Our final day featured some excellent tour guiding by Plucky Friend Gary of a few Chicago highlights--the Italian neighborhood, the Greek neighborhood, some tall buildings--and a special tour of the Field Museum by Plucky Friend Donna, who works as a docent there. (She's there on Weds. Ask for her.)
Mary had long wanted to meet T. Tex Sue, because she read a very good book on the controversy surrounding her discovery and the ownership, and as you may have gathered from reading these updates, she often forms crushes on inanimate objects. Sue, the largest and most complete T. Rex skeleton ever found (and a Plucky Lizard, based on the evidence of wounds she suffered during her lifetime) lived up to expectations (who knew a bunch of bones could have charisma?), while the Field Museum, an aesthetically and intellectually pleasing combination of classical museum architecture and up to the minute interactive museum displays, exceeded it.
We had a fine time wandering through the history of the world exhibit, through single cell organisms to creatures that hovered somewhere unclassifiable between plant and animal life, through the dinosaurs (always a crowd pleaser) through the modern day. Various mass extinctions happened along the way, always a sobering thought, lest we get too confident about our Survivor status. No one--and nothing--gets out of here alive.
A brief stroll by the lake showed of Chicago to its best advantage (that rainstorm before sure gave the city a good scrubbing), before the aforementioned Greek lunch, and some ice cream at Margie's Candies, a 1920's institution where the Beatles once had a sundae and fended off girls.
Our final stop was the Freedom Museum, dedicated to a discussion of what, precisely, is the definition and implications of the First Amendment. More interactive displays allow visitors to decide where they fell on certain censorship cases (involving music, books, protests and more) and compare their answers to previous visitors.
Guests were also encouraged to make a ten second video responding to the question of your choice; Plucky Survivors picked "The greatest threat to freedom is..." (our answer; that everyone seems to have a different definition of the word, and that many consider it an object rather than a concept), thus joining the likes of Donald Rumsfeld, Jimmy Carter, and our New Best Friend Barack Obama, who had previously done the same. It was an excellent way to finish up our latest epic trip.
We wound our way through Chicago traffic and managed to get Plucky Mobile safely returned to the folks at Avis, who were very understanding about how our more than 2,500 miles of driving had transformed a small crack in the windshield into a significantly less small crack. Nearly 5,000 miles between the two trips and just one busted windshield - we think that's a pretty good track record, if we do say so ourselves. Plucky Mobile II, we salute you!
In case you were wondering, Rick's mad driving skills (as the kids say these days) got us to Mary's house only five minutes after her movie started. Stupid traffic on the 101. However, thanks to the new DVR's time-bending skills, it didn't matter, and we could watch it at our leisure, a leisure that began only AFTER tons more food, because various Plucky Friends had gathered to welcome us home and fete us in the only appropriate manner.
Speaking of Plucky Friends, thanks so much to Frommers and Chuck at www.gumbopages.com for featuring our adventures. Thank you to Deb and Dave, and Gary and Donna for showing us their towns. Thank you so much to everyone who has written--we will respond to your letters once the fat and sugar coma has worn off.
And a huge thank you to everyone who was reading, and thus riding, along. The ride is always better with good company.
Our first trip, PSSA 1 was all about legacy -- what do you leave behind? For PSSA 2 it was more about the things you do along the way to that legacy; the human journey, if you will, and human potential. What can people do? Transform worthless junk into art; save everything you ever owned; revitalize a town; run for President; take a bunch of rocks and make it a place of worship; create a national identity through mythology; assassinate a President; get your kicks on a the great American byways; take boyhood adventures and write a classic; unite a divided people by playing a ball game; brutally murder others; mourn the dead in creative ways; make a playground in the midst of death; ride the rails for adventure and work; make donuts and barbeque and cheese and cake and ice cream and Spam; make mistakes; celebrate; laugh; speak out. America is so very large and the possibilities within it vast. There are choices to be made within those possibilities and some of them will be terrible and some of them will be great, both in quality and size.
But it's not the quantity of anything that matters, unless, of course, you are trying to create the Largest Ball of Popcorn. But still: 35,000 pork chop sandwiches at an annual Hog Fest is impressive, but it only means something when each sandwich is made with care and concern, year after year after year.
And so it is on a magnet, of all things, which we picked up at the Hobo Museum, that summarizes Plucky Survivors See America 2 for us....
Success isn't how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.
See you on the road.