By Bruce Carlson
Hi everyone! Have you ever asked yourself is Amtrak the way to go? I was recently asking myself that question. Karen had scheduled time with her massage clients back in our old stomping grounds, the North Aurora area. As a massage therapist, she was considered to be one of the best. So when she sent word out to her clients that she was coming north her list of open slots filled up quickly.
What does this all have to do with Amtrak? It’s a long drive back to North Aurora. If I drove, Karen wouldn’t have to worry about the drive north. However, it doesn’t make sense for me to go just to drive. As it worked out I was able to schedule a meeting with the new Mission Coordinator and Justin to review the work and history of the missions program in the Diocese of Joliet.
Amtrak comes into the picture
Okay, so now I have two reasons to go with Karen. But I really didn’t want to stay for three extra days. To get home after the meeting Amtrak came into the picture. As it turns out there are five trains each day to St. Louis I could have chosen from. I selected the Texas Eagle train leaving Chicago at 1:55 pm. It was scheduled as a five-hour ride.
The Texas Eagle was the most expensive train. The two trains before the Texas Eagle were early starts. We weren’t interested in getting up early. I still had to take the commuter train to downtown Chicago. The two trains after the Texas Eagle got into St. Louis, were too late. It was easiest to leave where we were staying when Karen was ready to start her day. I caught the commuter train from West Chicago and was downtown two and a half hours ahead of the Texas Eagle departure.
All in all, I was quite pleased with my day of travel. It was a twelve-hour day of travel. If I could have driven home on Thursday it would have been half the travel time. The cost was a little more than driving.
As I said earlier, I took the commuter train out of West Chicago. It was a simple ride, taking about an hour. I’m an upper-deck person so I can look out the window and see more. The commuter train comes into the Ogilvie Transportation Center, which is three blocks north of Union Station where Amtrak runs out. It was a nice day so a short walk felt good. Because of some construction, I couldn’t get down to the train platforms but walked on the sidewalk to Union Station.
The Great Hall
The Amtrak ticket I bought was not a reserved seat so I had to wait in the Great Hall for them to call everyone when the train was ready to leave. If I would have purchased a higher-level seat I could have gone into one of the lounges. Waiting in the Great Hall was just fine.
As we got closer to the time to board, people started to gather at the entrance to the Great Hall. It had the feeling of the Christmas rush at one of the discount stores. Finally, they called our train and the rush was on to get in line to board the train. I was amazed at all of the luggage and bags people were bringing on the train. We also looked like a long line of 1st graders walking in line to the train platform.
Amtrak had a plan as to where we would sit on the train. I think people that were getting off in St. Louis or at stops before St. Louis were in the last cat of the train. When we arrived in St. Louis our car was dropped off the train. After St. Louis, the rest of the train continued on to San Antonio.
I was surprised at the seats on the train. They were reasonably comfortable and had lots of legroom. It wasn’t like an airline seat where you hope the person in front of you doesn’t recline their seat. I sat next to a nice big window and could see where we were going. A lot of the trip was along I-55. We were passing cars. I was able to check the speed of the train and we hit 104 mph.
Met me in St. Louis
We were a little late getting to St. Louis, it was around 7:45 pm. A little over a half hour. I was expecting a covered train station in St. Louis, but it was an open platform. You walked from the platform over the tracks into a small building where the ticket counter and waiting area were. What was nice was a short walk from the Amtrak area to the local Metro train. I took the Metro out to Scott Air Force Base. Where our son Scott picked me up and drove me home.
For a few moments, I was worried I would have trouble buying a ticket for the Metro train. The stripe on my Sam’s card doesn’t work anymore. The chip works fine, but the vending machine would only read the stripe. My Discover card was flagged as a fraudulent purchase and declined. I didn’t have any exact change, the ticket was only $2.50, luckily my Speedway card worked. The train out to the base was quick and Scott was there waiting for me.
Is Amtrak the way to go? Yes, it was. I couldn’t complain about anything. We’ll drive most of the time when we return to visit family or when Karen goes to do massages. Still, it was nice to have the Amtrak option. I will highly recommend Amtrak as a travel solution resource. We all like our cars, but having the Amtrak option was nice.
As I was in the Great Hall I couldn’t help but look at the large map of the United States showing all the routes and stops. It would be fun someday to ride on Amtrak to the west and east coast cities. Maybe get a sleeper room and just watch the world go by.
I recommend Amtrak
We hope you are enjoying these articles and are willing to continue to follow along as we move through the process of selling our house, buying a new house (to become our home), and the adventures of learning about life in southern Illinois, Bruce & Karen.