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Each journey begins with a single step... Two kiwis escaping from the island to explore strange new worlds and boldly go where thousands have gone before... . .

To and at Chicago

USA | Wednesday, 27 August 2008 | Views [877]

26th Tuesday

To Chicago

We packed up in the morning to catch our train, only to find that someone had pinched a set of our rechargeable batteries. We had an idea who it was, may he meet a grizzly bear. The weather was just starting to get nasty, the temperature was falling rapidly, and the intermittant showers were turning to rain. Our train left about 10am, for what was to be our longest leg of this trip. It began hailing outside shortly after we left, so our timing couldn't have been better.

We were now passing thru big sky country, plains for miles in all directions as we travelled across the states of Montana and North Dakota. The countryside was mainly acres of grain or cattle farms, with the occasional small town or river to break the scene and breifly passing thru some badlands which were small outcrops of broken hills. Our day ended with a glorious sunset over a very rural setting.

27th Wednesday

Still on to Chicago

After a rather uncomfortable nights travel, no thanks to a nasty fat sow of a conductor, we began the day by crossing the Mississippi River. Carol got up and went to the observation car, where she spent the morning talking to a lovely lady called Mary, who explained how unbending and straight the people of the Minnesota were (which explained the behaviour of the conductor), and talked about her family and livelyhood, and they both shared a lot of laughs together. Mary told Carol that there is a saying that every time someone eats, a nickle goes to Minnesota because of all the grain that is produced in the area. Kent in the meantime attempted to add a few more hours sleep, rising about 11am.

The state of Wisconsin provided more views of grain and cornfields until we reached Milwaukee, where we now got to see acres of cabbages instead. There were a lot more urban and industrial areas now. We passed thru the township of Forest Lake which is a very affluent and influencial area, so much so that the local McDonalds were unable to erect their famous golden arches, and were refined to displaying their presence by a tiny sign in a shop window, just like all the other stores in the small, tree filled town.


We finally arrived in Chicago at 4pm, ending our epic journey after being on the train for 30 hours, the train arriving on time too. We picked up a couple of visitor one day fun passes and walked 8 blocks up to State St to catch the 148 bus to Montrose, not far north of the city. Here we stayed with Billy O'Neal, who has an apartment on the 14th floor, and shares with Bandit, his omnivorous rabbit. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see a lot of Billy, who blew in and out like a whirlwind with his very busy lifestyle. Billy was a great guy, he gave us his bed to sleep in, we were his 30th couchsurfers for the month!

We took a bus back into the city for the evening for a meal at a cool Italian eatery called Portillo's where quite a few famous people had dined in the past (including Dan Akroyd and John Belushi who made Chicago famous with their terrific police car chase scene in the film 'The Blues Brothers' – we noted that the local police force rode everywhere on bicycles, was this just coincidence?). We walked around taking in the sights of the city, with a quick visit to Millenium Park, before catching a bus back to Billy's. We found Billy sound asleep on the lounge floor, it was 11pm and Carol was not feeling the best, not having slept well for a while. Billy got up sometime in the wee hours and disappeared again, and we didn't have a chance to see him before we left in the morning.

28th Thursday

We bussed back into the city, and walked around until we found a McDonalds with free wifi internet access (Starbucks wanted $7/hour!), but no power point, so it was a quick check of the emails until the laptop went flat before we made our way to the Union Station. There Kent quietly plugged in the phone and laptop chargers into an inconspicuous power board behind some automated ticketing machines and waited for our batteries to charge, while Carol walked to the Greyhound station a few blocks over to arrange our travel to see her nephew and family at Glens Falls in a couple of days. We checked our packs in as baggage while at the station so we didn't have to lug them around for the rest of the day.

We took a bus to the Navy Pier and walked around the area. The day was quite overcast, so we decided not to take a boat cruise on Lake Michigan (we may have time and a better view next time we pass thru Chicago on Kent's birthday). We caught an open trolley bus back to the Sears Tower. It was about 5.30pm, and still a little overcast, but we still got a reasonable view from the observation floor (at the top at the 103rd floor!). It was quite daunting, looking down on 30 – 40 story skyscrapers, a long way down! We wandered around the level, reading about the history and people of Chicago on displays that lined the inside walls, until the sun went down so we could look down on the city at night. We finally left the Sears Tower at about 8.30pm, and walked back to Union Station to catch our 10pm train for the start of the leg to Niagara Falls.

On our walk back we went into an ATM area of a bank and turned on the computer and picked up a free wifi spot and were able to catch up with the rest of our emails. Luckily some people don't secure their networks so we have been able to do this here and there, sometimes while a train stops at a station!

Tags: chicago


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