Day 136 Amtrak to Chicago and Beyond - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

September 13, 2011

Day 136 Amtrak to Chicago and Beyond


Our rail car on the Lakeshore to Chicago feels modern, much like an airplane, except with seat spacing the way it 'should' be. One drawback of this is good sound insulation. The train has to get up to a fair speed before any really soothing 'clickety-click' is discernable. Maybe they need to pipe 'clickety-click' over the PA system, just as my camera has a shutter release sound and some electronic grandfather clocks go 'tick-tock'.

Movin' on down the line
Heart 0 Comment 0

One thing that remains 'authentic' on this train from New York to Chicago is the staff of almost all middle aged black male conductors. If they were not black, the same people could also run a Montreal Jewish deli!

Unlike with air travel, there are no announcements or on-board magazine sections telling you how to operate your world of the train car or escape if necessary. For example, our seats have a black knob that I deemed the 'shift lever' but could not otherwise figure out. I had to go ask one of the conductors about it. It turns out that there is a kind of leg support that can be (manually) lifted up from near your knees. The black knob releases it to fold back down. Go figure.

The shift lever.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Also a mystery is the dining car, said to be four cars back. You can apparently reserve a time to dine there, since sometimes there are announcements that the '8 o'clock reservations' or suchlike can come on down. Uncharacteristically for us trans-continental adventurers, we have not yet made our way four whole cars back to see what it is all about.

We have made an excursion one car forward to the snack lounge however. Maybe that is why we lack the courage to check the dining car - $4.50 for a hot dog could be more scary than cycling the 401.

Yikes!
Heart 0 Comment 0

Dodie did make a journey to the other end of our own car, and there met Beverly, who is travelling with her four kids to Lethbridge to see her Mom. She is brave to make the trip with four kids, but they are well behaved and a beautiful group:

Beverly and kids: Tyson, Rayna, Brendan, Ethan
Heart 0 Comment 0

As we have travelled along we have naturally answered the Usual Questions many times. When someone is especially interested we also direct them to this blog. We have taken great pleasure from seeing the hit count rise. Some blogs have really high counts, and we would like to come closer to them, without really being able to say why. Still we track the counts daily, and try to figure what makes the figure jump some days more than others.

Yesterday we had a really big milestone, 100,000 hits. We were watching for it, but did not really expect anyone else was. So we underestimated our good friend Arthur. Here was his reaction:

Yeah Arthur!
Heart 0 Comment 0

In a few hours, we will hit Chicago's Union Station, and should have a few hours to walk around. We anticipate seeing scores of middle aged black conductors. This foolish requirement is all really Steve Goodman's fault:

Stay tuned to see what we do find in Chicago (and keep those hits comin'!)

We rolled on towards Chicago, eager for our first look at this famous city that we had never been to.

The dining car on the Lakeshore
Heart 0 Comment 0
A glimpse of Lake Michigan. It is still turquoise, like when we cycled past it up North.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Seven lanes each way. We are approaching Chicago.
Heart 0 Comment 0
US Cellular Field - Home of the White Sox
Heart 0 Comment 0
Our first look at the skyline
Heart 0 Comment 0
Goodbye No. 917!
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

Our expectations for Chicago were simple. It had to have a large station with red hatted older black porters running around, it needed unique restaurants and stalls with local food delicacies, it needed sky scrapers, and it needed crowds of people. Maybe that means it needed to be New York, then again we haven't been to New York (except as kids) either, so what do we know? Anyway, here is the score for Chicago:

Only found one red hatted black Amtrak guy.

The somewhat large part of the station was not in use. The real station was similar to an airport in a medium sized town, and had low ceilings.

We only found three restaurants in a two block radius outside, and the only interesting one was a hot dog place like Mike's in Schenectady. The food fair in the station (recommended by a guy on the street)was small, costly, and not great quality.

The skyscrapers were super!

There were people around but not crowds. Among the people was a workable selection of "suits", buskers, beggars, tourists, and office workers. They were an artistic mix of black and white. There were few browns or other styles of people to break up the black and white picture. We did accost one janitor to ask for directions to the food fair, and he turned out to speak only Spanish. Still we marked him down as "white".

Ok, any readers who know Chicago, make us feel bad and tell us all we missed!

I had to look hard to find this one red hatted man
Heart 0 Comment 0
The great hall is not actually in use.
Heart 0 Comment 0
It is grand but not super grand
Heart 0 Comment 0
A strange curtain partitioned the great hall
Heart 0 Comment 0

There were two security guards, one at either end of the curtain. I went up to one and asked why there was a curtain here. "I don't know", she replied. I asked what was behind the curtain. "I don't know" she said again. I looked long into her face. Could a person spend a day (a month, a year?) guarding a curtain and not know why? I decided she really did not know!

I headed down to the other end, to see if the other guard had also been zapped by the Men in Black brain wiper, but half way was a man with an ID tag. Under pressure he allowed that this was for a movie, and finally caved and admitted it was Superman. Does this story wash? Is there another Superman in production?

Dodie interrogates a staffer of Third Act Productions
Heart 0 Comment 0
The outside of the station
Heart 0 Comment 0
Along canal street
Heart 0 Comment 0
Real sky scrapers
Heart 0 Comment 0
Sort of sterile streets
Heart 0 Comment 0
A one and a half spire church
Heart 0 Comment 0
The most interesting food choice was a hot dog stand
Heart 0 Comment 0
The food fair in the station was smaller than that of any suburban mall.
Heart 0 Comment 0
These guys' ribs were just ok and had high price
Heart 0 Comment 0
Sixteen dollars worth of ribs.
Heart 0 Comment 0
All aboard the Empire Builder
Heart 0 Comment 0
The observation car
Heart 0 Comment 0


Rate this entry's writing Heart 0
Comment on this entry Comment 0