This January's trip to Chicago started out complicated but got easier because Sharon got her car finished and drove down to meet Karen and I in Dearborn rather than needing to be picked up... Karen spent much of Friday doing laundry while I got a nail that was in my tire fixed (and I had to replace my clutch after the trip, but that's another story). We hit the road around 18:30, and after I stressed out a little bit and got us part of the way, Sharon took over driving... fortunately, because the weather turned bad and I hate driving in snow. With Sharon's good driving, we still made good time, and got settled in at the Summerfield Suites downtown before 11. On the recommendation of the desk clerk, we took a taxi to the House of Blues, and managed to avoid cover charges since we wanted to eat. We grabbed drinks, snagged a table right down front (you have to be quick!) and ordered some food... although they were off the dinner menu by the time we actually sat down, the food was still really good... I would highly recommend their shrimp po-boy, and although I thought the catfish bites were greasy and nasty, Karen and Sharon liked them (although they still went after my sandwich first, when I told them they had to try it)! I don't really like catfish, though, unless it's prepared very well, having eaten an ocean of all-you-can-eat fried catfish as a kid. We proceeded to get up and dance throughout the evening, and saw the band play two sets... the music was good, basic blues, although I can't remember any particular song... the back scratchin' blues? Sharon picked up some guy to dance with, and we all danced as couples and a troika. We eventually ordered some bread pudding for desert, which had a yummy whiskey sauce. By the time we walked out the door, the band was winding down for the night, and my question of "did anyone else lose their hearing?" was met with the obligatory stereo answer of "what?".
Saturday morning, Karen and I were awakened by a banging clanking noise as Sharon tried to get the door open. She was all dressed, and said that we looked so beautiful lying in each others' arms she was going out to give us some privacy. It was certainly fortunate that she'd awakened us, or the privacy wouldn't have done us any good! We did our best to honor her offer... ahem. I love Karen. When I got out of the shower, Karen was basking in the sunlight, in the middle of the floor. Our suite had huge windows to let the sun in, and the day looked beautiful. We went down to the breakfast buffet with Sharon (quite the nicest I've had included with a room aside from a B&B) and had a message from the front desk when we got back. As I was calling about that message, another message came in from Laura, that she was heading down to the hotel to meet us. We spent a little while being upset that we'd missed the call, but by the time we decided what to do and got downstairs... well, Laura walked up as we were leaving a message with the front desk to meet us at the jewelry counter at Neiman's or the lingere counter at Macy's. We had a lot of fun wandering around at the various stores near the hotel, fortunately their were lots of them so we weren outside very long at stretch, because it was bitterly cold. We picked up a pair of shoes for Sharon and a tux shirt I'd lusted after that was now on sale for me. We decided to walk down to the Rain Forest Cafe, and remarkably, walked right up to it (they laughed at Laura and I, but we knew we were vaguely headed in the right direction). It was really cold out! Even though it was very early for dinner, there was a wait for a table, I think in order to give everyone time to browse their kitsch shop. I really liked the big tree-hugger frog, though. We were "Lemur, party of four" and the place really was quite cute. The barstools have frog or zebra legs, and there was wide use of ultrasonics to make water that was dripping into a metal foil around the bar turn into steam, as if there were dry ice. When we were called, I walked up snapping my fingers to the music, and the maitre d'hotel, a young black lady with a com headset on, started snapping her fingers too, at which point I started dancing with her. Laura made some sort of comment about "uh-oh, Chad's made off with the maitre d" and we had a fine time. Do not sit downstairs, it is quite cold, and we asked to be moved. There are all kinds of audio animatronic animals, including a full-sized black gorilla. The food was very good, especially the bruschetta and the garlic pasta. I asked for extra garlic, and I was loving it, but Karen was right, it probably was too much... evil grin, is there such a thing as too much garlic? We caught a cab back to the hotel, and took the car up to Stars Our Destination, a great Science Fiction bookstore. They have a lot of P.C. Hodgell usually, but didn't have the one I was looking for... although Laura did get the new Terry Pratchett book about the Hogfather. Then we wandered down the street to Taboo Tabu, which was sort of like Noir Leather but about three times as big with a wider selection and much better prices! Karen picked up a miniskirt, and everyone tried something on. It was a lot of fun! We grabbed something for Karen to eat and continued to the theater, only to find that the play we were interested in was sold out. Just as well, we were all exhausted, and headed back to the hotel to fall asleep.
What to say about Sunday morning? I was awakened by a good bit of whispering and giggling from the hide-a-bed, where Sharon and Laura were obviously having a good time. An invitation to join them ended up with me whispering with them for a little while, and then crawling back in bed with Karen... I could still hear them whispering, but not quite loud enough to make out the words (although Karen said she could). Eventually, they joined us in the big bed with a lot more giggling, but considerably less whispers. Very nice lingere the girls were wearing! Nothing serious, just a lot of fun, and enough to keep me supplied with fantasies for a few years. Karen finally got up and started a shower, and then we all headed down to breakfast. Many cups of tea were consumed, and we all headed down to the Field Museum of natural history. The scenic route downstairs involves entering an egyptian tomb, climbing up to the top, and then taking a spiral staircase into the mummy chambers, where they have more mummies, and better preserved, more beautiful mummy cases than I've ever seen elsewhere. We looked at lots of butterflies, moths, and true bugs, then saw the basketweaving, and went up to the gemstone exhibit. We learned that phenakite is rarer and harder than diamond, alexandrite changes color, Karen really likes peridot, and we both think manmade ruby is way cool. The new dino exhibit was a bit underwhelming, but we had a lot of fun getting totally lost in the South Pacific, and I was especially impressed by the Maori meeting house. A real lodge, every inch covered in gorgeous carvings. As we left, Laura observed, "you know what I like about Sharon? She could be in hell and admiring the color scheme".
From there, we headed to Giordano's for 'za, my favorite Chicago style pizza. I got the car, picked up my three wonderful girls, dropped the Chicago one by the T, and headed back to Detroit. Karen said it was the best trip she'd ever taken.