The Happiest Trip on Earth–The Bonus Day

MSP—>STL; 8,316 steps

And so we arrive at the “Bonus Day” of our trip. Trying to look for a silver lining, I will say that if we hadn’t had to spend the night in Bloomington, MN, we wouldn’t have seen this cool airport art at MSP. That’s the best I can do.

We left our hotel on the first shuttle out, at 4:30 a.m. We were not taking any chances on not getting to the airport on time! Once we arrived, we went to Caribou Coffee to use our meal vouchers for breakfast. Fortunately, we had enough money to each have a coffee and a breakfast sandwich!

We cautiously made our way to our gate, and it seemed like we would be leaving as (re)scheduled. There was a brief moment where the gate agent seemed doubtful, and started trying to put people on alternate flights, but then they decided they were worried for nothing, so we just sat and waited for our boarding time.

The flight wasn’t very full, so we boarded pretty quickly. We buckled in for what was scheduled to be a relatively short flight and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Because the same issue that had delayed the flight the night before (lack of a first officer) was still a problem. They finally found one on an inbound flight, and I assume she hurried over as fast as possible after she landed, and she was cheered by the entire plane when she stepped through the door. I’m not going to lie…I help my breath while they did the pre-flight check because at that point, I was pretty much assuming they were going to find a mechanical issue. They didn’t, though, and we finally took off (after I had already watched most of the first Downton Abbey movie).

We made it home without further complications, and we didn’t even have to wait too long for our luggage.

And that brings us to the end of our trip. It was an amazing experience, even with the trouble we had on the way home. I’m so glad I had this special time with Turkey and Bunny to celebrate their accomplishments before they move on to the next big thing!

The Happiest Trip on Earth–Day Four

LAX—>MSP; 14,650 steps

So this is the point where our trip started to fall apart a bit. We had a fairly early flight from L.A. to Detroit, so we were up at 4:30 (I was up even earlier, because I was pretty nervous about going back to LAX). We called our Uber without any trouble, got checked in with only a little trouble, and made it through security.

We headed to our gate in Terminal 3 (which is apparently the “new” terminal, as in, not quite done…there were very few food options, and they were doing construction on an escalator the whole time we were there). I wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on around me, until I heard the word “cancelled” over the loudspeaker…yes, it was our flight. After a moment of panic, we headed to the help desk to find out what we needed to do. They put us on a flight back through Minneapolis-St. Paul, which was fine, but the flight was scheduled to leave many hours later than we had planned…did I mention there was almost nothing to do in that terminal? They gave us meal vouchers for our trouble…which covered the cost of two meals…did I mention there were three of us? Anyway, we had a very long, very boring, very uncomfortable day in LAX, where we tried really hard not to fall asleep for too long with some success. If I never have to go back to that airport again, it will be too soon!

I did still have one goal before we left California…I was really hoping to catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. We didn’t see it on our arrival, but shortly after our plane took off from LAX, Turkey poked me and told me to look out the window…we had swung out just enough that I actually got to see it!

While I was disappointed not to be landing in Detroit (I had a heard a lot of buzz about a cool fountain, and I was also hoping we might find a Tim Hortons there), it was nice to see Minneapolis-St. Paul again (or so I thought).

We managed to get to Wendy’s (directly across from our departure gate no less) right before they closed, and food improved our mood greatly. Until…

Our flight home, which was schedule to leave at 9:55 p.m. was delayed. To 9:00 a.m. The next day. And that delayed flight was the last flight to St. Louis that day, so it’s not like we had any other options. So I figured out how to request the hotel room they let us have, and after a very long wait, we finally got on the hotel shuttle (at around 11:00 p.m.) and made it to the hotel for a very short sleep.

Did we ever make it home?

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Six

Here we are, already at the end of our virtual vacation. After packing up the car, we had one more stop planned before we hit the road…a tour of Wrigley Field! (Pardon the blurry photo…it’s a picture of a not great picture I took in college!)

After visiting the Friendly Confines, we would have made our way to Rainbow Cone to enjoy the ice cream treat they’re famous for:

I love driving through the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago…there are so many cool vintage signs!

The final stop of our Memorial Day Weekend trip is always a meal at Portillo’s, where I get the Italian beef, dipped, of course!

And then home sweet home…no matter how much fun we’ve had, it’s always nice to pull into our driveway (and begin the process of doing all of our vacation laundry!).

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Five

Last year on Memorial Day, we visited Cantigny Park, which is home to the First Division Museum. Seeing both reenactors and active military personnel, not to mention the laying of a wreath at the memorial, was a very moving experience, and I was hoping to do it again this year. We also enjoyed walking the grounds, touring the McCormick mansion, and climbing on the tanks. The one thing we missed out on last year, that I had really wanted to do, was hear Wayne Messmer sing with his big band…they were rained out. I’d like to think that this year, we would have finally been successful in hearing him perform!

If we had done everything I wanted to do at Cantigny, we would have spent most of the day there. Back at the hotel, we would have enjoyed one last evening swim with a much quieter atmosphere, because the crowds clear out quickly once Combo Breaker is finished.

One more day of our virtual vacation to go…and one last fun activity before we hit the road!

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Four

The fourth day of our weekend getaway would have started with church at St. John Wheaton. It’s weird to think that this Sunday, not only are we not going to be there, but nobody is.

I had planned to stop at the Popcorn Store after church, so the children could each pick a selection of candy. I’m happy to hear that store is currently able to do curbside popcorn orders, but it’s not the same without looking at all the candy displays in the shop!

I always wear Pinup Girl Clothing to Combo Breaker on Sunday. I had a really good outfit planned this year, too…my purple plaid Long Jun skirt paired with an Animal Crossing t-shirt. I even had new Animal Crossing pins for my lanyard!

The finals on Sunday are always so exciting to watch, and other than some pool time, I think we would have dedicated most of the day to Combo Breaker. I really loved seeing Tekken 7 last year, and I was really looking forward to experiencing some “Good Ass Tekken” with a hype crowd again this year!

I had big plans for Memorial Day…stay tuned!

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Three

I had another big day planned for the third day of our trip north. First things first…we always take a family picture on the Combo Breaker Floor. Actually, that’s always one of my favorite moments of the trip. I’m pretty bummed that we’re missing that picture this year, so here’s a look back at the family photos we took during our first four Combo Breakers!

After a morning visit to the event, we were going to head to Brookfield Zoo. This has become one of our favorite Chicagoland locations, (we can spend a good six hours just walking around), and it would have been our second springtime zoo trip (to go along with two winter visits). You never see the same thing twice, and we were really looking forward to discovering something new!

I think this would probably have been the night we went to dinner at Alfie’s Inn, too. This restaurant has become another favorite place on our journeys, and they make a mean patty melt!

After dinner, we would have headed back to the hotel for a swim, and an evening of Combo Breaker fun. Now, I know that there’s no way the floor would look like this on Saturday evening, so empty and organized, but I really this picture!

Eventually we would have headed back to our hotel room…I wonder what was supposed to be airing on the Food Network tonight?!?

Up next…the third and final day of Combo Breaker 2020!

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Two

The second day of our trip north for Combo Breaker was going to be A Big Day…it was the day we were going to to hop on the Metra and go into Chicago for a day of fun!

I had a lot of things planned…first we were going to take a water taxi to Navy Pier and ride the Centennial Wheel. After riding The Wheel at St. Louis Union Station last October, we were very excited about the idea of seeing the Chicago skyline from a similar vantage point.

We also planned on visiting The Bean, something we’ve done every time we’ve attended Combo Breaker (even the one year that we missed having our downtown day), and I’m sure we would have fed some pigeons, too, because that’s something we always seem to do.

I had hoped to stop by the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, and maybe the American Girl flagship store (although I’m still not sure how I would have convinced the boys to go along with that!). And of course we would have stopped at the former Marshall Field’s to pick up a box of Frango Mints (thankfully, I was able to order some!), before heading back to the Ogilvie Transportation Center to catch a train back to Schaumburg!

We were planning on going to Kuma’s Corner for burgers one night, and I think after a day of walking around downtown Chicago, we would have really appreciated that meal and a chance to relax. The “Lair of the Minotaur” burger, with caramelized onion, pancetta, bourbon poached pear, and brie looked especially good to me, but I was also looking forward to seeing the special.

After dinner, it would have been time to check out all that Combo Breaker 2020 had to offer. We love walking around the event the first day, and just taking everything in, from the vendors’ area to the main stage to casuals, and everything else! You never know what you’re going to see!

We always stop by the Gaming Generations booth to buy whatever catches our eye. The children were really disappointed about missing out on that opportunity this year, so they were really excited when Gaming Gen opened an online store, and they were able to order the plushes they were hoping to find at the event!

After that, we probably would have just headed back to our hotel room to relax and watch the Food Network, because our Chicago day is always exhausting. Sometimes, if we have the energy, we do go for a swim to relax, though, so that was always a possibility!

Up next…a visit to Brookfield Zoo!

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day One

It’s that time of year! Time for another Markel family Memorial Day weekend getaway to Chicagoland for Combo Breaker! So I’m back with another road-trip wrap-up…but there’s just one problem. Like everything else lately, Combo Breaker was canceled, and our trip along with it. So this year, we’ll be taking a virtual trip up north, and looking at all of the plans I had made. Yes, I know this may seem pathetic or depressing to some, but I figure a virtual trip is better than no trip at all, and this will help me remember all of the things I had planned to do once we finally do get away!

So, I’m assuming we would have been up dark and early on the day we left for Chicago. I’m kind of fudging the dates we would have been gone…Ryan, and probably Turkey with him, would have left earlier in the week for set-up, and I don’t know for sure when the rest of us would have joined them, or how long we would have stayed, because Moose’s junior high graduation was supposed to fall somewhere in this time. Since they never got around to scheduling his actual ceremony, (although his virtual graduation is today!), I figured I’d just pick a reasonable amount of time for our trip starting today.

Anyway, when I drive, I like to leave super early, so that’s what we would have done. We should have arrived in the Chicago area after the bulk of rush hour passed, and we would have breezed right through the toll plazas, because we finally bought an I-PASS in January just to make this drive easier…no waiting in the cash only lanes this time!

Instead of heading to Pheasant Run Resort, which sadly closed in February, (this trip was never going to feel quite right, I guess), we would have gone to the Schaumburg Renaissance Marriott, the new location for Combo Breaker. We were really excited about checking out that hotel…from the pictures on the website, it looks pretty fancy! Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see it next year…

After lugging all of our stuff to our room (hopefully on an upper floor), and meeting up with the rest of our family, I had one big plan for the day…we were going to head even farther north for an architecture tour at SC Johnson & Son in Racine, WI. I was also really excited about doing this…it had been a possibility back in January, but the winter weather got in the way. Not only would we have gotten to enjoy mid-century modern design, (and make lots of Fibber McGee and Molly references!), but also admire Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, which is fantastic. I’m really hoping we get around to taking that tour someday!

Maybe we would have stopped by Lake Michigan in Wisconsin before heading back to Schaumburg…that would have depended on how tired we all were after our long day. I love looking out on the lake, though, so I think we probably would have made it happen.

Once we had gotten back to the hotel and had dinner, (most likely our road trip special of summer sausage and string cheese, with a side of fruit leather), we would have hit the pool, which is always one of our favorite parts of a road trip. Did I mention how nice the hotel, including the pool area, looks? And then I’m sure we would have enjoyed some cable TV before lights out.

Up next…what should have been our big day in Chicago!

A Virtual Vacation

This is the week every year where we usually go to Chicago for Combo Breaker. I’ll be starting a day-by-day “virtual getaway” series later this week, but for now, here’s a look at the virtual vacation I’ll be taking on Instagram for seven days…these are some of my favorite photos that I’ve taken in Chicago over the years!

Where would you like to go to on a virtual (or actual) vacation?

Historic Fort Wayne

One more look at our trip to Michigan in June…this time, Detroit’s historic Fort Wayne. Sadly, much of the installation is in disrepair, but a few buildings are well-kept. Of particular interest is the Tuskegee Airmen Museum.

It’s unclear to me what is going to happen to this historic site…there appears to have been at least some interest in it becoming part of the National Park Service. I hope that someone takes it on and restores it, because let’s face it, any location built to defend the U.S. against Canada of all places has an interesting and unique history that should be preserved and shared!