Sunday, July 30, 2017

Rocky Top

Spending our last night on the road just below Rocky Top, Tennessee. Love the song, did not see the place, except for a string of gas stations and fast food on Interstate 75. We left Chicago this morning and dropped Brian at O'Hare. We drove and drove until stopping for dinner at an Olive Garden near the bottom of Kentucky.

We decided not to visit Great Smokey Mountain National Park since they have had tons of rain and flooding in the area. Who knows what we would find there, so we will go there another time. Meanwhile we are anxious to get home and rescue Sirius from the kennel. Poor thing has been there through torrential thunderstorms and his nerves must be shattered. I am looking forward to sitting on the couch and hugging him for a few days.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Schindler's List

It is Saturday and our last day of the reunion tour. We are meeting the entire family at noon for brunch at Terry's. Before that Brian and I had breakfast at the hotel and then set out to do some shopping. We went to two grocery stores looking for products not available at home. One store was incredible with a huge kosher department that spanned several aisles including refrigerator and freezer cases. Since it is Shabbat, the meat, fish, sushi and deli areas were closed. Amazing!

Brunch was delicious and fun with Terry's daughters and their families joining us. Lots of stories and laughs and wonderful to see the next generation growing up.

After resting from the exertion of eating we got ready to go to Ravinia. This will be a high point of our trip. Ravinia is a large outdoor concert venue in Highland Park. Beautiful lawns provide seating and the Chicago Symphony performs inside the covered shed.

First we were treated to a Dvorak symphony. Tonight is very special as the guest artist is Itzhak Perlman. He performed John Williams music and other movie themes from his Cinema Serenade album. I have that CD and love listening to it. We all sat on our lawn chairs, ate, and enjoyed the music. Brian and I walked up to the shed to look in and see Perlman. His facial expressions are wonderful as he plays and he did commentary between pieces and is very funny.

It was a great night and my dinner was two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Can't beat that!

Friday, July 28, 2017


Another day of food and relatives. I decided to skip the breakfast buffet this morning and what a good idea. Another day of sunshine as we headed north to temple BJBE, in Deerfield. This is the large synagogue where Terry and Marilyn are very active members. It is a beautiful building and boasts 1100 families as members. We went on a tour seeing their large sanctuary, religious school wing and large open spaces for seating, talking and contemplating. We were very impressed with a long wall of murals tracing the complete history of the Jewish people from the biblical beginning to the founding of Israel.

Then it was time to eat at another great deli restaurant. Max and Benny's is a large place with an equally large menu. When the bread basket came I was  salivating and decided on the egg challah roll topped with crisp onions. So good with butter that I had two. Also had thick mushroom barley soup and a scoop of whitefish salad.

Now it was time to visit the Holocaust Museum in Skokie. The cousins have a friend who is a docent and she took us on a guided tour pointing out the highlights. The museum is impressive with interesting exhibits and some local interest about the Nazi march on Skokie which directly led to this museum being built. Glad that we were able to come here and another reminder of what cruelty can exist in our world.

On a happier note we went out to dinner again! Tonight it is deep dish Chicago pizza at Lou Malnati's in Skokie. The pizza was pre-ordered so we didn't have to wait too long. Since I do not eat pizza, I had a buffalo chicken salad. Good, but quite spicy. They cleverly put watermelon cubes in the salad which calms the sauce and was really good. Brian went to visit two college friends tonight so just the old folks had dinner and then went back to Marilyn's for dessert and more visiting.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Food, Glorious Food...

Oliver would lose his mind seeing the food at Portillo's. Yes, the ladies had lunch there and shared both the lemon and chocolate cake. The men went to a different Portillo's and Jeff enjoyed a large Italian beef soaked in gravy.

The day began with welcome sunshine even though there was severe flooding west of us in Kansas. We all met in the breakfast room and then set off to visit the graves of Aunts Amelia and Gladys and Uncle Dan. Then the ladies drove south to Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park to see the graves of Jeff's maternal great grandparents. It was exciting to find these old graves with the greats and several great aunts and uncles. I took photos and will add new information to the family tree. All of the graves had photos on them and they will be added to my tree's gallery.

When I got back to the hotel Jeff had done our laundry so we are all set for another week or so on the road. Now time to rest up before dinner at Carson's.

This is Jeff's and Brian's favorite rib place. They have great chopped liver at their appetizer bar too. Arriving at Carson's in Deerfield to find it very crowded. We had reserved a round table for our seven and all ordered ribs except for me. I had scrumptious Greek chicken, cooked in lemon, herbs and oil and so tender. First they serve a large bowl of cole slaw and you get a potato with your meal. Choices are baked, double stuffed baked, potato skins, au gratin, wedges and fries. Food is so good and large portions. For dessert a waiter dumped a glass of ice cold beer down my back. I spent the rest of the evening doing laundry back at the hotel.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hard Day's Night

We slept late and then checked out of our downtown hotel. Took an Uber back to Skokie and the Hampton Inn. Brian flew in and cousin Terry picked him up at the airport. Then cousin Marilyn picked us up for lunch at a terrific deli in the Old Orchard Shopping Center. I had really good split pea soup and wished we had a good deli in Bluffton.

After a long lunch we returned to the hotel to rest. Lots of eating and resting on this trip. At 5:00 we drove to Marilyn's for dinner and good conversation along with a game of Trivial Pursuit. We had a lengthy discussion of the plans for visiting the cemeteries tomorrow. Then back to the hotel to sleep after watching a bit of TV news.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Walk, Don't Run

Tuesday morning in Chicago. Cool weather and a great day to stroll down Michigan Avenue to the Art Institute. Our hotel, the Hard Rock, is one block from the Chicago River on the corner of Michigan and Wacker. Elaine and I are walking past Millenium Park with the Bean to the museum. I purchased our tickets last night so we get in quickly and buy additional tickets for the Gaugain exhibit.

As we walk through the museum we stop to see three famous paintings. Picture of Dorian Gray, Hopper's Diner and Grant Wood's American Gothic.

 The next two hours are spent looking at creations by Gaugain. Did not know about his sculptures and ceramics. He was certainly multi- talented. Still like his colorful tropical paintings best. After spending years in France he went to Tahiti and the Marquesa Islands where he drew the natives and flora.

After visiting the museum gift shops we met Jeff and Rick in the park and had a light lunch at an outdoor cafe near the famous "Bean."

Today is national ice cream sundae day at Ghiardelli Chocolate so Elaine and I indulged since the sundaes were half price.

 Then back to the hotel to rest. Never left all night and didn't even eat dinner.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Jeremiah was a Bull Frog...

Woke up to a chilly, windy day. Left our hotel in Skokie and took an Uber to downtown Chicago. Checked into the Hard Rock which is a great location on Michigan Avenue a block from the river. Jeff and I unpacked and then took an Uber to the Shedd Aquarium. We stood in line for 45 minutes to purchase tickets. It is a grand old building with huge tanks full of colorful fish and amphibians. We saw some neat frogs, toads and more and then had a quick lunch in one of the cafeterias. Saw some playful otters, seals and attended the dolphin show.

The Chicago skyline from the aquarium.

Had to leave by 2:30 to meet Rick and Elaine at the Chicago River. We took the 4:00 architectural boat tour given by a very knowledgeable docent. The tour was 90 minutes and went on several branches of the river. Lots of boat traffic with tour boats, water taxis and private craft. Even some brave kayakers. So many skyscrapers and interesting designs. Amazing!

In front the the Chicago Tribune building is a very large sculpture by Seward Johnson. It is Abraham Lincoln and a common man. The man is holding a paper with the Gettysburg address and Lincoln seems to be explaining it to him.

Lots of street art and sculptures in Chicago. Also Dogs on Parade with beautifully decorated dogs adorning the streets. Elaine and I posed with a police dog.

Afterwards we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. It is highly rated and most of the diners were Asian which is always a good sign. Food was excellent and we shared some yummy dishes. Afterwards we walked back to the hotel to collapse.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Take to the Highway...

Thunder and lightening all night, but we slept well. Time to leave Louisville. We really like the city and so many things to see. Looks like a nice place to live and lots of big companies make their home here. Downtown has many Humana buildings as this is their home as well as UPS and Papa John's Pizza. Yum Corporation is the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut and they sponsor the big sports arena in town. The University of Louisville is also in the city and has a beautiful campus and sports stadiums. And then there is Churchill Downs and many bourbon distilleries. We liked seeing the hybrid taxis, solar powered trash compactors on the streets and electric buses that are free to ride in town. One of the hotels even has a gold replica of Michaelangelo's David.

Left in the rain and crossed the Ohio River into Indiana. About five miles down the road I realized I had left my camera battery plugged into a wall socket. Back we went to retrieve it and then started our trek again. The rain cleared in a while and we passed Indianapolis, Gary and Downtown Chicago by mid afternoon. Settled into our hotel in the northern suburbs and took a a nap.

Went to our favorite place, Cheesecake Factory, for dinner and our cousins Terry and Marilyn met us there. Sat and talked for two hours or more and now time for bed.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


Slept late and awoke to another hot day. This morning we will visit Churchill Downs. First stop was Wagner's for breakfast. We learned about this place on our trolley tour and that it has the best breakfast in town. Online it is touted as one of the 10 best diners in the US. It is cute with horse and derby photos lining the walls. We had eggs and delicious biscuits.

Now we go over to the track and into the Kentucky Derby Museum. We pay admission which includes the museum and a walking tour. We are not willing to wait around to take another more detailed tour. I tried on a fancy hat and we went to the paddock area and out to the rail by the track.

Lots of information about the races and the horses. There are plaques attached to the buildings with the names of every winner since the 1800's. Those who won the Triple Crown had their names in gold and a gold crown.

The track is very pretty with lovely flowers. Huge and completely packed for the derby each year. It is very hot today, 100 degrees and we were glad to go back inside. They have a great movie and we wandered around the museum for a while. Left and went to a bourbon tour place near our hotel. They were packed and a two hour wait for the tour which we decided not to do.

Had lunch at a nearby brewery where we sat using their wifi for quite a while and then back to take naps and hang out.

About 7:00 we walked a few blocks to the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner. I ordered an Old Fashioned which is made with bourbon and decided I am really not much of a drinker. Only sweet drinks appeal to me. We got to sit in the train which was in the middle of the floor.

Food was good and now we are back in our room watching TV and reading.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Chicago.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Trolley Song

Got up to a sunny day after an interesting night. We are staying on the 18th floor of the hotel. An alarm went off after midnight and that was very creepy. A few minutes later a voice came over a speaker saying all was clear and sorry for the inconvenience. Do not know what was going on, but happy to finally fall asleep and wake up this morning.

We have arranged for a trolley tour at 10:00 and had a quick breakfast at Dunkin Donuts on the way. We boarded the air-conditioned trolley for a 90 minute tour. Luckily it ended on time unlike Gilligan's infamous tour. We drove around the downtown area of Louisville, a city of one million residents and through some beautiful residential streets. Saw a lovely park designed by Frederic Olmstead where they do Shakespeare plays in the evenings.

The city is names for Louis 16 who gave assistance to the area and also many things named for Thomas Jefferson who as president helped Kentucky become a state separate from Being part of Virginia. Saw the University of Louisville and stopped for a photo op at Churchill Downs.

They have electric buses here that have recharging stations right on the main streets and the cost nothing to ride. Solar powered trash compactors on the streets keep the city beautiful.

Downtown many buildings have cast iron fronts and preservation is important keeping the historic facades in place.

The Ohio River is on the edge of town and across is Indiana. There is a large paddle wheeler there and several other tourist boats. On the Indiana side is the world's second largest clock after Big Ben. It is the site of a Colgate factory. There is a similar clock in Jersey City, NJ, at a Colgate plant.

After the tour we walked past City Hall.

Next stop was the Louisville  Slugger Museum & Factory. They make the bats right here in town and the place is well worth a visit. Outside they have a metal bat, largest in the world.

Inside there is a good movie and then a guide takes you through the factory showing how the wooden dowels are turned into bats, sanded, branded with the logo and dipped in the lacquer finish. Each person receives a tiny wooden bat as a souvenir. You can purchase regular size bats and have them personalized. I took a swing with Mickey Mantle's bat and met a cutout of Jackie Robinson.

Now it is lunch time and we decided on a good burger place nearby. Good atmosphere and Jeff had a good , but not great burger. I had a delicious veggie burger made from red beets, quinoa and mushrooms. I really enjoyed it, especially topped with goat cheese and arugula. Now we were ready for our next adventure, the Muhammed Ali Center.

This five floor museum is fairly new and a fitting tribute to "The Greatest."  Starting with an emotional movie we saw exhibits about the young Cassius Clay, training to be a boxer and the Olympic gold metal, conversion to Islam, boxing bouts and humanitarian efforts. Along the way was his refusal to enter the Army during Viet Nam. Very impressive and I highly recommend a visit here. Excellent use of multi media.

We walked back to our hotel on an elevated walkway from the hotel which goes behind the large arts center. Waterfalls, statues and large pavilions up here overlooking the river.

 It is really hot today and we are happy to rest in our cool room before dinner. Wide awake as the paddle wheeler is providing a calliope concert. Very squeaky and not enjoyable, but very funny. I can see the smoke coming out. Right now it is the Beatles, just had Daisy, Daisy, and many other old hits. Time for dinner and tonight we walk down 4th Street to a local brewery. The place is hopping and we get a small high top table near the bar. I had a small craft beer. Good, pale ale went well with fish and chips.

Afterwards we walked back listening to screaming crowds enjoying a concert in the stage area called 4th Street Live. It is a block long pedestrian mall with many restaurants and shops.

Back at the hotel we decided to walk across on the third floor overpass. Did not realize it is a conservatory with a glass roof. Midway is a huge bar and seating areas. We sat at a small table looking out at the river. I had a bourbon slush since Louisville and Kentucky are famous for bourbon. The bar was very cool, the counter was a fish tank. In the center was a large bird cage with cute birds and nests. Back to our room on the 18th floor and to bed.