On the Road: Chicago Skyway

Last summer, we took a trip to Lutsen, MN to see some friends out that-a-way, and yes, we drove. Partly because we wanted to feast our eyes on the sights this great land has to offer, and partly because making travel plans from the center of Pennsylvania can involve more plane-hopping than one could possibly want, and we’d have had to rent a car for the last 100 miles anyway.

(Almost*) Any route that would get us to Lutsen in a timely fashion requires driving through Chicago, and considering where we live and how long it takes to drive there, that pretty much means hitting Chicago at rush hour, unless we left our house at 2 in the morning. Which we did not do.

*We could have driven through Michigan and gotten there via the Upper Peninsula. We saved that route for the drive home.

Much of the drive due west from central Pennsylvania is bucolic, particularly in Ohio. Road trippers get mile after mile of rolling green hills, snappy red barns and, if the weather is fine, a sky that almost sparkles with blue. But as you get closer to Chicago–particularly around Gary, Indiana–things start to change.

Behold! The metal halls of industry.
Behold! The metal halls of industry.

Driving to Chicago is kind of thrilling. Of course, the thing that dominates the Chicago skyline is the sleek thrust of the Sears Tower. Built in 1973, it held the distinction of being the world’s tallest building for nearly 25 years. Now, it’s the world’s 14th-tallest building. It’s still really tall.

Obligatory skyline shot. The Sears Tower is the really tall building. Moving on.
Obligatory skyline shot. The Sears Tower is the really tall building on the left. Moving on.

The traffic doesn’t look so bad here. Don’t worry. It got way, way worse. 🙂 But first! Check out the metal truss bridge!

Where function dominates form.

The loop around the city is elevated in parts so you get an unusual perspective on the buildings; you see a lot more rooftop than you normally do from a car, and there’s a bridge over the Calumet River that has a lot of shipping…heavy machinery…thingies (what, like I’m a stevedore?) that vaguely call to mind some weird mechanized house that Edward Scissorhands might hang out in.

Anybody home?

And then there’s this…contraptional…ship…thinging…device.

I don't know what it is. I just think it looks cool.
I don’t know what this does. I just think it looks cool.

But I really like the signs. I need to go back to Chicago, at some point in the not-terribly-distant future, and get photos of signs and graffiti and tags. Because…


HELLO! Super AND goods AND treasure??? Where do I sign up?

But this one’s my favorite.

Hey now, Tootsie. You haven’t aged a day.

Whenever I drive through Chicago, it makes me want to stop and visit Chicago, which I haven’t visited in a really long time. I can practically feel the energy of the city crackling in my ears. And I remember that despite the glitz of the tall buildings and the fancy shops along North Michigan Avenue, there’s something really gritty and interesting about Chicago. Is it as good as I remember? Some day soon, I’ll have to stop in and see for myself.

2 thoughts on “On the Road: Chicago Skyway

  1. We made that trip a lot to go see Seth when he was in school at U of C and then Northwestern,I always liked that view of the city. Thanks for the revived memories.


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