Our original loose route back to Florida included a big westward swing to visit daughter Andrea in Ames, Iowa. Turned out the dates were nearly unworkable with her shift schedule and a work related nursing conference in Chicago she would be attending. Solution: just meet her in Chicago! This shortened our route considerably, and allowed us to visit a great city. I managed to screw up the dates a bit, and we accidentally arrived two days before her visit, but it mostly worked out.
After our usual All Stays, Passport America, and RV Park Reviews research, we selected Camp Bullfrog Lake, a county park about as close as you can get to Chicago without resorting to a truck marshalling yard. We considered going back to the Great Lakes Naval Station, which would have been significantly cheaper, but also considerably further away from downtown. Staying this close to the city costs you: $45 for weekdays and $60 for weekends! Ah well, they do at least provide you one free bundle of firewood.
It is a nice campground deep in the woods on a terraced lot overlooking a small lake. The sites are mostly electric only (though we lucked out getting the only site with a sewage connection.) Since we arrived on my birthday, we celebrated with a good cut of steak and some of our Green Bay Farmer’s Market purchases: heirloom tomatoes and hedgehog mushrooms.
We spent the second day driving around the outskirts of Chicago without actually entering the city. We finished things off with a visit to the Berwyn Moose, which was technically closed, but the administrator, Paul, was on premises, and he gave us a great welcome, including a tour of the lodge. When he offered, we though, uh, ok, how much of a tour can you get from one moose center? Turns out, quite a long one. The Berwyn Lodge is HUGE, easily the biggest Moose we have ever visited. Imagine two full size basketball gyms side by side, and two more in the basement.
The next day, not wanting to experiment with downtown Chicago driving and parking that would extend into the evening, we took an Lyft into Chicago. Even this was challenging: turns out Lyft’s mapping app does not have the correct location for Camp Bullfrog, and the driver stopped nearly two miles away. We walked about a mile and managed to talk him back the other half, and finally made it downtown a bit later.
We did touristy things for a while, including two of the major parks, and, of course, The Bean, before meeting up with Andrea in front of the extraordinary Buckingham Fountain. From there it was off to dinner, letting the mostly vegetarian daughter select the restaurant. We ended up in at The Berghof, a German place with plenty of non-meat options, and everything was superb.
We took a lyft back to the campground, confirming that the map error was not a one time glitch, but the driver followed our directions to get back to the actual park rather than some random spot on a dark road. The next day we resolved to switch to Uber for our downtown outing, and had no problems at all.
Andrea’s pre-conference research had dug up a monthly event at the famous Shedd Aquarium in which they turn the venue into an evening cocktail social and nightclub. It was great, and we highly recommend it. Be forewarned: they are serious about no outside food and drinks (checking everyone’s back thoroughly) which became a problem for us since we had brought a bunch of gift for Andrea from various farmers markets. One of the managers was kind enough to bend the rules and let us store them in one of the pay lockers for the duration of our stay.
We had a great time: for $25 a person you get the run of the whole aquarium and the option to purchase food and drinks, though both are “nightclub” pricey, as in $10 for a glass of wine. That’s it for Chicago. Next we return to The South.