Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

I’ve driven the Chicago-Cleveland (or Cleveland-Chicago) route many times in the last years but still, once I get in the van and on the road, I settle down and enjoy the ride.  There’s always something new to see and plenty old favorites.  Join me for a very compressed, selective six hours. (more…)

When you go to the grocery store, do you have to use a store card to get the sale price?  Do you have OnStar?  E-ZPass or I-Pass? Do you use a cell phone?  Computer?   ATM?  If so, someone is gathering (or can gather) information about you, whether you like it or not.  How is that information used?  Who uses it? How long is it kept?  How is it protected?  Or is it?

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My best friend is in town, so we took a day trip into Chicago, had a fabulous vegan lunch at the Chicago Diner (which I completely forgot to save on camera for posterity because I was too busy eating) and went to the Art Institute of Chicago where we saw the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit and a small slice of the rest of the museum before taking the train home.   (Chicago Diner info and pictures here: http://www.veggiediner.com/wp/.)  Excellent day…and we’re even getting some rain, finally.  I’m hoping for an all night soaking, but we’ll see.  Anyway, here are a few highlights from our trip. (more…)

After driving 2 days and over 1700 miles, I look forward to sitting on the Megabus for the 6 ½ hour ride from Chicago to Cleveland, even though it means I have to be up early to get to the Metra station for the express train into the city.  A man asks if I need help getting my big suitcase onto the train and I’m thankful for the help, since the crush of people could be a problem.  The train is completely full, so I hang back when we arrive, letting the crowd go by before heading for the restroom (try getting a suitcase and carry-on suitcase into a stall!!), then up the escalator to the street.

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Before we moved my husband into a rental house, he lived in a one-bedroom apartment in a complex called, aptly enough, Railway Plaza; apt because just outside the complex and close enough to feel a part of it, is Route 59, second-to-the-last stop between Chicago and Aurora on the BNSF line (Burlington Northern Santa Fe). The environs of Chicago have an excellent Metra system…so long as you’re going between wherever you live and the city. However, if you want to go from suburb to suburb and your destination ‘burb isn’t on the same line, forget it. The trains come in from the suburbs like spokes of a wheel, with the city as the center. They don’t go from line to line, creating a spider web formation. You’d have to go into the city on your line, then catch another line out to wherever you were trying to go. And you might have to go to a different downtown station to do so.

After considering the cost of tolls and gas, I decided to try riding the Megabus, http://us.megabus.com/. Megabuses go all over and they seem to add new routes monthly. In my case, buses leave from downtown Cleveland and arrive just half a block from Union Station, where all the trains, Metra or Amtrak, arrive and depart. That made it easy to descend into the station, catch the Metra, decant myself at Rt. 59 and walk the equivalent of a couple blocks to the apartment. I originally caught a ride to downtown Cleveland with a friend, then when she started working elsewhere, had our younger daughter drop me at the nearest Rapid station (Cleveland’s above-ground Underground), then I waited until the bus arrived, usually about 8 am, got on and relaxed.

My husband was dismissive when I said I was going to take the bus. “You don’t want to take the bus” and “You won’t like it”, he said. I said I’d try it and if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t take it again. But after weighing the cost of the round trip (I think $30 was the most I paid) on the bus, plus the cost of the train ticket (bought a 10-ride pass) vs. that of tolls in Ohio, Indiana and the Chicago area plus gas plus wear-and-tear on the van and it was simple to see which was the better deal financially.

So I Megabussed…and I loved it. Not only was it financially responsible, but since I traveled during the week, the bus was never full and I always had two seats to myself, sometimes at the very front on the top deck with a great view and a place to put my feet up. There was a outlet where I could plug in my laptop if I wanted to use it (and free internet if you could get it, which I virtually never could) and I had over six hours to do whatever I wanted to do. Most of the people slept; I read, either ePub books checked out from the library on my laptop or books from my Kindle. Then once I arrived and got on the Metra, I had another half hour or more to read. How could that be bad??? I also met some interesting people. I also packed a lunch, snacks and took along a thermal mug filled with hot tea, saving me from having to hurry into the plaza restaurants during the Indiana rest stop and queue up with everyone else.

The only downside was that in the winter, the waiting was outside. If the temperature fell below a certain, very cold temperature, there was a waiting bus, although that only happened once. While I never had to deal with snow, I did think I might freeze to death early one morning waiting outside Union Station for a bus back to Cleveland. A whole mob of us waited for some hours because about six blocks from the pickup point, a car rear-ended the bus. The police had to be called and didn’t arrive for 45 minutes, then the report had to be filed, etc., etc. There were some foolish people wearing Crocs with/without socks or dressy boots with nothing warm inside, coats not sufficient for winter, etc. and I know that if I was cold, they were freezing.

Now that my husband’s in our rental house, I’m often bringing things along when I come out or leaving at a time when I can’t catch the bus. But when I put $60 worth of gas in the van or go past another toll booth,(and the told in the Chicago area have double while the ones in Ohio have also increased), I think longingly of the Megabus. Perhaps next time.