15 March 2013

The Great Chicago Adventure

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I mean, come on. Angel, Lizzy, Isaac, and I have all traveled both internationally and all over the US. We've traveled alone and we've traveled with family and with various and sundry friends. We've traveled by airplane, car, bus, and train. You'd think that a simple little plan to have a quick roadtrip, a  weekend getaway to Chicago, would be easy for us to pull off.

You'd think. But you'd be wrong.

Our plan was to leave in the wee hours of Sunday morning, arrive in time to go to church with my uncle and aunt and cousins, go out to dinner with them, visit some friends in Chicago, stay overnight, see some of the sights of Chicago on Monday, and head home in time to make it back before dark on Monday evening.

The day before we left for the trip, my Grandpa called Angel and ordered him to take the car that Lizzy drives, rather than my car. Grandpa owns the car and it's a Park Avenue. As such, it's as big as a boat, and it's five years younger than my car, so Angel saw no reason to disagree with Grandpa's request. Grandpa's reasoning was that if four of his grandkids were going on a road trip, he wanted us in something sturdy with lots of airbags. Makes sense, right?

Well, wrong.

Sunday was absolutely perfect. Everything went according to plan. We got out of the house on time, our GPS didn't fail us, and we accomplished all of our planned activities. Since we're not from a big city, the intensity of Chicago traffic did surprise us a little, but we really had fun, and went to bed that night, completely worn out.

The next day, we went to the Museum of Science and Industry, with plans to head straight back to Michigan after seeing everything there was to see at the museum.

 I kind of think that this photo prop was meant for smaller children....

 We lost Isaac and Lizzy for a bit, time for a self-timer photo! 

 They had an airplane that you could sit inside at the museum, so of course we had to show that we had something illegal on the airplane. Lizzy had her facial moisturizer in her backpack, so there we were! Bad girls with illegal moisturizer on an airplane. We didn't even have a quart-size clear plastic bag or anything.

 We just so happened to pass by an eyeball dissecting lab...

Do not be fooled by the glove. I had no intention of participating in dissection. I was there to take pictures. Minutes after this picture was taken, I had to leave the room. It's a good thing I never wanted to join the medical profession.

After an afternoon at the museum, we piled into the car, paid for parking, and headed out. I was still trying to get the GPS to set a route to our home address in Michigan when, at the second intersection out from the museum, we were stopped in the left turn lane. The light turned green for us to go, Angel stepped on the gas, and we didn't move.

Panic mode. Lizzy, Isaac, and I were yelling random instructions as if we knew anything about cars. "Turn on the hazard lights!" "Shift into Neutral!" "Turn off the car and turn it back on again!" "Go!" "Stop!" "Ahhhh!"

Cars were lined up behind us, honking incessantly, and when Angel finally got the car moving, he knew that if he hit the brakes, it probably wouldn't be able to start moving again, so in spite of the fact that cars were coming towards us, we stuck our hands out in the universal symbol for "Please do not run into our car!" as we turned left across the intersection and Angel pulled over to the side of the road.

Three of us had cellphones. Three of us had cellphone with 50% or less battery power left. Angel started making phone calls. First Grandpa. Then the insurance company. Then the person you call to arrange a tow truck. That person said that only two of us could ride with the tow truck, that the other two would have to get a taxi.

We waited an hour for the tow truck. When it finally came, the four of us got out, and Angel asked if we could ride in the car while it was being towed. The man said, "It doesn't really look like you have a choice!" and we all piled back in the car before anyone could say anything about policies. The car was towed to a GM dealership, and I called my aunt, who lives a hour or so outside the city, to break the news that her nephews and nieces weren't back in Michigan as expected, but needed to be picked up and given a place to stay until the car situation could be figured out.

She told us she was on her way, but there was some distance to cover, and with the big city traffic, the trip between her house and where we were wasn't a quick one. The dealership was closing, so we used our trusty GPS to locate a McDonald's within walking distance.

 And we walked. Angel didn't even have a jacket, but I don't think he minded. I happened to be wearing two jackets, which I consider excellent foresight on my part.

 Lizzy proposed a plan of staying in a 24-hour McDonald's all night long. Isaac said that as long as we all took turns ordering something new every hour, they'd probably let us stay. Angel and I did not think that that was the best plan, so we were glad our aunt was on her way.

We all made it safely out of the city, and back to our aunt's house. When we woke up the next morning, we waited anxiously till noon to find out the mechanic's verdict on the car. He said it needed a new transmission. Grandpa said that the cost of putting a new transmission in a 12 year old car wasn't worth it, so he would head out from Michigan with his brother and a flatbed truck to pick up the car and bring it back to Michigan to see what else could be done for it.

In the meantime, we had to get home! Lizzy and Angel both had to work on Thursday, and I was missing school. How can you get from the suburbs of Chicago to West Michigan? By train, of course!

Theoretically, we knew this was possible, but actually navigating this particular train system was new to us. Still, it was an adventure just waiting to be had!

Isaac and Lizzy on our first train.

After the first train, we walked to Union Station and managed to find the right place to buy Amtrak tickets.

And our Amtrack train finally pulled into our destination at 10 P.M. Tuesday night. My grandparents were there to pick us up and bring all of us home.

After this adventure was over, we amused ourselves by counting up how many people we managed to inconvenience with this little vacation debacle of ours:

1. The people in the cars behind us in the left turn lane.
2. My aunt--who had to drive hours in heavy traffic to rescue us.
3.My uncle and cousins--we ate their food and slept in their beds.
4. My grandpa and great-uncle--had to drive approximately 10 hours round-trip to pick up the broken car.
5. My grandma--drove to my house yesterday to pick Lizzy and Isaac up and bring them home.
6. My other grandparents--were out and about picking us up from the train station and driving us home late at night.

You have to admit that's impressive.

A story like this makes you really, really thankful for all the people who love you even when you cause them large quantities of trouble.

Next time, we'll just take my car.
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Anonymous said...

That's an adventure if I ever heard one! Seems like a good group to be stuck with though. Thank goodness for family to help you out.

Kristin said...

Oh no!!!! WHAT an adventure! Glad you all made it home safe and sound (with a few extra gray hairs I'd imagine!). A trip to remember for sure. :-)

Unknown said...

Seriously, what an adventure. I love that you guys got home by train. I had no idea that there was still passenger trains that went all across the US until like a month ago. No one rides trains out west. I hope youi guys had fun in Chicago while you were there!

Angi said...

What a crazy story!!! I'm glad you guys made it home!! I bet you got some great memories out of this trip at least, haha!

Lauren {at} Life.Love.Lauren said...

haha I love your stories! Come on! I want to dissect and eyeball! Yay for self timer ;-)

Susannah said...

Hey, at least you got an adventure out of the deal. ;-) Glad you are all ok. :-)

Deidre said...

What an adventure though! In those situations - ie ones where a car breaks down - I always wonder how i managed to do anything by myself...How did I travel through India? Move to another country all by myself?

Hodson said...

Now following via Bloglovin. Would LOVE to have you join our weekly Bloglovin Hop, too.

Bloglovin Blog Hop

Take care,
Happy Kids, Inc

Veronica Lee Burns said...

Looks awesome! We're going to Chicago in May!

coach-daddy said...

The best adventures don't follow a script, anyway. I would have definitely dissected the eyeball, though. And a Chicago trip, with no mention of pizza? Just an oversight, I'm sure.

Glad I found you through the Hump Day Blog Hop.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE adventures like this!!! My friend and I always get lost or it takes 8 hours when it should have only taken 4...they make great stories and even better memories! (Visiting from Hump Day Happenings)

Unknown said...

I have only been to Chicago once and would love to go again. It looks like you found a lot of fun things to do there! Thanks for sharing this with Hump Day Happenings.

Unknown said...

Lol wowza! That sounds like my debacle with getting two flat tires. We both inconvenienced a lot of people, but if the rolls were reversed, wouldn't you have done the same for them? Great memories!