Tuesday 31st July 2001, Chicago IL

We had a late start, perhaps understandably as it had been past midnight by the time we got back to the house with Ree. By the time we were all showered, shaven, clothed and coffeed, ready to face the day, it was a little late to contemplate a full day of sightseeing. Instead, with 13-year old Alex as our guide, we set off into downtown Chicago to find Mark at the Water Tower – where, we were assured, we would be able to park the car for free!

Fred supplied foolproof directions, however the car’s navigational computer (a.k.a. Brigid) became confused between left and right, and we ended up heading south on Lake Shore Drive, rather than north. As we pulled up outside the Water Tower, Mark was just moving his bike. Following some sort of ‘incident’, all reserved parking had just been suspended. No matter. In no time we found a space in a nearby public car park.

The Water Tower is next to one Chicago’s tallest buildings, the Hancock Building. It is not as tall as Sears Tower, but there is a very fine view from the top, overlooking (amongst other things) 24 rooftop swimming pools! It also has a Cheesecake Factory at street level. John’s stomach told him it was well past his lunchtime.

In need of some light exercise, we decided to visit the observatory. It has to be said, there are no flies on Alex. As we arrived at the ticket booth, John turned to him and asked, “How old are you, again?”. Alex surveyed the entrance fees and answered, “I’ll be 12”!

We got back to the car at about 5pm. With the usual fanfare of pings and beeps (American cars warn you about everything: open doors, unfastened seat belts, hand brakes, indicators …), John turned the key in the ignition. Nothing. (Well, nothing except the air-conditioning fan, and more beeps and pings.) It was hot, so Brigid pressed the button to wind down the passenger window. With a visible effort, the window moved about an inch, then gave up. The battery was dead.

Alex, correctly deducing that us Brits didn’t have a clue what to do next, took control of the situation, using the ‘Bat Phone’ (his sister’s mobile, lent to us “in case of trouble …”) to call Dad. Apparently this sort of thing happens all the time in American car parks, so they are all equipped with a mobile charging unit. We were soon on the road again.

oe and his wife, Mary, came over to dinner, as did Mark and Gina. Gina brought with her a couple of albums of photos taken on the Mother Road Rally and a Toys For Tots rally that she and Mark had been involved in organising.

Mark had appointed Fred and Joe as marshals for the day, which (from the photos) seemed to involve nothing more than a blatant excuse for cruising around Chicago on the wrong side of the road, grinning wildly!!

Ree was beginning to worry about Dad and his new friends