Tuesday, August 16, 2011

chapter 2 page 406 - All Aboard to Chicago

Chicago is just about 4 hours (without traffic) from my house . . . options to to get there include A.) DRIVING (it cost $43/night to park at the hotel + CRAZY big city traffic), B.)  fly (ummm, no!), or C.) Amtrak train.  Hmm, train . . ."L" has taken the train to Chicago and said it was AWE-SOME.  Well . . . I would NOT call it AWE-SOME, but it did have MANY advantages.

On the way to Chicago I took a single level train . . . it arrived at my departure station almost 3 hours late (BOO-I could have so totally slept in and taken my time getting to the train station).  While I waited at the "no real building only a small plastic bus shelter type" station, I elected to take a naparoonie in my car.  That was helpful as it gave me rest and passed the time.  Finally the train arrived - hmm, what a new experience.  I sat next to a guy who had been on the train since Boston (like 20 hours) - he was knowledgeable and was willing to "show me the ropes."  Here are some photos from inside the Amtrak train. . .
Seats recline like 4X as far back as airplane seats - nice!

Seats and aisles are far more roomier than airplane seats - also NICE!

Lots of overhead storage - nice!
 Now on my way back, I boarded the train at grand central station - insanity is the best way to describe it.  People were packed into the area like sardines and everyone was trying to go to a different place or line or terminal or whatever - it reminded me of watching ants at work at an ant hill.  NUTS!!!!  Absolutely hated this part.  Again, the train was running late and there were about 200 passengers for every one seat in the station waiting room so . . . after my half marathon, I got to stand for 90 minutes waiting on the train - yippee!!!!

This Jack AHole was in line behind me (2nd man in the photo - black tshirt with red lettering)!  REALLY - WHO THINKS WEARING A "BOMB SQUAD" T-SHIRT IS A GOOD IDEA WHILE RIDING PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION??????? It took ALL I had inside of me not to actually say something to him!

On the way home, I took a double decker train. . . any idea where my seat assignement was?  Yes, upstairs!  Any idea where the restroom was?  Yes, downstairs!  Any idea HOW.SORE.MY.LEGS.WERE.AFTER.THE.HALF?!?!  Torture!!!
Jury is still out on whether I would take the train again.  Here's a quick summary of the pros/cons:
-don't have to drive so napping may be possible
-roomy, clean, spacious
-fairly easy to navigate
-nice features at your seat like an outlet plug (to charge cell phone or computer), tray table, reclining seat, leg rest, foot rest, etc.
-restrooms, food service, etc.
-fairly inexpensive (especially compared to flying, or multi-night hotel parking)

-the closest station isn't really a "station" - it's a gravel parking lot and a small "sidewalk bus shelter" - so no restroom, and nothing to do while waiting for LATE trains!
-the trains were late (both coming and going) and there was NO apology or explination
-they ran out of food on my "to Chicago" train (I felt sooo badly for the folks who had been on the train 20 hours . . . eventually they brought everyone a snack pack containing cheese and crackers and a small cookie)
-Union Station was utter craziness
-No real say in where you sit or who you sit by (on the way to Chicago I had a chatty cathy and on the way back I had a Brazillian who didn't speak English but tried to and we obviously had a culture difference about deoderant usage - WOW!  RANK!!!)

Have you ridden Amtrak?  What did you think?  Would you recommend it or ride it again? 


  1. Sounds like a nightmare. I don't think my rock star ways could handle this. Next time maybe try driving to Michigan City and take the train from there. I think the stop there is better, ie. not just gravel.

    The guy in front of Bomb looks like Casey!

  2. I have never taken AMTRAK before--there are no trains anywhere near me so it's driving or flying if I want to get anywhere. But, I actually like flying so I would probably pick that option. I would hate having to go up and down stairs after a half--yikes!!

  3. ugh! I've never taken Amtrak because of stories like those. I usually drive to South Bend and take the South Shore Line. Sure you have to pay for parking (you get train at airport) but it's safe ans always on time.