After airing the tent, we were able to get a much better nights sleep, without the rain and buzzing of mosquitoes. I had been bitten sooo bad; I couldn’t believe I had been as naive as to listen to Barry when he said ‘the spray doesn’t work!’ I had bites on my back, my arms, my face and even on my ears. They were itchy as hell and made me look like I was growing horns out of my forehead. I really should’ve known better than to listen to him. They were still buzzing round outside when we got up to have breakfast, so we ate in the car, packed everything up and got moving.

 

Just as we were about to enter our next state, Barry pulled off the road. I had no idea where he was going and when I asked him he refused to say. We didn’t need petrol and I was sure he didn’t need a toilet stop already (even though his bladder is as weak as an incontinent 90 year old man). After we’d been driving off route for a few minutes, I noticed a sign for the Jelly Belly Factory. I knew instantly that this was our detour. Barry loves his sugar and he’d wanted to stop at the factory in California but we didn’t have time.

Jelly Belly Warehouse, Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin

As we pulled into the car park, we saw the entrance for the Jelly Belly Tour. In we went to be greeted by a queue of people, all parents with their kids. I’m sure people only have children so they can go to these things without looking like complete losers. Barry and I didn’t care; all the cool stuff is for kids! When we joined the queue it said we would have about a 30-minute wait, but within about 10 minutes we were in. We were handed a Jelly Belly paper hat to wear – so cool, and then we had to board a train. We were driven round the factory on the train and shown lots of amazing jelly belly stuff. We were shown how the jellybeans were made and we even got to see pictures that were made purely of jellybeans. There was even a wedding dress made out of them. At the end of the ride, we all got off and were given a free pack of jelly bellies. All of this for FREE!!

Once we exited the factory we found ourselves in the Jelly Belly shop. There were literally hundreds of flavours of jellybeans surrounding us and not to mention stacks of other sweets. We decided we would treat ourselves. We picked up a bag and started walking around checking out all the flavours. There were all sorts to choose from. They had everything from blueberry, buttered popcorn, sizzling cinnamon and orange sherbet to the more unusual flavours of vomit, baby wipes, soap and earwax. We settled on strawberry cheesecake, pink lemonade, Dr Pepper, toasted marshmallows, chilli mango, chocolate pudding and beer. We jumped straight back in the car after and tucked in. The flavours tasted just like they were supposed to. If these resembled their flavours as closely as they did, I could only be grateful that we didn’t sample the likes of the earwax or the vomit! My favourite was the beer. I couldn’t get enough it. Barry liked the chocolate pudding but they were the same colour as the Dr Pepper so you never knew which one you were picking out. Soon after pulling back onto the interstate, we crossed over into our 18th state of Illinois, where we headed straight for Chicago.

Illinois State Welcome Sign - 50 states in 6 months

After spending the night in a Motel 6, we got ready for our fun packed day in the Windy City – Chicago, but first we had a few things we needed to sort out. We’d tried to use our credit card twice the previous day and both times it had been declined. We’d checked and there was still money on it and we’d been using it all this time so we knew there wasn’t a problem our end. Barry phoned them in the morning and it turned out that someone had managed to get hold of the card number and had tried to put through two large transactions of over a couple of thousand dollars each time. Luckily we only top the card up a little bit at a time so both the transactions had been declined, but it did mean that we had to leave the block on the card. Fortunately, we have a card each with different card numbers so we still had mine that we could use. It did throw up another problem though. The car was being paid for in monthly instalments and a payment was due to come out any day now. With the card being blocked it would mean that the payment would be declined. Knowing our luck, the car would then be reported stolen and we would be pulled over and hauled off to the police station! It wasn’t something they would let us change over the phone due to fraud (!) so we had to make our way down to a branch. After a lot of back and forth (far too boring to go into detail over) we finally got it sorted and made our way into the centre of Chicago, safe in the knowledge that we weren’t cruising illegally!

 

Once we parked up, we embarked on a walking tour of the city that was in our Lonely Planet guide. We’d tried these before and we’d never actually completed the entire route so we were determined to get to the end this time. We started out at the Chicago Board of Trade Centre. Not sure what goes on there, but the building was huge.

As we walked on round the corner, we stumbled across Chicago’s version of London’s Boris bikes – the Divy bikes. I’m guessing ‘div’ doesn’t quite have the same meaning in America as it does in the UK (a stupid person)!

DIVY bikes - Chicago, Illinois

Continuing on, we met our first distraction from the route – the Elephant & Castle Pub. Given that this is the area where Barry works back home, we just had to go in for a pint and a Pimms – how English could we get? We sat and sipped our drinks, surrounded by pictures of the pink elephant and the Royal family. I wonder if anyone in this pub had ever actually been to Elephant & Castle. I’m sure if they had they would agree it was nothing to shout about!

Back on our feet, we continued our walking tour, making it to the start of the famous route 66. Route 66 begins in Chicago and ends in LA. Most of the road is not in use anymore with all the new interstates, but the sign for the start off route 66 is still there for those that do decide to travel it. Walking on, we came to Hotel Burnham, where Al Capone’s dentist and partner in crime drilled teeth in room 809.

Chicago has a large number of sculptures dotted around the city. We managed to see a few of them on our tour including ‘The Chicago Picasso’ which was created by Pablo Picasso and installed in 1967 and ‘Monument with Standing Beast’ otherwise known as ‘Snoopy in a Blender’ we could see why when we got to it.

We continued our stroll through Chicago Theatre District, where every sign is made much more theatrical than it usually is – check out the MacDonald’s one…

Then we came to the last leg of the tour, where we crossed the Chicago River to check out the buildings on the other side. Chicago is home to the worlds first skyscraper so all the buildings are fascinating and seem as though they are trying to outdo each other. We saw the Trump building, Wrigleys, the Chicago Tribune and the home of NBC. And that was it. We’d actually managed to complete a walking tour. We celebrated by heading to TGI Friday’s for lunch.

After stuffing ourselves silly on lots of Jack Daniels infused food, we walked back over the river and headed to the final place we wanted to visit, Millennium Park. Here we were met by more sculptures, including probably the most famous of them all, Cloud Gate. Or as most people know it, the Bean. It was big, it was shiny and very bean shaped. There was also a funky water feature called the Crown Fountain, which started off as just a plain brick wall, then a face appeared and shortly after water spurted out the mouth. It took a few kids by surprise. In the middle of the park, there was a pavilion; where there was an orchestra rehearsing for a performance they had the following night. We were able to sit and watch the rehearsal for free.

After taking in the music for a while we headed to Tavern in the Park, where we would be meeting a follower of our blog. We’d been contacted by Adam, after he’d seen our blog on Twitter. Fascinated by our travels and an avid traveller himself, he emailed us to see if we wanted to meet up with him and his wife Leanne when we reached Chicago. He has a travel site which is also a great read – Fast Food And Worn Tires. Taking him up on his offer, we’d all arranged to go to Millennium Park where they had an open-air cinema. As we waited outside the bar for Adam to arrive, we joked that we should’ve asked him to bring a red rose so we would know who he was. It was like waiting for a blind date to arrive. Luckily Adam knew who we were from the pictures on our blog, so once he arrived he was able to come straight up and introduce himself. We headed off to stock up on food as we were going to have a picnic whilst watching the film. Once back at the park, Leanne joined us and we set up a blanket, where got talking about our travels over food and wine.

We had a great night, making new friends and watching O Brother Where Art Thou? which neither of us had seen before. It also meant we got to see the city at night, which was a great site to see with all the skyscrapers lit up.

 

So thank you Adam and Leanne for being part of our journey and for making our trip to Chicago a memorable one!

The Bean at night, Chicago, Illinois