On a sunny but cold day, we drove back to Chicago to go to the Museum of Science and Industry. Tyler wanted to see the museum. I remembered seeing the museum in the mid-1980s. One of the exhibits I never forgot was the captured German U-boat. Tyler could not wait to see it for himself.
Upon arrival, since Tyler was in uniform, he received complimentary admission. Once we were in the museum, we stopped for the obligatory family photographs.
As we began our tour of the museum, one of the first things I spotted was a drawing by Salvador Dali. Because of our time in Spain, I found that very interesting.
One of the exhibits had to do with the circus and side-shows in small-town America. Tyler and Hillary got a lot of enjoyment out of the exhibition and the photo ops.
We made our way to the U-505 exhibit. The exhibit centers around the German u-boat captured by the Americans during World War II. It is vastly different from when I initially visited the museum. Most notable is the fact that the submarine is now inside. Installations were showing the period newspapers and dioramas of sailors clinging to life after u-boats torpedoed their ships.
About halfway down the ramp toward the submarine, a young man met us to take our photo that we could purchase later. We allowed the picture.
Our submarine tour began at about 11:00. I did not recall a tour when I visited previously. I remember walking through the submarine. Regardless, the tour added a lot to our experience. There is not a great deal of space in the sub. One of the facts from the tour that stuck with me regarded the number of men on the submarine, 59, with only one working bathroom. I can only imagine the stench there must have been when the capturing American forces opened the submarine. One of the Americans haled from Grand Junction, Colorado according to the documents on display outside of the submarine.
The main exhibit at the museum during our visit consisted of Christmas trees, each sporting the decorations of the country sponsoring the tree. For example, the tree sponsored by Brussels had waffles for decorations.
A Walt Disney Treasures exhibit also vied for the top spot of viewing pleasure.
There was so much on display in the transpiration area of the museum that it was hard to focus on the exhibits.
We opted to have lunch in the museum cafeteria. I believe the quality of the food surprised us all. Shortly after lunch, we drove back north for a well-deserved nap.
Below are some additional, random photos from our visit. If the reader has not visited the Museum of Science and Industry, it is an absolute must-see if in the Chicago area.
The first day after Navy boot camp graduation, we had lunch with several family members that live close to Great Lakes, Illinois. One of them told us about the Christmas Market happening in downtown Chicago. We decided to go check it out.
Our drive took about an hour. We found a parking space in a parking garage directly across from Daley Center, the location of the market. The elevator from the garage brought us into the heart of the shopping mall known as Block Thirty-Seven. We made our way through the mall to the exit onto North Dearborn Street. As we approached the glass doors, we could see across the street to the Christmas Market.
We went outside, crossed the street, and found ourselves immersed in a sea of humanity. It was challenging to navigate through the crowd. I saw several people pushing strollers through the crowd, which did not seem like such a good idea to me.
Several vendors were selling Christmas ornaments and crafts. A few vendors were selling everything from nuts to pretzels. One very popular vendor offered warm wine in small ceramic keepsake mugs. We waded through the crowd to get our wine. It was quite good. Near the entry to that vendor was a German band. They played several Christmas favorites while we stood and listened.
After exploring all that we wanted at the Christmas Market, we decided to walk a little farther north on Dearborn. It was very, very windy and cold. Chicago was living up to its moniker of the windy city.
We walked by a lively bar, Petterino’s. We went into the bar to find a seat and have a drink. We found none available. We were close to the L. I wanted to take some photographs of that iconic Chicago landmark. So, Leslie stayed behind at Petterino’s to wait for a seat while Hillary, Tyler, and I walked to the elevated train tracks at Lake Street. I took a couple of photos and then turned us all back toward Petterino’s. Did I mention it was very, very cold?
Inside Petterino’s, Leslie had found a small table and two bar stools. We sat there for a drink while Hillary and Tyler stood with their drinks. The extravagant and eclectic Christmas decorations made the old bar feel quite cozy. The backlit sign above the bar caught my eye; “A woman drove me to drink and I never even had the courtesy to thank her. W. C. Fields.”
We finished our drinks, made our way back to the car, and began the hour-long drive back to the hotel area for dinner. We all enjoyed the trip.
We headed out early on the morning of December 4, headed to Chicago. Our ultimate destination is Great Lakes, Illinois, to watch the Navy Boot Camp graduation.
We all made it to Dallas without any hiccups. That seems to be the exception rather than the norm with our travels lately. It was cloudy and rainy in Dallas, but it was not significant.
We arrived in Chicago at about 19:30. Several parts of the airport were sporting Christmas decorations.
We retrieved our luggage fairly quickly and moved on to the rental car bus. A few minutes later, we were at the Enterprise desk. We completed the paperwork and got into our minivan.
About 50 minutes later, we were in Waukegan, Illinois, to check-in to the Marriott.
We arrived around 21:00. As soon as we checked-in, we went to Chili’s for dinner, then back to the hotel for some sleep before graduation the next morning. The hotel was packed with other parents and family members there for Navy graduation.
At about 05:00 on December 5, Leslie, Hillary, and I headed out from the hotel. Our destination was the Great Lakes Naval Base to watch Tyler’s graduation from boot camp. Even though Lorraine was with us, Tyler could only have three invitees attend the ceremony. Lorraine was OK with that because she would see Tyler at the hotel after the ceremony. Later, she would go on to Rockford, Illinois to spend time with her sister, Arlene.
It was a good thing we left early because TomTom sent us on a bit of a wild goose chase. We recovered from the questionable directions and made it into the line of cars waiting to enter the base. The line was already several blocks long, but it moved reasonably quickly. We parked in a parking structure and walked to the field house. We found seats in the grandstands and waited for the ceremony to begin.
From our seats, I spotted a concession stand. I walked to it to get drinks for the three of us. Once there, I noticed they sold boot camp coins. I bought two to add to my coin collection in my office.
According to the program we received when we entered the field house, we would watch 1,007 young men and women become United States Navy sailors. Tyler was one of those.
When the ceremony began, it was hard to find Tyler in the crowd. When his division finally marched by, we saw him at the very rear. The division made it to their designated spot in the field house. That was the last time we had a good view of Tyler until the end of the ceremony. That was because the division was ordered by height. Of course, that placed Tyler at the very back. The service was very moving. It made us all feel very proud and patriotic.
Once the ceremony was over, Hillary ran down to greet Tyler! Leslie and I waited in the stands for them to come to us. When Tyler arrived, we both gave him a big hug. Then we had to take the necessary photos.
We all left the field house and walked to the Navy Exchange to wait for Tyler. He had to go get his belongings and check into his “A” school for culinary specialists. We ultimately found out the NEX was not the correct place to wait. Instead, we had to go to the visitor center. We did not pick him up until 16:00. That made it a very, very long day.
With Tyler in tow, it was to the hotel and dinner with our sailor!
My meetings finished up early today, so I took the opportunity to go to Arlington National Cemetery. I had passed by many, many times, but never stopped.
Coming up out of the Metro stop, one is facing the Women’s Memorial about a half-mile in the distance. Just short of the memorial is the entry to the visitors’ center. I stopped there first to pick up a map and get myself oriented.
Leaving the visitor center, I decided to explore the Women’s Memorial. After looking at the fountains at ground level, I decided to climb one of the sets of stairs. When I got to the top of the stairs, I had my first good view of all of the perfectly aligned white headstones for which Arlington National Cemetery is known. Regardless of the topography, the headstones remain in perfect formation. One’s eye is drawn up the hill to a majestic mansion with large tan-colored columns as one looks to the west. That is the former home of General Robert E. Lee. While standing there, about halfway between the monument and the mansion, I saw a black carriage carrying a coffin. It was drawn by several black horses, leading a hero to their final rest.
I retraced my steps somewhat and began the climb toward President John F. Kennedy Gravesite. Walking along the road, it is just amazing the numbers of graves that stretch out in every direction. It was interesting to finally see in person the JFK gravesite that I have seen in so many photographs over the years. The eternal flame was a little challenging to see in the bright sunshine, but it was there.
Leaving the JFK Gravesite, I decided to head next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That ended out being quite a hike, and a lot of it was uphill. While I was walking to the Tomb, I noticed it was easy to pick out the headstones of those buried in the Jewish tradition. Those headstones always had several small stones placed on top of them, just as one sees in the movie Schindler’s List.
When I arrived at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I found myself at an amphitheater to the west of the Tomb. It was reasonably large, but I have no idea of the purpose. The entire time I was there, I did not see anything happening in the amphitheater. I walked to the front of the amphitheater and caught my first glimpse of the Tomb and the Army Honor Guard. The precision and reverence with which the lone soldier marched was quite inspiring. The soldier’s shoes have metal pieces attached at the heel and toe of the shoes. They definitively click at specific moments of the march.
After being there for only about ten minutes, it was a treat to discover the changing of the guard ceremony begin. I was surprised because it was the bottom of the hour. I thought it only happened at the top of the hour. The service starts with a sergeant emerging from a room below the amphitheater. The sergeant also has metal pieces on his shoes. He marched out to the center of the Honor Guard area and announced there would be a changing of the guard. While he made the statement, another soldier emerged from the same room, stands in place and awaited the sergeant at one end of the Tomb area. The sergeant turned and marched toward the relief guard. Once the sergeant reached the relief guard, they literally stand toe to toe. It is during that time that the sergeant looked over the uniform of the new guard from toe to head, front to back, and side to side. When that inspection is complete, the sergeant examined the guard’s weapon with a flair that must be seen to be believed. Upon completion, the sergeant and the new guard march toward the center area to meet the current guard. The current guard is relieved, the new guard takes his place, and the sergeant and the previous guard march out of the area back to the room below the amphitheater. The whole ceremony is quite moving and impressive.
The only bad thing about the changing of the guard is it occurred under a blistering sun. I was very uncomfortable and sweaty. I had on a t-shirt and shorts. I cannot even imagine how uncomfortable the guards must be. After the ceremony, I had to sit on a bench in the shade for a while to cool down.
Once I recovered, I made my way toward the mansion of General Lee. While en route I passed through a Civil War area of the cemetery. Some of the monuments there were quite impressive. When I arrived at the mansion, I was amazed by the view. Looking in one direction, one can see the Pentagon and the Potomac River. Looking toward the northeast one can see the Washington Monument and the Capital. I decided to tour the mansion. I was disappointed because there was very little to see inside. Apparently, because of the recent earthquake, most items had been removed, and restoration was taking place.
Leaving the mansion, I felt lucky that the remainder of my walk to the Metro would be downhill. On the way out I did stop by the President Taft Memorial. I was the only one there. A little different than the crowd that was always around the JFK Memorial.
I am glad I went to the cemetery. It left me feeling very patriotic.