David had 3 weekends that he was doing ministry at churches in and around Chicago! Since this was near the beginning of our trip, we didn’t do the best job of planning where we would stay. Though we had reservations, they were a bit out of town, which seemed ok, until you realize that you have to leave at 5:30am on Sunday morning in Michigan, to get to the church in Chicago to practice before service. For one of those weeks, we stayed about 1 hour and 45minutes away at Bear Cave RV Campground in southern Michigan, and 2 weeks we stayed about an hour away from Chicago in northern Illinois at Pine Country RV & Camping Resort. Pine Country was a nice park with a big pool and kiddie pool area too! Bear Cave was not our favorite campground to navigate our RV through or pick a site at, but we did love Silver Beach nearby, and it was a pretty park with a small cave (you could go into for a small cost), river, and waterfall.
We did lots of driving in the car on this trip, but driving in the car is nothing compared to navigating your house down the road, so we didn’t mind it so much. Next time, we will look for accommodations closer to the city. It can be harder to find places to park the RV that are close to cities, though I hear you can park your RV downtown in Chicago in the McCormick Place Parking lots, we didn’t want to drive our big motorhome down there. We also didn’t want to pay $35 a night to park in a parking lot with no utilities when we could park a little further away at the campground with full utilities for an average of $3 a night with our Thousand Trails Zone Pass!
Since we had been to Chicago 2 years before, and we were staying a little further away, we only had one day in downtown Chicago other than the days we were at churches there. We also enjoyed getting to spend time with David’s mom’s brother Gary and his wife Linda along with their kids and grandkids. Another night, we visited Emily’s dad’s sister Bonnie and her husband Bill and their daughter’s family, just north of Chicago. It was such a treat to get to spend time with family and see many that we hadn’t seen in years! We got to know our family better and to catch up. It was a lot of fun seeing our kids play with our cousins kids too!
We were staying just south of Rockford, Illinois, so we spent a few days exploring that town. Our first impression of the downtown area of Rockford wasn’t too great, it reminded me of downtown Youngstown, Ohio near where I grew up, except more run down. We ventured a little further down the road to the Discovery Center Museum and knew that we had found a gem in downtown Rockford with it’s 2 floors of fun activities, and the large outdoor playground with a view of the river. We also ventured next door to the Burpee Museum of Natural History since it was also on our ASTC membership, and it did not disappoint either! We always love to see all there is to learn about at the museums that we get to go to!
While we were downtown, we took a walk to Rockford Roasting Company which had great coffee and summer coffee drinks too. We spent more time in Rockford and started to enjoy the city even more. On Friday, we went to the Rockford City Market, which offered many great vendors and food options.
We also visited the beautiful Anderson Japanese Gardens where we felt transported to a serene and beautiful Japanese oasis. There were Japanese dancers in a gazebo in the gardens practicing for a video they were making. The kids loved the Koi pond most, and there were a few magnificent waterfalls in the gardens also!
David led worship at 2 campuses of New Life Community Church, and at Belmont Assembly of God in Chicago. We got to hang out with his friends Joey and Gabe and their families after church 2 of the Sundays, and they showed us to some of the best food and coffee spots around.
The solar eclipse happened while we were in Chicago, so we had the brilliant idea to venture to the Adler Planetarium. Of course it was a hot day and the area was packed, so much so that they wouldn’t let anyone into the planetarium for most of the time we were there. We didn’t get to go into the planetarium for too long, but we did get those coveted eclipse paper glasses and got to see the eclipse at 89% totality or so where we were. It seemed that the eclipse was much more dramatic in the areas toward the middle of the US, where there was a total eclipse, so hopefully we will get to witness that another time. Nonetheless, this was a great place to be, with thousands of Chicagoans, for an eclipse that we will never forget! The Field Museum is nearby and also on our ASTC membership, along with the planetarium, so we spent a couple of hours in there too! There was so much to see and learn at The Field Museum. We ventured into the Ancient Egypt Exhibit, the Native American Exhibit, and into the exhibits with all of the animals too! We could have easily spent much more time in both of these museums and hope to get back to do that in the future! On our previous trip to Chicago, we had visited the amazing aquarium and the free Lincoln Park Zoo, and stopped by Wrigley Field, all of which we highly recommend too!
During our time at Pine Country Campground, since he works for an airline, David’s Dad flew into town to visit with us on one of his days off! It was so nice to see him and get to hang out with him. He also took care of the kids for awhile one of the days while David and I got some cleaning and much needed RV reorganization done. We really appreciated it and loved getting to see him!
Of course we also made sure to eat some yummy Chicago Style Hot Dogs at Johnny’s on the way out of town, and we had some delicious deep dish pizza at Rosati’s!