Saturday Special – Traveling around..

Good day people. It’s been awhile since I did one of these. I typically do them when something has happened or I have a story to tell. Grab your cups of coffee, tea, pop, whatever, this is a long one.

Last fall, there was talk in the Chatzy Chat room of an East Coast Meetup that I don’t think ever materialized. At the time, I was considering my own trip to that area for shooting the fall colors. Something I always wanted to do. Through discussions, the idea came up of me taking a round country trip and chronicling the adventure in a blog, perhaps here, or one of my own. Now, If I didn’t have responsibilities here at home that need to be taken care of, I would be on top of that in a heartbeat. I love seeing the country, especially by car. The idea was tossed around about getting a car company to sponsor this trip and providing a vehicle. Specifically something electric. I would be thinking more hybrid as the infrastructure isn’t there for electric vehicles yet and their range is rather limited. Letters or emails were even written and sent to see if there was any interest in such a sponsorship. Kind of run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes sort of thing. No one saluted and the discussion kind of petered out. The idea was to try and offset some of the cost of the trip.

Then I started thinking about doing weekend trips similar to the ones I typically take to see my friend in Louisville every July. I chose a location that would get me through the peak colors here in Michigan and give me a destination. Truth be told, I can get to anywhere in Michigan that interests me in a few hours and back home in time to watch the HWs if I plan it right. However, true to form here for the fall color season, it rained and was generally crappy for the better part of it. A couple other things happened that I am not going to disclose that put a halt to the one weekend trip I did plan. Anyway, I was going to go to Chicago because something else I’ve wanted to do is photograph a big city with all the tall buildings and such. I could do that in Detroit I suppose, they have a few tallish buildings here but over the last 30 or 40 years they’ve torn down or closed just about every point of interest. At least to me. So I guess if I wanted to do a blight shoot, I’d be all set (counting the areas surrounding downtown Detroit).

About a month ago, I made plans to take this trip, hoping that at the beginning of March, whatever winter Chicago was having would be nearly over. Thinking back to last year, the mild winter we had here in the northern mid west, how bad could it be? I had a hostess who told me that a studio apartment could be rented in her building for $85 per night. The rub is the parking was $41 per day.. However, Hotels in the area, unless I wanted to stay near the airport or in an entirely different city, were $200+ per night. According to the price finder sites anyway. So I had her book me a studio apt that I would pay for on arrival. The travel date was set to be March 1. I wanted a weekend because I thought, that like Detroit, Chicago would be half dead on the weekend and I could have free access to whatever I wanted in the city. Not so. I’ll get more to that later.

My hostess, whom I had never met before but spend a good amount of time talking to online, and will not name here, could not have been more pleasant and gracious if she had tried. She is very cultural, an artist, and sees beauty and good in just about everything. A wonderful person to be around. I told her what I would like to do while in the city and she made sure I got to do all of it. Of course, if I had stayed longer, potential for other activities (get your minds out of the gutter, it isn’t like that πŸ˜€ ). Chicago isn’t going anywhere and even if just for a visit, I would go back in a heartbeat. I know she will be reading this so I would like to say Thank You Very Much for everything. I know I’m kind of gushing here but THE best part, I finally got to hear, in person, her laughter (remember my last Saturday Special? ). That is a gift I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

The only thing that really needed to be accounted for before I left, was The Hound. You all know him, he has a large fan club around these parts. Shhhhh… don’t remind him of that though, he may get a swollen head again πŸ˜‰ .. For these weekend trips IΒ  usually leave him with my sister and everything is fine. When I pick him up after the trip, he rolls his eyes at me as if to say, “Oh, You’re back.. Okay, let’s go”.. This time however, sis has a dog of her own. Rather, a puppy.. Pit Bull, Labrador, Shepard mix.. Mom is a full Pit, dad is a mutt. Some of you have met Sally before. She is the little one in the picture above. About 12 weeks old at that point. When these two first met, she stuck her nose at his rear end and chased him all over the house. She then proceeded to try and steal all of his bones that he keeps in a collection under the TV table and carry them into her pet carrier cage. She is now about 9 months old and nearly his size.. This is Sally Now.. This pup is absolutely bat shit crazy. She is a typical puppy I guess but she is a complete hog. My friend and I joked about these two molesting each other while I was away because of their past history of her chasing him all over the house. Apparently there was more truth to that joke than joke. Not only did she try to molest him (he’s nearly 14 years old now), she also ate all his food, drank all his water, took all his treats for herself (She’s eating one of them in the photo). Anytime someone tied to pay attention to him, she horned right in to get the attention for herself. Think Peg Bundy on the show Married With Children. Just like a typical woman (just kidding πŸ˜† ). This time, when I arrived to pick him up, he was happy to see me. He was even happier to get to his own back yard so he could relieve himself without interruption from any other creatures, especially, that nut, Sally.

Let’s get to the trip, shall we? For 2 weeks prior I was watching the weather predictions for what I would run in to during the drive there, while there, and on the way back. I’m going to note, that for the 4th and 5th of this month, the weather maps were predicting sunny skies, for Chicago, even on the 1st, when I left for the adventure. For the first couple days, perhaps a chance of snow (I’m convinced that meteorologists don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground because I can give a better prediction by sticking my head out of the door. Unless the weather is right on top of us, forecasts are a bit useless). One might think that planning a trip to a big city like Chicago, arriving on Friday at near rush hour times, is a silly thing to do. They would be right. No one has ever accused me of being a great planner though. With my MapQuest instructions in hand, and what I thought was a pretty good knowledge of the surrounding area, I set out. Getting to Chicago was pretty event-less and boring. Nothing exciting about driving along a freeway lined with winter trees that have no leaves. Early October, this would be gorgeous but not in early March. Although I drove around the southern part of Lake Michigan, I didn’t get a first glimpse of it until I actually Got to Chicago. The map directions did fine for getting me to the city (which I already knew how to do), it was of little use when I hit a 4 or 5 mile backup on the inbound freeway. I found an exit for Lake Shore drive which runs along the lake but itself is a highway, not a regular street. Somehow I managed to way overshoot the location I was going to and found myself in a unfamiliar part of town. Both to me, and my hostess. Fortunately I had this big body of water to navigate by so as long as it was to my left, I was heading in the right direction. Eventually I found my location and was met by my friend at the door. No harm no foul, I got there, only about an hour later than I planned. Paid for the room, and proceeded to drag all my stuff up in the elevator after parking the car or rather, valeting the car. Yes I probably could have parked cheaper somewhere else but it would have been 3 or 4 blocks away. Yeah, I know, that was real exciting.

There had been plans for a museum / art gallery event but since I arrived so late, it was just dinner and chat with my friend. Have I mentioned that she is a fabulous cook? In case not, she is. We ate, drank a few beers and discussed the potential plans for the weekend. The one thing I did not want to do is stick to a rigid schedule and everyone involved was just fine with that.

Many of the buildings in this area have roof top decks for the residents to use at their disposal. There is no such thing as a back yard here in this area as the buildings are all built on top of and right next to one another. The rooftops are also the smoking area in many of these locations. It isn’t always enforced but there are restrictions about where one can smoke near buildings that have public access. This one has a restaurant on the ground floor. I spent some time on the roof, snapping photos (which is something else I’ve always wanted to do), while having my smokes. One such:

You can see a larger version by right click of the mouse with the pointer in the picture and select View Image in the menu that pops up (All of my pictures are presented that way).

The more fun, for me anyway, are the night shots from the similar locations.

These are the ones I really enjoy doing. There is a little photoshop magic going on with most of these but I love the final results from it. Photographically, these are the types of shots I was after.

Now, one thing I’ve always heard about large cities and never thought I could get into or enjoy in anyway, is public transportation. From where I was staying, there isn’t a time day or night that you cannot get into a taxi or on a bus and go somewhere. It takes cash of course but nothing compared to the expense of buying and keeping a car. Especially in a city like this, where you have to pay to park the car, Everywhere you go. One day of the parking garage was about the same price of all the cabs and buses we rode. The bus seemed to be one flat rate and the taxi cabs of course had meters. My only problem with the cabs was getting in and out of them. I haven’t ridden in the back seat of a car in over 30 years and I am a passenger in a car about as often.

Saturday… After I had had my rest the night before, it was time to hit the streets of Chicago. After a short cab ride we were at a local coffee and doughnut shop, Panera Bread. I had a chocolate chip bagel and some sort of juice. I’m not a coffee person. This was across the street from Millennium Park. No tourist visit to Chicago would be complete without a visit to the park and the ‘bean’.

I don’t know any of the history behind this object or even why it is there other than the idea of just being there. As you can see, it’s rather large and is reflective. It’s fun for people to walk around and under it snapping photos as if they are looking at a fun house mirror. It’s actually kind of impressive if you think about it. Looking at this object (that looks like a giant blob of mercury to me), there is no evidence of how it was made. It is completely smooth and mirror-like. On the inside you can get an interesting view of yourself as many do, while taking photos of what would be the ceiling. I know I wasn’t too pleased when I later saw the top of my balding scalp. That’s me in the upper right taking the photo. I will note that it isn’t all gone and I could let it grow but I refuse to do the old man comb over Donald Trump hot lap to mask the fact that I’ve lost half of my hair. One of these days I’ll just completely shave it and buy a hat. But I digress. Since all of the surface is curved, you get a different view of things depending on where you are standing.

There are many other things within the park, including an outdoor theater where they have concerts and events during the warmer months. Most of this stuff is closed during the winter which for me, in a way, is good because it allows people free type access to it.

The next stop within the park area was the Art Institute of Chicago. As you can see there was a Picasso exhibit there at the time (probably still is) but it was late in the day and there were other things we wanted to see. A museum exhibit, in my opinion is an all day or at the very least, all afternoon experience. Not something to be rushed through. For me it was all about the city overall and the pictures anyway. Continuing on for the moment… Next stop was to be the Hancock Building. I could see the top of it from the roof of where I was staying but the ultimate destination was the 96th floor of the building. From there you can see the entire city as long as there are no clouds in the way. I don’t know how tall 96 floors equates to (yes, I know I can look it up) but my ears popped during the elevator ride up.

You kind of have to be there to really appreciate how tall some of these buildings are. One has to take that elevator ride up to the top floor and look down on the rest of the city..

There is seating all around both the 95th and 96th floor, all occupied, but people will yeild for a second to allow others to take photos.This is the only one I got. Apparently, I have no first hand knowledge of this, there are windows in the ladies room where similar photos can be taken. Someone near us was quite shocked by that idea but my question was, “Who is going to look?”

Just to show the interior of the place, the 95th floor photographed from the 96th floor. We decided to have ‘drinks’ while there. A cup of coffee, a cup of Irish coffee, and about 4oz of diet Pepsi with some ice. $27 plus tip.

With that, the end of the sight seeing day of day two of the trip, I’m going to save the rest for next week. Thank you for sticking with me through this.

About MelTheHound

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19 Responses to Saturday Special – Traveling around..

  1. California035 says:

    Thanks for sharing – it sounds like you enjoyed your trip πŸ™‚

    • Laineylainey says:

      What a nice trip! Loved the photos!

      • Laineylainey says:

        Oh, and it was an enjoyable read. I’ve been to Chicago once and you did way more than I did. But I could see it in my mind’s eye as I was reading.

        • melthehound says:

          I have been to Chicago a few times too but this is the first time I did it this way, as a true tourist. Glad you enjoyed the story, Lainey.

    • melthehound says:

      You’re welcome, Cali πŸ˜€ I did enjoy it.

  2. Just Wondering in Jersey says:

    Great photos and an interesting tale Mel. We wondered where you were. So glad you got the opportunity to go. I await next week’s installment so I can live vicariously. πŸ™‚

  3. ItWasTorture! says:

    What a great read, MelTheHound! I enjoyed so much, like if I was there! Looking forward for next week Saturday Special!

  4. MTH, Every afternoon, I have a ritual of tea time at The Farm, when I check my email and read the blogs. This post made that quiet time all the more enjoyable, and it was truly a Saturday Special. I’ve never been to Chicago, either, but you did the Windy City proud. I always love your stories and your photographs, and I, like the others who commented, can’t wait to read Part 2. Your hostess sounds lovely indeed and both of you are very lucky to have made such a wonderful connection.
    My heart goes out to The Hound. It sounds like Mel has more than met his match with Sally. Yep, typical woman asserting her alpha female side. πŸ˜€
    Thanks for taking us along on your journey and showing us the sights.

    • melthehound says:

      Thank you Empress πŸ˜€ She is (my hostess). I’m glad I could add something to your Saturday quiet time.

  5. Kaereste says:

    Mel, I just loved your travel-blog!

    I’m a sucker for traveling to big cities and enjoying them without an itinerary. That’s the only way to travel! Deadlines are for the office.

    And how awesomely cool was your hostess? She sound like a great person to hang out with.

    I’m so glad you had fun, got lots of great snaps and enjoyed terrific food. That’s the best!

    Thanks for sharing.

    (Poor hound, I’m sure he was super happy when you came home.)

    • melthehound says:

      Deadlines are for the office.
      **** I like that one.. I enjoy traveling with little more than a guideline. That’s why I prefer the road (car) to the air (plane). If I see something I want to look at or photograph, I can just stop and do it.

      Glad you enjoyed the read. Check back next week for part 2.

  6. Boobah says:

    What a GREAT blog!!! Thank you for sharing your journey to Chicago. I can’t wait to read the rest!!! The pics were awesome! Poor Hound – sounds like he has a ruff time of it over at your sister’s. LOL!
    Thanks again. This was a very enjoyable read.

  7. obx1 says:

    Enjoyed reading about your time in the Windy City, MTH.

  8. Pingback: Saturday Special – Tale Of Two Cities | realhousewifeofaiken

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