The last two nights were uneventful at the beginning, but after our night in Tonawanda the Budget Inn owner wanted to repeat that no dogs were allowed – that’s why they were in the car. And last night we had no problem finding a spot near the water amongst the well-lit RVs. It wasn’t until everyone else went to sleep too that the loud cackling stood out – and they were still laughing in the morning when we left before anyone or the sun was up.
We weren’t the only ones out early on the road. We were joined by horse and buggy with efficient rear lights and orange reflective triangles to help them be seen in the heavy fog coating the road for this morning journey. As soon as the fog began to rise so did Sparky and he felt it necessary to announce the passing of each horse, but we made sure he wasn’t too loud or didn’t spook them – that would be less than mannerly.
We had no problem finding the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the gas pump carved from a tree, or the Lake Michigan beach. We didn’t feel like paying entrance to the state park though because smelting is only available in April and May. We spent some time trying to find the visitor center, but when we did we were able to get a map and figure out where we were going – on the Bailly/Chellberg Trail.
It’s a mile loop that takes us by the Chellberg Farm and the Bailly Homestead and introduces us to the life of Swedish immigrants in the 1860s. There is a nice tree-covered path so we decided to bring the dogs with us. Caleb was throwing Sparky’s ball for him until he somehow managed to jump between Piggy and I and break the poop-bag container handle off her leash. After some looking we were able to find the handful of red plastic among the green and brown walkway.
The last time I was in Chicago was the winter of 2004. This would be our first time in the Windy City together and driving on the highway into Illinois and their LED sign warns us to drive safe and buckle up because there has already been 631 traffic deaths this year. I don’t know if it’s more of a warning or a chance to gamble, but when I lived here nine years ago I was taking public transportation. I’ve survived driving in many states and now many provinces – and it’s not raining or snowing. We are quick to look for a parking spot.
I thought it would be cute if we walked on the Navy Pier together. I remember happy feelings in August 2004 when I visited here with my mom, her husband, and my little brother. But I realize as we walk among people drunk at 1:00 pm that I was elated because I had just finished Navy Boot Camp and had my 18th birthday to look forward to. I was going to become an adult with a job that travels and have freedom to do dumb things. It still offers great views of the skyscrapers and the lake.
I carried Piggy in the more congested areas, but she does great for being blind. Parking close by cost us $22 and I’m almost ready to leave the city because I don’t want to go broke finding shade for the dogs, but we are on the hunt for the new craze – cronuts – a doughy concoction a baker gets when they mix a donut with a croissant. We get lucky and find free parking near Division St. where Alliance Bakery can be found. They sell three flavors and bad at making decisions we got one of each.
I couldn’t resist and as soon as we got to the car I opened the box and inside sat three croissant-layered, donut-shaped and fried, delectable treats with icing on top. We split the raspberry rose and agreed it was delicious. I love being an adult and eating dessert before dinner at Piece Brewery and Pizzeria less than a mile away. They serve a Camel Toe double IPA and pizza on industrial-sized baking sheets. Service was slow at the start, but then we got an outstanding waitress who did her part to satisfy our meal needs and her tip.
Their pizza choices are red with mozzarella, red without, and white with a list of toppings to fill the page. We get the red without and some spinach and jalapenos to fancy it up. We got lucky arriving on the weekend when Cronuts are served and on a Sunday when Piece offers a large pizza and a growler for $25 – but the deal is that the order has to be to go. No problem, but as we sit at our table with four plates and a pile of napkins we can’t help but eat a slice while we wait for our chocolate mascarpone pizza to go too.
It’s a good thing I saved room for dessert and tried it while it was still warm. The cold version is like leftover French fries – something I don’t eat. After nourishment it’s time for some shopping at REI. The more we camp the more pampering we want. We think back to the days when we used to sleep on sticks and gravel with just a tent and sleeping bag from Wal-Mart between us and dirt – and then we remember that I didn’t sleep, so we got sleeping pads and now I can get a few hours of shut-eye at night.
Our next fancy camping comforts that we are in the market for is a tent fan for the hot and humid nights – which seem to be all of them when falling asleep – except for in the Badlands of South Dakota; and a coffee maker so that we can make our own and not rely on broken-down gas stations seventy miles from the next pot of cold dark water filled with grounds, though Caleb assures me there might be some in my next cup.
The fan has a leg to stand on and a magnet to hang from the top of the tent with a nightlight. We also got a new aluminum alloy spoon because I broke our Light My Fire Spork. And since we’re here – a larger camp towel so we can dry Sparky off more efficiently instead of with one of Caleb’s dirty shirts. Then the coffee maker. When we had made the decision to buy dinnerware we went with a Jetboil Sumo Companion Cup that holds 61 ounces – great for sharing a meal, but too much to drink. So we bought a coffee press and a cup with half the capacity to accompany it.
With our REI budget spent for the year we are able to get back on the road with a little, or a lot, less money in our pockets, but this outdoor store has yet to let us down when it comes to the quality of their products – well, besides the broken spoon. And drive we must. Tonight we will cross the state of Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, and enter the fourth state for today – Iowa, which I learned is bordered by the Missouri River on the west and the Mississippi River on the east.
We will be sleeping two miles from the water at a nest of a place called Wildcat Den State Park. We set up as the sun is going down and are getting the dogs situated when a truck’s headlights are all over our scene. An old man (that makes me think of Chuck Norris and Woolworths) comes by to collect the $9 fee for the evening and continues on his rounds. The lights come back and so does the man. He wants to let us know that our dome light is on – and that our dog should be on a leash. Sparky was in a tent sleeping until he came by, but we appreciate the courtesy so that our car starts in the morning.