By the time we’re half way across the pond, we can see the distant high-rises of Chicago shimmering on the horizon. Quite a sight; reminds us of our crossing of Lake Ontario toward Toronto.
We arrive in Hammond at the Hammond Marina about 11:00 AM (CDT). Our first new time zone. Hammond Marina is huge, probably more than 1000 slips. They put us on an end of a tee dock, and we have easy in and out as well as a great view of boats coming into and out of the harbor. Adjacent to the harbor (actually IN the same harbor) is a huge gambling boat called the Empress. (see Current Photos page). The Empress is docked about 99.9 percent of the time, but local Indiana gambling laws says the boat must go to sea regularly, so about noon, it casts its lines free and "heads out to sea"—about 250 yards, that is. It goes out of the harbor, turns around, and comes back in (total elapsed time, less than ½ hour). Then back to the dock and back to normal.
The Hammond Marina is so large, that you’re met by line handlers who have come to the boat by gasoline powered golf cart. They take you back to the office by the cart, and then bring you back to your boat. We timed the walk, and found it takes more than 10 minutes of vigorous walking to get to the marina office by foot.
In the harbor, we have local TV with good reception, working cell phones, and wireless e-mail. We must be back in civilization. We really get spoiled for the finer things in life. As Jan says, even this is as close to camping as she wants to get.
Saturday, September 18, 1999. Up leisurely since we have no agenda for the day other that some housekeeping. The day is perfect and the boaters are up early—it is end of season for many and it is apparent that this ideal weekend will be spent by many of them putting things in order for the winter.
Bill walks to the marina office (more than a 10 minute walk) where there is a deli and small store, to buy a newspaper, only to discover that the store doesn’t open for another hour.
Midmorning, Steve and Kathleen Kelly call and accept an invitation to spend the day on the boat. It will take them more than an hour to drive down from their northern Chicago suburb, so we have plenty of time to finish cleaning before they arrive. They appear about noon laden with goodies—fresh flowers and a trove of cold salads, great bread, French wine, and cheese for a picnic lunch. We set up the table on the bridge, eat a fabulous lunch, then spend the afternoon talking and getting caught up on each other’s lives. Their daughter, Allison, whom we have know since she was in elementary school, is now a professional singer and actress. She serves as understudy for Christine in Phantom of the Opera in the German production company version—which has been playing in Hamburg for nine years! Steve and Kathleen have brought a tape which we play. Allison is extraordinary, she has the same vocal qualities as Sarah Brightman for whom the part was written by her husband, Frank Lloyd Weber. Wow, is she good! Steve and Kathleen have every reason to be super proud.
The afternoon perch on the bridge deck is perfect. All day there are boats coming and going beside us. It’s a great viewing stand to watch the action. This marina is huge, more than a thousand boats lined up in rows.
For dinner, the only restaurant that is within walking distance, is the steakhouse at the gambling ship, Empress. Rather reluctantly, we agree to give it a try rather than venture out in this industrial part of town where we all doubt we’ll find much in the way of alternatives. We are seated in a very pleasant dining room after a half hour wait, and to our great surprise, the food and view are wonderful. We all have fish and each entrée is excellent. The perfect end to a perfect day.
Sunday, September 19, 1999. We’re up at 4:30 AM to pack and catch a cab to O’Hare for a quick trip to Phoenix and a funeral for Jan’s aunt, Jean Devening. Jean has been a model for many people and an inspiration to all of us. She died well in her 80’s—but was playing tennis until only a couple of years ago. Further, she was a world traveler having visited most of the world at one time or the other. We really admired her and will miss her dearly.
Even though the taxi is half an hour late and the driver is an idiot, we make it to the airport in time for our flight to Phoenix.
(The funeral for Aunt Jean is dignified and appropriate. We're sorry to lose her, but she lived a full and adventure-filled life. It was time.)
Monday, September 20, 1999. We depart Phoenix for a return flight to Chicago at 10:30 AM. When we got to Chicago, we decided not to take a cab at rush hour since at 6:00 AM the day before (Sunday) it had cost more than $65 one way. So, we took the train from O'Hare to downtown Chicago, then walked two blocks to Union Station, and caught an Amtrack train to Hammond, IN. From the train station in Hammond we walked perhaps four blocks to the marina. Total cost, $11; total time 2.5 hours. Hey, public transportation works!
Upon our arrival, we are facing strong NW winds and had to immediately reset lines and adjust fenders. Glad we got back when we did. Otherwise, everything at the boat is "shipshape" (pardon the pun). We turned on the TV to get a weather update and discover that a strong tropical storm, named Harvey, is about to hit St. Pete. Glad Interlude is out of harm's way. We'll call the office in the morning--but are confident that all prudent actions have been taken to prepare for the storm. We have very good people at the company.
Tuesday, September 21, 1999. The day starts very cool (38 degrees) and with strong north winds blowing at about 20k sustained. We plan to fuel, then move to downtown Chicago today, but with conditions such as they are, we decide to wait until later in the day when conditions are predicted to improve. We watch the weather channel to discover the storm has moved south and when we talk to the office, it wasn't even rainy. St. Pete continues its luck during hurricane season!
We have not received a package that we were expecting, and after much red tape, we discover it has been mis-delivered. Airborne will schedule a new delivery, but if we're gone, we will have to wait until Saturday, when we return, to get it.
Finally, at 3:00 PM we decide to head over for fuel even without the package having been delivered. (Thanks Airborne!) After moving to the fuel dock, we start to fill the ballast tanks first and then the pump computer quits...so after futzing around for a while we leave. And we head out into very rough seas--6-8 feet in big swells. Fortunately it is only for an hour, and we arrive at Burnham Harbor Marina in downtown Chicago, just as they're closing (at 4:30pm) so there will be no one to help us with docklines. This is the first time in more than 4000 miles that a marina has not had someone to help us with lines. Really nice. But luck was with us, and the pilot on another large yacht near our dock came over and helped with lines. So, we're here and in good shape--and surrounded by yachts equal to us in size, with some bigger. A change from almost any place we've been heretofore.
Wednesday, September 22, 1999. Today is to be a sightseeing day. About 9:30 AM Bill notices that a fuel tank truck is parked near the end of the dock, and upon investigation learns that fuel is available for $1.10 per gallon, more than thirty cents below prevailing marina prices. They have sufficient fuel for us, so we move the boat to the marina wall (200 yards) and after a long wait, fill the tanks. We take 925 gallons, and this maximizes our fuel. We want the tanks up to the brim to increase the weight of Interlude to a maximum since shortly we have the confrontation with the stuck bridge at nineteen feet one inch as we head down the river system. We re-measure our height after we return to the dock, and we're nineteen feet and three inches. We'll call a nearby lockmaster to see if the general low water condition applies to the pool where the bridge is located, if so we may be OK, if not, we need to do some additional chores to lower our height some more.
In the afternoon, we walk in the parks toward downtown and visit some of the great shopping area on North Michigan Avenue, and generally have a low key afternoon.
The big event of the day was dinner at Everest--on the 40th floor of a downtown office building overlooking the lights of the city. At the risk of boring you fellow Epicureans, and Knights of the Goiter, let me describe this superb meal. We elected to go with the tasting meal rather than order ala carte. Six courses plus two additional appetizer courses. We also had a flight of wines to match each course. The general theme is Alsatian, a part of France we know relatively little about.
The first appetizer was a cauliflower soufflé garnished with caviar. The second appetizer was a marinated white fish with julienne of vegetable garnish. With these appetizers, we enjoyed an Alsatian pinot blanc. Excellent. The first course consisted of an Alsatian cream of cabbage soup with smoked sturgeon. The soup was not overly rich, and not sweet--it was excellent. The next course was a large seared sea scallop on a bed of green lentils. These two courses were served with a white burgundy. Great! The next course was sea bass topped with pumpernickel crust atop pickled relish. This course was complimented with an Alsatian gewürztraminer--a spicy wine we're not wild about, but it complimented the unusual taste perfectly. The next course was roasted boneless quail with small potatoes, julienne of vegetables and a quince sauce. This course was served with a light young burgundy. Yummy. The fifth course was five domestic ripe cheeses, and was served with a raisin nut bread. The final course was plum strudel with plum ice cream and garnished with slices of dried plums. We complimented this final course with a young Sauterne which was decidedly not very sweet, and it matched the tartness of the of the plum dessert perfectly. Wow. Coffee, the check, and they rolled us out of there -- it was almost midnight, and we had been eating since 8:30. Service was as good as we've ever had, the matre'd even moved us to a better table after the appetizers since he sensed we wanted a better view. The ambience is wonderful; Everest is an experience everyone who loves food should have. We now need to go to Alsace and have some more of this type of food.
Thursday, September 23, 1999. We spend the morning aboard Interlude with chores and talking to a local boater about the upcoming trip down the river system. In the afternoon, we took the subway to do some shopping on North Michigan Avenue. Later, Steve and Kathleen arrived. Then we went to dinner at Primavera in the Fairmont Hotel. This restaurant is like Opera Cafe in San Francisco; the waiters are budding professional singers and entertain us with song between their wait activities. It was a wonderful evening and we hated to quit.
Friday, September 24, 1999. Steve and Kathleen spent the night with us, and we got a good start on our day in the city with breakfast at one of Steve's old haunts. We visited his office at DePaul, the Chicago Art Institute including some time in the miniatures galleries. You can hardly image how beautiful these 12-18 inch tall room settings are. They are collected from around the world and cover the last 500 years, more or less. They're beautiful.
We had lunch at Redwoods in Marshall Field's flagship store on State Street. This is one of the finest department stores in the world (that's both Jan and Bill talking). Outside, on the street, and almost every where in downtown Chicago are the "cows". This is an art exhibit of hundreds of life size cows that have been painted by local artists. (See the Current Photos page.) What a kick, and nothing flammable behind any of them...
Later in the day we spent time on North Michigan Avenue, one of the great shopping destinations in North America. Saks, Lord & Taylor, Marshall Field, Bloomingdale's etc. they're all here along with hundreds of other stores in several vertical malls in this shiny and brassy area.
We ended our shopping with drinks on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building where we watched dusk flood over the city. What a view (see photos), what a city!
Dinner was at Bistro 110 and was one of the highlights of the entire visit to Chicago. Steve and Kathleen really know how to pick great restaurants. We said goodnight to the Kelly's after dinner since Kathleen had to work the next morning.