It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses
Although I was neither wearing sunglasses nor carrying half a pack of cigarettes, this is the thought that went through my head this morning, as I headed off to Chicago, The Windy City.Having just this minute returned from a long, epic day, I'd rather blog now than put if off until tomorrow, striking while the iron is hot, so to speak. It was an early start, up at 5am for the long drive to a friend's house in the suburbs of Chicago. The drive up was dark, cloudy and rainy, but I slept for most of it, so no complaints here. 3 and a half hours later (not including the time difference) we were sitting in her kitchen enjoying a beautiful breakfast, prepared by her mum. Then we geared up, got on the train and headed to downtown Chicago.
Stepping out of the station, I was in awe. I've seen skyscrapers, the few in London, a few in Singapore and a really really long road with them on one side in Beijing, but nothing could prepare me for this. I had to crane my neck to look up at the sky. Since it was a cloudy morning, some of the taller buildings literally disappeared into the clouds. Stuff of Hollywood. We walked to the Willis Tower (which is apparently the proper name for the Sears Tower) and booked tickets for later on that day, praying that the mist and clouds would lift, then ventured out into the city. It was incredible. Standing in the Millennium park, with enormous towers reaching into the clouds on 3 sides and Lake Michigan on the other, the sheer magnitude of the city was really put into perspective. This was only the start of what would unfold to be a truly memorable day. We walked through the park and down onto the Lakeside, then eventually alongside the canal system to the "Magnificent Mile", a mile of shops and generally awesome things on Michigan Avenue.
All the time, Chicago's role as the backdrop for arguably the most epic film ever written, The Dark Knight, is evident. The canals, the towers, even the multilayered roads and big iron bridges. At one point I am fairly sure I saw the building used as Bruce Wane's penthouse. (As a side note, it turns out that Wayne Enterprise Headquaters is the same building as where the final showdown takes place in the Blues Brothers. Awesome eh).
At the far end of the Magnificent Mile, at the foot of the mammoth John Hancock building, the weather took a turn, the skies began clearing and grey turned to blue. Joyful. After a quick shop (one of the downsides of a holiday with 6 women and no other guys) we were strolling through the city in glorious sunshine. We eventually made our way back to Sears Tower, where another incredible chapter unfolded.
Oh. My. God. I knew the tower was big. Seeing it in the sunlight only confirmed that. But I had no idea HOW big it was until I was up there (even after measuring myself and figuring out that it was 232 Joe's tall). Standing on that top floor made me see the sheer extent of the city, and despite being 103 floors up, really bought me down to earth.
Let me skip ahead to later that night. It was just past midnight on Eastern Time (Indiana and Illinois are in different time zones) and we were somewhere between Chicago and Indianapolis. The guy driving told us, "don't worry about the lights, they're just wind turbines". We'd seen one or two on the way in, and were expecting the usual little clusters on windfarms. As we came over the top of a hill, what we saw stunned us. Blinking red lights, marking the top of the turbines. Flashing in unison. As far as the eye could see. Easily 5 miles in every direction. It looked like something from War of the Worlds, hundreds if not thousands of these lights, extending for at least 5 miles in every direction. This hammered home the sheer scale of the USA and of the world as a whole.
I'm still lost for words.