For the next few days, we were taking it easy and chilling out at the hotel. On the first day, we did nothing but catch up with the blogs. We were so far behind as we were having so much fun; I was worried we’d still be writing blogs long after we’d landed back in the UK! After wearing our fingers to the bone at the keyboard for the whole day, we treated ourselves with a visit to a Chili’s restaurant for the first time. What can I say other than it was absolutely delicious. There was no meat left on my ribs when I had done with them and their bottomless nachos and unlimited lemonade went down a treat!

Chilis Ribs - Chicago - Illinois

After wandering around a few days before, looking for a decent pizza place but settling for a TGI Fridays, we had found out from our new friends the best restaurant to go. The plan was to hit Pequods for a tasty deep-dish pizza and then on to the museums. That didn’t quite go as we planned. You could make your own pizza – you chose the size and what toppings were on it. They had personal 7” pizzas or you could share a 10”. As we were sitting there, a few of the 7” pizzas went past us. Stef said straight away that she couldn’t finish one of those. 10” it was then! The dishes that they cook them in look like they haven’t been cleaned in a few years – the burnt on pizza remains, adds the extra flavour. Our 10” pizza came out and although it wasn’t that big, it was very deep. This was going to be a challenge. The pizza was cut into 4 and as I was starving, I jumped straight in. I disappointed myself – I managed to eat only 1 slice! We were so full up by the pizza; we skipped on the rest of the day and just headed back to the hotel!

The next day we hit the museums. First up was the Chicago History Museum. As one could guess, it was filled of rooms and exhibits detailing the history of Chicago. They even had Abraham Lincoln’s pocket watch! Did you know that the birth control pill was invented there? There was also a section on the Chicago Fire which, like the Great Fire of London, was one of the biggest disasters of it’s time. With the railway being a huge part of the uprising of Chicago, they had a huge room with some amazing photos of the time. You could even dress up as a worker – I loved it! Stef had a turn dressing up – as a traditional Chicago hotdog! They also had some more interesting things like the first ever bunny outfit from the Playboy club. Very small and revealing, however, unlike the railway workers uniform, they wouldn’t let me try it on…

Lincoln Park - Chicago - Illinois

Next up was the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Now I don’t know if it’s been mentioned, but I love taking photos of butterflies. As there was a Butterfly Haven there, how could we not go in! Like the rest we’ve seen, they were everywhere, however, this time, they released a new batch into the area. The box was filled with them but when she opened it, only one or two flew out and the rest had to be taken out manually. I was expecting a swarm of them attacking everyone.

We hadn’t planned to stay in Chicago for as long as we did. We decided to stay extra for one main reason – NASCAR season had just started and having never seen one live, we just couldn’t pass it by. Unlike most spectator sports, the better (and more expensive) seats are in the nosebleed section. That way, you can see the whole track. It was a whole day event and we got there about 11am. To get from the car park to the track, we had to ride a famous yellow school bus! As we got to the entrance, there were loads of classic and modified cars scattered around. You could vote for your favourite and there were so many to choose from. Stef liked a classic with a fantastic blue interior and my favourite was a stunning deep red 1967 Mercury Coupe. Some of the cars were truly wild, with big exhaust pipes coming out from the bonnet or crazily pimped police cars!

on the way to NASCAR on a School Bus, Chicagoland Speedway, Chicago

Having already paid for the tickets online ($80/£50 per person), we decided to upgrade them to include pit access for another $25 (£15) each. We got in and headed straight for the pits. It was roasting hot and walking around was a mission. It was very busy as you could imagine for a pit area before a race. There were cars being pushed around, wheels getting rolled around and people waiting in line to get racers autographs. Stef queued up and got Chris Buescher’s. He’s got over 100 wins under his belt at only 21, one of the youngest. She was so happy that she got a signature.

Cars lined up at the Chicagoland Speedway, Chicago

Having a quiet word with security, I was even allowed past the metal fence to take some photos of cars up close. It was quite exciting. Whilst walking around the pit, I even got to touch the pace car and Stef stood on the winners stand!

 

The day consisted of two races – the Ansell Activarmr 150 and later on, the NASCAR Nationwide 300. After eating a foot long corndog and nachos, we took our seats to watch the qualifiers. As the cars pulled out of the pit, you could hear the roar of the powerful engines. It was so loud. We were quite high up but it was still deafening. You could see the regular race go’ers. They all had ear protectors but I guess its part of the experience going deaf the next day!

The first race started well but then it quickly got annoying. The cars would race a lap, then something would fall off a car and the pace car would come out again. The cars all slowed down behind it while the track was cleaned which took a few minutes. This happened every other lap. You could tell this happens a lot as people sitting around us were making comments. Eventually, things stopped falling off and the race went into full steam.

Chicagoland Speedway - Chicago

We thought that one car going passed us was loud. How about 20 of them? The seats would rattle and you couldn’t hear anything other than the cars. You couldn’t talk to each other. Even when you were shouting right in each other’s ears, you couldn’t hear anything but the sounds from the cars! A hundred laps in and there was a winner who proceeded to put another hole in the ozone layer with a mega burn out!

Now it was time for the big boys. You could tell it was a bigger event. For a start, there were a couple of celebrities opening it. One of them being Mark Ruffalo, known for his role as the Hulk in the modern Marvel films and with him, a singer from Nashville. At the first race, there was a woman singing the national anthem, this time, they had the singer bashing it out. Half way through, skydivers had dropped from a plane with red, white and blue smoke coming from them whilst one of them carried a massive USA flag. So not too over the top then.

The race started and it was pretty much the same as the first one, however, now there were more cars. More cars = more noise. We both chose our cars that we wanted to win. Mine was 22 and Stef went with her Chris in 60. Mine started off in 2nd but ended 8th. Number 60 came in 7th. One thing did annoy me though and this is where I think the sport is really unfair. There was a car well out in front; he must have been a whole half lap ahead of the others. Something happened and the pace car came out. All the cars slowed down behind it and now he was with the rest of the bunch and his lead was gone.

After a very long day, we made it home where we crashed out for the night.

 

Be it slightly deaf and our ears still ringing.