I reproduce the notes I kept for my Chicago trip over the new year in the paragraphs below. Content is lightly edited for readability.
- Chicago History Museum [inserted above below bullet]
- The Field Museum
- Hot dogs behind (Kim & Carlo’s)
- MSI! [Museum of Science and Industry]
- Magnificent Mile, Cloud Gate [this was bumped below the riverwalk]
- McCormick Bridgehouse [skipped this]
- Chicago Riverwalk [did the whole thing, walked all the way out to Lake Michigan]
- Chinatown [dinner at Daguan Noodle]
Amtrak 31 Dec
We crossed the Mississippi in complete darkness and stopped in Burlington, Iowa. The platform is so short that the second stop (made for coach passengers) is made with the locomotive protruding into a nearby level crossing. I saw one car pull up and visibly nope out by quickly performing an illicit three-point turn.
I had dinner with J, J, and K. J is going to Denver to visit his girlfriend. J & K are going to Salt Lake to ski. Salt Lake is only the first stop; Idaho follows for more skiing. J is a nursing student studying in Michigan; J & K grew up in Chicago.
Sitting in a darkened train compartment by yourself allows for a lot of introspection. [Probably I shouldn’t do it too much.]
Amtrak 1 Jan
Waking up to us backing into Denver Union Station is weird. Not sure how we ended up as such. Had breakfast with 2 retirees going home to Glenwood Springs plus a solo traveler who can work on the go. The solo traveler works for Cappex (sp?) and moonlights as a photographer. We joked lively about how camping out in Aspen as a paparazzo is doubtlessly lucrative. The lovely couple mentioned that Glenwood Springs has some awesome hot springs downtown.
Winter Park at Fraser looks like a lovely place to go when not in the dead of winter.
I reckon we passed through the Rockies and wound between the green bounds of a few national parks (according to Google Maps ATOW). The gorge / canyon path was the best, but the hills aren’t so bad. The view from the observation car was spectacular. It’s a pity my phone camera [Moto Z2 Play stock camera app] doesn’t remember manual settings as configured.
Had dinner with a Chinese father-son duo and M. The duo flew straight from Beijing to Chicago and are bound for Salt Lake. M was going boating with a friend in the Bahamas but got screwed by American Airlines. M changed his plans accordingly and decides to go to SF. He works for Ocean Mist Inc. in packing / produce and lives in Castroville.
Passing through the narrow mountain carved for our tracks in the dark is exciting and intriguing. The landscape in Utah looks almost a little sinister at night. I’m afraid to turn on any of my lights for fear of exposing my compartment to the outside world.
We were some distance outside Helper, UT (20+m?) and deep in the unlit countryside. We passed under a shadowy road bridge and I saw the most stars I’ve ever seen in my memory. Orion’s belt presented itself squarely toward my compartment. All around were dozens of acolyte stars, brighter than I’d ever seen. We rounded a bend and my compartment faced a not-so-bright patch of sky, taking Orion and co. out of sight.
[Around this time, I realized I was coming down with a cold – my throat was armed and ready to give me a bad time.]
Amtrak 2 Jan
I slept fitfully. I woke around 2:30 Pacific and realized we had crossed into Nevada. I woke again after 4 AM at a station stop. My throat felt marginally better (but still bad).
I woke at last at 5:50 AM to use the lavatory. The train was zooming across the plains at the time. I could see a gorgeous crescent moon flanked by 2 stars at an angle. It was a beautifully symmetric formation, the brighter star at 2:30 and the dimmer at 7:30 (so not straight up / down or left / right). The entire formation was visible at 9:00 when Google Maps indicated we were headed due West. The sun peeked over the mountains around 7 AM somewhat south of this ensemble.
I had breakfast with a family of 3 – J, C, and A (3.5 yrs). They had spent 1.5 weeks in Denver and were headed home to Emeryville. They plied me with horse trivia (J had an amazing ability to retain reading) and astute observations on the industrial buildings we passed in Nevada.