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Last day, back in Chicago

rain 78 °F
View baecation cross-country Amtrak on baecation2016's travel map.

We detrained from the City of New Orleans, back in Chicago for 12 short hours. It was bittersweet, returning to the city where it had all started.

We aimed to get real deep dish pizza as we were mislead the first time around and to get good beer. Seeing as it was still Chicago Craft Beer Week, we figured that wouldn't be too hard to find.

As the forecast called for a pretty rainy day in the Chi-town, we opted for a more relaxed, low-key day as our trip was winding down.

We spent the day in the South Side at the Museum of Science and Industry. We saw some pretty cool exhibits and models, including an exhibits dedicated to transcontinental trains! How appropriate, huh?

Afterwards, we went to Hyde Park to grab lunch at Pizza Capri. We finally got our Chicago deep dish! This time with jalapeƱos and mushrooms. It was delicious and probably the best pizza I've ever tasted. Our waiter suggested we still try Giodano's and Lou Malnati's before getting too excited.
We got some fantastic brews from Chicago's Half Arc and Revolution brewing companies.


After a break in the downpour, we took a stroll the Hyde Park neighborhood. There's some pretty cool murals and shops in the home of the University of Chicago.

We walked to the south side of Lake Shore Drive to get a view of Lake Michagan to the east as the sun was setting to our west.

It was the perfect backdrop to the ending this trip.

In total, we spent 14 days traveling, over 6,200 miles by train visiting and passing through this beautiful country in all of its grandeur as well as flaws. Thanks for sharing our trip with us, we enjoyed having you along for the ride!

-- Claudia

Posted by baecation2016 22:45 Archived in USA Tagged food beer sunset amtrak Comments (0)

Train(s) to NOLA

(2 trains taking 3 days, spanning 4 states)

sunny 81 °F
View baecation cross-country Amtrak on baecation2016's travel map.

In order to make it to New Orleans, we had to take 2 trains (back on Coast Starlight from Emeryville to Los Angeles then onto Sunset Limited from Los Angeles to New Orleans). In summary, it was really cool, but long. All the passengers got cabin fever and tired of the food.
So, I'll give you some highlights.

Pacific coastline
The Coast Starlight train hugs the Pacific coastline for 104 miles from Pismo Beach to Ventura! The views were breathtaking and hands down the highlight of the trip:

Thanks to our new friend Earle, the retired park ranger and train aficionado we met on our first Coast Starlight trip, keeping tabs on our connection to the Sunset Limited was easy using Amtrak Transit Docs. From this website, we learned the Coast Starlight was running early and we'd have not 1 but 2 hours to make our connection! Earle was a kind hearted older gentleman and my favorite passenger we encountered on this trip! He was just as excited as we were to see us again on Sunset Limited!

Passenger encounters and stories

Amtrak exercises community seating in the dining car. Heidi and I would sit on one side of the booth, while a set of complete strangers accompany us for our meals. While this can lead to some awkward pairings, sometimes Amtrak gets it right. The stories ranged from incredibly heartwarming to incredibly boring.
We met an 18 year-old boy from the MidWest that SURVIVED a ruptured brain aneurysm sustained during a soccer game. His mother recounted the agony of his 3 month PICU stay while her son proudly demonstrated the scar running along his left temporal region. Given that the majority of individuals die from a ruptured brain aneurysm, we were astounded to see that he had minimal residual deficits.
Many folks have learned that train travel is THE way to travel, so during our travels we run into each other. For example, we met Benjamin and Royce in Chicago, again in Emeryville, and again on the way to New Orleans. We met Earle in Portland and again on the Sunset Limited before he detrained for San Antonio. I thought that was pretty neat.


States on states on states
California has a diversity of farmlands, vineyards, and oil fields (interestingly enough). Thanks to our Rails and Trails park rangers, we learned about the flora and fauna of the state, NASA testing sites, hidden missile/warship sites, and so much more.
We also passed through New Mexico, some cool towns and cities in Arizona, a very LONG Texas and its border with Mexico (along with border control trucks that would occasionally follow our train), and finally Louisiana!
The towns along the train were mostly comprised of trailer parks. Aside from the poverty, I was struck by the numerous cemeteries. "cities of the dead". Since the water table is so high, no one can be buried underground in Louisiana!




New appreciation for trains
From the classic styles such as the Pullman car and the Parlour car, to the modern Superliners, I've concluded that trains are pretty cool.

They use less energy than cars and airplanes. They allow us to see how people live, work, and relax. They show us from where our food and goods originates, gets processed, and shipped. They bring complete strangers together for 3 meals a day. However, they should be high-speed like in Europe. Three days is a long time. . .

See you in NOLA!

-- Claudia :O)

Posted by baecation2016 11:53 Tagged trains and sunset coast coastline trails rails pacific texas amtrak limited starlight Comments (1)

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