Windy Travels Part 2.

Back in October, I took a trip to Chicago.  Afterward, I processed my 17 gazillion images from the adventure and wrote you fine folks a blog post about it.  At the end, I mentioned that more images were to follow and that I would relate my experiences with my new favorite hotel chain.

Promptly after writing the post, I completely forgot.

My bad.

So, here we are.  4 months have passed and you still wake up in the middle of the night wondering whatever became of that followup post…  OK  That’s probably a bit hopeful on my part.  But still – true to my word, I shall visually enthrall you with more optically-dazzling imagery.

FIRST – the hotel.  For those of you that spoke with either myself or my lady friend, you know that Ashly and I had been planning this trip for something like 5 months.  However, when I say “this trip” I mean a trip.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.

In the end, we actually planned out 5 different trips… in about 3 weeks.  We considered Maine, Kentucky, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a perimeter-tour of the lower peninsula, and Chicago.  Chicago won out simply because of the mind-boggling selection of educational day-trip destinations.

We like our learnin’.

That little back story may not seem relevant, but oh how wrong you are.  See, 5 days before we left for Chicago, we hadn’t even begun considering going there.  We were still in the planning stages of a Michigan road trip.  I don’t really remember how we ended up switching to Chicago, but it happened and we found ourselves with slightly over 72 hours of time to organize an itinerary, buy tickets to stuff we wanted to see, and find a hotel whose room fee didn’t require a bank loan, gold bars, an arm and/or a leg, or a first-born child.

In the end we ended up staying damn-near 45 minutes outside of the city.  Were it not for the downtown parking situation (which were completely unaware of) it wouldn’t have been an issue.  In fact, all things considered, it was one of the better snap decisions we’ve made.

We found ourselves at an Extended Stay out past Downer’s Grove.  At first glance it looks like a normal over-niter for business travelers.  We found out that (as the name suggests) it’s designed for people to stay for over a week or 2.  But enough rambling, here’s what makes it so awesome.

  • Long-term stay means people need more elaborate forms of equipment to use.  Example:  A FULL KITCHEN.  Now, this might not seem like much to you, but I cook.  A LOT.  It was awesome.
  • No explanation needed: It was one of the cleanest hotels I’ve ever stayed in.  Period.
  • Lastly and most importantly: In order to keep the charges down on a room rental that may go past 3 weeks, the hotel got rid of one of the staple functions of most chains.  There is absolutely no maid service.  While at first you may think that seems cheap, remember that I am a visual artist in a digital age.  I take a LOT of really EXPENSIVE gear with me everywhere I go.  I don’t need to drag my lights and laptop with me every step of the way.  The fact that no one (trustworthy or otherwise) would NOT be coming into to move things around took my nervousness level from my standard 362% to effectively zero.

And also ’cause the per night price gets cheaper the longer you’re there, our week’s stay cost us something like $50 a night.

Conclusion: Extended Stay: Do it.

Oh and hey – MORE CHICAGO PICTURES!!

– Jon

Back In The Day

Yesterday, I got a chance to revisit my childhood.  It was an… altered experience.

Went up to Crossroad Village, in Flint, Michigan.  For those of you unfamiliar, it’s kind of like Greenfield Village (a city of historical reenactments) set in the mid to late 1800’s.  This time of year is specifically interesting there because they break period-character a bit and deck the entire place up in quite a lot of Christmas lights.

When I was a wee lad, it was just crazy to go to a village in the middle of nowhere and see people who still live just like they had 100 years prior.  I would take the train ride out into the country and wave to Santa, who would have, of course, been kind enough to grace us, and only us, with his presence as we rode the tracks, listening to the most traditional, old-timey of Christmas carols (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer).

Now the illusion is a bit lost on me, but that’s not to say the experience is not enjoyable – far from it.  In my current mentality of “if there’s something I can learn, you best be sure I’m gonna learn it,” the magic of the holiday spirit has been replaced by super-fascinating historical facts.  As an example: The train you can ride (on the Huckleberry Railroad) is actually a real-life coal-burning engine from the late 1800s, pulling a dozen cars from the same period.  This, of course, is quite an accomplishment, since people have had to maintain the machines in working and aesthetic order for over a century.

A little side fact:  Reindeer are ticklish… let me explain.   In the spirit of all things festive, a reindeer had been brought in from a local farm for photo opportunities.  As you enter the barn, there is a sign near the entrance instructing you not to touch the reindeer as it is “too ticklish” to them.  Being a reasonable adult, I deduced that the comment was a friendly, whimsical way of keeping children from taking an antler to the face.  Of course, if I were to wait for the impressionable youth to leave I could have an adult conversation with the reindeer’s handler and explain that I would very much like to pet the reindeer and that I would not do something stupid like hang my coat on it.  She informed me the sign wasn’t actually a joke and demonstrated by VERY VERY LIGHTLY petting the reindeer.  If the reindeer could have spoken it would have said something akin to, “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?!  Get away from me.”  In conclusion, reindeer do not like to be petted.

While the antique train and the reindeer with personal space issues were fascinating, the clear winners of my trip were the historical actors.  It wasn’t so much the convincing illusion (they didn’t wear Wolverine work boots back then) but the nerdy factoids these folks had in their heads.  I got to see a 100-year old typesetting machine printing a news article, found out that frontier towns sprang up based explicitly on the vicinity to the blacksmith, and learned how to use a straight razor (which I was just recently gifted).

And, OF COURSE, there were some pretty nifty photo opportunities.  Here are a few of my favorites.

– Jon

Crossroad Village 2012_016 WEB RES

Crossroad Village 2012_064 WEB RES

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Crossroad Village 2012_127 WEB RES

 

Windy Travels Part 1.

As some of you may or may not know, I was busy being a tourist in Chicago until this past weekend (hence the lack of posts over the past couple weeks).
I, of course, took a picture or 2.  There’s been a bit of back and forth in my head about how to display them, especially since most of the shots fall more into my fine-art style rather than commercial.

But enough of the speculation.  Let’s break down the trip a bit.  You may say to yourself “Self, why won’t he just skip to the goods?”  Well, to that I say:  shock and awe.  No, not the tactical military scenario, but my reaction to a handful of things in Chicago that you, who may travel there, should certainly know about.

If you are avid travelers or simply have been to Chicago recently (I don’t get west  very much) you probably already know.  Back in 2008 or 9 or something, The city of Chicago sold rights to all the parking in the city to Standard Parking (effectively creating a monopoly).  While the city got a little over a billion smackers out of the deal, they now have to deal with astronomically high parking rates – to the tune of $20 or more for even 15 minutes of parking.  Oh, and did I mention that the contract is valid for 75 years?

Of course, as it happens, now that I’m back in Michigan, I came across a news article from yesterday, mentioning that the city will be auditing Standard parking to ensure responsible use of city funds.  In the meantime, there are a few little tricks to get around this catastrophe.  A number of people have suggested parking outside the city and taking in the bus.  I like this idea, but if you are on a schedule and have to park downtown, I happened upon 2 options that seemed reasonable:

1. Parking in Chinatown is a decent way to go.  The main lot is less than half the cost of parking downtown and it sits immediately under the “L.”

2. The Adler Planetarium is nestled in the museum campus right on the edge of the city and the road to the front door is lined with parking meters that cost a quarter of the price of parking in any structure.  The downside is that there is a VERY limited number of spaces.

I’ve still got a whole ton of other neat tips and tricks for you (Next post: the best hotel to stay at if you’re a visual artist).

For now, enjoy a selection of city shots from Cloud Gate to Chinatown and plenty in-between.

– Jon