Evan and I spent a full day last Friday exploring around Chicago, using the extensive train and subway system to make our way to several places of interest, including the top of the John Hancock Tower, seen at left (the one with the ‘goalposts’ on top).
The view is spectacular, even if it’s not the tallest building in town. We’ll get to the Sears Tower the next time.
We walked all over the Loop area, then hopped the train out to Oak Park, which has the largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings anywhere. It’s also the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway. They have a museum which I’m going to have to check out the next trip through.
Wright’s first Home and Studio had all of its’ tours sold out for the day, but there was one building that was within easy walking distance, which I had not been inside of before.
Unity Temple was designed by Wright for a Unitarian congregation who had lost their church to a fire. It was built in 1908 and 1909 for $60,000. The exterior is concrete with pea gravel for texture, which while not frequently used in construction 100 years ago was a less expensive alternative to stone.
The building is a short walk from the train station, and is open for self-guided tours. It is stately on the outside and an example of grace of simplicity on the inside.
Evan took this picture from the third level of what is a four level square sanctuary, with pews immediately in front of the altar and on 3 sides. The sanctuary seats 400, but no seat is further than 40 feet from the altar. The sanctuary is lit by stained glass windows on the sides as well as the skylights above.
Note the plastic and plywood immediately above the organ loft. Significant roof damage was discovered in December, and the congregation is effecting emergency repairs. They’ve also established a restoration fund to make more permanent repairs, as well as make updates such as a new geothermal heating system. The light fixtures, stained glass, and some of the other furnishings are all of Wright’s design.
The building is an open, welcoming, and comfortable space. It’s difficult to grasp that it was designed and built over 100 years ago. I did my part in contributing to the restoration fund before departing.
Evan and I sometimes like to go to movies that are being shown in bigger cities, but not in Grand Junction. After an excellent lunch at a small Mediterranean cafe right next to the movie house in Oak Park, we saw Milk starring Sean Penn. This was a very well done film that mixed archival footage from the day along with some strong performances to tell the story of the birth of political power within the gay community of San Francisco, and how it reverberated across the nation.
Speaking of Chicago and movies, Roger Ebert got an entire 6 or 8 page section in last Friday’s Sun-Times, filled with reviews of movies new and old. He’s the best movie critic in the country, and I liked the movie section of the local paper so much I saved it as part of my trip scrapbook. From what I’ve read and seen so far, my next three movies are The Reader, Revolutionary Road, and Slumdog Millionaire, followed closely by Gran Torino. We’ll likely get half of those movies here.
We returned to downtown Chicago and walked around some more. We wound up in the Theatre District, walking past the line of people waiting to get in to see Wicked. We stopped inside Garrett Popcorn, which had an almost equal line of people. We got some Caramel Corn for my aunt Fran, then proceeded to try to locate some dinner.
We found some thanks to an app on Evan’s IPhone called Urbanspoon. It picked an Italian place not far from most of the theaters, and right next to the CTA Blue Line, which we needed to catch afterward to get back to Fran’s house. Excellent main courses, and quite the dessert card.
I decided to come back to Grand Junction via Amtrak, because it has been over 30 years since I rode the train anywhere overnight, and I’ve heard the views are breathtaking. Additionally, I thought I would enjoy the change of pace that this mode of travel offers, and neither Evan or I were disappointed.
The train left Chicago on time Saturday afternoon. The staff was professional, the food well prepared and ample. We had a sleeper for this trip, and it was nice to be able to use this kind of facility, but it also looked as though the regular coach seating was equal to the task, even for longer trips like the 27 hours it took to reach Grand Junction.
Evan and I passed the time by reading and watching movies on the laptop. Evan brought The Darjeeling Limited because he liked it a lot, and thought we should watch a train movie on the train. I like Wes Anderson films, and this one didn’t disappoint.
We slept across most of Nebraska, and pulled into Denver early Sunday morning. I parked myself in the sightseeing car for the bulk of the trip across the mountains. I met a very nice lady who lives in Whitewater and works for the Palisade Chamber of Commerce. Gabriela told me that she was returning from spending Christmas with her in-laws in Cleveland.
We had a good conversation about things Grand Junction as the train picked up the trail of the Colorado River and passed through Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs, and past a hippie-painted school bus parked next to 4 yurts at State Bridge.
My conversation with Gabriela led me to look up the Palisade Chamber on the web; they’ve got a very informative, positive site filled with useful information on activities in the Palisade area, as well as local small businesses, including one that sells alternative energy products from an address in Palisade. It was nice to see that there are business and tourism promotional organizations that don’t follow the lead of others in our area who seem to be divisive and exclusionary.
The entry into Glenwood Canyon began the last
portion of the journey, and we ended up pulling into Grand Junction a little early. The trip showed me that while rail service in this country is nowhere near what it is in many other parts of the world, it does remain a viable alternative for people who have the time to travel at a more leisurely pace, or don’t want to deal with airports.
Yes, there are significant delays caused by many things, and perhaps we were more fortunate on this trip than many have been on others. I’d do it again, though. With the new year upon us, there are many things to work on and many paths to consider.
May your path through this year and beyond be pleasant and uncomplicated, and may those challenges that put themselves in your way be something to exercise your God-given talents and learn more from, for that next stop down the road.
Have a good rest of the week.