chicago: bikes, the bean, and bao

Wednesday started out cold and cloudy and totally unsuitable for shorts and t-shirts, which is what I was sporting, based on what I learned the day before (jeans = quite inappropriate for trekking around town in the heat and humidity).  Our first activity of the day, however, was a great way to warm up: riding bikes on the Lakeshore Trail along Lake Michigan.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I love the water and I love riding bikes and I love exploring new cities and I especially like riding bikes in new cities along the water…it’s a perfect combination, really.

Over the weekend, we mentioned our plans to rent bikes by the hour during our time in the city, and my cousin’s boyfriend recommended we check out Divvy bikes.  Best tip of the trip, right there.  Divvy is a new bike sharing system in the city of Chicago, and it’s awesome.  The basic premise is that bikes (there are 3,000 of them) can be checked out for thirty minutes at a time, and then must returned to another Divvy station, of which there are 300.

There was a Divvy station just steps away from the apartment we were staying at, so we checked them out there, got on the Lakeshore Trail going south, and began our adventure.  Every 15 – 20 minutes we’d check in our bikes and check them right back out.  It was an incredibly smooth and quick process, not to mention cheap.  Instead of paying $9 an hour, we paid $5 for 24 hours (we were there during a special week – usually it’s $7 for 24 hours, which is still a great deal) and were granted unlimited check outs within that time.  Seriously, I cannot say enough good things about Divvy.

We rode past Navy Pier, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, Soldier Field, the Museum of Science and Industry, Buckingham Fountain, and multiple beaches, all while enjoying great views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan.

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^^ Crossing the street near Navy Pier. ^^

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^^ Returning and then checking out again along the lake. ^^

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^^ Look at that water!  So beautiful! ^^

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^^ Perfect morning (although probably not my best pic). ^^
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^^ Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears. ^^

Eventually we decided to turn around, return our bikes for a while, and hang out in Millennium Park.  We arrived at THE perfect moment.  A rehearsal for an evening concert was going on, so as we wandered around and finally decided to just sit and enjoy, we got to feast our ears on the lovely sounds of the Grant Park Orchestra.  The fellas (Danny and Mysteridge) didn’t have quite the same attention span as I did for the tunes, so we moved onto the iconic Bean, also known as Cloud Gate, and took all of the obligatory pictures.  We grabbed lunch at the Oasis Cafe, which we found by accident, but were glad we did.  Cheap but good Mediterranean food, and very popular with the business people of the area – it was packed!  We headed back to Millennium Park because there was no way we could miss the ‘spitting fountain.’

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^^ Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park…probably definitely the coolest concert venue around. ^^

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^^ Delightful. ^^

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^^ Mysteridge and the 7,000 tourists that were also there. ^^

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^^ What’s a trip to Chicago without a selfie with the Bean?   ^^

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^^ Best pic of the trip?  I think so. ^^

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^^ Self-explanatory.  And also a pretty good representation of their personalities. ^^

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^^ As I’m looking at these pictures now, I’m thinking that it’s kind of weird to have huge faces as a fountain.  I mean, cool, but also pretty weird.  Am I right? ^^

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^^ We waited around for the spitting, and well, worth it…? ^^

And then, onto Michigan Avenue, also known as the Magnificent Mile.  I can barely ride a bike proficiently on a normal, mostly vacant trail, let alone on a very busy street/sidewalk, so we went by foot.  We marveled at the tall buildings, enjoyed the Chicago River, checked out all the famous building fragments located around the base of the Tribune Tower, and went in a few stores.

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^^ See I told you the clouds were really low!  Also, next time we’ll go on a boat ride. ^^

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^^ Love all the old, pretty buildings.  And this guy. ^^

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^^ The Tribune Tower. ^^

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^^ A few of the building fragments at the base of the Tribune Tower, including one from Notre Dame.  I realize now that this isn’t the Notre Dame in Paris that we’ll be going to in just over TWO MONTHS, but it’s close.  So excited!!! ^^

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^^ Chicago Water Tower.  Not only is it beautiful, but it’s pretty special because it survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  In fact it was the only public building to survive in the burned zone, and it’s the second-oldest water tower in the United States.  I didn’t know all that when I took the picture (I may or may not have just done some Wikipedia research to become so knowledgable…), so it was fun to find out later (now).  ^^

We decided to make our walking more purposeful, and find the Chicago History Museum, which we had Groupons for (thanks, Mom and Dad!).  The walk there was a highlight too – at least for some of us – we passed through some beautiful parts of town and Danny wondered about taxis and buses and forms of transportation that didn’t involve his feet.  The museum was interesting and well-done, unfortunately we were pretty beat by that time of the afternoon, so at some points I felt like I was just going from bench to bench.

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^^ Gotta love all the midwestern green. ^^

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^^ Just joining some suffragettes at the museum. ^^

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^^ This transit car is a far cry from today’s ‘L’ cars…a bit more ornate and plush. ^^

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^^ You know it’s a good museum when they have dress up clothes. ^^

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^^ Or they offer you a chance to become a Chicago Dog. ^^

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^^ The main only exhibit in the front lobby was this low-rider.  I guess this is supposed to be a good representation of Chicago? ^^

Once we finished at the museum, we found a Divvy station nearby and rode on the Lakeshore Trail back to where we had first rented our bikes in the morning (which at that point felt like days ago…).  We changed our clothes (I always dress warm for flights), picked up our luggage, and began our journey back home.

Right before getting on the train, though, we decided to stop for dinner at a place we saw on our way into town: Protein Bar.  Before we found it, though, a place called Wow Bao caught my eye.  Wow Bao serves baozi, which is a steamed, filled bun that we ate almost daily for breakfast in China.  I mean, so so so good.  I haven’t had baozi since we were in China almost two years ago (has it been that long?!) and was so pumped to find this place.  It was a good thing we got our bao to go, because I could’ve dropped my entire paycheck on baozi.

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^^ I’m lucky to have snapped this picture before the baozi disappeared, which took all of about 1.7 seconds. ^^

Protein Bar was even better than I had hoped.  Burritos (or bar-ritos, as they call them), bowls, salads, blended drinks, and raw juices, and tons of vegan options…this place was perfect.

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I could rave about the goodness of these two restaurants for a while, but I’ll keep it short and sweet: if you’re ever in Chicago near either one of these places, check them out.  And…I just found out that Protein Bar just opened a location on Colorado Blvd in Denver…this is very good news, friends.

By then it was high time we caught our train before our 24-hour transit pass expired, so we did.  The trip was quick and easy.  At the airport, however, we found out our flight had been delayed (boo) so Mysteridge hopped on the earlier flight to Denver, but we couldn’t since we had checked bags.  As we got on the plane, we saw a couple from our small group.  Our small group that meets in Monument, Colorado.  Crazy!  They were on their way back from Cape Cod and had some flight changes and delays and I’m not sure what else, but the bottom line was, they were on our flight!  We sat by each other and caught up on our respective journeys.  What a fun way to end our trip!

Overall, we had a great time, and I’m so thankful we extended our trip to include some time in the city.  I’m glad that Mysteridge, Danny, and I travel well together and enjoy doing (some of) the same things and have a spirit of flexibility, adventure, and fun (at least this time we did).  Until next time, Chicago!

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One thought on “chicago: bikes, the bean, and bao

  1. Pingback: the glory of june | pandasandlemons

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