“The Clearest way into the Universe is through a Forest Wilderness”- John Muir

DSCN1370John Muir immigrated to the USA from Scotland and became perhaps the foremost American environmentalist. He was the founder of both the Sierra Club and the National Audubon Society and one of the early advocates for preservation of wilderness in our beautiful country.

Just north of San Francisco is the John Muir National Monument; dedicated to his role as the founder of the American National Park system.DSCN2037

Many people take a tour bus to get to this breath taking park; but if you drive, be prepared for tight turns alongside sheer drops, no guard rails, steep climbs and falls, and California drivers who appear to be oblivious to the danger that flat landers see at every turn. Growing up in Florida where the highest point is where  I-10 is over passed by US-27; I find these drives to be tense to say the least.

The drive is worth it! Although the driver will see nothing except the yellow center and white side line painted on the road ahead; the passenger, in this case Karen; will be constantly  chattering about the fantastic view around each hairpin curve. Views of the Pacific, of the Bay and of the mountains must remain “articles of faith” to the driver; he dare not take eyes off the road.DSCN1381There are several walking and hiking trails through the park the most popular is a three mile loop. Trails for the more active hikers are plentiful. Smooth walking on the  boardwalk is also protective to the park.DSCN2032There areDSCN1374 lots of Kodak moment places to snap a photo or selfie.  DSCN1392DSCN1376Park ranger talks  and informative signage are very well done.

If you drive there expect to walk a mile or so for parking unless you get there early; the park is very popular!

In 1945 the delegates to the San Francisco conference that laid the cornerstone for the United Nations met in this park to honor Franklin Roosevelt.

DSCN1383 There is also what appears to be a “bridge to nowhere”DSCN1386 I call it the Sarah Palin Bridge!

CHICAGO! Hog butcher to the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat! City of the Big Shoulders!

IMG_1284In his most famous poem “Chicago“, Carl Sandburg hung a number of sobriquets on this city. However appropriate they were; we discovered a Chicago that Sandburg did not describe!

Several of our friends and family expressed surprise and even concern that we had opted for a month in Chicago for our “Urban Experience”. We will even admit a bit of trepidation as we made our plans for this adventure.DSCN1290Anxiety heightened when we arrived at what would be our home for the next 30 days. A two bedroom apartment on the second floor over a dentist office on West Division Street in “Old Town” Chicago. A grim exterior, a dark and somewhat dingy stairwell of 25 steps, and a rental agent quite dubious. But when we started to meet the warm and friendly people of Chicago, that was quickly abated.

Our best description of Chicago is a very big city made up of very many small towns. During the month we visited we walked just over 6 miles per day exploring and soaking in the culture of the different towns. Often when you cross a street the change is palpable; not only can one see it, one can almost feel it!IMG_1230 (2)Our little town was Old Town. This place reminded us so much of Amsterdam. The average age was young. Lots of people commuting on bicycles. sidewalk cafes and coffee shops everywhere.DSCN1274 Most of the streets lined with trees.IMG_1299

 

 

 

During the month we saw 7 plays or shows including the famous “Second City Comedy Club” where so many notable comics had their start. Many of these we were able to walk to and upon returning to our apartment we stopped just around the corner at our favorite tavern. IMG_1346This tavern survived through prohibition by selling alcohol for “medicinal purposes only” and is the oldest continuously operating tavern in America owned by the same family. IMG_1344I was intrigued by this door in the tavern which had evidenced numerous hinge and lock changes. At least 5 sets of locks! I feel confident that Elliot Ness and Al Capone walked through this door.IMG_1355We were able to celebrate our 38th anniversary here after dinner at Gibson’s. On one afternoon we spotted an Aston Martin convertible parked outside. But were unable to find James Bond inside. We also celebrated my 69th birthday, one of the best presents was a visit Shelley who flew from Texas to visit old Dad!DSCN1312 (2)IMG_1363

Another famous area in Chicago, actually located in the Near North Town where Rush Street converges with State dotted with renown steak houses and high class bars.

Gibson's Steakhouse
Gibson’s Steakhouse

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Carmines and The Tavern on Rush
Carmines and The Tavern on Rush

DSCN1303This area has earned the title of “The Viagra Triangle” for the large number of older businessmen chasing the much younger lightly clad young ladies that decorate the scene with ample cleavage and beautiful legs.

While I was taking the pictures of this area, I caught the perfect example of how friendly the people of Chicago can be. An older gentleman was attempting to cross State Street at Cedar moving slowly with his cane. A lady hurried across traffic to guide him to safety.DSCN1307We found Chicago to be a warm and friendly city.

Chicago is also a city a great architecture. Known for the Handcock and Willis Towers (Sears Tower); the city is abundant with dazzling structures. There is a great architectural tour that offers views of many of the more prominent buildings while cruising the Chicago River. Two of America’s most famous made Chicago their home; George A Fuller the inventor of the skyscraper and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Frank Lloyd Wright's first home
Frank Lloyd Wright’s first home

Wright moved to Oak Park and in the area of his personal house, there are more than 30 of his homes in that beautiful part of the cityIMG_1281 IMG_1279

No visit to Chicago can be complete without saying “Hello” to Sue, the star of the fabulous Field Museum of Natural History. One could spend weeks in Chicago’s museumsIMG_1293This was one of the few trips we have made in the states without our bicycles but we rent a pair and take the waterfront ride along Lake Michigan

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Our last night in Chicago was spent with new friends, Carly and Mike.IMG_1367

When I first read Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago” I thought that the poet was making fun of the city but he deeply admired his adopted city. Karen and I also learned to love this city. As hard as we try to complete bucket list items, we keep discovering more places that we want to go back!