I’d hate to post about the weather because it’s so mundane to talk about how cold it is or how much snow we are getting. It’s like small talk of the worst kind: Forced and entirely impersonal. If on the other hand the weather forced us into a situation that made for an interesting adventure that had nothing to do with the weather? Well that’s a horse of a different color as I have often liked to say!
Yesterday our plan was to spend the day in Michigan. Maybe see a movie and do a few chores. Ultimately we would find ourselves in front of a fireplace in New Buffalo with a glass or seven of wine, good friends and a movie or a football game. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday night with the snow falling as a back drop. Except for the fact that when I woke up on Saturday morning I realized that the idea of staying in New Buffalo on Saturday night would likely mean we would be staying there until Tuesday due to heavy lake effect snow, impassable roads and ultimately life threatening travel conditions. We instead opted for breakfast at Luisa’s Cafe and an early departure to be back in Chicago before the blizzard warnings and such. Boo!
After all the appropriate cottage safety arrangements were made we started our journey back across the lake with an ominous set of clouds hanging over the sky. We visited the New Buffalo beach on the way out and as we pulled up to the main drag I asked wifey, “Would you like to take Route 12 all the way back?” You see earlier that day she had said that she would love to take the long way home someday when we weren’t in such a big hurry. Despite the impending storm I figured that we don’t have a lot of days that we are not in a hurry to get back to Chicago so perhaps today would be the day for a meandering slow journey, something that I am decidedly not good at! At the very worst we could cut back over to the Highway if the storm hit fast and heavy. So there we began our three hour Spelunking tour of NW Indiana through Beverly Shores, Gary, Burns Harbor, Whiting, East Chicago and eventually Chicago’s extreme Southeast side. Sometimes the best scenery you will find is the very nearby road less traveled.
It’s hard to say what my favorite part of the trip was. There are so many perfect scenes of Midwest middle class America along the way mixed in with urban decay and a bit of rural farmland. The scenery might not be postcard worthy but to me it couldn’t have been more beautiful. We’ve driven past the BP refinery hundreds of times on the toll road but somehow when you are driving right through it is more inspiring. It’s strange to remember that we have a refinery right here in our backyard and that it provides jobs and pollution and and everything else that comes with it along the way. CJ in her oh so special way said, “I’ve never had my picture with a refinery…” so we checked that item off her bucket list right then and there. A little further up the road we skirted under the Skyway bridge and noted a number of pizza places that we might have liked to have stopped at if we weren’t still so full from our breakfast at Luisa’s Cafe. We wondered if it might be a Midwestern version of Grimaldi’s from Brooklyn, New York? After all pizza under the bridge may just have a theme of awesomeness?
On Chicago’s far Southeast side we discovered a fledgling neighborhood called Lakeside which is a newfangled and re-marketed extension of Hegwisch, South Chicago, Windsor Park and Calumet to name a few of the classic neighborhoods. It seems USS Steel and Mccaffrey Interests (my landlord) have joined together to develop a plot of waterfront vacant land into a new community. I would love to think it is exclusively to preserve a historical neighborhood. I’m sure it’s so they can both continue to get stupid rich but I remind myself that profit is not a dirty word by nature, but rather only by practice in many cases. For now it is a beautiful and empty reminder of a simpler time with rail cars traveling over now dilapidated concrete viaducts as they delivered payload to ships in canal, guys ice fishing for their dinner and families eating in diners along a busy boulevard.
I can’t help but think that somehow though it might be our future home. Lakefront property halfway between Downtown Chicago and New Buffalo sounds like the damn near perfect address to me! I guess the best part of the whole trip though was that I let it happen. It’s not very often that I can meander and move slowly. It’s pretty difficult for me in fact. As the trip wound down we stopped in Hyde Park, our first shared address. We both remarked how much it had changed in five years. Wonder how much South Chicago can change in five years going forward from here. Enough for us to live there? Enough for us to raise a family there? I guess time will tell and I’ll have to go slow if I want to find out. As we drove the last leg of the journey up Lakeshore Drive towards the South Loop (my neighborhood for 23 years now) the snow started to fall more heavily. The forecast for Chiberia began to become more of a reality. It was as if the time we spent Spelunking was the exact right amount of time and it was spent in the exact right places. The past and the present and the future all rolled into one perfect package for consideration.
Here’s to taking the long way home every once in a while even if it is only by the forces of nature that we are convinced to do so!