Even better, from a drone. There are likely a lot of these out there.
I’ve meant to get a GoPro and do something like this from my bike (when I could ride), but this will have to do for now. Not unlike many in Hyde Park, the driver doesn’t recognize stop signs.
October 8, 2022
Autumn Saturday afternoon promenade around Promontory Point. But first the view on Friday that drew me outdoors on Saturday despite the persnickety and painful nerve.
The leaves were colorful in person under a beautiful autumn sun. This year the color snuck up on me, and I don’t know how long it will last.
I subscribe to SpotTheStation, which tells you when you may be able to spot the International Space Station (ISS). Most of the time it’s at too low an angle (behind buildings or trees) or too late/early (or also too cloudy). Today, however:
Time: Sat Sep 17 7:44 PM, Visible: 7 min, Max Height: 89°, Appears: 10° above SW, Disappears: 10° above NE
Almost straight overhead and before my bedtime!
I walked to the park across 55th and got a great look at it until it disappeared 10º above NE. Even in all the light pollution. It took about six minutes from the time I spotted it until it disappeared. Here it is toward the end.
My dad would have loved this. We watched for the burn-up of Skylab together but conditions weren’t right. Still a great moment. And on the way home from family’s house in Eden, we saw a meteorite, which we were both thrilled over. Two of my fondest dad memories.
July 3, 2022
Powderhorn Prairie and Marsh Nature Preserve
Sunday I had the brilliant idea of going to Powderhorn Prairie and Marsh Nature Preserve. This is the only place in the city of Chicago with remnant prickly pear cactus. I wouldn’t disturb it; I just wanted to see the flower if possible.
Later, the idea didn’t seem so brilliant when I realized I couldn’t find a trail. Some nature preserves don’t have trails (the better to preserve), but people had mentioned walking around. They must be better spotters than I. At least we saw a great egret across Powderhorn Lake. And an amazing amount of trash around it (egret and trash not pictured).
Beaubien Woods Forest Preserve
There was no Plan B but we stopped at the Beaubien Woods boat launch. At some points you could feel like you’re in the country near a hill, but you’re in a former industrial area adjacent to I-94 and a large landfill. Allow me the solace of my imagination.
Calumet Fisheries, Chicago Skyway, train, and boats
Since we were in the area, I suggested J visit Calumet Fisheries, a Chicago institution he’d never been to. I can’t eat fish, but he likes it. He was excited to see smelt on the side of the building. He got some. Meanwhile, I took photos and videos from the same bridge that Jake and Elwood jumped in The Blues Brothers (which I don’t remember that well anymore). The Chicago Skyway is in the background, and the closer bridge is the one my Amtrak trains use. It was great to see the bridges from this angle, and even better when a freight train came along. A pair of boats on the Calumet River completed the picture.
Finally, we picked up sandwiches at Potbelly’s and dined at the University of Chicago campus, which was aglow in the setting sun.
June 19, 2022
J had thought to go to Sagawau Canyon or Chicago Botanic Garden, but the roads were too red and the delays too great for my tolerance (33+ minutes!). He suggested the National Park Service property closest to me — Pullman National Monument, about 20 to 25 minutes away via Stony Island, potholes and all.
A ranger who seemed happy to see visitors greeted us and gave us brochures and a neighborhood map. When I saw Cottage Grove and a Metra stop on the map, I realized I pass within a few blocks of the visitor center when I take Metra to Homewood or University Park. The Kensington station is at 115th Street and Cottage Grove. Pullman is near Lake Calumet, Big Marsh Park, Indian Ridge, and Dead Stick Pond, and not far from Hegewisch Marsh and Beaubien Woods. It’s a strange area, abandoned in part by industry, bisected by I-94 and its ceaseless noise, and only partially reclaimed by wetlands.
The visitor center is well laid out. Our ranger friend told us the second and third floors are being developed, and the building across the way, roofed with plastic sheeting, is being restored by the state of Illinois.
As someone who’s not from Chicago and who’s never fully embraced living here, I didn’t know much about Pullman or the economic and labor situation. From the 1890s, I know more about serial killer H. H. Holmes than anything else. Now I know a bit more.
A timeline on the wall shows the history of Pullman, from its association with luxury and its conversion to wartime production (twice) to its final delivery in 1981 to Amtrak. Mixed in are episodes of economic, social, and labor unrest, with federal troops called in, firing on and killing striking laborers.
Other exhibits include a gander at what a Pullman car looked like on the inside, with reproduced seats and ceiling. A video shows a porter at work putting up a bed and a couple commenting on the car’s luxury. Displays cover the Pullman neighborhood and the restricted life lower-level employees led — what would it be like to sleep, eat, and be entertained within steps of work, with little means to go anywhere else day to day?
Race is part of the rail labor story. While many Pullman porters (most? all?), like one of Michelle Obama’s ancestors, were African American, they were not allowed to join the new rail labor unions. In their conflicts with the upper business classes, the unions turned down help from people with whom they had common cause, apparently without seeing the irony. To be fair, it’s noted that labor leader Eugene Debs did not agree with this choice to exclude African Americans.
One great thing about the visitor center exhibits: They’re tactile and include Braille. Instead of, say, a flat drawing of a Pullman car, the graphic is grooved or carved so you can feel the shape and details. Sometimes Iv’e wondered if Braille is an endangered language but it seems not.
There’s also a spot where people, mostly children, can write their reactions. I wish I’d taken photos. One wrote that while capitalism has some benefits, it also creates problems, which are listed. That kid is smarter than the average bear, as we used to say.
The exhibits draw such observations out by asking questions about life for laborers, many immigrants, in the shadow of privileged and wealthy owners and leaders, and about the violence of the government response when rail service linking Midwest and West was severed. I’d like to think it wouldn’t happen again, but these are “interesting times,” with income disparity and other inequities driving unrest, overt and covert. While Pullman may seem to be in the distant past, the issues resonate today.
There is, of course, a very good gift shop, where we learned the author of one of the books for sale (which I was buying) was speaking nearby. His talk would have been half over by then, so I passed.
Afterward we drove around a bit to see some of the neighborhood’s highlights and housing. I especially liked the livery stable.
Next to the Lake Hotel, we found Gateway Garden. We’d seen a sign on a house about local honey; J discovered the property contained many, many beehives. They must have more than Gateway Garden to meet their needs. Unlike J, I didn’t see the apiary or meet the owners, but I wonder if they get complaints. I hope not.
See this article from May 2022: ‘Good memories’: Brothers revisit last Pullman passenger rail car they helped build
Or another June afternoon/evening in Chicago, when this is prime time for storms. I like a good storm, but midwestern storms are too intense for me. From my window, fast forwarded to 13:30, when it was getting worse, just before the hail.
January continues to be the best month for sea smoke on Lake Michigan.
Sea smoke is essentially just fog above water, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel. The occurrence of sea smoke is similar to the steam that appears over a boiling pot of water or a hot bath.
“It happens when the air mass is so cold it makes the water steam like a pot on a stove would,” Samuhel said. Sea smoke is also sometimes referred to as arctic sea smoke, frost smoke, steam fog or sea fog.
In order for sea smoke to occur, the air has to be very cold and the water has to be comparatively warm. As a light wind of cold air sweeps in, it cools the warm air immediately above the water, which makes the air dip below the dew point. The air is only able to hold so much moisture before it condenses into fog, or sea smoke.
The Chicago Parks Foundation featured one of my Sherman Park photos in their Instagram series, “Seeing the Parks Through the Eyes of the Community.” I am flattered.
February 7, 2021
This year, the weather cooled off in February instead of January, but so far I’ve seen only a faint wisp of sea smoke once. Even though it is mostly above 0ºF, it’s cold enough outside, with frequent fits of snow.