Relive Onward State’s Road Trip To Chicago
What’s better than a road trip to Illinois? Another one!
After a successful trip to Champaign only two weeks ago, the Onward State crew packed up the Subaru and headed for the Land of Lincoln once again to cover Penn State football’s matchup against Northwestern.
Northwestern is located in Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. Since most of us had never visited the Windy City before, we decided to take full advantage and powerpack a weekend full of Chi-Town fun. Let’s take a look back at our journey.
With a day full of activities planned, we wanted to hit the road early. Hall of Fame Subaru driver CJ Doebler picked us all up, and we were on the road by 8 a.m.
Our first stop of the day was in the worst state ever, Ohio, at a familiar Culver’s in Toledo. This was the exact same Culver’s location we stopped at on our way home from Champaign. Panera will always have our heart, but this Culver’s is becoming a bit of a secondary tradition as well.
The first fun stop we had planned was at Indiana Dunes National Park. Nestled on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, this park is basically just a beach with some giant dunes hidden in the Midwest.
After dipping our toes in Lake Michigan, I did what any reasonable person would do in the presence of dunes: I slid down them. I have a bit of a reputation for my sliding/sledding abilities, so I had to keep it up.
While I was burdened with the consequences of having sand in my shoes and pants for the remainder of the day, I also got some awesome pics, so I’ll call it a net positive.
Our next stop was Guaranteed Rate Field to catch the Chicago White Sox’s game against the San Diego Padres. While none of us had any vested interest in this game, it’s always fun to watch some baseball. Plus, tickets were only $8 since the White Sox were eliminated from playoff contention, so that was a bonus.
We got into the stadium early to explore. CJ and I both managed to catch a ball during the Padres’ batting practice, and we saw Ted Lasso actor Brendan Hunt make a celebrity guest appearance.
The stadium itself was cool, but nothing special. It certainly didn’t help that the crowd was essentially non-existent. No wonder they were selling tickets for $8. Arguably the best part of the stadium was the incredible view it offered of downtown Chicago.
After crossing a new national park and a new ballpark off of our bucket lists, we headed to our motel north of the city to get some much-needed rest before gameday.
Ahead of our arrival at Ryan Field, we stopped at Dunkin’ to fuel up for the day ahead. After the team arrived, the beat writers headed up to the press conference while Hailey and I hit the field to shoot warm-ups.
You all know what happens next. The Nittany Lions struggled in the first half against the Wildcats but turned on the gas in the second half to ultimately defeat Northwestern 41-13. Following the game, the writers wrote their sidebars while Hailey and I edited our photos.
Once the work was done, it was time to have some fun. We had a rematch of our 40-yard dashes in Illinois, and Joe and my race came down to a photo finish. After reviewing the tape, we called it a draw. Then, I took the field again against Hailey and CJ.
With our competitive energy out of the way, we walked with tired legs back to the car to head to dinner. What was for dinner? Well, we were in Chicago, so of course we had to get some deep-dish pizza.
We met up with Onward State alum and current Northwestern graduate student Adam Babetski to get some pizza at Giordano’s, a famous local spot. The deep-dish pizza was absolutely delicious but had us feeling like a ton of bricks.
Stuffed from the food and tired from a long day, we headed back to the motel to rest.
Did you really think that this Onward State crew was gonna go to Chicago and not see the Bean? If so, you’re wrong.
We got up nice and early to give ourselves time to explore the downtown section of Chicago. We parked in Millennium Park and headed over to the Cloud Gate monument, or “the Bean” as it’s more commonly known.
Unfortunately, the monument was under renovation, so our only glimpse was through a fence from a couple of yards away. Not ideal, but at least we saw part of it.
Next, we headed toward the Chicago River and passed the famous Chicago Theater marquee on the way. We didn’t have a ton of time in the city, but we took full advantage of the time we had to see as many of the sites as we could.
We stopped for breakfast at a cafe by the river called “Yolk.” While we waited for our food, we excitedly watched the first-ever “Toy Story Funday Football” broadcast on CJ’s phone. We marveled at the impressive real-time animation before devouring a spread of pancakes, eggs, bacon, and french toast.
After a delicious and filling breakfast, we made our way along the river back to the car. We weren’t in the city for more than an hour or two, but we all had great first impressions and hope to return one day.
We hit the road once again and headed eastbound for State College. Having spent a good chunk of the morning in Chicago, we didn’t have much time for stops. We stared longingly out the window at signs for Indiana Dunes National Park, imagining how lovely it would be to go sit on the beach for a few hours.
We got work done, wrote stories, edited photos, and watched a bit of the Eagles—Commanders game before making our only real stop of the drive home, an Onward State tradition, the Panera Bread in Amherst, Ohio.
Nolan and CJ spat in the face of tradition and opted for Popeyes, but the rest of us held true to our ancestors and got some Panera.
A few more hours in the car and a Philadelphia Eagles victory later, we finally arrived back in State College. It was a long weekend but one of the most power-packed Onward State road trips to date.
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About the Author
When paired with the Thespian Society by Penn State THON, the world changed for Theresa Illicete.
Fashanu is the Nittany Lions’ most recent First-Team All-American since Micah Parsons in 2019.
Johnson is the second Penn Stater to declare for the NFL Draft.