Amtrak-king across the Chicago

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Friday, September 11, 2009

On the road again, back on track.....Amtrak to be precise. We're currently cruising around the bottom of Lake Michigan, heading in an Easterly direction with the sun setting over the lake. We just saw a few white-tailed deer on the edge of the woods, everything is looking quite beautiful right now. We’re heading towards a town called Holland. It’s doesn’t seem to be on any map but we’re going anyway.................oooooo the excitement of going to places that might not exist is overwhelming.

While we’re travelling to the twilight zone I might as well tell you about the time we spent in Chicago. Trace and I had never expressed any desire to go to Chicago so it was going to be more of a stopover than anything else. HA!!!! Ignorant tourists were soon to be taught a lesson by a gorgeous city that we wouldn’t forget in a hurry.

Chicago is awesome. We realised this very quickly and booked another night accordingly. Those of you that have had the pleasure of going to New York, Chicago is pretty much the same ,...just smaller and a lot prettier. For starters, it’s on the shores of Lake Michigan, which is so big it makes you feel like you’re on a seaside holiday. Apparently the Great Lakes hold one fifth of the planet’s fresh water. Yes, I know, impressive. The architecture is also stunning, mainly because the Chicagoans have preserved the old buildings with their intricately detailed cornices and facades. Mies Van De Rohe also had a lot to do with the shape of the city. He trained the architects that helped design a lot of the buildings in Chicago. I studied Van De Rohe at school, so I thought I would name drop a bit. Oh by the way, I have no idea if that’s how you spell his name. Sticking with the building thing, we took a trip to the top of the Willis building, more popularly known as the Sears Tower. It’s the tallest structure in the blah, blah blah....take my word for it, it’s frikken tall. Once we got to the viewing platform on the 103 floor (yeah, that’s what I said), the view was un-surprisingly second to none. It was a perfectly clear day and we wondered around the deck taking many photos of the city below. Now some idiot that was obviously not content with the view thought he’d take it one step further....or too far in my opinion. This particular idiot, or idiots, thought it would be cool to connect two glass viewing boxes to the side of the building. You could step out into these boxes for a complete 180 degree view....left  to right......and unfortunately up and down as well......yep , the floor was made of glass too.

Not to be out-manned by the dick-head Yank jocks that were jumping up and down on the glass trying to impress their girlfriends, I made my first step out on to what appeared to be fresh air. Well I tried to anyway, one look down and my foot froze in mid air and my grip on the edge of the building, like my butt cheeks, increased to that of a full grown Nile crocodile’s jaws slamming down on an unsuspecting Egyptian boy crossing the river to meet his secret lover in a nearby village........but that’s another story.

You’ve seen the movie where the guy ends up on the ledge of a high building, that’s exactly how it felt. I could not move any further and my breakfast was trying to make its way out of my body and wasn’t too concerned which orifice it was going to use. I had come this far and there was no way I was going to walk away empty handed.......empty bowelled perhaps, but not empty handed. I turned around and backed out slowly onto the glass ledge looking straight in front of me at Trace, who, by this time, was laughing hysterically. Once I felt my feet were completely on the glass, I looked down. At this time my bones turned to liquid and I started sweating my skeleton out through every pore. I was looking straight down on to the pavement from 103 stories up. I tried to take a photograph but could barely hold the camera. The mind does strange things, I still felt like I needed to grip the camera tightly in case it fell all the way down the building. It was a unique feeling, quite invigorating once you get over the blind terror. I’m happy to say that Trace’s laughter ended abruptly when she stepped out on to the ledge and realised just how scary it was.

The first evening we spent in Chicago we just did a bit of walking around, soon to be followed by an extraordinary amount of walking around over the following few days, just to orientate ourselves with the city. It’s laid out on a grid system like New York so it’s pretty simple to get around, just always keep in mind that most of the streets stretch right across the city, so you can spend a whole day on one street. Once on Michigan Avenue, which is the main street for expensive shops, it’s called the Magnificent Mile, we noticed a bit of a gathering at the far end of the avenue. As it turns out, it was Oprah Winfrey putting on a street party to celebrate the start of 24 season of her show. She actually managed to close off Michigan Avenue, the biggest, busiest street in Chicago, at peak hour, for a party. She may well be the second most powerful person in America.

Most of our time in Chicago was spent walking, that way we got to see a lot more than we would in a cab or on a train. And believe me there is a helluva lot to take in. From the architecture to the incredible Lake Michigan , the food(spinach and artichoke dip and stuffed pizza at Giordano’s- you just gotta try this), the stunning public parks, kept immaculate by an apparently invisible work force to the over-head metro railway lines that snake like a mutant centipede orgy above a lot of the main thoroughfares . You do spend a lot of time looking up, which can be disastrous if you happen to collide with a Chicagoan before he or she has had their morning  triple skinny Latte with a twist of lime and soya........a fatal mistake made by many tourists.

Ultimately you have to see it to believe it so the balls in your court......he says smugly.
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