Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Final Day in Chicago and The Train Ride Home

On Friday (our last full day in Chicago) we woke up to a very cloudy morning with a very big possibility of rain. That didn't matter to us. And we were in no hurry so we took our time getting ready and then had some breakfast. After eating we gathered our things and headed for the train. We took the green line out to Oak Park. It was a straight shot but with a lot of stops. By the time we arrived in Oak Park it was starting to drizzle. We first decided to do a little letterboxing and you can read about that at Tarzan in Oak Park. Then we ended up in downtown Oak Park and picked up a booklet of the area. By this time the rain had picked up a little but it wasn't too bad. Our goal was to see some of the Frank Lloyd Wright homes and his own home and studio. So we walked for a few blocks and began seeing some homes that were in the FLW style. We stopped and took pictures of different homes (not really knowing if they were a FLW design) and continued along until we reached his home and studio. You could take a tour but we decided to just look at the outside and continue on our walk. We figured out later that we saw at least seven of his houses (Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Thomas H. Gale House, Walter H. Gale House, Nathan G. Moore House, Arthur B. Heurtley House, Frank W. Thomas House and Edward R. Hills House). We also stopped at Austin Gardens to see a bust of Frank Lloyd Wright. Since it was raining we made a quick visit of the park and saw a large rock and wire sculpture that was interesting but I have no idea what it was and there was no sign describing it. After leaving the park we returned to the downtown area and decided to get out of the rain and went to see Angels and Demons. I enjoyed The DaVinci Code and wanted to see this one as well. I really enjoyed the movie and it kept me entertained the whole time. When the movie ended we stopped into one of the local restaurants and had something to eat before catching the train back to Chicago. The rain had not stopped during this whole time and after getting off the train we decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel. We ended up getting our things packed for our journey home the next day and getting to bed early.

Saturday morning we slept in and then completed packing for the trip home. After we had some breakfast we got a taxi to Union Station. We checked our bags in and got our boarding passes. We went to the lounge and left our carry-ons with the porter. We still had about four hours before our train left so we decided to walk around a bit. We crossed the street from the station and went into the old part of Union Station. It is a beautiful and grand building. One thing that caught our eye was the steps leading down into the Great Hall. They were all worn out from the thousands of feet that had walked down them. I thought it was wonderful. We then hit the streets. We walked around Union Station and spotted a church with two beautiful spires (they were both different) and we went to check it out. It turned out to be the Old St. Patrick's Church. The church was one of the few buildings that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. We went inside but only stayed for a moment - they were getting ready for a wedding. We crossed over the river and walked around The Loop for a while and then slowly made our way back to the station. We went back to the lounge and settled in to wait for the train. Thomas read and I worked on the computer and did puzzles.

Our train was scheduled to leave Chicago at 3:15pm and they called 'All Aboard' at about 2:45pm. Thomas and I decided to upgrade to a roomette just to see what it was like. So we made our way to our car and room. We put our carry-ons aside and got comfortable. The chairs are a little wider than in coach and face each other. There is a pull out table between them and plenty of leg room. We had a place to hang coats best of all a little privacy. We had a door with a window but also had curtains to cover the windows. At first we just sat and watched out the window as Chicago faded away. Eventually we read and talked about the trip. Time passed pretty fast and before we knew it dinner was being served. We had a nice meal and met a woman from Wisconsin who was on her way to visit her sister in San Diego. When we returned to our little room we decided to get it ready for sleeping - so we put the two seats down and then lowered the top bed. Thomas use the top one and went up there to read. I stayed in the lower bed and also read. I had started Stuart Woods' Santa Fe Dead on the train to Chicago. This time when I started reading I really got into the book. At about 2:00am I just couldn't keep my eyes open and finally went to sleep - I was a little upset because I only had about 25 pages to go but I just couldn't do it. Thomas had gone to sleep hours before this. We were both up by 6:00am the next morning and we got cleaned up and ready for breakfast. When they called to say the dining car was open we headed over there. It was a quick breakfast and we met two women from Kansas City on their way to the Grand Canyon. By the time we returned to the room the porter had put away the beds and straightened up the room. So we sat and read for a while. It didn't take me long to finish my book and then I started going through all the pictures I had taken on the trip to make a slide show. I worked on that for a while but didn't finish - there were just too many (over 1500), now there were some bad shots so I ended up taking multiples just to get a good one. So 1500 may sound like a lot but it was over a week and we saw some great stuff. We had some lunch, visited with a couple from Michigan (near the Canadian border) on their way to Las Vegas and then stayed in our room for the remainder of the trip - which wasn't that long. Nancy and Cliff met us at the depot in Lamy to take us back home. It was a great trip and I can't wait to take another train trip. Below are some slide shows - I ended up making three with different pictures because I had too many to share. There is a general slide show, a slide show containing architecture and one with art from the Art Institute of Chicago and public art around the city. Enjoy!

Chicago Trip Slide Show

Chicago Architecture Slide Show

Chicago Art Slide Show

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chicago Museums and Such

Last night the news said we should expect rain today and they were right. We woke up to a steady rain. We took our time getting up and ready and then headed down for breakfast. After eating we returned to the room and got our things. We decided that museums would be the best thing for a day like today. It was cloudy, a little cold and almost constant rain. So instead of walking we took a taxi to the Art Institute of Chicago. We got there a few minutes before it opened and had to wait out in the rain - luckily we had hoods on our jackets and we didn't get too wet. Once we paid and got our tickets and a map to the museum we found a place to sit and decide what we wanted to see first. It really wasn't a hard decision - Thomas and I both like the Impressionist. We ended up spending quite a bit of time in that area, but again we both like that art so we took the time to enjoy it. Then we spent a little time going through the European exhibits. Thomas wanted a break so we left the museum and found a restaurant across Michigan Ave. and had a bite to eat. We looked at the map of the museum to decide what we were going to do when we got back. The afternoon was spent mostly with the American painters. I was especially happy to see American Gothic and Nighthawks. We then just wandered around the museum and looked at a lot of decorative art from around the world. At about 3:00pm we decided to leave the museum. As we walked back to the hotel we took a short detour to the Chicago Cultural Center. This used to be the public library and the reason we were there was to see a glass dome they have. It is the largest Louis Comfort Tiffany art glass dome in the world. So we made our way up to the 3rd floor and the Preston Bradley Hall to see it. The dome is incredible and we were told it was valued at $35 million. The building itself is also pretty nice. There are mosaics everywhere and we felt like we had stepped back in time when we entered the place. We sat in Preston Bradley Hall and just stared at the mosaic work and dome for a good 20 minutes. We decided to call it a day and made our way back to the hotel. We skipped dinner tonight - neither one of us was hungry. I guess we need to decide what we are doing tomorrow.

This morning we woke up to completely opposite weather of yesterday. It was a beautiful day, a clear sky and lots of sunshine. After breakfast we walked down to Michigan Ave. to catch the #10 bus (this advice was given to us by the concierge at our hotel) to the Museum of Science and Industry. After waiting about 45 minutes we decided that the #10 bus wasn't going to come. We had asked about six other bus drivers and they all said that if it was on the sign it would be there. Thomas decided to call CTA and find out what we should do. After about ten minutes they told us it would be better if we headed to State St. and Wacker Dr. to catch the #6 bus which would drop us off a block from the museum. So we walked the four or five blocks and in less than 5 minutes we were on the bus to the museum. Once inside we went to the ticket counter and got general admission tickets and also decided to see the Harry Potter exhibit. This exhibit has props and clothing from all the movies even the soon to be released Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. You had to pick a time to see this exhibit because they try to limit how many people are inside at one time so that everyone has a chance to see everything so we decided to go right away. I thoroughly enjoyed it! I was surprised to see how small some of the actors really are. Seeing their costumes up close showed their true sizes. I was also impressed with the quality of the props - they weren't just thrown together - they were made really well. When you first enter the exhibit there is someone that gives an introduction and they also pick volunteers to do the sorting hat. Thomas got picked and when they put the hat on him it said that he was loyal and just and he was placed in Hufflepuff. Once we finished that exhibit we made our way back into the main part of the museum - the place is enormous - we sat down and looked at the map and decided which areas we wanted to visit. We opted for the following . . . Farm Tech, Wondrous Cold, Toymaker 3000, Transportation Gallery, Genetics and Coal Mine. By the time we finished all those we had enough of the museum.

So outside the museum we made our way around to the back and went for a walk on Wooded Island. The main purpose for this walk was to do a little letterboxing and you can read about that at A Bad Day and A Good Day. While walking we stopped at the Osaka Garden and relaxed in the peaceful atmosphere. After finishing the loop trail on the island we returned to the museum and looked at the map of the area. We decided to walk west and see Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. We found the house easily and looked around the outside. Unfortunately the house is undergoing renovation and it is only opened on Saturdays for tours. After taking a couple of pictures we continued our walk west to the University of Chicago. We enjoyed our walk around the campus and loved the buildings - some very old and some with a modern touch - but all very enjoyable. The campus is beautiful and since it was a great day weatherwise the campus was full of activity with students sitting out in the open areas and people everywhere - we really had a great time. But as always, all good things must come to an end and we headed back to the museum to catch the #6 bus back to the Loop.

We got off the bus at Michigan and Madison and walked around for a bit. Like I said the weather was wonderful and we thought it would be nice to see some of the buildings and public art as we made our way to dinner and then back to the hotel. So we crossed the river on Michigan and stopped just on the north side at Pioneer Court. I wanted a picture of a public art piece called 'God Bless America' - it is a very large sculpture of Grant Wood's American Gothic. And since we had seen the painting at the Art Institute yesterday I thought it would be great to have this picture. While there I also took a picture of a very shiny metal moose. Then we continued north on Michigan, stopping next at Tribune Tower. They have embedded into their building rocks and stones from buildings all over the world - so I took pictures of all of them as we walked around the building. By this time we were hungry so we found a place to have a nice relaxing dinner. After eating we walked leisurely back to the hotel and called it a night. We have one more day in Chicago and we wanted to look at some information to decide what to do. And after seeing the weather report it looks like we could expect more rain, so we picked a variety of things so that we could have options.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sightseeing in the Windy City

Now that we have had a day in Chicago we are a little more familiar with our surroundings. Riding the trolley yesterday really helped to orient us to the city and we were able to plan things a little better. So this morning after breakfast we took a taxi to Museum Campus. The campus includes the following . . . Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum of Natural History. We decided to spend the morning at the aquarium. Once we were in the aquarium we started looking at the exhibits on our right. We then followed them around in a counterclockwise direction. There are exhibits all around the perimeter of the building and another one in the center. There was also an exhibit on the lower floor that we walked through. The highlights for us were the Amazon Rising exhibit and the Wild Reef exhibit. More specifically we liked the poison dart frogs, jellyfish, moray eel, piranhas and shark eggs. By the time we finished walking the entire place it was time for lunch. We didn't want to eat at the museums so we walked to Roosevelt St. and found a nice little sandwich place. Potbelly Sandwich Works was just a block down Roosevelt St. from the museums. Thomas and I each ordered a sandwich and drinks and then sat down to eat. The manager of the place was sitting at the next table orienting a new employee. She asked us how we were enjoying our sandwiches and gave us a little history of the place. We had a nice little conversation with her and when we left she gave us chocolate chip cookies on the house and told us to enjoy our trip to Chicago. So far people have been really friendly here and this woman really went out of her way to make sure we had an enjoyable lunch.

On our way back we stopped to take pictures and walk through a public art piece. It is called Agora and is by Magdalena Abakanowicz. We then returned to the museum campus and decided to find a letterbox. We needed to start at Soldier Field and so we walked to the stadium to find the starting point of the box. I wrote about this journey in Not Happy With Da Bears! if you would like to know more about our letterboxing adventure.

After completing our letterboxing we returned to museum campus and this time ventured into the Field Museum. Today was a free day at the museum sponsored by Target. You could get into all the regualar exhibits free but still had to pay to go to a few special ones. Thomas and I have the Go Card Chicago which we used for those exhibits. Once past the admission desk we were wowed by the enormity of the place. We just walked around the main hall for a bit, visited Sue and then found a place to sit and view the map and list of exhibits to plan our visit. First we went down to the ground level and walked through the Underground Adventure. After walking through this exhibit Thomas and I will think twice about digging in the dirt. Our next stop was a temporary exhibit - Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship. We really enjoyed this exhibit. It had an interesting story and they had lots of displays of things they found in the wreckage. It was my most favorite thing we did today. Once we completed the exhibit we still had time so we visited the following exhibits . . . Plants of the World, Grainger Hall of Gems, Hall of Jades and Traveling the Pacific.

By the time we finished walking through all these exhibits we were tired (did I mention that this place is huge) and we were hungry. Earlier we had talked about walking back to the hotel but the prospect of walking 2.5 miles didn't sit well once we had been through the museum. So we grab a taxi back to the hotel. I guess we have been pretty busy since we arrived here and we were feeling pretty worn out so instead of going out somewhere for dinner we decided to eat in the restaurant in the hotel - Rosebud Trattoria. It was a nice relaxing meal and after eating we returned to the room and and made it an early night since the next day was going to be another busy one.

This morning we were up having breakfast by 7:30am. After eating we gathered our things, grabbed a cab and headed out to Lincoln Park (the actual park not just the neighborhood). We started at the southern most part of the park at the Chicago Historical Society. We weren't able to go in because they weren't open yet so we decided to just walk through the park and head for the zoo. We stopped at the statue of Lincoln that is behind the Historical Society and took a few pictures and then headed north into the park. We came to a pond but it was all block off - it looked like they were dredging it or something. So we veered off a bit and walked up some stairs to a statue of Grant. From there we made our way to the zoo. It was a beautiful day to be outside and we enjoyed the zoo. There were quite a few people there and lots of kids - I guess they were taking end of year field trips or something. We took our time walking around and lingered by the big cats, watched the polar bear swim around (amazingly graceful in the water) and laughed at the warthogs running around. We stopped for a bit and got a snack, we took the snacks to an area sans kids and with beautiful flowers and enjoyed a few quiet minutes just relaxing. We continued walking around the zoo for another 30 minutes and decided we had seen everything. We exited the zoo at the area where the conservatory is. So we decided to take a walk through the building. We were there for about a half hour and I especially enjoyed the orchid house.

After the conservatory we decided we were ready to leave the park but we didn't really have any plans. So we decided to just walk around the Lincoln Park area. We enjoyed all the older houses especially the brownstones. I also liked the ornamentation on a lot of the buildings. During our walk we got a call from Thomas' cousins and they wanted to meet us for dinner and then go up in the Sears Tower (soon to be the Willis Tower). We decided to meet at the Tower at abut 4:00pm. Since we had walked around for the entire morning we thought walking back to downtown would be to much. So we found the nearest train and took that back in the Loop. We walked all around the area of the Sears Tower. I took pictures of public art, we stopped in a candy store and got some treats, we walked through city hall, we sat in Daley Plaza and took pictures of The Picasso and watched a little boy slide down it, and we talked about the interesting architecture in the area. A little before 4:00pm we headed to the Sears Tower and not long after Marie showed up. We waited just a little bit and then Marie's husband (Brian) and Ruth showed up. We had dinner at Lloyd's and sat around visiting. Around 6:00pm we took a walk along the river and then headed to the Skydeck at Sears Tower. It was a quick trip to the 99th floor (usually you go to the 106th floor but they are doing maintenance and adding glass enclosures that will move out from the building about four feet so you have an unobstructed view below). We had a great time viewing the city from up there. I took a bunch of pictures and had fun finding all the places that we had been. We stayed up there long enough to see the sun set and the made our way back down to the lobby. We said our goodbyes and Thomas and I started our walk back to the hotel. We had a leisurely walk and talked about what a great day we had.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Visiting Family and Orienting to Chicago

On Saturday morning we had plans to meet with Thomas' cousin and her daughter. So after getting up and showering we had breakfast downstairs in the hotel and then got things ready for the day. Ruth and her daughter Marie picked us up at about 10:30am. We chatted and then headed out. Ruth thought Thomas might enjoy seeing where his grandmother had lived. So we drove to the area - it was at 38th and Kedzie. We stopped long enough to get a picture of the house and then we were on our way. Ruth explained a little about the area and showed us the trolley barns that were used to park the trolleys back when they were in use. We also got to see the fire station that they used to film Backdraft. Marie's husband is a firefighter and she knew that the station was near Thomas' grandmother's house so me made a stop there for pictures. From here we were heading to Lockport to have lunch with Ruth's family. Ruth, Marie, Thomas and I met up with Ruth's son - his name is Ray and he brought his family (his wife Dawn and his children - Amber, Madison and Eva). We ate at the Public Landing Restaurant located in the historic Gaylord Building. They also have a musuem here about the I & M Canal. After lunch we walked around the area and saw a new art installation. It is called Lincoln Landing and is a series of large blocks of limestone set up like a mini aphitheatre with a statue of Lincoln at the front and center. It was a very enjoyable visit and we got to learn a lot about Thomas' family and even got a few stories straightened out - it seems that Thomas' Mom like to embellish the stories of the family. After lunch we drove to Joliet. We passed by the prisons (Thomas' Mom had told him that his Grandfather played a part in the building of these) - Statesville and Joliet Prison. Statesville is still in use but the Joliet Prison closed in 2002. The Joliet Prison has been used for a few movies (Blues Brothers, Natural Born Killers and Prison Break). We then stopped in downtown Joliet to see the Rialto Square Theatre. We weren't able to go in because it was closed but the outside of the building was spectacular. I took a few pictures then we headed over to Ruth's house. We spent a couple of hours visiting and looking at pictures. Around 5:00pm Marie drove us back to Chicago. Instead of bringing us back to the hotel I asked if she wouldn't mind dropping us at the entrance to the Art Institute. So that is what she did. I took a few pictures of the lions in front of the museum and then we walked around to the back side to go by Buckingham Fountain. After walking around the fountain and taking pictures we walked up Columbus to Millennium Park. We walked through the Lurie Garden and then by the Pavillion and then to Cloud Gate. I took a lot of pictures including Thomas and I reflected in Cloud Gate. Then we walked over to Crown Fountain. This is a cool fountain - two tall rectangular walls facing each other in a very shallow (<1") The Magnificent Mile. We window shopped and enjoyed a few pieces of public art. When we got to the street that our hotel is on we were unable to get to it because Michigan Ave. sits up higher than Illinois St. - so we continued another block further. It turned out to be a good thing. We were hungry and were looking for a good place to eat. As we strolled down Ohio St. I noticed a sign for Heaven on Seven and realized that it was a cajun restaurant. The menu was posted in the window so Thomas and I took a look at it and decided to eat there. We had fried crawfish tails for an appetizer, Thomas had chicken fried steak and I had red beans and rice with andouille sausage. We both had a cup of gumbo as well. It was all very good, but we especially enjoyed the gumbo - maybe we will go back for more. It was getting late so after dinner we headed back to the hotel. I did a little planning for Sunday and then we went to sleep. I was pretty tired and feel asleep immediately and slept through the night.

This morning I was up around 7:00am and took a shower and got things ready for the day. Thomas slept until around 8:30am and once he was ready we headed downstairs for breakfast. After eating we decided to walk a few blocks away to the Palmer House Hilton to inquire about Gray Line Tours Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley. We got our tickets and caught the next bus. The trolley stops at different places around the city. You can get on and off the trolley at whatever stops you choose. We rode the trolley for a while to get our bearings of the city and thought about what we wanted to do. Our first stop off was at the Water Tower. We took a little time to look at the photo exhibit of the Great Chicago Fire. It was very interesting! Then we decided to grab some lunch before reboarding the trolley. All morning the skies had been overcast and it was a bit chilly. Now it was cold and started to rain. We first thought that maybe we should head to a museum but then the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was still a little cold but at least it was dry. So we hopped off the trolley at the Sears Tower. We didn't go into that building - instead we walked a little ways to the HI-Chicago Hostel. We were taking a break from sightseeing to do a little letterboxing. You can read about that at Letterboxing in the Windy City. After we finished the letterboxing we jumped onto the trolley again and this time headed for Navy Pier. Since the sun was out and it wasn't as cold we decided to take the Shoreline Architecture River Cruise. It was great. The guy who conducted the tour gave a wonderful talk. We learned about all the styles of architecture, the architects and the buildings. The tour took about an hour and it was an enjoyable and relaxing experience. Once the boat docked and we stepped off we headed onto the pier. We walked for a little bit but we it started to get cold again and since we were right on the water it was a little uncomfortable. So we went to Bubba Gumps for some food and warmth. We had a leisurely meal and then walked through the arcade to the Stained Glass Museum. They have some wonderful pieces of art and quite a few different styles of stained glass. Thomas and I especially enjoyed seeing pieces by Tiffany. By this time it was dark and a little colder so we headed back to the hotel.

The weekend has been busy but we still have a lot to see. I am going to take some time now to figure out what we want to do tomorrow and get things ready. I'll be back in a couple of days to let you know what we have been up to.

Friday, May 8, 2009

All Aboard!

Well, Thomas and I are off on our first train trip. We are traveling from Lamy, NM to Chicago, IL on Amtrak. So far – so good. We spent Thursday morning getting last minute things done . . . cleaning the house, final packing, getting the dog to the sitter and watering the plants and yard. Around noon Nancy and Cliff drove us to Lamy so we could check in and get our tickets. What a difference from the airport. There was one woman working the counter and we had to wait in line behind one other person. So easy and simple. No security check, no bag search, no taking off your shoes and no crowded waiting room – you get the picture. We sat inside for a little while and about 20 minutes before the train arrived we went and sat out on the platform. A beautiful day in Lamy, a cloudless blue sky and a gentle breeze is what greeted us as we waited to board the train. The differences between the train depot and the airport couldn’t be more opposite. As the train approached I snapped a few pictures and then we gathered our carry-on bags and walked down the platform to our car. On the way to Lamy we talked about trying to upgrade to a sleeper but once we were on the train we decided it wasn’t necessary. As the train departed we got settled and we noticed that our car was almost empty. We also noticed that the seats were big, reclined quite a ways back and there was more than ample legroom. We spent the first half hour of the trip looking out the window and I took some pictures. We hadn’t had lunch so Thomas went and got us a snack to tide us over until dinner (our reservations were at 5:45pm). When he returned he told me about the observation car and I decided to go to that car and take some pictures. After a little time there I returned to our seats only to find that Thomas had spread out between the two seats and was reading. I went and sat in the seat behind and started this journal. So far the ride is comfortable, there is a little swaying and rocking but it isn’t bad. The New Mexico landscape is wonderful from this vantage point – no crowded interstates and you definitely wouldn’t see this from an airplane. We made two stops in New Mexico – one at Las Vegas (very quick, less than 5 minutes) and the other in Raton (where we were able to get out and walk around for 15 minutes). Next to the station in Las Vegas we were able to see the last remaining Harvey House on the Santa Fe route – The Castaneda. When we left Raton we went over Raton Pass and then through our first tunnel. By this time we were eating dinner. The tables are set up to seat four. So when Thomas and I arrived they put us on one side and a few minutes later a woman joined us and then a gentleman. Thomas and I both had roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and veggies. It was a pretty good meal, at least better that airplane food. We also had a great visit with our two tablemates. The woman was from Kalamazoo, MI and her name was Dorie. She was an Investment Broker but is now retired and travels quite a bit. She was on her way back home from visiting friends in Los Angeles. Her husband retired from Amtrak so she rides free for life. She had some great stories from her travels. The gentleman’s name was Samer, he was from Dubai and is in the US for a three month vacation and to better his English. I thought he was doing rather well speaking English. He seemed to have a better grip on the language than most Americans. He was a very nice man and was thoroughly enjoying his trip. After dinner we returned to our seats and I took some pictures while Thomas read. I took some pictures and watched as the sun slowly slid lower in the sky. It wasn’t long before we made our next stop in La Junta, CO. We had 45 minutes at this stop so we both got out and stretched our legs, we walked a little ways down the road from the depot and I took a few pictures – then we returned to the train. By this time the train left La Junta it was dark and picture taking and looking out the window was over. When I was packing I put a couple of movies we had from Netflix in with the computer and so we decided to watch one of them. I got everything set up and we watched “Life After People”, a documentary from the History Channel. The show was about how the earth would change from 1 year to 500 years without people. I thought it was quite interesting and was a little shocked by the extent that we have gone to control nature. I really enjoyed the show and would recommend that you see it if you haven’t already. During the movie a woman stopped by and offered tootsie rolls to everyone – I have to say that we have met some very nice people so far on the train. After the movie Thomas moved to the seats behind us and went to sleep. I connected my earphones and turned on my itunes and continued writing this journal. We made quick stops in Lamar, CO; Garden City, KS; and Dodge City, KS before I called it a night. I would continue writing the next day after breakfast. Thomas and I slept on and off through the night. Most of the time we couldn’t see anything because of the dark. But we did see quite a bit of lightning and we could hear the rain hitting the windows. Pretty much we missed all of Kansas since we passed through it at night. This morning our first stop was Kansas City, MO. The morning was rainy and gloomy and a little muggy. We had about 45 minutes here so we got out and walked around a bit to stretch our legs but that didn’t last long because of the rain. I did manage to take a couple of pictures before we got back on the train. We decided to have a quick breakfast before returning to our seats. This morning we were joined by two very nice women. Maureen from Portland, OR and Jan from LaPlata, MO. We had a great visit and a nice breakfast before heading back to out seats. I tried to take some pictures but the weather wasn’t cooperating. Thomas read some more and I did work on the computer. We then decided to watch the second movie we brought with us. This one was “Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day”. I quite enjoyed it, mostly because I like Frances McDormand and I thought she gave a great performance. The rain has stopped but it is still very overcast. I am hoping that as we get closer to Chicago that the sun will come out. I would like to do some walking around when we get there but I don’t want to do it in the rain. And sure enough as we made our way through Missouri and Iowa the sky cleared up. By the time we entered Illinois the sky was blue and beautiful. We passed the time by reading and enjoying the beautiful Midwest landscape. We made stops in La Plata, MO; Fort Madison, IA; Galesburg, IL; Princeton, IL; Mendota, IL; and Naperville, IL before our final destination of Chicago. Most of the stops were quick and we were on our way again. We only got off the train once during all those stops. At Union Station in Chicago things went smoothly. We got our bags in no time and quickly found a taxi to take us to the hotel. From the time we left the train to the time we arrived at the hotel only took 40 minutes.

Once we checked in to the hotel and got settled in the room we washed up and headed out.
Our first stop was Macy’s (the old Marshall Fields) on State Street. We needed to pick up some passes at the Visitor’s Center there. We walked around the store for a little while bought some Frango Mints and then continued on. We decided to walk down State Street for a while and then made our way back towards the hotel. We decided we wanted pizza for dinner and the women working the desk at the hotel suggested Giordano’s. It was pretty good and we enjoyed our dinner and talked about what we were going to do the next couple of days. We walked for a little while and just enjoyed the city and finally arrived back at the hotel. We are showered and are relaxing. Tomorrow we meet up with Thomas’ Mom’s cousin and do some things with her and her family. It should be nice to see Chicago with someone who knows it.