Chicago and Minneapolis are two of the largest cities in the Midwest and we haven’t been to either. We need to fix that!

When you arrive anywhere in the dark, it is always refreshing to wake to sunlight. It is a visual transformation to see how less threatening everything looks.

I’ve heard of Joliet but neither of us has ever been here before. I’m ashamed to realize I don’t even know the name of the river just outside our window. There is a lot for us to discover about the Midwest.

No need to rush this morning because the traffic is stopped outside. A bridge over the river is up as a wide, heavy-looking barge is being nudged along by a tug boat.

The Des Plaines River, the longest stream within the Chicago region, flows southward for 133 miles (105 miles in Illinois) through southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. It eventually meets the Kankakee River southwest of Joliet to form the Illinois River, a significant tributary of the Mississippi River.”

Des Plaines River from “I fish Illinois”

Today is Robert’s 44th birthday so a leisurely casino breakfast seemed like a good choice. Our travel plans were changed last night. In the morning we will head north. So much for we only Go West!

It was almost noon when we said our farewells to the casino bed — and home. This journey is going to have a lot of “homes.”

Chicago is the Windy City and home to the Navy Pier

It is only 72 miles from Joliet to Chicago. This is his day, so Rob has his choice of what to do and where to eat. He wants to walk over to the Navy Pier and check out the harbor. So we did.

The Navy Pier is 3,300-feet long. That is almost a half mile so a walk to the end to look out onto Lake Michigan takes a while. Especially since I like to window shop and look around like the tourist I am.

Birthday turned into another beautiful night given to strolling. We stop along the Pier for a birthday dinner of hot dogs. Not fancy, but good American summer picnic food. Then we continued on, to look out over the southern tip of Lake Michigan and back at the Chicago skyline. Rob’s birthday has been a typically beautiful late-summer day. A good counterpoint to yesterday’s long drive.

Driving across the United States

PART 3: Joliet and Chicago (IL) to Minneapolis (MN)

Color map of Midwestern States
Midwest States

Minneapolis (“Minnie”) is the City of Lakes

It seems we are mixing long drives with short ones. Leaving Chicago we drive 435 miles into and through the southwest corner of Wisconsin, into Minnesota. Tonight’s home is a motel by the gigantic Mall of America in Minneapolis.

Ever practical, we cannot take a year’s worth of clothing with us. In fact, we have only about eight day’s worth of clothes so a Holiday Inn is in order. It has laundry facilities as well as internet access. Besides, we’ll be able to check in with niece, Kelly, for a weekend visit.

University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Saturday morning we pick Kelly up and head out of town to the University of Minnesota’s Landscape Arboretum.  Another nice sunny day. We all feel healthy for the walking. The arboretum covers a lot of ground and is picturesque by design. 

I take a lot of pictures of favorite things. But Kelly and I spend more time catching up on each other’s lives. Despite the physical distances between us, we have a special link in that we share an April birth date. Some in our family say we also share a particular temperament, as well.  

Kindred Spirits

There is the family story about the time Kelly’s Mom, Barb, called my Mom to ask what she would do if I were outside at 9 o’clock at night, arms wrapped solidly around a light post, refusing to come inside. My mother said, “I’d leave the door unlocked and go to bed … she’ll come in eventually.”

Arboretums and gardens are always a fun place because you literally are encouraged to stop and smell the roses. There are also wonderful water features and stone bridges that form pathways through boggy waters. When we have a house again, I think I want it to have a shallow moat.

The next best thing about this type of outing is that just as you think you cannot take another step, there will be a cafeteria. Yes, time for a sit down with good food at reasonable prices.

Over lunch we share memories from our separate trips to Peru and Machu Pichu. Kelly walked the Inca Trail with friends; we took the train and bus. She tells us about her adventures to the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. That is already on our list of places to see. Apparently that birthday bond includes a bit of wanderlust. Or is it that we have inquiring minds?

Minnehaha Park and Mexican Dinner are a great combo

Back to “Minnie,” Kelly directs us to Minnehaha Park, the home of — you got it — Minnehaha Falls. The waters rise each spring to cut the bowl surrounding the falling water.  It must be something to see.  Unlike the more peaceful arboretum, hundreds of families are milling about in the park. Some are picnicking, others are just out for a stroll much like us, enjoying the sunny, hot day. 

Eventually we decide we are hungry again and off we go, back toward Kelly’s neighborhood, to a Mexican restaurant for more great food and drinks.  This is not a fast food spot or Tex-Mex mix; tonight is real Mexican food. I thoroughly enjoyed the best Pina Colada I’ve ever had. It turns out it was made with tequila instead of rum.  Will I remember that?

We decided to keep moving after we dropped Kelly off.  This is counter to all those rules about early starts as it is about 6:30 p.m. It seems prudent, though, to backtrack south and move down toward Albert Lea because we can catch up with the interstate in the morning.

As every day ends, we think about how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go

Another Marilyn Musing

Tomorrow we will start the long haul across the country. As we get ready for bed, we realize that we will be looking at new territory for the next third of the trip: Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming. 

A third of the way to California

Rob calculated that we have already driven more than 2,000 miles. That is a lot more than we would have guessed. Americans tend to split the U.S. into thirds: two coasts and the flat, middle bit. And we all know from grade school that our country is 3,000 miles wide, right? I’m not at all sure exactly where that 3,000 mile line was measured, but we are not driving straight even if we were near it. Side trips are too much fun. 

Tomorrow morning will be another kind of new beginning.

Long curved arbor over walkway in the Minneapolic Sculpture Garden
University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Tour of University of Minnesota;
Lacy look blue-purple orchids
Roses; University of Minnesota
Stopping to smell the roses
Use of long, cut stones to create a path through standing water; University of Minnesota
Great idea for a boggy walk
Minnehaha Falls; Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis
Minnehaha Creek runs through Minnehaha Park; Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis

This post is one in a series that document our 400-day trip round the world (2005-2006). Each segment will be linked in at RTW.

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