Sunday, September 30, 2007

Things to see in Chicago

Once in a great while I like to go downtown and play tourist. Even though Mike’s move to Illinois was many months ago, he still hasn’t really seen Chicago, so today we walked over to the Metra train station by the house and rode downtown, which is about 16 miles from where we live. Riding the train on the weekends is fun and cheap.

Riding Metra

Leaving the Metra station downtown

I've been in Chicagoland since 1983 and have been almost everywhere, for today’s trip downtown I put together a list of the best things to see in the city. This was going to be mostly an "outside tour" that focused on Chicago's popular sites, we were not going to visit any museums today, we‘ll save that for Winter when its too cold to be outside. The forecast today called for mid 80’s temps and we were planning the spend the whole day outside.

Elevated train tracks downtown

The train system is pretty nice here in Chicago, knick named the "el" or "L" for "elevated" you can find trains running in every direction. Many people living in the city, have no need for cars. The trains that go in to Chicago from the suburbs are called Metra trains, they are larger then the trains running in the city.

A city train making a turn above us

Sears Tower

With 110 floor, the Sears Tower was the world's tallest building from 1973 to 1998. It is till the second for the most total floor space of any building in the United States, just behind the Pentagon. Even though the Sears Tower has an observation deck, Chicagoans know that the best view can be found from the Hancock Tower, and that’s where we are heading.

The Flamingo by sculptor Alexander Calde

Woman Chicago by sculptor Jean Miro

Chicago's unnamed Picasso statue

The Chicago Picasso is once of the most popular modern sculptures in the city of Chicago. This 50 feet tall, weighing 162 tons, unpainted, 3-D cubist sculpture is located in the Chicago's Daley Plaza. It is made form the same corrosive tensile steel as the Daley Center building standing behind it.

Wrigley Building, knows as the Jewel of "The Mile"

The Wrigley Building is unique because of its triangular shape. It consists of two sections connected by an open walkway at street level and two enclosed walkways. Located on Michigan Avenue on the north bank of the Chicago River, at the southern most point of Chicago's Magnificent Mile, among the many exclusive shops, museums, restaurants and ritzy hotels.

Flags on the Michgan Avenue bridge

The Chicago River

Marina City on the Chicago River

Trump's new building in progress

Old Water Tower

The oldest building standing on the Magnificent Mile. This tower built in 1869 is one of survivors of the Chicago Great Fire in 1871.

John Hancock Center

With 100 floors, when completed in 1969, the John Hancock Center was the tallest building in the world outside of New York City. Now it’s the third-tallest in Chicago and the fourth-tallest in the US.

Looking North from the observation deck at the top of the John Hancock Center

Looking West from the observation deck at the top of the John Hancock Center

Looking East from the observation deck at the top of the John Hancock Center

Looking South from the observation deck at the top of the John Hancock Center

The Hancock Center's observation facilities compete with the Sears Tower's across town but the Hancock Center is in a commercial district and closer to Lake Michigan, while the Sears Tower is in the financial district. So the views are much better from the Hancock.

We live somewhere over there, just west of the city

The road below is Lake Shore Drive, which we call "LSD"

Navy Pier, that's where we're going next

Posing with the Sears Tower behind me, wow, we just walked from there?

Back on the ground, John Hancock Center behind me

A view of the city from Navy Pier

Bikes parked on the Navy Pier, cars arn't allowed here

The Chicago light house

Flags blowing in the wind at the end of the Navy Pier

Chicago skyline from Navy Pier

Leaving Navy Pier

Navy Pier is a nice place to visit, but take it from a local, don’t eat there. There are way better places to eat in the city and less expensive. I’ve never had anything good to eat at Navy Pier and I’ve been to at least 2-3 restaurants. Bad and over priced food is all I found. If you must east while at Navy Pier, eat at the McDonalds there, the prices are a bit higher but at least you know what you’re getting, seriously. Or just avoid eating here all together, even a scoop of ice cream will cost you $8.

BP Pedestrian Bridge at the Millennium Park

Pritzker Pavilion

The main attraction of the of Millennium Plaza is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a band shell with 4,000 fixed seats plus additional lawn seating for 7,000.

Cloud Gate in the distance

The three-story, 110-ton steel sculpture officially called Cloud Gate is made of a highly-polished reflective steel. It’s meant to resemble of drop of mercury, but to many in Chicago it looks like something totally different and is frequently referred to as "The Bean".

Mike and "the bean"

The Prudential Building, Aon Center and the Cloud Gate

Reflection in Cloud Gate

When Millennium Park opened in 2004, the grid of welds around each metal panel were still visible, it wasn't until 2005 that the seams were polished to a smooth mirror finish.

Me and Cloud Gate, the way it looked in 2004 with the seams showing

A cop patrolling the area on a Segway

Crown Fountain

This fountain is the first of its kind in the world. Two 50 foot towers made of transparent glass block bricks, standing at either end of a black granite plaza submerged under an eighth of an inch layer of water. Behind the glass bricks are LED video screens which show faces of nearly a thousand individual Chicagoans.

Every 5 minutes or so the video shows the person spit water out of their mouth

The only thing left to see on my list for today was the Buckingham Fountain, which was not very far away, it was just on the other side of Grant Park, but we just didn’t have the energy to walk there, since it was in the opposite direction of the train station, so we called it a day.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Eureka Springs, AR to Chicagoland

After grabbing some free breakfast treats at the motel, cereal, bagels and muffins, we were off. The sun just came up and the fog was still hanging in the hills as we backtracked to highway 65.

Travellers Inn sign, welcome

Not everyone likes to slab it with their bikes

We went back that same way we came, 62 east to 221 to 21, crossing in to Missouri and 86, to 65. That is a real nice short cut to Eureka Springs from 65, both 21 and 86 are nice roads with little traffic.

A little bit of twisty in the morning

Curves on 21

Welcome to Missouri

I really like this bridge on 86

Finally reached the slab of highway 65

But this time instead of taking 65 to I-44, we were going to ride some roads for a while, with so many good looking roads in the area it was hard, but I had to pick the less twisty ones, and ones that wouldn’t make us go too far out of the way, so we could still get home at a decent hour tonight.


14 turned in to a great road towards the end but I have no pictures since my battery died in my camera and I didn't want to waste time to pull over and put a new one in until the next gas stop

Near Ozark, Mo we took the exit for 14 East which for many miles was nothing special of a road, it had a few sweepers on it but for the most part it was kind of straight. But then it got good with a nice mix of sweepers and tighter stuff, and hardly any straight parts, also not a lot of towns to go through, it seemed like it was getting better and better as we headed further east and I wished I could have stayed on it but it would have taken us too much out of the way.

Boring 5 and more boring roads to come after that

We gassed up in Ava and took 5 North, which was just a straight and very wide road that dropped us off at 60 East, this was another 4 lane highway. We took the exit for 63 North and continued North, this road was pretty straight also. We gassed up one more time and arrived in Rolla, MO. Getting though Rolla was slow, we hit every light and it seemed that I-44 was on the other side of town and getting there took forever.

It was hot now, in the mid 90’, and my bike was running really hot, 200+ degrees and climbing. I kept watching the temp gage closely. Finally we got on I-44 but there was a lot of traffic today. We pulled over before St. Louis to grab gas and lunch, there was McDonald’s there and Taco Bell, we chose McDonald’s wanting some salads; but to our surprise the McDonald’s dining area was closed, only the drive though was open. So we geared back up in all that heat just to ride one building over to the Taco Bell.

Taking the ramp to I-55 in St. Louis

After lunch we got back on I-44, then took the exit for I-55, still very heavy traffic, still very hot. The next gas stop we saw a McDonald's so we went inside to cool of with a Sunday for Mike and a milkshake for myself. I just don't deal well with heat.

Illinois, here we come

The sun starting to set

Sunset in a cornfield

The traffic never let up and in the burbs I-55 was under construction and the traffic was at times only going 30MPH, we arrived at the house at 8:30PM hot, sweaty and beat, but not regretting that we rode so far for such a short period of time. What else where we going to do this weekend?