Back in the Groove
Into the USA and the Crowne Plaza O’Hare
The Joy of US Immigration
Arriving in Chicago, it was time to go downwards from the ramp (no, this is new to me too) and head towards the fun that would be immigration.
Knowing that at least 3 other flights arrived in front of our aircraft, I wasn’t in the mood to wait or go to the small room – if I wanted to stand a chance of proceeding through US Immigration quickly, I just hit the go button.
And held onto my bladder.
When I hit the immigration queue, it was already five switchbacks deep – never a good sign for O’Hare. In particular, the person who was messing around the luggage bins took their time to get off the aircraft – and was already a full switchback behind me.
And an A380 filled out those switchbacks and beyond. It was not going to be a great welcome to the USA experience – or anyone else behind us.
It took the best part of 25 minutes to be seen by a US Border Agent – not the worst, but certainly not the best. It was also a stark reminder of why I normally arrive in the dead of the morning (as there’s just that aircraft’s worth of passengers waiting to be processed).
Nonetheless, the CBP agent was more than pleasant enough, with them asking about my previous visits to the USA as well as my current plans. With the agent satisfied, a stamp was placed on my passport.
From there, it was time to grab a trolly and pick up my bags. And of course, baggage delivery took its own sweet time. Thankfully, both bags arrived after a 20-minute wait.
From here, it was through to the customs exit.
To the Exit
With that done, I was free and in the United States of America. That was the good part.
The bad part – it was past way 5 pm, and the plan for the afternoon was looking more ruined than usual.
Even if I had got out on time at 4ish – I would have been able to do a lot more that was lined up for my Chicago trip. Right now, that afternoon was sitting firmly in the bin.
Additionally, I was a little trapped, as Chicago O’Hare had moved its rideshares away from Terminal 5 – with them centralised at T2. Given the construction that was going on, I could understand – but then – why not ban all car traffic and make people meet at Kiss and Fly/Central Terminal?
What twaddle is this? Oh yes. I wrote about it. Extensively.
Oh. I’m sorry. Car and Taxi lobbies.
With everything all together, I decided to head out to the hotel and work out what was salvageable for the day – and what could be prepared for the next day. Whilst Rideshares aren’t allowed, Chicago Taxi Drivers are (and of course, mostly ignoring Terminal 5).
I’m sure that flyers of Delta, Frontier and Southwest love being treated as Second-Class citizens at this terminal, as well as International Arrivals.
Thankfully, the driver knew the back route to the hotel – rather than spending time playing wait it out on the Kennedy.
And it’s nice to pass the International ramp, with Qatar Boeing 777-300ER resting between flights
Another 15 minutes and a taxi finally reached my hotel – the Crowne Plaza O’Hare.
Crowne Plaza O’Hare
Yes, I’m still semi-loyal to IHG Group – mainly as I retain a Platinum membership. I had wanted to stay at the Intercontinental (and pony up for Ambassador status again), but alas, it is not to be on this trip.
The Crowne Plaza at O’Hare is a reliable hotel for me – I know it to the point where I can go around it without thinking (always helpful when travelling and walking around ).
I was welcomed to the hotel, with the check-in procedure run-through. As usual, I was asked for ID and a payment method. With those done, I was thanked for being a platinum member and offered a choice of a drink or points.
I was done being social for the day – so points it was. I was also issued with a breakfast voucher and two keys to the room.
With that, I took the familiar walk to the lifts.
This time, I would be on the 13th floor. Unlucky for some, but it meant I had a cool room number.
If you know, you know.
This is a standard king bedroom. And I have no issues with that at all. The bed, as usual, is a massive space and perfect to flop out on.
There’s also a convenient sofa to lie and sit on, with an ottoman to move around to get comfortable.
This actually would look good in the flat.
The room was reasonably appointed, with a big TV and a Keurig machine to hand. There was also a fridge too.
Well it’s coffee in pods, not coffee in bags…
And yes, the bedroom has an ironing board. Hear that, hotels in Germany?
This concept is odd to German hotels.
Exploring the bathroom (well, it was explored a lot earlier, but that’s beside the point), there was a bath, towels, sink and Dove amenities – all of the mini type.
It seems that the IHG Instruction to move to bulk products hasn’t made it through Chicago yet.
As for the view – forgettable is a word I think I can use.
Well, that is rather soul-crushing. At least there’s a Pokestop nearby. Which is something.
Of course, if you wanted your room cleaned… there were new rules. The signs of cost-cutting at work.
I mean… really? 24-hour booking in advance to service a room?
By the time I had settled down and done some checks, It was six thirty in the evening. How the hell did time pass so fast?
That also had some major impacts. Considering it was just after peak, traffic on the Kennedy Expressway is known to be… what’s the polite term… a hot mess. That would put me to where I needed to be in downtown Chicago around 7:15 pm… if things went according to plan.
Whilst the shop I wanted to go to would be open, I would be under time pressure to finish things quickly – something I don’t want to be on day one. In addition, there were a few things I was still working on through the blog.
As such, I was more content to use the night as a planning night – rather than rush and mess things up.
Sometimes it is just best to go with the flow. In addition, sleep was closing in on me, with only a couple of hours on the plane and three hours the night before.
Whilst Chicago is a familiar enough city that I feel safe enough, it still isn’t safe enough that I can go full auto-pilot if needed.
Having your wits about you – even in familiar places – is never a bad thing.
I chose instead to relax and focus on writing, as well as whatever random thing was on Cartoon Network.
There were also some image-related things I needed to do – back up the content from my travel so far. And yes, I ensure I have at least one backup of everything when I travel.
It has saved my bacon more than once.
Eventually, sleep overtook me.
I was up by 6 am, feeling refreshed and semi-awake. A morning catch-up in the world (and yes, even checking in on the office), and it was time to head downstairs to breakfast.
Breakfast was served at a unit inside the hotel called “On the Fly”. This is a cafe/takeaway, with limited service.
Sadly, the breakfast buffet is gone from this hotel.
Three options were given – a vegetarian breakfast, a breakfast sandwich and an American Breakfast.
I went with the American breakfast.
I was also offered a choice of a pastry and a soft drink. A cup was given for the help-your-self coffee (at least it was Starbucks).
I suppose the setup can be best described as “self-service and disposable”. What do I mean that that?
Well, we all know what coffee means, but that’s beside the point.
It was a case of collecting your food – with utensils all disposable. Even the dish was foil.
Who remembers plates? Kevin remembers plates.
The dish itself was very filling, comprised of bacon, scrambled eggs, a sausage and potato tots. Nothing overly impressive but nothing offensive – and certainly enough to hit a calorie quota in there.
At least the coffee was hot enough to keep my brain going
I took my time, with a few people popping in. Some people took their items away (given how everything was set up, that’s not surprising).
Eventually, I headed upstairs – there was still some preparation to be completed.
I checked out around 11 am, with no issues reported at the front desk. I was thanked for my custom.
Then I made the stupid move of wheeling my luggage to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.
Not a bad experience for a one-night stop, with it being a well located crash pad.
If I was staying more than a few nights, I’d be concerned about the room servicing policy – as it’s not something I would expect from a higher-end hotel in the IHG Group.
And as for the breakfast… sigh… what’s the term… can do better.
Next: Hyatt Regency O’Hare.
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