Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Navy Pier

As part of my vacation “up north”, I spent all day Sunday with my Chicago family - at Navy Pier.

As related earlier, I traveled to northwestern Indiana to see my family, and help celebrate, what turned out to be, three birthdays. I had moved from there about 6 months ago, after spending the previous 18 months with our son John, his wife Tonya, and in the same town, 4 grand-children, and 6 great-grandchildren.

My wife of 65 years - not her age, but our years together - joined the heavenly chorus the previous October.

On about Thursday of the week at John’s, I called my Chicago family to arrange to visit them also. Our former daughter-in-law Betty, along with her son Jim, daughter Sherilyn and granddaughter (my GREAT-granddaughter) Elora, drove to Chesterton on Sunday morning to pick me up.


I had offered to take the South Shore train to Chicago, but they called me right back, insisting that they would come and get me.

Works for me!

At about 10:30 on Sunday morning, the four of them arrived at John’s front door, and ushered me into the front seat of Jim’s car. Jim, Jr., that is.

The weather was rainy, and a little cold. Betty said that they were hoping for a nice sunny day, so we could enjoy ourselves at the relatively new entertainment center (at least to me) on Navy Pier in Chicago.

On our drive west on I 90, then north on Stony Island Avenue in Chicago, the weather began getting better and better. Jim turned onto Lake Shore Drive, right next to the Museum of Science and Industry on Chicago’s south side, and the drive along the lake was unusually pleasant. Nice day after all.

We had been to Navy Pier maybe 50 or 60 years ago, when it was mostly “just a pier”, so to speak. Not now! It has turned into an amazing Amusement Park.

Jim made the proper turns, and we ended up driving to the Parking Garage there, and ended up on the fourth floor of the garage. We all got out, and headed for the elevator.

Arriving at ground level, it became obvious that this was a place to be desired - if one wanted to enjoy oneself - with eating, relaxation, rides - including maybe the largest “Ferris Wheel” I ever saw. It may not have even been called that, but it was a big wheel that “went around”, with seats on it. Looked like a “Ferris Wheel” to me.

From a distance, I kept looking at it and wondering why it never moved. I kept looking back and staring at it. After awhile, I discovered that IT WAS MOVING - just so slowly that I couldn’t tell it.

In about the center of one of the inside walkways was a stage, which provided different family entertainment every half hour. Jim discovered that a fellow magician friend of his was to perform at 1:30, so we decided we’d eat - then watch the show.

We made for the inside “fast food” places, and ate. Some wanted McDonald’s and others something else. I went to the other side and saw a Chinese place, so I got two egg rolls.

After eating outside on park benches,

in the sun,

and under the umbrella, it was time to “go to the show”.

(Elora - 4 years old - took most of these “umbrella” pictures.)

Time for the Magic Show!

Elora was chosen as one of the helpers.

The Magician turned out to be VERY GOOD. His presentation was, in my layman’s opinion, captivating.

After the show, we began pondering what was next on the agenda.

Somebody said, “Well, there’s always a boat ride. (There must have been a dozen different boats, and types of rides).

Having decided that, Jim and Betty started for the ticket booth - handily blocking me from getting in front.

“What’s goin’ on?”, I asked. Jim said, “We’re payin’.” These guys had determined ahead of time that they wouldn’t let me spend anything - if they could help it. I DID manage to buy my own ice cream cup, and finally, INSISTED on paying for the parking.

The boat ride we took was called the “Architectural Boat Ride”, which traversed the Chicago River - from middle, to north, to south. Featured were the “dozens” of sky scrapers that graced the Chicago sky line. The Tour Guide was outstanding. He told us not only WHAT the buildings were, but also, the names of the Architects, Builders, and year of being erected.

Here we were near the boat:

We had lived in Chicago for 11 years in the 50’s and 60’s, and I had NEVER dreamed such information could be known - much less remembered - by one individual.

He went to great lengths to point out to us where “Mrs. O’Leary’s cow” was that “tipped over the lantern”, that started the Chicago fire of 1871.

Didn’t happen, according to our Guide. He said that in 1893, a reporter admitted spreading the false story. The exact origin is unknown.

Here is an artist's rendering of the devastation:

The Guide seemed a little “put out” about the renaming of the Sears Tower, to be the Willis Tower. After all, it is the tallest building in the City, and it was built as the Sears Tower. Apparently the building has a new owner, and he chose the new name.

The boat ride - and tour - lasted an hour, and the time went quickly.

After we got off the boat, the Tour Guide was standing near the exit, and I said to him,

“Just how many gigabytes of memory do you have in your brain to remember all that data.”

He smiled and said, “Glad you enjoyed it.” We did!

I haven’t mentioned my chronic back problem when I walk very far without stopping. I still had it that day, and we stopped several times to rest. Elora was always ready to go.

Arriving back on the Pier, we were thinking about what ride(s) Elora would like to take. No one was interested in the Ferris Wheel.

Elora, though, had experienced a ride on the “up and down” ride, and she wanted to to do it again.

After this, the afternoon had been mostly spent. We started “meandering” back to the elevator and the Parking Garage. We arrived on the 4th floor, and there was Jim’s car.

I think mostly for my benefit, he went right back to Lake Shore Drive, and headed north. Many memories flooded in - of our time in Chicago - included swimming at North Avenue Beach.

Jim followed the “Drive” all the way to Irving Park - “Forty hundred north”, I remembered - then west to nearly Cicero Avenue, then south again to Addison Street (“3600 north”), and their Condo.

Though it was late afternoon, no one even thought of eating.

My return to Chesterton could have been done at least 3 ways:

1. Jim take me back in his car; or,

2. Take me to the Randolph Street South Shore station to ride the train; or;

3. Board a bus on Addison Street east to the Elevated Station, then to the Loop and get off near the Soulth Shore station at Randolph and Michigan Avenue.

John would have to pick me up at the Dune Park station for the last two options.

A possibility that John planned before I left Chesterton on Sunday morning was for him and Tonya to pick me up, after depositing Molly’s husband Troy at the O’Hare Airport terminal to return to his 6 week Police Training in South Carolina.

Of course, that was the only feasible, and sensible course to take.

After Navy Pier, we arrived at the Condo, and just sat around talking, not even interested in anything on TV. We reminisced some, including my being able to talk to Betty’s brother, John Bach, on the telephone. I had last talked to him some 40 to 45 years ago. It was just as if we had talked last week.

At about 7:30, John called after leaving O’Hare to make arrangements to pick me up. I told him the route Jimmy suggested, and he said he’d call back when he was a few blocks away. John didn’t want to find a parking place to come in and visit, so after he called the last time, all four of us went downstairs and across the street to meet them.

They arrived shortly.

As I opened their back door to get in, I was astonished to see Troy still in the car, along with his daughter, Priscilla.

There had been someone who had fallen (or jumped) off the Chicago Avenue bridge across I 90 as they were coming into down town, and the traffic jam that ensued kept Troy from meeting his flight. Had to wait until the next day.

After some time of socializing together after a long time away, we got under way back toward Chesterton.

John and Tonya found a restaurant on Addison Street that they used to frequent when they lived there. We stopped for Dinner.

We then went back to the car, and Troy suggested he drive instead of John, to give him a break.

We arrived home safely.

On Sunday, Jimmy had asked me how I was going to return to Springfield, and I told him I had bought a bus ticket on Friday, and John was planning on driving me to South Bend to meet the bus, leaving at 8 AM Monday.

Jimmy said he’d like to drive me all the way back to Ohio. I said I’d try to arrange for a refund of my bus ticket, and accepted his offer.

(It’s now a month later, and I STILL haven’t received my refund!)

On Monday at about 10AM, Jimmy arrived, and we both left for Ohio.

Uneventful trip, capping a wonderful 6 days with these two branches of my family, in Chesterton IN and Chicago IL.

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