Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Before we go on tonight's...
Four of us, including John, Ryan and Jack, walked the four miles to Navy Pier, where we ate dinner, and took the CTA home.
I had read that Navy Pier was the number one tourist attraction in Chicago but you would never have known it on a plain ol' Wednesday night in January. (We pretty much had the place to ourselves. Most of the people working in the food court reminded me of the Maytag repairman.)
I had been meaning to lead a Hike to Navy Pier since I, unlike the guys at 1212, hadn't been there since it became such a Big Deal. (Julie and I bought an antique cabinet there in the late 1980s. I'm sure I've been back there since but I really can't recall.) I studied my Googlemaps to find a way to include about a three-mile hike into our plans but just decided to walk the whole way instead. When Ryan said he wanted to come along I told him it would be a four-mile walk. He gamely joined us and kept up nicely.
We set out from 1212 at five o'clock sharp, as usual, and tramped down Harrison until we turned left on Wacker. We followed the river to Michigan, took a right on Illinois, and then straight on to Navy Pier. It didn't feel so far, especially since it was a relatively mild January evening.
(I couldn't resist snapping that picture of the guys in front of the Trump building; it just seemed so timely.)
When we arrived at the Pier we headed right for the food court -- it was after six by now (an hour and twenty minute walk, just like my phone said) and everyone's stomachs were growling. After we "dined" (love that word), we walked around the Pier to where the buses were waiting. (By the way, that new Ferris wheel is really impressive!)
Navy Pier, over 3,000 feet long, encompasses more than fifty acres of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants, family attractions and exhibition facilities. It is the top leisure destination in the Midwest, drawing nearly nine million visitors annually.
Opened in 1916 as "Municipal Pier," it was originally used as a dock for freights, passenger traffic and a space for indoor and outdoor recreation for the public. By the summer of 1918 it was also used as a jail for draft dodgers.
In 1927, it was renamed Navy Pier to honor the naval veterans who served in the First World War and in 1941, during World War II, the pier became a training center for the Navy.
By 1946, as the Navy was winding down from its mission, the University of Illinois at Chicago held classes there. The school eventually outgrew the pier and relocated to Circle Campus at Harrison and Halsted (UIC).
After the university left it became underutilized, but by 1995 Navy Pier was redesigned and introduced to the public as a mixed-use venue incorporating retail, dining, entertainment and cultural spaces.
As I said, after dinner we took a leisurely stroll around the pier (and all agreed that the water in Lake Michigan looked cold!) and made our way to where the buses lined up on Grand Avenue.
It was then that we had a bit of a breakthrough! (Actually two of them.)
First, my son John announced that he'd just as soon walk home than take the bus. (I think some of the guys feel a little cooped up in winter.) He and I have done a ton of exploring on foot over the last two and a half years so I thought it would be a good idea.
"I'll just go back the way we came," he assured me.
"Okay," I replied. "I'll listen for my phone if you need any help; just text me when you get back."
And then, as I was studying my phone to find out which bus to take back Ryan surprised me, "Follow me; we'll take the number 29 bus to State and Washington and then transfer to the Blue Line at Dearborn and Washington."
"Uh, okay," I said. "That's what I was going to suggest," I lied.
I had forgotten for a minute that Ryan works at the Children's Museum at Navy Pier on Fridays and knows the way back. Still, I was used to being the "big toe," and was taken aback by his newly-found confidence.
"It's nice to have someone who knows his way around the city," I told him.
And it's nice to see these guys learning self-reliance. Maybe we're having more of an impact than I thought.
P. S. Turns out John got a little confused on his way back but used the Trump building to orient himself. (I knew the Donald was good for something.) He then got on the Blue Line at Clark and Lake and coincidentally got off at Racine at the same time we did. I guess learning how to improvise is a good life skill too.