Episode Four – My Kind of Town

My loyal follower(s),

Today I’m writing from Chicago, IL, where Grant and I are currently staying with his cousin. She has a pretty sweet setup here – she’s out in Evanston, which is right next to the beach and a short train journey from downtown Chicago. It took us a LONG time to get here – we left at about half past nine this morning and didn’t arrive at the house until about five thirty local time, and Illinois is an hour behind, so it’s been about nine hours. It really didn’t seem that long, at least to me – but Grant was driving, pretty much without stopping, and that must have majorly sucked, to say the least. It was a pleasant enough journey for the first six hours or so, and I have now officially visited four of the fifty states – Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. It’s just a shame the Indiana countryside is so boring! Grant commented that even Ohio has hills, and he has a point – the scenery in Indiana is the flattest I’ve ever seen. They do know how to make the most of it, at least, through the use of one of the largest wind farms I’ve seen, right next to the I-70.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. We stopped briefly in Indianapolis for some Taco Bell, which was ok, but the journey through Indiana was pretty uneventful. It was only really once we reached Chi-town that things started getting interesting. By the time we got there it was around 4pm local time – so, on a Friday, rush hour. The Interstate was jam-packed, and we were stuck in traffic for at least a couple hours. Obviously this in itself is the opposite of interesting, but not long after we’d encountered this blockade (and by “not long” I mean “like half an hour”) a storm started rolling in. The sky suddenly darkened to an eerie coal-grey; the craziest rain I’ve ever witnessed started battering the windscreen of the Jeep so that the wipers were almost completely ineffective; the wind was so high that even in the 4×4 I felt slightly vulnerable; and the lightning was like nothing I’ve seen before. It was all around us, less than a hundred yards away at some points, and coming down in great forks. Obviously it was impossible for me to get a photograph not only because of the speed of the lightning but also because of the rain – but it was incredible. We were really lucky to have been in a traffic jam at that point because there was no way we could have driven through it at anything more than the 3 or so miles per hour we were doing.

The storm stopped almost as suddenly as it had begun, and not because it was finished but, I think, simply because we drove out from under it. It seemed to be just one cloud that was wreaking all this havoc – I shudder to think what it must have been like at the tops of the skyscrapers, which, according to our tour guide on Sunday, sway slightly but almost constantly in normal winds. But once we’d escaped from under the cloud, the rain eased off a bit and the sky lightened noticeably to a more daytime-esque shade, and by the time we got to Evanston everything seemed pretty much fine, if overcast. We got up to the house we were to be staying in, where Grant’s cousin is basically a live-in nanny for the two-year-old, and put down some roots before going out for a pricey dinner in the Indian district nearby and taking a stroll towards the beach.

The rain on the windshield was out of control.

Apparently the one cloud we had witnessed earlier had brought some buddies along, because when we got to the beach there was a lightning party in full swing and everyone was invited. I cannot stress just how incredible this was – nothing I’ve ever seen could compare to this storm. Thankfully there was no rain, but the lightning was intense – there were three or four layers of cloud in the sky and every couple of seconds it would light up and reveal the skeleton of what was above us. I don’t really know how to describe it except that it was kind of like an X-ray of the clouds. And that it was epic. But once I got over the immensity of the situation – here I was, standing on the beach in Chicago, looking out at the fantastic skyline to the south with a beautiful lightning storm overhead – I realised what everyone else had clocked much earlier. The lowest, blackest  cloud was rolling out over the beach like a tsunami, both in shape and in speed, and quite aside from the rain it would undoubtedly bring, we were standing right next to the highest point on the beach – the lifeguard’s chair – which was right next to the waterline. Apparently you’re not supposed to stand on the beach during a storm because lightning likes to strike the point where the land meets the sea. Anyway, after Grant pointed this out, we decided to hotfoot it back to the house, although now I think about it we passed under about fifty trees along the way. Yeah, that was not a good idea. But it was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done. Chicago already seemed like my kind of town at that point, and I’ll have a lot to write about the city so I’ll split these entries up a little. Watch this space for more on Chi-town later!

In the meantime, I’ll leave you to guess which song has been going round my head since I got here.

Peace, love and other pleasantries,

Megan.

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