Drinks in Logan Square

I visited the Milwaukee Avenue Art Fest in Logan Square last weekend with Lisa, Elena, and Andrew. Times were good, as usual, but we definitely concentrated less on the "art" section and more on the "fest" section in case you hadn't noticed. We followed up with some killer cocktails at Longman & Eagle just in time for the skies to open up and douse the area with a flash thunderstorm. The sun broke through again at the perfect time, just as we were finishing our second round, and we decided to make one more stop at Revolution Brewery where we ran into some friendly staff, good food, better beer, and some super huge hipster a-holes!

Willis (Sears) Tower Skydeck

Made a visit here on a whim... I haven't been up here in probably 25 years or more. It doesn't matter how old you are though— it's still amazing. If you don't mind spending $19 for an elevator ride, I'd definitely recommend it as there are only a few places in the world to get this kind of vantage point.

FYI I didn't, and will never, ever, step out on the transparent death ledge.

Snapshots from Grand Rapids


Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo

One of my favorite things to do in the spring and summer is visit Lincoln Park Zoo on Chicago's north side. The gates to the zoo open at 7AM and I usually try to sneak in there before work (before the "official" opening at 9AM). If you can make it in that window, there are very few people around, allowing for plenty of peaceful browsing and walks around the zoo grounds, pond, and nature boardwalk areas. You'll also beat the loud crowds and mid-day heat, so the animals are much more likely to be out and about. Be aware that the vending, cafe, and indoor animal viewing areas will not be accessible until the official open.

The best part about Lincoln Park Zoo is that it is FREE to enter — for anyone. You wouldn't assume this from the quality, however. The exhibits and enclosures are large and clean. The grounds are gorgeous and well maintained, with flowers and foliage filling any empty areas. The staff is quite friendly and very knowledgable. The zoo offers plenty of information on the animals, upcoming exhibits, etc. and offers many programs and events to engage the public, children and adults alike.

Soon the zoo will unveil a large new exhibit that has been under construction (near the Kovler sea lion pool) for some time. The Regenstein Macaque Forest will open in Fall, 2014 and promises to be a natural and state-of-the-art facility for the Japanese primate. I'm looking forward to visiting again when it launches!

Andros, Bahamas and Mangrove Cay

What can I say about this trip? My friend Matt asked me to fill an empty spot for a fly fishing trip to the Bahamas (Mangrove Cay, Andros to be exact). I fish a lot, but I have NEVER fly-fished and it wasn't like I was going to decline an invitation to learn how on a beautiful Caribbean island.

After three flights finally we arrived at Swain's Cay Lodge. It's everything you'd expect from a fishing lodge on a remote island... except a lot nicer. This was no bare-bones fisherman's camp — the accommodations were fantastic and included an amazingly friendly, attentive, and courteous staff, clean air-conditioned rooms, delicious fresh seafood, a full bar, and a beach fit for a much higher-priced luxury resort. It sounds too good to be true but you just can't argue with the pictures. The views and weather here are what people dream about and long for during the rough winter months and I was extremely lucky to have taken part (Thanks Matt!).

We wade-fished the first day, and then went out with or talented guide Ephraim for the next three days. He can identify any ocean life from hundreds of feet away, which direction it's headed, and how hungry it is — all while driving a boat through a thunderstorm. He also gave me some pointed and effective lessons on how to cast a fly rod (for those who have never done it, it's harder than it looks). Along the way we caught bonefish and a some large Barracuda (biggest fish I've ever caught!), but we also experienced so much other life in the ocean which I had never seen in person before. Stingrays, dolphins, turtles, needlefish, snapper, lemon sharks, and nurse sharks all appeared within feet of the boat by our second day, in addition to the standard assortment of conch, lobster, crabs, and a plethora of smaller fish species.

The trip was quite a memorable experience for this Chicagoan. Aside from the great fishing and beautiful scenery, I have to say the thing that brought the biggest smile to my face was the friendliness and community of the Bahamian people. I won't try to explain it (because I have already tried and failed) — it is something that must be experienced. Some people may attribute it to "carefree island life" or assume that the only people we came in contact with were "hospitality-oriented" to begin with, but that is simply not the case. The people here care about everyone and and expect to be cared about in return. Somehow it works. I caught more smiles and friendly hellos in four days there than I do in 6 months in the city, and I will certainly miss it.

Thank you to Cheryl (Bastian) and your entire staff for making this such an enjoyable and memorable trip. It will not be soon forgotten!

(Hint: Square thumbnails are clickable for full size)