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THE GREAT CHICAGO EXPERIENCE 2010,
Part I
A WORKSHOP AND THREE SHOWS IN ONE WEEK

My trip to Chicago in 2008 was what I thought of as a Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience.

When my DH Robert asked me in January 2009 if I was going back to Chicago, I just looked at him blankly. “But I thought last year was a Once in a Lifetime experience,” I said, and he smiled. “Well, you never go anywhere. You deserve it; so go.  Anyway, think about it:  EVERYTHING we do is a Once in a Lifetime Experience!” So I went.

And by this year, 2010, it was a given that I would be going to my Third-In-A-Lifetime Experience. So, when the workshops were online for the Bishop International I signed up immediately for my quarter scale cottage. In November, 2009, as I was planning to make my reservations, DH mused, "You know, you have never really taken a trip with Dana (our daughter), just the two of you, the way I have done with the kids over the years. Why don't you see if she wants to go? It would be good for the two of you to share some time together having fun." You see why I've stayed married to this man for so long!

When our children were growing up, they used to take all kinds of trips with their father, primarily during the summer, and because of my heat- and sun-sensitivity, and in later years my bad knees also, I almost always stayed home. And even after they were grown and grandchildren came along, they all went places with Papaw, while Nana stayed home. I am retired now, of course, and the Chicago shows come early enough in the spring that I don't have to worry too much about sun exposure, and now I have new titanium knees!

Well, long story short, DD Dana wanted to do it, to my great joy, and so that's what happened. As a matter of fact, DD's DH Lee also insisted that she go, too. So, she left job, husband, children and El Paso to go with Mom to The Greatest Miniature Show in the World!

GETTING READY ...

A full week before time to go I began gathering stuff on the guest room bed.

I had a list of tools that I wanted to take for my workshop, and decided as long as I was sorting through, it was a good time to also rework my main tool bag, the one I carry to club meetings in Las Cruces, NM. It's hard to believe now how much time I spent rearranging, mulling over and making sure I had labels on everything.

My favorite travel tool holder is one of those makeup bags that ties and opens to reveal zip up clear plastic sides. I wanted to be sure I had what I needed for my workshop, but nothing superfluous. A lot of stuff will fit in there, including my little blue dissecting kit - which holds knives, picks, tweezers, small sharp scissors, extra blades, toothpicks, a nail file and emery boards, etc. Sometimes the dissecting kit is all I take with me, especially for round tables.

As it appears here, it is still set up the way I take it to mini club meetings in Las Cruces, NM. I emptied it and repacked specifically for Chicago. (The Post-It is a reminder to add the 220 or greater sandpaper - and sure enough, I forgot it.)

Molly Cromwell, who travels all over the world, had given some good suggestions on the online group CAMP on how to pack, one of which was to put almost everything in plastic zip-lock bags and lay the tools on the very top, along with a note explaining what they were for.

I printed out a picture of the cottage I was going to be doing, along with the information page for the show, and put these in a plastic sleeve, along with a note saying that I was going to use the tools for this workshop. This happened to be one time when apparently no one checked my luggage, but I felt secure that this would have been sufficient explanation so they wouldn't be digging everywhere.

For my carry-on I used the bag that I got from the Third On-Line Convention of the Quarter Connection online group. I LOVE that bag, a soft-sided lightweight green twill or canvas, with zip and flap pockets on either end, three zipper pouch pockets on one side (will hold a small water bottle), and a zippered roomy interior. On the way it was packed with the food I had planned for our breakfasts and quick meals, along with my windbreaker, novel, show information that I'd been saving, and the bag of toiletries; on the way home it would hold my workshop project, which was a quarter scale cottage, and my mini purchases.

I don't take my regular everyday leather purse when I fly. Instead, I use this lightweight denim shoulder bag.

The front flap completely conceals the entire interior so that it isn't easy for anyone to pick your pocket, or for things to spill out. Besides the open pocket which extends to the bottom, inside the front is a flap-top pocket for a cell phone and another elastic edged pocket where I keep a notepad and two pens. In the zippered pocket I keep my medications in wee ziplock bags, labeled morning and night for each day, and aspirin, etc.

Inside the roomy interior are more elastic edged pockets, good for my camera, an extra battery, and my calling cards. This innermost zip pocket is where I keep my extra money and important ID and credit cards, etc. In this roomy interior space I keep my makeup in a plastic and mesh bag and a nylon folding wallet to which I add just the amount of cash I figure I need for an event, replenishing as needed.

Before I go to the airport I put my ID, credit card, money for tips and printed boarding pass in this exterior pocket which fits next to my body and closes with a magnetized snap. It's easy to slip out what I need as I check my bags and go through security. This bag has proven its worth for several flying trips because in addition to all the things I've listed, it also can hold a paperback book, a snack, a water bottle, even a folding nylon windbreaker. Love this bag and even though it's usually packed, it sure weighs a lot less than my leather bag would even if it would hold a paperback and windbreaker!

And before I go to a show, I remove everything that I don't need that day and tuck in a folding nylon or lightweight canvas totebag for my mini purchases, along with a snack bag, in case we don't have a meal right away.

A confession - even with all that organization, half the time I forget where things are because I so seldom fly and carry it! lol

ON OUR WAY, FINALLY ...

I have always been impressed with the efficiency, courtesy and brisk professionalism of the Security people at El Paso's airport, especially since I have to be patted down and wanded each time because of my Titanium knees. The only problem was that I hadn't eaten breakfast and just settled for a couple of pieces of toast. Our flight to Chicago was uneventful and pleasant as we chatted and I showed Dana the Chicago International show pages from Miniature Collector.

We had cloud cover almost immediately and soon it was solid clouds. It was like that the entire way, but pretty far below us, while the sky outside was blue. So, we didn't see too much, although the pilot explained what we were flying over.

Our first view of Chicago.

We arrived a bit early and caught the shuttle right away...

... and enjoyed the sight of tulips both that day and throughout our stay.

We were at the Marriott by about noon, starving. After lunch in the restaurant we unpacked and then took a nap. Then we peeked in at the Whitledge-Burgess workshop and saw their awesome Christmas-themed roombox in its early stages; went upstairs to see the prototypes of Teresa Layman's Gingerbread House, Rik Pierce's Fair Rosamond's Bower, the O'Rourkes' Tudor Manor Hall and Kari Bloom's half scale Art Deco Vignette. What a way to introduce my daughter to the world of miniatures beyond Mom!

Since we had lots of time, Dana suggested we take the train to downtown, a new experience for both of us. She had a familiarity with certain areas of Chicago, however, having been here some years ago as part of her job, plus she is an adventurous sort and never hesitates to venture out into new territory. I figured, what the heck, she's young, she knows how to do it all, so hopefuly I can follow her lead and get my aging body where it needs to go.

We enjoyed seeing the various spring blooms as we walked to the train platform.

What is this tree called, I wondered, when I first put these pages on my website. They really were pretty!

Reminds me of a snowball bush, I said. However, Adrian in Kingston wrote to tell me that it is a Kingston Pear, an ornamental that does not bear fruit. Thanks, Adrian!

Inside the train station a fellow in a flourescent vest told us about the all-day passes. Had a bit of embarrassment as we tried to swipe the card the way we saw people doing, then the guy in the vest pointed out that there was a slot where it could be inserted. Well, we're from El Paso, remember? lol

At first the only available seats were riding backward, and we wanted to see where we were going and possibly not get car sick, so with each stop as someone exited we kept moving to more advantageous locations so that eventually we were seated facing forward.

There was an awesome sense of speed when oncoming trains whizzed past, always seeming to be so much faster than ours (someone told us later that they become Express when they are needing to make up time). No trains like that in our desert city; just freeway traffic.

From the light into the tunnels, passengers sat mutely for the most part, staring into space, reading, or eyes closed, nodding to some melody or voice in their ears; others slept, swaying with familiar ease while the train moved.

All the while we chatted and exclaimed; why, you'd have thought we were tourists from the wide open spaces of far west Texas.

Our heads swiveled to peek at neighborhoods; we oohed and aahed at glimpses of old houses, brick buildings with the kind of look on the side and vacant air spaces to suggest it had once had a twin ...

... windows boarded in one, scaffolding showing renewal in the next.

There were so many intriguing neighborhoods that looked like such fun to explore.

We marveled at what it must be like to live right up against those tracks; I guess it's like a lot of things, blotted out of our consciousness unless someone mentions it.

What a terrific way to advertise your law services to a captive audience!

After a while Dana had mastered the maps showing the various lines and kept track of the stops. I just couldn't believe the train went right next to some truly amazing buildings.

I'm not sure exactly where this was.

Lots of steps going up ...

Going down ...

I am so glad I got my knee replacements years ago!

We changed trains several different times, it seemed.

Somewhere along the way we exited the train to find a restroom and went into a bright brand-newish Mall place, where the wondrous smell of baking assailed us and on our way out again we had coffee and freshly-made cream puffs so good that I wished I had gotten a second one.

As we waited for our next train a young man approached, holding out a couple of pieces of paper, saying, "My mother told me to look for another mother; if she has children, she will understand." He was almost skeletally thin, and his pale grey-blue eyes had very wide pupils. He looked so young and fragile, in a way; he almost stuttered as he spoke urgently and sounded rehearsed as he showed us some kind of note, directions to a place. "I just need $18.80 to get there," he said; "lost my ID, no way to get home ...."

"I just need to get home to my mom," he said. "She told me, 'If you are ever in trouble, a woman is the one to ask; if she has children, she will understand.' Just whatever you can do to help me get home to my mom." He kept pushing toward us, and I was getting nervous, feeling like a bird mesmerized by a stalking cat and worrying about falling off the platform.

My daughter gave him a dollar and another woman across the platform frowned, shaking her head mutely, as if to say "No, no; he's a scam." Rummaging in the back pocket of my bag, I gave him some change. "That's all I can do now," I said, just hoping he would go away.

It was a relief to board the next train, leaving him behind to look for some other older woman with children.

Sometimes the door opened on one side, sometimes the other. A mechanical voice told us of upcoming stops and which side to exit.

We stopped off here and there so that Dana could take pictures.

Every time I saw a sign about the electric current on the tracks, I remembered all the movies and tv shows I had seen where people either fell or were pushed off in some dramatic fashion. And golly, there are no barriers because you have to walk right up to the edge to get on.

She is an excellent photographer, and got some awesome shots. We were intrigued by everything. And, of course, some stops got better results than others.

I was blown away by what turned out to be the Harold Washington Library and the faces of what appeared to be Green Men on the side. I have a fascination with Green Men, as evident by these pages.

Dana was snapping pictures right and left and it finally occurred to me that I had a camera in my purse, so I tried to catch what I could in the failing light.

After I got home I read that these were the faces of Ceres, and those are sheaves of grain or corn above the head.

And at the top of this building was what we thought might be dragons, seemingly made of metal. We asked a young man if he knew; he peered way up and his mouth dropped.

"Well, I never really looked up there," he said. "That is awesome, isn't it; maybe it IS a dragon?"

We found out later it is owls; I wonder if he decided to find out, too.

(This picture Dana took later when she was downtown.)

I love libraries and usually try to go to one in every town where we spend any amount of time; someday I want to visit that one.

Still looking back at those dragons/owls from the next stop !

Downtown coming up ...

Frankly, I don't know where all we stopped, but it was great. By the time we wended our way through downtown, evening was descending.

It was just marvelous, peering down those lighted streets at all those magnificent structures. This intriguing building reminded me of one of those old punch cards used in early computers. Wonder what it really is?

It was a shock to see buildings so CLOSE to the train; this is looking down at decorative trim on the lower part of a downtown building as we sped past.

And the train station is right in the middle of the freeway! Fascinating; all we need is a plane overhead to have Planes, Trains and Automobiles!

If I lived in Chicago I would be taking those trains, probably, considering what a mess the traffic appeared to be.

By the time we got back to the hotel we were worn out; well, I was.

As I got ready for my workshop the next day, Dana uploaded her pictures to her little computer and then sent another text home to keep everyone up to date on our travels. She and my son-in-law Lee have this custom of sending each other pictures of the meals they have when they are traveling, so no doubt she was sending him a picture of our soup and sandwich from the restaurant.

I was so glad we had the time to do that quick excursion on the train; the previous two years I didn't see anything beyond the hotel; at least this time I had a taste of Chicago, Chicago, that Toddlin' Town, and I really want to take a tour bus next time ....

And after this, except where someone might've taken a picture of the two of us together, or the pics I took of her, as well as the pictures that I took of my purchases, all the photos are Dana's.

Stay tuned for Part II, The Workshop ...


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