Saturday, September 9, 2000 - Somewhere between Minneapolis (Portage, WI) and Chicago - On Board Amtrak's Empire Builder Train

It really does make a difference when you travel during the daytime. We missed a lot of scenery because it was dark on my trip into Minneapolis. Near the beginning of this trip we followed the Mississippi for quite some time before passing over it, following a small range of hills and passing through a few state parks. It is quite simple countryside. I have seen cranes, ducks, geese and lots of other birds all along this trip. The cranes were something else fishing in a swamp. Quite large creatures.

This morning started early, of course, with me waking up at 6:00 to get ready for the trip. I am feeling a bit better than yesterday but still a bit under the weather. I don't know what it is about these trips but I always seem to catch something or other near the end of it – I blame it on excessive air conditioning at the hotel in Chicago. I was pleased to first see Jolene then Mike come out of their room to come with me to the train station.

The ride to the station was uneventful, about 45 minutes, but we chatted about this and that – it was really quite a nice time. At the train station, they dropped me off, wishing me all the best. Before I let them go, though, I let them know that they were more than welcome to come visit me in England – a prospect that seemed to delight Jolene though Mike looked a bit dubious. I hope they do come and visit, I would appreciate the company and I do have more than enough room for them to stay with me.

I really had a great time visiting. They were so hospitable and I really enjoyed catching up with Mike and visiting some local restaurants to try the best Minneapolis/St. Paul can offer (at least for my palate). It is funny how we could get talking right away after having not seen each other for so long and Jolene really did fit right into the conversation (though I did notice her eyes rolling when we started “talking shop”). It was good to also recall the days in Winnipeg when we used to go as large groups out to visit local restaurants for 2-3 hours every Friday lunch. It was quite a unique thing at the time and since I have never experienced anything like it – a number of like-minded people out to experience new things…

The sky has gone quite overcast after this morning, which was quite clear and VERY humid though what the weather will be like in Chicago is a different issue entirely.

It was rather complicated when I got into Chicago. I sort of expected that by having to get a hotel near the airport which is quite some way from the downtown area.

We arrived in Chicago a bit early so I was able to pick up my luggage but for some reason, the ride I had arranged to the airport (the “return” portion of my ticket that I had used to get into Chicago when I first arrived) had decided that I wanted to be picked up a half hour earlier so when I went outside to wait for what I thought would be a leisurely 25 minutes turned into a mad dash after the van as I saw it just pulling away (waiting on the wrong side of a two-way divided street I might add…). After a harrowing trip up the highway to the airport (they really drive like maniacs on highways here it seems, no regard to speed limits or “safe travelling distances” at all) I managed to figure out where to catch the free shuttle to the hotel.

Needless to say, it was a bit of a walk outside with VERY heavy luggage (by now). I caught the NON air-conditioned bus to the hotel which really is just outside of the airport and actually quite comfortable. My room is very spacious and gets all sorts of TV channels that I never had in my VERY posh place downtown. I think I will be sleeping quite well tonight though it will also be very busy tomorrow (and long).

Another delivery of Chicago-style pizza…Life is rough…

⇒ Continue to Monday, September 11, 2000 - Woking, Surrey, England