Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chicago, Day 2

Days on cruise:  160

Our son Ryan has friends in Chicago so was able to give us some local advice on things to do and avoid. Nice!  This morning while walking to our first activity of the day we got a glimpse, not close up, of The Bean. We’ll return later.


We took a  2  1/2 hour walking tour of the Art Deco architecture of downtown Chicago, led by a docent of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Very informative. Their offices include a wonderful large scale model of the city.



Three photos of the Chicago Board of Trade.


Photos don’t do justice to most of this, building lobbies with spectacular marble, lighting and adornment.  The interior reminded Bob of the early silent movie “Metropolis ”







These buildings would provide many happy days for a serious photographer.  Bob was frustrated by the speed of the tour, and generally hurrying to catch up with the group.


Amazing details rendered in what are today pricey materials.


These light fixtures are 6 feet tall.




The hand-made metal depictions are sandwiched between two pieces of glass.  This window is about 20 feet by 40 feet


and are reflected elsewhere in mirrors.


Does your office building lobby look like this???


Hot day for a long walk, 93 degrees, but usually a breeze.


We stopped at Billy Goat Tavern for lunch and a healthy dose of Chicago “attitude”, given deliberately. For those  Saturday Night Live fans from long ago, you’ll recall the routine referenced in the yellow sign in the photo below; it’s still just like that!  It’s located in the “underground” city that is part of what makes Chicago unique. Maybe we’ll find time and photos to describe it in another post.


We had evening tickets to Second City, the city’s premier comedy troupe which has been in operation since 1959. Alumni of this place include Alan Arkin, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner and more recently for you hipsters, Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey.  We saw the production  of “We’re All in This Room Together” which was hilarious, poking fun at both sides of the political aisle and presidential candidates, race, gender, sexual orientation, pop culture and over-doting parents.  Audience involvement was part of the deal.

We stopped at sidewalk café Corcoran’s across the street for a glass of wine first and enjoyed the Big City scene passing by.


And finally at midnight we rode The El to get back within a mile of the harbor so we could walk back to the boat.


What a city!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Days on cruise:  159

Distance traveled:  15.6  miles

Travel time:  1 hr, 44 mins

Total trip odometer:  3,253 statute miles

Bob checked the weather when we got up this morning and the forecast for tomorrow, our planned travel day to Chicago, had been revised to winds 20-25 knots, wave height 4-5 feet.  We don’t like those conditions! But we have guests arriving Friday night so needed to get there.

We walked a mile to get some groceries, then changed the plan and left Hammond Marina a day early, headed for the Windy City!

It was a pretty lumpy ride, but ok because it was short. And the view was spectacular coming into Chicago!


The downtown skyline above, and the planetarium in the foreground below.


Built up like Miami, but a lot less glass.


Our marina is literally right on the waterfront of Lake Michigan  in downtown Chicago, and the high rises are just across the street. What a great location!


Navy Pier is just behind us on the Chicago River.


We went for a long afternoon walk downtown and got a preview of the river, lock and bridges through which we’ll travel on Monday.


There are 19 bridges in downtown Chicago beneath which we’ll travel, and Bob will lower our dinghy davit and radar dome, because the lowest bridge is 17 feet high (and doesn’t open) while our boat is 18 1/2 feet high. Lowering the davit and radar dome gets us down to 16 feel. Whew!


Old and new side-by-side . . .


Busy streets with “The El” (elevated train) adjacent.


We stumbled upon a group of 8 young black men engaged in a street performance and were held spell-bound for more than half an hour watching. They were amazing and hilarious! Note there are two upside-down guys in this pic.


There’s a full moon out tonight over the Lake, and as much as we loved the scenery and lovely little towns, we’re happy to have Lake Michigan behind us after exactly a month!


More pictures from the marina, Navy Pier above, downtown below.


New Buffalo, MI to Hammond, IN

Days on cruise:  158
Distance traveled:  40.2 miles
Travel Time:  4 hrs, 3 minutes
Total trip odometer:  3,239 statute miles

We've been huge social butterflies lately. Laura and Ross on “The Zone”, our Big Sister Ship, a 52-foot Jefferson, pulled into New Buffalo Monday afternoon, so we met them for dinner at  Brewster’s Italian Café.
We hadn’t seen them since Solomons, MD on the Chesapeake Bay, so it was a happy reunion! And after dinner Cathryn’s long-time friend Karen and her Michigan next-door neighbor Lindsey came for a last visit before our departure.

Tuesday morning brought light wind and calm seas as forecast, with only a rolling swell, so we made good time across Lake Michigan to Hammond, Indiana.
Bethlehem Steel on the Michigan shore appears to make it’s own weather as the rest of the sky was clear and blue.
As we closed in on Hammond, Indiana we could see the magnificent Chicago skyline in the distance.
We settled in at Hammond Marina 14 miles from Chicago where they have a $25/night special going, a good place to stay for some grocery shopping and to get the boat cleaned and ready for guests Friday.
Late in the day we heard from “Time and Tide” telling us they, along with “Flying Free” and “Wild Goose” were here and gathering for dinner on the dock, so we joined them for a nice evening with an almost full moon in the background: another great reunion!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

New Buffalo: Our Last Michigan Town

Days on cruise:  155 and 156
Distance traveled: 27.1
Travel time: 2 hrs, 55 minutes
Total trip odometer:  3,199 statute miles
Saturday the weather forecast was perfect, so we left St. Joseph and had another smooth day on Lake Michigan, which is certainly working hard to destroy her ferocious reputation with us!
We’re at the Municipal Marina in New Buffalo and have had two days of back-to-back socializing and eating.
images (14)
Two of Cathryn’s former co-workers are from the Chicago and New Buffalo area, and though both live in Seattle now, they happen to be here, separately, on vacation! So Janey and Karen arrived on our boat Saturday afternoon for a visit. What a treat!
Janey had other dinner plans, but Karen and her next-door neighbor at the Lake Michigan house, Lindsey, joined us for dinner at nearby Casey’s for a wonderful meal, and the four of us returned to our boat afterwards for a glass of wine and further visiting on the sundeck, late into the night.
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Sunday morning Bob and Sharon on “Sno Daze” arrived at our boat. We’ve never met before, but they’re from Ohio, have their boat here, and are about to begin their Loop next week. We connected via the Great Loop website and agreed to meet for breakfast. A short walk to Rosie’s Café led to another good meal, fun conversation, and we took a tour of their beautiful 36-foot Monk trawler. We expect to see them again on the rivers south of Chicago.
radar sunday
Saturday afternoon Cathryn took off with friend Karen to see her long-time (55 years) family vacation home on Lake Michigan, sit on the beach with lemonade, and pick up some specialty food items at a nearby smoked meat shop where they had a lively chat with the owner.
Late in the afternoon the rain began, and lightning followed in the evening. The radar image above told us it was coming, moving from SW to NE over the lake.
Late afternoon Cathryn and Karen picked Bob up at the boat, brought him back to the lake house, and we made dinner, ate on the screened in porch, and talked and talked, again late into the night (for us early-to-bed folks).
Time is a funny thing in this vicinity. We’re in New Buffalo, Michigan (“C” on the map below), only 40 miles by water from Chicago (point “A”), and 10 miles from Michigan City, Indiana (point “B”).  The boundary between the Eastern Time Zone and the Central Time Zone is between New Buffalo and Michigan City, and because many or most of the visitors to this area are from the Chicago area, much of this town operates on “Chicago Time”. The restaurant where we ate Saturday night actually had two clocks on the wall.
We’ll make our lake crossing to Chicago Tuesday, weather permitting.

Friday, August 24, 2012

St. Joseph, Day 2

Days on cruise:  154

Distance traveled:  1.1 miles

Travel time:  30 minutes

Total trip odometer:  3,172 statute miles

When we bought “Next To Me” in January, one of the components that didn’t work, and which we didn’t get repaired, was the oil changer, a pump device that sucks oil out of, or pumps new oil into, the engines and generator. We were pretty sure we wouldn’t be doing our own oil changes anyway, so were content to let the boat yards that did that work bring along their own portable oil changer. We’ve changed our minds.

As we traveled to St Joseph yesterday, Bob called ahead to see if he could find a marina that could get us in for some maintenance work.  Pier 33 Marina in St Joseph said they could install the new oil transfer pump we bought in Grand Haven,  do an oil change and a few other items, so we went straight there to stay overnight.


After filling up on cheap diesel (compared to Canada or Illinois) at $3.69/gallon, we settled into a slip, and an hour later Dwight showed up to begin work on the boat. First he removed the old oil transfer pump and installed a new one.  Because Bob does all of our daily fluid checks, adds oil and waters up the batteries when needed, cleans the filters and strainers, and problem-solves any maintenance issues we’ve faced, Cathryn decided it was her turn to start contributing something on the maintenance front. She asked Dwight to teach her how to do an oil change. He was very willing and took her through all the steps in great detail while she watched and took notes.


This morning he returned to complete the last steps of the oil changes, finished hooking up a new aft bilge pump (the ancient one that was there finally gave up the ghost),  checked the engine zincs, and added one strap on the canvas on the flybridge where one was missing.

Now everything on “Next To Me” is back in perfect running order, and we’re good to go!  We have to say that Dwight and Pier 33 Marina seem to have been the best boat technician and boat yard we’ve dealt with yet, and we highly recommend them. So we left and moved into the Municipal Marina, hence our short journey for the day.


There’s a free town wall we could have stayed on here in St Joe, but between its’ being a bit bouncy in the waves, and the fact the temperature was above 90, we decided to stay at the Municipal Marina where we could run the air conditioner without also having to run the generator. While beyond walking distance to town, this marina is a great place to do a layover. It has free laundry and wi-fi, free bikes although it’s a long trip to anywhere, and because the best grocery store is a distance away, they’ll take you there and bring you back in their van at no charge! Given that rare opportunity, we stocked up on heavy and bulky grocery items that are hard to get when we’re shopping on foot or bicycle. 

When Mike  drove us to the grocery store, he also took us on a driving tour of this pretty town on the way back to the marina. It’s bigger than some of the Michigan towns (10,000 residents) and is attractive with good parks, shops and restaurants, as well as a solid economy with businesses headquartered here including Whirlpool. We plan  to move along to New Buffalo tomorrow if the weather cooperates.