Journeys Begin With...


If all goes well, by the time this appears on the Internet, I will be in Chicago, having flown there earlier this morning to start a multi-city transcontinental train journey.

Since my four-day trip to Philadelphia and Montreal last year, I’ve been wanting to go back out by train again, exploring the transit options of particular cities. Erin, Michael and Rosemarie and the girls, after reading a travel article that talked about travelling America by rail, coast to coast for $213, gave me $213 for Christmas, along with other train-travel related gifts. The true gift was, of course, permission to plan another trip. Fortunately, my budget was allowed to be a bit higher than $213.

This will be the second transcontinental train trip I’ve taken, and the first one alone. Years ago, as I graduated university, my parents offered to pay for me to ride the rails across Canada for a lengthy trip, but I didn’t take them up on it. I think I was in a rush to find employment as an urban planner. I regret not doing that, now.

On this trip, I’ll be missing Erin, Vivian and Nora something fierce, but I am looking forward to exploring the cities I’ll be visiting, including Denver, Sacramento (again), Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh. I look forward to riding each city’s LRT, seeing some of their rail-related hotspots (yes, they have them), and I am looking forward to watching the scenery go by as I write. The kids and Erin might enjoy certain aspects of this trip, but probably not the transit-focus of it. Maybe someday we’ll all go together. I appreciate them allowing me this time, and look forward to seeing them again soon.

I’ll be back on Victoria Day.

(Edited to Add: 9:30 a.m. CT): I flew out from Waterloo Regional Airport at 6:30 p.m., flying into O’Hare. The last time I tried this, I made the mistake of trying to connect at O’Hare with a flight to San Francisco with just 90 minutes of layover time. Don’t do that. The customs and immigration clearance was total mayhem, and we had to change terminals and go through security a second time. It was a miracle we made our flight, and it was only because the flight’s departure was delayed a whole half hour.

The difference today was night-and-day. We left on time and we landed early. Customs and immigration at Chicago was next to empty. It took me fifteen minutes to clear it, five of which was spent walking to the security gates, and five of which was spent finding a washroom to pee in. Instead of taking the El, I grabbed a Metra train from the O’Hare Transfer station (rush hour only weirdly), and made it downtown by 8 o’clock. I now have a few hours to explore this city. Let’s see what it has to offer…

(Edited to Add: 1:44 p.m. CT): I’m now writing this on board Amtrak train #5, the California Zephyr, which should depart in the next sixteen minutes, if all goes well. I explored the city and saw a lot of its elevated, and took a number of good pictures, which I’ll post as soon as I can. I also managed to get a slice of Chicago deep dish pizza (because, really, how could I not?)

I also did some business while in Chicago, meeting up with some people from Scholastic Canada who are at BookExpo America today (waves!). I’m pretty happy with the meeting and hope to have news to deliver at some point in the near future.

(Edited to Add: 4:02 p.m. CT): I’m now aboard the California Zephyr, having passed Princeton, IL on time (we’ll see how long this lasts). I’ve posted a Flickr album of my day’s explorations here

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