US Road Trip Travelog: 13th April 2005

I was a bit unfair on the Holiday Inn yesterday - when I ventured out in the evening I walked the wrong way and into the Greyhound bus station. As with all such places in big cities, this isn't really where you want to find yourself late at night. After a few interesting exchanges with the people hanging around outside I scuttled back to safety of the motel.

In a bright sunny Spring morning, and armed with a map this time, the city looks very different. With the weather this nice - a real surprise, as it rained and there were thunderstorms yesterday - I think the first port of call has to be the Sears Tower. It's no longer the tallest building in the world but at ¼ mile tall it's still pretty damn big.

It costs $11 to get in and the queues, not to mention the obligatory introductory film, are no fun. The 103rd floor is closed today so we only get to the 99th. It's still enough to make your ears pop in the elevator.

Chicago from the Sears Tower
Chicago from the Sears Tower.

The views, of course, make up for all that. Even though you then have to queue to get back down again. I've often wished that Manchester (England) had something similar as you don't really get a good idea of the size and scope of a place until you're this far up.

In the photo above you'll see Navy Pier. That looks like a good place to walk to, so I head off. It didn't look that far from up there.

'El' train in Chicago
'El' train in Chicago.

El is short for 'elevated' and, of course, it's all reminiscent of The French Connection. Not the clothes shop, the movie - the one with Gene Hackman chasing the train in a borrowed car. Somewhere around here is also the shopping mall destroyed by The Blues Brothers.

Chicago from the Navy Pier
Chicago from the Navy Pier. The one with all the antennas is the Sears Tower. It looks smaller than the others because ... oh if you can't figure it out then I'm not going to explain it.

It's a good long walk out to and along the pier. It is very windy but even so I'm surprised to find it so deserted. On the way back I cheat a bit and use the El - I need to figure out how it works before my journey out to the airport tomorrow. Nothing to do with those aching legs, then.

Back in the Holiday Inn and it'd be a shame to spend a night - my last in the US for a while - without some live music. The venue I've chosen is within walking distance as well, though I'm not sure if that's an advantage or not.

Vino Louden
Vino Louden and band. This is the Travelog, after all, and it wouldn't be the same without a blurred picture of a band on a stage at some point would it?

Buddy Guy's Legends isn't really what I was expecting - it's just a normal club and not an over-priced place trading on the name. Vino Louden is a very gifted guitarist but the first half of the set is ruined by the keyboard player who seems to think that setting his electronic keyboard on 'Steinway Grand Piano' mode is a really clever thing to do. Not when you're in a blues band it's not.

The second set, by which time the crowd has thinned considerably as the blues tourists depart, is much better. This is more impassioned blues, without any stupid piano tinklings. When I head up to buy a t-shirt another reason for the change of pace becomes clear - Mr Guy himself has arrived and is holding court in one corner of the bar. I'm a tongue-tied fool when it comes to meeting anyone I admire but he signs my t-shirt anyway with good grace.

I suppose my last day in the US could have been better than this, but frankly it's hard to think how.

US Road Trip Travelog: 14th April 2005 >