(We went to Chicago back in March. I’m just now updating … because I work full time during the days, update websites at night, clean house, spend time with the family and workout in between all of that. OMG – who has time to blog anymore??)
We left Wednesday right after I got off work. Well, not RIGHT after, I went home, changed, finished packing, loaded up the car, got some gas, stopped at Taco Bell for dinner, got to our hotel in St. Louis, got up the next morning and went to the Amtrak station first.
We stayed at the Drury Inn in St. Louis, the one right next to Union Station. We stay at that hotel a lot, actually, because it’s easy to get to, is downtown and serves a mean breakfast the next morning. (Even though you’re paying for that breakfast in the cost of the room, still, it’s super nice not to have to stress about where you’re going to eat and it’s so much more satisfying than eating donuts and bagels that come with a continental breakfast).
We drove the two blocks to the Amtrak station and parked in the long-term parking. It was in a gated parking lot and though that’s better than nothing, I was still a wee bit nervous about leaving my car out in the open, in downtown St. Louis, right next to the train tracks.
We pulled our luggage to the building next to the parking lot. Only. It wasn’t the train station and we didn’t realize that until a railroad worker shooed us away. It was another building, up on a hill. And we had no idea that was where we had to go because there were no signs – at all.
We walked into our half of the station (the other half was for Greyhound passengers). We used the handy kiosk station thingy and printed off our tickets. Which was nice since we didn’t have to stand in line – not that there was a line. We were planning on checking our luggage, and when we asked where we needed to go to do that, we were “advised” not to check our luggage. There would be plenty of room to store our luggage on the train, for free, and if we checked it, it would be an extra thirty minutes to collect it.
Already then. We wouldn’t check our luggage.
The Amtrak employee told us that the train was running late and though we were supposed to take off at 7:55 a.m., we would actually not depart the station until 9:00 a.m. The train, which was NEVER late, I overheard a regular passenger say, was running late because they had had a lot of rain in Texas and there was a flooding problem. So. The one time we decide to ride the train, it’s late. Swell. This sort of reminds me when we took the boys flying for the first time and missed our connecting flight in Dallas and had to have the airline pay for our room – not exactly a good first impression, then or now.
So. We had to wait an hour in the St Louis train station. Which wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if Mother Nature would have left me along. But if there’s one thing about pre-menopausal women? It’s the sheer unpredictability of when the b*tch will strike next and this b*tch would NOT leave me alone. And I didn’t have very many supplies on me because I wasn’t expecting there to be a problem. But oh boy, did I have a problem. So I was stressed out about that.
Then. We had some weird guy doing chair exercises on the seats right in front of us. He would do reverse push ups (his hands were on the seat behind, his legs outstretched in front of him and so long that Kevin actually had to move his legs out of the way). And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he would then abruptly stop what he was doing and get on the floor to do push-ups. Then, he would abruptly stop those, sit back down and grab his head like it was about to explode from his shoulders all the while mumbling and huffing and puffing.
He was clearly on something because he simply couldn’t sit still. Luckily, he got onto a Greyhound bus and we didn’t have to deal with him on the train.
The boys were sitting on the seats behind us. And at one point, Jazz leaned back to tell me, “Hey mom. I just had a guy ask me if I had any weed on me.”
Awesome. When was the train going to arrive again?
When the train finally arrived, we lined up and walked to the platform. The day had been overcast and by the time we got to the platform, it was raining. The platform didn’t have any sort of awning, so there we were, about forty-some-odd people, pulling our luggage behind us, waiting to board the train, in the rain.
Talk about stupid. Why wouldn’t they have some sort of awning out there??
A lot of people grumbled about being soaked when we finally got onto the train. And then, to make matters worse, there wasn’t enough room for all of us and they were one car short. So people were scrambling to find a seat and since we were the last ones to board? There weren’t any more seats, nor was there anywhere for us to put our luggage.
This trip was getting off to a GREAT start.
So, there we stood. In the aisle in the train wondering whether we were going to have to stand the whole trip to St. Louis. We were directed to walk to the very last train and a bunch of us stood in the aisle while we waited for Amtrak to connect another car for us.
WHY they couldn’t have done this BEFORE we boarded the train is beyond me.
But it was interesting to see them attach another car and once they did, we found our seats and settled in. In fact, we nearly had the whole car to ourselves and it was quiet and quite roomy. There was a foot rest on the seat in front of us, and our seats reclined back, so it was actually very comfortable. We had had to store our luggage on a rack on another car, but once we got on our way and things settled down, Kevin and Dude went to the car, collected our luggage and brought it back on to the car we were in so we wouldn’t have to stress about finding it later.
Five and a half hours later, we were in Chicago.
It was raining when we got there, but soon cleared up. Taxis were waiting outside and we didn’t have any trouble finding one to take us to our hotel. Which was right across the street from the Chicago River.
I thought it was really cool that the streets were actually bridges that connected the city on both sides of the river. I also thought this building was cool, too. See the cars parked right at the edge of the buildings on the bottom?
One good shake, and those puppies would fall off those structures and into the river.
We arrived about 4:30, so we really only had enough time to get settled into our hotel and walk nearby blocks so we could get a sense of what was nearby. I took a video of our room …
I think the hotel used to be an apartment building because it wasn’t very big and in fact, the rooms were sort of tucked into various angles of the building, but we liked it and we LOVED the location.
We found a nearby WalGreens, bought some breakfast food, took it back to our hotel room, then we went to Qdoba and ate dinner. Kevin wanted to walk around so more, but by that time, it was getting dark and I wasn’t sure that was such a good idea. I’m sure we would have been fine, but … Chicago? At night? I wasn’t taking any chances. So we stuck around the hotel room and watched TV. We were pooped anyway from a long day of traveling.
The air conditioning in our room wasn’t working that great, so we ended up sleeping with the window open to allow the cool night air to come in. I had to get up a few hours later though and close it because there was a siren about every five minutes and it would wake me up.
Dude slept on the pull out sofa, and Jazz slept on the sofa and chair cushions on the floor. The boys wanted to do it that way so they wouldn’t be in each other’s faces all night long.
Oh. Kevin and I did walk several blocks until we found an “L” train station. We thought we would be able to get to the Aquarium and the Science Museum by riding it, but alas, no.
Plan “B” was to ride the busses.
Plan “B” actually involved A LOT of walking.
We see sharks next.
I had no idea Easter was tomorrow … until yesterday. Something tells me, I've been too busy lately.—
Karen M (@writefromkaren) April 07, 2012
Seriously. No idea. I need to get away from work more often and pay attention to “real life.”