Last breakfast in Chi-town and a pursuit of the Amish

I had my last Chicago breakfast of smoked salmon eggs benedict at the House of T:

Can you believe he made something so picture perfect?

We carried these restaurant worthy plates to his roof top deck and ate in the sunshine (!!) looking out over the hazy Chicago skyline.

Amazing food, strong coffee and my last chance to hang out, breathe deep and relax before I got in the car and headed down the road. T’s been a consummate host and if he weren’t headed out of the country to go sailing, I’d recommend he open a B&B.

It’s been a rollicking good time here in Chicago. I’ve been reminded of all the reasons I love this city – primarily the food and the people – and the few reasons it makes me crazy – the Chicago highway system that I fear was designed by a petulant child who needed a nap and instead was given crayons. How on earth do people figure out how to get in and out of this city when they have to use 12 different highways in the space of a mile? How do they connect to all of those highways when the exits are spaced about 400 feet apart on opposite sides of 6 lanes of rush hour traffic? Why was I in bumper to bumper traffic at 10am on a Sunday, 5pm on a Wednesday AND 2pm on a Saturday? When traffic is this bad, why are buses getting reduced, routes cut down and trains running less and less frequently? Someone needs to step up and solve this mess because it’s absurd!

I avoided toll roads and didn’t rear end anyone, which is all the good that can be said about getting out of Chicago. But an hour later I got off the major interstates and started driving back roads going south and things settled down remarkably. I turned up the music and sang along as I drove into Amish country.

It was a good plan. I’ve never visited any of the Amish communities and this was a perfect opportunity, but for one tiny detail: I’ve been driving around and  T just quit his job to head out of the country, so it’s been several days wherein neither of us consistently knew the day or the date. Thus I didn’t take into account the most important part of visiting a community rooted in religious practices:

Ah, right. It’s Sunday. A day for rest and family and not for tourists with their cars and cameras and inquiring minds. I spent an hour walking past one closed up shop with a “Have a blessed day and come back Monday” sign after another all along route 57 headed south through Illinois into Missouri. I did see a number of these fine buggies in action:

And took pictures against my better judgment because they were so pretty. I don’t want to violate their religious beliefs but the sheer aesthetic beauty of the scene makes me want to document it. If you look up the definition of “bucolic” I think this picture pops up:

I also discovered that the author/creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy lived in the (now) Amish community of Arcola, which explained the prevalence of dolls and toys and books in the few antique stores that were open. I have a Raggedy Ann doll my grandmother made for me so I know a little about the stories. I found out in Arcola that the creator, Johnny Gruelle, made up the stories for his daughter Marcella when she was little and after she died at 13 from an infected vaccine, Johnny patented the dolls and published the stories in her memory. After his death his remaining family created a museum in his memory.

I stopped for lunch at a mediocre place that I won’t name and asked the lady about the Raggedy Ann and Andy museum. She told me what I soon discovered when I drove past it on the main street, that the museum had moved to NYC because the family members wanted to retire and no one could take care of it. They moved some remaining pieces to a gift shop named after his daughter and all that’s left of the museum are these sad creatures.

Don’t they look sheepish and apologetic?

I’m not sure why they were sculpted shrugging, but I’m sure there’s a good reason.

I took them as my cue that Sunday is no day to sight see so I drove the rest of the way into St. Louis without stopping, which puts me in a hotel, in my pajamas and writing this post at least 4 hours earlier than has been normal this week. It also means I’ll get a decent night’s sleep, which sounds amazing.

And that’s all I’ve got for today: breakfast, buggies and sad sculpture.

But I have high hopes for tomorrow because I think the Virgin Mary might make another appearance. Come back and I promise a story.

See you then.

One thought on “Last breakfast in Chi-town and a pursuit of the Amish

  1. the weird weird things you learn when you drive across the country. raggedy ann and andy? weird. those eggs benedict look AMAZING. wishing i had some right about now…with you. xo

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