9 missed calls from my husband.
This can't be good, I thought, and it wasn't. Our flight to Denver had been cancelled. Not delayed, cancelled. It was Wednesday at 11 a.m. and the next flight out wasn't until Friday at 1:30 p.m. There goes our ski trip. The one we'd looked forward to for months, plotted and planned for and purchased lift tickets in advance. The one we'd spent a Friday night buying ski pants for. The one I had just finished packing for. Poof. Gone. Goodbye.
I hung up the phone and let out a primal scream. Rob, I later learned, may or may not have punched a concrete wall when he learned the flight was cancelled. (This just in: the wall won). In tears of frustration, I called my mom to vent. The thought of going to work the next day instead of the ski slope was disheartening. The thought of not going anywhere on vacation was downright depressing. My mom was disappointed too. She'd looked forward to this weekend with her granddaughters for a long time. No meddling parents to monitor anyone's sugar intake.
She suggested we go to Vegas, but I'm not really a Vegas kinda girl, plus we've already been there. That's when I remembered the Iowa State men's basketball team was playing in the Sweet 16 in Chicago. I called Rob. He was in, and we decided to make the 7 hour trek by car that night. After several phone calls, and reassurances that we would indeed get a full refund on the plane tickets, lift tickets and car and equipment rentals, our moods were greatly improved and we were off.
We headed east by car and stopped in Bettendorf, where my aunt lives, to spend the night. Aunt Sherry has a framed saying in her kitchen that says, "What do you think this is, a Holiday Inn?" But really her hospitality was better than any hotel. She had hot soup with homemade garlic bread ready for us when we pulled into the driveway, and let us drink her craft beer you can only buy in Wisconsin. Then she fed us ice cream for dessert. If that weren't enough, she then called her daughter who lives in Chicago, and Sarah guided us through booking a hotel in downtown Chicago through Hotwire. We ended up getting a room for two nights for $101 a night. I was so thrilled that everything was coming together I couldn't stop smiling, hence this picture in which I look like I was just released from an insane asylum.
After a good night's sleep, we awoke the next morning to Sherry cooking breakfast. (Take that Holiday Inn.) When my mom text a photo of the girls enjoying their bunny pancakes at her house, we text back a picture of us enjoying our bacon and eggs in the same pose at Sherry's house.
The drive to Chicago was rainy, but we just chatted the whole way sans radio just as we had the four hours to Bettendorf. I think Rob likes to make a game of how long can we make it before we run out of things to say. The answer is between 6 hours and Nicole-can't-stay-awake-any-more.
Our hotel -The Gwen - was ah-mazing. I wish I was getting paid to say it, but I'm not. Thank you, Hotwire. We did have to pay $45 a night to park, but knowing our car was safe and sound was worth it. After we dropped our bags off, we walked less than a block or two to the Eataly. Rob and I were both overwhelmed, so after wandering around for 15 minutes wondering how the place worked, we finally asked someone who informed us there were at least 5 restaurants within the place, each one with a different style. We opted for a meat and cheese bar and of course, wine, because vacation = Thursday afternoon wine consumption.
Our hotel was connected to Nordstrom's (Hotwire, you get me.) so we popped in there and I bought some new shoes and Rob was just grateful they weren't $500 Jimmy Choo heels. He was tired from driving, so he went back to the hotel while I did some more window shopping. I walked by a blowout salon and thought, what the heck!? I'd never had a blowout before so when they said it was only $35, I was in. For those who've never had one, or have never heard of it, a blowout is basically a haircut without the trim, except they spend a lot longer shampooing, conditioning and blowdrying and OHMYWORD, it is relaxing. I am not a massage person, but I loved having my hair blow dried and curled this way. Plus, it meant I didn't have to style it for our date night.
On the suggestion of Sherry's daughter Sarah, we bought tickets to a Second City show for Thursday night called #DateMe. I wasn't sure when I booked it, but we laughed through the entire show, especially when they had one man and one woman in the audience answer 5 things they couldn't live without and then based a sketch off of their responses. This was my kind of date night, highly recommend if you're in the Chicago area. Dinner at Dinotto's beforehand (a quick walk from the theatre) was delicious, especially the salad, and you know it's good when Mr. Lindquist is raving about vegetables.
The next morning we took our time getting ready (quite the luxury for us) and then walked to Cloudgate which was a mile or so from our hotel. It was cold and we are directionally challenged, but we made it and got in on the reflection selfie action. I think we both missed the girls a little bit, knowing that they would have loved seeing themselves in the Bean. Maybe this summer.
Anyway, we checked out Macy's and bought some Garret's popcorn before it was time for lunch. (I loved that it was time to eat or drink every couple hours!) On the recommendation or Sarah's daughter Alicia, (this family is all about hospitality) we ate at the Chicago Athletic Association hotel's The Game Room, which was vintage-y with gastro pub food. I proceeded to kick Rob's backside at shuffleboard and then we put on a performance of worst game of pool ever for everyone in attendance. Seriously, I got the giggles we were so incredibly bad. Taking mercy on the crowd, Rob finally hit the 8-ball in but he had scratched on the break, so technically, I think I won! Gotta love technicalities.
After a post lunch nap, we got ready for the Main Event, the Iowa State Sweet 16 game. We took an Uber to the United Center with Stanley, the worst Uber driver of all time. He bragged about his musical comedy show the entire way there, yelled in frustration that he was lost, and made us late, yet Rob humored him and took a selfie. If you see this man in an Uber, run far far away! He's probably fired by now.
At last, we met up with our friends, and fellow ISU alums, Jamie and Sarah. Jamie and Rob were college roommates and we had a great time pre-gaming with them despite the long lines at the bars. This is about where the good time ended because the Cyclones forgot to show up for the game.
Thankfully there was beer in the suite, and we were able to drown our sorrows somewhat while we waited for a comeback that never came. The seats were amazing though, and Cyclone Nation never gave up. This was what we came for and even though we left disappointed, we still had a great time getting to see friends and cheer on the Cardinal and Gold together! Thank you again to Jamie for scoring us some amazing seats!
A bad game and too many beers led us to UNO's pizzeria where the waitress informed me a deep dish pizza would take 45 minutes to make and they were closing in an hour. Challenge accepted. I struggled to stay away until the pizza came (9:30 p.m. bedtime here) but I made it and the pizza was worth the wait. Check that off the bucket list. The next morning we headed home, but not before stealing a baby ketchup from the continental breakfast before we left. They also had mini honey, so we were able to check souvenirs off our list. :) It's the simple things!
Til next time, Chicago. Thanks for the unplanned hospitality!
And just in case you were wondering if these little girls missed their mom and dad, I think the bunny cake and colored eggs answer your question... thanks to Grammy and Papa for being you!