With my job in the past, and still working on…well, working…I decided that since my lease was ending, and rent in Grand Rapids is pretty expensive, I would go walkabout. There’s no Jenny Agutter, sadly, and no Australian craziness, but I told myself to not plan much.

The only things I’m planning on are visits to friends along the way. I have friends in several cities as I go south, and I would try to stop and visit with them.

First up is Rockford, IL, and Lara. It’s been over 16-17 years we’ve known each other, and we’d met at work back in El Paso. A long time ago. She and her son are currently in Rockford, she’s in radio for Midwest Family there.

It’s only 4-5 hours of driving to get from GR to Rockford. Unfortunately, since I’m not very smart, I didn’t check my Nav to make sure I had checked “minimize tolls”. Therefore, my car took my straight through the heart of Chicago, probably adding another hour to my trip. Stupid Ellie. Yes, I call my car’s nav Ellie.

I made it to Rockford after dark, and have a timelapse of the entire trip, which is, I know, weird. I met with Lara after check in at the hotel, and we went to dinner at Giordano’s. Being so close to Chicago, there are a lot of Chicago eateries that have locations in this small town about an hour west.

I found out that there’s also a Portillo’s in town, so we planned to check it out on Sunday.

Mostly, since she hasn’t been in Rockford very long, we drove around a bit, checked out the downtown area a little, and visited the Rock Guardians of Rockford, along the river. Giant statues of rock, with spears and stuff. We also ate some pretty good food, spent some time wandering around Guitar Center, playing with guitars and looking at microphones, because we’re geeks.

We lunched on Saturday at a really good Mexican food place, but I don’t remember the name of it. Giant burritos, good steak and shrimp. This is definitely a place I’d become a regular of if I lived in Rockford.

Saturday night, I went with Lara to her company holiday party, and met a bunch of her coworkers. I had a good time, lots of fun conversations, and not too much alcohol. Since the party was about 40 minutes from Rockford, the GM asked that everyone play like adults. I had a great time with John, the husband of one of the morning show ladies, Rebecah, as the staff played a Christmas game with presents. We stood by the bar, drinking with other people’s drink tickets.

Lara, Josh (her son), and I had lunch at Portillo’s on Sunday, because I love the place, and they’d never been. They now know the joy and wonder that is Portillo’s, and will probably eat there quite a bit. I had the Big Beef, with mozzarella and hot peppers. SO GOOD! If you haven’t had the beef sandwich there, make sure you do. Also, you can try their chocolate cake shake, with bits of cake in.

After another late visit to Portillo’s Sunday night, it was time to plan my journey for Monday. Since my friend in Indianapolis has gone down to Texas for vacation this week, I didn’t have any destination in mind.

Where would I head next?

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