Polar Vortex fail.

I know, I know, I can’t believe another blog is up already either.

This past weekend, Ryan and I decided to treat ourselves to one last little getaway to Chicago before getting back to the grind of school and work.  I had earlier found a fabulous deal on Groupon that included a one night stay in a king suite with a $50 gift card to use at the spa. Sold.  We also decided, since my car is questionable to drive on even short commutes and also lacks an efficient heating system, while his has wheel bearings that need to be mended, to opt for a lovely ride on the Amtrak train from Grand Rapids to Chicago.  Sold.  Oh my we were ready.

The morning of Saturday, January 4 arrived and we were bundled and ready for our adventure to begin.  We snagged a couple of seats, reclined our chairs, busted out our fleece blanket and quickly fell asleep for a smooth ride South.  This is the best part about the train.  You have space to stretch and lean back and, did I mention that it reclines?  Not just a half an inch like on an airplane while your feet remain cramped, but we’re talking a good half a foot of reclining enjoyment, and then, beneath your seat, is a footrest that pops out!  Just like your favorite Lay – Z – Boy! Not joking.  We definitely woke up with an hour to go and threw some honey whiskey in our coffee.  Because we could. Because we were not driving.  We were already on the winning on this trip.

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When we arrived at Union Station, we hailed a cab that whisked us away to our hotel, The Essex Inn.  We were prepared to leave our luggage at the front desk and go on with our day until our proper check-in time of 4pm.   No waiting necessary, a room was ready and I shit you not, it was a corner suite with floor to ceiling windows.  We didn’t mind at all.

We did touristy things for the remainder of the day.  We saw the Chicago bean, watched the ice-skaters, found a local sushi spot, and drank a lot of beer.  It was an eat, see, drink sort of day, and although it was freezing, I could rarely feel my toes, and the whisper of threatening weather could be heard all over town, we were all smiles.


As we wandered in search of our next spot for a beer and an appetizer, I suddenly saw a familiar sign.  It was for a sports bar that I had been to years ago when I visited with my family.  The details are fuzzy, but I remember we had left it up to my brothers-in-law to find us a place to eat and watch a Tigers game.  They chose this spot and were red with embarrassment when they realized they had brought my mother and father, along with their own wives and sisters-in-law to a place called The Tilted Kilt, where the waitresses are wearing cleavage-bearing bras and short, plaid skirts.   My family laughed about it for the rest of the trip and will never let them live that down.  (No, we are not so conservative that this was an enormous deal, but had they been aware of this detail, I don’t think they would have brought their mother-in-law there.)  There was no way Ryan and I were going to pass it up.  We sent this picture to my brothers and then enjoyed some incredible fried calamari.  Our server, Marissa, was adorable and fun and gave us tons of great hints to travel cheaply around the city, which we never used.


We did have one place that we particularly wanted to stop, and that was at the Signature room.  After our afternoon of wandering, we went back to the hotel to freshen up before our night on the town.  The Signature room is on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building on Michigan Avenue.  It’s shnazzy. (I don’t want to mention that they’re silverware setup in the dining room was somewhat entirely incorrect for fine dining, but I also can’t just not say anything about it, ya know? Especially since prices easily averaged over $100/person.  C’mon guys, let’s step it up a notch.) We sat in a fog that engulfed the building, but when it happened to clear for a brief moment, holy shit, it was pretty spectacular, and we will definitely be back on a clear night.  And come on, only $42 for two cocktails and a dessert?  Who can pass on a deal like that? (Hi, are we reading that sarcastically? Good)

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We again chose the healthy route for dinner and split some wings and a pizza before hunting down a place I loved on my previous visit with Blake (hannahstwenties.com/the-avatar-survives-chicagoland).  It’s a whiskey bar called Untitled, and it was enormously disappointing this time around.  No matter, it was time to call it a night.

The following morning was a shit show.  Our train was scheduled to leave Union Station at 6pm Sunday evening and bring us to Michigan City where my parents had graciously offered to pick us up and bring us back to Grand Rapids.  However, through the night the polar vortex had caused complete mayhem to the midwestern world of our great United States, producing icy winter storms and bone chilling temperatures.  News broadcasts on every channel warned the public to stay inside and avoid this “life threatening weather.”  The highways in Michigan were down to one lane and dangerous.  My parents were apprehensive to make the drive, and rightly so.  We decided to remain stranded in Chicago rather than force the four of us to become stranded in Michigan City.  Hello Groupon and another hotel deal and hello waiting hours on hold with Amtrak to deal with a customer service rep who was clearly as frustrated as we were. We rescheduled our train ride for the next morning at 7:20am in Kalamazoo where Ryan’s friend offered to brave the roads in his heavy duty truck.

I didn’t even cry, it was a miracle.  Bloody marys saved our souls and after everything was booked and scheduled, you bet your ass that we bundled up and walked to Shedd Aquarium and then to the Planetarium. There were times when I literally thought I was going to blow over.  We ran and laughed and almost fell and definitely took pulls from a flask of whiskey (oh come on, how else are we supposed to warm our blood?) Never again in my life will I go on a trip in the winter without my heavy duty Sorel boots.  Never.

20140110-114012.jpg(thank you, Ryan, for your military service, as it got us into these places along with several exhibitions for free)

The next morning arrived way too early as our phones buzzed and dinged our wake up call at 5:30 am.  Our taxi struggled to deliver us to Union Station where our 7:20 was delayed to no estimated time of departure.  At this point we had already been informed that every plane had been cancelled to Grand Rapids, as well as the train scheduled to leave after ours that morning.  Not to mention the highways leading to and from Michigan were also closed entirely.  This 7:20 train was our last hope.

“All Aboard” could not have brought about louder or more dramatic sighs as we loaded up with our fellow riders only to get stuck on the track for two hours.

Look at us now, we are back in Grand Rapids, safe and sound.  No polar vortex could hold us back!

So to weekend getaways that lead from one adventure to the next, and to hoping you have a wonderfully warm coat to get you through these blustery days,


 P.S.  Remember that $50 gift card to the spa I mentioned at the beginning?  Well, what Groupon failed to mention was that the spa was not in the hotel, but was instead a 15 minute cab ride uptown and the spa was so wildly overpriced that I couldn’t get a manicure for that price.  What the cuss, Groupon?

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