July 26, 2015
In what I’ve described as my third most spontaneous trip ever – behind No. 1 24 hours to Alaska, and No. 2 being a European cruise three weeks from sailing – I booked a three-night long weekend into Chicago one week after a planned birthday weekend to NOLA.
Frequent readers know I love to travel and take photographs of my adventures. A series of random opportunities arose that warranted a last minute trip to the windy city.
First, there was low airfare. I was able to book a round-trip out of Orlando into O’Hare for less than $170. Second, the Orlando City SC had advanced to the next round of the US Cup and would play Chicago Fire FC on a Wednesday night. Third, a band that I’d recently found and thoroughly enjoyed, was playing a concert that Friday night. What put it over the edge was when I found out I could also see the Cubs play at Wrigley Field, which was a bucket list item for me. DONE!
Two days before my NOLA trip, I asked my manager if I could take one day off the next week to travel, and to work remotely from Chicago for the next two days, having fun in the evenings. I made sure to book a hotel with free Wi-Fi. While the rate wasn’t terrific, it was located right off the El which allowed me to travel everywhere I wanted. I did take a conference call while on the Subway, which was quite amusing to me and the others on the call.
I got to the soccer game after I arrived Wednesday and had tickets thanks to the father of one of the local players, for whom I used to work. The game was great, even though City lost. I got to be part of the Ruckus on the road, and while there weren’t a lot of Chicago Fire fans in attendance, the City fans that went made their presence known. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I did get some Chicago Fire FC swag while there, only because I’d picked up the ordinary Chicago souvenirs on previous trips.
Thursday was an all-day virtual session with an agency, which proved no issue from my small hotel room, but with amazing views of Lake Michigan and Soldier Field. I didn’t have any major plans that night, so I went walking on the town and made my way to a family-favorite restaurant, Hackneys. Sitting at the bar, I ordered a local beer, and connected with a few “locals” who couldn’t believe I’d been to the same restaurant several times over the past 18 years, as it’s now a gentrified, almost hipster area of Chicago. After dinner, I made my way back to the hotel for a quick nightcap, and crawled into bed.
Friday was another day of meetings and tackling some process and communication documentation. I’d purchased my tickets to the concert, specifically Milky Chance, and grabbed a Cubs ticket off of StubHub, the week prior. The concert would be sold out, and the game was almost at capacity, as Friday afternoon games are VERY popular in the city.
Taking the train directly to the field was a fun experience. As I walked to the main entrance of the stadium, I passed a musician playing Old Crow Medicine Show’s, “Wagon Wheel.” I smiled as my heart rejoiced in knowing I was EXACTLY where I needed to be, when I needed to be there.
I picked up a shot glass and Cubs ball cap for both the game and my collection. I was in my seat for the entire game, and had several fly balls come very close, which was surprising being so high in the upper deck along the first baseline. I of course enjoyed a local 312 beer, and a bag of peanuts. The Cubs lost to the Philly’s in extra innings coincidentally with the last out on David Ross. I laughed cause that’s exactly how I ended the last season of softball I played.
After the game, I had a bit of time to waste, and needed to make my way North. Because the game was tied going all the way into the 11th, getting back onto the train station was a no-go, but I made my way down the streets of Chicago on foot, walking all the way to the Aregon theater, where Milky Chance was performing. I did take a minor excursion into Little Vietnam for some vegetable pho for dinner.
The concert was great, and in another turn of events, the opening act was X Ambassadors, who have recently become notable for their song, “Renegades.” I had no idea, but thoroughly enjoyed both the bands and the venue. The crowd in attendance was dynamic, with parents chaperoning their children, college kids gets getting beer snuck to them, and older couples grinding.
Heading back to the hotel on the train, I took stock in another amazing trip. My flight back to Orlando the next day went smoothly, with the exception of a delay out of O’Hare which is never a surprise.
Looking back on the 10 days from debating the trip, to making the decision, to booking all the tickets, and finally experiencing every moment, it was an amazing and quick journey. I’m very blessed to have been able to make such a trek and hope I can tackle a few more cities in the same way.
Chicago, Chicago Cubs, Chicago Fire, Cubs, Hackney's, Orlando City,