Tag Archives: Chicago

Day 1 of Mary’s Excellent Adventure: Riding the rails

My husband is a ferroequinologist, which basically means that he is a rail fan…AKA, train nut. When he helped our daughter move to Wisconsin, he was thrilled to return home via Amtrak. So when it was my turn to visit her, I thought I would drive. He — tactfully — showed me photos of the train. What finally sold me was the observation car and the promise of reading uninterrupted for eight hours.

So it was that we were on the road at 3:30 a.m., heading to the Toledo Amtrak station, where we found a lot of equally bleary-eyed travelers. Kind of like this…except he was sad not to be joining me.

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Amtrak is notoriously late, but we left only 40 minutes after the scheduled time. The hubs instructed me on the boarding process so I quickly found my seat on the upper level of the car. Lulled by the gentle movement, I conked out almost immediately and woke up two hours later. Two hours later, we reached Chicago, where I was met by my brother- and sister-in-law, who entertained me with a stop at a thrift store and lunch at Whole Foods.

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Boarded a new train at 3:30, but had to wait for a train from New York that had just arrived 6 hours late. Eeeeesh. More reading, but mostly sleeping off and on, with one eye open for the person taking reservations for dinner. My husband had made me promise to experience the dining car despite the fact that I’d be seated with three strangers. This is when my innate snoopy nature pays off — I have NO qualms about making conversation.

Just before 5 p.m. I made my way unsteadily toward the dining car, where I was seated with a 73-year-old divorced man traveling from Cleveland to North Dakota to see the daughter he hadn’t seen in 8 years, and a 50-something woman traveling with four friends, all of whom were seated together across the aisle. They’d been on the road for 10 days, traveling by train from Minneapolis to Buffalo, where they rented a van to drive to Bar Harbor, Maine, and Stowe, VT, then back to the Twin Cities by train.

The fourth seat was taken by a gregarious guy in his mid- to late 40s. The two of us generally monopolized the conversation, mostly because I kept asking him questions and he was game to answer. He’d first attended college in Thailand, where he met and married his first wife, a “spoiled brat,” with whom he has two children now in their early 20s. He owns 10 semis and contracts with auto dealers to transport cars. He was returning from having driven a new Volvo to the new owner in VA. Curious, I asked where he lives…he owns a house in the Philippines, where his pregnant wife and their six-year-old stepson live. He hoped to return in a few months. Neither of the other two seemed at all interested in learning our conversation and they took off as soon as they’d eaten.

As for the food….suffice to say that I’d choose differently next time.

Soon after we ordered dinner, Martin the Talker pointed out the window. We were heading into a DARK storm. My only thought was to wonder what happens to a train in a twister.

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That brought a very quick storm of driving rain before the sun returned. Martin and I shook hands and went our separate ways. Still trying to recover from two hours of sleep the previous night, I conked out again and woke up a few minutes before we reached my final stop — La Crosse, WI.

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Ike’s visit to the Windy City

Ike decided to tag along on a trip to Chicago this weekend. Actually, he didn’t see much of the city, since he had to stay home while the folks went to town. But that was okay…he had plenty of new experiences.

Here’s what he learned:

If he’s pushy enough, he can weasel his way into the front seat of the car for much of the five-hour car trip. Like a child, he spent the first hour popping up and down to peer out the window,  the scenery of which he did not recognize.

Good thing he doesn’t get carsick.

Sitting in the car for five hours was worth it. He got to spend much of the weekend running leash-free around the fenced-in backyard. This is a big deal for a Schnauzer whose only two times outside off-leash involved mad races through Bluffton trying to elude his weary captors.

Sadly, his dreams of catching up to one of those furry little animals that hop hop hop across the yard while he watches out the window, remain unfulfilled. He discovered today that they can out-hop him.

That’s not to say the hopping bunny didn’t give him an interesting adventure — there was that lovely-scented little nest that just begged for a good sniffing.

Those two little girls who look an awfully lot alike are lots of fun to chase around. Emma even helped him investigate the bunny nest.

Ally — or maybe it was Emma (he still gets confused over which one is which) renamed him Mike. He’s not sure how that happened.

New houses have new smells and sounds, all of which serve to both confuse and intrigue. New neighborhoods have unfamiliar dog smells, which requires careful investigation of every inch of grass and every tree trunk in every yard on the block.

What with all this excitement, life could be pretty boring back home.

 

 

 

 

Who stole my husband?

Dear Lindsay and Anne,

Someone has stolen your father and replaced him with a man who GETS RID OF THINGS. Here’s what happened:

Last week I suggested we purge the reading room bookshelves. He agreed. Wholeheartedly. This was my first clue that something was up.

Then, later in the week, as we were preparing for the trip to Chicago and Milwaukee to attend the 70th bday party of Auntie M, I found him polishing some of the old musical instruments — i.e., the cello (no, I’m not kidding), a trombone (not yours), several violins missing bridges and strings (not yours), THE TOP HAT, a large jar of old keys, etc. You get the picture. Bits and pieces of “The collection.”

I eyed him skeptically, and — yes, considered taking his temperature. What exactly, did he have in mind, I asked?

“I’m giving some things away.”

Now, you know, after 30 years of living with this man, not much surprises me. EXCEPT…his voluntary willingness to part with favorite pieces of his family collection. Apparently, he has decided to gradually gift these items to deserving family members. As he puts it, “it’s time.” Apparently, the occasion of ‘Auntie M’s 70th birthday seemed like the ideal time to do the “final reading of the will.”

His explanation is that these were items he and Grandma had agreed to dispense amongst the descendants. Actually, I think he made that up, but it made for a good show. Hence, the “reading of the will”.

You know what? Your older cousins were ecstatic. Their kids weren’t quite so sure about the reasoning behind this. In fact, most of them are now even more convinced that their beloved Uncle Fred has lost it.

I, on the other hand, am sure that over Christmas vacation, the two of you slipped something into your dad’s sherry. Whatever it was…thanks. The house feels lighter already.

Love and hugs,

Mom