Then, we were back on the buses this evening to our hotel in Elyria, OH - and tomorrow, home!
We left Chicago behind bright and early this morning (buses left at 5am!) so that we could arrive at Cedar Point in time for lunch! We arrived at Cedar Point just after noon, and had the entire day to ride coasters and have fun. We expected the park to be crowded (it is the fourth of July, after all...) but the lines weren't as long as expected, and it sounded like everyone was able to ride their fill of rides. We enjoyed a Fourth of July picnic for dinner at a pavilion in the park - complete with hot dogs, fried chicken, and really good potato salad (can you even get more American than that???). The early morning was definitely worth it - it was great to get to spend most of the day in the park.
Then, we were back on the buses this evening to our hotel in Elyria, OH - and tomorrow, home!
Our final day in Chicago! Where has our time gone? We got to sleep in just a little bit after our late night last night with the Pennsylvania Lions delegation reception. (We all needed it!) Then we were off this morning to visit the Sears (officially Willis) Tower; previously the tallest building in the world. This was pretty cool, and the view was totally worth the time that we spent in line! From the top of the tower, you could see for miles - it was really amazing.
Following our attempt to reach for the sky, we had our final concert of the trip at the Hines VA Hospital. (Alas, there are no pictures because photography was not allowed in the building.) We performed in a small space, so the jazz band performed and not the concert band. The entire band got in on the action and sang the Armed Forces Salute and God Bless America. Following the performance (which was, of course, a hit) we all had a chance to meet some of the veterans and chat with them. This was a really awesome experience, I think, both for all of us and for the veterans, who seemed to really appreciate our performance.
Then we were back to the city for one last dinner before we head out tomorrow morning. Before going to dinner, we stopped in front of the Art Institute of Chicago and took a picture of the Lions band with one of their Lions statues. There were many Lions taking pictures with the Lion - it seemed that we weren't alone in thinking of it! After our photo, we were off for a fabulous spaghetti dinner, and then back to the hotel for an early night - as we are leaving at 5 am again tomorrow morning.
Some highlights from our concert for the Pennsylvania Lions delegation:
First, we were honored to have Leader Dogs in attendance! (Totally sweet they actually made me want a dog Leader Dogs!) For those of you who don't know, a principal area of service for the Lions is vision issues, and one thing that we do is train Leader Dogs, service dogs for blind people. We were honored with the presence of Easy, who seemed very, well, easygoing! He was a total sweetheart - just sacked out on the floor napping up front during the concert. He even let a few of us visit with him and pet him - like Buddy, he seemed to enjoy the attention!
Second, one of our guest conductors for the evening was our totally awesome (and brave!) bus driver Tim! He conducted the iconic Pennsylvania Polka. Check out the pictures!
As you might have guessed from the title of my post, today has been a day of driving up, down, and back Michigan Avenue - clearly the place where it's happening in Chicago. After the parade yesterday, we spent the afternoon at Navy Pier and finished the day with a performance by the Beach Boys (yes, the Beach Boys!) at the Lions Conference. We were back to the hotel in time for the kids to enjoy the pool and some social time, and hopefully get a good night's sleep. (I know that *I* enjoyed a good night's sleep!) Not having to wake up for a 6am breakfast this morning was also quite nice!
After a leisurely breakfast, we all loaded onto the buses and headed down to our first stop of the day - Buckingham Fountain and the Bean, in a park just along Michigan Avenue. We enjoyed an hour of wandering through the park (some of us getting lost...). Ultimately, it seems that we all found out way to the Bean, which was really cool. It is a large reflective sculpture shaped like, well, a bean. We were able to find ourselves on the surface of the Bean as we approached. When we walked underneath the Bean, the angles of the sculpture meant that our reflection was in multiple places at the same time - uber cool! We also enjoyed the Crown Fountain installation, which featured two large fountain walls facing each other, each animated with the image of a face so that the two faces looked at one another. Then faces changed expression, and sometimes changed to new faces, which made it really interesting. Russ and I never did make it to Buckingham Fountain.... that was the getting lost part of our day.
For lunch, we headed back down Michigan Avenue to WaterTower Place (part of the Magnificent Mile). We ate at Foodlife, an awesome restaurant that is effectively a food court with fourteen different kitchens, or stations. We were able to eat anything that we wanted - for two hours! The food was amazing - it ranged from sushi, to tacos, to macaroni and cheese, to really delicious crepes and milkshakes. (I enjoyed a Nutella crepe that was to die for.) Everyone seemed to have a good time, and I'm fairly sure that no one starved. There was quite the line at the dessert station as I left, so I'm sure that milkshakes and ice cream were enjoyed by all.
Foodlife is located in Water Tower Place, which is a huge seven story shopping mall. After lunch, we had ample time to shop and explore. I headed directly for Sephora (we don't have such stores in Gettysburg!), where I encountered many of our female band members. We all had a great time shopping. When we met up for the bus downstairs, it seemed that many people had acquired bags from Sephora and other places.
After lunch and shopping, we headed to the Lincoln Zoo. I will admit that my feet were about walked off (I had already hit my 10,000 steps for the day!), and Russ and I enjoyed a cold beverage at a cafe. It seemed that everyone enjoyed our time at the Zoo, however, and we even made a friend on our way out as we were waiting for the buses - a very large dog named Buddy, who seemed to have few objections to his popularity with our students and their desire to pet and otherwise lavish attention on him. (Buddy's owner, too, was cool with this, thankfully - otherwise, it could have been awkward...)
Alas, our buses arrived and we were forced to leave Buddy. We headed to the "Rock and Roll" McDonalds for dinner, located next to the Hard Rock Cafe where we ate the other evening. I'm not entirely sure why it's called the "Rock and Roll" McDonalds - the decor wasn't really different from any other McDonalds... While we were gathering to walk to the bus, we had fun posing with the statues out front.
After dinner, we headed to the Hyatt Regency Hotel for today's performance at the PA Lions Delegation Reception. Both the concert and the jazz band performed. This was our second (and final) "official" performance for the PA Lions. The band sounded great, and we were much appreciated by our audience. This was a late night, as it always is - and tomorrow will be an earlier morning than today. Tomorrow, we will show our appreciation for those who have sacrificed in the service of our country at the VA Hospital in Hines, IL. But for now, it has been a long day and we are all looking forward to a good night's sleep.
I have set up a Flickr group so that we can all share our photos from the trip - to add your photos, please visit flic.kr/g/AckeY.
The picture above shows the band before our "Goodbye Gettysburg" concert Wednesday evening.
Ah, sleep. The Embassy Suites is a fantastic hotel. Our bed was very comfortable, and I hope that everyone enjoyed getting to sleep in a bit after our long day yesterday (I know I did!).
So, to backtrack a bit...
Camp started at Gettysburg College this past Sunday. Students stayed in dorms at the College and enjoyed all their meals in the College dining hall, while rehearsing in preparation for the trip. Wednesday was our "Goodbye Gettysburg" concert, followed by an ice cream social with the audience of Lions, family, and friends.
The concert was fabulous - I overheard one of the directors saying that it was the best the band has sounded in recent years. The full concert band played, under the direction of Russell McCutcheon, Ray Barfield, Bob Rossi, Dale Schmipf, and Vince LoRusso. Our jazz ensemble also played a series of pieces, under the direction of Bob Rossi and Cindi Mancini. Crowd pleasers included a salute to the Armed Forces, Americans We, God of Our Fathers, and of course, the marching rendition of the Pennsylvania Polka!
The band was well humored, when you consider that our concert ended at 9:30 at night - and check out at the dorm was at 4am the following morning! Yikes! Russ and I, who were of course staying at our own house (we live in Gettysburg) elected not to go to sleep, but we were pretty punchy by the time we left the house just after 4.
By 5am, we were getting loaded on to the buses - and most of us, going back to sleep - and we were on the road shortly afterwards. The trip to Bedford, where we stopped for a buffet breakfast, went quickly, as most people were fast asleep. We made good time on the road, thanks to our excellent drivers from Elite Coach of Lancaster. We stopped for lunch at a rest area near Sandusky, Ohio - where we will be returning on the 4th of July to enjoy the Roller Coaster Capital of the World, Cedar Point! Lines were long in the food court, but again - we have a great, good natured group. (Great job, parents! They dealt well with lots of waiting and frustration!) Finally, around 6pm, we drove into Chicago, getting our first glimpse of the Chicago skyline. On Bus 1, Mr. Barfield pointed out some noteable sights for students, such as the distant Sears Tower.
By the time we arrived at dinner, I think that all of us were just happy to get off the bus for a while! While that may have been a serious attraction, everyone also seemed to have a great time at Connie's, and the classic Chicago style deep dish pizza was fabulous. (This place is a favorite of Ray Barfield's - be sure to check it out if you're in town!) The restaurant is in an old factory, a brick building with an industrial feel. The restaurant decor matches the setting, including wheels (or gears?) hanging from the ceiling and mounted on walls. It was pretty cool. Of course, we were not there for the cool decor - we were there to eat pizza! Despite this, we endured a wonderful tossed salad as a prelude to our pizza gorging. (Yes, parents, your children probably ate vegetables! Thumbs up!) We then enjoyed three types of deep dish pizza - cheese, pepperoni, and a special pizza with sausage, onions, and green peppers. The pizza was seriously good. We also took a great deal of pizza with us - I spied at least three pizza boxes worth of leftovers, I'm assuming for a "snack" later at the hotel.
When we left the restaurant, sadly, it was raining - so we made a mad run for the buses. We were only on the buses for a short while this time, before arriving at our hotel. We got the buses unloaded and everyone checked in, and students set off to get settled in for the night and explore the hotel.
And.... that catches us up to our arrival in Chicago. More later on a great visit to Chinatown for lunch today!
Pictures from our dinner at Connie's coming soon... In the meantime, check out pictures from Wednesday's concert!
It is 10:45 Chicago time (11:45 Gettysburg time!) and we are *finally* settled in at our hotel - the staff should be doing bed checks as I write this! It has been a looooonnnng day - but also a great day! We started loading the buses at about 4:30 am in Gettysburg, and were off at about 5. As you can probably imagine, many of us were asleep for the better part of the morning!
Just before noon, we stopped in Ohio to pick up our second set of bus drivers (who will stay with us through the trip - the first guys were just getting us started) - Monty and Tim. We were all happy to see Monty again, as he was one of our bus drivers when we traveled to Toronto in 2014!
Just after 6pm Chicago time, we arrived in Chicago for a great dinner at Connie's Pizza. More on that later.
There is so much to write - about camp in Gettysburg, our concert Wednesday evening, our fabulous deep dish pizza tonight... and I will catch you up on all of that tomorrow, after I have gotten a good night's sleep. Meanwhile, I have realized that my computer clock didn't automatically update and it is actually 10pm Chicago time - so hopefully the kids are still having fun exploring the hotel.
I shall leave you with a picture or two of our great dinner (many more pictures to come tomorrow....stay tuned!):
Bonnie McCutcheon is the wife of Dr. Russell McCutcheon, Musical Director of the Lions PA All-State Band. She teaches history at Wilson College in Chambersburg PA, is an active member of the Gettysburg Lions Club, and volunteers with the Girl Scouts.