The Places I’ve Been: Chicago and the Badlands

Two quick stops left on our epic road trip to report on. The first stop was in Chicago.

We left Kalamazoo under three inches of snow. Luckily the storm was moving East and we were heading West. We arrived in Chicago around 9:30am and went to the Field Museum. They had two special exhibits going; Real Pirates and The Aztec World. I really wanted to see the Real Pirates exhibit which would cost a little extra. As we walked in to pay our admission a museum employee came up to us and asked us if were interested in seeing the special exhibits. We said yes and he said if we became museum members we’d get a discount on the tickets and could go in to the exhibits right away. We’d also get a sweet tote bag. I’m a sucker for tote bags so we signed up to be members. It was $10 cheaper to get into the exhibits, we got our tote bag, free coat checking and a discount at the gift shop, which would come in handy when we went to buy our magnet.

We went to see the Real Pirates exhibit first. It was really interesting to learn about the emergence of pirates and see that a lot of what we think of as “pirates” is not correct. Pirates of the Caribbean have it all wrong! Being a pirate was more a political stance than one of rum and whores. There was a lot more freedom on a pirate ship no matter the color of your skin or your origins and the getting rich part was nice too. The exhibit focused a lot on one pirate called Sam Bellamy and his ship the Whydah. It actually starts out as sort of a sweet story. Sam falls in love with this girl, but her father thinks he’s not rich enough for her to marry him, so he goes off to get rich and ends up a pirate. He never ends up with that girl though so it gets sad along the way.

The exhibit was awesome for adults. But I don’t think there was enough there to keep the kids occupied.  There was a lot of reading and less hands on things.

After we were done with the pirates exhibit we went and browsed through the Evolving World exhibit and saw some fossils. After that we went to The Aztec World. That exhibit was crowded with high school kids with questionnaire worksheets, so we went through that one a little quickly. After the Aztec exhibit we went and looked at the lions from the movie Ghost in the Darkness. They were neat but not as big as the living lions had been.  You had to know that part of the lion skins had been made into rugs and there was still enough left over to make stuffed lions then that made it a little more impressive.

We looked at a few birds, bugs and mammals on our way to pick up our coats. We bought our magnet and had some lunch before we left Chicago. A word of warning if you’re going to be driving through Illinois on I-90; have a lot of cash and change with you.  There are tolls everywhere, even on some of the exit ramps. We were fine for awhile, but eventually we had to stop at a truck stop to get cash out of the ATM so we could pay the tolls.

That day we drove all the way to South Dakota and stopped in Sioux Falls. The next day we drove to the Badlands National Park. South Dakota was by far the most boring place to drive through. It’s mostly I-90 that’s boring. There’s nothing out there, just flatness. Once you get off I-90 though the scenery picks up a bit and once we got into the Badlands it was beautiful! The Badlands works just like Joshua Tree, there’s a little booth you pay at to get in and there’s lots of places to stop along the way. There are also camping areas and nature walks, so we stopped a couple of times to stretch our legs and take some pictures. We drove through the rest of the park admiring the rocks and scenery. We had some lunch at Subway before stopping at the legendary Wall Drug. It was basically a drug store with lots of souvenirs and a backyard play area which was closed for the season.

After browsing around and buying some magnets we headed off to Mount Rushmore.

So there you have it! Our whole trip told out of order, but in it’s entirity. Next week, I’m not sure what I’ll write about…

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