Baby Causes Hardened Traveler to Leave Harley Museum in Disgrace

Zach Everson, AOL
Fully revved, a 2003 Harley-Davidson Road King Classic can hit 116 decibels, about the same volume as a rock concert.

So thankfully the looks from other visitors at Milwaukee's Harley-Davidson Museum were more sympathetic than judgmental that afternoon when I left in disgrace with a screaming 3-month-old.

Vivian had been a near-perfect infant. The day we brought her home from the hospital, she slept for six straight hours. Concerned something might be wrong, my wife and I, first-time parents, called her pediatrician. His advice: "Don't tell your friends with kids, they'll hate you."

So with her easygoing nature and my wife and I being experienced travelers, we weren't too concerned about Vivian's first overnight trip in March 2010. The plan: drive from our home in Louisville to Milwaukee where my wife had a conference, stay there for five nights, then head to Chicago for the weekend because how can you be near Chicago and not visit?

Zach Everson, AOL
Before leaving, we engaged in the two biggest pastimes of new parents: researching baby gear online and buying baby gear online. So by the time we were packing our VW Passat (because of course we drove a Passat, stereotypes don't invent themselves) we were prepared for traveling with an infant, owning more Norwegian baby carriers than there are Norwegian babies.

For the first five-and-a-half hours of our drive north through Indiana's corn fields, Amish country andsmall towns, Vivian was asleep or at least quiet (conscientious parents, one of us would reach back and poke her every few minutes to make sure she was still breathing).

A half-hour out of Milwaukee, little Vivian roared to life.

To be expected, we told ourselves over her wailing. Alas, her screaming throughout the week was not. Nor were a couple of travel habits she displayed:
  • Normally my wife and I could put Vivian down to sleep and then move about our house with no fear of waking her. In our hotel room at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center though, the pitter patter of my fingers on the laptop keyboard roused her, as did the light from the monitor while streaming a movie. And while there's a time and a place for just sitting in the dark and drinking, it's not when you're the sole adult responsible for an infant.
  • Vivian declined to take her bottle from me for the first time ever. And it wasn't a polite abstention. It was the kind of wailing that has a grown man leaving the Milwaukee Art Museum with tears running down his face and expressed breast milk dripping down his shirt. And it meant every time Vivian needed to be fed, I had to get my wife out of a meeting.
I'd once spent two straight months backpacking through non-English speaking countries, but five nights with an infant in Milwaukee was too much. I wanted to skip Chicago and just go home.

My wife refused to bail on our trip though -- possibly because we needed to make traveling with a child work. Or possibly because we had a gotten a sweet deal on a posh room at the Hotel Monaco and she didn't want to skip out on it.

Baby what a big surprise Chicago was though. It wasn't exactly Saturday in the park, but it did make me smile. Here's the lowdown:
  • We had a suite. So while Vivian still slept in a cosleeper next to our bed, after we put her down for the night, we had another room to retreat to (where we could sip wine and discuss how exhausted we were).
  • We kept it simple. For dinner, instead of heading to a restaurant, we just spread Vivian's quilt across our hotel room's deep window seats, brought in food and had an indoor picnic watching the sun set over the Chicago River (while sipping wine).
Zach Everson, AOL
One meal we did venture out for was a late lunch at Bin 36, a wine bar in River North. Strapped to me in an Ergo -- or maybe it was a Mobi, or perhaps a Baby Bjorn -- anyway, tethered to me in something expensive, Vivian slept on my chest while my wife and I relived our youth and leisurely made a meal out of cheese and charcuterie (while sipping wine).

When Vivian awoke she was cute and cuddly. And shortly thereafter, stinky too. No surprise though, Bin 36's bathrooms had no changing tables. (Pro tip: Wine bars often don't.) My wife offered to take Vivian to the hotel a few blocks away and change her, but I waived her off.

As I was walking along Wacker Drive back to Hotel Monaco on a typically windy spring day, a panhandler looked up at me and Vivian and smiled. "Alright," he said. "Doing the right thing."

I suspect he meant staying with my baby to raise her and not just traveling with her. But either way, after the week I'd had, the reassurance was much appreciated.

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