Saturday, October 11, 2008

Train Travelogue, Part 1

Jess, I know you're anxious to hear about NY, but I have to get these stories out of me and on to paper, too. I know I'm back tracking a bit, but hang in there and I promise to post more soon.

September 9, 2008
There are a lot of strange people in this world. I might be one of them. There certainly are a different variety of people who take trains versus those who take planes. Trains are so much more accessible than planes. Although, not many of us know this or take advantage of it. Most people are very friendly. Some of them are 'train fans', others just trying to get from one place to the next at the lowest price. The most striking person I came across today was a long-haired blond guy pushing his crate of belongings through the 'B' track waiting lounge. I'm guessing he's a 30 something with a solid frame, but not one that hits the weights if you know what I mean. He was loudly proclaiming something, but I didn't quite hear. Maybe something about justice or inequality of not being able to get his bags checked. The next time I saw him was in the lounge car hunched over and asleep in a pair of observer deck chairs. Other interesting people include a family of the Amish. They boarded on the same train I did this morning in Grand Rapids. I overheard that they're coming from Mio in northern Lower Michigan near Grayling. I'm curious as to where they are going. Everybody's got a story.

The train is a nice experience. A slower pace and certainly not as invasive as a trip through your local airport; no x-rays, body checks or bare footing through the security line. As I go through the day, I'm picking up little hints and tricks on how to make the most of the train. So far I've learned that if you aren't in a sleeper car, the lower level coach seating is the place to be- lucky me, I was intuitive enough to get a lower-level ticket when I made my reservation. It's a smaller cabin with only 12 seats, there's no through passage, so there aren't constant streams of people walking by, there are electrical outlets next to every seat, and it's only steps from the bathroom.

So far this train experience is a good one. For some reason or another as soon as I get on the train I feel like I took a sleeping pill. I have a weird drugged out sort of feeling and just want to close my eyes. I'm forcing myself to stay awake though because before too long it will be dark and I'll have a lot of hours of possible sleep time all through the night, all in this seat. But, back to the good experience part. The scheduled three hour trip between GR and Chicago was a little longer than planned due to a late train and, yes, construction on the track. Once in Chicago I immediately sought out some coffee and was directed to go up a few levels out of the bowels of Union Station (yes, we NEED to invest in better public transportation!) and found Caribou Coffee. And, I'm glad I went. Not only did I get rid of the caffeine headache with a Mocha, I also received a free bag of coffee beans which will provide me with a fresh coffee smell all the way to Portland. With coffee in hand, I spotted a few of the Amish folks going outside. I followed and found myself next to the river on Adams Street in downtown Chicago. It was a gorgeous sunny day with a cool breeze. Ah, to be outside in the city! I love people watching and this was a fantastic place to do it. People on their lunch break, people waiting for trains and some just milling about. I soaked in as much sun and people watching as I could before heading back down to the grungy train station and boarding for a two day ride to Portland.

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