Chicago House Hunting Trip

May 1 - 11, 2000

 Our Travel Experience

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Tourist Info


Our Travel Experience
This week long trip to Chicago came as a big surprise to us. We didn't realize that one of the benefits everyone receives before returning home from overseas is a 5 day all expenses paid house hunting trip. I double checked with the relocation consultant who asked me when I wanted to take my trip and he confirmed that I was entitled to it. So, we've unexpectedly spent the last five days in Chicago.

We did get some week-day errands done that would have otherwise been left to June. For example, I spent three and a half hours at the dentist. Plus, we both renewed our Illinois drivers licenses. We also spoke to our bank about rollover IRA accounts. Also, we scoped out the locations of the various corporate apartments we could be staying in. But, the biggest benefit of all with this extra trip back to Chicago was that we were able to carry a lot home to Chicago and leave it here. Photo albums, duplicate photos and collectable coins are at Seth's parents house. Various clothes and photo negatives were meant to be left at my Ma's house, but since we didn't get a chance to see my Ma, they are at Darren's.

We were able to see a lot of friends this trip. Chris and Kim were first on our list of friends to see since we hadn't been able to talk with them much the last few times we were home. We enjoyed a nice dinner at Olive Garden with Chris and Kim and then got to see them as parents in action as they put their kids to sleep. We also spent the obligatory night at Twisted Lizard with Gary and that is always fun.
Plus, we unexpectedly were able to see Darren because as we were enjoying a walk up the lakefront, we saw his building right in front of us and decided to stop in. He wasn't home when we dropped by, but we left a message with our hotel number and hooked up with him and Niki for dinner at Pizza Capri. 

As we were staying at the Intercontinental Hotel on Michigan Avenue, it was very easy to just pop out our door and go shopping. And we did go shopping. But, we didn't buy huge amounts since we realize that most things we would buy would just sit in storage for the next year. We of course couldn't resist books, plus Seth bought some games and accessories for the new Vaio he'd won in an ebay auction from a guy in Evanston. Little Vaio #1 had a few mouse touch pad problems, so the guy we'd bought him from was nice enough to let us exchange him for a 2nd Vaio of the exact same type he was also selling. 
Our hotel room at the Intercontinental was really unusual. They didn't have our room ready 45 minutes after they said they would, so we think that in a last minute desperation attempt- they gave us a special room. It was on the 39th floor, but the elevators in the lobby said they only went to 38. We actually had to ask the Concierge how to get to our room! Turns out we had to transfer on 38. Our room was neat. 
There were only two rooms on floor 39 and it had a balcony all around it. Of course, all the windows in the room were closed so you couldn't go out on the balcony…but I found an open window off the escape stairwell and climbed out the window to enjoy a very nice afternoon writing post cards while Seth took a nap. It was sunny and had a 270 degree view high over Chicago. 

The room itself was neat in that it wasn't your cookie cutter square hotel room. There were two little “bubbles” - one with the sleeping area and one with the bathroom - connected by a long hallway. Very neat! The Intercontinental has a great swimming pool also. But, even though we had an especially kool room, it didn't make up for the lax service - incorrect room service orders, $1.00 for a 800 number phone call, no one at the Lobby to help with our luggage or car at 1am vs. two guys who both expect $5 tips at 8pm.  etc. etc. etc.
Since this trip was planned at such short notice, we were able to surprise Seth’s parents - especially his Mom. We flew to Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday and rented a car. When we arrived at Seth’s house, no one was at home. So, we parked in front of a neighbors, hauled our luggage into the back room and made ourselves at home in the computer room. When his parents arrived home, they didn't see were were there right away. We waited and waited silently and hoped they'd walk by the room we were in. Finally, Seth’s Ma walks by…but she doesn't see us. Then, Seth’s Dad does actually step into our room and shakes his head, but says nothing. Therefore, the next time Seth’s Ma walks by, she sees us and is shocked to see Seth home. It was a good surprise. We also got to surprise Mark since Dr. Reeder phoned Tim right when we were visiting Tim in his new offices. 

Overall, a good trip which got even better when we tried to go home. Can you say "triple bump" from United airlines?

At 10:30am on May 5th, Tara wrote the above web page up while sitting in the United Airlines Red Carpet Club pre departure lounge while Seth was off getting some Cinnabons for the journey home. We were waiting for a “bump” from our current flight to Japan. Earlier in the week, we'd tried to get on a flight on May 6th, so that we could see Tara's Mom. But, May 6th was so full, that we couldn't get on that flight. Now, we've volunteered to travel home and since the flight is so full due to Golden Week travelers. We hope to be able to see my Ma if we do get bumped. We'll see soon….

The rest of this page was written THREE days later on the 8th of May as we were waiting to see if we'd get bumped for a 4th day in a row!

We have been incredibly lucky the past three days. Each day United Airlines has paid us money not to return home to Tokyo. It has been allot of fun and very lucrative. Some memories include:

Bump 1 - Friday, 5 May
We really didn't want to return home on Friday. We wanted to return home on Saturday so that we could see Tara's Mom on Friday. We were wait listed for Saturday, but since Saturday's flight was very full, we didn't expect to get confirmed on Saturday and were resigned to return to Tokyo without seeing Tara's Ma. However, Friday's flight was also overbooked. So we volunteered to give up our seats on Friday and ended up being paid US$ 1,200 to take the Saturday flight that we wanted in the first place! Plus, United paid for our hotel room at the airport Hilton, gave us $30 in lunch coupons, $40 in dinner coupons and $20 in breakfast coupons. sweet.
Even better, we got to see Tara Mom. Plus, we had fun as we rented a convertible for the drive. It was neat seeing the racoons being fed out at Tara's Mom. They had gotten really brave since last time we'd visited. It was a good thing that we picked up a few extra clothes at Tara's Mom since we had no idea what the next 3 days held. 


Bump 2 - Saturday, 6 May
We knew that Saturday's flight was overbooked - overbooked even more so than Friday's.... so, we were hoping for bump #2 - and we were pretty confident that we'd get it. We woke up early and got ourselves on the top of the volunteer list. We were happy to see the same people at the gate as yesterday and Today we discovered the joys of the United Red Carpet lounge. I phoned my Ma for free to tell her we were (yet again) not going to Tokyo and Seth hooked his computer up in a special little area complete with phone line and   power. We spent along time in lounge before heading to the hotel and taking the L downtown.

Our big event today was trying to see the dead sea scrolls at the Museum of Science and Industry (and failing since it was sold out). Even so, we enjoyed a lovely walk north from the museum along the lake to the river and then west to Michigan avenue. We saw the movie (U-357) - Tara liked it, but Seth noticed all the technical flaws. We tried to see Grace and Jeff all day since they live so close to O'Hare... but they only received our 5 messages late at night since they'd been at Jeff's sister's college graduation. We'd just ordered a HUGE room service meal, so dinner together wouldn't work out anymore. Even so, they headed over to our hotel and visited for an hour or so. Grace's scrapbook from when we were in London and Scotland together was very impressive. Plus, it was neat seeing their Tokyo photos.

Seth then continued to stay up until all hours - watching Ferris Buehler's day off and playing on the computer.

Of course, being bumped today meant that we couldn't get back for work on Monday morning. This was no problem at all for Seth, but Tara did have to arrange for someone else to cover her 8am start. All worked out fine.

Day 3 - Sunday, 7 May

Very friendly gate agents again processed our bump immediately as the flight was so oversold.
spending a LONG time in the lounge 
Tara investigating RTW United fares (leaving from US, London & SouthAfrica is drastically different in price). However when she asked about the cheapest place to leave from, no one would tell her as she was engaging in "fare manipulation"!!  But, really, Tara is just manipulating where our bodies are going to be as we're so flexible. Seth meanwhile sent his mail about out how he'd be delayed returning to Tokyo and did all sorts of upgrades on our new Sony Vaio. 

Then, as we were finishing our McDonald's lunch (courtesy of United Airlines)..., we saw one of the friendly gate agents, we invited him to lunch (again courtesy of United Airlines). It was fun talking and we'd hope to stay in touch. The benefits you received from working at an airline are very attractive. Unfortunately, the vacation time is not that attractive - but, this will definitely be a career we could look into after we're done traveling. It is not only you and your spouse who receive travel benefits, but your parents and well. Plus, you get certificates for cheap travel you can give to anyone. Nice!  For example, First Class Chicago to Tokyo return is $100 if you standby for First Class!!  Nice.

Since we talked to Ben for so long and then hunted for a good food present to bring to swapoper (courtesy of United Airlines) Tara missed the opportunity to be in the Chicago office for the 8am Tokyo Monday morning start. We thought Mrs. Fields cookies would be a good present. But, since we passed Elie's cheesecake first, we bought some cheesecake first and then walked 2 terminals to Mrs. Fields --- only to find out that Mrs. Fields did not accept United vouchers. So, it was back to Eile's (Fannie May didn't take the vouchers either!!).

So, many pieces of cheesecake and one big cheesecake (for the gate crew) later, we checked into the hotel. Rental cars were TOO expensive for Tara to get to work, so she made sure to call swapoper and Jaclyn and make sure all was OK - it was.

Then for the nightly excitement, we decided to ask if there was a laundromat nearby. There was! right next to the Giordano's Pizza. How lucky. However, we had no spare pants, so after Tara bought us pairs of shorts in the hotel basement for $20 each - we took the Westin shuttle bus and then walked to the Laundromat.

The laundromat turned out to be right next to the Rosemont water tower AND in a strip mall that Seth had walked to from Crawford with Coop 10 years ago. It cost $2.75 to do one load of laundry and was definitely worth it (We did lose .50 in the soap dispenser machine).

Giordanos was yummy (as always we ordered way more food than we could eat).

Then, it was the 10:30pm shuttle from the Westin back to the airport. And an early night to bed since Seth resisted temptation and left the computer in the hotel security box.

Day 4 -
We're waiting to see if we get the bump today again. It is possible.... but not guaranteed. We'll see.

Oh, thanks to Seth this morning for sorting out of British Bank transfer problem. Now we should have money in Japan - yeah, because the VISA bill won't bounce on the 10th now.


And, that was the end of our unexpected Chicago trip home. We got seats on the flight on May 8th and were sitting just two seats to the left of where we had originally planned to be three days earlier. Before, when we've volunteered our seats, we've also gotten upgrades - but, we didn't this time. Instead we got a great story and thousands of dollars in United free flights!


Photo Album
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All the photos we took on our digital camera (in a very rough format).

Category Rating Comments
Overall Experience 8  
Ease of Journey 8
Accommodation 7
Activities 8
Coolness 7
Tourist Info
Intercontinental on Michigan Avenue - not recommended except for the swimming pool