I’ve neglected blogging for a couple of weeks, primarily because of my tender back and insane work schedule. Last weekend, I had a valid excuse. I was in Illinois for my granddaughter’s graduation and, since my son is moving, didn’t have access to the Internet. So, no blogging for a few days and no work while traveling. It was a real vacation … one I paid for when I returned home.

But I did want to share my travel experience. For the first time since I was a little pup, I opted to take the train from Syracuse to Chicago. It was … different.

Timewise, it was about the same as driving … 13 hours. However, given last weekend’s rainy and foggy weather, the edge went to the train. The cost, figuring in gas and tolls, was about the same, maybe even a little less by train thanks to my senior discount. So, edge to the train.

Seasoned train travelers are very relaxed. The more seasoned are very gregarious — ready, willing and able to talk for hours at a time. In fact, on the way out I was privy to the travel plans of a group sitting in front of me. One girl — actually a 26 year old — had been criss crossing the country by train. She started in Maine, went to Boston, then Vermont, back to Boston, down to New York City and was heading to Chicago to switch trains to northern California. A younger student was on his way to a camp in southern California where he would spend the summer as a counselor. And a couple from New England were heading to Denver and the prospects of a ski instructor (he) and teaching position (her) in Aspen.

The train was crowded, but not packed like sardines. I was fortunate going out. No one sat next to me so I had free access to get up and walk through the cars. Coming home, I was in the window seat, with a college student next to me. I did get up around midnight and walked to the club car just to stretch. There I sat with a young coed who was suffering from a broken heart … she had just broken up with her boyfriend. Through tears and tissues she relayed her story. Everyone is a friend on a train. We talked for about an hour and half before we both headed back to our seats, but when I found my neighboring companion sound asleep, I opted to walk back to the club car rather than wake him. There I caught a couple of zzz’s.

I thought I could sleep on the train, since it was an overnight trek both ways, but I really didn’t. I got a couple of minutes here, maybe an hour there (I don’t remember stopping in Rochester on the way out), but I wasn’t out cold like many, if not most of my fellow travelers.

I thought the gentle rocking and steady clicking of wheels on track would be soothing, but it wasn’t. And every time the wheels hit a switch track, the rocking was less than gentle and the clicking was replaced with a screech. Also, whenever a train passed on an adjacent track, there was a loud whoosh that was jarring.

Then there is the scenery. At night, there is none … just blackness. As dawn broke, I noticed a lot of shrubbery serving as a break from railroad to private property, the back of a lot of building and rail yards as we approached stops {including Chicago}. And homes adjacent to railroad tracks tended to be, well, less affluent.

But I did get to see rural Midwest America wake up. There were lights flickering on in the darkness, cars at the railroad crossings with drivers sipping their coffee and people out jogging or walking their pups in a few picturesque parks in western Ohio and Indiana.

I did rent a Kia Soul in Chicago to give me some independence. While I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted, I did visit with two close friends … one at lunchtime Friday in Belvidere, IL, and the other for dinner Sunday in Janesville, WI. They were good visits with good friends. It was also good to see the lot at the Chrysler plant in Belvidere filled with cars {Fiats}. Last time out, the lot was almost complete vacant.

Graduation Friday night was good, but long considering there were just 71 graduates. I do have to say the keynote by Rockford Mayor Lawrence Morrissey was the worst graduation speech I have ever heard. It just didn’t connect with the event.

While in Rockford, I had time to visit with my son and daughter-in-law {not enough} and my four grandchildren. Graduate Kayli and Stacia and I went out for brunch Sunday morning at IHOP. As a bonus, I joined in a Black Hawks Party Saturday night at my daughter-in-law’s mother’s house … taking time for some good conversation and watching the BlackHawks claim the divisional title in double overtime.

After dinner Sunday night, on my way back to the train station, I decided to take the leisurely route, intersecting Wisconsin and Illinois along Route 14 rather than the Interstate system. As I came into Harvard, IL, I saw the famous cow.

That needs explanation. Shortly after we moved to Illinois, I asked where there was a special, romantic place for dinner. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, nor anything about it except — according to my wife — it had the best frozen strawberry daiquiris. But I do remember the directions. I was told to go out Route 173 through Poplar Grove and Capron to Route 14. Make a left and turn right at the cow. That’s right. Turn right at the cow. The same cow who is still there today!

So, that was my trip. I’m not sure I would take the train again, not because it wasn’t pleasant but because I am too impatient to wait for schedules. I’d rather be behind the wheel soaking in the countryside and stopping when and where I want.

It looks like I’ll get that chance this summer. When my daughter comes out to visit next month, we’re planning a trip to Massachusetts to visit my son and his family and in August I’ll probably venture to Kentucky when my granddaughter gives birth to my first great-grandchild.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Material possessions:  the more you own the more they own you.

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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