October 22, 2020

Riverview Bridge on the Chicago River

I just explored another chunk of the North Branch of the Chicago River from Belmont to Montrose, on Riverview Bridge which is the city’s longest bike/pedestrian span at 1,000 feet long. Debuting in November 2019, the Riverview Bridge is named after the storied amusement park that used to be at Belmont and Western avenues.

The curving modern bridge is 16-feet wide and 18-feet above the river affording great vistas of water and foliage. In temperate weather, canoes, speed boats, pontoons and kayaks can be intermittently seen from the bridge. Serendipity put me there while two female rowing crews were gliding upriver. (A very brief video clip is included.)

You can access the bridge from Clark Park or California Park on either end, but I recently found it easy to park at the McFetridge Sports Center lot and enter the span from California Park.

Clark Park, 3400 N. Rockwell St.

California Park (McFetridge Sports Center),
3843 N. California Ave.

Agora: South Grant Park Rust-Colored Statues

I was in the south Loop of Chicago and found myself drawn to another viewing of Polish sculptress Magdalena Abakanowicz’s work, “Agora,” in the south portion of Grant Park bordered by Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road.

The 106 headless and armless rust-colored statues evoke varied reactions. Some people have termed the installation, first installed by the Chicago District in 2006, as “ugly” and “depressing.” Abakanowicz grew up in Poland during WWII and had this to say about the figures in her large scale public installation: “brainless organisms acting on command, worshiping on command and hating on command.”

Agora is the Greek word for a public meeting place. As I walked through the figures and viewed them from different distances, I was struck that some statues face each other, while others are turned away. No matter what your reaction to the art work, it brings up ideas of democracy, community and differences of opinion.

Now that we are encouraged to limit our public gatherings, “Agora,” on permanent loan from the Polish Ministry of Culture, has new resonance. Small wonder since Chicago has the largest population of Poles outside of Warsaw.

Although public land was used for “Agora,” the sculptures were financed by private donors which included late actor Robin Williams. Fourteen years later, the statues seem right at home in Chicago’s Grant Park.

Fort Sheridan Nature Preserve

As the Lake Michigan shoreline in the city continues to be officially off-limits, I have explored other nature spots in the Chicago environs.

The Fort Sheridan Nature Preserve, with a Lake Forest address, provides visitors not only beach access, but several trail options. The first path I chose, the Lake Overlook Trail, took me past a lovely pond, allowed me to see Lake Michigan from a 70-foot high bluff and provided a photo op in front of a wondrously green ravine towards the north of the property.

The site brags that the Fort Sheridan preserve is a North American flyway for migratory birds with 236 species having been spotted in the park’s savanna, ravines and lakefront foliage.

On a future visit, I hope to explore the Parade Grounds Trail, the Fort Sheridan Cemetery which has gravestones dating back to 1890, and the surrounding Fort Sheridan Historic District which ceased being used by the military in 1993.

The property is interesting as a historical site, but free access to this stunning lakeside preserve is the real draw with hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, swimming, fishing, bird watching and picnicking being allowed.

Fort Sheridan Nature Preserve is open 6:30 am to sunset daily. Free visitor parking is near trail entrances.

This is the perfect get-away for city dwellers needing to commune with Lake Michigan. The forest, ravines and trails are a bonus.


117 Sheridan Road, Lake Forest, IL 60045

iPhone SE vs. iPhone Pro Max

Do you get a sinking feeling when your phone fails to keep a charge for very long? Your storage is so full you have to jettison photos, videos and phone messages? Yes, you have hit the timed obsolescence planned by cell phone purveyors. You need a new phone.

I reached that sorry state recently and narrowed my search to two Apple phones, the low and the high, the new SE or the iPhone 11. Price was the immediate difference — the current SE starts at $399; the iPhone 11 begins at $699.

The next point of comparison was the ability to take pictures. The SE has one camera — the iPhone Pro Max has three. The Pro Max gets higher resolution in the front-facing camera and can take better photos in low light. The Pro Max averages multiple images to get the best picture.

Photo taken with iPhone Pro Max at 40 feet.

Another point of comparison is the phone’s size. Some like the 4.7-inch pocket size of the SE, while the myopic might opt for the iPhone 11 Pro Max at 6.1 inches.

You may discern which way I was leaning. Yep, I went for the bigger phone with more bells and whistles. The iPhone Pro Max takes great photos and videos, has outstanding battery life and the larger screen makes it easier to read everything.

Having previously owned an SE, I can attest that it is great value for the money, but if you will be using your phone for a lot of media, you may opt for a version of the iPhone 11.

Photo taken with the iPhone Pro Max at 10 feet

If you can eke a little more use out of your current phone, you may want to wait for the iPhone 12, but the release date is up in the air.

Even though Apple stores are not open, buying a cell phone online or by phone could not be easier, The product comes beautifully packaged and Apple support is all too happy to help you set up your new device.

One final note, I bought a black Apple Silicone Case for my iPhone Pro Max for $29.99. A wise investment since my butterfingers frequently drop this expensive little business investment.

Wildflowers Riverside in Chicago

Rather than bemoan the fact I am not going to Italy, Scotland or Norway anytime soon, I have been finding delightful spots around Chicago and environs.

One of my favorite finds is a wildflower trail running along the north branch of the Chicago River from Montrose in Horner Park, on the west bank of the river going south to Irving Park. You can almost forget you are in the city as you revel in the river views while strolling amid natives plants both colorful and green.

At the beginning of the walk is a stone staircase leading down to water’s edge. This would be the perfect spot to launch a kayak or dingy or get a water-level river photo.

A couple of suggestions about when to visit this trail.
It is hot in this dense meadow so you may want to choose early morning or late afternoon for a hike. Likewise, you may want to avoid early evening when the bugs come out en masse. Social-distancing is difficult on the narrow path so you may opt for another time to visit if you see crowds of people entering the trail.

After the river trail deadends at Irving Park due to construction, there is a path that runs along the busy street so you can loop back around into Horner Park.

This walk-about goes on my list of favorite Chicago nature spots. I am slowly but surely checking out the many Chicago River amenities. Anybody want to rent a canoe with me?

The Elephant Queen doc on Apple +

I try to keep my streaming services to a very limited number, but I recently was given a year free of Apple + with the purchase of an iPhone. I must be honest, not much appealed to me at first perusal. Too many kiddie shows and programs aimed at family entertainment.

A photo of a mother elephant with her offspring caught my eye, however. To be honest, nature programs are almost never on my “to watch list”, but something called to me when I saw the documentary entitled “The Elephant Queen.”

Directed by husband and wife Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble, the cinematography is amazing with up-close filming of mammals, birds, insects and weather conditions.

The tag line says it all: “A story of love, courage and coming home.” There truly is a story line with a 50-year-old matriarch leading her Kenyan elephant tribe to water, food and safety, with joys and sadness along the journey. Chiwetel Eijiofor is the resonant narrator.

I am still not generally a fan of nature shows, but this lovely and engaging production may be the ticket if you want to take a vicarious trip to the wild.