First Time


If anyone wonders whether it is possible to do a 13-hour drive in one day, I'm here to tell you that it is!

In Europe, taking a day trip is a relatively simple matter, whatever the mode of transportation. Not only within a country, but even from one nation to the other; there's always a bus or train headed in every direction, even if you can't drive. Distances are not half so vast, and the journey takes so little time as to make weekend excursions both possible and pleasurable.

However, if your starting point is Montreal... Toronto and New York City are six hours away, at least. That's on the map; in real life, the length of the journey depends on traffic, border wait times, and all sorts of other factors that, combined, turn a weekend trip into a longer journey.
Recently, I had an opportunity for a trip to Chicago, a city I had not visited before, only with limited time off work. How best to choose which sites are a must-see after a 13-hour drive just to reach the city? Reaching out to friends, and after a number of exhaustive internet searches, I compiled a tentative inventory. In the end, there was no chance to visit Wheaton College, which has a collection of papers and artefacts belonging to J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and other authors. On the other hand, luck was on my side regarding weather. Although a snowstorm hit on the second day, it was hardly more than usual wintertime conditions in Montreal. It was hardly even windy in the Windy City! Except, of course, along the shores of Lake Michigan.

I set out on both a driving tour, heading as far north as Wrigley Field, and a walking tour, shopping along Michigan Avenue and admiring the Water Tower, a former housing for a water pipe used in firefighting, which now serves as a Chicago Office of Tourism art gallery. The tower was built in 1869 and, as one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, is the second-oldest water tower in the United States, after one in Kentucky. Oscar Wilde - who, on the same American tour, referred to Mount Royal as "the hill behind your lovely city" - said the Chicago Water Tower looked like "a castellated monstrosity with pepper boxes stuck all over it," although he apparently admire the machinery inside.

The second day, as it was too cold to visit the famous Chicago Zoo, was reserved for the Shedd Aquarium, an exciting outing when travelling with children.

Further south, I visited a location made famous as Ray's Music Exchange in the film The Blues Brothers (now a pawn shop).

The return trip was another gruelling 16-hour day, including all stops for gas and lunch, as well as the usual Toronto traffic. Yet there are still sights to see, sometimes unexpected; at one point I found myself on the Wayne Gretzky highway in Ontario!

In the end, it's not simply arriving at a destination, but the journey itself that gives a sense of adventure and makes a trip worthwhile. With so much more to see in Chicago, thought, I'd definitely set out on another trip!

May 2013

Old Articles by Deniz B. Bevan:
Château Ramezay
Walking In Old Montreal
My First Novel
Istanbul Sapphire
Pâté or Pouding Chômeur

An Expression
Ice Apple Wine
Montreal Is An Island
Lavender Fields
Exotic Fruit
Ideas for Your 'Staycation'
Istanbul: I Only Have Two Days To See Everything!
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Bladeby Diana Gabaldon
Approaching Ireland by ferry...
Just Plain Nesin