A little over a week ago, my family decided to hop in the minivan and drive to Chicago for the day and visit the Shedd Aquarium. Although it’s a 3 ½ hour drive for us, this is merely a blink of an eye to me. I love road trips and a spontaneous adventure is right up my alley. However, we have NEVER attempted a road trip with this long of a drive with all three children spontaneously before.
I grabbed a bag of pretzels, goldfish crackers and a change of clothes for each family member and off we went at 7:30 a.m.
The first 10 minutes of the trip were absolutely wonderful! We sang, we talked about how much fun we were going to have and I passed out a few crackers to everyone.
15 minutes into the trip the question of “when are we going to get there?” began. My husband and I looked at each other with questioning concern wondering if we had just made the biggest mistake of our lives.
We somehow managed to make it to Chicago by 11:00 with little to no major problems until our 7 year old daughter, Iris exclaimed, “I think I’m going to throw up.” I quickly made my way to the back of the van where she was located and grabbed the first thing I saw which was her winter coat and held it in front of her.
This left us with a little dilemma since the weather was pretty chilly and we had to park 2 miles from the aquarium. I did have a sweatshirt in the car that I put over Iris’s shirt but it still left her a little underdressed for our long jaunt. She was a trooper though and didn’t complain at all and her upset stomach had quickly disappeared.
We approached our destination and saw the big building looming just a short distance. We were all excited and relieved that our long car ride was completely worth it as we anticipated our next few hours of fun!
As we got closer, our excitement was soon overcome by shock, disbelief and horror.
The line leading up to the aquarium stretched and winded 200 yards back. My guess is 3000 people were waiting in this line. We are from a small town. Even though a NFL stadium is 10 minutes from our home we do not understand the concept of waiting or large crowds for anything. If the checkout lane at the grocery store takes more than 5 minutes; we get impatient and think that something is going terribly wrong.
I thought the line I was witnessing for the aquarium surely had to be for something other than just seeing a few tanks with fish in it. I thought, perhaps they had just flown in a whale and it was giving birth inside or that Jacques Cousteau had come back from the dead and was signing autographs. Certainly, no one would stand in a line this long, with this cold temperature just to get a peek at a few sting rays.
I questioned a few people in line and they told me it was in fact just for the aquarium. They didn’t seem the least bit concerned that they were potentially waiting 2 hours in a line to see jelly fish and sea horses.
I didn’t know who was crazier at this point… the people happily waiting in line or me, who should clearly have investigated this outing a bit more thoroughly.
At this point, my husband and I began whispering what we were going to do and what other alternatives of fun we should do instead when I noticed another door to the side of the building. It said “accessible.” I ran over to find out what this was all about and discovered it was the entrance point for anyone in a wheelchair or who had a stroller.
There has never been a point in my life that I have been happier to have a kid in a stroller until this moment. I showered our 2 year old with kisses and said, “Thank you so much for getting your family in the aquarium with no wait time!”
We spent the next couple of hours going from tank to tank looking at all the sea life. The place was really crowded so it was hard to get too close to anything but we managed to see a fin or two!
After we felt we saw everything we could possibly see we headed out and started our long walk back to our vehicle.
We cut through a park and noticed a huge flock of geese. The kids began chasing them and trying to get them to honk. After they had their fill of running amongst the geese we held hands and walked along the pathway that was dotted with goose poop every few steps. I began by calling out “Goose Poop” to alarm every one of the potential danger so they wouldn’t step in it.
It turned into a game of who could spot the next droppings first and call out loud enough so that all of Chicago was alerted. Stepping over the droppings wasn’t adequate. Wild jumps and hops were in order to clear the areas of mass destruction. Laughing and giggling rang out on this cold walk and our tired legs were forgotten as we enjoyed this best part of our day.
There is an area 5 minutes from our home that contains walking paths and where I have spotted huge flocks of geese hanging out. The next time we need a little excitement in our lives a quick drive over there should suffice as we happily play our game of “Goose Poop.”