Pottsluck-Olympic Dreams travel blog

Bob with Tim and Nancy Okal

Freedom of the Press

Chicago Skyline from Lake Michigan

View of Skyline from Chicago River


150 N. Riverside

Riverside Cafe

2018-08-21. Chicago Architecture or...Trump is #2

Nappanee, Indiana to Joliet, Illinois is a study in contrasts between the rural, bucolic farmland of Indiana to the craziness that is I-80 all around Chicago. We decided to try to avoid I-80 as much as possible and, from Nappanee, we got on US 6 and were able to go all the way to Portage, Indiana; an exit after I-80/90, the toll road, changes to I-80/94, the non-toll road. Still, it is worth your life trying to navigate the six lanes of travel while figuring out which road you want in the giant octopus of intersecting interstates.

We generally stay at the Hollywood Casino in Joliet because it is not too far from Chicago and from our friends Tim and Nancy Okal who live in Elmwood Park, a "near suburb" of Chicago. As usual, they carved out two days out of their busy schedules to visit with us and this time, they stayed overnight "roughin' it" in the queen sized sleep sofa. We made cheesesteaks and feasted on the scallops Bob and I bought and froze from the Baymen's Seafood market near Tuckerton, NJ. And...of course there was a little drinking going on. The next day, Tim (thankfully) drove us to Downtown Chicago where we got onto an architectural river cruise narrated by an amazing volunteer, "accept no tips", docent whose knowledge of the history and architecture of this city was unsurpassed. If you have a chance to take this trip some day, do it. Tim booked the cruise through the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Before embarking, we had the chance to go into the old Chicago Tribune building. Its exterior walls have stones from everywhere and from every time in modern human history embedded in the granite. It is fascinating and wondrous to see all these exotic places and sobering battles represented through these stones. Inside, the Tribune building lobby, quotes from some of the most famous writers and thinkers from ancient times to the modern are etched in the granite; their words a reminder that the press is a cornerstone of freedom and even when the "truth" is not your version or opinion, the fact remains that freedom is being able to express differing views in the press without fear of retribution or worse. We can never forget that our country was founded on freedom of speech first, and freedom of the press second; one being inextricably intertwined with the other. After all, writing about events is the physical manifestation of the oral tale. In today's political climate, a reminder of the 1st amendment's guarantee of freedom of the press may just be in order. And by the way, the impressive Trump tower is the second tallest in the city....the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower is #1.

The tour itself was 90 minutes long and traveled various branches of the Chicago River. As an aside, did you know that in 1887, the Illinois General Assembly, partly in response to concerns arising out of an extreme weather event in 1885 that threatened the city's water supply, decided to reverse the flow of the Chicago River that flowed into Lake Michigan by taking water from Lake Michigan and discharging it into the Mississippi River watershed. Needless to say, the folks of St. Louis were not real happy about this as the river was very polluted at the time. According to the tour guide, St. Louis got the last laugh by taking the polluted water and selling it back to Chicago in the form of Budweiser. Tim says that the amount of earth and other debris moved to change the flow of the river was greater than that used to create the Panama Canal; quite the engineering feat.

In any event, the Chicago River has three branches and many different kinds of architectural styles can be seen in the skyscrapers that crowd the Chicago Skyline. There's the historically inspired Chicago Tribune Building, the Art Deco LaSalle Wacker Building, Mid 20th Century Modern, Post Modern and Contemporary styles to be seen everywhere. The differing opinions of the river can be seen in buildings with their "backs" to the river and those with their backs facing the river; a social commentary on the days of river pollution where businesses and residents preferred to view the buildings around them versus the current trend of creating buildings that face and celebrate the now-clean river. Great tour!

Afterwards, we went to Navy Pier and had lunch at Harry Kalas' Bar. After a helter-skelter ride later through the maze of roadways comprising the Chicago metropolitan area, we returned to the quiet of the casino RV park and again, ate and drank until Tim and Nancy had to return to their home and work.

A lovely sojourn with good friends....

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