Upper Limits

The air was thick, wet, early Saturday morning, as we drove down Lake Shore Drive. The upper floors of the skyscrapers along the waterfront were shrouded in mist. It had been like that the day before too; I couldn’t see anything but an impenetrable fog of white out of my 26th floor office.

But as we drove westwards, away from the city and into the flat prairies of the Midwest, the fog started to thin out. Gradually, the scattered farmhouses in the middle of the fields became less indistinguishable. And in the soft morning light, everything took on gentle shades of pastel colors. It was like driving through Monet’s Rouen Cathedral sunrise series. Nowadays, when I have to drive through such flat, open lands, my first instinct is gah, get me out of the boring Midwest! But that morning, I remembered how, when in my teens, I’d been so taken with the notion of driving through such precisely open landscapes. Having thus far grown up in Singapore, the notion of such wide spaces had seemed so utterly foreign, romantic to me.

In any case, we were making the two hour drive to Upper Limits, a climbing gym converted from abandoned grain silos. We’d wanted, needed, a change of indoor climbing scenery, and the idea of scaling up the inside walls of 65-foot grain elevators was exciting. Susan met us at the gym, and we spent the next six hours trying out a total of 15 different routes each, nonstop. It was tiring, but gratifying. 🙂

And our spirits were lifted more when we finally emerged from the artificially lit depths of the silos to find that spring had finally descended upon the Midwest. In the span of a few hours, the clouds had completely lifted and for the first time in weeks, blue skies! And better yet, it was now a balmy 75 degrees – no need for a coat of any kind!

Of course we simply had to take advantage of this window of awesomeness. Nevermind that we were running slightly late for a dinner engagement back in the city. We squeezed in an hour’s walk along the old I&M Canal.


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