Wednesday morning, my sister, Julie, and I woke up in South Bend, Indiana only 95 miles from Chicago, Illinois. Though we grew up in Rochester, New York, Chicago has been the next closest city to offer me that warm and welcoming feeling of home. The city was finally within reach, and I couldn’t have been more excited.
Julie and I began this day of our trip with a leisurely drive through Notre Dame’s campus. We saw the university’s football field, snapped photos of “Touchdown Jesus” and awed over the grand and expansive size of the campus. We had both seen the university before, but it appeared just as beautiful the second time around.
Though we had both been within miles of the Michigan border on several occasions, neither Julie nor I had ever stepped foot in the state. So, for the next stop on our trip, we took a quick detour off Interstate 90 to find the Michigan state line. When we saw the “Welcome to Pure Michigan” sign, Julie pulled her car to the shoulder and I jumped from the passenger seat into the knee-deep snow to snap a photo.
Now, we have both been to Michigan.
We walked across the sandy beaches of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore wearing winter boots, hats and gloves. The Sand Dunes are open year round, and we lucked out with an unusually warm 35-degree day for Northwest Indiana. These sand mounds looked small compared to the overpowering dunes of North Carolina’s Jockey’s Ridge or the Colorado Sand Dunes I visited in the past, but the stop was well worth it. In some areas, thin layers of ice covered the beach and cracked chunks of sand in half, a natural occurrence we had never witnessed before.
We parked near a friend’s house in the Lakeview neighborhood, rode the El train into the Loop and ate lunch with my former colleagues at a Willis Tower restaurant. We passed my old apartment building in Old Town and toasted from multiple bottles of Lambrusco at Benchmark Bar Wednesday evening.
Few life events beat those joys of reuniting with good friends. And, I enjoyed every second of reconnecting with those who made my time living in Chicago as wonderful as it was.
Through the many stops we have made and plan to make on this road trip, I know my time in Chicago will be one of my favorite. I lived in this Windy City for two years before moving to New Orleans in August, but my return felt nothing short of a visit home.