Today is the first day of school for S and C so I guess it is high time I finish the trip posts. Combined with the need to prepare lunches again and think about a school uniform and forms to fill out, yesterday was an extremely wet and cold day, courtesy of the rear end of Hurricane Irene. The cousins were packing up and getting ready to leave (also today). The adults did groceries, folded clothes, baked stuff. The mood was quiet, grey, as if we were battening down the hatches, as if summer was over. And I gotta tell you, waking up at five again and writing this post, it is easy to convince myself that summer is long gone.
However. Here is proof that the elusive season was here and that we enjoyed ourselves. Last time I left you we had disembarked four hours later than we were supposed to in Chicago. Once off the train, we each of use hauled our large bags several long Chicago blocks to the hotel on Michigan Ave. What was the hotel called? I can’t remember right now, but it was a Grand old dame of a thing, without a swimming pool, but with large, spacious rooms with high ceilings and the original moulding. It looked a little like the old hotel in Barton Fink. Although we had booked the rooms weeks in advance, they still could not manage to have two rooms side by side. At first the young surly man who could give a crap at the desk told me that the rooms were in separate wings of the hotel. I told him that was unacceptable. He finally managed to get them on the same floor. However, our in-laws room had no view and I think was meant for people in wheel chairs (which wasn’t so bad- they actually had a walk-in closet).
An aside here: we noticed this last year, but the point was brought home in spades again in Chicago. Why is it that the more expensive the hotel, the ore you have to pay for the basics. I mean you get a three star hotel or a two star hotel like a Holiday Inn express and you get free use of the pool, exercise room, free wi-fi and a free breakfast. In a four star hotel, you look at the clerk wrong and you owe them ten bucks a second. It makes you want to stick with the generic brand.
Okay. Rant concluded. We continue with a selection of photos taken and hand-picked by artist Jeremy Gordaneer of the last bout of our journey. We had 24 hours in Chicago, so we had to make it count.
|The El tracks. Third time in Chicago and still haven’t taken it…|
|Oh! So that’s where Central America is!|
The first night in Chicago we went out to dinner at a chain place called Giordano’s (the place we went to get the deep dish pizza in March). By the time we got back to the hotel it was 11 and everyone was exhausted.
The next day I woke up a little earlier than everybody and had my first run since being on the train and I am glad to say my legs still worked. Chicago has a wonderful bike and walking path that spans its shoreline and this time I decided to go past the aquarium, past the stadium (Wrigley? Aren’t there two there?) and back.
|Kids looking cool. They look like a rock band….|
Okay. This thing deserves a little paragraph. There are two of these structures made out of glass blocks that project different faces on them. When we were in Chicago in March, they looked a little forlorn in their empty square of concrete. However, little did we know then that in the summer these large glass faces spew water from their mouths and it is the weirdest, largest art/water park we have ever seen.
|The kids couldn’t help jumping in…|
We met up with the others at our hotel (which for the life of me I can’t remember the name) then walked to the giant metal jelly bean featured so prominently in one of my blog posts in March. Then to a Pub (can’t remember the Pub’s name either, but I do remember good spinach pie and C got the most amazing root beer…) for some dinner and back to get our luggage for the walk to the train station for an overnight on Coach to Albany. Yep. Overnight.
A little note about getting on the train though. It’s a little cut throat. Unlike the plane, where people have assigned seating and people can wait patiently with the knowledge that they will be seated together, the train has no such nicety. To make it worse, there were a total of two bible camps wanting to get on board, and unlike good Christians, were extremely pushy.
However, I can be a tad aggressive when I want to be, and managed to use the “traveling with children” card (even though my children are quicker and more efficient than most of the adults I saw boarding) and we were able to get four seats together.
And yes. It was uncomfortable. The days of being able to sleep sitting up without too much fall out are far behind me (if they were ever there in the first place). Not to mention the discomfort of having a ten year sprawled across you,, fidgeting the whole time.
Still, it wasn;t that bad either. We all managed to get some sleep, and in the morning woke to some beautiful scenery and some more opportunities to read and doze.
Albany. Not much to say, except we were gauged by the taxi driver who took us to the hotel. A five minute ride ended up costing twenty dollars, because as the taxi driver said, they charged us ‘by the person’. It was Sunday night when we got in so nothing was open. We found another pub, had hopefully our last greasy meal for the trip, and went back to our Holiday Inn Express to take advantage of the pool.
|Seen in store window in Albany|
The next morning we boarded the train to Montreal. In a car, it takes about three hours to get from Albany to Montreal. In a train about eight. I am not sure how this adds up. Still, it was a beautiful ride through the mountains.
|S taking advantage of a nearly empty train car|
Thus concludes our cross-country train trip. My sister-in-law, who was supposed to take the train from Montreal to Chicago, then the Empire Builder back to Seattle, had to make alternative arrangements as all train trips were cancelled in the East due to Hurricane Irene. So I will leave you with one last word of advice- if you do plan on traveling by train, heed the natural disasters. They will but a wrench in your plans…