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Editor's Notebook
June 4, 2020

6/25/2012 2:37:00 PM
A big, really really big, city
Chicago is fascinating place to visit, just dont try driving there
Taking a train on the L is a much less stressful way to get around Chicago than driving.
Taking a train on the L is a much less stressful way to get around Chicago than driving.
I waited at a traffic signal, listening to the radio in my car.

The light turned green and within a second - make that a millisecond - the driver in the vehicle behind me honked the horn.

Actually the motorist behind me laid on her horn. How dare I wait so long to proceed at a green light.

I spent a couple of days in Chicago last week, a bustling metropolis about 180 miles north and a five-hour drive away from Jennings County.

Driving in downtown North Vernon is a breeze, driving in downtown Chicago is not for the timid. If you think driving on State Street in North Vernon on a Friday afternoon is an ordeal, you should try driving on State Street in Chicago. There is no comparison.

Actually, driving in downtown Chicago is for the stupid. Park the car and walk or use public transportation - the 'L', the city's elevated rapid transit system, or the bus or subway.

It's hard to imagine a larger contrast than there is between the cities of North Vernon, Ind., and Chicago, Ill.

Let's see, 6,500 population vs. 2.7 million. That makes the largest city in the Midwest over 415 times larger than Jennings County's biggest community. Amazingly, Chicago has about as many restaurants as North Vernon does people.

Chicago is big, really really big, dwarfing the three large cities that are all an hour or so away from North Vernon - India­napolis, Cincinnati and Louisville. Chicago is so huge that it boggles the mind of this small town editor.

The Windy City was not all that windy while I was there with my wife and youngest daughter, but there was a nice breeze that blew through the valleys of skyscrapers.

We didn't take public transportation, instead walking. We were close enough to every place we wanted to go. Within a block or so of our hotel were more restaurants, coffee shops - Starbucks were everywhere - and pubs than I could count. We ate dinner at the Berkhoff Res­tau­rant, a historic eatery a block down Adams Street from where we were staying.

We were right in the Loop, the central district of downtown so named because of the loop of elevated tracks for the 'L' trains. The trains run on electricity, but they make fairly loud clickety clack noises as they roll overhead. They are fun to ride, after you figure out how the system works, and tickets are cheap. But don't hesitate getting on or off at your stops, a mistake a friend and I made several years ago during one of my first visits to Chicago.

Grant Park and Lake Michigan were about five blocks away from our hotel. At the park we saw a group of a around a dozen people on segways, those motorized personal transports, taking a segway tour of the city, which looked pretty darn neat. Gorgeous statues, the Buckingham Fountain, a beautiful and enormous water fountain, and tons of people were in the park.

Monroe Harbor on Lake Michigan was full of boats, most moored a few not, the day we were there. There seemed to be more sailboats than any other kind of watercraft there, and many could be seen sailing on the bright blue water beyond the harbor's seawall.

We've taken boat rides before, both on Lake Michi­gan and on the Chicago River, which were fabulous, but not this trip because we didn't have the time.

Our reason for going to Chicago this time was to tour Roosevelt University. "The vertical campus" is contained in a pair of skyscrapers - classrooms, dormitory rooms and all. Our guide took us to one of the dorm suites on the 32nd floor where the view of the city and lake was stunning.

"This is a great place to watch fireworks, too," the guide said.

After checking out of our hotel and exiting the parking garage, we drove - not the smartest move, but we made it - to the Near North Side, an area near Wrigley Field where I had enjoyed several music clubs in years past. People and cars were everywhere, even on a Saturday afternoon.

Then it was time to head back south via the Dan Ryan Expressway, a north-south interstate artery through the heart of the city. We went past U.S. Cellular Stadium, home of the Chicago White Sox, an interesting site with an 'L' train station nearby.

Traveling both into Chicago and out, we took the Interstate 90 toll road. It looked like a majority of vehicles going the same way were bypassing the toll road, instead taking I-57, I-94 and I-80 to and from I-65 in Indiana. The tolls at three different booths total around $6 each way, not exactly cheap but getting to ride over the Chicago Skyway is worth it.

It was good to get back in North Vernon where hearing a car horn is relatively rare, but Chicago is a fabulous place to visit as long as you can handle the big city environment and the impatience of motorists on congested streets.

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