Thursday, September 02, 2004

Warm day, cool drive blog.

One of the coolest drives in the Chicago area isn’t very long, but it makes up for it with visuals that are unpredictable, occasionally startling. I had the opportunity to drive this stretch of road today, twice, once eastbound in the late morning, and once westbound in a completely different lighting, with the sun almost straight ahead in the late afternoon. I wasn’t startled today, but the potential was there, and I enjoyed the drive.

Today I went to a part-day convention at a hotel in Rosemont, Illinois, which is a burg adjacent to O’Hare International Airport. From where I live, the best way to get there was to eschew the highways and follow a four-lane, sometimes two-lane road called Irving Park. If I followed it eastward all the way to its end, I would come to Lake Shore Drive in the city of Chicago; in other words, to Lake Michigan. Irving Park is an east-west street most of the way through the city, but bends northwest near O’Hare, passing near my home at one point. It’s one of the major roads I cross on foot most mornings, so it’s less than a mile from where I live.

One detail that never ceases to amaze me is that it’s called by the same name, Irving Park, not only within Chicago, but through a dozen or more suburbs. It’s not alone in that regard, either. Several major Chicago roads retain their names outside the city, especially as you go west or northwest –- such as North Avenue, Cermak, Ogden and Roosevelt.

A short section of Irving Park skits the southern edge of O’Hare closely. Next to the road, there’s a strip of weeds and grass sporting a fence crowned with barbed wire, and on the other side of the fence is the airport grounds. The road bends, so for a while it’s parallel to one of the airport’s shorter runways. Elsewhere, the road is perpendicular to that runway. O’Hare is a busy airport, so as you’re driving this part of Irving Park -- the cool part -- the odds of seeing an airplane close up and in motion are pretty good. There’s also the chance that you’ll see one really close, as it flies over the road on its final approach, or moments after take off. In that case, planes look huge and seem to appear out of nowhere, just ahead of their whooooosh! Can be startling.

I didn’t encounter a plane quite that closely today, though was able to follow the track of a Fedex plane as it took off. I also noticed that no one was parked beside the road. Once upon a time, back in the late 1990s in fact, I noticed a handful of cars parked next to the road, so that the people inside could watch the planes fly over. Plane-spotting, I guess. I suspect that if you did that now, some form of authority, local cops or TSA, would come tell you to get lost.


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