Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Window Seat!

We're safely back in the Midwest after another cross-country flight.  While never ho-hum, I guess we do take travel for granted.  It is so convenient to take the noon non-stop to O'Hare and be there in 3 hours!  Travel isn't much fun with overcrowded planes and going through security, but it was more pleasant this time.  For some reason, Melinda has for some time gotten the "TSA Pre-check" stamp on her boarding pass, allowing her to pretty much walk onto the plane while I took my shoes off and unpacked the computer every time.  This time, somehow I qualified and got to do the same - it was great!  And while over 6 feet tall, sitting next to the window isn't always the best place to look out the window (at about elbow level), this time I pretty much used the window as my personal space to look out on the country as we made the trip.

Remember the old days (a month or three ago!) when a digital camera wasn't an approved electronic device and they had to be off for takeoff and landing?  Fortunately it is allowed now, so was using the camera the entire trip.  While mostly clear, hot and humid after the recent rains, there were a lot of clouds hugging the ground, even in the Desert Southwest.  Check out this shot of the Willcox Playa (dry lake bed) about 80 miles SE of Tucson.  Even while we were still climbing, we were far above most of the low clouds.  The lake bed is atop the frame, and there is lots of irrigation and crops in the Sulphur Springs Valley section shown here.  Would have always like to see Mount Graham and the LBT telescope out the left side of the plane, but we were on the right side. 

We had clouds for a while, but one of the advantages of flying this same route every couple months is that you start to recognize the route!  Crossing into west-central New Mexico it cleared in time for me to spot Socorro, easy to pick out because of interstate 25 and the Rio Grande River running down past it.  Yes, this is the same Rio Grande that continues south and acts as the southern border of Texas and the U.S. border with Mexico...

I read the paper for a while through the boring parts of northern Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas, and then spotted Kansas City in the Missouri River Valley.  While I've posted the KC airport before, not the downtown area, so here it is... I actually briefly mistook the Topeka airport for the KC version until we flew the additional couple minutes.  That is the Missouri meandering through the lower left corner of the image, with the Kansas River joining in from the right.

Coming up on another big river, I figured it was the Mississippi, and sure enough, it was the first time I've recorded the southernmost point of Iowa.  This 3-frame mosaic, taken in short order and assembled in Microsoft ICE, shows the Des Moines River emptying into the Mississippi.  The town located there is Keokuk, Iowa, adjacent to a lock and dam.  It is interesting how much muddier the Des Moines is, as you can see the color difference as it enters the Mississippi.  Also interestingly, while the Des Moines River marks the boundary between Missouri and Iowa here, evidently the survey followed an old course of the river - comparing it on Google, the border doesn't follow the current river course!  The crescent shaped woods on the right side of the Des Moines River is actually in Iowa!

Continuing on into Illinois, we cross a big wind farm most every time, then come up on the Illinois River.  I didn't realize how busy a waterway the Illinois was.  In the space of a few minutes, I spotted a couple barges plying what looked to be a pretty narrow waterway.  And it is one thing to be working upstream where you can fight the current, but going downstream, one needs to move faster than the current to maneuver - it has to be scary given how narrow the channel is.  Shown at left is a barge moving downstream past Ottawa.  I didn't think much of it until I checked Google maps to verify which town it was...  The Google satellite image just happened to catch a barge moving upstream past the railroad bridge shown at right - can you believe how narrow a gap there is between the pilings of the bridge?!  The railroad bridge is in the left image too, just downstream (to the right) of the barge at center.  Also of interest to us is that the Fox River, which flows past our house in St Charles, empties into the Illinois right about where the barge is located in the left image.

Before we knew it, we were in the urban buildup of the city of Chicago and the 'burbs.  At left is one of the first developed areas we saw - a subdivision built around a golf course.  It wasn't more than a few minutes later than we saw some of the older parts of town in the established cities built long ago, shown at right...  Of course, we were descending by the time these pictures were taken.  Our plane headed right towards downtown Chicago, but unfortunately banked left too late for me to shoot it out my window.  I caught the top of the Hancock building, but not much else of downtown...

So anyway, we're back in cooler temperatures, where long sleeves are mandatory in the evening.  It will be a fun time catching a bit of the transition into Fall!

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