Friday, May 24, 2024: Lincoln to Chicago

Our domestic summer travels have finally begun! We are going on a 10-day road trip that has been in the making since January, when I decided that if I was going to give a paper at the American Literature Association or ALA (like I did last May in Boston) it would have to be part of a bigger trip. But the conference is the starting point–no spoilers about what else is coming up!

We had an unspectacular trip to Chicago. Mark is always such a hero about driving these long stretches, but he agrees that eight hours is close to our limit these days. We left about 8:15 am, had a lovely picnic lunch somewhere in Iowa along the I-80, stopped very briefly at a rest stop right across the Illinois boarder to look down onto the Mississippi, and headed to Midway, the smaller of the Chicago airports. From previous trips, we already knew that we can park there pretty cheaply right by the train station and take the Orange Line downtown. That’s what we did after wrestling with some minor traffic; but by 6 pm we had made our way to the hotel, the Palmer House Hilton, where the ALA conference is being held this year–it’s right off the Loop of the elevated train system in downtown, a block away from the Chicago Art Institute. We spent about 5 minutes in the hotel room and then met up with our friend Tricia for dinner. She’s from Hastings, so it’s a bit ridiculous that she had to drive 10 hours and we had to drive 8, just to meet up almost 500 miles away from home. But we got to catch up and have some deep-dish pizza (not fabulous, but ok) and then a Palmer House brownie (apparently, they were invented here). The hotel is old (aka “historic;” the current building is from 1925) and the public rooms are impressive. The lobby has an elaborate art deco ceiling, there are some beautiful brass doors and fixtures, with lots of peacock feathers, and it is gigantic, with over 1,600 rooms. But our room is a bit underwhelming, with wriggly outlets and slightly scuffed furniture, and without coffee maker or a real fridge (we are not supposed to put things in the minifridge or they’ll charge us!). But otherwise, it’s serviceable.

Palmer House Hilton, with view of the elevated tracks that we came in on.
Palmer House Peacock Doors (only peacocks may enter here)