Day 4 of Trip to Land of Free & Wealthy

Today we woke up to very hot & muggy conditions in Chicago. We all seem to be over any jet-lag now and into the right time zone as we all had a goodnight’s sleep. As we were leaving for St Louis, we didn’t have any time to do anything today in Chicago except have breakfast and then we managed to watch the first half of the England v Germany game. We had a taxi booked for 10am to take us to Chicago O’Hare airport for our flight to St Louis. We were sorry to be leaving Chicago because we had enjoyed our 3 days there – it is a beautiful city especially in the summer (I have been in the winter and it is a dreary brown/grey place covered in snow).

We were flying on American Airlines from Chicago to St Louis. I had booked the flight on my airmiles and paid only R15 for airport taxes per ticket (not kidding!). That has to be the cheapest flight I have ever taken in my life and I was concerned that there would actually be engines attached to the plane. As I travel a lot on BA, I get to use the First Class check-in etc on American Airlines as well which (in my view helps smooth an airport experience). Paul will call me ‘Ryan Bingham’ at this point (watch the movie Up in the Air with George Clooney and you will know what I am talking about) but I don’t care – it does make things much quicker. We did the self-check in thing and included Janet’s suitcase as one of ours as they wanted to charge her for checking in her one suitcase but I got 2 cases free per person because of my frequent flyer tier. I just hoped she didn’t have any contra-band in her suitcase! Unfortunately we discovered our flight was delayed by an hour due to the thunderstorms around Chicago. We cleared through security (no belt or shoes on) and headed to find our gate which was at the very end of the concourse.

We still had free vouchers for popcorn from Garrett’s popcorn (one of the vouchers from our Trolley tour) and so Helen and Janet set off to find the store and arrived back with 5 bags of popcorn. That became Helen and Janet’s lunch (with much ooing and aahhing about how good it was – I really think it was that good – popcorn is popcorn in my view). Every time I travel through a US airport I am staggered by the quantity of people going places. Chicago airport was just teeming with people with hardly a seat to sit on the terminal. It is quite incredible. If there is one thing Americans know how to do is to travel though. Their airports are generally well laid out (with the exception of Washington) and very efficient. Our plane came in at 12:25 and by 12:45 we were boarding and by 13:10 we had closed the door and were ready to leave. I was also pleasantly surprised by the plane, seat, legroom & service of American Airlines (or at least on this flight). We flew in an MD80 (if you don’t understand the letters don’t worry about – it is a plane with 2 engines and lots of seats) and it had WiFi installed so that you could work on your laptop if you wanted. As the flying time was only 44 minutes I didn’t bother but I hope some of the other planes we fly on for the longer flights (to LA for instance) also have it as that would be quite worthwhile for me.

We landed just after 2pm and my brother-in-law (Jeff) kindly offered to pick us up from the airport which saved us a taxi fare. We had agreed about a year ago to meet them in St Louis when they heard we were planning to come. They live in Tennessee and drove up and arrived at around 12pm today so the timing worked out really well. When arrived and collected our bags we went outside to find Jeff and were hit by the intense heat & humid – Chicago was like mid-winter compared to this. This sort of heat makes aircon a must. As an added treat, my other sister and brother-in-law (Meryl & Piers) had stopped in on the way home from their family vacation in New Mexico. They were also dropping of Daniel (my nephew) who is spending the 3 days with us here (he and Stephen are good mates). We got to catch up with them in the hotel for an hour before they headed on their way and it was really nice to just chat and see them all again (we haven’t seen them for the last 2 ½ years).

Lynne (my sister) had pre-purchased tickets to go up the ‘Arch’ at St Louis and so we headed off to do that together. The Arch is the tallest monument in American and was built to commemurate that St Louis was the gateway to the West. It is a giant arch (over 600 ft high) and it has a capsule system inside it that takes 5 people at a time to the top of the Arch where you can look over St Louis and the Missippee River (St Louis is on the river). When we came down we went to look at the River which is actually in flood at the moment. The walkway on the side of the river is entirely covered and you can’t even get to the jetty where the river boats are parked – not sure how you get out to them at the moment.

We then headed for dinner at TGI Fridays which is a family style chain restuarant. The selection on the menu is ridiculously big – I don’t think I have seen a longer menu. It is actually too big because people (like Janet) who can’t make up their minds just take forever to order. The kids had long since ordered before Janet had her mind made up. It was a lovely dinner with good banter with the family (and Janet). I had Jack Daniel Ribs (those are ribs with a special sauce made from Jack Daniels). They were quite simply the best ribs I have ever had. Ribs can be fatty, or too spicy, or too much sauce – these were just right. Include a few local Budweiser beers (Anhauser Busch – the maker of Bud – is based in St Louis so it was a must to drink Bud while in the home of Bud!) and it was a great evening. It was a short walk back to the hotel where we are staying (Crowne Plaza) and even though it was raining it hasn’t dampened our spirits of a really enjoyable afternoon & evening.

Tomorrow starts the ICRS (International Christian Retailer Show) which is the reason we came to St Louis. Janet and I get to attend while the rest of the family will no doubt spend my hard earned money on some activity or shopping or something. It (the show) is obviously a big deal for St Louis as there were even signs at the airport welcoming delegates and the streetlamp’s have those long flags on them also advertising the show. I suspect it is going to be a major and mind blowing show but I will tell you about it tomorrow.

Yours from Land of massive choice

P, H, S, M & C

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