into one miniature model, circled by several working miniature trains. This room was shaded by various aircraft suspended from the ceiling, complete with one of my favourite planes, the Spitfire. As you can imagine with several planes floating above your head, this room was very large, however one other room was quite small and packed just as much detail in the form of a heavily furnished 'Fairy House'. With more than 10 rooms and a front garden completely decorated with tiny books, couches, beds, trinkets, and other fun things to find, it was easy to wish to be small enough to live there, and as someone whose childhood dream it was to be a fairy, my inner child was delighted.

The WW2 Submarine housed at this museum needed a much bigger room though, which was located in a large 2 floor underground exhibit where you could walk around the entire U-Boat. We didn't have time to go on a tour inside the Submarine, but viewing it from the outside was still quite spectacular. The floor of the exhibit surrounding the Submarine held relics and information of the inner workings of the vessel, as well as it's history and how it was captured in a dangerous mission on the second floor.

Another section of the museum contained information on space, NASA, and the moon landing. A relatively small section, but exciting nonetheless as we were able to watch a short movie about space in the dome cinema, which was one of 3 activities we participated in, the first being the Mirror Maze, and the third being a tour of a mineshaft. This was the Museums first exhibit when it opened, and takes guests on an original mine elevator, down the shaft, and into a replication of a coal mine where you take a train ride to see the evolution of mining through the ages and how technology has advanced to help ensure the safety of the workers. This was our last stop before closing, but I very much enjoyed the coal mine tour.

After another somewhat eventful two hour car ride home, where we encountered a giant road blockage, for American reasons, we were able to order some classic Chicago style deep dish pizza topped with their signature topping of Giardiniera, which is a bunch of vegetables chopped up and pickled and used often in sandwiches and hot dogs, but also tastes amazing on pizza.

~ Scroll through the Science & Industry Museum Album ~

On the final day of our Chicago city adventures, we opted to take the double decker train in to avoid the two hour traffic jam we had been experiencing back and forth for the past couple of trips in. This adventure took us to the Field Museum, which is the more traditional type of museum out of the three we visited. Our first stop here was the Egyptian section, and many who know me, know that I very much enjoy Ancient Egyptian History, so we spent a good while down here. There was so much to explore, from reconstructed tombs, to numerous mummies of both humans and animals, to a fun recreation of an Ancient Egyptian Marketplace along the Nile, and a shrine to Bastet - the Egyptian Cat Goddess, and the namesake of one of my 5 planets within the universe I created in my Discord server. There was so much to see and read, but after 2 hours we had to move on.

We hardly needed the map to guide us to the next section of interest, the Dinosaurs. This exhibit wound it's way through milestones in time, walking us through the different eras of life before humans, and showing us fossils from those ages long past. Outfitted in my specifically chosen cardigan covered in Dinosaur Fossil print, we explored the exhibit from the early invertebrate in the sea, to the towering T-Rex named 'Sue', and everything in between. This museum is packed with fossils and information which would take an entire day to thoroughly read. We only had one day though, so we spent another 2 hours in this section, basking in the giant dinosaur fossils as much as we could, and taking so many photos of the wonders of these great creatures, before heading out and spending the rest of the short time we had left exploring a few other sections. We chose to see the Rocks, Minerals, and Gemstones section, the Aztec section, and the Pacific Islands section, before heading out to our gracious chauffeur, Mitch's Mum, who had come through the traffic to pick us up to avoid the frustrations of having to catch a train back.

Before heading out of the city, we were able to stop along Lake Shore Drive to snap some photos, even though it was quite cold this day, and see the Observatory which unfortunately was booked for a function at the time we would have been able to visit, but at least we have something to look forward to doing next time we find ourselves in Chicago.

~ Scroll through the Field Museum Album ~

We slept one more night at Grandma's house before embarking on the journey home the following morning. Once again we made our way through Wisconsin and had one more big stop to make along the way. Our path took us to an Aviation Museum which housed a Mustang, just like the one Mitch painted for me when he was in Australia. We of course took a photo in front of it, and spent several hours exploring the rest of the museum. We were pretty tired from our trip and all our early starts by this point, so we only spent a few hours here before heading back home to Minnesota.

We stopped at a lovely little service station on the way home where everyone seemed very fascinated that I was Australian, and got back to Minnesota after the sun had already gone down. I had such a wonderful trip to Chicago, as chaotic as it was. It was really cool to walk around the city, seeing the buildings and things towering high above me, but which were also so familiar from when I've seen them in movies and such. I look forward to being able to visit again in the future to see the things we missed out on the first time, and to see the rest of the Field Museum that we couldn't make it to.

~ Scroll through the Plane Museum Album ~