Friday, July 17, 2009

The Not-So-Easy Life of a Railway Passenger

My oldest daughter and I embarked on an adventure today. We took the Amtrak to Chicago to visit my best friend and celebrate her 40th birthday (my best friend's birthday, not my daughter's). It was supposed to be an easy trip - get on, get off in Chicago 4 1/2 hours later, ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom.

Not so easy, it turns out.

My husband dropped us off at 7:45 AM to wait for the 8:30 AM train. We got our tickets and assumed the waiting position, which turned into about 20 different positions as we decided to pick up our baggage and move every 2 minutes to "a better spot over there." When 8:15 rolled around we got the news: the train out of Flint was delayed by a stalled Freight train. The damage: A 1 1/2 hour delay. Great - this was the day that my husband and I had discovered, 13 minutes before leaving the house, that my cell phone needed new service, and we decided that I probably didn't really need one for the weekend. So I had to scrounge up change for, heaven forbid, a pay phone. Yes, they do still exist. I called my husband and tried to quote to him, from my aging memory, my best friend's phone number so he could call her and tell her we were running late. Then Hope and I dragged our not-so-light luggage across the 2 sets of railroad tracks and down a rocky embankment to a Quality Dairy store so we could get some food. It turns out that trying to carry 2 hot sandwiches and a steaming cup of coffee, as well as 2 bags, a laptop case and a heavily-laden purse is not an easy feat. I think it should be an Olympic event. I might qualify.

OK, fast forward to the train ride. Yes it came an hour and a half late, but we were so relieved to finally be on our way. Straight through to Chicago. Until we hit another halt about an hour into the trip - a faulty switch. And Lord knows we really wanted them to fix the switch because I didn't want our train to go flying into some nice meadow of grazing cows. So we waited another bit of time. And finally we were off again.

But wait, there's more. There are more stops in Michigan to pick up passengers before it's non-stop to Chicago. But it wasn't really non-stop. We came to another grinding halt right around Michigan City, Indiana. It turns out yet another freight train was giving us some grief. Well, technically, it was the reported "unticketed" passengers who had hitched a ride on the freight train and were now being hotly pursued by police. I guess I can be thankful for that stop, too, since the offenders were possible escapees from a prison nearby.

So, finally on into Chicago. We were so close to Union Station, we could taste it. Screech. We had to wait for a commuter train.

Finally, we made it. My friend had been waiting for an hour with her 2 small children, God bless her. We boarded the Metra which was exciting, but also slightly claustrophobic. It took us right to my friend's front door. Yeah, I wish. It was actually like a 10-block walk, 3 children in tow, with an 85-pound bag wrapped around the handles of the umbrella sroller, which nearly catapulted the little guy right out of his comfy transport.

But we made it. And Hope was such a good sport. We are settled in and ready for a weekend of merrymaking.

It's time for bed.


  1. UGHHHHH I hope you wiped the lice and sludge off the public phone!
    I have taken the train a bunch of times and it sucks. Metra is different, quick and usually on time. But Amtrak, forget it. Better luck walking.
    Have SO MUCH fun in Chicago- that is so cool!

  2. Glad you arrived safely...sounds like quite the trip.

    Enjoy your fun weekend!

  3. Sounds fun! I will never forget the train trips I took with my mom as a little girl. On one the air conditioning wasn't working! And we were in Indiana which was hotter and more humid than anything I'd ever experienced in Colorado, my home. I still can see the plates of melted butter patties in the dining car. That confirmed my impression - it was HOT! And then the trip where there WASN'T a dining car and we lived on apples and a bag of malted milk balls for two days. Such great memories - I know we had perfect trips but I've forgotten them. A lovely memory for both mom and daughter.


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