Thursday, January 19, 2012

Holiday trip 2011: Outbound to Las Vegas

Thursday, December 22, 2011

First day of the holiday vacation was mostly spent on a Chicago-bound Greyhound. After a nightmarish scene of humanity at the station in Des Moines with travelers jostling about to board the right bus heading east, the ride was rather pleasant.

I would have enjoyed a breath of fresh air at our stop in Iowa City if it were not for all the damn smokers who can't go more than a hour without a fix. Later down the road at Walcott I spent a few moments outside in the bluster while scarfing a couple of jalapeño & cheese corn dogs.

One more brief stop in Davenport before the final push to Chicago. Night fell and we’re held up in rush-hour traffic on I-55 before arriving at the Chicago Greyhound Station. In the confusing jumble of taxis queued up outside the station, I finally snagged one and endured a plodding ride on Harrison east to Michigan Ave. north before making the turn on Wacker to the Hyatt Regency on the river.

Finally settled into Room 2362 overlooking the Chicago River and the landscape of Streeterville to the north, I survey options for carryout pizza and settle on the closest, the Giordano's at Prudential Plaza two blocks south [see blog post].

Friday, December 23

The remaining half-a-medium stuffed crust from Giordano’s took care of my breakfast needs. Washed-up and smelling of Calvin Klein Obsession, I lamented that getting laid is a distant option.

Looking across the river I saw what appeared to be a fifty-foot Marilyn Monroe barely keeping her dress down in the breeze. Upon further inspection I realized my mistake. Sadly, Marilyn was only 26-feet, but the imagery is still quite unique.

After a brisk walk along the river with luggage in tow, I stopped for some liquid lunch at Coogan's Riverside Saloon on N. Wacker. Afterward I wandered briefly into the Ogilvie Transportation Center before I walked the remaining few blocks down Canal St. to Union Station.

With little time to spare I got my tickets, ate lunch at Gold Coast Dogs [see blog post], and queued-up in line at Amtrak’s Metropolitan Lounge to board the outgoing Southwest Chief, all that time wondering why my sweatpants kept slipping down. Once situated in my roomette sleeper I noticed the reason. The damn drawstring broke! An annoying issue I’ve dealt with before with Hanes sweatpants.

Departure was timely as was our progress through Illinois, Missouri, and a tiny slip of Iowa. Dinner was yet another typically abysmal pasta dish. I've had a few in my time. A shame one can't opt out of Dining Car meals for a discount on sleeper accommodations.

Our first lengthy stop at Kansas City gave me an opportunity to try out some tech bling I had bought back in Chicago that allowed photos taken with my camera to be transmitted to my iPod Touch.

Leaving K.C. there was a brief pause at BNSF’s Argentine rail yard before continuing our trip westward to Lawrence, Kansas and beyond.

Saturday, December 24

Usually I sleep pretty well in a roomette sleeper. The occasions I wake up are when the train isn't moving. On that night I pretty much popped-up at each stop along the way: Topeka, Hutchinson, Dodge City, and Garden City. In Garden City I noticed something scarcely seen so far this winter: piles of snow.

Continuing westward into Colorado the snow deepens until we reached our next crew change in La Junta. On over Raton Pass into New Mexico the snow cover remains but lightens in depth until we reach Albuquerque where whatever dusting they received had since melted away.

Couldn't endure another session of eating with strangers so I passed on the night’s communal dinner. Nice trip, but supper on the train isn’t a high point for me. I spent the night seated in my darkened room, awaiting to disembark in Kingman, Arizona.

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