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Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke
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Editor, writer, journalist, student of history. Chicago native, long-time resident of Berkeley, California.

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Salon.com
MAY 5, 2012 2:16AM

Friday Night (Chicago) Ferry

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chicagoriver050412.jpg

I'm not in the Bay Area to do our Friday night ferry ritual. So the next best thing was to do a Friday evening boat trip in Chicago. Ann (my sister) and Ingrid (my niece) and I drove downtown and caught a Wendella cruise from a dock just beneath the Michigan Avenue bridge over the Chicago River. The first third of the 90-minute cruise heads west to the South Branch of the river, heads down a little way, and turns around when it's just below Sears (Willis) Tower. Then it head back out to the lake, goes through the Chicago River lock out to the lake (there's a two-foot elevation difference between the lake and engineered river), then a short spin north from the mouth of the river, then south toward the planetarium and aquarium, then back into the river.

Yesterday featured shockingly fine mid-spring weather. It was a not-overly-humid 85 with a what we in the Bay Area call an offshore wind--the breeze was coming from the southwest and blowing out over the water, meaning the cooling influence of Lake Michigan was felt (and then only slightly) immediately along the shore. That beautiful day ended in a long evening of lightning, thunder, and pounding rain, and by mid-morning today the wind had turned around and was coming from the northeast, off the lake. The high here today was about 60. And on the boat this evening, it was quite cool. But as long as we were on the river, well below street level, there was hardly any wind. But I noticed that as soon as we headed out toward the lake, the tour guide who had been filling us in on the architectural scene along the river grabbed her gear and headed for the downstairs cabin. "I'll be back," she told me. "But the wind is blowing so hard out here you won't be able to hear me." The U.S. and Army Corps of Engineers flags flying at the western end of the lock were standing straight out in the breeze as we approached. I saw in the paper today that the lake's surface temperature is 43 degrees near shore, and as soon as we got out into that wind, it felt--well, pretty cold.

Then we turned around and came out of the tempest, back through the lock, back down the river. The scene above: the new Trump Building (second tallest in Chicago, a sign at its base boasts), with the Wrigley Building at right (decked in blue as part of a commemoration of fallen Chicago Police Department officers).

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