No Room on the Bus

 People came out without having reservations for our tour hoping for cancellations.  Regrettably, we had to turn some away because there was no room on the bus. 

It was the perfect day for a bus tour – the sun was shining with very few clouds in the sky.  That’s not to say we didn’t experience a few snafus – like when we couldn’t get in the parking lot of Testa Produce facility so that our audience could get a closer look at the facility.  Luckily, Josh Mogerman of NRDC was aboard.  Josh is intimately familiar with the facility and is passionate about their green initiatives.  He was able to provide enough detail about the environmental as well as financial benefits that the point hit home.

After Testa, the bus hit the Dan Ryan headed for the Exelon/Sunpower Urban Solar Farm in West Pullman.  The trip there allowed Lisa Albrecht of  the Illinois Solar Alliance to provide the group with updated information about Solar Energy – its advantages, progress and hang ups.  Once there, she was able to add pertinent details about the facility.   Our bus driver drove slowly along the perimeter so that all could get a clear view of the many rows of solar panels and appreciate the vastness of the operation.  With the exception of a limited few, most passengers hadn’t seen nor were they aware of this installation.  They quietly hung on to every word that Lisa shared.

Lisa fielded questions as the driver headed east from Pullman to northwest Indiana – the site of British Petroleum’s  (BP) oil refinery.  On the way there, we pointed out the acres of landfills, the Waste Management Methane Gas to Electricity plant, the multi-year construction project to lower Torrence avenue 25 feet below street grade and other points of interest.
Once we crossed the border into Indiana, Thomas Frank (http://blog.thomasfrank.org), a resident of East Chicago, took over the helm providing information about the detriments of tar sands, the impact BP has on the community and details on how they were able to sidestep regulations by labeling the expansion project an ongoing maintenance” operation. Josh chimed in with information about added water pollutants such as high mercury levels to Lake Michigan from the increase in oil refining.

We rode along the perimeter of the refinery which stretches out for blocks.  We ended up on 119th Street, the business street that runs through Whiting.  It’s a quaint street lined with old storefronts with new facades housing restaurants, stores, gift shops and salons.  The biggest treasure is an old fashion cinema complete with a marquee that shows current movies.  It all has a “small town” feel.

Lunch was at the Bulldog Brewery, a neat place to go.  The waiters were scurrying around, working hard to accommodate our large crowd.  The meal gave the tourists a chance to chat with one another and share opinions about what they had just toured. Our final feature was a stop at the 106th Street bridge over the hard-working Calumet River where mountains of coal and petroleum coke are stored after being off-loaded by freighters and barges. Soon it was time to board the bus and make our way back downtown.

Pictures and comments made below:

Bus departs downtown.

Comment: ” Expert commentary on sites visited and questions asked.”

Tom Shepherd of SETF talks about our organization.

Comment: ” I liked all the information and meeting liked minded people”

Lisa Albrecht of Solar Services

Comment: ” Very satisfied, very informational.”


Josh Mogerman of Natural Resources Defense Council


                                     Comment: “I liked the knowledge you assembled – good speaker.”

278 foot high wind turbine in front of Testa Produce

Comment:  “The on bus lecturers were great!”

Rows of solar panels at the Exelon Urban Solar Farm

Comment:  “I liked getting so much information so efficiently and pleasantly.”

Miles of piping needed for the refining process

Comment:  “Very informative, all speakers were impressive in terms of their knowledge.”

Construction on the BP expansion project is in the final stages.

Comment: ” I liked being able to see what you’re talking about in addition to the talk.
It was enormously informative!”

Refining process continues through construction.

Comment:  ” I liked the informative lecture and tour of BP.”


A train blocks long crosses our past carrying industrial waste.

Bulldog Bewery

Group waits patiently for lunch to be served.

The Brewery gets loud with conversation.

Downtown Whiting Indiana is a neat place to visit.

Two very satisfied tourists.

Artist and resident Thomas Frank sharing more information  about the area.