Rollin’ Out: The Midwest –> Rochester, MN –> Chicago, IL –> Michigan

Well, I already wrote this section but for some reason all of it disappeared, so I’ll consider this a take two. Blogs suck.

Anyway, this section of the trip is a little different just because we aren’t hitting up National Parks left and right and are doing more chilling and hanging out with friends, so instead of writing a summary for each day, I’m gonna write some highlights of these sections of the trip.

Days 21 – 24: Rochester, Minnesota.

Last time, we’d just gotten to Luke and Cheryl’s house after a day of driving from Badlands. We were so happy to get there because it meant catching up with Luke and Cheryl and generally relaxing for a few days. We were certainly in need of that given our busy schedule the last few weeks!

I mentioned already that Wilder was immediately happy because the first thing he saw when walking in the door was CATS! Not the kind of cats at our house – the ones that ignore him and run from him – but the kind that actually stand there and interact with him! He was smiling from ear to ear. Buster and Tobias are generally human-friendly animals and work well with kids, so he got a lot of quality cat time in. Of course, the great thing about cats is that they can retreat to a closet or somewhere when they’ve had enough. Buster did that a few times, but then he started missing his bestie (Wilder, obviously) so then he’d follow Wilder around too. It was pretty funny. Wilder also had some new toys to play with – even though they were officially cat toys, it didn’t matter to him. He’d play with them and then take them to the cats to share his new toys ;).

While we hadn’t really planned it this way we were happy that our stop at Luke and Cheryl’s coincided with July 4th holiday. This was pretty awesome because we usually spend a few days in July with them anyway (+Jennifer and Jon). This year we were supposed to be in Seattle but our little move/road trip sort of interfered with that plan. Luke grilled some tasty ribs and I baked an apple pie, and we had lots more food and booze throughout the day. Cassie, Nate, & Heath as well as Amber came over for the day too, which was super fun! Heath is 5 and made fast friends with Wilder AND shared his toys too!

The other special part of our visit was that Cheryl’s parents were there from NY! We haven’t seen Jill and Paul since Cheryl and I were in grad school in Chicago, so this was a special treat. They had a fun time hanging out with Wilder, too, and they even volunteered to babysit one night so we could get out for an adult-only night out. This made us all very happy. Not that we were tired of our child, but still… we’ve all been constantly around each other for the past month practically. It felt good to go out to dinner without worrying about someone standing up in their high chair, and the bonus was that we didn’t have to clean the floor! This was extra special. We had dinner and then spent some time consuming wine at the rooftop bar before having a nice walk back to their house. Good way to end the stop!

All in all, we had a lovely “layover” at Luke and Cheryl’s house. Lots of relaxing, as planned, some cleaning/reorganizing of our car and camping supplies, outdoor baths in the “tubbermaid”, and a park right across the street. We were sad to have to leave but someone has to work (that would be Luke and Cheryl) and we had the other half of our road trip to get to!

Day 25: Driving day + Rendalls’ house!

Our next big stop was Chicago, but before we drove into the city, we had a night in Vernon Hills where we stayed with the Rendalls (Chris and Chris go waaaaay back and grew up together in Greensboro). The drive itself was completely unexciting aside from a lunch stop at Culver’s, our second fast food spot of the trip. I almost don’t even count this as fast food because it’s so tasty, but I guess that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a fast food chain. We found a KOA across the street and borrowed their outdoor picnic area and playground for an hour, and then finished our trip.

We got to Chris and Erica’s around 4 and took it easy for a little bit before heading out to an early dinner. When we got back, Will and Kate entertained Wilder by blowing up a room of balloons and of course, they also had plenty of fun new toys for him to play with. Oh, and a dog! It was great to catch up with Chris and Erica and fun for Wilder to have some more big kids to play with!

Days 26 – 28: Chicago.

The next day (Sunday), we left around 10:30 or so and drove to Chicago to dump our stuff off at our AirBnB before heading to the Cubs game. We had tried to attend a Cubs game during our visit to Chicago last year, but Wilder was only 11 weeks old and it was SO. HOT. and he didn’t like the baby carrier yet anyway so we just gave up on that idea and took a picture outside of Wrigley and found a bar to sit at while he slept. This time, it all worked out pretty well. We found a parking spot not too far from the stadium (for free! there were spots being sold for $40 that we thought was ridiculous) and we were able to stay through 7 full innings before calling it quits. I was pretty impressed with us. We both figured 3 innings tops before Wilder became a shit show and starting throwing his food and water bottle on people but it truthfully was pretty fun! We traded turns holding him and each other’s beer and Wilder switched from watching the game to flirting with the people beside us enough to make it through most of the game. We left early to go buy some swag and miss the traffic but as it turned out the game went into extra innings anyway (and Cubs got the W!) so it didn’t matter.

The rest of our time in Chicago was pretty laid back. We stayed in our old ‘hood, Wicker Park / Bucktown and ate at some old favorites (Big Star! Handlebar! Hot Chocolate!) and also found some new spots too.

I also got to spend some time with my friend Rachel and her two kiddos, Noah and Samuel, and we got to hang out with Sara the day before we left. We were supposed to go hang out with Britt and the kids too but Clint had a stomach bug that we did not want to get before starting more camping! Huge bummer because I was looking forward to seeing Wilder hang out with Lachlan now that they are both older (last year they were both babies so there wasn’t much hanging out!). Instead of driving out to their place, Sara met up with us in Chicago and we had some beer and dinner, and Wilder made fast friends with our waitress (see picture). Every time she walked by, he flashed his most giant grin and giggled like crazy. He even ran up to her once when he was wandering around the outdoor area. He was in love.

Chris was also able to catch up with his buddies from his job at BofA, too. We pretty much had something planned most of the days/nights we were in Chicago aside from a few hours during the day which we used to do laundry and catch up on life in our laptops.

All in all, we had a great time hanging out in our old city. It’s always easy to go back to Chicago because it just feels like home. Despite it being so big and so busy, we easily find our way around without too much trouble.

Days 29 – 30: SW Michigan.

Our final morning in Chicago started off with having to sign a bunch of papers because we are in the process of selling our flat in San Francisco. That was pretty straightforward and after it was finished, we were able to head out of Chicago without too much trouble or traffic.

We had originally planned to be in Ann Arbor after Chicago, but found a tipi in SW Michigan that sounded super cool, and we liked the idea of hanging out in that area a little since we’d taken a few trips there when we lived in Chicago. Plus, if we put off our trip a couple of days that meant we could spend the weekend with Brook and Katherine instead of the middle of the week. So we got approval from the Critchfields earlier in the week and booked this spot.

The drive over was only a couple of hours and we checked in to the tipi, dumped off our stuff, and drove around some. We had lunch prior to checking in at Greenbush in Sawyer, which is an awesome brewery that a ton of people recommended. Then we found another awesome brewery for dinner in St Joseph, Silver Harbor.

We got back to the tipi and immediately got trampled by mosquitoes. I can’t quit those fuckers. UGH. I am already dreading the mosquito population in NC but feeling pretty confident that I can find something to detract them once I’m there. In the past, the hardcore DEET stuff was about all I could get to work for me, but maybe I just need to put citronella candles all over the house. Or buy that Avon stuff that my mom used to have. I dunno. I’ll figure it out. For this trip I’m just dealing with them because I didn’t want to worry about bug spray with Wilder. And who said it was weird to just constantly scratch yourself anyway?!

Other than the bugs, our tipi was super cool! We had a giant tipi AND a camper that had air conditioning if we turned on the gas generator. There was also solar power (I know! living in the future!) and propane tanks everywhere for the shower, the cooktop, and the grill and fire pit. I’m sure none of it was up to code with all the wires running everywhere, but the host seemed relatively OCD so I wasn’t too worried about it. Wilder enjoyed himself and ran around the tipi, crawling in and out of it, as well as walking all around the paths to and from the car. He also got a kick out of bathing in a kiddie pool outside while I took a shower outside and Chris hosed us both off. Family fun, that’s for sure. And the tipi itself was a short walk from the car, so we had wheelbarrows to cart all of our stuff in – this made for cheap fun for Wilder since he loved riding in the cart every time we used it.

We had a second day to explore the area some and went to the Warren Dunes State Park for a while and then drove up to Holland for the afternoon. Warren Dunes was just ok but I could see why people like to vacation there – it’s a beach that you have to pay to get in to so it’s pretty low key. We found yet another brewery (New Holland) where we had lunch and beer, and then found a park where Wilder got to run around a giant soccer field for a while. We stopped off at the beach on the way back and thought we’d let Wilder run around in the sand, however that was the last thing he wanted to do. He put his toes in the sand once and shrieked as if something bit him. When we put him back down he pulled his legs up under him and refused to get in the sand. It was pretty funny, and I can’t blame him because I hate sand too. I know people just LOVE going to the beach, but it’s not my thing. Give me mountains and lakes and anything else but sand! He must have gotten it from me ;).

The rest of the night we just hung out at the tipi. The night before sleep-wise was sort of a mess because once again Wilder was in the same room as us, so he ended up sleeping in the bed instead of the pack n play since he could see us and wouldn’t go back to sleep. The second night Chris moved some of the furniture (yes, furniture – there was a futon in there too!) and put the pack n play behind it so he couldn’t see us. Not sure if it made the difference or not but in any case this kid slept all night with barely a peep out of him, so we were happy either way!

Days 31 – 33: Ann Arbor, MI.

We left our tipi at our regular time with plans to get to Ann Arbor MI by mid afternoon. Our only requirement was a stop at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo (yes, we basically stopped hiking and starting going to breweries once we hit the Midwest!). We left early enough so that Wilder could get a nap in and we made such good time that he was still asleep when we got there, so as per usual we just sat in the parking lot a little longer so that he at least got a decent nap. We grabbed a few beer samples and some lunch and then headed back to the car to make our way to Ann Arbor. For what was probably the 103rd time, one of us swore we misplaced Wilder’s shoes, only this time we really did and we left them in the restaurant. It was something that plagued us daily since they were his only pair of “walking shoes”. All of the other shoes he had were what I kept calling “San Francisco shoes” which meant they were warm, fleece booties and were still worn in the summer. Right before we left SF, I had to go out to Carter’s to find these sandals that were slightly too big for him, but were at least breathable and had grippy things on them. They turned out to be lifesavers on this trip because he wore them any time we were out of the car. You can imagine how neurotic we became about losing them, so when I actually did leave them somewhere I was quick to get my ass back in that place to find them and luckily I did.

Ok so with that monumental detail out of the way, we made our way to Ann Arbor and got to Brook and Katherine’s around 2. It was hot as usual so we spent some much needed time outdoors in the sprinklers. Wilder had fun playing with Holly (2) and Graham (5) outside and he just giggled constantly. He also loved being indoors where there was both a cat AND a dog. Chris and I were also happy to see Gordie and Hobie – it had been many years since we’d hung out with them and we always loved those two! Gordie greeted us at our bed every morning by putting his giant Gordie head on my side of the bed and then lying down beside the bed waiting for someone to move. Wilder LOVED every second of it and constantly followed whichever one of them was around.

For the most part, we took it easy over our Ann Arbor weekend. We went to a park nearby, had some chill time at the house catching up, checked out the downtown area and tried some local beer, and I even went with Katherine to yoga on Saturday morning (which was awesome, but damn, it was hot). On Sunday we all went kayaking which was really fun. Wilder was quiet at first but pretty soon after getting in the water he was squealing and pointing at all the things he could find, from ducks to dogs walking on the trails. He was happy until the last 10 minutes at which point he decided he was tired of sitting in one spot so he started squirming and whining. It was a great way to end the adventure. But once we docked and got out, he was totally chill.

We also had an awesome date night with Brook and Katherine! They have a regular babysitter that they use so we took advantage and spent Sunday night checking out one of their favorite places and then topping it off with ice cream and a walk around a nearby neighborhood. It was a great way to spend our last night with them, and we were so happy to get to hang out in their new/old city. Hopefully we’ll see them again soon once we are settled in our new/old city, too! ;).

 

So with that, we are 4.5 weeks into this trip, and only about 1.5 left before we get to our final stop in Greensboro! It’s hard to believe we only have one major “leg” left, but so far it’s been so much fun. As we close in on NC we are both realizing just how lucky we are to have the opportunity to spend this much time on the road (yay for being jobless!), and there’s a part of us that doesn’t want it to end! But we know we have so much to do on the other side of this, and we want to get ourselves and Wilder settled in soon.

The rest of the trip will wind through the south, starting in Kentucky. Stay tuned!

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