Chicago

In Chicago we hit the ground running with a family bike tour along the lakefront trail when we first arrived. We drove down to Navy Pier and then back to Millennium park. After the bike ride we did a walking tour of the park and saw some cool sculptures as well as the mandatory Cloud Gate. It was a pretty hot day again so we were happy to finally rest our feet in a nice hotel and take a break before doing a bit more exploring downtown. We found a nice Thai restaurant that was not too busy and had a great dinner. The next day we packed up and headed to the museum of Science and Industry which had some unique exhibits. The favourite was the mind control game where you had to push a ball using the alpha waves generated by your brain. Theoretically these waves should be generated when you are in a relaxed state so the winner would be the person who could relax the most. After a few rounds the undisputed champion was Elliot who beat all of us with not one loss. After the museum we continued our road trip as we headed back towards Canada.

Minnesota

After another day of driving, another night at a hotel, and another morning of driving, we arrived at Brooke’s house in White Bear, Minnesota (Brooke is my amazing friend/roommate from NYC, she is married to Joe and they have a 3-year old son named Hawkins). We arrived just in time for the July 4th pool party and I was happy to learn that Zach, another old friend from our time in NYC, was also among the guests. Brooke is an amazing hostess and she made sure that everyone had plenty of great food and drinks throughout the day. Other than taking the time to eat, not a minute on dry land was wasted by the kids.  They were in the pool for the most part of 2 days and Sienna broke a record for being in the pool for 6 hours straight. While we were in Minnesota, we stayed at Brooke’s parents house in Forest Lake. Every morning we woke up to a a feast, as Brooke’s mom was whipping up all kinds of yummy Minnesotan breakfast classics for us (thanks again for having us and for all the delicious food, Debbie and Mike). On our last day in Minnesota, we took a trip to White Bear lake and rented a pontoon boat. The weather was great as we toured around in the boat and had a picnic lunch. The kids were really excited to get some fishing in and they had more than they could ask for catching over 20 fish! After the pontoon boat, there was even more swimming, and then we went to a summer street festival with Brooke, Joe, and Hawkins to get some dinner. After 3 sun- and fun-filled days we were ready to head towards our next destination.

The 2017 Road Trip

A couple of years ago we started doing yearly road trips and it turns out that this is a way of travelling that the entire family really enjoys. This year we first flew to Toronto and got some time in with the family before we headed north to the Georgian Bay, drove through Saul St. Marie to visit friends in Minnesota and then explored a bit of Wisconsin and Chicago as we headed back east towards Toronto again. We put more than 5,000 km (3,100 miles) of mileage on the car during our trip and in between visiting friends and family we got to see and experience a bunch of new things. Fishing, kayaking, and pontoon boating were all previously untried activities for most of us, and on the “never-seen-before” list we added a giant nickel, a real ass, lots of inukshuks, some poison ivy, and a black bear in the wild … or at least a wild black bear near the highway. All in all it was yet another very successful trip for the diary. What is extraordinary about this trip, though, is that I managed to keep somewhat on top of all the picture taking/sorting along the way. Hence, I am practically done going through the 2,145 pictures I took and I will be posting the approximately 275 which made the cut in the days to come (For those who have been looking in vain for the pictures from our last Canada/US trip in 2016, they have now been posted. Click here and scroll down).

 

The Everglades

Sometimes you never know what you are getting yourself into when you take an iconic tourist excursion. Everyone has heard about the everglade boat trips where a huge propeller blows you through the mangroves. What you may not have heard about is the deafening noise and the crazy drivers doing stunts around the corners. While this might be OK for some adults, Elliot was having none of it and was pretty uncomfortable for the entire trip. Even though he was clearly dissatisfied, he hung in there for the whole thing and we made it back in one piece. Prior to the boat tour the kids got to handle a live baby alligator which they though was pretty cool. Afterwards on our way back to our hotel we stopped by a crocodile ranch where there were quite a few enormous gators basking in the sun.

Tampa ZOO

As the weather was on the cool side with and it was a school day in the US, we basically had the entire Tampa zoo to ourselves. Along with the usual suspects, the zoo had a good collection of matinees which are Florida’s state marine mammal. They also had a large touching pond with lots of fish and rays. Elliot was a bit scared in the beginning but after a few minutes his courage took over and he had both hands in the pool. Lots of friendly colored birds, and some nice orangutans rounded out another great zoo experience.

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Kennedy Space Center

After Disneyland we met up with Shawn again and headed to another one of Florida’s top destinations, the Kennedy Space Center. There was a lot of space gear from the Apollo moon missions along with the space shuttle Atlantis which judging from the crowds was the highlight exhibition. We touched a rock from the moon and we also took a tour to the launch pads where we got a good view of how enormous all of the buildings, machines, and launch areas are. Included here is a shot of a friendly alligator waiting for the next launch by the roadside.