Navy Pier – Chicago

Bored with the shopping on Magnificent Mile, your eyes struggle to focus on something that isn’t a shop.  Finally they land on a small and simple signpost reading ‘Navy Pier’, with an arrow pointing the way.  Well, anything to escape this current situation.  Looking at Navy ships sounds as good as anything.  Your feet lead you East towards the lake.

Emerging from the city skyline you realize that you have been fooled by the sign, or more truthfully fooled yourself, as signs are rarely at fault.  Opening in front of you is a large park and pedestrian walkway, with modern buildings and a ferris wheel watching over all.  No large grey ships are to be found.  Instead of a Navy Pier it is more of a city center, or tourist attraction if you please.

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Spanish Steps and Ferris Wheel

You begin your walk around this 3,300 foot(1,010 meter) long pier.  Starting on the right side like all sane people, you start your loop.  Have no fear of the pier collapsing.  It has been standing strong for one hundred and one years.  You think back to those days, imagining the people who came before you.  The Roaring Twenties with the women dressed to kill in Art Nouveau sequined dresses, the men in suits, walking arm in arm along the pier.  Enjoying the live bands, fireworks, concerts, and even airplane and motorboat races.  Out on the water are freighters lined up to dock and leisure ships departing full of tourists.  It is a bustling sight.

Enjoying the cold lake breeze you walk past the wave wall, which is touted as the Spanish Steps of Chicago(They are really in Rome), and the Ferris Wheel.  You would love to ride the wheel but those are a lot of steps and there is no elevator(A glaring omission of the planning council).  You continue your walk around the pier, passing restaurants and a gift shop, all the time admiring the cleanliness and beauty of this pier.  You wonder if it looked this good during the Great War.

This poor little pier is barely a year old and yet it has been taken over by several regiments of soldiers and Red Cross workers, who now live here.  In one area is a barracks for new recruits and a jail for draft dodgers.  It certainly is no where near as clean.

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Way out to sea

Coming to the end of the pier and its empty beer garden you quickly make the loop around without stopping, as the cold wind is too intense.  With head tucked in and bones frozen, you breath a sigh of relief as you finally get your back to the wind.  Looking onto this building that stands 3000 feet out in the lake you are amazed to see how little it has changed in a hundred years.

Sailors and Marines are training everywhere, becoming metalsmiths, mechanics, and diesel operators.  The noise and amount of people is incredible.  This Navy pier has become the largest training facility of its kind in the world, playing an important part in this second world war.  When the war is over there are rumors that it will become a University.

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 Quite a skyline

Walking this North side of the pier is quite different from the South side.  You feel like you are in the back of everything.  There are high walls and loading docks.  You spend most of your time enjoying the fine skyline in front of you as you pass Uber and Lyft pick-up points.  As you come back onto land and into the pier’s bus terminal you praise the city and the nameless people involved for the redevelopment in 1990 of this amazing area.

Navy Pier has stood through fortune and disuse for a hundred years.  May it prosper and always return from downturns for a hundred more.

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Wheel, wood, water, and wuildings

Photos – Mada’in Saleh, Saudi Arabia

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On the Threshold
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The Three Mushroom Tombs(My nickname)
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One High Doorway.  Ready for a flood of biblical proportions.
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Three More Rooms
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Such a Good Use of a Hill
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I Could Have Done Better
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Too Bad There Is No Scale Here, as This One Is Massive
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King of the Tombs.  Just Two Thousand Years Too Late
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The Beautiful Surrounding Countryside. 
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Alone with 131 Tombs
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I Once Caught a Tomb This Big

Chicago – Museum of Science and Industry

IMG_1524.JPGChicago has no shortage of things to do but you decide on the Museum of Science and Industry since it is extremely highly rated on Tripadvisor.  It is located on the lake but far south of downtown.  You consider renting a bicycle and riding the eight miles from your hotel but quickly dismiss the idea as it is so freezing cold that you would most likely have to snap a dog off the bike before being able to use it.  You could take the “L” which gets you a block from the museum but you decide on a bus so you can see more of the city from street level.IMG_1527.JPG

Riding the bus takes you through multiple forms of the city.  You begin from the incredible triple-decker Wacker drive and cruise the city streets stocked with office workers and the mandatory Starbucks and Chipotle’s, enter a motorway where you can catch a glimpse of what might kindly be called ghetto housing, then quickly get off the motorway, pass through a Hispanic neighborhood and turn onto a long residential street that dead ends into the museum.  It is quite a diverse bus trip.  IMG_1530.JPG

Your first view of the museum is impressive.  It looks like it belongs on the Mall in Washington D.C.  A large grass field, which hides the underground parking garage, opens up in front of the building.  All in all a beautiful site and very welcoming.  IMG_1534.JPG

You cross this grass field and enter into a pillbox well in front of the building itself.  This leads to a stairwell which then leads you deep underground to the ticket counter, coat check, and gift shop.  After looking over the bewildering amount of ticket options you finally decide on the basic ticket and proceed up an escalator that brings you into a foyer.  Here is seating for the restaurant.  From here the museum spreads into multiple wings and three levels.  Keep your map at the ready so you can see what you wish to see.  Or if you are up for an adventure and have all day just start roaming around.  IMG_1541.JPG

You come across rooms for children, rooms where you can touch and play with stuff, rooms full of planes and trains, a large model of Chicago, an old United 727, a mirror maze, avalanche simulator, famous cars, models of important ships, and dozens of other things.  You are glad you decided to spend a whole day here as you need it to see(and touch) everything.  Your one regret is not paying for the add-ons.  You are missing out on the Lego exhibit, as well as Robot Revolution, the U-505 submarine tour, Coal Mine, Future Energy Chicago and others.  There is so much to do!IMG_1542.JPG

Extremely happy and with a smile on your face you get your coat from the coat check and walk up the stairs, out the pillbox, and back to the bus stop.  Time to go see the Bean now.

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