The City I Never See – Following the Chicago River

A month or so ago, my buddy Holly (I KNOW, I know, I will only do it the one time) and I were chatting about the Chicago River. She asked me if I had ever walked the river from the northside to downtown. I had never done this and Holly had never done this, so we decided that on July 26th the two of us would have breakfast (we had to bulk up you know) and walk downtown along the river.

Well, that was the plan anyway.


Our day was beautiful, just past the heatwave and sun was shining, gorgeous. We started at Belmont and Damen as this was the spot where our familiarization with the river became foggy.

Here we are, ready to go, fresh from breakfast and assumptions:



We realized pretty fast that there’s no real “Chicago Riverwalk” into the city. Pretty much as soon as we started, in some back lot of industrial warehouses, a guy drove up in his car. He and his lanyard told us this was private property and that he “knew what we were doing” looking for the riverwalk. He warned us about some sketchy parts and then took off. WE WERE NOT AFRAID.

Much of any riverwalk that there is looks a lot like this: big strip mall buildings and short stretches of riverwalk behind it:


There were lots of places to view how close (or not, there was definitely backtracking) we were to the city:


At one point, I was spinning all around trying to figure out where we were and Holly figured it out real quick, “We’re by Vienna Beef! We know where we are!” We laughed that whenever a Chicagoan is unsure of where they are, Vienna Beef will always provide the answer:


We came across quite a few cool bridges:



Somewhere around North ave we see this mountain of metal in the sky. There were huge cranes and moving piles of steel. We were so confused. Upon closer inspection, we discovered we were at the Recycling Center of Chicago! We wandered around for awhile, no one seemed to mind and it was REALLY cool and weird:


And this (for me, this was the coolest thing we saw the whole day, the whole Recycling Center was pretty cool):


Right around the corner from recycling, we smelled/found a leather tannery! SO WEIRD AND COOL. It really smelled like leather and we could feel the heat oozing out the windows:


We were so close to the city at this point and we were so hot. We see we’re on the opposite side of the riverwalk but we can’t figure out how to get over there! But nevermind because here we are! (After many years of wondering what was going on here, now I know, CONCRETE) Prairie Material Yard 32:


Across the river! THERE! Montgomery Ward buildings! Accessible riverwalk! Almost there! Holly and I were so hot at this point. We were excited that we were done, but we still yearned for some actual riverwalk. We finally made it to the east side and to some actual public access:



After deciding we were close enough to downtown to satisfy us, we ran through a forest of sprinklers which changed everything about our hot lives. We walked across the street for slushies and hopped up to the brownline to head home roughly about three hours after we started:


So, I wouldn’t say our walk was “lovely” although, parts of it were. It wasn’t easy, or relaxing, or calming. But it was a hell of a walk, I put my feet on parts of this city I’ve never put them on before and that alone pleases me. Holly and I talked of ducks and terns and wildlife on the river. We marveled at the city we never see and we talked and laughed, ran through sprinklers and drank all of the cold, sugary drinks we could find.

It was a great day, a really great day. And I’m sunburned…really sunburned. Heh.




Burnham V Sullivan Recap

After countless hours of research, at least a few hours at Mariano’s going over the order of the tour, 15 minutes on WGNRadio and two hours of actual touring – the Burnham V Sullivan Tour has resulted in a definitive winner: Uncle Dan Burnham

The Tour Duel was hilarious and fun and educational and passionate.

We had eight voters on the tour, a fine mixture of other guides, photographers, interested parties and one person who wasn’t quite sure what was happening but I think had a good time anyway.

The Tour was broken down into sections:



Best Department Store


Style or What is Beautiful?

Worlds Fair





The question of the tour is: Who’s Better? Not even who was a better architect, but who’s better in general? We took a pre-vote and it was 5 Sullivan, 3 Burnham. At each stop along the way (Marshall Fields, Carsons, Auditorium, Santa Fe Building, Grant Park) Wendy and I would each make our argument and everyone in the group voted after each section. There were a few rebuttals, but they were not official! There were also a couple of “mic drops” – that generally meant one of us (or the tour guests at one point) just dropping a piece of paper they were holding on to the ground – but it was no less powerful!


What I love about Ms. Bright is that she is very different from Ms. Hicks. We laugh and giggle so, so much, but we are very different tour guides. Wendy is technical and lovely and Margaret, well, technical and lovely are not really words that have been used to describe me in the past. Each of us was passionate about our choice and I think you could see it in our arguments. What I also loved is that lots of times the group got into the action. There was so much knowledge on our tour that each and every one of us helped the others argument! It was so fun.


Well, there was the fun of working with each other. We tour guides are pretty independent, so it’s a treat to work with someone else and Wendy and I had a ton of fun setting it up. And I think we really worked on debunking some generalities about these two guys. And that to me was the purpose, to get to some bigger truths. And to also laugh a lot. And we did that.

If you missed this time around, it’s entirely possible we might do it again, my idea? Switch parts, I take Sullivan, Wendy takes Burnham.

Would that change it!?!?!?




Chicago Elevated Got Some Press!

It’s always, always nice to get a little boost for the walking tours. It just is. I try not to take it to heart too much, but there’s no denying that it’s helpful! Here are three places where you can see Chicago Elevated:


I am so pleased and proud to be a part of Chicago Magazines “Five Oddball Chicago Tours.” Oddball is a HUGE compliment always, so I’ll take it. Plus, my buddy Asa who does Fossil Tours, is on the list with me and that’s the best part! Fine company I keep!


I have been trying for YEARS to get into Thrillist. I think because it’s cool and young and I am not that cool or young and I really wanted to be seen as young and cool. So I am pleased and proud to be in their “Best Chicago Tours for Visitors You’ll Actually Want To Go On.” Again, compliment! Check it here.


And I love this one, I got an email from a lady at ZipCar, they were doing a blog post about unique walking tours and they found me! And that is spectacular! When I got the article I saw it was unique tours from around the country! HOW COOL IS THAT? I am really, really happy and proud to be a part of this one, these other tours looks so awesome. You can click here to see that one.

Photo courtesy Chicago Tribune.

Get Up On – Tour Guide Recs

I haven’t done a solid Get Up On in quite awhile, but man, I’ve met some neat people and I want to share with you the cool things people are doing:


I met Dan Black at an On The Table event in May. On The Table should get they’re own Get Up On, because it’s such a cool event. My mind shifts every time I go to one, which is…um…twice, but still. I met Dan and he told me about Slow Roll. Slow Roll plans bike rides on Wednesdays from April to October. All ages, all skill levels are invited to ride, and they go through different neighborhoods focusing on low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. It’s bike riding for everyone, bike riding for social change, bike riding to show that all neighborhoods are accessible. It’s just so cool. Get Up On It.


Monkeying around, I found this interview with Tristan Hummel.  I loved the interview and thought it was a great looking website. I saw the call for creatives and entrepreneurs,  I reached out and I’m glad I did. Saturate Chicago has a great site with these great interviews, but what it’s going to be eventually is events to bring people together. Olivia believes that creative people are all inspired by each other – writers by photographers, chefs by writers, painters by tour guides. She brings these people together in a really inclusive way. It’s in the beginning stages, but the events she’s done already were huge successes. We’re hoping to do something together soon. Stay tuned.


We tour guides are pretty friendly with each other. We’re all so different but all in love with the same thing – it’s fun to get to know other guides. This Get Up On is about my friend Marlin, owner of Chicago Running Tours. Marlin is the absolute best. You might think that running tours are too much pressure, but once you meet Marlin you’ll understand that he is so easy going, so friendly, so careful and care-full about his information, he’s a total joy. His saying is “the slower you go, the more we’ll show,” so you need not worry. I went on one of Marlin’s tours there were lots of breaks, plenty of chances to catch your breath. The best part? Tours are in the morning, so you did a 5K, learned something, and it’s 8:30 in the morning so you feel like a badass because you are one.

This is Marlin at one of our Tour Guide Association meetings.

This is Marlin at one of our Tour Guide Association meetings.

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