Wednesday, September 4, 2013

All Roads Lead to Chicago

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This is the post I wanted to start the fall season with, but as lice trumps everything else it got elbowed aside last week. So, I'm now happy to report we're louse-free and I'm ready to forget about my nightmarish last post that no doubt made you wonder if your own scalp was starting to itch.

We've spent some time on the road in the weeks since we said goodbye to Denver at the end of July. We took the glorious I-80 tour of Nebraska and Iowa on our way to Chicago, a drive that can't help but make you fall asleep at the wheel. We were driving both of our cars out to Chicago, which is to say I had to drive one vehicle the entire way, and soon became so tired of the brownish horizon that we had to pull over so I could send Jeremy and the kids out to a Sonic picnic table while I slept in the back of our minivan. The view from I-80 doesn't exactly entertain, so by the time we crossed the Mississippi River I was pretty much thrilled to see the clumps of trees lining the road like greenish-black broccoli stalks. Look kids, those are trees, I pointed out to my chicken nugget eating, television watching zombie children. They grunted from the backseat, but I quickly forgave their glazed disinterest. It was a fourteen hour drive, afterall, and it wasn't much of a pleasure trip since we were following Jeremy the entire way. His road trip philosophy is along the lines of, Hold it until the next gas stop, or go in a diaper. Adults included. When it comes to driving, Jeremy isn't one to take his time. In fact, after tailing him in and out of Omaha's rush-hour traffic I finally called him and said, Either slow down, or we'll see you in Iowa.

We spent ten days unloading and settling into our new place. And by "our new place" I'm referring to the small castle my dad and step-mom recently vacated when they moved from Chicago back to Salt Lake City. It's not really a castle, and it didn't come with a butler, cook, or any of the other Downton Abbey-esque perks, but it'll do. In the end we concluded that the stress of having to keep the castle clean and polished (since it's on the market) and the certainty that we'll be moving again within a few months are worth the extra time we now have to familiarize ourselves with the area before we sign our own contract. Plus, coming from our cookie cutter Denver subdivision, castle living has afforded us endless entertainment. Who knew that a grand entry way could double as a Nascar track for scoot bikes and dolly strollers? And it was brought to my attention only yesterday that Elisabeth has been washing her hands each day in her own, personal little "sink," otherwise known as the master bedroom bidet.

As compelling as our new crib is, we hit the road again after only ten days in Chicago, pushing east into Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, eventually halting in North Carolina when we bumped into the Atlantic ocean. This is a part of the country I've hardly met. This is a part of the country I can't wait to visit again. It feels as though moving to Chicago was like walking through the back of a wardrobe into a whole different world. During the years we lived in Colorado, a long day in the car might land us in Utah, Arizona, Wyoming or New Mexico. Some of the most stunning landscapes in our country are housed in these states, along with many close friends and family members. Yet we've done those drives, made those visits, and are on familiar ground almost anywhere along the Rocky Mountain or Wasatch fronts. But when you live in Chicago a long day in the car can land you almost anywhere in the eastern United States. The possibilities are endless, and I rode along in the passenger seat like a dog hanging my head out the window. Have you seen the "Travel Centers" on I-80 through Ohio? Have you seen the bridges in Pittsburg and West Virginia? Nearly everywhere we went in Virginia we passed by a Civil War landmark until my sister-in-law, who grew up there, finally said, Seriously, Lauren, where did you think the Civil War was fought?

I lived back east for a couple of years during high school, but I forgot how in the eastern states human life is obscured by trees. It's like the scene from Wizard of Oz when Glinda starts singing to the Munchkins as they shyly emerge from the landscape. That's how I felt back east. You think you're looking at a forest, and suddenly you're in spitting distance from Washington D.C. This is possibly my favorite thing about moving to Chicago. The doors have been thrown wide open. We're getting the chance to see how North Carolina, even it's big cities, feels so quaint and personable. I didn't know Charleston, West Virginia was one of those surprisingly beautiful cities that makes you want to get off the freeway. I didn't know Gettysburg was only twenty minutes off the beaten path when driving through southern Pennsylvania. I also didn't know that while cruising around Chicago I would see freeway signs pointing traffic to Milwaukee, Madison, Iowa City, Toledo, St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Nashville. Every single one of those cities is unknown to me.

And so when my friends and family ask me what it's like living in Chicago? I tell them,  I'm not sure yet. But it's on the way to everywhere.

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