Helllllloooo! Apologies for the delay in posting yesterday's installment of the Daily Prophet (aka our blog for you muggles out there). We arrived in the Windy City around 10pm central time. We hung out with Stevie, Jordan and Steve for a bit before headed to bed for some much needed pre-train ride rest.
In the morning we ate a little, brushed out toofins and headed for our favorite store: REI. :] We needed to pick up a few last minute items for the trip and since REI was about a mile away it was the perfect opportunity. Stevie graciously offered to drive us there which we gladly accepted! We got almost everything we needed (they didn't have a collapsible backpack we needed for the train ride or any Go Pro camera attachments... Real bummer). We did however find a suitable stuff sack instead of a backpack at REI as well as a tripod attachment for the GoPro at Best Buy. Woohoo!
When we got back to Stevie and Jordan's we unpackaged our new gear and packed it with the rest of our stuff. Stevie order Jimmy johns for lunch in the meantime and by the time we were done loading our stuff they arrived with our subs. That's freaky fast delivery! Once we had finished scarfing the deliciousness it was time to load the bikes and head for the train station. Our nervousness definitely increased... it was actually a pretty decent mix of emotions but mostly anxious, nervous and excited to finally be on our way!
We arrived at Chicago's Union Station at 12:30...plenty of time to catch our 2:15 train to Seattle. Stevie pulled up right out front so we could unload our stuff and bikes. It would be an understatement to say that carrying huge duffels, a cooler and two other bags while pushing our bikes was awkward, but we said our goodbye's to Stevie and waddled into the station eager to start this big adventure.
We pushed our bikes inside to find hundreds of people scurrying about up and down the stairs, heading to their separate destinations. We searched around for an elevator - there is no way I could have gotten my bike, myself and all my crap down the stairs in one piece- luckily a nice lady showed us where it was. We clambered in and headed down to the Amtrak ticketing area. We looked around for a minute unsure of where to take our bikes. We felt a little lost so we used the self check-in kiosk to get our tickets then Ethan went for help. A very nice Amtrak employee directed us back to the elevator (which was even more difficult to get into because she was in there with us) and took us down to the basement. "Turn left and go straight to the baggage area." Sounded easy enough. We turned left and we met with the an overwhelming mix of sights, sounds and smells. We kept going hoping to see this "baggage area" soon. Forklifts and employees hurried past us as we walked. Finally we came to a counter where a teeny tiny sign said 'baggage.' More than less than unhelpful if you ask me. The man at the counter asked if we needed bike boxes, which I thought was obvious, but whatever. He then offered us a used box for free - I quickly changed my attitude about this man. He directed us take of the pedals and the handle bars so that they lay flush against the bike. We moved our stud out of the way and got to work. I grabbed an alan wrench for the handle bars and Ethan started on the pedals. The pedals on my bike proved to be a bit more than our $2 wrench could handle- fortunately another very helpful employee offered his bike wrench which took the pedal off with ease. We loaded the bikes up, paid the appropriate fees, tagged them with our info and checked our duffels.
We headed back upstairs to find our boarding area where we waited in the seemingly never ending line to board the train. When we finally reached the platform we could hardly contain our excitement. The coach attendant told us which car we were riding on and handed us our seat tickets (they go above your seat so they know where you are going and that that seat is occupied if you leave it for some reason). We walked rather briskly to our car (# 711). It took forever. We finally reached and climbed aboard. There are no seating assignments so I went toward the back and picked two seats on the right.
The train (the Empire Builder to be exact) is much more spacious than I expected. I can stretch my legs out fully and still have room to point my toes. There is a leg rest and foot rest and the seats lean back pretty far. We are thankful that there is so much room- 46 hours is a long time to be uncomfortable.
The train starts moving at exactly 2:15. Much more timely than a number of flights we've been on. Our first major stop was Milwaukee - a familiar sight from last summer. The first few hours we tough for me to get used to but after getting some food my stomach settles and we settle into our seats. We ate some dinner later (cheese and turkey pita samiches) and enjoyed the scenery - we crossed over the might Mississippi during at some point. T'was beautiful! At about 10:30 we stop at the St. Paul, MN station. It's a fresh air stop (or smoke break as we call them) so we get out, stretch our legs and hang out on the platform. We decide it's bed time when we got back on the train - sleeping was a little more difficult than we had anticipated. Not being able to lie flat makes getting comfy next to impossible. Fortunately there are pills to help with that and I gladly partake. Ethan does not.
It's been a long day, but we were happy we chose the train for this trip - so far.