Friday, August 23, 2013

Chicago Chicago

We had a nice easy crossing from Michigan City, IN to Chicago, about 37 miles.  Our friends, Galen and Becky aboard Mooring Dove, were a few miles behind us and a little north of us at Benton Harbor.  They were crossing over as well but had about 60 miles to get across.  In order to get "Chicagoed up," we listened to Chicago's greatest hits on the way over.  Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears are probably my two favorite groups of all time.

There's something really special about pulling up to a big city like New York or Chicago in your own boat. It was very hazy as we approached. At first we thought it was more "lake fog" but after seeing the weather report, we learned it was actually a "poor air quality" day.

Sears Tower.

Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.

The ferris wheel at Navy Pier.

We decided to dock at DuSable Harbor.  It's a little expensive, but you literally step out of your boat into downtown.  Navy Pier is about 3 blocks away to the north.  Millenium Park is just a few blocks away to the south. 

 Straight ahead is Mariano's Market and Grocery store.  We needed a few things so we headed there first.  It's a Cadillac of a store and those of you who know Rhonda, know that she LOVES grocery shopping. 

There's a nice city park next door surrounded by high-rise condos.  The whole setting is very nice, and it even has its own dog walk and play area.

The Chicago River is also only about 3 blocks away.  Some Loopers are able to cruise right through downtown to join the Illinois River southbound, but our boat is a little bit too tall to clear the lowest of the fixed bridges, so we have to take an alternate route south of Chicago when we leave.  In the meantime a walking tour would suffice.

You transition from Lake Michigan into the Chicago River by a small lock (right side of the picture).

Galen and Becky got docked shortly after us and joined us for a walk down to Navy Pier and for dinner.

There's a city park close by - everyone's favorite display was one that gives a new meaning to the term  "Pothead."

The canoe conglomeration was interesting also.

Rhonda still likes the Lake Michigan lighthouses.

Here's a view of the city from Navy Pier.

We were surprised to find lots of beaches along the Chicago shoreline and a great biking/walking/skating path to go with it.  I'm pretty sure more than half of the population rides, bikes and/or walks/jogs this trail - it was always packed and very busy.

Here's the ferris wheel from a distance at night.

And a nice moon to go with it.

After the ladies wore Galen and me out, they took another stroll, this time over to Millenium Park and got a shot of  "The Bean" at night.  You'll see some daytime shots of this later.  Pretty cool. The movie "Dream Girls" was playing at Pritzker Pavilion (for free), so they enjoyed listening to some of the great music. As they returned to the boats,  they took nighttime shots of every skyscraper in Chicago. Rhonda finally quit taking pictures in Chicago because there were just too many things to see.

Galen and Becky decided to keep moving the next day, but Rhonda and I wanted to stay and see more.  Galen had on a cow shirt, just for Rhonda.

We took about a five-mile bike ride along the shoreline and beaches down to the Lincoln Zoo and Conservatory.  The free Lincoln Conservatory reminded us of Shreveport, LA.  We moved there right after we got married, and there was a nice conservatory right along the Red River, so that brought back a few memories for us.  We've got all kinds of pictures, so I'll limit those to a few pretty flowers and one stone statue in the fern garden that looked like a face.

The outdoor flower garden at the conservatory was beautiful also.

There were lots of great animals at the free zoo.  Our grandkids have specifically asked for pictures of a Sun Bear.  So Connor, Bryce, and Alexis, here you are - a napping Sun Bear!

An Andean Bear cooling off. Love this picture.

And a polar bear also.

Can't leave the zoo without a picture of "The King."

After our zoo visit and a five-mile ride back to the boat in 90-degree temps, I decided to rest up for the night, and Rhonda headed back to the Navy Pier to check out the free Smith Museum of Stained Glass. 

We made reservations at Andy's Jazz Club for dinner and an evening of music.  We decided to walk to the club, about 30 minutes away.  Got some more nice shots of Chicago. Rhonda had thought that Chicago would be a repeat of New York City, but Chicago actually has a very laidback feel instead of the hustle and bustle of New York City. The sidewalks were not crowded, we could ride bikes everywhere, and there were always views of the water, beaches, parks, trees, flowers, artwork, stunning buildings, etc. 

We picked a great night to go to Andy's - two very popular and great quartets led by Mike Smith (alto sax) and Randy Brown (guitar).   Here's Mike Smith giving it all he's got with the alto sax.  All the musicians in both groups were very talented.  The food was very good also.  We had arrived at 7 and stayed until 11:30. There was one more set beginning at midnight that would to go until 1 AM, but we decided to head back to the boat.  We walked again and apparently dodged all of the "stray incoming rounds" from the murder capital of the US (that was for our good friend Rich Gano). Rhonda loved walking downtown Chicago after midnight. 

We had a rainy morning the next day so we got some prescriptions filled, bought a few more groceries, and got some laundry done.  Rhonda got some pictures of Grant Park and the water fountain there.

There was a free jazz concert at Millenium Park that night and we had an invite from Woody and Ellen Sutton to join them.  They are Loopers who completed the trip in 2010 and live in the area.  We walked over a little early to get some pictures of the venue -  Pritzker Pavilion.  It is pretty awesome, wish the pictures did it justice.

We also got some daytime shots of "The Bean."

This one is looking up from underneath - looks like a lion's or cat's face.

The jazz performances began with some high school students who were very talented.  You can get a sense of just how big this venue is by the size of the band on stage. There is room for 10,000 people to attend the free movies and concerts held here during the summer.

We were not very impressed with the other performers - a bit too contemporary for us.  What I mean to say there is it was strange.  OK, I said it.  Both groups were very talented, but they just "weirded up" the music too much for us.

But we still enjoyed the evening and the opportunity to meet and visit with Woody and Ellen.

The weather forecast was a little iffy on Friday morning for our departure - some forecasts were predicting 2 to 4 foot seas with occasional 6 footers.  We decided to go for it and had a sloshy and uncomfortable 10-mile ride to get down to the alternate route around Chicago - the Calumet River.  But we felt like we had seen enough of Chicago to have a pretty good feel for the city and were glad to get moving again.  We got some good shots leaving the city. The rain had washed away the "haze."

Check out the Sears Tower and the moon.

Here's the entrance to the Calumet River.  It was about a 60-mile run to Joliet, IL on the Illinois River.  I'll cover that leg another day.  All in all, Chicago was a great stop, and we encourage other Loopers behind us to spend some time there.

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