[Dead Zone’d]

It’s time to leave Chicago, the Windy City (that wasn’t any windier than Nebraska, to be honest — maybe I came on a still weekend?). It’s time to bid my uncle adieu until the next family get-together, and take another 14-hour train ride home (unless Amtrak suddenly discovers a faster route).

Newsflash: It didn’t. But I was only an hour late this time instead of two. Small blessings?

Monday dawned bright and early — that’s a lie. I didn’t have to leave for downtown Chicago until 10, so Darell and I went out for breakfast before he saw me off on the train to downtown. LaGrange Park is a really pretty suburb of Chicago, and I’d love to visit again in the future. And the diner was really fun and bright, both of which are good qualities when you’re as unwilling to be awake as I am in the mornings.

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The train station was right outside a little downtown area, and it was nice enough to warrant waiting outside for the train to arrive and have a little chat before saying goodbye. But, alas, my train did eventually arrive, and the first leg of my journey home began. Off to Union Station I went.

I left from Union Station after waiting a few hours (and incorrectly reading the departure times at least once) in the Great Hall. It’s a beautiful open space, and the sun kept it brightly lit. I was slightly disappointed that there was no piano to plunk around on (but I’m sure everyone else would’ve been unhappy with my “performance” had there been).

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I even made friends with a group of older folks taking the train to Salt Lake City for a weeklong tour while we waited.

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We unanimously decided that the statues represent Night and Day in Chicago, and that one of them is always watching over the city. It’s always fun to make up myths about cities you’re visiting. (If anyone knows the real history, drop me a line.)

The ride home was broken up by a small meal (I remembered to pack food this time, which was so welcome after my stomach began growling incessantly), and reading. There were probably ten children under the age of ten in my car, but all of them were astonishingly well-behaved. And the couple across the aisle commiserated with me when our conductors kept repeating (at least twenty times) the necessity of wearing shoes at all times when moving from car to car.

My seatmate pulled a disappearing act with his friends 20 minutes into the journey, so I promptly stretched out across both of our seats for optimal comfort. I think I lucked out again in terms of seatmates (or roomies, as we recognized ourselves when he popped by every so often to retrieve something from his bag).

An older lady from Mississippi sat across and diagonally from me, traveling with her toddler grandson. She and I struck up a conversation, and she complimented my accent. Now, that came as a bit of a surprise. I’m a Nebraskan, born and raised in the Midwest, where the regional accent is about as accentless as you can get in the United States. I’ll admit I have a bit more of a Southern drawl/twang to my speech, but I’d hardly call it an accent.

But hey, I’ll take the compliment “You have just the most beautiful accent” any day. Although I did have to giggle when she asked if I had lived in Germany or France because of it. (I’ve visited both countries, but only for a couple of days in each. That’s not what I would call accent-forming.)

I have to admit, traveling by train is all well and good, but if I do it again, I’d prefer to have a traveling companion, if just to break up the monotony. And, of course, to entertain myself while traveling through several hours of a phone data “dead zone.” I did get some good reading time in, despite the fading daylight. (I was that annoying person with my light on while everyone — literally everyone else in the entire car — was asleep. I can’t help it. I’m a night owl by nature.)

I don’t think I slept the entire way. And I know I didn’t sleep until a good five hours after letting myself into my apartment. It’s a good thing I had the day off on Tuesday.

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