Prince’s shrine, Chicago, Amish country and Lake Michigan

The news of Prince’s death arrived when I was travelling towards Chicago.137 123 125 124 127 131 132 133 135 139 144 142 145 146 147 149

Minneapolis was on the way and so after a long drive, at 2.15 a.m., Alfie and I arrived in Minneapolis at First Avenue, the club where Prince occasionally used to perform and where the young people were celebrating his life, wearing purple and dancing to his tunes.


When they saw Alfie they made an immediate fuss of him, and then invited me to take a picture of them.


The centre of Minneapolis is chaotic, not least because of the plethora of roadworks that makes it very difficult to get around, even at 2.30 a.m.


Around the corner from the club there were people fighting and a fairly aggressive atmosphere. It was time to leave.


We got back in the car – it was a miracle I found the parking space – and set off for Paisley Park – Prince’s home, 30 minutes away.


The road was blocked by the police and full of press vans. A policeman told me how to find a parking space.


Alfie and I made our way past the press vans to the fence at Prince’s house where the shrine had sprung up, and where I laid flowers on behalf of myself and friends who were grieving.


There were some lovely tokens commemorating his life.


I sat there for a while and a lovely woman called Elo turned up and burst into tears. Giving her a hug, I listened to her tales of the parties that she had attended at the house – she knew people who worked for Prince.

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She said that the last time she was there she was worried because he was so very thin. She told me how generous and kind he was and how much in disbelief she was.


After spending an hour there, being interviewed by a local radio station in the process – and being very naff I said that my favourite Prince record was 1999! It really is one of my fav dance tunes.


I left at 4.15 and kept driving until I realised that I was starting to hallucinate, so pulled off the Highway at the car park of a Subway.


I snoozed for 2 hours before setting off again towards Chicago, making a nice pit stop at a lake I found when I stopped to get petrol, finally arriving at the ‘Stay Inn’ in North Chicago at 4 p.m.


Checking in, the people were very friendly and Alfie and I were given a comfortable room where we could relax.


After 4 days, 3 nights on the road and over 2,000 miles covered I was pleased to have a comfortable bed for the night and decided to extend my stay to 2 nights. At £50 a night for a great room and breakfast I was happy.


Alfie and I went out for a walk around the neighbourhood and I ended up getting lost so rang the doorbell at a house with several cars. Out came a genial looking man who offered to drive us back to the hotel. The kindness of strangers.


I had a brilliant night’s sleep, with Alfie sharing my King-size bed. I took Alfie for a well-deserved walk


The breakfast was scrambled egg and the infamous ‘biscuit and gravy’ that I had at Ghost ranch a couple of months ago: this time a scone with white sauce with pork in it. Such a strange but tasty concoction. There was also a choice of fruit, croissants, cereal  and yoghurt, with orange juice and unlimited quite decent coffee.


At 11.00 we left the hotel to visit Adrilia – the reason for my trip to Chicago. Adrilia is a beautiful woman, inside and out, who supported me during one of the darkest periods of my life. She is widely quoted in my book ‘Mindfulness for a Broken Heart’. Her husband is severely allergic to dogs and so Alf and I couldn’t stay with them.


It was wonderful to see her again. It has been over 2 years since we last saw each other. She lives in a lovely house in Glen Ellyn – a Northern suburb of Chicago.


We chatted nineteen to the dozen over coffee for a long time and then we decided to go to the Arboretum on a sunny warm day.


Alfie enjoyed walking around the gardens and Adrilia and I enjoyed identifying the different trees and shrubs as well as the colour and the scent.


Feeling hungry, we then went to a nearby Mexican Restaurant where I had a wrap with mole sauce (made with chocolate for those who don’t know). After that, a huge junk/antique shop just had to be visited and enjoyed.


On the way back to Adrilia’s we visited a really lovely dog park where Alfie met some of his Chicago friends and ran around a bit.


Before going back to the hotel, I enjoyed pasta and pesto with salad with Adrilia at her lovely home.


Back in the hotel, Alfie and I made ourselves comfortable for the night and slept really well again.


Yet another sunny day greeted us so after a walk around the hotel and breakfast of egg and sausage (well, Alfie enjoyed the sausage) we packed up and went to Adrilia’s to meet her lovely husband Ken and enjoy a chocolate-chip scone before setting off for downtown Chicago.


I was delighted to have bought my ‘Easypass’ with the hire car, as Chicago has a lot of tolls – as well as the New York area, and I can just sail through the pay points. I found an underground parking underneath Millenium park that only cost, gulp, $28…. I thought that San Fran was bad enough. Anyway, I had to park somewhere and we did have 7 hours of safe parking.


Leaving the car park we walked through Millenium Park, across an interesting stainless steel bridge and then across a really scuzzy bridge until we got to Naval Pier, looking across Lake Michigan. Returning to Millenium Park we visited the iconic ‘bean’ and then, after a quite pit-stop at the car to feed Alfie, we walked in the skyscraper area where the shops and river were to be found.

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I couldn’t resist a bargain shoe store and ended up buying some comfey flats and a black hat with 70% off.


On arriving at the river I stopped for a sandwich and fountain drink of coca cola (i.e. help yourself as much as you like) and sat watching night fall around me.


At one point a man came by yelling at no-one in particular and then at me. I kept my cool, aided by the fact that there was a mother and son nearby, and he disappeared. I have had very few vulnerable moments on this trip.


After eating, we crossed back over the river to do the pleasant river walk on the other side where I bumped into people who wanted to pet Alfie.


Getting lost on the way back to the car – and grateful for the GPS on my phone – Alfie and I finally left Chicago at 11 p.m., destination Topeka where I knew I could find some Amish. On arriving there, I found a comfortable place to park in the middle of a church car park and went to sleep.


Feeling refreshed after 6 hours sleep, I took Alfie for a walk and bumped into a lovely young woman with her daughter who wanted to play with Alfie for a while. She pointed me in the direction of the Crossroads Cafe, run by young Amish women.


Walking along the road I heard the familiar ‘clip clop’ of the horse and carriages rushing down the street. So thrilling to be in Amish country – I have always been fascinated by them and their way of life.


As I walked in I couldn’t believe my eyes – 8 Amish men with hugely long beards, braces and hats sat round a table. I stopped to chat to them and read them what my ‘USA on the road’ book said about their town.


I found a table to sit at and La Verda came over – such a lovely young woman. She took my order and brought over some information on local Amish towns when she realised I was interested in them.


I asked where they worshipped and she told me it was in different peoples’ homes. They do not go to a church, as such.


As I sat there, a young woman who worked in the pharmacy next door came by and gave every woman in the cafe a lovely peach rose 071


Before he left the cafe, one of the Amish men, Leroy, came over and we had a chat about his lifestyle. The Amish still do not have televisions but they do now have mobile phones. Also, if someone marries a non-Amish person they still have to leave the community.


001 002 003 004 005 006 007 008 009 010 011 012 013 014 015 016 017 018 My breakfast and coffee came to just over $3 – ridiculously cheap, so I gave La Verda $4, a hug and set off for Shipshewana which was supposed to be typically Amish. The farmsteads on the way definitely were, but Shipshewana itself was just touristy shops, that do not interest me.


I saw that Bristol, name of my home town, was nearby, so just for the sake of it I went to it to take a couple of pictures and on the way saw a Donald Trump campaign sign. I cannot for one moment imagine that it was at an Amish homestead.



I then made a bee-line for Ludington, next to Lake Michigan where my friend Doug lives. It was a relief for me, more for Alfie, to finally arrive, stretch our legs and make ourselves comfortable in Tamarac Village – a sweet area next to canals and Hamlin Lake, which feeds into Lake Michigan. It has lots of mobile homes which are as big as small houses.


Doug had a great salmon supper waiting for me. After a walk around the area and a chat Alfie and I made ourselves comfortable while a storm raged outside: only the third time it has rained during 13 weeks of my journey (and one week to go).


We slept well and awoke to an overcast day – in some ways it was a relief not to be screening myself from the sun. Alfie and I had a good walk with Doug and then I set to with my blogs that I had let slip over the past 10 days. Luckily I have my notes and photographs.


Just before sunset – the weather was starting to improve – we went to Lake Michigan and the City Park at Ludington. Alfie found a little boy, Hunter, to play ball with.


Then Doug made meatballs with pasta and garlic bread for supper and I sat working on the computer before bed. Alfie relaxed on Doug’s sofa.


We awoke to a blue sky and full sunshine so after a really healthy fruit and vegetable smoothie, Doug and I walked around Tamarac Village looking at the way people have worked on their trailers, decks and garden areas.


At one point, a duck came squawking towards us, particularly Alfie, from a bush. When we looked, we counted 13 eggs! I do hope they hatch and survive. There is apparently a coyote who runs through the complex and some racoons – both would be an issue for mummy duck and her ducklings.


I then worked on clearing out and cleaning my car for the final week of my road trip as well as giving Alfie some more walks and doing some computer work.


At 5, Doug and I went to dinner with a group of people who live in Tamarac village which was very enjoyable. I enjoyed having a wet burrito which was too big to finish, making a good lunch for the next day. Very often in restaurants here I have asked for a box to put in my leftovers. Unlike the UK, they do not box it up for you.


Then another good night’s rest, before setting off – direction Niagara Falls. It would be better to go via Canada but having Alfie with me means that I cannot take the risk of being challenged either taking him into Canada or back to the US – he has all of his vaccinations etc but you never know whether an official could make life difficult.