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Monday, February 20, 2006

One Freezing Weekend In Chicago. Part I.

The #1 purpose of the weekend was to see the Chicago Auto Show. The #2 purpose was to see a few friends. Overall I had a good time, but it had some serious negative points. Once the film gets developed and the photo-CD is in my hands I'll post of the more interesting thoughts (yes I'm old school and still use a real film camera). Expect numerous automotive posts starting Thursday or Friday.

Next Time I Should Drive Up The Night Before:
I enjoyed spending Friday night at my parents' home. A good breakfast, a happy dog dance, and 20 minutes driving time saved. Friday night I poured over the various maps I had and couldn't figure out where the LaSalle street train station was. That was the terminal my METRA train would end up at. The Auto Show's website told me bus service to the McCormick's Convention Center was available, but didn't give much in the way of detail. What routes am I looking for? The downtown detail of my best map left something to be desired. I guessed the station was on LaSalle and Cermak. If that was true it was perfect. I could walk 6 blocks east and be at the convention center.

That morning I was writing down my expected route and important times in my notebook. The plan was to get to the southwest suburbs, park at a METRA station near the CAG's apartment, and ride the train into downtown Chicago. I overslept by 30 minutes. As I wrote down the train departure times I realized I needed to go RIGHT FRAGGIN' NOW or else I would miss the train I needed. I didn't want to wait 2 extra hours.

Headwinds Do Matter:
A near 0 degree northern wind wrecked havoc with my speed. I brought my seat up a few inches so I could plant my foot to the floorboard. It wouldn't be easy to shift, but on the interstate I should NEVER be shifting at all. Even with the gas pedal floored I wasn't getting 75 mph out of the woefully underpowered truck. Don't worry the speed limit is 70 mph so I was just keeping up with traffic or at least some of it. Unless an SUV the size of an Explorer suddenly appeared in front of me, then I drafted it. I wasn't drafting intentionally. If something big blocked the wind for me suddenly the truck lurched forward with newfound power. That was scary when someone decided to cut 3 feet in front of me with no warning.

Decisions, Decisions:
Normally 80/94 sucks. Congestion, construction, and general stupidity are in abundance on 80/94 from Gary to Chicago. However on a winter weekend I should have taken it. My normal alternate route had red stoplights as far as the eye could see and the ramp I needed to get back onto the interstate was closed for construction. Had I called the CAG to explain my backcountry route she could have warned me.

Despite my stupidity I'm still on-time. Just one left turn onto the street where the train station is and I'm set. A huge Chevy Suburban blocked my view of the intersection. I don't see any oncoming traffic. INCOMING SATURN, DO NOT TURN! DO NOT TURN! That sedan has no clue how lucky he was. I was almost ready to turn right in front of him.

I arrive at the station with 3 minutes to spare.

13 Blocks Doesn't Sound That Bad.
I've only rode the METRA once before and I'm giving instructions to people who actually live in the area on how to use their own public transportation system. Didn't I do that in Paris too? Upon further review I should have asked someone in a ticket booth if they knew what bus I needed to take. Instead I looked at a map and noticed I was on Congress Ave. instead of Cermak. I was 13 blocks north of where I needed to be. I was wearing double layers, had earmuffs, and a hood on my coat. Sure it was cold, but 13 blocks would be 30 minutes max if I walked it.

Did I mention it was 5 degrees outside with a wind?

I wasn't cold, but I didn't want to stop at all. At least I was burning calories. Did I mention it was 5 degrees outside with a wind? I had no idea why one guy was washing his car with hot water. He had ice all over his car. I almost gave up before I spotted the street sign for Cermak. It took 50 minutes to cover the distance. Did I mention it was 5 degrees outside with a wind? It only took me about 5 minutes before I found a door. I seem to enjoy going down alleys that aren't shortcuts.

Once inside it only took another 5 minutes to walk to where tickets were being sold. $10 later I was going to nirvana.

Part II will be later. What an adventure to simply get there eh?

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