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What I learned on my first day of traveling

As usual, my trips never turn out -- or even start -- the way I imagine them beforehand. For instance, here I am armed with a Chicago Zagat courtesy of Baltimore editor Marty Katz. There are two restaurants, Alinea and Tallgrass, that have the highest food ratings (29). I'm not sure any restaurants in Baltimore have ratings that high -- maybe Charleston.

But Gailor is swamped with work here, and here is Evanston, not Chicago. My first night after an exhausting day of travel, do I take two trains and 45 minutes to get into the city without Gailor? Or do I eat with her at the Flat Top Grill, a do-it-yourself Mongolian barbecue place a block from her apartment? You take a guess. ...

An exhausting day of travel? you ask. When it's a two-hour flight and I used to not think twice about jumping on a plane to the West Coast?

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The plane, no problem. But it took me longer to get from Midway airport to Evanston (three trains, including a half-block walk from the elevated to the subway station down two stairs with a suitcase) than it did to get from Baltimore to Midway. It is the least rapid transit in the history of the universe.

Hint to visitors planning to take the el from either airport. The Chicago Transit Authority doesn't believe in down escalators -- and sometimes not up ones -- so luggage is a problem.

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Speaking of hints, I was really taken with the looks of Vino Volo, the wine bar at BWI. It looked so elegant compared to the usual airport sports bar. And the woman bartending told me you can buy a bottle of wine and take it on the plane. Although I'm not sure why you'd want to do that. But as an airport place to eat, it also looked very civilized. I don't quite know how it survives, but it must be doing OK because Vino Volos are opening in other airports, she told me.

And now I have another quandary. With all my good intentions to sightsee, it's going to be 58 degrees and windy today. Architectural boat trip in Chicago ($25 a person) or a massage at the wellness spa half a block away from my hotel?

Gailor may not get her head out of her books (OK, computer) until dinnertime. None of her classes is easy, she says, and time consuming. Except accounting. She loves accounting. That's how I know they stole away my daughter and put an alien in her body.

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