(So obviously I’m a little belated on these final Touristy Tuesday blogs from the road, especially given that the job has been done for a month! Oh well. Better late then never!)
This half of the job Chicago has been an interesting destination to be in with the Wienermobile. The first time was tourist trap overload. I went on my own make-shift Ferris Bueller adventure and our off days were jam-packed with the quintessential Chicago experience. When Eliot and I came back to Chicago in March it was the total opposite. I don’t think I even did a Touristy Tuesday post that week because there wasn’t too much to write.
Well, I guess we didn’t do nothing. We did take the Wienermobile through a Wendy’s drive-thru. Check that off the bucketlist!
And we did decorate the Wienermobile for St. Patty’s day, which was kind of awesome.
Although, it took a ton of work.
Our last stop in Chicago fell somewhere in the middle. This week we did less items that might be featured on a “Top 5 Things to do in Chicago” list, and did Chicago more like a local – mostly from the help of some locals!
On our first off day I headed to the City Winery in the west loop with my friend David. When I found out I would be coming back to Chicago and let David know he suggested we check out this urban winery he had heard about.
He had me at winery, but the urban part made it sound even cooler. For spending the first seven months on the road in the Southwest – wine country – it is probably surprising that I haven’t been to a single winery.
The City Winery ended up being more than just a cool venue. While looking into it David found out about an event series called The Dinner Party, described as a dinner conversation with three national or Chicago celebrities and a well known local chef. “It’s an evening filled with food, wine, chocolate, and various performances.” This probably doesn’t paint the picture I’m going for, so I’ll just put it bluntly – three really cool people plus a portly chef essentially sit up on stage and chat while sharing a meal and just talk about cool stories and the neat things they do. There is an element of engagement as well. It is broadcasted on the local public access TV station and then people watching or members of the audience can tweet in questions for the guests or comments using the hashtag #thedinnerparty.
I was really looking forward to it because it sounded like an event right up my alley. Interesting people and wine! It got even better when David and I walked in the door and I didn’t have time to even take in the extravagant lobby because I spotted a familiar face instantly. Adam Hickey – an old Hotdogger! Adam is a Mizzou grad and Hotdogger, one who I just keep running into. I first ran into him in Chicago the day I found I got the Wienermobile job, then again at a bar in Columbia, and now again in Chicago. We’ve also hung out at the Hotdogger Reunion and in Chicago our first time in town.
Adam was at The Dinner Party with his friend Stephanie, who moonlights as a Chicago food blogger. Since I’m an amateur blogger, talking to her was just as much fun as the Chicago celebrities. You can read her post about the evening, which does far better justice to the event than I could, here.
The night was absolutely incredible. I felt like I was watching an NPR broadcast, but it was even better since the food was so good and the company was great! At times it even felt like a graduation commencement speech, about seizing opportunities and making the most of your life. Perhaps being almost one year out of college exactly, but I found it motivating and invigorating, perhaps a little determined to one day end up on that stage telling interesting stories myself!
After the cultural experience the night before, the next day at work was a 180 and entirely all-things silly at a Bologna Birthday Party. Birthdays are typically something we don’t do, unless it is on our own time. This was a special exception and once we arrived Eliot and I understood why. HOLY BOLOGNA! As we turned the Wienermobile down this family’s block it was like stepping into a magazine, the decorations were Pinterest-perfect! Oscar Mayer themed everything – from their outfits, to the Bologna sandwich bags they created.
We brought some birthday gifts ourselves – more than 50 packages of the lunch meat, which were stacked high, overshadowing the cake.
Talk about a great day at work. I got a hot dog balloon hat and hung out high fiving little kids all day! The couple is from Iowa, and they had speciality Sterzings potato chips brought in, so Eliot and I snacked our way through those, bologna sandwiches, and of course we had some hot dogs too.
Even though I would barely call that a work day, since we really just hung out and ate a bunch of homemade snacks, the next day Eliot and I had an off day. One thing I had not done on any of our trips into Chicago was go to the beach. Hello Lake Michigan!
Eliot passed on the invitation, so David and I headed out for some sun followed by frozen yogurt. Talk about the perfect off day!
That night Eliot and I drove up to spend the night in Madison. We had an early video shoot the next morning and figured it would be easier just to come the night before. On the trip up we stopped for dinner in Rockford, IL – where I went to high school. We had dinner with Maggie, my oldest friend who has known me since middle school. Since she has known me since the awkward teenage years I was hesitant to introduce her to Eliot. Luckily, she kept most of my embarrassing moments to herself and we had a good time at dinner.
Maggie’s sister, Mari, just had a son and he came along as well. Baby Emmett was adorable. Believe it or not, I had never held an infant until that week. I think it went pretty well, and by that my standards are pretty low and I just mean that I didn’t drop him. He was pretty darn cute though!
The video shoot in Madison was a blast. It was for a meat convention coming to town, so Oscar Mayer partnered with University of Wisconsin and basically we spent the entire day hanging out with Bucky the Badger.
Eliot, his friend Michael, Sean, and I all went out for drinks Friday night at a place called Revolution Bar. It was cool to see more of the Chicago nightlife side, which Eliot and I haven’t gotten too much of this half. The next morning Sean did what we always do when we get together, go for a run!
Saturday night Eliot, Sean and I all headed to Tinley Park, which is a music venue on the South side of Chicago for a Brad Paisley concert. Eliot and I were pretty excited about this, both being big fans. Sean, on the other hand, was not but tagged along anyway. The concert actually featured Lee Brice (who Eliot and I saw in Kansas City) along with a few others. We felt like we got our bang for our buck there. Brad’s actual performance was a little disappointing however. Don’t get me wrong – I loved it and had a blast – but he didn’t play some of our favorites!
It was fun watching these girls run around in short shorts when it was 50 degrees outside! I love growing up and not feeling the need to be super cute all the time, forsaking being adorable for being practical. Remember the days when it was uncool to wear a coat? That just seems so silly looking back!
Saturday was a late night and Sunday was an early morning. With about five hours of sleep, Eliot and I headed downtown for the Race for the Cure in Grant Park.
This was easily the coolest event I’ve been to on the road. We were parked right next to the stage and I can honestly say all I did for four hours was dance. I just spent the day having fun, being silly, and getting absolutely anyone I could to join in. I was glad I had so much fun because otherwise I might have spent time being jealous that I wasn’t out there running with everyone else!
Since it was a race, the work day was done by 11:00. We were already in downtown Chicago, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do a little exploring. When I was in Chicago in January I went to the Art Institute, but a week after my visit they opened an enormous Picasso exhibit.
It just so happened that Sunday was the last day of the exhibit – perfect timing! Eliot drove the Wienermobile back, but I stayed in the city to check out the show. The line was tremendous, everyone trying to get in before it closed, but it was worth it. I am by no means an art connoisseur, but Picasso is so easily enjoyable to me that I had a blast!
After I left the Picasso exhibit I headed back out to Rockford to see someone near and dear to my heart – my middle school and high school yearbook teacher, Mrs. Campbell. She has known me going all the way back to the black hair days, and was a second mom all throughout my tumultuous teenage years. As an amazing role model, Mrs. Campbell has always been someone I have looked up to and I try to see her and her family whenever I can. It came down to the wire, but with only a few weeks left on the Wienermobile I was able to drive it out to her house.
The Campbell’s may claim they got the better end of that bargain, rides in the big dog and having it parked outside their house, but I think I easily won out. I spent the afternoon catching up with the Campbells and eating delicious homemade food! Plus, Mrs. Campbell sent me with a box full of candy which kept me awake on my drive back into Chicago that weekend.
Overall, the week in Chicago was easily one of the highlights of the second half, jam-packed both with seeing friends and doing really cool, interesting and unique things – everything a Touristy Tuesday post deserves!