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Yerkes Observatory in William’s Bay-Our Last Tour


5-21-18  Closed-Oct. 1st, 2018

Watch tour we took below.

We had just recently heard the news that Yerkes Observatory will be closing on October 1st of this year and knew we had to hurry back to take another tour before they ended.  The news had just been announced a week or two earlier.

My first visit was actually in 6th grade in February 1977. Here is a picture I took then.

We went together for the first time in 2012. Richard Dreiser has been giving almost all of the tours since 1980, 38 years!  Six years later, he said he remembered us and was happy to see us again.  He is really nice and we will miss him. He is writing a book though about Yerkes so we look forward to getting that when it’s published.

It wasn’t really crowded since the news only just came out about the closure a week or so earlier. We heard that the tour groups in September were quite large. We could look around the hallway shortly before the tour started.

The back of the hallway was cordoned off, it wasn’t in 2012. Let’s see what is back there.

Richard began by showing some beautiful photos taken by the Yerkes telescope and others in the hallway adjacent to the lobby.

After discussing these photos, we then moved out to the lobby. It is quite beautiful, decorated with terracotta accents, marble floor and a skylight in the ceiling. The light fixtures are original too. The building was officially opened in 1897.

Al Kutil

Under the skylight.

Richard pointed out the many features in the decorative artwork of the building in the lobby area.  Faces, angels, and owls abound!

We then moved outside, where Richard pointed out the many distinguishing features in the artwork on the columns and above the door. Art is everywhere at this building, something you don’t see anymore.

Then, we went back in and concluded the tour at the big telescope. We could not go up on the platform on this visit.

Yerkes had been visited by many scientists, including Albert Einstein in this group photo taken in the 20’s.

We all got a special treat that most people don’t get to see, the dome rotating (see video at 48:33).  He went to the console on the right side of the dome and made the adjustments.

 

 

Laurie Kutil 2012

Our tour came to a conclusion 10 minutes later, Richard spent the remaining time answering questions. Went back down the stairs.

Saw the library and stopped in the gift shop.

Our visit concluded here. We are sad this valuable resource is no longer a part of the University in Chicago.  However, it may reopen again at later date under new ownership. I will update this post if this happens. We hope Richard will be hired to continue his excellent tours. Meanwhile, enjoy the video of the original tour.

River Dawgs-A Taste of Chicago in the Wisconsin Dells!


Closed October 18, 2018

In 2017, Chicago came to the Dells in the form of a great new restaurant called River Dawgs, just off Broadway on River Road. We went for the first time on 7-7-18 and had a great meal! We saw their gyro special posted outside the door and couldn’t pass it up.

 

We went in and it smelled so delicious! Inside is small but not a problem in the summer. Owner Ken Nelson’s only goal is that you leave happy with a great meal that will make you want to come back for more, and we will!

 

Our lunch was ready in about 10 minutes, yum!  The fresh-cut fries were great too.

On another visit, I enjoyed Polish Sausage and Al had a lobster roll, both delicious!

Ken is from Chicago originally. He knew the Dells needed a restaurant with great Chicago tastes, and he filled that niche very nicely, as well as many hungry tummies! View the rest of the menu, we can’t wait to try the many other offerings on future visits!

Stop by River Dawgs, tell Ken we sent you!

 

8 Hours in Chicago


1-30-18

Our highly anticipated trip to Chicago turned out to be a really great day filled with memories. We did it in a different way than in the past, we took the train in for half of the journey.  The closest Metra train station to Madison is in Harvard, IL  so we went there.  It is 1  1/2 hours away.

 The depot opens about 1/2 hour before the train leaves, you can get coffee and pastries too. This is the map of all of the Metra lines going into Chicago.

I have not ridden Metra since the 1980’s and Al never had. In Harvard, you take the Yellow line.  We took the 5:47 AM train, the first one on a weekday morning.  If you don’t get your tickets online, be prepared to pay cash for your fare on the train, the Conductor can make change. It costs $2 to park for the day in their lot, there is a kiosk to pay for that across from the depot.

We waited for the train, the setting moon lighting the scene.

On the train by 5:35 AM.  The inside of the train car, clean and comfortable.

 

We were entering the city around 7 AM and the Willis Tower came into view through the train car window. We were getting excited!

We arrived at the Ogilvie Transportation Center on time, what a big station! It was visible from the Willis Tower, the large black building on the left.

This was the first time we had ever seen a bustling weekday morning in Chicago. People burst out of the trains, hurrying to their jobs. One thing I noticed, the most common color of people’s coats was black.  We lingered in the station a few minutes to buy our return tickets, we had to be back on the train by 3:30 which departs at 3:45.

Al Kutil

 

This building is mostly glass and beautiful for a train station. It was built in 1984, designed by Helmut Jahn.  There is also shopping and restaurants here, especially great if you are on a layover to catch a connecting train or bus.  Almost blending in high in the glass atrium is an Elgin Clock keeping the passengers on time.

Al Kutil

A  side view of the clock on the left side.

It was time to make our way toward the exit, we were on a tight schedule! Here is a view of the crowd heading to the ground level on Madison St.

And here we are outside!

This building is HUGE, but not as big as where we were headed next, the Willis Tower a couple of blocks away. Across the street is Union Station.  It was funny seeing 5 cabs scurrying like mice after the light turned green.

We crossed the bridge and turned right, walking alongside the Chicago River. This plaque was on the bridge.

Sunrise was glinting off the building on the right, thousands of commuters hurrying to their towers for a day of work.

Much to our surprise, we saw a combination barge-tugboat Spartan, Spartan II from Ludington, Michigan traveling alongside us on the Chicago River. What a surprise! It was delivering a medium to keep dust to a minimum during construction projects. It turns out there are currently 47 new skyscrapers being built at this time!

Al Kutil

We continued toward the Willis Tower, it looked majestic in the morning sun, had to stop and look a minute.

See those projections on the outside of the building facing east? These are the Ledge™ boxes on the  Skydeck on the 103rd floor. A closer view.

We saw two food trucks across the street from the tower. BBQ Boss and Beavers  Doughnuts. See all Chicago food trucks here.

It was now 8:13 AM. The entrance Skydeck Chicago opens the doors to get in line at 9:30, we went in to wait and rest a bit.  The entryway is designed to protect people from ice falling off the building.

Photography is prohibited beyond the entrance (except the Skydeck) due to the many private businesses within the building. here is what little we could get. That’s Al on the left getting the businesses.

We waited from 8:30 to 9:30 on the lower level, several shops and small restaurants there. Sure we could have looked around town a bit in that hour but we didn’t want to get back late and then have a long like to contend with. We were right in front of the line. Promptly at 10:00 they opened. You have to put your belongings through a security scanner and walk through one first, then you can get your tickets.  We did that, then into the elevator line. We were on the first elevator up!  Since the express elevator was down for maintenance (knew that since watching Tripadvisor posts) we actually got out partway up and got into another elevator. We made it up to the Skydeck by  10:12 AM. We stayed up there until  12:30. Quite a few changes in the skyline since 2003 when we were last here. The Ledge™ was a lot of fun too! This was the picture they took with their camera installed in the ledge. You can get your pictures for $30 in the gift shop after you conclude your visit. A great memento for sure!

Another picture of the view looking northwest. It was a beautiful clear morning!

Video of our time there. You can also see it in the video on top of the page showing our entire day. Read the blog post just on the tower here.

We were out just after 12:30, three hours left of our day. We headed toward State Street. On the way, we came across the Flamingo sculpture. It has been in Federal Plaza since 1974. We also saw it from the tower. I am glad we saw this since it may be in danger of being removed.

We see The Berghoff restaurant on 17 West Adams St. Serving authentic German cuisine since 1898, it is a Chicago favorite!  Founder Herman Berghoff sold beer at the world’s fair in Chicago in 1893 and it led to the restaurant 5 years later.

We made it to State Street by 1:41 PM. We had not eaten yet and had little time so we stopped at Subway on State for a quick lunch.

We ate in 1/2 hour, by 2:10 we were back out. I could hear music just up ahead. We headed north and found out the source. A group of street musicians called Chicago Traffic Jam Band was jamming at the street corner. What a bonus to capture some authentic Chicago sound! They can also be hired to play at your venue!

See and hear them for yourself!

We stayed about 5 minutes but had to keep moving.

2:25 PM

We reach the famous Marshall Fields building, now Macy’s though to Chicagoans it will always be Marshall Fields.  At least the famous green corner clock is still there and the time is accurate. We didn’t have time to look inside, perhaps next time. I used to go to the soda fountain there when I was a kid, great memories!

And of course, the Chicago Theatre. I went to a great show there in 1993 with my Dad called, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by Tom Stoppard. Here is what a similar view looked like then, Dad is on the left. Thanks for taking me to the show!

There were three plaques on the building, denoting it to be a landmark.

Across from the theatre is a Channel 7 webcam, here is the view it has.

Near here on 24 West Randolph St. is the Oriental Theater. You could call this section of Chicago their Broadway. And you see Broadway shows here as well.

Just past the Chicago Theatre is the “L” train on a track elevated above street level. It is part of the CTA, or Chicago Transit Authority. Our train actually went under their track (see video).

We got as far as Wabash and East Washington. The train went overhead there! This is the historic Jeweler’s Row District. Much fine bling to be had here!

3:06 PM

It was getting late and we had to get back to our train! We turned east while on West Washington and went by one of the sites of the Blues Brothers movie film, the Richard J. Daley Center.

See the scene below.

We go under the tracks we soon will  be riding on.  You can enter the Ogilvie Transportation Center under here.

3:30 PM

We are back! We got on the Union Pacific Northwest Metra back to Harvard with 15 minutes to spare!  We left at 3:45 PM sharp.  I got video with my phone pressed against the window to capture the views.

It was an enjoyable ride of almost two hours, passing through Woodstock. We crossed on the historic stone bridge as seen on the walking tour for the movie Groundhog Day. I was shooting video with my phone and caught the crossing on the way back. The first picture was taken last year.

Back in Harvard by 5:24. We had a wonderful day and hope to do it again!

To sum it all up, this was our walking route, courtesy of Google maps.

The Willis Tower-Past, Present and Future


  1974 – Laurie and family

 My visits to the former Sear’s Tower began the year the skydeck was open for viewing in 1974 when I was 7.  It opened on June 22 and we went that fall. It is on the 103rd floor. I don’t remember a lot, but my grandparents Norm and Barb Braton came along and grandpa filmed some of the view out of the North-facing windows. This is the Lake Point Tower Condominiums building on the right side of the photo. This photo is composed of two frames of the Super 8 film. It was color but it was inconsistent so I changed it to monochrome.  The reason why this  view is significant is because it was where Al’s Mom would be living in the late 70’s-early 80’s. As you see, there are no buildings around it YET.

See the video in its entirety.

Photographer Jack Bradley took this photo from the tower in 1975.

Here is another view of the city from the 1970’s from a postcard taken from that era-Phil Valzez.

Cost of admission in 1977, probably the same in 1974.  Found in this 1977 guide published by the Chicago Tribune.

The button was my souvenir from then.


10-17-03       29 years later…

Still the Sears Tower until 2009. This time, Al and I went alone. We got more photos this time.  They also had a very nice brochure on cardstock. For some reason I don’t have a lot of memories from this visit.

Prices that year.

A couple displays on the walls.

The Northwest view.

Revisiting the Lakepoint Condo viewpoint, much more built up now around it.  You can see another building going up nearby.

The clover leaf on the East-facing side.


1-30-18  15 Years later…

It took awhile but we finally made it back.  This time we did a day trip.  We took the Metra commuter train in from Harvard, IL at 5:47 AM. We learned in advance Tuesdays are often the slowest days and be there when they open the doors at 9:30 AM. I recommend monitoring the Skydeck Chicago-Willis Tower page on Tripadvisor. We knew the express elevators were not in use so waits might be longer.

They opened promptly at 10:00. We put our stuff through the security check then went to get our tickets, general admission.  I have no photos on this area since they were prohibited. Prices have really risen in 15 years. Of course, different ownership too.

The brochure as it looks now, no longer on cardstock, just glossy paper.

On your way to the elevator, they take your picture in front of a green screen with the option to buy before your exit or online. This is what it looks like, we didn’t get this one.

We got in line quick, aware of the growing crowd behind us.  You  can also see an informational 9-minute movie about the tower called “Reaching the Sky” before going up.

We were in the first elevator(s) up!  The views were just as incredible as we remembered, and there were more towers built or being built.

We revisit the Northwest view. That tall silver building in the middle is the Trump Tower. Construction began in 2005, completed in 2008.

And back to the Lake Point condo building.  A new skyscraper is going up on the left!

This view of the Chicago river has also built up.

The black building below left of here is the Ogilvie Transportation Center, where we rode the train into town.

The biggest change at the tower since 2003 is the installation of The Ledge™. It’s a reinforced glass “box” that extends outside beyond the other windows.  The view was incredible in there, you either feel like a bird or queasy. Al and I did it and felt fine! This picture was taken by another visitor. You are facing East.

Looking at another ledge from inside.

And down. You can see where we entered the building.

View of the ledge boxes from the ground, how tiny they look!

This is the same side as the clover leaf we saw in 2003. Let’s take a new look.

One of the most interesting buildings we saw was the MCC Jailhouse Skyscraper. Even the jails are tall here and saw a volleyball game played by the inmates on the roof.  It holds 681. This is on the West-facing side. Apparently it’s hard to see from the ground.

Other skyline views. This is the Chicago north side.  That cone-shaped object in the upper left corner is the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois. It is 16 miles north of here.

We have been up in the tower for about two hours now, it was nearly 12:30.  It was time to go see more of Chicago since we had to be back on the train at 3:30. We could not resist getting a copy of the picture the staff took on the Ledge™.

Enjoy video of our visit!

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Blackstone? Tower future

The tower had been sold to the Blackstone Group in March of 2015, though you could not tell that yet on the outside. In the near future it will be undergoing some renovations to make it a more welcoming place to visitors. Perhaps in 7 or 8 years, we will be back to see this 3rd incarnation of Chicago’s largest office building.

2017 Adventures – Happy New Year 2018!


Happy New Year to all of our friends and family who enjoy reading about our adventures. It was a great year and plans are already in the works for the new year.  We will celebrate our 5th year of Adventures in Travel in February, yaay!

We apologize for not publishing much over the last couple of months, life has kept us quite busy over the fall months and Christmas season.  A highlight of the Christmas season was the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train coming through Columbus. Al got a great video over 1000 people have already viewed. See it here!

Another highlight of the season was a house with a 40 minute synchronized music and light show. See it here!

We will be spending the winter catching up on trips that took place after Labor Day.  Also updating older posts that need it. Our “Westward Ho! South Dakota and Wyoming” trip was amazing!  Go back to begin reading about our trip here.  Made some new friends along the way, as well as with enjoying time with long-time friends.

We hope you had a great year too,  see you on the road! Happy New Year from Al and Laurie!

 

 

 

Groundhog Day 2017 in Woodstock-25th Anniversary


2-2-17

Our last visit to Woodstock was for Groundhog Day in 2015, we looked forward to another great celebration! We arrived the night before, a beautiful clear evening with no snow on the ground. Two years ago we had a big snowstorm on Feb 1.  After an easy ride down, we stopped for dinner at the Tip Top Cafe’, actually Taqueria La Placita Taco house.

taqeuria-la-placita-in-woodstock

The bright light in the window is the actual Tip Top sign in the Groundhog Day movie.

tip-top-cafe-sign

We sat in the same spot where Phil enjoyed that large breakfast in the movie.

Inside Tip Top


Groundhog Day morning we headed to the Square (Gobbler’s Knob) to see the prognostication.  The place was packed!  We were entertained by Corky Siegel and Die Musikmeisters before the prediction.  He predicted 6 more weeks of winter. We also sang Groundhog carols.

Groundhog Day songs in Woodstock

We were armed with a go pro-like camera mounted on a bike helmet to get over people’s heads and I took photos with my new Canon Rebel T6i camera. Watch it below!

Afterwards we headed to the Moose Lodge for the Groundhog Breakfast and entertainment.  It was packed too, a sell-out crowd!  We got treated to choral performances by the Woodstock High School Choir.  Richard Henzel also reprised his clock radio voice from the movie.He also did it at the Prognostication, he does both voices now since his co-star has not returned in a long time.

I made a batch of groundhog cookies to contribute to the celebration and a cd for the Inner Square committee of GH Day 2006 when WGN came to cover the event.  Watch it all below. The Groundhog picture is from the winner of the Woodstock Independent GH day poster contest. Cute!

Groundhog Cookies and Coloring Contest picture

groundhog-poster-winner-sonny-marsalla-2017

After a wonderful breakfast, we joined the crowd for a Bob Hudgin’s-lead Groundhog Day Movie Walking Tour. Joining him was Rick Bellairs, our friend and one of the Inner Square Committee members. This tour was bittersweet as the Bob was going to retire from giving this tour after this year.  Bob was in charge of organizing all of the places where the movie was going to be filmed. He had many anecdotes and told us about a couple of sites not on the guide. That was the tree the boy fell out of and the tunnel seen during the police chase after stealing the groundhog. He had been leading it since 2005 and it was time for someone else to pick up the mantle. Maybe Rick was his understudy too 🙂  I also recorded a video of this historic tour to share with all of you.  Thanks Bob for keeping the movie alive 25 years later!

Bob Hudgins Location Manager of Groundhog Day

Woodstock Groundhog Day Movie Site Walking Tour

That was an incredible tour (and cold!)  We headed to the Public House for lunch and toasted our sodas to World Peace.i-always-drink-to-world-peace-plaque-at-public-house-in-woodstock

Bar in Groundhog Day movie in Woodstock

We got some souvenirs at this delightful bookstore on the square, Read Between the Lynes.  Their helpful staff can help you find the perfect gift or treat for yourself.

Read Beween the Lynes bookstore in Woodstock

iead Between the Lynes staff

Read Between the Lynes Groundhog Day display

Our last stop was the Woodstock Public Library to see artifacts from the movie on display, my cookies were served there to the whole community, sweet!

Woodstock Public Library

Groundhog Display in Woodstock Library sign

Groundhog Garbage can top

tip-top-cafe-in-woodstock

Gobbler's Knob woodstock

 

Richard Henzel was there too, we chatted a bit and took a selfie too. Very nice man and a great conversationalist.

richard-henzel-and-i-20170202_131700

We had a perfect Groundhog Day in Woodstock, one we wish we could repeat.

groundhog-day-2017

Hazel Green- Point of the Beginning


9-5-15

Hazel Green sign

Hazel Green is a village of 1,256 in Grant and Lafayette counties that is important to Wisconsin’s development as a state. Formerly called Hard Scrabble, Hazel Green has a rich history described here. It is the oldest community in Wisconsin, settlement began in 1825.  The community was one of the many with residents engaged in zinc and lead mining.  It was also along the stagecoach route leading to the Mississippi River. It is close to Dubuque and the Great River Road and the many communities and attractions along it.

We learned more at the historical marker at the southern edge of town, within sight of the Illinois border.  There were also two signs describing the former mining industry here.

Point of Beginning marker and signs in Hazel Green

The Point of the Beginning Marker in Hazel Green

Public Land Survey sign in Hazel Green

Lead Fever Sign in Hazel Green

Hazel Green has several unique businesses, especially this cute vintage gas station at Symon’s Service Center. It wasn’t open but it appears to be a display and not functional.

Symon's Auto Center in Hazel Green

The Ambrosia Inn has a “Silo Suite”, a converted silo you can stay in.

Ambrosia Inn in Hazel Green

IMG_1298

Downtown Hazel Green is currently torn up on half of Main St. so pardon the dust 🙂  On the still paved part are several businesses.

20th Main Hair Studio, Gangster’s Bar and Grill-Home of the Gangster Burger, and Wigwam Bar.

2oth and Main Hair Studio- Gangsters Bar and Grill and Wigwam in Hazel Green

We did have lunch at Gangsters and the their Gangster Burger was indeed delicious! Al and I split it it was that big. We even enjoyed strawberry shortcake!  To them, good food is just as important as good service. Very friendly staff too, be sure to stop in if you are in town.

Gangsters Bar and Grill Collage

The other half of Main St.

Main Street in Hazel Green

The Wisconsin House Stagecoach Inn, serving the community since the 1800’s.

Wisconsin House in Hazel Green

Across the street is the Empire House, now an apartment building.  In the community’s early days, it served as a Town Hall, where the first town meeting has held.

The Empire House in Hazel Green

Our main reason for coming here today was to go to the Hazel Green Opera House, where the Fever River Puppeteers were to put on a performance of “Jack and the Beanstalk”.  They put on performances generally from March-December here and in Benton, their home base.  We had a great time, even without our own children to share it with.

Hazel Green Opera House

Opera House Stage from balcony

Jack and the Beanstalk Cast of Puppets

Our visit concluded, we headed out of town toward Potosi. We also saw some metal sculptures of dinosaurs and a flying saucer in a farmer’s field. You can’t go over the fence but you can take pictures from behind it.

Metal Sculptures in Hazel Green

Flying Saucer in Hazel Green

Fly into Hazel Green for a good time in a friendly community, and be sure to eat a Gangster burger too!