summer vacation details
Sooo…. here’s a brief recap of the two-week vacation that Michelle and I took. The full photoset is here. The basic idea was to get out of Florida and visit from friends we had not seen in a long while.
We flew into Chicago and spent a weekend there hanging out with several friends and riding bikes all over the city. I was not in shape for the 15-20 miles of riding we did each of our first two days, but it was a lot of fun nonetheless. We checked out Pilsen (a largely Hispanic neighborhood), saw a great improv show, and had an awesome BBQ.
Then, we rented a car and drove for 15 hours to Chapel Hill, NC. There we visited Nestor, Brandi, and their kids Sol and Harvest. Spent a few days relaxing and catching up, marveling at the genius of children.
Then we drove west, had lunch and some local beer in Asheville before driving southwest on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Check out this time-lapse movie.
The Parkway is unendingly beautiful, with plentiful overlook areas right off the road, offering great views and hiking trails. We didn’t dawdle, but it still took us 2-3 hours to drive the 80 miles to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Once in the Park, we headed to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point (you reach it after a steep half-mile hike). A black bear crossed our path on the way, and he stopped to munch grass on the side of the road!
This same day, we made it into Nashville, TN in time for sleep. At this point, we’re halfway through our vacation. Our second night in town, we met up with my dad, who took us out for dinner and drinks. I haven’t talked to my dad in about 10 years, so this was a good experience for both him and me. The next day (Sunday), we met with Joseph (who curates Vanderbilt’s art gallery), and checked out some used bookstores, drank some tasty beer, watched Youtube documentaries on Satanic Scandinavian death metal.
Monday we drove north towards Chicago, stopping for a few hours in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park. Took a refreshing 2-hour cave tour, which I highly recommend to claustrophiles. Arrived back in Chicago that evening, then visited Michelle’s sister Eileen, her husband Pete, and their kids Kolbe and Josie in Evanston the next day.
Our remaining few days in Chicago were spent checking out the downtown area and its huge library branch, meeting an old friend for dinner and beer at The Hopleaf, drinking good beer and eating great food all over. Chicago food is awesome, but pretty heavy. Some highlights were this great falafel place in the Loop, a little Polish place that looked like a cross between someone’s house and a bar, Hot Doug’s, and Kuma’s Corner. Behold!
We spent some time at Quimby’s, which is just about the best comic shop/alternative bookstore I’ve had the pleasure to browse. While in the Loop, we spent a nice afternoon in Millennium Park, which is a real urban park accomplishment. It’s got a rooftop herb garden with a water trough to cool your feet in, plus plenty of stimulating sculpture/architecture. There’s the Pritzker Pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry, which has a huge lawn in front of it, perfect for napping:
My favorite thing is Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” sculpture (though everyone calls it The Bean). It’s striking on its own, but also reflects the skyline and everything else in wonderfully funhouse-mirror fashion. People get right up and under it, playing and gawking with glee.
And, just before it was time to head off to the airport, we indulged in a real hot fudge sundae at Margie’s. Many thanks to all our friends, we love you!