In late June and early July 2012, I took a road trip from Chicago to San Francisco by following a portion of the historic Lincoln Highway, one of America’s oldest roads. In ten days, I took about the same number of photographs as the miles I would eventually drive: around 2,300 images and miles, when all was said and done. I’m kicking off this website with a photographic retrospective and travelogue of the trip, the first two days of which I spent in Chicago.
My first sight of Chicago – from the window seat of an Alaska Airlines jet – was dominated by a view of its strikingly beautiful buildings (including the John Hancock Building, pictured at top). The redeye flight from Anchorage concluded with a sweeping flyover of the city; I was surprised how close our plane seemed to fly to the Loop, Chicago’s downtown. Beyond the scratched plexiglass of the airplane window, skyscrapers – massive rectangles and cylinders of grey steel, khaki-colored brick, teal-blue glass – silently glided by. As I tweeted shortly after our landing, the perfect view of the skyline “was like an establishing shot from a movie.”
While waiting for my hotel room to become available, I walked around the busy streets of the Loop; among the first things that caught my eye were the many signs for parking lots along North Wabash Avenue. Understandably, downtown Chicago has an abundance of parking lots, and many of those on Wabash had wonderfully grungy, faded, retro-looking signage. Looking north up the street, as pictured at right, you could also see the modern Trump Tower. (For this photo, I did some post-processing in Nik’s Color Efex Pro.)
Later in the afternoon, I spent a few minutes in the cavernous outside courtyard of the Wrigley Building, whose ornately-detailed stone edifice reached up to the sky on either side of me. In addition to a different vantage point of Trump Tower, the spot offered a fleeting view of an airplane flying overhead.
Further up North Michigan Avenue – past the many blocks of upscale shops known as the Magnificent Mile – was the imposing, dark grey, steel facade of the John Hancock Center:
I couldn’t stand outside one of the tallest buildings in Chicago and not visit its observation deck: as much for a reprieve from the 100-degree-plus temperatures as for the views from 100 stories up. On the south facade of the observation deck, the windows were filled with a fine metal mesh (rather than glass):
A few feet further, the observatory’s cafe offered, among other things, a fine mojito. Behind me (not pictured), a group of boisterous men drank coffee and played cards.
On my way out, I was amazed to notice a handful of spiders crawling on the other side of the observatory’s glass windows, weaving their webs as if we were only a few dozen feet above the ground, rather than a thousand. The strong winds that buffeted the building – and the rain that started to fall while I was inside the tower – seemed not to affect them in the least:
A few hours later, after a deep-dish pizza (and another mojito) at the crowded Giordano’s on Rush Street, I walked back to the Loop and snapped this along the Chicago Riverwalk along East Wacker Drive, just past the Wabash Avenue bridge:
You might recognize the pair of cylindrical skyscrapers on the right side of the river; known as Marina City, the buildings are featured on the cover of Wilco’s 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. They also appear in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.