The Motor Vessel "Once Around"

The Motor Vessel "Once Around"
The Motor Vessel "Once Around" in the Florida Keys

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Windy City

The crews of Moonstruck and Once Around abandoned their ships in South Haven, Michigan, and drove (in a car, yuck!!!) to Chicago on Tuesday (9/6).  We have enjoyed South Haven, but with the lake conditions preventing any movement over water this week, we decided seeing Chicago by land was better than sitting around playing cribbage for a week.
My able First Mate, and sometimes great travel agent, found a real cool little hotel downtown called the Talbott.  We spoiled ourselves with room service, 42” TV, mini-bar and a huge bed for a few nights, and walked our shoes off during the day.
So what do landlocked boaters do their first full day in a new city?  Well, they take a boat tour, of course.  Chicago is an architectural wonderland, and there is no better way to see many of these beautiful buildings than from the river that runs right through the heart of town.  I will give you a sampling here, but, trust me, you will see even more after Once Around goes down this river herself in a couple of days.
A view from the river
I was interested in what the waterway was like, since Once Around will soon be going through here, too.
After the boat ride, the Admirals had an afternoon of shopping planned.  As we walked the famous "Miracle Mile" down Michigan Avenue, they introduced Doug and me at each store as their “Sugar Daddies”, "Uncles", “Credit Card Holders”, or “Bagmen (as in carry that bag for me)”.  They must be out of practice or something, because neither of them actually bought much of anything.  It seems “shopping” to women is not necessarily “buying”.  Doug and I asked, "Why bother?"  We just don’t get it, they say.  We just shook our heads and answered, “Yes dear”, as most good husbands have been trained to do in these situations.
During our visit we also tried the Chicago style pizza at Giordano’s, Chicago dogs at a tiny street vendor, went through the Chicago Art Institute (honest), climbed all 94 floors to the top of the Hancock Building (OK, I lied on that one, we took the elevator) and generally acted like tourists.  We had a great Italian dinner at Merlo’s, near our hotel one night, and a great steak at the Saloon Steakhouse another.
Looking south from the Hancock Building
Looking you didn't know Chicago had beaches.  I sure didn't.
Really kids, she really went up there with us...
...but, if you really think she and Judy were washing these windows I have a bridge I'd like to sell you!
Maybe the best time though (in my book) was had when the four of us went to the Apollo Theater and saw “Million Dollar Quartet”.  It is a re-enactment of an actual jam session held in 1956 at tiny Sun records, whose founder discovered each of these four artists, and fairly early in their carreers, somehow corralled them all into one studio for an impromptu event.  On stage were Elvis Pressley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.  Wow, did that place rock!  After two hours of it we were all on our feet clapping and singing with “A Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On!”
The last day in the city, we took a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes in Oak Park, an exclusive turn of the century suburb of Chicago.  Doug and Judy love his “Prairie Style” homes, and Carrie and I learned a lot about his life and his architecture…most of which we liked.
Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio
And one of his "Prairie Style" homes.
As we were driving out of Chicago, I realized I had left my iPhone on the short bus during the Frank Lloyd Wright tour.   By the magic of GPS and several cell phones, we were able to trace and track down the driver and retrieve it in under an hour and a half, including a 20 mile loop through some very interesting parts of Chicago.  Had that not put us squarely into the Friday commute, my mistake might have gone without punishment.  I'm just glad this isn't the real navy and there is not a pile of potatoes to peel, but I am sure the Admiral will think of something.
We returned to the boats in South Haven late Friday night.  Today (Saturday) we have been readying for crossing Lake Michigan tomorrow.  The weather is predicted to be good, the lake conditions excellent, for our roughly 70 mile run to Chicago.  Since we just “did the town”, we plan only one night in harbor there.  Early Monday we start down the river systems, which begin in downtown Chicago and end up (late November, early December) in Mobile, Alabama, on the Gulf. 
Stay tuned for more on that later…
Oh yeah, did you know…the term “Windy City” has nothing to do with weather conditions in Chicago.  According to our tour boat expert, this term was first used by a New York journalist who was aghast at how over-blown the descriptions of Chicago were as the people of Chicago lobbied (successfully it turned out) to host the World’s Fair…back in 1893.  He referred in his article about the “windbags” in Chicago…and it stuck.  Evidently, if you believe the braggart’s of Chicago today, that fair was the largest gathering of international peoples that had ever been assembled in history.  It began Chicago’s period of intense growth as one of the premier cities in the US, surpassing many cities that had been much larger prior.
Also, there are so many Polish people in Chicago that it is the second largest Polish city in the world, behind only Warsaw.  It also has a huge Irish population, as the Irish were brought here to dig the canal that tied Chicago to the Illinois River (and therefore the Mississippi and the Gulf).  Oh yeah, and there are lots and lots of Italians here as well.  Remember Al Capone?


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