It was time to leave New York, and head west. I had enough of flying for the time being, and decided that a more relaxed ride on Amtrak was in order. It’s possible that the idea backfired a bit. I had received some unwanted news just prior to boarding the train, and nothing allows you to sit & stew quite like a long train ride. Still, the Lake Shore Limited was a nice ride, although much of it overnight and in the dark.
I had to switch trains in Chicago, and spent a decent sized layover in Union Station. It’s a beautiful station, but I spent much of my time below grade. The people watching kept me entertained. A pigeon flew into the food court, which caused one of two reactions: 1) A child would be fascinated by the sudden appearance of the bird, and follow its path from table to table as it searched for dropped food. 2) An adult would spot the pigeon, which caused an immediate expression of horror, which was followed by trying to put as much distance between themselves and the rogue pigeon.
I spotted a teenage boy reading Steinbeck. He never saw nor reacted to the pigeon. He was probably reading “Of Mice and Men” for school, but he was so engrossed in the story, that he kept waving away questions from his siblings, like someone absentmindedly brushing off an annoying fly. It was a good sight to see, and it made my morning.
I was aboard the Empire Builder leaving Chicago. It’s an easier train to explore, with its two decks and afternoon departure from Union Station. The click-clack of the steel wheels on the rails, and the gentle swing of the train cars had started to do its work. The edge from the night before had dissipated. I played jazz through my headphones all across Wisconsin, which didn’t hurt matters any either. I had joined the dining car as we crossed the Mississippi River, and eventually succumbed to the “Origin Question”. Looking back, I probably should have said, “Minnesota”, when asked where I was from. Instead, I answered “Fairbanks”, and the questions flew from there. It’s quite hard to put that Genie back in the bottle once it is released, although I did make an attempt. Eventually, I warmed up to the questions, as they were genuinely interested in our state, and told a few stories that I had never shared before.