Don't be Afraid of New Challenges!

By Heidi Grogan

I love the show the Amazing Race! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, teams of two travel around the world and complete various challenges to compete for an opportunity to win $1,000,000.  Obviously the monetary prize is great, but the true appeal of the contest is being able to experience new and exotic locales while exercising your competitive spirit by competing against 11 other teams to get to the next pit stop, which could be anywhere around the world. The team that reaches the final pit stop first is the big winner. This past season’s winning team was a husband and wife from Madison, Wisconsin.

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One of the physical challenges

When my friend Mickie Wagner asked me to try an Amazing Race type of event earlier this summer, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! The event is called “The Scavenger Dash” and according to the website, it is a wildly fun urban adventure where teams of two solve twelve clues, have a wild city adventure, and complete fun challenges while discovering the city in a different way.  It is an amazing race on a local level. The difference between this race and the Amazing Race is that the Scavenger Dash doesn’t tell you where the next checkpoint or pit stop is, but rather gives you a clue which you must figure out to determine the location. For example, one of the clues stated:  “There are hundreds of peace poles located around the world. Find the one that’s located right here in Milwaukee and picture either teammate with one of these universal symbols of peace.”  I also need to note that we were able to use the internet (via smartphones or by “phoning a friend”) to assist us with clues.  In this case, we determined that the Peace Pole was located at St. Benedict the Moor Church at 9th and State and headed over there to take a picture.  Some of the checkpoints required us to take a picture; at others we needed to obtain an item or complete a physical challenge.

Another of the rules of the Scavenger Dash was that teams could only travel by foot or public transit. The city bus was ok, but bicycles, taxis or hitching a ride were forbidden. We completed the race almost entirely by walking or jogging and estimated that we “hoofed” a total of about 8 miles, walking from 9th and State on the west to Veteran’s Park on the east side, and from the Harley Davidson Museum on the south to the North Point lighthouse on the north.  We did take the city bus to complete one challenge since we were running short on time.

Along with the great exercise and experiencing new parts of Milwaukee, we met interesting new people:

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Eating tacos at Rudy’s

“Ole! Have a picture taken of both teammates with two strangers who are clearly eating tacos.” The requirement to finish the race was to complete 11 out of the 12 challenges; we were able to accomplish this and ended up with a respectable showing in the middle of the pack of the 25 teams.

Here are some of the lessons that we learned from our adventure (and which can be applied to life in general):

  1. Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never tried before. Each new opportunity is a learning experience and could end up being one of the best experiences of your life!
  2. Take some time to evaluate and plan your course of action before undertaking any task.  If we had taken some time to plan our route before heading out haphazardly to the challenges, we would have saved both time and energy and most likely placed much higher in the rankings.
  3. Don’t give up!  It was looking rather dire as we were running out of time and needed to get from Veterans’ Park to the finish line at AJ Bombers, but we pushed on and found that we beat many other teams who only completed 8, 9, or 10 of the required challenges.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of a great teammate or associate! Mickie and I made a great team. One of us deciphered the clues while the other figured out how to get there. We each urged the other one on when one of us was ready to give up. She encouraged me to step up my pace when we were running out of time and I talked her out of abandoning the race to just hang out at the Lakefront Brewery (although that was a very tempting suggestion!)
  5. Safety is the best policy! This goes without saying, but I had to convince Mickie that even though we thought our legs were going to fall off, hitchhiking to the finish line was NOT a good idea! (Not only was it not safe, but could have gotten us disqualified!)

You can see more photos and check out the results at http://www.scavengerdash.com/mke.html We were the “G-Town Girls Gone Wild” team. And yes, other teams were just as wacky as we were and dressed alike because there was also a prize for best costume.

Teammates

This was truly an amazing race for us and we are already planning our strategy for next year. Who knows, maybe then on to…the real Amazing Race!!

Don’t be Afraid of New Challenges!

By Heidi Grogan

I love the show the Amazing Race! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, teams of two travel around the world and complete various challenges to compete for an opportunity to win $1,000,000.  Obviously the monetary prize is great, but the true appeal of the contest is being able to experience new and exotic locales while exercising your competitive spirit by competing against 11 other teams to get to the next pit stop, which could be anywhere around the world. The team that reaches the final pit stop first is the big winner. This past season’s winning team was a husband and wife from Madison, Wisconsin.

Image

One of the physical challenges

When my friend Mickie Wagner asked me to try an Amazing Race type of event earlier this summer, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! The event is called “The Scavenger Dash” and according to the website, it is a wildly fun urban adventure where teams of two solve twelve clues, have a wild city adventure, and complete fun challenges while discovering the city in a different way.  It is an amazing race on a local level. The difference between this race and the Amazing Race is that the Scavenger Dash doesn’t tell you where the next checkpoint or pit stop is, but rather gives you a clue which you must figure out to determine the location. For example, one of the clues stated:  “There are hundreds of peace poles located around the world. Find the one that’s located right here in Milwaukee and picture either teammate with one of these universal symbols of peace.”  I also need to note that we were able to use the internet (via smartphones or by “phoning a friend”) to assist us with clues.  In this case, we determined that the Peace Pole was located at St. Benedict the Moor Church at 9th and State and headed over there to take a picture.  Some of the checkpoints required us to take a picture; at others we needed to obtain an item or complete a physical challenge.

Another of the rules of the Scavenger Dash was that teams could only travel by foot or public transit. The city bus was ok, but bicycles, taxis or hitching a ride were forbidden. We completed the race almost entirely by walking or jogging and estimated that we “hoofed” a total of about 8 miles, walking from 9th and State on the west to Veteran’s Park on the east side, and from the Harley Davidson Museum on the south to the North Point lighthouse on the north.  We did take the city bus to complete one challenge since we were running short on time.

Along with the great exercise and experiencing new parts of Milwaukee, we met interesting new people:

Image

Eating tacos at Rudy’s

“Ole! Have a picture taken of both teammates with two strangers who are clearly eating tacos.” The requirement to finish the race was to complete 11 out of the 12 challenges; we were able to accomplish this and ended up with a respectable showing in the middle of the pack of the 25 teams.

Here are some of the lessons that we learned from our adventure (and which can be applied to life in general):

  1. Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never tried before. Each new opportunity is a learning experience and could end up being one of the best experiences of your life!
  2. Take some time to evaluate and plan your course of action before undertaking any task.  If we had taken some time to plan our route before heading out haphazardly to the challenges, we would have saved both time and energy and most likely placed much higher in the rankings.
  3. Don’t give up!  It was looking rather dire as we were running out of time and needed to get from Veterans’ Park to the finish line at AJ Bombers, but we pushed on and found that we beat many other teams who only completed 8, 9, or 10 of the required challenges.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of a great teammate or associate! Mickie and I made a great team. One of us deciphered the clues while the other figured out how to get there. We each urged the other one on when one of us was ready to give up. She encouraged me to step up my pace when we were running out of time and I talked her out of abandoning the race to just hang out at the Lakefront Brewery (although that was a very tempting suggestion!)
  5. Safety is the best policy! This goes without saying, but I had to convince Mickie that even though we thought our legs were going to fall off, hitchhiking to the finish line was NOT a good idea! (Not only was it not safe, but could have gotten us disqualified!)

You can see more photos and check out the results at http://www.scavengerdash.com/mke.html We were the “G-Town Girls Gone Wild” team. And yes, other teams were just as wacky as we were and dressed alike because there was also a prize for best costume.

Teammates

This was truly an amazing race for us and we are already planning our strategy for next year. Who knows, maybe then on to…the real Amazing Race!!

Engineering and the Community: How Governor Quinn’s Decision Can Affect You

By Joe Avram

As a transportation engineer, I was obviously thrilled to hear that Governor Quinn approved $1.6 billion in transportation work throughout Illinois. Naturally, any engineer would be excited about the prospect of new business and new opportunities. However, this news also acts as an excellent example of why I chose a career in civil engineering. Engineering helps communities and improves the lives of the people and businesses that reside there. So, wondering how these changes may affect you?

Resurfacing and Roadway Improvement

Potholes damage tires, crack rims, and ruin a car’s alignment…just to name a few. Imagine how much money could be saved on car repairs if 100 miles of old Chicago roadways were resurfaced? We’ll, that’s just what the state has planned. On top of that, smooth roadways can even help improve your gas mileage too. Come on, who doesn’t want to save a little money on car repairs and gas?

Easing the Intersections of Roads and Railways

Everyone hates getting stuck by that freight train when you’re in a time crunch, but those inconveniences can put significant stress on local businesses. It isolates them and decreases the overall traffic past their storefronts. That’s why the State has allocated funds to modernize rail infrastructure with an overpass separating trains and vehicles at 25th Avenue in Bellwood.

Improving CTA and Metra Transportation

Public transportation is a quick and affordable way to travel, but realistically it isn’t always the most reliable. Railway issues often causes delays, leaving passengers packed on crowded trains not going anywhere fast. If you’ve been stuck on a packed el train in the summertime, you’ll be happy to hear the state plans to repair the Wells Street Bridge over the Chicago River that supports both the Brown and Purple Line CTA trains.  Money has also been allocated for improvements that will be made to the Red, Blue and Purple Line, as well as to Pace routes.

Creating and Improving Pedestrian Crossings and Walkways

In 2010, 32 pedestrians were killed in Chicago after being hit by a motor vehicle. So, it’s no surprise part of the State’s plan includes creating and improving pedestrian crossings and walkways. Some of these projects include a 35th Street bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive and vaulted sidewalks and accessible ramps on parts of Michigan Avenue and State Street.Roadway Improvements

In general, these transportation improvements will help individuals save money, support local businesses, improve travel times, and protect the safety of travelers. As an engineer, I’m proud to say it’s my job to make these improvements happen.

Want to read more about Governor Quinn’s decision? Check out these articles from The Chicago Tribune and Sun Times.

"It's the people that make the difference."

By Mike Stirk

Not too long ago, as I was preparing to begin working at GRAEF, I was speaking with a longtime friend and professional mentor.  We talked about what makes a firm special, what makes it unique, what makes a client want to work with a firm.  There is no doubt that expertise, location and affordability all come into play, but all those equal, “It’s the people that make the difference.”  I think we both arrived at this realization at the same moment.  It’s the experience, the projects and most importantly, the people. 

Those words represent my sentiment when I embarked on my journey with GRAEF.  I guess I’m sort of coming off a “mid-career crisis” of sorts.  That time that most everyone goes through, when you begin to wonder if what you have done adds up to anything, whether it be physical or philosophical.  Is there anything beyond a paycheck, beyond stuffing the coffers to hopefully cover your kid’s college expenses?  The times I missed a night out with my wife, or a 3rd grade drama club performance, or maybe fixing that door at home or calling aging parents, do they mean anything?  I’m sure we all wonder what we could have done differently, what we should have skipped and what we wished we had done.  It’s human nature, that one thing we all have in common, the one thread that runs through our collective fabric. 

I was recently watching a movie at home on a rare night with no obligations knocking at my door.  The story line and the actors are not recorded in the gilded halls of Hollywood.  The plot was thin and the cinematography not very imaginative, but there was that one shining moment when the main character has the obligatory epiphany…  the “mid-movie crisis” so to speak.  He almost looks into the camera to make his plea; “What am I doing?  Why is it that we do this work?  I tell you, it’s more than a job; it’s who you are, it’s what you become.”  That line struck a note that resonated for more than a few minutes. 

I thought about it and compared it to my own situation.  I think it is true to a large degree, you become what you do.  I think our jobs are one of the biggest influences on our lives, influences that include our parents, our families, what we read and what we have experienced.   There are no doubt other celestial or spiritual semaphores for all of us, but work is where the rubber meets the road.  I believe that if something influences our lives that much we should make the journey with people we believe in, who we trust and quite simply who we enjoy. 

A recent Instagram picture I took at a meeting, from the 50th floor of the Blue Cross Building. As I look at Chicago and see many projects from 23 years, some big, some small and some that I had a hand in making happen, more than the objects or the spaces, I remember the people I worked with to make the projects happen. There are a hundred memories in every lane of roadway, gathering of trees or line of street lamps that fade to infinity.
A recent Instagram picture I took at a meeting, from the 50th floor of the Blue Cross Building. As I look at Chicago and see many projects from 23 years, some big, some small and some that I had a hand in making happen, more than the objects or the spaces, I remember the people I worked with to make the projects happen. There are a hundred memories in every lane of roadway, gathering of trees or line of street lamps that fade to infinity.

With that said, when I sell GRAEF to a client, it’s not what we did, or what we can do, it’s who we are, the people, all of us.  We all lean on each other for example, for help, for encouragement, and when a job is finished, we should all be able to look each other in the eye and say “We did that, it’s who we are, now let’s do it again.”  That feeling, despite any bumps in the road along the way, is why I do it, and in the end, why I’d do it again.

“It’s the people that make the difference.”

By Mike Stirk

Not too long ago, as I was preparing to begin working at GRAEF, I was speaking with a longtime friend and professional mentor.  We talked about what makes a firm special, what makes it unique, what makes a client want to work with a firm.  There is no doubt that expertise, location and affordability all come into play, but all those equal, “It’s the people that make the difference.”  I think we both arrived at this realization at the same moment.  It’s the experience, the projects and most importantly, the people. 

Those words represent my sentiment when I embarked on my journey with GRAEF.  I guess I’m sort of coming off a “mid-career crisis” of sorts.  That time that most everyone goes through, when you begin to wonder if what you have done adds up to anything, whether it be physical or philosophical.  Is there anything beyond a paycheck, beyond stuffing the coffers to hopefully cover your kid’s college expenses?  The times I missed a night out with my wife, or a 3rd grade drama club performance, or maybe fixing that door at home or calling aging parents, do they mean anything?  I’m sure we all wonder what we could have done differently, what we should have skipped and what we wished we had done.  It’s human nature, that one thing we all have in common, the one thread that runs through our collective fabric. 

I was recently watching a movie at home on a rare night with no obligations knocking at my door.  The story line and the actors are not recorded in the gilded halls of Hollywood.  The plot was thin and the cinematography not very imaginative, but there was that one shining moment when the main character has the obligatory epiphany…  the “mid-movie crisis” so to speak.  He almost looks into the camera to make his plea; “What am I doing?  Why is it that we do this work?  I tell you, it’s more than a job; it’s who you are, it’s what you become.”  That line struck a note that resonated for more than a few minutes. 

I thought about it and compared it to my own situation.  I think it is true to a large degree, you become what you do.  I think our jobs are one of the biggest influences on our lives, influences that include our parents, our families, what we read and what we have experienced.   There are no doubt other celestial or spiritual semaphores for all of us, but work is where the rubber meets the road.  I believe that if something influences our lives that much we should make the journey with people we believe in, who we trust and quite simply who we enjoy. 

A recent Instagram picture I took at a meeting, from the 50th floor of the Blue Cross Building. As I look at Chicago and see many projects from 23 years, some big, some small and some that I had a hand in making happen, more than the objects or the spaces, I remember the people I worked with to make the projects happen. There are a hundred memories in every lane of roadway, gathering of trees or line of street lamps that fade to infinity.
A recent Instagram picture I took at a meeting, from the 50th floor of the Blue Cross Building. As I look at Chicago and see many projects from 23 years, some big, some small and some that I had a hand in making happen, more than the objects or the spaces, I remember the people I worked with to make the projects happen. There are a hundred memories in every lane of roadway, gathering of trees or line of street lamps that fade to infinity.

With that said, when I sell GRAEF to a client, it’s not what we did, or what we can do, it’s who we are, the people, all of us.  We all lean on each other for example, for help, for encouragement, and when a job is finished, we should all be able to look each other in the eye and say “We did that, it’s who we are, now let’s do it again.”  That feeling, despite any bumps in the road along the way, is why I do it, and in the end, why I’d do it again.