Cody’s Chicagoland Road Trips: Then and Now

I enjoy the comfort and excitement of learning through road trips. I don’t travel too far – yet – but there’s a lot close to me that I haven’t seen or learned about yet.

I live about 100 miles west of downtown Chicago, which is mostly a straight shot. Chicago is the nation’s third-largest metropolitan area, so it’s going to have a lot of neat and interesting things to see. Yes, there’s also Milwaukee, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Minneapolis-St. Paul, but Chicago is closer and I’ve been to it so many times I can navigate it without the use of a GPS (for the most part).

I’ve gone on many road trips since owning the first car I bought (a 1998 Pontiac Grand Am; my very 1st actual car was willed to me). I’ve been to Cooperstown and Canton (baseball and football halls of fame), the bottom tip of Illinois in Cairo, the expansive sights of Duluth, the beginning of the Mississippi River, the gym from the movie “Hoosiers” (Hi, Rex!), and my gravesites of great-great grandparents in Nebraska and South Dakota.

As a kid, I went on several family trips: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Cedar Point, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Mall of America, the St. Louis Arch, the James Dean Museum, to name just a few. Even with my grandparents, we’ve been to the Safe House in Milwaukee, the Chain of Rocks Bridge in Granite City, and all around Tucson, Arizona when they lived there in the winters.

There were several times when my parents just wanted to take our family on short trips to Chicago; sometimes with a certain destination in mind, and sometimes not. Those kind of trips were fun because they were something new and different. We wound up staying at familiar hotels in Downers Grove and Itasca when we went on these trips – and I continue to do the same when I go there (a Motel 6 in Prospect Heights).

When I just wanted to get away from the familiar confines of Sterling and Rock Falls, I’d spend the day in the Chicago Metro Area either to visit things I heard about, or wind up finding new things while I’m traveling on the road. The latter is so much fun!

I’ve been to, or driven by and seen with my own two eyes, a lot of the major attractions over the years both solo and with family. You could say that there are certain “tiers” of attractions and destinations I’ve yet to see.

What interests me? Sports, history, architecture, anything to pique my humor, and oddball sites that I find interesting for whatever reason. Much of my interests may not be yours, but perhaps I can educate you on what makes certain places neat and interesting. THAT’S WHY I enjoy sharing my experiences with you on social media (Facebook and Twitter).

There’s “major road trips” (Duluth, Cooperstown, etc.), “mini road trips” (Madison, Quad Cities area, Central Illinois), and “Chicagoland road trips.” This blog entry will be about my Chicagoland road trips that I’ve gone on in recent years.

My first solo Chicagoland trips coincided with my work as a website author with Illinois High School Glory Days. I visited libraries, took pictures of old school buildings and helped expand the website into more than simply rural America. No place was off-limits, including the South Side.

I turned 28 on April 28, 2014 – my Golden Birthday. Unlike the other birthdays, I planned out a Chicagoland sightseeing trip. This included “Firehouse 51” from Chicago Fire, “Mollie’s” from Chicago Fire, Harry Caray’s Steakhouse, the Chicago History Museum, and driving through the expensive neighborhoods of Kenilworth and Winnetka. The most humorous site I visited along the way was “Shit Fountain,” which is a sculpture of a pile of dog poop in protest of some neighbors.

The picture above is from a beach in Winnetka: “Cody’s 28th on the 28th 2014.”

The Golden Birthday Trip inspired me to visit a lot more places all around. So every so often I would find a few things on a map and travel to them, or write down things I spotted and missed to visit on future trips.

Here are links to pictures:
I’m retroactively naming my Chicagoland Road Trips – in Chicago “band” album style:

Chicagoland I – The Golden (28th) Birthday Trip (2014)
Chicagoland II – Standing in two years at one time (2014/2015)
Chicagoland III – Sunset on Lake Michigan (2017)
Chicagoland IV – Stained glass windows and nuclear waste (2018)
Chicagoland V – Downtown overnight and sunrise on Lake Michigan (2018)
Chicagoland VI – A December week in the North Suburbs (2018)
Chicagoland VII – Naper Settlement and the World’s Largest Laundromat (2020)
Chicagoland VIII – Downtown Chicago COVID curfew (2020)*
Chicagoland IX – Glen Ellyn and Addison (2021)

The reason why Chicagoland VIII doesn’t have a link to an album is because I had posted pictures and video of my visit there, but after I was met with criticism by friends and even some family for making the trip to a highly-contagious area, I took them down and downloaded them somewhere for a later time.

Chicagoland X: Coming mid-October

I am returning to Chicagoland for another vacation week in mid-October. I have a whole slew of places all around that I would like to see, and it’s just a matter of stringing them and planning them well. No real theme here, just a bunch of hodge-podge – but I think it’s real interesting hodge-podge!

Stay tuned!