Arend is moved in and equipped at SAIC (http://www.artic.edu/saic/), and we are all oriented. Virtual tour of his dorm, which is at the exact center of the Chicago Loop:
http://www.artic.edu/saic/life/housing.html#chibldg

We left immediately after my Herceptin infusion on the 16th. I got a double dose so I could skip a week. That went very smoothly – the port even gave up blood on the first try, and my blood counts were all normal already except for some very slight anemia. I was still a bit tired and disoriented from the Taxol the week before, but it doesn’t take a lot of concentration to sit in the car.

We stopped in Rockwall the first night (near Dallas, for non-Texans) to have dinner with Hilde – she took us to a great Italian place – with, as her boyfriend said, “real Italians” – it seemed to be the only local restaurant amid a sea of franchises.

We acquired some gadgets for the trip – first, Robert picked up a digital camera while I was at the clinic – I had researched online over the weekend – this was a Christmas present, but he knows better than to actually buy me something that complicated, and I had been waffling on exactly what to get. Thursday a.m. I discovered I’d lost a nosepad for my sunglasses, so we ducked into Walmart and got that fixed, and acquired an AC/DC inverter (some possibilities for humor there) so we could recharge camera batteries and phones in the car – also run the laptop if we so desire, and, as the salesman said when we got the car, “You can plug in a cooler for your insulin.” He was very young – we must have seemed ancient to him, or something. In Cincinnati we picked up a USB wireless card, so we can hang out online in truck stops. We actually saw a man at a gas station picnic table with a laptop and cellphone, apparently working. We used ours at Frank and Jacquie’s, and in motels, all of which, even the cheapest, now seem to have wireless Internet. I think I worried Robert when I asked if he thought a mattress would fit in the back of the station wagon – with a fridge and all those electronics, what else would we need?

Thursday night we made it to Charleston MO (does every state have a Charleston?) where I got some of the answer to a question I’d had the night before – who the heck stays in motels these days? – not tourists – or not nearly enough to support all these motels. There were 4 boats which were all gray and looked like tiny tugboats, with high pilot houses, in the parking lot. They belonged to a GPS outfit who were mapping the Mississippi. The motel was almost on the river, and near the county port. There were also several road crews.

Friday afternoon we arrived at Jacquie and Frank’s – they have a great brick and stone Craftsman-style house, made us very comfortable, and showed us around Cincinnati – I had been there only long ago, and for the Midwestern Jeweler’s Association with Dad, which pretty much keeps you in the hotel and convention center – and we all know they all look alike. The art museum has a wing with the history of art in Cincinnati – see http://www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org/ for the virtual experience. They also took us to Mecklenburg Gardens (http://www.mecklenburgs.net/index.htm – but obviously virtual food is not nearly as good as virtual art), the Thai Cafe, and an Indian restaurant. Plus munching on blackberries, bread, cheese, sausage and other delights from the Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine, the old German neighborhood (http://www.findlaymarket.org/ – even less satisfying than a virtual restaurant).

Saturday, Eric and Suzanne drove all the way from WV – 5 hours each way for Suzanne – for a visit. Frank took us to the Mother of God church (Gottes Mutter Kirche) in Covington, where Henry deGruyter, our great grandfather Otto’s brother, was a parishioner. Otto was naturalized in Covington, before going to Kanawha Co. WV with his brother Martin. Virtual tour here – http://mother-of-god.org/church.htm – I tried taking photos myself, but even the professional ones on the web can’t capture the feel of the space. We also went to the church cemetery (moved to the outskirts some time back) and saw the deGruyter graves there.

Sunday we went to Frank’s church, St. John’s, which was founded by German immigrants in 1814 and became a Unitarian congregation in 1924 http://stjohnsuu.org/. The lay leader for the service (and Worship chair) was Bruce Beisner, who grew up in Charleston WV.

We also went on a flying pig hunt (http://www.bigpiggig.com/pigs/pigs.php) and captured some at the Cincinnati Ballet – http://www.bigpiggig.com/pigs/pig_detail.php?id=145

Tuesday we drove to Chicago (well, Lake in the Hills, northwest suburb), to Don and Rita Helfer’s, where Rita fixed us a great dinner, and daughter Renee, husband Steve, and their little boys joined us. Robert fired up the computer and shared his Helfer research. Don is finishing a great family room in the basement of their new house, which has super views across a lake and golf course.

Wednesday we moved into a motel in Glenview and we had a great visit with Robert’s Aunt Evie, who is going on 92 and still going great guns. She took us to dinner in the lovely restaurant at Luther Village (http://www.luthervillage.com). Thursday her daughter Priscilla came down, took us to a Greek restaurant she knew nearby – newly decorated in very Greek blue and white – and then we went down to Avers Avenue to see the house and neighborhood where Evie and Robert’s mother Lillian grew up. Now that Priscilla’s retired, we hope she’ll come visit in Texas – we warned everyone not to come in the summer, though. In the evening we made a trip to Evanston to the American Apparel, for Arend to do some clothes shopping. Friday we trekked down Sheridan and Lakeshore Drive, our old commute from Rogers Park, to Hyde Park, to visit Powell’s and 57th Street bookstores and drive through the UC campus. Through all this we did shopping for Arend’s dorm room at various places, including the original Sears, which is across the street from his dorm and the view from his window. At one point everyone in the store seemed to have SAIC move-in badges. It is an interesting experience to participate in 200+ students moving in to a high-rise in the heart of the Loop – but they had lots of volunteers and a very organized system.

Saturday night there was a reception at the Art Institute – Arend was amused that there was a jazz band in the medieval room. Shades of conference receptions at Amercian Library Association – there’s always that little thrill to eating and drinking in a library or museum.

Sunday was an all-day orientation for parents and students, and students got their Mac laptops. Finally, we went to Gino’s East, which has moved since our days in Chicago, but has kept the graffiti-covered booths and the deep-dish pizza. We were all too tired to eat much by then.

Monday morning Robert and I started our trip back to our newly childless home. We stopped in Rochelle to visit Marguerite Thomas, Robert’s high-school history teacher.

Tuesday morning we stopped at the Cahokia Mounds in Southern IL (http://www.cahokiamounds.com/cahokia.html), which has a wonderful visitor’s center that is built over part of the excavated site and has reconstructions on the sites of the original buildings, all inside and with murals of the views when the site was occupied. Then we went down the Great River Road scenic byway for a while. It is not particularly scenic, but got us off the interstate, and in Red Bud along the road I spotted a garden bench (birthday pledge to Robert two years ago – we’ve been looking ever since) that looked good. We tested it out, bought it, and then discovered it had been built by the local Amish, so we are doubly pleased.

We had lunch in Chester overlooking the Mississippi and the bridge that goes to Kaskakia, the original capital of Illinois, which is now the only bit of Illinois on the west side of the Mississippi. We ended up at the overlook by accident looking for a restroom on our last driving trip to Illinois a while back, and managed to find it again. (Kaskaskia ghost story here for those who like them – you know who you are ;-): http://www.prairieghosts.com/kaskaskia.html)

We crossed into Missouri at Cape Girardeau, and after that it was pretty much get down the interstate to home. We spent the night west of Little Rock, and the weather was still tolerable. Once we got into Texas, it was hot and dry, dry, dry. We were pleasantly surprised to find it was only 72 on the back porch this morning at 7 a.m.

We made the traditional stop at the Czech Stop in West and picked up some pumpernickel and kolaches (http://www.czechstop.net/home.asp) – although their website says they been there 17 years, Gabe will remember stopping there when he helped us move to Texas in 1985 – he, the cats, the baby (Hilde, age just barely 1) and I were in the van, and got separated from Robert in the U-Haul truck. Robert and I had stopped there on our house-hunting trip, and in those days before cell phones, I figured he would look for us there as the only place we both knew between Dallas and Austin. He did – but Gabe ate the single sausage kolache they had left…

We got home by 6 last night, and I had the last Taxol infusion this morning, so I’ll be out of it for the holiday weekend – but no more 24-hour pump after this! Next week I have an MRI scheduled – that’s the one with the John Cage an octave lower, the manacled wrist for the IV, and the interesting openings for the anatomy being scanned. So the week after that we should have some confirmation of how much the tumor has shrunk. The next chemo will be something called FEC, which will have slightly different side effects, but on the same three-week schedule. That should be done around Thanksgiving, and then on to surgery and radiation, I think. The Herceptin infusions go on for a year after that. If there’s a treatment, I’m gonna have it, I guess.

Thanks to everyone for the support, the hospitality, and for listening.

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