Monday, August 18, 2008

Chicago Air & Water Show

Our big adventure sunday was to take in the 50th Chicago Air and Water Show. It is a popular event, hyped every day in the local media, kicked off in grand style friday when Chicago's own Bill Murray (of SNL and Hollywood fame) made a tandem parachute jump that even garnered national media attention.

While we live about 40 miles from downtown Chicago, we are not regulars. In fact, in the last 3 summers this was our 5th trip to "downtown". There is certainly a vibrancy and loads of attractions, but there is also loads of traffic and people and it is expensive - gas is high ($4.05 as I write this), parking is high ($18/hour!), those attractions are high as well. This time, as last, we took advantage of the Metra train system - unlimited weekend use for only $5. But once you start the public transportation, you are stuck with buses, walking or cabs...

My friend Janis is working downtown, so the plan was to meet her mid-morning. We caught the 8:40 train and it took about an hour to get us to the Ogilvie hub downtown, and we got in line for a free "shopping" trolley that took us to within a couple blocks of Janis' hotel. We were able to tell upon arrival at the train station that everyone and their brother were headed in, carrying lawnchairs and coolers, so it was going to be crowded! We walked a couple more blocks down to the lakeside and joined the throngs of people there. Actually, we headed down the bikepath and sat on the edge of the seawall for a little patch of turf, and awaited the planes.

We were a bit disappointed in the show. The displays were a little slow-paced, perhaps every 20 minutes a new plane doing flybys or acrobatics. Now granted, a B-1 bomber making a few high-speed flybys or an F-18 doing acrobatics is really impressive, but the jets alternated with prop squadrons, then a tanker made a few passes with some F-16s, then some more acrobatics, and that was about 2 hours... It was great to hang out and catch up with Janis, but taken in by itself, I wanted more... I'm a little spoiled by the air shows at DM Air Force Base in Tucson where you can wander among the static displays on the ground while catching the show overhead and THAT was exciting! For all the planes we saw, other than the fact that these were full size and made full-scale noises, the visual impact was nearly matched by the RC jet air show we saw west of town on saturday!

So about 2:30 we took off walking, our goal being the pizza mecca Pizzeria Uno, the unofficial birthplace of Chicago-style, thick crust pizza. Melinda and I had been there last winter, and I was up for a repeat visit. This time the wait for a seat wasn't 90 minutes, they sat us right away and our pizza, reported to take 45 minutes to cook, came a couple minutes after our appetizer arrived (mmmm, squid!). It was all good, and we left in plenty of time to walk and wait for the trolleyride back to the train (while glimpsing the Blue Angels performing down the City canyons). The train was PACKED - I'm not sure there was an empty seat left. Thankfully we were back in the countryside of St Charles by about 6pm. I feel a little more comfortable on the train and getting around with public transport, and it is certainly less stressfull than driving yourself. We'll have to wait and see what the next attraction will be that sucks us into the City.

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