Posts Tagged ‘train travel’

The challenge: Take a picture of yourself or someone else as a shadow, a reflection, or a lesser part of a scene, making the background, or — as in the example above — the foreground, the center of attention.


A scimitar moon hangs in the blue-black sky as I drive home. A train passes silently along the tracks, silently because I’m cocooned in the van. Lights shine from inside the cars, warming the night, and although it’s merely a commuter train, it plucks memories from my heart, memories of trips to visit my grandparents in California.


There’s something magical about train rides, something that transports me back to the days of my childhood, when we used to take the San Francisco Zephyr from Omaha to California to visit my grandparents. The train station, a vast, cavernous structure, filled with echoes of the life surging inside. I don’t remember, but I imagine it was also beautiful in a way that so few buildings are these days, due to a lethal combination of cost, lack of care in building, and indifference to architectural beauty or, possibly, different ideas of what constitutes that beauty.


Not a hobbit’s tale, but a short pictorial tale from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to Norway and back.  Fasten your seat belt or put down the bar on the ski lift.  Away we go, back in time and partway around the world. (more…)

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:  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…)

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, 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.