Vacation's over. Insert sad face here. Here's the wrap-up!
We left mid-morning for our long drive to Chicago - no big hurry. RedFaery made a couple of music mixes for the CD player to keep us from being bored. No Beatles in the mix - I insisted we'd both be sick of their music right after the convention, and we wanted to listen to the mixes on the way back too.
About 5 hours later we hit the Chicago traffic. I've been thru worse - we hit about 3pm local time, so it was well between lunch and end-of-day rushes. RedFaery's Mapquested route had us avoiding Gary, Indiana as well, so that was an excellent bonus! The last 15 miles of our drive took about two hours when all was said and done.
Unfortunately, the Beatlefest directions sent us to the wrong Hyatt. Fortunately, we were able to confirm with them that we had reservations at the O'Hare location. Also fortunately, that Hyatt was only a couple of miles away, so it didn't take long to get there. And most importantly, the Hyatt we were at let us use the bathroom!
So we checked in, got settled in our "executive suite" (same as any other suite, but with a desk), and laughed at the prices of the crap in our mini-bar. We then set out to find cheap eats and settled on a Denny's. I ate half the menu, and RedFaery got a nice big hamburger (remember that for later!). When we left we explored the area and found Red's "holy grail" - a REAL Dunkin' Donuts store! Around Louisville, the only DDs we have are attached to gas stations and only sell the simplest stuff (glazed, powdered, krullers and bearclaws). At a REAL Dunkin' Donut store, she could get her long-missed Bowties (glazed cinnamon twists) and vanilla-creme filled powdered sugar donuts. We now had breakfast for the next few mornings planned!
We wandered around the hotel after dinner, and I marvelled at the changes since I'd last been there (at least five years now). The biggest change, and one of our biggest disappointments, was that the pool was gone. We were looking forward to a relaxing swim when we had downtime, so that sucked.
There were already small pockets of people playing guitars and singing around the place. Another significant change was discovered - the tiny cramped stairwell where my fondest memories of the Fest began had been taken out! In it's place was a huge staircase, complete with escalators. Sure there was still space underneath - enough for 100 easily - but the charm of being squished in with 50 people creating a massive fire hazard was now lost. Oh well, time marches on...
We sat down for a little bit and sang along with the dozen or so gathered, relaxing and enjoying the doing-nothingness of vacation. RedFaery was remarking how different it all was and that it wasn't quite what she was expecting, and I told her "you ain't seen nothing yet!"
The next day we got our donuts, then our convention wristbands, and wandered around. I was sad to see that the usual travelling exhibit of John Lennon's art was missing, but plenty of other pieces took up the slack - primarily Ringo's artwork and a photo exhibit of the Beatles studying with the Maharishi. My favorite new exhibit was a room dedicated to all the Beatle's album covers from all over the world. I think I got a pic of "Abbey Road" in Japanese somewhere on our disposable cameras.
As we wandered the merchandise area, I hear "Is that Ray?" and turn to look at a vaguely familiar young man. Since it was obvious I couldn't place him, he clued me in - my nephew from my previous marriage. He was there with his mother and his aunt (my ex-wife). When we were still together, we brought him and his sister to a Beatlefest when he was only 8 years old, and it made a huge impression on him. Sure enough, we eventually caught up with the rest of the family and talked about travel war stories and updated each other on our lives. I should have expected they'd be there (the ex is a bigger Beatlefreak than I am), but it never once occured to me. After that, we ran across then about five more times among 10,000 or so people.
RedFaery graciously indulged my desire to sit around and sing under the stairs many times Saturday. After a while, the singers and guitar players would start to get really lousy and we'd look at each other and say "Wanna wonder off again?", only to come back a couple hours later to a fresh group. I credit this for not getting sick of the music this time. We even went back to the room once to catch a catnap - hey, it's a vacation!
We went out for lunch and found a local bar with a nice selection of food. The only thing on the menu that caught Red's eye was the hamburger. Yet another inexpensive meal! For dinner we planned on doing the $10 buffet at the hotel restaurant. Turns out the buffet was nothing but snack food, salads, pulled pork and...hamburgers. So even more dead cow for the Faery!
While we were back to singing under the stairs, I got a call on my cellphone. Grue, our online friend whom we were going to the museum with Sunday, was letting us know that we could stay at his place Sunday night, saving hotel costs and bypassing the worst of the Chicago traffic. We could barely hear each other over the dulcet tones of a hundred people singing "Getting Better", but I told him we'd let him know if we were going to take him up on the offer. Brief discussion with the boss, and we now knew this was our last evening at the hotel.
(Wow, that's only half of it! More in the next entry)