Chi-Paign and Other Curious Beverages
Chi-Paign and Other Curious Beverages July 2012
I stepped off the train at Ogilvie Transportation System, starving, thirsty, and ready for excitement. I found a smoothie shop and ordered something incredibly healthy (to complement all those Russian pancakes) and started my search for the station. Above me shot the Elevated Train, which was nice because the tracks overhead were blocking out the heat of the sun. I was searching for Washington-Wells Station, on the Brown line in the bustling Chicago "Loop," which would take me to Lincoln Park. I needed coffee. I needed green space. I needed to find the station.
Where was it? It was being elusive. Walking all around hearing the noisy trains overhead it dawned on me that looking street level was not the answer. If the trains were above me, than most likely so was the station. In Boston, everything is below ground - the same in New York and London. But no, not in Chicago. Luckily, my powers of observation didn't fail me, and eventually I found the entrance to Washington Wells and walked up two flights of stairs. A short wait later I was headed towards the park on the blessed L-Train towards Armitage, where I was able to disembark without much ado.
Immediate problem: the park is nowhere near the station. I walked more than half a mile...my bags weighing heavily on my shoulders, sweat dripping down my forehead into my eyes - the temperature was in the high 90's. When I had consulted google maps the night before, it had told me that getting off at Armitage would mean only a short walk into Lincoln Park. Turns out, Lincoln Park is the name of the entire residential district, not just the green space.
However, I did find my target destination, after almost a mile of walking. When it was in view I stepped into a café attached to the Hotel Lincoln called Elaine's Coffee Call for some lunch and a latté, and some necessary reprieve from the sun. I am an extremely pale person - no matter how much sunscreen I lather up with, I will burn to a crisp. So, even though I was eager to finally reach Lincoln Park, I needed a moment.
Elaine's was there to provide that for me. The coffee was excellent but the food was terrible, utilizing a process known as freeze and reheat that I didn't realize until after I had already ordered. Needless to say I didn't finish. But the atmosphere was trendy, chic, with tables made out of old suitcases and free wi-fi, an essential item for my line of work.
After the needed R&R I trekked the rest of the way to the park, only to discover that it was ugly in the midsummer season of drought. The grass was shriveling, the light was reflecting off the pavement in a blinding manner - a number of people were coming around the bend in swimwear, pointing to the existence of a popular swimming spot in the distance. But after being nearly hit by three bicyclists, I decided to venture no further, and sat under a shady tree with a book and tried to avoid being nibbled upon by ants.
I caught the 151 Sheridan bus back to the city, to Millenium Station, near the famous Millenium Park and had the privilege of riding with several volleyball teams who had just left the beach volleyball tournament, and every time they would move they would fling sand and various other particles around them. There was no space to move on the bus either, I found myself crammed between two Amazonian women in one of the middle seats, desperately willing the bus to go faster.
Eventually I arrived at the station, not without taking a trip to Intelligentsia Coffee - for the best espresso I have EVER had. I wish I had time to expound on this fact, but I do not. Just trust me. If you're in Chicago, go to Intelligentsia.
I spent the evening with some family friends in Monee, Illinois before heading back into the city the following morning to catch the 8:15 train from Union Station to Champaign, IL. I almost missed it too...I ran through the gates 30 seconds before they closed them, and spent the next half an hour trying to recuperate from the half mile run. Yes, that's right. I ran a half mile up South Canal Street on the wrong side of the road, then dashed across six lanes of traffic (it was a green light) and burst through the gates and onto the train with 30 seconds to spare.
I like keeping things interesting for myself, apparently.
I spent the remainder of the day in Champaign with an old friend, wandering through the hallways of the old buildings at the University of Illinois, eating at Potbelly. A nice casual, light and easy day to follow a tremendously dizzying weekend.
I caught the last train of my trip to Centralia, IL that night...it was delayed by two hours. Ah, the thrill of travels, ever teaching patience and persistence.