As I got off the chair lift up over the par-3 course and looked off the bluff over hazy Lake Michigan which, along with the sky, glowed with every shade of blue, I reflected on how far I’d come from that exhausted soul in D.C.
After leaving Aimee off at Raegan International, I made my way back towared Union Station and prepared for my first overnight train ride. I stopped in a market and bought a sandwich, an apple, and some chips, and I threw in a small bottle of whiskey in case I needed help falling asleep.
They boarded the train and I shuffled my way onto a packed car and sat next to a woman eating a Big Mac. At least I got a window seat, I thought.
Maybe you can tell me how a guy with as much student loan debt as I have can misinterpret instructions so badly as to get in the Chicago car when his ticket is for Toledo. I thought they meant toward Chicago, not to Chicago. Anyway, I raised my hand during the attendent’s final lecture about no smoking and find your closest exit. He called on me like a home-room teacher in middle school. “I think I made a mistake,” I said. “I’m going to Toledo.”
I heard “ooh”s and groans behind me, and felt like I might get sent to detention. The attendent slapped his forehead and shook his head. “Okay. I’ll deal with you in a minute,” he said.
The attendent from the non-Chicago car came in, grabbed my bag, and ushered me to the car behind. “Sorry about that,” he said. “We just don’t want you to miss your destination.” This guy seemed to handle stress a bit better than the forehead-slapper. He even apologized, and took me to a car with seating choices–right side, left side, window, aisle. I didn’t have to sit next to no one eatin’ no Big Mac neither.
The 12-hour ride went by quick enough. I did some work in the lounge car, snuck some surreptitious pulls off my Jim Beam, played a couple rounds of Tiger Woods, and configued a halway-comfortable sleeping arrangement at my seat using my hiking backpack as an L-shaped extension for my legs.
It wasn’t the deepest sleep ever, especially with the automatic door opening and shutting all night. Thwap. Thwah. Clomp. So when the attendent came by around 4am and said “10 minutes to Toledo,” I hopped up from my half-sleep and stuffed my things in my bags in a zombie state.
I deboarded in the Toledo dawn and waited in the station from 5-7am for the bus to Ann Arbor. I layed on a bench and paced around and couldn’t find any coffee. Finally the bus came and I grabbed a seat toward the back. I can’t say I saw much of Detroit or southern Michigan from the bus window because my head lay smack against it asleep. After two hours we arrived in Ann Arbor at about 9am and I called Alec to come pick me up.
After a crazy couple days in Michigan (to be detailed in my next post), I took the train from Detroit to Chicago. A four-hour distance by those city’s official times, but that’s with crossing a time zone. I looked forward to a quick, 3-hour trip. I didn’t even take my carry-on backpack down from the rack. Then I realized the trip lasted five, not three hours, so I got my bag down and settled in.
This time tomorrow, I’ll be close to boarding the Empire Builder, the train that runs along much of the path of Lewis and Clark. We’ll head northwest from Chicago then hug the Canadian border until I get off in East Glacier. The trip will last 29 hours. I may need a bigger bottle of whiskey.