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Day 39 - Layover in Chicago

During the night the Lake Shore Limited had called in Rochester, NY, Buffalo-Depew, NY before entering Pennsylvania with a stop in Erie, PA. The train went along the Erie Lake which I unfortunately couldn’t see because it was dark. Next the train entered the state of Ohio with stops in Cleveland, OH, Elyria, OH and Sandusky, OH. Finally I woke up as the train had just come to a stop in Toledo, OH. Obviously the train had made up a bit of time during the night and left Toledo only 20 minutes late. It was still early and I tried to sleep a bit more but thanks to the shiny light in the middle of the aisle that wasn’t going to happen. Trying to make peace with my seating situation I went to the launch car where I had breakfast. There I could also sit at the window and recharge my phone. I had an interesting conversation over breakfast with an elder lady from Syracuse over the disturbing decline of the American middle class. While still chatting in the launch car the train made further stops in Bryan, OH and then in Indiana calling at Waterloo, IN and Elkhart, IN. The final stop in Indiana was in South Bend. The delay had again increased to about 35 minutes. Still the conductor was certain that we would reach Chicago almost in time. After I had returned to my aisle seat I spent the rest of the morning with reading. Before entering Chicago it was once again time to turn the clocks from Eastern Time to Central Time gaining one hour. Train 49 reached Chicago at 9.55 am only 10 minutes behind schedule. This was a great surprise to everybody because usually train 49 was always late, sometimes for hours, as I heard people talking in the aisle. Out of the sudden I had a 4 hour layover in Chicago which I hadn’t planned as I wasn’t expecting an on-time arrival of the Lake Shore Limited. Instead I had been worried that I might miss train 7 to Seattle departing Chicago at 2.15 pm. Luckily I was familiar with Chicago. Still somehow it was strange being back in Chicago after exactly one month. On the other hand Chicago had become now one of these cities where I knew my way around. I like that feeling of getting off at a city where I had been before and immediately knowing which way to go and how to get around as well as what to see. I walked straight out of Union Station exactly knowing my way through the station and to the closest exit. I went down on Adams crossing the Chicago River. I passed by the Willis Tower and the L station at Quincy and Wells. I kept walking along Adams all the way to the Chicago Art Institute. I went straight into Millennium Park just to check whether the Grant Park Orchestra had still its lunch rehearsals, like usually, on Fridays. I was lucky, they were just preparing the rehearsal and soon after I got seated the orchestra started to play. They were rehearsing for the evening’s concert. I wasn’t familiar with the pieces, some modern classical music. However, it was really beautiful and I had a hard time to leave the rehearsal after I had been there for about an hour. Nevertheless, I had to get lunch and then back to the station. I was really happy that I had gotten one more time the chance to see the Grant Park Orchestra perform, the timing with my layover had just been perfect. I quickly stopped by the Cloud Gate before getting to lunch. After lunch I passed quickly by the Chicago Cultural Center before heading back towards Union Station. Before entering the station I still got some snacks for the upcoming 46 hour train ride, the longest non-stop trip I have ever made. I arrived at Union Station about 40 minutes prior to the departure of train 7 “Empire Builder”. I was surprised that the departure track was already announced and even more surprised to see already such a long cue in front of the gate. Boarding began about 25 minutes before departure. This time seats were not assigned and travelers were only divided into different cars where they could choose any open seat. Well what should I say, I didn’t get a window seat. Yeah life sucks. At least this time is was my own fault. If I would have arrived to Union Station even earlier I could have been among the lucky ones that got a window seat. In the end boarding got a mess because the train was overbooked and passengers arriving after me didn’t even get a seat anymore. So I had to be happy that I had at least gotten a seat although located at the aisle. The Empire Builder left Chicago right on time. The last stop in Illinois was in Glenview, IL before the Empire Builder entered Wisconsin. Next the train stopped in Milwaukee, WI and did then further stops in Columbus, WI, Portage, WI, Wisconsin Dells, WI, and Tomah, WI.  Right after the stop in La Cross, WI the train crossed the Mississippi River entering into Minnesota. The train followed the Mississippi for quite a while providing some really beautiful views of the river while the sun was setting. The next stop was Winona, WN where my very friendly seat neighbor got off and I could inherit his window seat after I had gotten the okay from the conductor. I was happy that I finally had gotten a window seat for the rest of the trip. By the time we had left Winona, WN the train had picked up a delay of about 30 minutes. Soon after Winona it got dark. I spent most of the afternoon and evening with working on my creative writing projects. For some reason I am most productive and come up with the best ideas while traveling on trains. One of many reasons I had chosen to do this trip by train. The train did further stops in Red Wing, WN and reached then St. Paul-Minneapolis. At the time the Empire Builder left St. Paul-Minneapolis the delay had increased to about 40 minutes. Once we had left the twin city behind I prepared for going to sleep. I was lucky as the seat next to me remained empty and I could spread a bit more giving me a much better night sleep. 

Chicago Union Station

Grant Park Orchestra lunch rehearsal

Cloud Gate


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