Sunday, August 16, 2009

Standing in Mid-Air with Jets Buzzing Around You

A little while back, I got a message from a fellow blogger who was coming in from Australia to do some experiments in Chicago. John asked if I wanted to meet up. After years of commenting on each other’s blog, I thought it would be cool to meet him in “real life.” The plan was to meet at the base of the Sears Tower. I had anticipated driving and picking him up since he was out in the suburbs but his offering to meet in the Loop made it tons easier for me. Forget driving, I took the train.

The South Shore was crazy packed. A lot of people had on Cubs clothing so I grimaced as I thought of how many more people would be getting on the train between South Bend and Chicago. When I got to the Sears Tower (by the way… I’m still continuing to call it that), there was a huge line and I was wondering if it would be worth the time and money just to go to the top of it.
P-51s in formation

It was going to be little while before John got there so I planted my butt in the courtyard and struck up a conversation with a lady. I asked her how long the wait was. She was there for over an hour and she could still see her family in the line. Apparently, she wasn’t too fond of heights and opted to stay on the ground level. Understandable I guess. While we were talking I was hearing planes go by. Not terribly surprising considering it is a city. Well, I recognized that these weren’t just any ol’ planes. I looked up and saw a formation of P-51s fly over. The lady told me not only was there a Cubs game but there was a White Sox game and that people were here for the Chicago Air & Water Show too.

When I spotted an A-10 buzzing around, I got excited and started following it with my camera hoping for a good shot. I was just completing this shot below and lowering my camera when John shows up right in front of me. What can I say? Flying tanks will distract me from almost anything. So after saying our hellos, we headed off for the Sky Deck entrance. John was only available for a few hours and honestly, I did not know how long the wait was going to be but it turned out to not be bad at all. While waiting though, I learned a lot of interesting information on Australia. I was particularly fascinated with the politics and government. They’ve got a number of ideas that I wouldn’t mind trying out here.

The view was pretty impressive from that high up. Although it was a bright and sunny day, there was significant haze so I wasn’t able to see into Michigan. But what we could see were the USAF Thunderbirds performing. I was super excited. John didn’t appear to be as excited. As he put it, he’s more of a fan of commercial airliners.

I’ve always wanted to go to the top of the Sears but events always conspired to keep me away. Recently, though, they put in these glass boxes that jut out over the air and I wanted to try it out. I’ve heard of people being afraid to go into them but I didn’t have too much of a problem. Maybe if the floor was crystal clear it would have been more disconcerting. None of the people that I saw there seemed to have any problem with it but it was funny though when a few people got spooked when an F-16 zoomed past the tower. Damn, I wish I got a clip of that!

USAF Thunderbirds flying in

We weren’t able to stay too long as John had to head back to the lab and continue on with his experiments. So we said our farewells at the base and I headed back towards the lake were I saw the Thunderbirds make their final maneuvers. I could have stayed a few hours longer but I anticipated that the next train out was going to be filled with people coming back from the show or games that they were attending. So I left a little early but boy was it was a great day.

Stay tuned because I’ve got other posts coming out from this one.


John Provis said...

Very glad you enjoyed the trip up the tower, it's a pretty cool place, and the jets flying around the place were a nice bonus too... yes, as I said, I'm more a commercial airliners nerd, possibly because I don't get to see much in the way of fighter jets, but it was a really interesting spectacle. And now I'm back in the lab bouncing X-rays off my little chunks of concrete again, which is fun in an entirely different (and probably even nerdier) way...

David said...

I'd probably think it was fun too... if I knew more of what was going on.

As soon as I got home I looked up the F111. Now it's ringing some bells, but I was a kid when those things were wrapping up service.