Friday Night (Chicago) Ferry


I’m not in the Bay Area to do our Friday night ferry ritual. So the next best thing was to do a Friday evening boat trip in Chicago. Ann (my sister) and Ingrid (my niece) and I drove downtown and caught a Wendella cruise from a dock just beneath the Michigan Avenue bridge over the Chicago River. The first third of the 90-minute cruise heads west to the South Branch of the river, heads down a little way, and turns around when it’s just below Sears (Willis) Tower. Then it head back out to the lake, goes through the Chicago River lock out to the lake (there’s a two-foot elevation difference between the lake and engineered river), then a short spin north from the mouth of the river, then south toward the planetarium and aquarium, then back into the river.

Yesterday featured shockingly fine mid-spring weather. It was a not-overly-humid 85 with a what we in the Bay Area call an offshore wind–the breeze was coming from the southwest and blowing out over the water, meaning the cooling influence of Lake Michigan was felt (and then only slightly) immediately along the shore. That beautiful day ended in a long evening of lightning, thunder, and pounding rain, and by mid-morning today the wind had turned around and was coming from the northeast, off the lake. The high here today was about 60. And on the boat this evening, it was quite cool. But as long as we were on the river, well below street level, there was hardly any wind. But I noticed that as soon as we headed out toward the lake, the tour guide who had been filling us in on the architectural scene along the river grabbed her gear and headed for the downstairs cabin. “I’ll be back,” she told me. “But the wind is blowing so hard out here you won’t be able to hear me.” The U.S. and Army Corps of Engineers flags flying at the western end of the lock were standing straight out in the breeze as we approached. I saw in the paper today that the lake’s surface temperature is 43 degrees near shore, and as soon as we got out into that wind, it felt–well, pretty cold.

Then we turned around and came out of the tempest, back through the lock, back down the river. The scene above: the new Trump Building (second tallest in Chicago, a sign at its base boasts), with the Wrigley Building at right (decked in blue as part of a commemoration of fallen Chicago Police Department officers).

Air Blog: To Chicago


I managed to miss my scheduled flight earlier today by attempting one too many last-minute tasks before I headed out the door to the airport (including the daily Last Task Before Leaving, walking The Dog). I took BART out to SFO and knew I was kind of cutting it close and got to the baggage counter to check my bag about five minutes after they’d stopped taking luggage for my flight. Since they want you to be on the same plane as your baggage (think about why that is), both I and my bag got moved onto the next flight about an hour later. That was fine by me (though I might have emoted more if the delay had been four or five hours). My substitute flight was late, and for some reason the trip seemed much longer than the three and a half hours it was.

But all that’s ancient history. I’m up on the North Side now, at my sister and bro-in-law’s place in West Rogers Park. It’s one of those perfect nights in Chicago, springtime or anytime: warm until well after midnight, but not humid enough that you feel like the warmth is hanging on you. It’s calm and a little hazy but clear enough to see the brightest stars.

Preflight Vision


Off to Chicago today on a family visit. The top item on the agenda: visiting my dad, who’s in a rehab facility/nursing home on the North Side of Chicago after two bouts of pneumonia over the past couple of months (and a more general cognitive and physical decline that’s goes back much further). He’s on oxygen now, is quite weak, and really needs round-the-clock care. My sister, Ann, was visiting him yesterday and put him on the phone. He sounded tired and small. But still Dad. I’m both looking forward to seeing him and feeling a little apprehensive about it.

But first, I have a flight to catch. I always look forward to that and feel a little apprehensive about it, too. I don’t like the whole airport process. (Enough said.) I love the view of the Earth from above, even if the look you get from 35,000 feet and 550 mph tends to obscure details and prevents lingering over anything you find interesting. The shot above is from my trip with Kate to New York last August. I’m always on the lookout for geographic features, natural or manmade, to orient me–mountain ranges, rivers, cities, highways. Here, we’re passing just north of Omaha, looking south across the city’s airport, Eppley Airfield, (here’s an overhead view from Google Maps). The water there is the Missouri River, which if you remember was very high late in the spring and throughout the summer. Council Bluffs, Iowa, is across the river on the left (east), Omaha is to the right (west). That’s Interstate 680 at the bottom, built right across the flood plain. It was closed in June and essentially destroyed by the high water. The I-680 junction with I-29 is at the lower left; I-29 was also closed and needed extensive repairs. (Click the picture for larger versions.)