Helaine and I flew to Chicago this weekend to see my nephew Matt marry Hannah. The wedding was beautiful. The sentiment sweet.
It was a quick trip — LAX-MDW Saturday, MDW-LAX Monday. We were in Chicago under 48 hours and used Lyft where once we would have rented a car.
21st Century problem: No WiFi on the flight back!
In 1985 I was smart enough to carry magazines and newspapers on a plane trip. Today I depend on my laptop or phone to while away the time. I lifted the shade and looked out the window.
Midway is built into a neighborhood. You fly in-and-out over rooftops. It’s a head scratcher in 2018. Short runways. Every square inch occupied. It’s bursting at the seams.
I watched carefully as we headed over Nebraska. You can tell you’re getting close when you begin seeing circular fields, a product of pivot irrigation. Things begin to spread out. There are 23.8 people per square mile in Nebraska (with the majority of that being in the east). In Illinois it’s 230 ppl/mi2 and in New Jersey it’s 1,195 ppl/mi2. Homes are like remote outposts within the intricate pattern of mainly harvested fields.
This is where you begin the see the stark effects of wind and water. The few trees out here grow near rivers and streams. What’s easy to miss from the ground but unmistakable from the air are the large flood plains surrounding many of these lazy rivers.
It’s taken thousands of thousand year floods to make this happen!
We started to see the Rockies not long after we left Nebraska. Many of the higher peaks are already snow covered. From the 31,000 feet ski areas look like scarred mountains. I guess they actually are. Treeless trails down these slopes don’t come naturally.
East of the Rockies is desert. There’s no water to be seen, but where it goes when it’s there is pretty obvious. Deserts often get their sparse rainfall all-at-once. Deeply cut canyons rut the sides of any raised surface.
It’s desolate as we fly over Nevada. Who could live here? And then every once in a while hidden away in the boring nothingness you’ll see a road and a lone home or two.
We left Chicago at 3:10 pm, cruising around 500 mph. Sunset was heading the same direction at twice our speed. Evening shadows moved half as quickly and lasted twice as long.
As is often the case at LAX we landed with another plane off to our left on a parallel runway.