I had never seen any of the Great Lakes before my trip to Chicago. I noticed that if I stayed on the same street that the Temple was on, that I would eventually run into Lake Michigan. So that was the route I took to the Lake.
It was cold and windy the day I visited Lake Michigan. (Who would of thought that could happen in Chicago?). I spent a few minutes listening to the waves come in. The roar of the surf was similar to that of the ocean. However, I noticed a few differences from the ocean. For one thing, there was no salt-air smell. There were no birds flying around the beach that day. And surprisingly, there were no sea shells of any kind on the shore. Just sand. (I know, there were no sea shells because this wasn't the sea. However, when we visited Lake Powell last year, the beach was littered with freshwater clam shells.) Still, I loved hearing the sounds of the waves as they rolled in, and lapped upon the shore.
After visiting the Lake, I headed South toward downtown Chicago. Once again, I really missed having my navigator at my side. Along the way, I passed by a couple of major universities. First I passed Northwestern University, which technically is located in Evanston, Illinois, just North of Chicago. As I continued on Southbound, I passed by Loyola University as well. Even though I didn't drive right past it, the University of Chicago was not far away either.
I was amazed at the number of cathedrals and beautiful buildings I saw. The best one was the Cathedral that was near the Northwestern University Campus. The sun was getting low in the sky. The light had a soft-yellow golden glow to it, as it touched the spires of the cathedral. The end of the cathedral was covered with stained glass windows, which were lit from within, and started to really shine in lowered light levels of the setting sun. It was very beautiful. I dearly wanted to photograph it, but I was on a crowded, one-way street, in the one of the milddle lanes with no place to park. I looked at it longinly in the rear-view mirror until it faded away. I've tried to find photos of it on the Internet, but with no success so far.
Finally I reached the famed Chicago Lakeshore Drive, or LSD as the locals call it. Lakeshore Drive is a series of roads, mostly freeway style, that take you past downtown Chicago, along the shores of Lake Michigan. I would have preferred a road that I could dawdle on. I wanted to view the city's skyline, and see the lake with its piers and Marinas. However, I had to blast along at freeway speed, watching out for interchanges to make sure I didn't end up heading to Milwaukee or Detroit!
Finally I saw an exit for the Navy Pier, so I decided it was time to get off this roller coaster ride. It was nice just to slow down and look around for a moment. I drove up to the parking plaza at the Navy Pier, and saw a sign which nearly made my jaw drop: "Parking Rate is $22.00 -- flat rate." At first I thought, they can't be serious can they! (As it turned out - They were!) However, I was tired, hungry, and needed to get out of the car. I didn't want to get back on the freeway maze again either. So I entered, and found a place to park.
There were a number of attractions at Navy Pier, which is 3,000 feet long. Attractions included a huge 150 foot Ferris wheel. A children's museum, a stained glass museum, a Shakespeare Theatre, numerous shops and restaurants as well as -- a pier. There were several boat tours available, including dinner tours, architectural tours of the city's skyline, among others. None of which time permitted me to enjoy.
I checked out the restaurants, and was torn between Joe's Be-Bop Cafe, and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant. I love Cajun food and jazz music, and Joe's Be-bop Cafe had both, with a live Jazz band. However, shrimp is my favorite food, and I just couldn't pass up the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. As you might guess, the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is based on themes from the movie, Forrest Gump. The shrimp was very good. I wish I would have had time to go back to Joe's Be-bop Cafe as well. However, spending as much for parking as the meal cut down on the appeal of going back.
After dinner, I got my camera out to take some photos of the pier, and of the Chicago Skyline at night. This time I forgot to bring my little tripod with me, so I had to improvise. I found that along the waterfront, there were a series of metal posts with flat tops on them. I could sit my camera on these, and use them as an impromptu tripod. I could set the self-timer on my camera, and get shake-free photos -- which is what you need when your exposure is as much as 4 seconds long.
This was my favorite photo that I took of the Chicago Skyline. I had to take many exposures, experimenting with different exposures to get it just right. I found that taking night photos is a lot more demanding than daytime photos. You have to have a tripod, or something to sit our camera upon, and you have to have a camera that allows you to vary your exposures. Daytime photos allow you to tweak them if they are a little under or over exposed once you get them on your computer. However nighttime photos are less forgiving if the exposure isn't right. One nice thing about digital photography vs. 35 mm film is that you can review how your photo turned out right away, instead of having to go have the film developed to see how it turned out. With the instant feedback of the digital camera, you can change the exposure, and try it again right then, until you get it right.
Before leaving for Chicago, I found a Webcam that actually showed the Navy Pier, and its signature Ferris wheel at night. I was pleased, when I arrived at Navy Pier, and found the same Ferris wheel that I had seen on the webcam from home. It made me feel like I was in familiar surroundings, even though I was in an unfamiliar place. I just had to photograph that Ferris wheel for myself.
Taking the photos was something that I really enjoyed. It was a calming influence on me after the tension of having to navigate the Chicago freeways (and tollways!) I found that I was actually better able to navigate the freeways of Los Angeles, than I could those of Chicago. The LA freeways seemed much more intuitive and easy to follow. Of course, I probably owe the intuitive part to my trusty navigator (my wife!) who was with me in LA.
Even though I didn't have time to do all the touristy stuff, I still got to do something that I really enjoyed in taking the photos. You can see more of my Lakeshore Drive photos here.
One of these days I'll learn to schedule a couple of days of vacation at the end of these work trips, so I will have time to explore the area more. I barely scratched the surface of Chicago.
Actually, If I would have had a few of more days in Illinois, I probably would have visited Nauvoo. I have never been there before, and Chicago is the closest to Nauvoo that I have ever been. I have ancestors who once lived and worked there, and helped build the temple. I long to see what they saw, and walk in their footsteps. I would like to find where their property was, and the graves of my ancestors that are there. Ah, well -- I'll make it there someday.