Summer Vacation 2004

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Our original plans to go to Marblehead, Ohio fell through, so we formulated a Plan B vacation.  We recently bought a 2004 Honda Odyssey van, so we decided to take a roadtrip to Chicago.  The boys like the new van.
We stayed in Chicago for three days, the first two nights at the Courtyard Chicago Deerfield.  It was Bill's birthday and he was excited to open presents.  We planned Bill's next birthday party, which was the following week at Planet X.

We watched Kane County's Cougars lose to Clinton's Lumberkings among 11,162 paying fans.  Both teams play in the Midwest League with the Cedar Rapids Kernels.  Bill pronounced the dressed-up Cougar scarier than Mr. Shucks.  There was loud music between pitches during Cougar at bats, which was distracting and unpleasant.  Bill's birthday was announced.
We spent a day at Six Flags Great America. It was rainy and unseasonably cool - we were glad to have worn warm clothes!  Ben loved the room of balls.  He threw balls for half an hour before being dragged out.  Jake and Matt went on the "Revolution" ride, after Jake asked "Are you sure you want to do this?" 5 times while they were in line.  We saw a magic show that scared Ben at the end.  Jake and Bill liked the gocarts best, and Jake was excited to have passed the Matt/Bill car.  Bill vetoed the idea of posing with the lifesize Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck.
We spent part of a day at the Shedd Aquarium.  Everyone liked the place.  We watched a dolphin show, and listened to a funny guy impersonating a Beluga Whale.  The sharks were menacing and impressive. 
We moved to the Homestead Suites Chicago.  The pool on the 19th floor has a sweeping view of downtown Chicago.  Ben discovered Sesame Street and the bigger boys tried on some goofy skull caps.   A fashion design student studying "street fashion" fought through a crowd to ask Martha if she might take Jake's picture. (Was it the red tank?  The tie-dyed floppy hat?)  We had dinner with our friends the Beviers, who live in Austin but were visiting Chicago the same time as us.  Matt and Bill had a late-night beer at Rock Bottom.

On our last morning in Chicago we bought some little tables at Room and Board for our (now almost complete) library. We had lunch at ESPN Zone, where the boys played many of the games.  Bill particularly enjoyed a virtual baseball game.  We drove home in the afternoon.
The morning after returning from Chicago Matt, Jake, and Bill drove to Des Moines with our friends the Chadimas. They visited the wonderful Farmer's Market, where Matt ate a great Spring Roll.  The group visited the Iowa State Fair.  Jake and Bill posed for a picture with a cow, who then stepped on Jake's toe.  The group viewed a gigantic boar and monstrous bull, saw the butter cow, tried many carnival rides, talked with a robot who knew Jake and Bill by name, failed to dunk an obnoxious clown, and rode a camel.  What a day!