Saturday, July 26, 2008

Chicago blows

Spent several days in Chicago this past week.

The whole trip began as a trip to a Jimmy Buffett concert at Alpine Valley, Wisconsin.

Alpine Valley is pretty much equidistant Milwaukee, Madison, and Chicago. So, to get to Alpine Valley, it'd mean flying in to either Milwaukee, Madison, or Chicago.

So, where to fly to?

Well, when I think Chicago, I think pizza. Or steak.

When I think Milwaukee, I think beer.

When I think Madison, I think ... our 4th President.

So, since I don't drink beer, and I do like pizza and steak, Chicago was the choice.

Flew in to Chicago last Saturday, rented a vehicle, then drove to the hotel, then to Alpine Valley for the concert, then back to Chicago.

Went to a White Sox game on Sunday. Ate pizza for supper. Chicago style pizza, of course.

That left Monday and Tuesday for sight-seeing in Chicago.

Silly me. I had a vehicle. And figured I'd drive.

Like I said, silly me.

First thing I noticed was that drivers in Chicago blow their horns. A lot.

Thought it was at me, at first. But then, I realized, it wasn't me. Seemed like nearly every driver was blowing their horn.

Then I noticed a pattern.

They only blew their horns when there was a vehicle in front of them. Or behind them. Or beside them. Or in the lane traveling the other way. Or when the sun was out. Or ... well, you get the idea.

I imagine when folks learn to drive in Chicago, lesson one consists of blowing the horn. There is no lesson two.

Anyway, they drove like that on the interstate.

But I made the mistake of driving downtown.

What was I thinking? I wasn't.

It had to be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I've encountered. But, as bad as it seemed to me, who was driving, it was worse on one other person: The Wife.

I didn't raise my voice. I didn't make any gestures. But I wasn't happy about everything. The Wife? She was very unhappy. Cars traveling fast when they could, hitting the brakes when they had to, running red lights, blocking intersections, and blowing their horns. Blowing and blowing their horns.

After a visit to one sight downtown -- the Hancock Observatory -- she was ready to leave downtown Chicago. She'd had enough of the traffic. Me, too, to be honest.

So, back to the interstate and back to the hotel.

Only, of course, the other cars on the roads there were mostly locals. Which meant that not many had to stop and pay tolls. They had I-Passes. So they'd move quickly through the toll booths. Me, though, I'd have to pay the toll.

The toll workers were all polite, smiling, and not at all what one might expect from someone doing a thankless job -- taking money from people who were paying to get in horrible traffic, then taking money from the same people who were paying to get out of that same horrible traffic.

No, the toll workers were the one bright spot. At least, the toll workers we encountered.

But the other drivers ... the Asses with I-Passes ... were often aggravating.

Blowing them horns. Flipping other drivers off. Yelling at other drivers.

I'll never complain about Atlanta traffic again.


  1. But, how did you like the Hancock Building? I wish that I had a vid recorder when I went up there to record the extensive swaying of the structure. I couldn't believe that the glass stayed in the building.

  2. I am lacking in my Jimmy Buffet music knowledge, but I do know I very much like his "Slow Boat to China" song. It's a classic.

  3. Long ago I swore not to venture into large northern cities without a local to guide me. I have been in downtown St. Paul & Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC without guides, but I \swung around\ the margins of Chicago and NYC. I have enough trouble negotiating downtown Asheville, NC.

  4. Used to live there growing up. There are two seasons in Chicago. Winter and Construction. I guess if I had to live in that mess again I'd try to take the el train whenever possible. However, that is not always a great experience either. A few times I have ended up walking for blocks through some shady neighborhoods just to switch trains. And yes, Chicagoans have a bad collective case of road rage. They are very aggressive drivers because they spend 1/4 of their lives in traffic, so when they finally get moving, it's Off To The Races! There is some nice culture in Chicago, and pretty good food. The architecture is very diverse, but some of the skyscrapers are pretty boring to look at. A few are down right ugly.

    Now I hear they are building the world''s largest drill bit? Interesting I guess, unless you are afraid of heights...or power tools. haha. Chicago has 5 sports teams, but collectively they have not won much of anything. The "theatre" is a lot of re-run stuff that New York had months/years ago. I suppose the best part about Chicago is the lakefront, however even with the reversed current of the Chicago River, the Chicago sewer system backs up into their waterways when it rains hard, so their beaches are often closed. Sorry Chicago, but I'll take a far more livable and congenial city with great weather ANY day.

  5. Charles Winchester:

    I guess I got lucky! We only had some of the problems you encountered.


Please choose a Profile in "Comment as" or sign your name to Anonymous comments. Comment policy