Have you ever taken Amtrak?
I embarked on my first US train trip this past weekend from Chicago to St. Louis – the Lincoln Service. I was very excited for the adventure – something new and different. It’s about the same amount of time to drive, but so much cheaper! The price of the round trip ticket is the same as ONE tank of gas in my car. And, I can get up and move around, read, watch movies and surf on the free wifi! Win win, right!?!
I took the Metra commuter train from Evanston downtown – stopped in the French Market for yummy snacks. This was only my second ride on Metra – I would totally take it if I had to commute downtown daily, so much nicer than the L – minus the somewhat bossy ticket guys.
Walked a few blocks over to Union Station – it’s such a beautiful building, but just not well kept. I feel like it could be so much more! They have this big amazing grand hall with a few benches in it – nothing else. It’s kind of an appendage to the area where the trains actually queue and depart. Once you get into that area it’s a hot mess! People with all of their luggage all crammed into one small room with a few super crappy seats. You REALLY have to listen for your train to be called and they try to pull some folks up first (seniors and business class) and there is no PA system – it’s just a guy standing in a door yelling above the crowd. I have to say I was kind of surprised by this whole process. Train travel has been around for so long, you’d think they would have a perfected system in place.
I chose to pay for the upgrade to business class ($20 more each way) and I am SO glad that I did. The business car is spacious, quiet and you get a free USA Today and beverage. Now that’s all superb till there’s a delay on the train and the run out of water. So get your beverage early! And since the car is the first car behind the drive car, you really hear the whistles. And they are required to blow that thing anytime they cross a intersection. It’s much louder than I would have ever imagined.
What I did love about train travel is the view! I sat and took a ridiculous amount of photos – if only the windows had been clean. I loved seeing little kids standing in their back yard waving at the train, buildings painted with memorials, corn fields and industry.
We rolled into St Louis just shy of 11 PM – right on time. Would I take the train again, yes, I suppose I would. But still don’t think I’d love it for long trips. It will not replace my air travel, but it was a fun adventure and great alternative to driving myself!!