Monday, September 07, 2009

The Windy City: Part 3: Riding Around

We still had a few hours to spend in Chicago, the transportation to do so, but nothing even remotely close to a plan for what to do. Step one was the easiest: find a place to park. Lisa works downtown and had a parking card for one of the garages, so we enjoyed a short drive from the Meigs area to a parking garage just a few blocks away. With my head hanging out the window of the Prius like a well-pampered poodle, I took pictures of various buildings that we went by. And, with the same comprehension level of the aforementioned poodle, I don't have the least idea what any of them are. Hey, at least I didn't bark at squirrels! Not that I wasn't tempted, mind you.

Once parked and out on the sidewalk, I was surprised to discover that there is a river flowing through downtown Chicago. Hey, don't laugh. How was I to know? Did you know that we have two or three flowing through land-locked Columbus? You did?? Oh. Never mind.

With a river running right down the middle of a major metropolis, there are bound to be a few bridges here and there. Because the rivers offer access to and from one of the Great Lakes, the boats traveling through can be quite large. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise to learn that there are dozens of drawbridges in Chicago. And interestingly enough, they're rather scenic. They have little huts on each end, presumably for the draw bridge operator to nap in during the long spells between openings. The huts at each bridge are architecturally diverse. Some are bland concrete while others have a Victorian feel to them:

Close on the revelation that there are rivers in Chicago came the introduction to the idea of "water taxis." Yes, rather than sitting in the back of a swelteringly hot, smelly cab, you can take a boat up and down the river for just a few bucks. Which, by the way, Lisa paid for. I found that even with all of my preparation for the trip, I had failed to bring any more cash that a single $20 bill. Sigh. Still, the cab was just pulling up to the dock as we got there, so it was a mercifully short wait before boarding for a trip down the river to China Town.

What? Did I know that there's a China Town in Chicago? No, of course not!

There were a lot of diverse boats moving up and down the river. All this one needed was a drunk skipper, a shrill missionary, and a bigger smokestack to be cast as The African Queen:

The hierarchy of command on the boat was starkly apparent. The three-striper stayed at the helm the whole time while the two-striper sold tickets, marshaled landlubbers on and off the boat and, for all I know, swabbed the decks at the end of the day:

I'm sure that people that ride the water taxis frequently become oblivious to the views eventually, but I found the variety of bridges and views of the city to be intriguing:

Lisa said this next one is the Trump building.

I said, "That explains the Phallic nature of it."

The guy across from me chuckled.

Too bad they couldn't add a bad toupee to it somehow:

Lisa wasn't too proud to be seen with a pair of tourists:

You can ride along, if you'd like to:

We pulled into the nifty little China Town dock after about a fifteen minute ride:

It's a five minute walk from the dock to the China Town commerce district. This square is bordered by the twelve Chinese horoscope animals, and each has a plaque defining the traits of those born during the matching lunar cycle. I am a Bull. In a competing horoscope, I am a Leo. Hmmm, a Leo and a Bull. That explains so, so much! There might be something to all of this. Read the words I underlined in red:

Ha ha ha ha ha! They sure got that right!

I caught some odd looks for doing my Bull pose. Or maybe it was for standing there saying 'Tatanka. Tatanka' like the Indians in 'Dances with Wolves' said to Kevin Costner when they were trying to learn each others' language. Either way, I'm sure it looked pretty silly:

At this point I think I was stretching Lisa's patience with my touristiness pretty close to the breaking point but the funny thing is that just a few moments later, as we were walking across the square, I saw a girl by the Year of the Monkey statue doing a monkey impersonation. So there.

China Town seemed to primarily a collection of Chinese Restaurants, something I have access to at home. Still, I love Chinese food and we were getting hungry so we initiated the prolonged search for a restaurant. We didn't choose the restaurant whose food is so gelatinous that they can display it in the window:

There was no way I wanted this much fluid, particularly after the Bladder Capacity issue of the morning flight:

I've seen smaller hot tubs!

We eventually found a very nice little place. They had a very well made menu, and it fulfilled my requirement that I be able to order by number:

C12: Braised Grass Carp Tail in Brown Sauce.

Ummmm, no.

Rick and I played it safe with relatively tame food. I had Mongolian Beef, and Rick went with Chicken Lo Mein:

Lisa, who had no obligation to fly that afternoon, took a walk on the wild side with a 非常辣 (according to Google Translator, that means 'very spicy') chicken and red chili dish:

My choice, in contrast, was 适合小女孩. Google says that means 'suitable for little girl.' I believe that to be synonymous with 'pilot that knows better through prior experience,' but I defer to Google's 通过试点,知道以前的经验更好 for that. My way is shorter, though.

After lunch we made our way back to Gary for the trip home. Papa was pretty hot after sitting in the sun all day, so we were pretty uncomfortable sitting in the RV greenhouse with the canopy down and the engine running as we waited to squeeze a word in edgewise with the gregarious Tower controller. He was playing "guess who this is" with a group of guys in the Cessna 210 that was taxiing out in front of us. I finally leveraged in a transmission requesting a taxi clearance during a brief moment where they were both taking a much-needed breath. Hey, it's one thing to be a nice, friendly airport, but it's quite another when two hot (thermally, if not aesthetically) hot guys sit stewing in an airplane waiting to conduct a little business.

We were ready to go at the end of runway 30, but the Cessna was waiting for an instrument release. By that time I was really steaming (again, thermally, not temperamentally) and ready to go.

"Gary Tower, 466 Papa Golf, we can take an intersection departure at Alpha 4."

"466 Papa Golf, hold short."

Well then. Guess I'll just set here a spell.

The Cessna departed a minute or so later.

"466 Papa Golf, clear for takeoff runway three zero, [mumble mumble] on course."

"466 Papa Gold clear for take three zero and was that a left turn on departure?"

"Six Papa Golf, why, did you want a right turn?"

"No, just wanted to be sure what you had given me."

We took off and made a left turn out. As we were heading on course east of the airport:

"Six Papa Golf, if you're going to have to cross the extended centerline on course, cross over now. There's a plane coming in on the ILS."

I had forgotten that they had radar up there!

"Wilco," I replied, and turned Papa to the North and out over the lake. I should have just taken the right turn out in the first place. Oh well.

It's pretty cool having radar in the tower. We were a few miles outside of Gary's Class D when we got another call from the tower calling out some traffic to us. It was hazy and the clouds were dark and low at 4,200', so I really appreciated that they gave us a head's up on that one. That said, I heard another guy waiting at the end of the runway ask if he could go back and take a Alpha 4 departure rather than wait behind the plane in front of him.

"Sure, go right ahead."


It was hot and bumpy by then and the low clouds were going to keep us down at 3,500' for most of the trip. Yep, that means exactly what you think it means: Rick's turn to fly.

The weather smoothed out just past Fort Wayne and from there it was just a routine flight back to Bolton. I was getting pretty tired by then, so this was a welcome sight:

Almost there!

It was an adventure packed day and what is most amazing about the whole thing is that we just barely scratched the surface of things to do in Chicago. It's a 1.5 hour flight each way and there is no landing fee at Gary. Transportation isn't even the issue that I thought it was: there's a train that runs from Gary right into Chicago. It only runs every other hour on the weekends and the train stop is about one mile from the Gary airport terminal, but those are small details. It's a $5.50 fare, far less that what a cab or car would cost. It's probably less that what it would cost to park a car. As mad as I still am at Chicago's mayor, I can see myself going back for more.


  1. Great write-up through all three posts. I love Chicago but haven't yet had the opportunity to fly there. Maybe I'll go with Gary as well... no need to give Da Mayor any more or my money than necessary.

  2. I did not know there is a water taxi to China Town. We usually drave there. We will be staying at Westin and might try the water taxi this Friday. By the way, the literal translation of "非常辣" is "very hot". Well, close enough to "very spicy".

  3. Great write-up, Dave! It makes me mad that I've never made it there for a proper visit. Maybe one of these years en route to/from Colorado.

  4. And the girl doing the monkey pantomime was Chinese!

  5. Oh so many places to go someday. Made me hungry for some chinese food. Enjoyed the reading after working on the garage today. Thanks.

  6. dave not only do they have a river it can be navigated either way to the gulf of mexico. yes you heard me right, you can go north or east. i just read about that over at maggie's farm a week or two ago. no end of learning here on the intertubes it seems.
    as alway a pleasure to read your posts.
    also good work over at lex's maybe he will see the light. we can only hope.

  7. I used to live in Chicago and dreamed of flying into Meigs. This of course was prior to my PPL. The gov. should withhold all funding from Chicago until this airport is rebuilt! That crook! Anyway, thanks for providing some humor into my otherwise dull day back at the office. I did fly to KLAF (go Boilers!) last weekend from Maryland, but it was not nearly the adventure you have had. Great to read your post.