Chicago (once again) considering premium rail link to O’Hare

If you have ever flown into Chicago’s O’Hare airport, you’ll know that the train ride between the airport and downtown is not a great experience. Sure, it’ll get you where you need to be, but when compared to other major international airports, it could really do with an upgrade.

So, once again, Mayor Daley has dusted off the plans to launch a premium rail link connecting Downtown with the airport. The O’Hare Express may or may not run over existing tracks, which already brings out a major problem – an express train will never be an express train if it has to constantly wait for existing commuter trains.

Other options include creating bypass tracks, but with a proposed $15 or $20 fee for the premium link, the ride duration would really have to come down considerably when compared to the current 45 minute trip. In the previous proposal to create a fast rail link, only 10 or 15 minutes could be shaved off the ride, which would obviously be a very hard sell.

My thoughts? It doesn’t make sense to do this unless they are willing to do it right. The link needs dedicated tracks, new modern rolling stock and modern stations. When you compare the Blue Line with the rapid rail services in Hong Kong or even London, it isn’t hard to see that we have a lot of catching up to do.

[Photo from Flickr/Senor Codo]

The Chicago dog joint worth traveling to — soon to open a new location

In May 1948, Maurie and Flaurie Berman opened Superdawg – a authentic drive-in hotdog stand at the corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Devon Avenue in Chicago.

That restaurant grew up to be one of the most popular in the city, and made it into the “1000 places to see before you die” list.

Yes – it is that cool. Maurie and Flaurie still run the joint along with their kids, and they still serve their original Superdawg (don’t call it a hot dog).

A Superdawg is something special – they are one of the only in the city to use their own dog recipe instead of the traditional Vienna Beef dog. An authentic Superdawg comes with all the Chicago style trimings packed inside a Superdawg box with crinkle cut fries and a green tomato.

Later this month, Supwerdawg will open their second drive-in location in Wheeling, IL (about 6 miles up the road from the original location). An airport location was opened at Midaway in 2003.

The new Wheeling store will be much larger than the (cramped) Chicago location, but everything has been kept as authentic as possible, down to the “control tower” style order picker room and of course, the Maurie and Flaurie dogs on the roof.

The book is right though – everyone needs to visit Superdawg at least once in their life. The Chicago location can be reached by bus, but there is not much room to eat indoors (they do have a small patio), so the best way to experience Superdawg is to rent yourself a car and hope you keep the seats clean!

When idiots collide – one man checks bag with $200k in stamps, another steals them

Do you enjoy a story filled with stupid people? Then you are going to love this one! A Texas stamp collector checked his luggage containing rare stamps – and a regular luggage thief swiped the bag and tried to sell the stamps at local pawn shops.

The thief, Antoine Shaw, is a regular at Midway airport, and he has been charged with luggage theft before. Of course, since airport security is too busy searching people for water bottles and nail clippers, nobody noticed this repeat thief swipe more bags. Antoine hit the jackpot when grabbed a bag on November 18th – it contained $200,000 in rare stamps.

Pawn shops gladly purchased the stamps from him on two visits, but on his third trip, pawn shop staff got suspicious and called the cops. Shaw was arrested, and according to the police report, “only some” of the stamps were recovered.

It doesn’t matter how often you remind people not to check valuables in your luggage – every year someone ignores the advice. Of course, in most cases it involves a missing laptop or camera.%Gallery-76818%

Through the Gadling Lens: inspiration, courtesy of the Gadlingers

It occurred to me the other day that we’ve officially been together for a year here at Through the Gadling Lens — how great is that? So it seems a little bit of a retrospective on the past year is in order, because seriously, we have talked about a lot here on the column. And so, with the help of my fellow writers here at Gadling (as well as some of the amazing photographers who share their craft with us in the Gadling Flickr pool), I thought we could multitask: I asked some of the Gadlingers what they like to photograph when they’re traveling, and as a bit of inspiration, I thought I would feature some of the best our Gadling Flickr pool has to offer to illustrate their points. And while we’re at it, I’ll provide some links to some of the more popular posts of the past year.

So, ready? Then on with the show.
From Grant: “I like taking pictures of interesting locals when they’re not paying attention.”

Grant has actually hit on one of my favourite subjects in travel photography: people. There’s nothing like watching locals go about their day-to-day lives that really captures what the atmosphere is like of a place. This photograph, shot and shared in Tanzania by by localsurfer, is a great example — the image makes you wonder what this woman is thinking, where she’s going, what her story is, just by this simple image.

Remember, however, if you do decide to take photographs of locals on your next trip, there are some rules of etiquette (not to mention local laws) which can affect capturing an image without your subjects consent. For more on this, be sure to see the post on Photographing Strangers.

From Jeremy: “Graffiti.”

I’ll be honest: I’ve never even considered capturing images of local graffiti, and right now, I’m kicking myself for not having done it before. If you think about it, there’s nothing that can really tell a visual story of the atmosphere or personality of a neighbourhood like graffiti. And I’m totally intrigued by this photograph captured by Luke Robinson — I love the juxtaposition of the gritty feel of the tagged building with the pastoral setting of the autumn trees nearby. Beautifully composed.

From Sean: “…markets…”

In many countries, the market is the focal point of all commerce in a community, and it’s very smart to grab shots of the hustle and bustle of the local market — people are likely too busy conducting their business to pay much attention to you, resulting in some pretty authentic images. This great shot of market in Peru captured by Theodore Scott is a great example — enhanced by the lovely pop of colour of the produce and the texture of the cobblestones. Great job.

From Kraig: “For me, it’s mostly about wildlife and landscapes. Rather boring, but it’s true.”

Kraig, don’t sell yourself short, man — flora and fauna are hardly boring, and can make for amazing shots. In addition, they can really help add context to your travel photos. Finally (and as this image captured by Craig Damlo clearly shows), sometimes wildlife is just cool.

There are some great tricks to taking beautiful shots of flora and fauna, so before you go on your next holiday, be sure to check out this Gadling Lens post on just that subject for some inspiration. In addition, check out this previous post on capturing landscapes, seascapes and and cityscapes, as well as how to add oomph to your landscape shots.

From Annie: “Signs.”

I will admit that while I’ve certainly taking a photograph of an interesting sign or two in the past, I’ve never made a point of capturing signage as a subject matter; that said, this great photo taken by PDPhotography in Toronto is a great lesson in why I should pay closer attention. Of course, what makes this shot great is a combination of some great timing and fantastic composition-work; still, the moral of this story is to always keep your eye open for an intriguing shot. Well done.

From Alison: “any striking colors.”

I’m with Alison on this one: there’s very little that can make for great eye candy in a photo than a striking colour. For example, this photo by zakgollop, captured in Cromer, England, isn’t interesting just because it’s an image of doors — it’s the spectrum of colour that’s captured in this single shot that makes it special.

If you’re interested in finding ways to maximize colour in your shots, be sure to take a gander at our previous Gadling Lens post, all about colour. It’s a great tutorial on how to consider your vacation shots in terms of colour, rather than simply subject matter.

From Mike: “Tourists being tourists.”

Trust our resident comic to come up with this idea for a photograph — and I love it. There’s something very ironic (hypocritical?) and tongue-in-cheek about taking a photograph of tourists doing pretty much exactly what we’re doing when we’re grabbing a picture of them. This photo, taken by Moody75 at Sacrada Familia in Barcelona, is a fantastic example — when we look at it, we suspect that the expressions of wonder (confusion?) on the faces of this group have at one time or another passed across our own faces as we’ve traveled a well. Great idea.

From Katie: “Kids.”

Another favourite subject of mine — there’s just something about kids, their spirits, the way they enjoy the world around them — and capturing images of this, particularly of local kids, is such a privilege. This beautiful photo by Cazimiro, shot in Chicago, is a great example of how sometimes, you don’t even need to capture their faces — just capturing the energy around kids doing their thing is enough.

If you’re interested in capturing images of kids when you travel, remember first to ask their parents for permission; in addition, be sure to check out our previous post on photographing kids. (And incidentally, while we’re looking at this great photo, if you’re inspired to take photographs of water, don’t miss our previous post on this subject matter, as well.)

And with that, I want to thank all of you who have been so faithfully following Through the Gadling Lens over the past year — it’s been great getting your feedback, hearing your own tips, and seeing your own images as I’ve written here. If you have any ideas of what you’d like to see in the coming year, please send me an email or leave a comment below. As always, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.

Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Eli’s Cheesecake Festival serving up good food and entertainment this weekend

Looking for something fun to do this weekend in Chicago? Head on over to 6701 W. Forest Preserve Drive for the yearly Eli’s Cheesecake Festival.

The festival offers loads to do for the entire family, including live music, various food vendors and of course lots and lots of cheesecake.

Eli’s is one of those Chicago names that pops up any time you talk about good local food, and it is right up there with brands like Lou Malnati’s and Vienna Beef.

Admission to the festival is free. You’ll find the entire schedule of events posted on the Festival site. Before you leave for the festival, be sure to bring a non perishable donation for the Greater Chicago Foodbank. Your donation will get you a free slice of Eli’s Cheesecake!

The festival is open today (Saturday October 3rd) from 10am till 5pm, and tomorrow from 11am till 5pm.