Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Part One

Last Thursday Josh and I set out from Eugene for a 10-day trip to Cedar Rapids, Chicago, Valparaiso, and St. Louis. The first occasion for the trip was a wedding of an old friend of Josh’s in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Since he had accepted the invitation to be in the wedding, we found out that the CCDA was having their annual conference in St. Louis the following week, and one thing led to another. Being so close to Josh’s alma mater, Valparaiso University, made a visit there possible as well.

We landed in Chicago very late Thursday, got up Friday and drove the 4 ½ hour trek to Cedar Rapids in time for the rehearsal/ dinner. Saturday we took in the wedding and then turned back around to Chicago. We found a really charming and not too spendy hotel in Oak Park, across from the Hemingway Museum. The Midwest appears to have two coffee shops – Starbucks and Caribou Coffee. Caribou is much cooler, and has free WiFi, and one is located just a block from our hotel. Sunday morning we walked over for a cup of coffee and enjoyed the delightful ending of Pride and Prejudice, which we have been reading together for several weeks.

After coffee we checked out and made a pilgrimage of sorts to Lawndale Community Church. Lawndale is a CCDA church pastored by one of its founding members, Wayne “Coach” Gordon. We really loved our experience worshipping there, and left feeling inspired and a bit in awe. Both sides of the street are lined with ministries of this church, including a youth center, dental & eye clinic, a community center, a residential recovery home, and a rather large health care clinic. The service included some wonderful gospel music, and we felt buoyed up by the spirit of joy and praise among them. The sermon was good, the people welcoming, and the ministry of the church inspiring. We left feeling grateful that we had the privilege of worshiping there and seeing first hand what this famous community is like on Sunday morning.

In the afternoon we took the el into downtown Chicago – the first train of our planes, trains, and automobile experience. Josh has spent quite a bit of time in Chicago since going to college just an hour or so away. But this is my first time in the city. It happened to be the day of the Chicago Marathon, and downtown was teeming with runners and their fans. We walked to Millennium Park and took in the very cool art installations – the spitting face fountains, the “bean,” and the exploding steel amphitheatre. We decided to do Sears Tower, and walked through the towering giant buildings until facing the tallest of them all. wow! Heights tend to freak me out a bit, but the 103rd floor is enclosed and not terribly frightening. We had beautiful views in every direction, with the afternoon sun beaming on the West Side. When we’d taken in all the views, and way too many pictures, we descended and set out walking again. After smoothies at Jamaba Juice (one of them free thanks to a generous employee at closing time) we trekked up to the beautiful Buckingham fountain as its lights were coming on for the evening.

As the city lights began to come on we saw that many of the buildings, including Sears Tower are displaying pink lights to promote breast cancer awareness. One of my dearest friends has just begun chemo in her fight against breast cancer, and as I saw all the pink lights coming on it felt like all of Chicago was shining its support for MeKeesha.

Concerned about the Sunday night train schedule, we decided to catch the el back to our car in Oak Park, and make our drive to Valparaiso, Indiana.

Valparaiso is the home of the university where Josh did his undergrad work, so this part of our trip was a stroll down memory lane for him. He was in awe of all the changes – both to the city and the university. We grabbed a tasty dinner near campus and then took in the candlelight Vespers service in their stunning chapel building. After, we retired for the night at the Valpo Super 8.

This brings us to this morning, Monday, of our travel log. We slept in, and got ourselves checked out just in time to meet an old friend of Josh’s for lunch. After lots of laughs and stories, she had to get back to work, and we spent the rest of the afternoon perusing the campus, visiting a few people Josh knew, and taking in a class with his favorite art professor. After seeing the new buildings, and a few old ones, grabbing a smooch on the Kissing Bridge, and walking (rather too quickly) through the new labrynth, we left Valpo and headed back into Chicago.

We’re back in our cute hotel in Oak Park for two nights – the first two we’ve spent in the same place – and then we’ll be taking a train to St. Louis on Wednesday.

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