2014-10-07 to 2014-10-13 from Minneapolis,MN to Chicago,IL

2014-10-08_ILChicago,WillisTower (4)
2014-10-08_ILChicago,WillisTower (4)

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The drive from Minneapolis to Chicago was about 8 hours long with many tolls and slowdowns due to road construction. That highway will be great when the construction is completed. It was not a bad drive and the Garmin GPS was wonderful. I visited my younger son and his girlfriend and we had a wonderful time. There was an ‘incident’ that I will write about in-detail at the end -because- it happened at the end of the trip. On 10/6, Monday, I entered the technological mobile world, i.e., my son gave me his old iPhone. From this day, all of the pictures were taken with an iPhone 5.
On my first day in Chicago, my son needed some groceries and I went with him to the store. The one that we visite me reminded me of the ones in Atlanta – that is ,they have large selections and much variety. He stocked his kitchen with many goodies for the next several days of my visit. The next day, my son and I shopped at a local retail store and ate brunch at a local hangout called “Manny’s Coffee Shop”. During the whole trip, I took many pictures.
My son and I also visited the Willis Tower observation deck. We watched a video at the bottom containing information about the building. It used to be called the Sears Tower. We rode an elevator to the top with many other tourists. The day was beautiful and clear and there wasn’t a large crowd. We enjoyed identifying many of the buildings below. After leaving the tower, we walked around the area to a water taxi. We considered taking the sight-seeing tour, but decided that a ride in the water taxi was sufficient for the tourist travel of the day. It was very enjoyable. Parking in a deck near the tower was expensive to me – it cost $38 for a few hours. Many signs in the area told of early bird parking rates – but, we weren’t there early enough.
During the week, we dined at the “Greek Islands Restaurant”. The food was excellent and the restaurant has many good reviews on the internet. We enjoyed both our food and the experience there. Pictures that I included are the Sea Bass dish and a sausage, tomato dish.
We went to a theater in the Lincoln Park district and saw the “Blue Man Group”. Note: no pictures are allowed of the show. We were near the front of the theater and had to ‘suit-up’ = i.e., put on clear plastic rain-coats (note: they really weren’t needed for us).
We also dined at the “Palace Grill” near my son’s apartment. I enjoyed seeing the pictures on the wall of Oprah being there. I rembered seeing her on a show where she worked as a bank teller, a fast-food drive-in window, and – I guess – that she worked behind the counter at the grill. A Harpo building is not far from the restaurant.
My son likes Chinese food and we ate brunch in Chinatown. I took pictures of the seafood tofu plate that I ordered after I had eaten the shrimp and scallops. The remaining seafood was octopus. We browsed in several stores and stopped for ‘munchie’ samples. It was a beautiful day and I took many pictures of the area.
We walked a lot and at home, I was surprised that I didn’t gain any weight. Our final meal was at the “Green Street Meat Market”. It is essentially a BBQ restaurant stuck in the middle of the block and very rustic decor. The food was excellent and they have a large rack of firewood inside for the oven. You can smell the food from the outside. We especially enjoyed the chocolate topped vanilla ice cream.
——-> Story of “the incident” – i.e., Vanna White went to jail! <—-
I had planned to drive back to Atlanta on Sunday. I packed my clothes and walked to where I had parked the van on a side street of the apartment. The van was GONE! The police had placed signs on the street a couple of days before, but I hadn’t seen them. The Chicago Marathon was on Sunday and they pulled my van to the main pound area a day before. When I discovered that the van was gone, a policeman was nearby for the marathon and I asked him what I should do. He said to call 311 and they would tell me what I needed. 3-1-1 looked up my license tag number and told me that “Vanna White” was located at 400 East Lower Wacker Street. They gave me a number for the impound office and I called there. The impound office told me that it would cost $190 to retrieve the van and that they were open 24 hours a day. If I didn’t get the van before midnight, $20 would be added to the bill. Well – I decided to stay and extra night, enjoy the day and see the marathon. After the marathon ended, I would do what I needed to get the van. Around 5pm, my son told me that he would drive me to the area. He thought that he knew where it was. We rode in tunnels under tall buildings and couldn’t find the building number 400 anywhere. He turned around several times and we doubled back trying to find the entrance. He called the office number again and the person answering the phone told him, “near the Swiss Hotel”. He drove around the entrance to the tunnel again and after a long stretch of tunnel, there was a parking area on the right with an entrance to a hotel parking deck on the left. He parked his car and said “let’s look for stairs”. After I crossed the street from the parked car, I saw a sign – City of Chicago, Central Auto Pound with an arrow pointing to the right. We knew that we were close, but had missed it somehow. I followed my son and his friend down a flight of stairs. At that point, we realized that we had driven down Wacker Street several times, but that there was a tunnel under it called Lower Wacker (we were under 2 levels of highway). We walked about a block, and saw the entrance to the impound. As we walked, there was an opening in the area that went to a walkway. We delayed the retrieval of Vanna and walked along the canal. We walked to the harbor and then walked more along the path looking at the boats and skyline. It was cloudy, but near sunset and the city lights came on – it was beautiful with a gentle breeze from the harbor. As it got darker, we turned around and walked back to the impound office. My son left me to sign papers and get the van and he returned with his car. I talked with the person who filled in the paperwork for me to drive away and told him, “We had a hard time finding this office.” He replied, “Yes, we don’t exist. GPS doesn’t work here.”
Outside the impound gate, I followed my son to his apartment, and parked again on Laflin Street. We ate at “Green Street Meats” and I drove home the next day. Thank goodness, I didn’t have any more ‘incidents’.


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2014-10-04 Trip from Atlanta, GA to Minneapolis, MN

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I stayed with a friend in the surburbs for 3 nights. It took me 2 days of driving from Atlanta to reach her house. I stayed overnight in St. Louis because I do not like driving at night. She suggested that we visit the Flour Tower Museum on Saturday. We had a great time in the museum and went to the top in a ‘special’ elevator for tourists. (It used to be part of the commercial building.) The elevator would stop on a floor and show a video with machines that used to be operational in the building. We also viewed a video of  the history of the area on the ground floor before entering the elevator. At the top of the building, there is a viewing deck of the river. It was beautiful. I had forgotten
to bring my Canon Powershot camera and I took pictures using an older Samsung cellphone.  At this time, I am unable to read the pictures on the phone because they are saved on a micro-SD and I don’t have a converter that will allow me to read them. I have ordered one and will try to add the pictures later.
Afterward, we visited the Hill House in nearby St. Paul and I loved the tour. Pictures later from the cell phone.
The next day, we visited Stillwater, MN and I took many pictures of the new bridge and causeway being built. It will be a major route from Wisconsin to Minnesota in the future. The town sponsored an ‘art fest’ by the river and it was windy and chilly. We walked around the town and I enjoyed the sights. Hope that you, the reader, enjoy the pictures. I remembered to bring
my Canon Powershot when leaving on this excursion.
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2014-08-16 Van Renovation (The side behind the passenger seat.)

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A few years ago after I bought the van, my older son built a wonderful 2″x4″ and plywood bed for me. After installation, we weren’t sure what would be best and when I decided afterward, he didn’t have time to build what I thought would work for my camping needs. So, I went to Lowe’s and bought a kitchen countertop and metal braces and built a set of 2″x4″ legs for it. I didn’t know what I was doing and I’m not as strong as my son. It also took a couple of days for me to build what I called ‘the bookcase’ attached to the countertop. The configuration left an aisle down the middle of the van and it made loading water and food onto the countertop from the side open doors easy. I enjoyed the setup, until, after some wear, the wood “cracked” at many joints and it made noises when I stopped and started. It became obvious that my construction was not going to last. My son said that he would build me a new tabletop and storage area during the summer. He told me to take EVERYTHING out of the van so that he could begin construction. I had accumulated quite a bit of ‘stuff’ – I carry things that I -think- I may need – not what I actually use and will definitely need. So, I put all the van gear on the floor of the house and in the garage – scattered everywhere. In mid-August, I drove the van to his house and he began work on the new countertop. He cut some plywood and talked me into putting the bar-sink into it (instead of the orange crate that I used previously). He replaced the 2″x4″ shelves with a piece of plywood on the bottom (across the van wheel well) and wire shelving braced with a deck wood piece. The top wire shelf was placed for lightweight items and, at present, rests on top of a 3-drawer plastic drawer. My son said that he would brace the top wirerack for me on a future date. I placed all the items back in the van that I thought I would need. I haven’t been camping since the rebuild, but am currently planning a driving trip to see my younger son in Chicago next week. The ‘big-thing’ about the work was that my son also took apart the batteries and inverter. He secured the batteries to the plywood floor and reinstalled the AIMS inverter. We tested the inverter and determined that the $35 microwave will not work with the batteries, but requires shore power. (I haven’t used it yet as I am not a coffee drinker and have-to-have caffeine in the morning. At the time of building the van, we thought that it would be something nice-to-use.) Note: At the beginning of building the van, we also thought that having a generator was necessary. I was reluctant to use it because I had read that you must ‘maintain’ it and I wanted to make sure that I needed it before opening the box. The generator box remains unoped to this day – AND in the last couple of years, many more solar collector options have appeared on the market. My longest camping was at Quartzsite last winter. My camping neighbor from California had excess solar capacity and offered to let me charge my batteries from his solar system. I was able to go several days longer with his help. <Note: I have an isolator, so that if I need battery charging, I can drive somewhere or use a generator. Additonal note about the batteries: they were installed behind the passenger seat and the weight of them didn’t have any movement. However, over the last couple of years of reading other vandwelling posts, I learned that if the van were to have a wreck and rollover, there was the possibility of being hit in the head and killed by a battery. Something to think about.>
Many thanks to Dan from Chicago for the white window film on the back windows. I really, really, really LIKE IT! You can’t see inside well from the outside – but inside the van, you are able to see outside very well when the film is not wet. I like being able to see the back of me using the rear view mirror.
Another note: Last year, I attended the RTR (Rubber-Tramp-Rendevous) in Quartzsite,AZ hosted by Bob Wells, the author of the website “CheapRVLiving”. There was a lady from Chicago who had read on the internet about people who travelled in vans and she liked the idea – but, she wasn’t sure if she would like the experience. So – o – o, she flew to Arizona near the RTR and rented a U-Haul van for a few days to join the group and experience the driving and sleeping in a van. She returned to Chicago with the idea of buying a van at a later date.
<<As always, any comments that you have about the website would be appreciated. If you want to receive an email after my WordPress website is updated, then click on the “subscribe” button and add your email address. -AND- I have another website. It is about my 1971 MGB (old English 2-seater convertible-top car). The url address is : http://www.PuddinInTheMGB.wordpress.com >>