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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 3: The 99th Floor, Brought to You by Sears

Willis Tower view!

Chicago skyscrapers: they’re everywhere! Get used to them!

This isn’t the first time we’ve shared this particular photo set on MCC, but it’s been a few years since I reused them for a miniseries about our multiple Chicago experiences in general. Anyone who read that miniseries is probably dead or no longer reading blogs, so these pics should be new to you, at least. I promise at least 95% of the rest of Our 2009 Road Trip features Photos Never Before Seen on MCC. Honest!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, marvels, history, and institutions we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Beginning with 2003’s excursion to Washington DC, we added my son to the roster and tried to accommodate his preferences and childhood accordingly.

2008 was by far our least favorite road trip to date, and still holds the ignominious title as of 2018. Our next vacation had to be better. Step one was plain enough: we looked at Anne’s brainstorming list of future road trips and chose the one that screamed “dream vacation”. That’s what led to our long, long drive out to the farthest reaches of South Dakota and beyond. At nine days it was the longest we’ve ever taken. The farthest point of 1,180 miles made it the longest drive of our lives. It would be the farthest west we’d ever been up to that time. It was also our first vacation using exclusively digital cameras to record the experience, leaving behind the 35mm film of our childhoods forever. They weren’t expensive cameras for their kind, certainly not the most advanced as of 2009, but we did what we could with the resources and the amateur skill sets available to us.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

Willis Tower!

The Sears Tower: tallest building in the world from 1973 to 1998; tallest building in the Americas till 2014.

After a quick dinner, the grand finale was a short subway ride back to the Sears Tower, where we watched the sun set from the 99th floor. You could see forever, and as the street lights go on it seems the city stretches to the horizon in all directions (it pretty much does). Even Anne had fun, and she’s not a fan of heights. Good evening for viewing, though, even if we forgot to jump as the elevator started its descent again.

Skydeck!

The entrance to the Skydeck, which made such wonders possible.

One of Chicago’s independent tourism peddlers was in the right place and time to sell Anne a few $1 postcards before entering. The line was short and we amused ourselves with a standee of President Obama that told us how many Obamas it would take to match the height of the Sears Tower. After entering the elevator, we watched a little monitor show us other world-famous buildings such as the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower and notifying us as we reached their respective heights on our journey upward (though it failed to tell us when we’d passed Obama’s own height). All this useful height-comparison trivia distracted us from our ears filling up with pressure.

Our talented local guide Mindy pointed out buildings of interest from the top, such as the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the building that appeared in the opening credits of The Jeffersons. Some buildings gave us our first look at the concept of rooftop greenery, which Chicago encouraged with tax incentives for the sake of saving the environment and offsetting HVAC costs and so forth.

These were our views to the east — all of them including scenic Lake Michigan in the distance — while sunset carried on behind us in the west. Though we couldn’t face toward it from our perch, we got the general idea as the skies faded to black around us and the night lights came alive below.

Willis Tower view!

The view to the southeast included the giant white roof of McCormick Place, home of our old friend C2E2.

Willis Tower view!

The view directly east but angled toward street level. That’s Grant Park and Millennium Park in the way back.

Willis Tower view!

The view northeast featured bits of the Magnificent Mile, including the black, two-pronged John Hancock Building, which has its own observation deck we’ve never visited for some reason. The even taller building a few blocks to the right is Trump International Hotel and Tower, in which none of us has ever expressed an interest.

To be continued!

[Historical notes:

1. The month after our visit, the name of the Sears Tower officially changed to Willis Tower despite the protests of millions of Illinoisans from 2009 to the present day.

2. That same month, they debuted the addition of glass balconies on the 103rd floor that extend four feet beyond the walls and let Skydeck visitors see the ground 1000+ feet below them. Anne isn’t sorry we missed that.

3. Today Willis Tower is the second-tallest American building. We visited the current titleholder — the all-new One World Trade Center, a.k.a. “the Freedom Tower” — on the occasion of our 2016 return to Manhattan.]

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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