All Aboard! Union Station Chicago

Chicago was the starting point for a cross-country adventure that my sister just returned from. We both have a fascination with trains and last year we took our first cross-country trip on the California Zephyr from San Francisco to the halfway point in Denver. This year we decided to do the most popular route all the way from start to finish. The Empire Builder begins in Chicago and ends in either Seattle or Portland. I was excited to start a voyage like this in a real classic station. Union Station in Chicago, is one of the grandest still in operation.

20130516-111540.jpgWork began on this massive 10 city block complex in 1913 and it was finally opened in 1925. It’s exterior is massive, but the subtle detailing hints at what you will find inside.

20130516-113124.jpgThe door handles on the entries have steam era train wheels as a part of the motif. Union Station is all about the details.

20130516-113350.jpgThese brass flowers adorn the lamp posts on the main floor – each one is a piece of art.

20130516-113408.jpgElegant brass handrails are worn smooth with almost a century’s use. The ornate supports retain their fine detail.

20130516-113424.jpgMassive Corinthian marble columns support the Grand Hall’s vaulted ceilings.

20130516-113447.jpgMarble Stairs worn by millions of footsteps can be treacherous today.

20130516-113521.jpgThe vaulted glass ceiling floods the floor of the Hall with natural light.

20130516-113544.jpgThis is the massive staircase that you enter onto from the street level.

20130516-113559.jpgTo All Trains – from the Great Hall floor your are now below street level and can enter the gates for boarding.

20130516-113650.jpgAs grand as the Grand Hall is, it is just a facade. You get on the train here, below grade on a dark platform.

Even if the platform lacks the impressiveness of the station, boarding here is a real experience. There is a special lounge for sleeping car passengers and boarding is almost stress free, especially compared to air travel. A station like this prepares you for the grand voyage ahead filled with purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain. A pretty good way to start the journey of a lifetime.

Old School Architectural Cool

What do you do if you have a whole day to explore Chicago? The Sears Tower? See a Broadway show in the Theater District? Eat a real Chicago pizza? Visit a real Chicago Firehouse? Well, recently my sister and I managed to do all those things, but we also managed to see a side of Chicago that was a bit off the beaten path.

I have always owned homes built in the teens and twenties, so looking for old fixtures and knobs is a way of life for me and my never-ending restoration projects. When Karen suggested we try to find an architectural salvage, I was 100% on board. Salvage in a city known for its architecture like Chicago is like gold to those of us who love and live in Arts & Crafts era bungalows. We found a place that was accessible from the L on the Brown Line – Architectural Artifacts.

AA is a bit more like a museum than a salvage store, it actually hosts events like weddings on the main floor. Inside you might find a gargoyle next to a neon sign, wonders at every turn. Most of it was out of my price range, but it was an interesting way to spend a couple of hours.

20130514-163217.jpgHinges and hardware

20130514-163731.jpgGobs of knobs

20130514-163753.jpgMy reflection multiplied in stained glass

20130514-163816.jpgA sting of ideas

20130514-163834.jpgThe face of an angel

20130514-163853.jpgBottle neck

20130514-163920.jpgSole purpose

20130514-164003.jpgArts & Letters

20130514-164051.jpgQuarter sawn

20130514-164119.jpgA clock bigger than me

20130514-164148.jpgOrange leather

20130514-164212.jpgThe corner pocket

20130514-170421.jpgA nice piece of glass

20130514-211801.jpgThe Shroud of Zebra

20130514-211846.jpgUplit

20130514-211910.jpgIndustrial orange

20130514-211932.jpgThe Knights Who Say “Nee”

20130514-212006.jpgRust

20130514-212024.jpgThe woman behind the Fruity Chicken

Chicago Curves

I have been to Chicago dozens of times. I often fly into Midway and get a car to drive to Grand Rapids for work. I’ve been to meetings downtown occasionally. What I had never done was explore this city without a work agenda. Recently I got the chance to do just that.

Chicago is a city of “broad shoulders” – it’s very angular, but every now and then it throws you a curve. With its sweeping heights and narrow vistas, it was the perfect opportunity to play with my fisheye and to do some night shooting with my fast 50.

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Looking down LaSalle canyon at the Chicago Board of Trade Building – a 1930’s icon.

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A fisheye view from under the canopy of the L.

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One Way up LaSalle canyon.

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The Rookery Building – Chicago’s oldest standing high rise, complete with a Frank Lloyd Wright designed lobby.

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Sky

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Bronze doors on the Northern Trust Building – circa 1905

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A southern view of the city from the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower. Sorry, I just cannot call it by any other name than the Sears Tower.

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A look down LaSalle

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The W on Adams – a wonderful hotel with fresh caramel brownies in the lobby.

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The Loop was undergoing renovations so this is the spot they dumped us to catch a shuttle. Still, an interesting vista.

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Hamsters in the sky on the side of the Sears Tower.

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The 112 Ladder and Truck in North Center

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A classic Italian restaurant in the theater district.

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A curve on the L

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I couldn’t manage a visit to the city without finding something wild. A bird against the skyline for good measure.

Quoth the Raven “Apricots Forevermore!”

I’m on the road – traveling across country with my sister Karen. While we are waiting it catch a ferry I thought I would make a quick post.

All along the highways in Washington state we have been seeing lots and lots of ravens and crows. They are everywhere. Typically back home they keep their distance, so when we made a stop to check out the view at Crescent Lake in Olympic National Park we were delighted to see one stick around. We tossed him a dried apricot and he decided to stick around for more…

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He seemed to own this grassy patch on the lake shore…

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We noticed that he liked to perch on the parking logs at the edge of the grass – here he gives us his “I’m pitiful” look…

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Next he throws us a pose…

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We placed the apricot on the log at a spot near us and backed off to watch…

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He waddled across the top of the log, occasionally taking a couple of hops…

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As he gets to the end of the first log, he winds up for a big hop…

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And he starts the stomping waddle to his treat…

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At last, it’s within reach…

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And it’s gone…

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He catches the next flight to the tree across the road to see if there are more apricots to come.

Bringing Home the Bacon

Today it snowed at the Stone House. I only know this because of Facebook. My friends and neighbors posted about the historic May snowfall in the Ozarks. Seems like tomatoes will be slim pickings this year. As for me, I’m not there. I’m on the road and starting a big adventure today, so I missed the historic snow. My pomegranates, however, did not. Hopefully they will handle this brief interruption to spring.

Reading all the posts about snow made me think about my Bluebirds of Happiness. It’s been about a month since they moved in. After the male approved the new digs, they set about to nest building. In my view he seemed to leave most of the nest building to the female. He stood watch while she made hundreds of trips back and forth with twigs and grass. He would look in from time to time, but I thought he was taking the easy route – just watching her do the heavy lifting….

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In retrospect, I think I have been a little hard on Mr. Happiness. I haven’t dared to look into the bird houses, but it’s clear that there is a big need for protein these days. The Mrs. makes it out of the box occasionally, but Mr. Happiness is definitely carrying his weight. Mother and young are eating up a storm…

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In one ten-minute period I saw him make 5 deliveries to the birdhouse. I never saw him eat anything himself – he would hit the ground, grab some grub, and take a quick look around from one of his favorite vantage points, before hitting the doorway of his home. I wonder how many mouths he has to feed. I wonder how long it will be before he can get back to sitting pretty and keeping watch…

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