Once again, last night, serendipity waved her wand and granted me an extraordinary adventure in spite of the fact that I set out to have exactly that.
The plan: Leave alone about 9 pm, ride about 20 minutes along 31st Street to the lake shore, watch some of the best fireworks in Chicago over Navy Pier from about 4 miles away, turn around, ride back.
What actually happened: About 8pm, my roommate, Charles, asked me what I was planning, I told him, and he said he’d go too. It became clear he didn’t like my plan so much – he wasn’t comfortable riding down 31st. He suggested that going north was a safer alternative. OK, so we left earlier and headed north. We rode through the streets (in bike lanes), Charles offering a hearty “Happy Fourth” to just about everyone we passed. It put a smile on the face of every one, including a couple of police officers.
We ended up at the Shedd Aquarium, about two miles from the Pier. The fireworks started promptly at 9:30 as advertised. The delay between the flash and the boom was about seven seconds. Still when there were some really combinations a roar arose around me as the crowd cheered. Then, as suddenly as they had started, there was a quick finale and they ended. Fifteen minutes. 9:45. Done. The crowd started to disperse. I was incredulous – didn’t I just see a 45 minute show in Middlefield a month ago for their Sesquicentennial? What’s this?
We turned our bikes around, and began to walk with the crowds out of the park. We aimed west, since we noticed that our path up from the south had become packed with people since we had arrived. We got to a bike lane along Roosevelt Road, hopped on our bikes and headed west. We then turned south on Halsted for the two and a half mile ride home.
The roads were largely abandoned, except for the occasional car that passed us. But the skies. Oh, the skies!
The brick facade facing me flashed. The sky sputtered, spun and exploded. Snaps, sparks, claps: the sound slapped the sides of the structures, erupting and echoing off the edifices.
We rode faster to catch the lights, slower to give them time to change.
Chicago was sizzling, hissing, singing, as the rainbows blasted from every direction. Green, purple, gold – reflecting royally in Windy City’s windows. Red, white, blue, whistling wildly.
We rode, slowing slightly on the Halsted Street South Branch Bascule Bridge, we saw fireworks flying, flaring, flashing all around us, near and far.
We pushed on, at last arriving in our neighborhood. The spectacle was not over, not by any means. On every street, in every alley, the show went on. I didn’t need to go anywhere – it came to me. Did I mention I live on the edge of Chinatown? My neighbors know something about fireworks, and how celebrate the Fourth.