This is the third in a series of posts that will document Architizer blogger Lindsay Rule aka “Archispotter”as she makes her way across the country without cash or any planned means of transport. Find out more about the Architizer-Audi Urban Future Initiative collaborative project here. See the previous post here.
1 PM. I’m about to leave Chicago after just 21 hours being here. I’m now more or less 1/3 of the way to San Francisco, so Chicago was a memorable, even important pit-stop. I spent most of my day walking, exploring the city’s architecture and, most important, trying to find a place to sleep. Continue.
Gazing up at the Bean
Yesterday, 6 PM. I said my goodbyes to Cameron at Millennium Park a couple of hours ago. From there, I lounged in the park for a while, walking around, snapping photos of the Cloud Gate as tourists and wedding parties filed underneath the giant reflective bean. I sat on the lawn in front of the Pritzker Pavilion by Frank Gehry, and later cooled my feet in the shallow pool along the boardwalk in the Lurie Garden.
As the sun began to wane, I realized I hadn’t properly planned my stay in Chicago. Usually, I would I have sent out several couchrequests just to be sure I had a place to stay, but my drive from Ohio to Chicago was so long and hadn’t afforded me a quiet moment to couchsurf on my phone. I searched around, but couldn’t find anything. In my moment of panic, I turned to Facebook, where I searched for friends in the Chicago network. A familiar name popped up–my high school friend Brendan from Oklahoma who had moved to Chicago years ago. We talked on Facebook chat, and I mentioned that Audi was sending me across the country to “test-drive” social mobility. Not only was he thrilled to accept me as a house guest, he also gave me two free tickets to improv shows at his local theater, ComedySportz Club.
Today, 8 AM. I woke up this morning and immediately jumped online to look for rideshares. I came across an offer for a MegaBus ticket from Margaret, a college student who was trying to get home to Madison, WI, but, due to unforeseen circumstances, had to stay in Chicago for a few more days. She wanted $20 for the ticket (understandable) so I emailed her, explaining the project that I’m doing. She responded within 30 minutes and simply emailed me the e-ticket, free of charge. Knowing my next destination, I thought it would be better not to repeat yesterday. I searched for a half hour before I got in contact with Kai, 27, theater technician. With my previous background in theater, I thought he would be a good person to contact since we would have something to talk about as an icebreaker.
I bade farewell and good luck to Brendan and boarded the subway (CTA), thinking it was the best way to explore other parts of the city. It costs me $4 (that’s $19 now, from my $100 emergency reserve), but it was well worth it. I rode in with the morning commuters, most of which had their heads buried in their smart phones, sometimes peering out the window as the train ramped up above the street. There’s a bit of this in New York, mostly in the outer Burroughs like Queens, and other cities where subway trains, cars, and pedestrians, infrastructure and architecture share the same urban space.
I spent my last few hours in Chicago walking along the waterfront, the heart of the city’s most famous architecture. I went by the Marina City towers, the House of Blues, Trump Tower, and, most exciting, Mies van der Rohe’s IBM Building. At 12:30 I was on the south side of Union Station awaiting my ride out of Chicago.
My ride out of Chicago to Madison
This was my first experience on a MegaBus. It was similar to the Bolt Bus in that it had AC power outlets and WiFi access; there were, however a few notable differences, namely, really terrible leg room and no overhead bin storage. My Bolt Bus from Boston was not completely full which allowed me to keep my pack on the seat next to me. This bus was servicing commuters to Madison and Minneapolis so there were no extra seats, so I was forced to stuff my pack between my legs. Needless to say, I spent three hours sitting in the fetal position while the girl next to me decided to test the limits of my personal bubble.
Welcome to Madison
4 PM. Just arrived at the Memorial Union of the University of Wisconsin. Kai and I arranged a pick-up via cell phone; five minutes later, a charismatic looking chap on a motorcycle pulled up in front of the building. He spotted me and told me to hop on. He drove us back up toward the state capitol building, all the while filling me in on the geography of the town, the surrounding lakes, places of interest, etc. Kai obviously had a strong interest in his town and was enthusiastic about giving an out-of-towner the low down. We circled the capitol once, then headed down East Washington Ave. towards his house where he lives with his girlfriend Elli and roommates, John and Heather.
In search of beer
After the initial introductions to the crew and to the couch where I would be sleeping, everyone started preparing food for dinner, and welcomed me to help out; they made me feel as though I had an established place among them even though we had known each other for only 30 minutes. We grilled on the front porch, talked about traveling and what he thought about my trip, which he thinks is “testing the information infrastructure that travelers rely on everyday.” Afterwards, we set off to downtown in search of beer. On the way, Kai made a point of showing me State Street, the main artery that connects the downtown center to the university, and the campus itself which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful universities I’ve ever seen.
Day 6 (July 30)
9 PM. I’m in St. Paul. How’d I get here? Well, this morning, over a blueberry pancake-and-watermelon breakfast, my hosts inquired about the next leg of my journey. I mentioned Minneapolis as a possible destination and without hesitation, Kai and Elli volunteered to drive me up to the Twin Cities, saying they had nothing else going on. But before we took off on the 5-hour ride, there were two important tasks to be done.
Inside the Wisconsin Capitol
The first was to take me inside of the state capital building and up to the observation deck where I had a 360 view of Madison, showing the lakes to either side, the university to the west, and the Monona Terrance Community and Convention Center, which was originally proposed and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but not built until nearly 30 years after his death.
The second task was to teach me how to drive a motorcycle. After tipping over three times and stalling out, I finally handled the order of operations well enough to shift the Suzuki into first from neutral, release the clutch slowly and throttle up slowly until I was officially driving a motorcycle! I didn’t go very fast, but I’ll count it: vehicle type #5 of the trip, following #1-bus, #2-car, #3-boat taxi/fishing boat, and #4-subway.
We traveled up route 12 from Madison, eventually coming onto the Wisconsin River, where we boarded the free Merrymac ferry (another mode of transport!). We arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota around 5 PM. Joined then by Kai’s sister, her husband and baby, the six of us enjoyed Ethiopian food for dinner (another first for me). I was offered a couch for the night, and I gladly accepted it.
My cross-country route so far
And that’s where I am now. Tomorrow, I’ll spend some time visiting the city. There’s a lot of architecture to see, but I can’t tarry too long. It’s almost been a week since I left Boston, and with 1,400 miles under my belt, I’m about half way through my trip. I still have eight days to go, but I don’t want to waste any time.