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Last week I took a road trip to Chicago. I want to tell you all about it, so I think I’ll break it up into a few parts. I hope that you don’t mind. ;)

So it all begins with 7 hours in a car. Alone. I went to visit my BFF Chris for a little girl time, a little thrifting, a little live music, a little food. And when I say “a little” what I really mean is a lot of all of the above. As I prepared to leave, the anticipation was killin’ me! Of course, maternal guilt tried to nudge its way in there, but excitement won out.

Besides, I made sure the house was stocked with food and fresh cookies. I put sweet notes in each of the boys lunches. I included a Hershey kiss. All of the laundry was done, so there was no need to “go commando” or wear ripped jeans while I was gone. I had plenty of snacks for the trip. My iPod was loaded and plugged into the Ford Sync. I took Hubby’s GPS so I needn’t worry about getting lost. (The GPS is named “Olivia” after Olivia Newton-John, and for her lovely Australian accent.) And I packed a few cookies. Just in case of emergency.

I covered all the bases.

Olivia did well helping me navigate the winding, unmarked county roads leading to the expressway. Good thing, because when driving through the snow belt, visibilty goes from clear, to mottled,

to white-out in an instant. Olivia was worth her weight in gold at this point because I was (seemingly) the only car on the road, and I couldn’t see a thing.

Thankfully the snow lightened after a few hours as I got closer to civilization. Which was a good thing because that was right about when the driver’s side windshield washer jet crapped out on me. :) As I was driving, my brother caught wind of my travels (via my Facebook status) and asked if I could stop for lunch on my way to Chicago. I glanced at my sack lunch on the seat next to me, decided to ignore it, and asked for directions to his place of employment.

Of course I had to stop to have lunch with my brother! Seeing as we just about never get to hang out just the 2 of us, it seemed like the right thing to do. Need I remind you that I have 4 children, which means I am never alone, and my brother lives 2 hours away?  Besides, even with the snow, I was making excellent time. I was still riding the high of driving alone in a vehicle, listening to whatever I wanted, as loud as I wanted, and singing as loud as I could because no one would hear. It was fun!

Off topic: Did you ever see that show “Motor Mouth” in the ’90′s where they hid video cameras on the dashboard of someone’s car and taped them singing their guts out to the radio? Then they broadcast it on national television? Hilarious, right? Let’s just say that I was glad there wasn’t a camera in the car.

So Olivia navigated our way to my brother’s workplace with little effort.

My brother, also named Chris, not to be confused with BFF Chris, happens to work for a restaurant supply company. He offered to give me a tour. I hesitated for about half a second because kitchen supply stores can be a very dangerous place for me. I want everything! These are a stack of stainless half-sheet pans that I love! Since I have a stack of my own at home, I resisted the urge to buy more.  I didn’t want to blow my weekend budget before even getting there.

But it was hard. You can always use another whisk, right? This is when the ADD really kicks in, because I see all the cool kitchen accessories, and my head whips in every direction trying to take it all in. Then my wallet somehow finds its way into my hands and starts weeping for attention. ((Breathe!)) I was just there for lunch.

Lunch. Right.

But isn’t this cool? Now I am not a huge hot dog fan, but this carousel was nifty. Just like the ones they have in gas stations.  But holy cow! $908?! It wasn’t that cool! But who knows: 4 future teenage boys might necessitate such a purchase.

Eventually Chris dragged me out of his workplace. He was hungry, and he sees all that cool kitchen stuff everyday. We went to a place called “Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop.” Honestly–How can you not love anything from a place called Uncle Cheetah’s? Their soup selection was so inventive! Pumpkin Chorizo. Ginger Curry Peanut. Saffron Tomato Bisque. Swoon. Of course, I got the Broccoli Cheddar, because I take every opportunity available to eat more cheese. It was good. Chris opted for the Roasted Red Pepper with Asiago, which was also fab. Once sufficiently stuffed with soup, I hit the road again.

I made it to Chicago in relatively good time. However, due to my unplanned lunch excursion, I hit Chicago at the prime of rush hour. I called Chris while exiting to Lakeshore Drive, just to let her know that our plans for hitting a thrift store on the way to Happy Hour would be delayed. Which was the exact point in which Olivia had a GPS-seizure and had me turning all the wrong ways. Now, I’ve been to Chicago dozens of times. Never have I driven through Chinatown on my way north. Until now. I knew I was lost.

Olivia officially held the top spot on my fecal roster.

Remember the line in movie Cars?  “…I have the GPS. Never need a map again!” Yeah. Not so much.

I called Chris to pinch hit for the ailing Olivia, which would have been great if not for every other street in downtown Chicago being closed or detoured. I was getting a bit nervous weaving in and out of taxi cabs, but but Chris was an excellent GPS. We were cracking up the whole time. When we weren’t swearing.

Chris: “OK, drive up 4 blocks, and turn on Such-and-Such Street.”

Me: (Waiting through 30 minutes of light changes and traffic.) “OK, I’m there! Aaannnd the street is closed.”

Chris: “What?! AGAIN?!” (Pause.) “OK, then turn around and…”

Over and over and over again for about 90 minutes. My 7 hour trip morphed into an 8 1/2 hour trip. But it truly was hilarious!  I got there eventually, at which point I did a little happy-dance in the car. I almost felt like sliding into home plate when I pulled up in front of her house. Safe!

Later we found out that the President of China was in town, so all of the streets closed and re-routed for security purposes. Well I guess that justifies my additional hour and a half of road time.

Next up: Solo Road Trip: the Food

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