We are heading north by east next weekend for a two-week sojourn, half in Chicago, half touring around Lake Michigan. Airline tickets, rental car and room reservations made, I’m now left with tweaking the itinerary. Tickets to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field are in hand, so what could change or go wrong? A little, I hope. I try to remain flexible on all my trips, allowing for serendipity.
Thanks to our screwed up flight last December to Oahu, our air fare is covered by vouchers from U.S. Airways, to and from O’Hare. Some may recall our direct flight to Honolulu was cancelled at the last moment. We lost a day of our Christmas vacation and limped to our destination via San Francisco and Kona on the Big Island. U.S. was “nice” enough to reimburse us for our troubles.
I usually avoid renting a car from the airport, and I did so this time. It’s much cheaper to find an agency elsewhere and ditch all the extra fees and taxes. Particularly at O’Hare.
After a few hours of research, I rented a compact car from Budget in the Chicago Lakeview area north of downtown. The cost for a 12-day rental was a tad over $450, or about $37.50 a day, unlimited mileage. That’s without GPS or other extras. Our insurance covers the rental car so we escaped that cost as well. If I had rented the same compact at the airport, our bill would have been $1,210.69. That’s a whopping $760 in savings. We had saved around $300 in Oahu by renting from an Enterprise agency on Waikiki rather than at the Honolulu Airport. Renting off-site can be inconvenient but, even with the added cost of a taxi or traveling by bus or light rail, the savings can be phenomenal. Enterprise, Avis and National also had competitive off-site rates but were less convenient to where we were staying.
Nebra found us a decent hotel in Lakeview, only a short walk to the rental car agency. Lodging in Chicago is not cheap. At least $200 a night is normal and we are paying a little over that. The hotel, by the way, lays within walking distance of Wrigley.
While I am not the fan of baseball I once was, seeing a game in historic Wrigley Field in its centennial season was important enough for me to cough up $128 for two tickets on August 14, Cubs v. Milwaukee. A day game, which to my mind is the only way to go during this special season because Wrigley had no lights until 1988, the last Major League Baseball team to install them.
If this trip has themes beyond Wrigley, they are Hemingway, hiking and my family history with the late actor James Dean thrown in. Ernest Hemingway was born and raised in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. We hope to visit is old home and museum there, then eventually travel to Petoskey, in northern Michigan where as a boy he spent many a summer with his family. That Michigan area produced some of his best writing, the short story, “Indian Camp,” coming to mind. So Petoskey is definitely on the itinerary.
We also hope to hike in the huge Hiawatha National Forest on the peninsula above Petoskey. After another brutally torrid Arizona summer, a taste of cool air and pines, mixed in with some strange stuff called rain, are more than welcome.
A side trip to the small town of Fairmount, in northeastern Indiana, is on the itinerary for now. It is there that the idol of my generation, James Dean, is buried. The actor was killed at a young age, in 1955, due to a car accident in southern California. A few years ago, Nebra and I had driven to that crash-site near Cholame. Now we would close the Dean saga by viewing his grave.
Just a thirty-minute drive north of Fairmount is where my maternal great-great grandmother is interred in a Quaker cemetery in Amboy. I do not know much about her except that she was married three times. I have seen a photo of her grave online. So that is in the works too.
I have not mentioned Nebra’s desires for the trip. She has never been to Chicago or, barring Detroit, never to Michigan. So there remains much to see, much of the trip yet to map out. Our passports will come with us, in case we want to cross the Canadian border into Ontario. Despite all my planning we still have plenty of room for the unexpected.