Serendipity Strikes Chicago

A recent business trip to Chicago began in typical fashion.  I don’t know about you but I generally pack pretty low expectations when I set off on a business trip in terms of personal enjoyment.  Across the years, the school of experience has been a great teacher in this regard even if the tuition was a bit high at times.

Chicago skyline

This particular trip began with a connecting flight from DFW to ORD through DTW.  You will have to forgive the airport codes.  That’s just how we travel geeks talk.  The translation is Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago through Detroit.  The real translation is that this is the airline industry’s droll little way of taking an insipid two-hour experience and stretching it, like a salt taffy pull at the state fair, into an excruciating five or six hours.

My tight connection in Detroit required a mad dash from one end of Terminal A to the other. To illustrate the distance involved, it required catching a train even though it is just one Detroit Metro Airport concourse.  Seriously!  My lunch plans evaporated faster than the beads of sweat on my forehead somewhere along the mad dash between gate A79 and A23.

When I arrived at my airport hotel, I was in a decidedly cranky mood.   Here’s a little insider tip: The phrase “airport hotel” may sound innocuous but whenever you find those two words co-joined, it seldom portends a joyous experience!  Finding that my assigned room had not been cleaned (it was four in the afternoon by this time) and then that the new room contained not a single flake of soap, did nothing to elevate my rapidly plummeting mood.

THE WORM FINALLY TURNS

Strangely enough, it was at this precise moment that things took a remarkable turn for the better. Dame Fortune, in her own inscrutable way, was about to transform her countenance from a  brooding scowl to a broad smile.

My traveling companions and I were famished so we asked the desk clerk for a recommendation.  She suggested a nearby place that would come collect us in a van and return us to our humble abode after dinner . . . humble being the operative word.  A few moments later our chariot arrived and we were spirited off to 

THE GREAT ESCAPE RESTAURANT

The Great Escape Windmill

Little did I realize that the remainder of the evening was going to provide an entire series of surprises. It was virtually impossible not to notice the first.  Dominating the parking lot not to mention the horizon. was an 80 foot tall, 108 kw wind turbine.

The restaurant has an entire page on their website called Going Green that explains this restaurant’s remarkable commitment to protecting the environment.

The next surprise was Justin, our server. He brought us menus but asked us to put them down while he shared some information about the history of the establishment.  Ten minutes later we realized just how much fascinating history there was.  The Bar & Banquet Room are still a part of the original structure built on this site in 1889.

The Great Escape BarTwo of the most famous patrons of the bar in the early days were Tom Mix and Al Capone whose respective smiling / sinister visages gaze / glare at you from a nearby wall.  If you are an aficionado of the early western movies you will immediately recognize the name Tom Mix. Many of the saloon scenes were  shot in this building.  Al Capone sold booze to the establishment in the early part of the twentieth century.  More details can be found on the restaurants About page.

Picture of Tom Mix & Al caponeAnother tab on the restaurant’s homepage is labeled “Hauntings” and is dedicated to a fascinating account of a night spent there by the Chicago Paranormal Detectives.  I predict that those of you with an appetite for such phenomenon will greatly enjoy the read.  As Justin carefully explained, the picture you see below is one of two “hot spots’.  (I thought for a moment I was sitting in one of the hot spots but it turned out that was just male menopause.)   He explained that he had stepped it off and the two spots were exactly 30 paces apart.  I think the significance was this is the normal distance for a duel or shootout but since I was into my second glass of wine by this point, I wouldn’t want to be held to that.

Haunted Hot Spot at Great Escape Restaurant in ChicagoWe haven’t even gotten to the food which was excellent.  The restaurant specializes in baby back ribs, broasted chicken and chicken pot pies.  I sampled them all as I am about to explain.  We had such a delightful evening that the next day I stood up at the conference I was attending and bragged about our experience (I am a Texan, after all).  The next evening I returned with about 25 of my closest friends.  Thank you Brian Great, the proprietor (hence the name of the restaurant, don’t you see?) for the nice complimentary bottle of red wine and the cappuccino.

One of the great things about travel is that often times pleasant surprises are just around the next corner.  Serendipity, like lightning, can strike anywhere . . . even in the shadow of the airport in Chicago!

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