Nashville to Chicago

The breakfast offerings at the Hilton Suites were a little more balanced compared to what was available in Memphis. Some vaguely healthy options were available in amongst the highly refined, sugary offerings. 

We were back on the road just after 8:00am and on our way to Chicago, some 700kms to the north. From the very outset it was clear we were now in corn country. The occasional limestone hills broke up the otherwise flat landscape. A roadside sign pointed to Mammoth Cave, which Google confirmed to be one of the biggest cave networks in the world at over 400kms in length. Time did not permit us to explore this cave network – maybe next time.

After seemingly endless driving through fields of corn and corn stubble we noticed the air quality dropping as a layer of smog began descending on the landscape. This signalled our approach into the heavily industrialised area around the city of Gary, Indiana. This city was once the steel making capital of the Midwest, with multiple steel mills belching out clouds of smoke from their coal burning furnaces to produce steel for construction and vehicle manufacturing. The steel making has all but gone now, as more economical steel mills began producing cheaper steel in Asia – secondary industries have sprung up, however, leveraging the workforce that remained. As a result there still appear to be a number of industries that feed the cloud of pollution that grew denser as we approached Chicago. 

Our journey has now taken us from Texas in the south, crossing numerous state borders (as well as the Mississippi and Ohio rivers) to Illinois in the north. We have passed through the music capitals of Memphis and Nashville to arrive in another in Chicago. Agriculture has progressed from cattle pastures to cropping of various grains and on to broad-acre corn crops. Accents have gone from a slow Texan drawl through to the repeated use of “y’all” in the mid-western states of Tennessee and Kentucky, then onto the faster speaking people of Chicago.

The network of interstate highways intersect the closer you get to Chicago. As a major commerce hub, this comes as no surprise – but it does make for a tangled web of major and minor roads, as they converge on a single point on the map. To make matters worse, major works are underway to repair and improve much of the interstate highway network around Chicago; the result being that lane closures, bypass lanes and detours are commonplace. The last hour or so of driving into Chicago was a little like having the controls of a roller coaster, where the next twist and turn was unclear until you were right upon it. A truck managed to prove that the single lane we were driving along was more than wide enough for two vehicles to negotiate (until Chris put his foot down and resumed a more peaceful, single lane driving position).

Once into the Chicago CBD the traffic settled down to a more sedate speed and, as streets became more familiar, navigation became easier. We arrived at the Sexton Lofts where Sarah, Max and their family reside and Sarah came down to the underground car park to guide us into a parking space we could use for the next couple of days until we returned our rental vehicle. We made our way up to their apartment on the 5th floor and met Max, Ana and Leah who were all excited to see us again. Lots of talk followed around the dinner table as a Mexican-themed dinner was enjoyed by all. 

We eventually checked into our apartment, located directly behind the Sexton Lofts, and made our way to the 31st floor where we were greeted by expansive views south and west over the city. This will be our home until the end of the month. A good night’s sleep was had by all.

Distance travelled: 760 kms

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