We arrived after the short flight to Chicago and established contact with Jim (a friend of Lucie's dad) and were told to look out for Jimmy Jnr at the baggage reclaim. A picture had been sent via the internet and soon enough we saw Jimmy lumbering towards us.
We walked through to the car park and just as we were about to load up, the heavens opened… soaking Will and Jimmy while Luce, wisely, stayed undercover. A few laps of the car park later and we were on our way. We made a short stop at the supermarket for Mount Gay Rum and Key Lime Pie before arriving at Jim and Joan’s house in Lake Forest, just north of Chicago.
We had been given our own suite above the garage including kitchenette and pull down bed. We recovered from our flight and headed out with Jimmy to the local Italian for a nice meal. The next day we decided to have a look around Chicago and await the arrival of Luce’s parents. We got the train into town and did a walking tour ending up in the shops on
Michigan Ave (aka the magnificent mile). We headed home and saw Luce’s Mum and Dad for the first time in 5 and a half months! A few glasses of champagne later (kindly supplied by Jim, thank you) it was as if we hadn’t been away. We had a very American dinner of barbecued burgers to set us up for the next days activities….
Chicago has been chosen as the USA candidate city to host the 2016 Olympics. Part of this means that there are a number of warm up events that will occur and Will had the misfortune to join one such event… the Jim and John Modern Pentathlon, events were to include Shooting, Golf, Tennis, Table Tennis and more Golf! Today’s event was shooting and after dropping off the non-competing members at the local shopping outlet, we arrived at the shooting club. It was a hut in the middle of nowhere, although some bright spark had decided it would be a good idea to build a housing estate right next door to the gun club.
Anyway, first up was a set of 5 clay pigeon ‘shots’. Jim won the competition just after some slight confusion over whether we were counting hits or misses. Word had got out that there was also a tower on the site and after being denied a beer (who would of thought that alcohol and guns don’t mix?) we were taken over to some more challenging ‘shots’. The results of which were less clear cut but the honours probably went to JLP, but it wasn’t really part of the competition anyway (according to Jim that is).
The next leg of the Lake Forrest Olympics was to be Golf. We headed off to Jim’s golf club late Friday morning, via a quick stop at Golfsmith’s to buy a glove, balls and some new clubs! The golf was to be a team competition between Jim & Jimmy and John & Will. The club was amazing, and after a little warm up it was soon time to tee off. The tension was similar to that at the first tee of the Ryder cup, and after both Jim and Jimmy’s drives went long and straight, Will and John both took advantage of the first tee mulligan. Despite this inauspicious start, John and Will were soon up and held the lead through the first nine.
Coming down the 16th Will & John were still one up and the pressure was intense. Communication between the teams had ceased and after a pulled approach shot or two it was left to Jimmy to save the day winning two out of the last three holes, to win the match on the last hole. It was great fun and we took advantage of all the facilities after the game including the men-only bar inside the locker room. We then met up with the girls who had been having a cultural tour of the nearby shopping centre and had a great dinner at the golf club.
On Saturday, as Jim was playing golf again, we took another trip into downtown Chicago and went on an Architecture Boat Trip. It was a great trip and would highly recommend it to anyone.
We set out for Wausaukee (Joan’s fathers’ hunting lodge retreat in Wisconsin) late Sunday morning. After stopping for supplies at Piggly Wiggly we were soon choosing which one of the 14 beds we were going to sleep in at the cabin. Wausaukee is a club/family retreat that was set up in the 1920’s.
It was originally a group of hunting lodges situated around an elbow lake. It is a wonderful place and like going back in time. The cabin had large verandas and great views over the lake. Within minutes of arriving we were out on kayaks, before a quick 9-holes of golf on the on-site course and then a home cooked Mexican meal!
The next day was the golf competition for real. After a warm up nine holes, the real deal started. Unfortunately Will’s new clubs hadn’t helped his game enough to put him in contention and it was left to the two veterans to fight it out. John came through as the winner by two holes (although Jim may dispute the legality of giving shots on a 9 hole par 3 course).
That afternoon was spent fishing, kayaking and getting lost trying to run round the lake. After dinner, John and Will went bear hunting with the managers wife but to no avail, although we had actually seen a brown bear on the side of the road as we drove in. Our final days at Wausaukee consisted of more golf, more fishing, a tennis competition (John beat Jim), a table tennis comp (Will & Lucie beat Jim & John) and a futile attempt to complete a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.
But soon we were waving goodbye to Wisconsin and heading back to Lake Forest. Our last full day of our trip was spent shopping, hitting some golf balls and then heading out for a celebratory meal at Froggy’s (“excuse me is the special Tarte Tatin?” “Non Monsieur, it’s apple tart”….).
The next morning was spent doing Will’s favourite task, packing. After nearly six months on the road, our bags had multiplied and it was more a case of ramming everything into the bags and hoping they would shut than folding and rolling everything neatly. Our cab had been booked for 2:30pm to take us to O’Hare airport and as it pulled up there was one final surprise, we were going back to the airport in style in a black stretch limo. The effect was only slightly spoiled by the bungees holding down the trunk to hold all our bags.
We checked in and tried to sweet talk the lady into upgrading us but had no luck. We ate a late lunch in the lounge (just in case they didn’t feed us enough on the plane). And then took off for the final time on our trip. After by passing the French jobsworth male air hostess we got into First to have a glass of champagne with Lucie’s parents to toast our trip and engagement. Before we new it the lights were being turned on and it was time for breakfast before landing.
We have travelled more than 30,000 miles in six months. We have seen amazing cities and beaches, and met some fantastic people. We have learnt to dive and tasted wine in 3 continents. We started the trip as boyfriend and girlfriend and ended as husband and wife to be. We hope you have enjoyed following our trip online and sharing in our fun and experiences.
As one journey comes to an end, another is only just beginning!