We didn't have far to travel today, so we didn't get going until a little before ten. We were sure that we would find a great local breakfast spot on our way to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Alas, we were wrong. Guess we're a little early for the season here... We somehow found our way to "Central Beach" which must be one of the most deserted and unknown national "treasures" around. It was very desolate and we were glad there was no banjo music dueling in the background - it sort of had that Deliverance feel to it as we got out of our car to go to the dunes.
For those of you who have never had the pleasure of climbing Jockey's Ridge or any other big sand dune - it is HARD work! We could already tell exactly what muscles would be sore as we trudged up the sand. Once we got down to the beach, we were rewarded with an interesting view. Lake Michigan is huge - it was almost like seeing the ocean, only without waves, people, and with the hazy view of Gary's steel mills, Chicago's skyscrapers, and an up close and personal glimpse of the nuclear reactor cooling tower that we had seen in Michigan City the night before. There were three young ladies and a dog there. We made up that they were skipping school - good choice, as we doubt anyone would look for them there. They had a cooler with them, but Kim and I decided we would not be drinking much at that beach - Lake Michigan is COLD and it was a long trek up a sandy hill back to the rest rooms!
After looking at a map of the dunes, we realized we were not at the main beach areas, so we went off in search of a more popular area. We found the main entrance to the beach and allegedly to the visitor's center and we followed the road through a lovely (probably WPA) entrance to the lakeshore. Lots of construction was going on but we soon found ourselves in front of a huge two-story beach pavillion. There were more people here - maybe ten in all. The restrooms in the pavillion were open, but not the cafeteria or gift shop. There was a huge culvert with water pouring out into a "creek" (definitely not what we southerners would call a creek) that emptied into Lake Michigan. It was a little off-putting to read the sign warning us not to swim or play in the "creek" due to frequently high bacteria levels... With all the construction, we never quite found the visitor's center, but we were underwhelmed and hungry, so off we went to Gary.
Even though I was sure we could find a local dive that served breakfast, Kim would not let me get off the main road in Gary and was glad when we got on the interstate there. We passed several steel mills and just skirted the fringes of Gary, where the citizens welcomed us (according to their water tanks and other signs). Before we knew it, we found ourselves in the wrong lane at a toll plaza - I seem to have a bit of trouble at toll booths and border crossings. Without causing an accident or a traffic pile-up, we made it safely and legally onto the tollway and soon we were approaching Chicago.
Kim did an excellent job navigating and we finally found ourselves at Navy Pier. Add parking garages to the above list of things I have a bit of difficulty with! By this time, we were starving and it was not only after breakfast or brunch time - we had even managed to miss the lunch rush. We went to the Billy Goat Tavern (of cheezborger, cheezborger - no fries, chips! fame - remember the good old days of Saturday Night Live?) and had....cheezborgers, what else!?! Not nearly as good as the ones we had at Redamaks the night before, but at least we had food in our tummies.
We spent a good bit of time exploring Navy Pier, even places we probably were not supposed to be. Did you know that at one time, streetcars drove people all the way through the pier to the ballroom at the very end of it? It is a huge place and we had fun imagining what it would have been like back in the day. Since we needed to be somewhere else in the city at a certain time for our evening Segway tour, we decided to find our way there and just explore the area until tour time. Good thing, since we spent way more time in the parking garage than we needed to - once we finally found our way into the parking garage!
We were parked under Millennium Park, so once we found the Segway office, we went exploring. We were still a little hungry (that sand dune was hard!) so we walked up and down Michigan Avenue in search of a place to eat and have a beer. We wound up at Pizano's Pizza, where we enjoyed a beer, some yummy garlic cheese sticks, and the most delicious dessert - Holly and Little Rudy's Chocolate Chip Cookie. It was a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie prepared in a pizza pan with a layer of vanilla ice cream, topped with chocolate syrup and whipped cream. TO DIE FOR !!!! And for some reason, our waiter, Darius, told us our cookie was on him, and it was!
Now that we were fortified, we walked back through the parks to learn a new life skill - how to ride a Segway! Kim was not at all looking forward to this, and I was having a few thoughts about how well my bad balance would work on some gyroscope powered moving object. As it happened, we were the only ones on the tour this evening, so there was no one we had to make a fool of ourselves in front of but each other and John, our guide. Oh, and of course everyone else we passed on the streets of downtown Chicago. After watching the "what not to do" video, we were sure we'd be able to master all of those skills! Unbelievably, John had us up and rolling in under five minutes! Our tour lasted a couple of hours, and we went all around the park, past the Art Institute, through Buckingham Fountain park, and to the museum campus that houses the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium. From there we rolled all the way around Soldier Field and then we returned to the office on the lakefront. Even though our kids think the Segways are the antithesis of 'cool,' we had fun and didn't break any bones or have to pay for any Segways or Segway parts! By the end, even Kim was enjoying it, although she had earlier told John she was not loving it!
John also works as a concierge at the Hyatt, so we took his recommendation and went for a light snack and a hefty drink at the Park Grill. I had a wonderful roasted beet and goat cheese salad and Kim had a Bibb lettuce salad that looked great. Our drinks hit the spot, too, as did the really good desserts! Kim had a strawberry napolean and I had a chocolate-peanut butter-banana tart thing. Life is good!
We found our way to our hotel with no problems and we promptly crashed for the night. Who knows what adventures await us today!?!