A St. Louis Celebration

I, the Queen of the Wild Hair, decided that even though Ryan is currently in London for work, the Fab Five and I should go downtown today, for the rally celebrating the St. Louis Blues first Stanley Cup championship. So we got on the train. And even though our stop is pretty early in the line, we had to stand. And as the train got closer to the city, more and more Blues fans got on, until it reached maximum capacity, something I had never previously experienced. But everyone was in a good mood, and it was a fun ride!

We headed for Kiener Plaza, and then the Arch grounds, when we arrived, so we could hang out with several hundred thousand of our closest friends. We didn’t plan on seeing the parade, and we couldn’t stay for the whole rally, but we wanted to be there, and see at least part of it. And we definitely weren’t disappointed!

Some of my favorite moments included stumbling across a musician playing “Gloria,” hearing the Charles Glenn Group perform many different numbers (including Don’t Stop Believin’, with a St. Louis twist that I’m sure would annoy Detroit Redwings fans), and hearing a barge tow on the Mississippi River get the “Let’s Go Blues” chant going (as did pretty much every car stuck in gridlock downtown). And I’m almost certain that at this point, the city of St. Louis is out of beer, because if the Blues players didn’t drink it all, their fans did, but it was an affable crowd, and no one was belligerent or rude…everyone was in a festive mood, and having a great time! I definitely hope we get to do this again sometime, but I doubt anything will come close to matching the energy of that first championship!

Markel Family Michigan Getaway–Day Two

Last Sunday was a very busy day! We started with breakfast at the restaurant where Ryan had his first job as a teenager. I had a Greek skillet, which was basically gyros for breakfast…delicious!

We then headed over to Christ the King’s second campus, where the retirement festivities were held, beginning with the Divine Service, where both Ryan and his mom got to sing in the choir.

There was a very nice lunch reception after the service, and it was obvious even to an outsider how much that congregation loves their pastors. It was a lot of fun to be part of it, even if we weren’t members there.

After the reception, we drove through Detroit on the way to our next destination. We stopped at historic Fort Wayne on the Detroit River (not to be confused with Fort Wayne, IN, which was named for the same general), to see a place that had been built as a defense against Canada, of all places! Unfortunately, much of the fort is falling apart, but we still got a good sense of what it used to look like.

While we were there, we saw two fighter jets flying overhead, which seemed very appropriate:

We then headed over to the Detroit Riverwalk, where we once again got to gaze upon Canada, but this time, in a more urban setting:

We also drove past Comerica Park…I know it’s home of the Detroit Tigers, but I couldn’t believe just how many tiger statues they had outside!

And then after what seemed like a longer drive than it was, probably because I was so excited to arrive at our destination, we reached Frankenmuth, Michigan’s “Little Bavaria!”

Even our hotel, which is definitely part of a large chain, had a Bavarian look!

All of Main Street is in on the Bavarian architecture, and it was just as charming as I expected it to be!

We had late dinner reservations at one of the two restaurants in town that are famous for fried chicken dinners…the Bavarian Inn. Our dinner was amazing, but you’ll have to wait a few days for the full details!

Even though our dinner lasted almost two and a half hours, it was still light outside when we were done. We were so far north, the sunset was almost an hour later than it is here at home! So we were able to enjoy a nice after-dinner walk, and actually see the town. I loved the covered bridge…but I’m really glad we walked across it instead of driving over it!

We stopped at the Bavarian Inn’s lodge, where they have a huge fun center, and we found my favorite game…skee ball! I think the dinner weighed me down, because the best I could do was tie for first!

We needed to stop at the store and pick up a styrofoam cooler for our dinner leftovers, and I was tickled to discover that even the Kroger looked like it was built in Bavaria!

It had been a long day, and we were all full and tired, so we headed back to the hotel after that. I really wish we could have spent more time in Frankenmuth, but we did have a few more stops planned for Monday morning before we left town!

Markel Family Michigan Getaway–Day One

Last Saturday, we were up dark and early (again), this time for a short road trip to Michigan. I think we were all dreading the long drive, but it ended up feeling really quick, and I think that was partly due to a brief stop in Casey, IL, which is home to many of the world’s largest items, including this rocking chair…it’s seriously huge!

Anyway, it was a really good drive, and we arrived at the Hampton Inn in Southgate in a good mood, even though rain was starting to fall. I can’t remember the last time I stayed at a Hampton Inn (if ever)…it was a really nice hotel!

After we got all of our luggage into our room, we headed to Bishop Park in Wyandotte, where I got to look across the Detroit River at CANADA! I know it sounds silly, but this was the first time I’d ever seen another country with my own eyes, and it was very exciting!

We then visited the church that Ryan grew up at, Christ the King, Southgate. We loved the beautiful stained glass windows!

We also drove by Ryan’s old house:

And then stopped at a convenience store so we could introduce the children to one of the best drinks known to man:

Did I mention why we were in Michigan? The pastor from Ryan’s childhood church was celebrating his retirement last weekend, and the church was having a big celebration in his honor. He and his wife hosted a lovely reception at their home for out-of-town guests Saturday evening, so that’s where we headed next. Fortunately, the rain abated while we were there, and we enjoyed our dinner outside. Afterwards, we headed over to Meijer, a store we don’t have in the St. Louis area.

The reason for our stop? To stock up on the previously mentioned world’s best soda:

After that, we headed back to the hotel, where we enjoyed a swim in a pool that had cool lights that changed color:

I know that this is going to come as a shock, but when we got back to our room, we didn’t watch the Food Network…instead, we watched Nick at Night, which was showing Full House and Friends!

Markel Family Combo Breaker Getaway–Day Seven

We’re always sad to say goodbye to Pheasant Run, but that’s how the final day of our trip north began:

We weren’t quite ready to leave Chicagoland, though, so we stopped for a walk around the Lincoln Park Zoo.

We also needed fuel for our journey home, so we went to Rainbow Cone for a treat:

And we stopped in Bloomington/Normal for an early dinner at one of my favorite restaurants…Portillo’s.

And so ended our extended trip for Combo Breaker. We had a lot of fun and made a lot of memories, and summer is only just beginning!

Markel Family Combo Breaker Getaway–Day Six

I had big plan for Memorial Day, because for the first time, we were going to be staying a Pheasant Run an extra day, giving us time for extra activities. My plan was to go to Cantigny Park, which is a fun place to visit any day:

But a really special place to visit on Memorial Day. In addition to a lovely ceremony, where they laid a wreath by the Doughboy statue, there were demonstrations of many kinds, including a fife and drum corps, and an army drill team:

The only real disappointment of the whole trip was that the concert at Cantigny, featuring the Wayne Messmer Big Band, was cancelled due to rain. I was really excited to hear Wayne Messmer sing in person for the first time, but I guess I can hope that we can do that next year. Anyway, we drove back to Pheasant Run in an absolute torrent, and headed up to our room to dry off…we were almost as wet as if we had been swimming!

We went back to Alfie’s Inn for another dinner of appetizers (nachos, wings, spinach and artichoke dip, potato skins, and onions rings), plus another dessert (brownie à la mode).

Thankfully the storms stopped, so we had the chance for one last swim in the Garden Atrium pool:

After our swim, we went back to our room to watch the St. Louis Blues play in the first game of the Stanley Cup final…unfortunately, they lost, but at least we were able to watch them away from home!

Markel Family Combo Breaker Getaway–Day Five

On Sunday, we stopped by Combo Breaker just as the pools were starting for the day. Since we were dressed for church, I took a picture of the Fab Five in their Sunday best:

And as is my tradition, I made sure to get a picture of myself wearing Pinup Girl Clothing on the Combo Breaker floor:

We then went to church at St. John Wheaton, where we unexpectedly ran into someone we knew…the Lutheran church is so small!

And then a stop at Oberweis for ice cream:

The lemon-blackberry was delicious!

After some lazy time in the hotel room, we went down to Combo Breaker for the Tekken 7 Top 8. The crowd was on fire, and I think this was my favorite fighting game to watch!

Ryan received a medal, as he has every year he has attended in one way or another:

That was the end of Combo Breaker, but we still had a few fun Chicagoland activities planned!

Markel Family Combo Breaker Getaway–Day Four

Last Saturday, we were really hoping the rain would miss us, because we had lots of outdoor plans for the day…and for the most part, it did!

We started at Brookfield Zoo, a place we visited in January. We wanted to see what it was like in the springtime, and we wanted to see the Brick Safari LEGO exhibit (more details on that in the future)!

After a quick stop at the hotel, we headed to Giordano’s for a dinner of appetizers (calamari, a sampler platter, a wings flight, and fried cheese curds), plus a very delicious dessert (Nutella cannoli bites):

And then we made the short trip to Northwestern Medicine Field to see the Kane County Cougars, a Class A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, take on the Beloit Snappers:

We didn’t stay for the whole game…at 9 pm, after two-and-a-half hours of play, they were still in the sixth inning, and the Cougars were winning 8-1 (the final score was 10-1), so feeling confident in the Cougars imminent victory, we headed back to the hotel for a little more Combo Breaker fun:

Next up: The final day of Combo Breaker!

Markel Family Combo Breaker Getaway–Day Three

Day three of our vacation was also the day that Combo Breaker began, and of course we had to get a family photo while we were all in the same place (which didn’t happen very often this year!)!

A highlight for whichever children have money to spend is visiting the Gaming Generations booth to buy something video game related. This year, it was all plush, and the nice folks selling them even gave us a discount for being frequent shoppers!

Walking through the resort, we discovered that Pheasant Run had set up this nice table of treats for the gamers to enjoy as they came through the lobby:

After a swim in the Garden Atrium pool (which was surrounded by casuals set-ups for the first time this year, and provided us with a nice soundtrack of buttons mashing), we headed back to Medieval Times for the third year in a row, and for the third year in a row, we got to support the Yellow Knight of Navarre. This year, Ladybug received one of his carnations!

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were exhausted, so we didn’t even stop by Combo Breaker again…just a bit more Food Network before we crashed!

Markel Family Combo Breaker Getaway–Day Two

Last Thursday was one of my favorite days of any trip up north…the day we took the Metra into the city of Chicago!

Those first moments in downtown Chicago are always a thrill for me!

Our big activity this year was going to the Sears Tower Skydeck. (Yes, I hear some people are calling it the Willis Tower these days, but it will always be “Sears” to me!) Not only were we thrilled with the views from all four sides of the Skydeck, we also walked out onto the “Ledge” for an even more amazing, and slightly terrifying, view!

After we had our fill of Chicago views, we made our way to Buckingham Fountain, where we had lunch, and a nice lady offered to take a picture of the six of us:

We then started walking toward Millennium Park, and found this cool dog along the way. I think he’s a companion to the dog we saw on the Wendella dock last year!

Bunny was thrilled to have an opportunity to feed some pigeons:

And we took some pictures at The Bean, as has become our tradition:

We then walked across Michigan Avenue to the Chicago Cultural Center, which used to be the central library in the city, and is home to beautiful mosaics and Tiffany glass domes:

Outside of the Cultural Center, we stopped to see the Bronze Cow statue, a gift to Chicago to commemorate the 1999 Cows on Parade display:

We of course had to stop at Marshall Field’s of Blessed Memory for a box of Frango mints:

And then back to Ogilvie Transportation Center to catch a train back to Geneva. We even found seats on the second floor!

After dinner in the hotel room, we indulged in the chocolate torte cake that I mentioned yesterday. It was as good as I remembered, and the children loved it!

After we spent a little more time relaxing, we headed to the outdoor pool, and stayed in the water as the stars came out. It was a lovely evening for a swim!

Back in the room, we watched a little more Food Network, but not a lot, because we were all exhausted from our busy day, and knew there was more fun to come!