July 30, 2008 - We boarded Train 22, The Texas Eagle, in San Antonio at 12:45; on our way to Illinois for Stanley's big 50th class reunion. We arrived in Chicago the following afternoon, and headed out in our Hertz rental for Galena for a night at one of our favorite spots, The DeSoto Hotel. The next day after a walk in Grant's Park, we drove to Freeport. Pearl City is just a few miles away, but the planning committee had found a wonderful B&B on the outskirts of Freeport for those of us coming from out of town. As a bonus the B&B would also prepare dinner for us and provide us with a lovely meeting room.
As far as Stanley was concerned the reunion started the moment we drove into the parking lot of the B&B. Two couples were already there. The visit was on and continued non-stop until about midnight the folowing night.
The dinner that night was lovely and there were lots of activities to get conversations going. The class of '58 turned out to be a wonderful group of people. Of course, they were very glad to see Stanley. He had not been back since graduating from high school.
The next morning, Stanley and his classmates rode in the Pearl City Homecoming Parade and waved to their fans.
After the parade, we feasted at the American Legion and then took time to visit a local vineyard and winery. What a beautiful place. Thanks, Butch, for touring us around and to Gilbert - thank you for sharing all the beauty you've created. By the way, the wine you gave us was delicious!
Later that evening, their was more eating, contests, races, introductions, music, dancing and the most spectacular fireworks display I had ever seen. Not what you might expect in Pearl City IL. Go figure!
I must say a word of thanks also to Rose and George, our B&B hosts. They did everything possible to make us feel at home.
August 4 - We were off to Chicago. Instead of taking a cab to the hotel, we shlugged our luggage onto a double decker bus and toured downtown Chicago until we got to the stop closest to our hotel, the Raffaelo right off Michigan Avenue. What fun! Our guide was great! The tour was actually a class: Introduction to Architectural History of Chicago.
We rested for a bit and then walked several blocks to a restuarant on Michigan Avenue. It was a pleasant evening and a lovely walk. We were promptly seated in the bar by the window overlooking the avenue to wait a few minutes for our table. No sooner did our drinks arrive than the mother of all storms struck. Sixty mile per hour winds, buckets of rain, dancing street lights and continuous lightning. Wow! It was straight out of a Batman movie. Spectacular! Dinner was wonderful and dessert was free because we had to wait so long for our table (none of the early diners wanted to go out in the storm so they ordered extra coffee and dessert so they could keep their tables a bit longer). Wonder of wonders - by the time we finished dinner and started our walk back to the hotel, the weather was back to its 'pleasant evening' conditions.
August 5 - We toured the Shedd Aquarium and Grant Park. It was a great walk from the hotel to the park and on to Union Station (I have to admit that we cheated just a bit on the way to the park. When we realized how difficult it was going to be to cross the street, we took a cab the last few blocks, but we walked a lot). Here are some of the most interesting photos I took through the haze that day:
The trip from Chicago to Champagne that evening was uneventful except that the train slowed to a crawl several times because of saturated ballast from the rain the night before. Connie and Fred, Stanley's sister and her husband, met us at the station and took us on a quick tour of University of IL, Stanley's undergraduate alma mater. We went to their house for tea and cookies. The visit wasn't long, but we enjoyed every minute. They got us to the train station in plenty of time and waited with us until the City of New Orleans arrived.
August 6 - We had breakfast in the diner and spent the morning watching the southern countryside roll by. We saw rice, sorgum, corn, soy beans and a jillion types of produce. We arrived in New Orleans about 7:00pm and headed straight for the B&B. We had a fabulous dinner that night a Pascal Monates.
August 7 We took the trolley to downtown New Orleans - it is so good to have them up and running again.
We found lunch and a dance floor at Mulates. The lunch wasn't all that special, but the promise of the dance floor and a live band was enough. We decided right then to go back for dinner. On to the River Walk. A note on current events of the time: We watched the clean-up of an oil spill on the Mississippi.
We walked a long way down Canal Street, stopping for coffee and pasteries and then took the trolley all the way down Canal Street and back to the B&B.
After a short nap, we got dressed and back downtown to Mulates, our predetermined dinner/dance spot. Dinner was great and the dancing was even better. The band was Cajun through and through. About half of the songs they played were waltzes. I was in Heaven. To top it all off, we stopped at Emeril's on the way back to the streetcar for dessert. Oh, my! I told Stanley that I would never eat dessert until I could have one of those little pecan pies again. (Of course, that went out the window pretty soon.)
August 8 - We were back on the train headed for San Antonio.
August 9 - We arrived in San Antonio at 4:30 am. David had promised to come for us when we got in, but it seemed uncivilized to call him so early so we shlugged our luggage to Denny's. We ate breakfast with taxi drivers, some ladies of the evening and a few folks that didn't seem to fit into any category. Have you ever noticed how the face of a city changes early, early in the morning? We called David about 6:30 and he got us to Mom's in short order. We enjoyed a nice visit with family. By the way, have I told you lately how wonderful Grayson is?
August 11 - Back to Perote. Read about the wine making activities at donamakeswine.blogspot.com/