Our Bucket List Adventure: Day 2

April 13, 2016

Phase 1 Complete. . .

Phase 1 was getting to Chicago. Not much to that really. Thankfully, we weren’t expecting great things in Chicago, because we sure didn’t get them. Our memories of Chicago are wrapped in lots of rain and expensive taxis.

And one truly AWFUL continental breakfast.


Seriously. I can not recommend the so-called continental breakfast at O’Hare Inn & Suites. It consisted of a coffee machine that didn’t work correctly and spit out slightly colored hot water, a choice between two stale cereals, and milk. That’s it. No fruit, no pastries, no yogurt… nothing but stale cereal and milk.

In fact, I really can’t recommend that motel, period. The staff was nice, but gave us the wrong kind of room. Even after asking about our reservation to be “sure they got it right”… they didn’t. Also, the motel is supposed to be non-smoking, but someone had obviously ignored it as the hallway reeked of smoke.

They did send a shuttle promptly to the airport to pick us up the night before. And the rates were about as reasonable as it gets in the Chicago area. But it was certainly a case of “you get what you pay for”… an older motel, funky smells, and a breakfast that belonged in the “Motel Meals Hall of Shame.”

Fortunately, the day got better. 🙂

All Aboard Amtrak’s California Zephyr

Phase 2 and heading out on the train was really our first stage of “real” vacation. It was still pouring rain when we got a taxi and headed for the Union Station. We arrived in plenty of time but $60 poorer. Ouch. Just ouch.

There was no good way to get around that. 🙁 We could have either stayed close to the airport and get a free shuttle to the motel, or try to find a motel closer to the train station, but then we’d have had to pay for the taxi both to the motel, and to the train station.

The motel clerk suggested riding public transportation, but that would have been difficult to manage with luggage. And considering how well we managed public transportation in San Francisco… it’s probably a very good thing we didn’t try it. No telling where we might have ended up!

First Impressions

When we first got on the train and found our room, the first thing we both thought was, “Tiny!”

sketch of roomThe rooms on an Amtrak train are 6’6″ x 7’6″. A lot of you reading this have probably got bathrooms bigger than that. And this *includes* the bathroom, a tiny little stall with a toilet.

Somehow, the Amtrak sketch manages to make it look bigger than it really is.

For instance, the chair looks like a comfy lounging chair in the sketch, but in reality the seat is about the size of most cheap office chairs.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t take long until you acclimate to the small space and it feels just fine. Although I must admit it is rather crowded when the beds are out for the night!

Stop and Go Transportation

One thing about riding on a train, there are a lot of stops, although most of them don’t last long enough to give you time to get off the train and look around. We weren’t on the train very long until we stopped at Naperville, then headed on out.

pic of Amtrak Naperville sign

street-lightAlong the way we passed this brick walkway and street light, and it reminded me of the light at the edge of the woods in Narnia. Our adventure (thankfully) didn’t reach the epic scale of Chronicles of Narnia, but it was still a fun thing to imagine as we wound our way through the countryside.

That first day we passed through:

  • Princeton, Illinois
  • Galesburg, Illinois
  • Burlington, Iowa
  • Mount Pleasant, Iowa
  • Ottumwa, Iowa
  • Osceola, Iowa
  • Creston, Iowa

The snow was coming down pretty thickly in many places, so it was hard to get clear pictures of the farmland and cities we passed through.

However, I did manage to get a few pictures, shown below… You can hold your mouse over the pic to see a caption, or click on the picture to start a slide show….

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By the time we were going through Nebraska it was dark, and all we could see were lights of the cities as we passed through, so no pictures there. So that’s about it for our first day on the Amtrak California Zephyr.

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