I had the sincere pleasure of riding AMTRAK for the second time this year over the past weekend. This time it was from Indianapolis to Chicago on the “Cardinal” and then from Chicago to East Lansing on the “Bluewater.”
Both legs of the train trip arrived within 10 minute of their scheduled time and were very restful and enjoyable – fell asleep at one point during both legs (never did see Crawfordsville, Indiana). Saturday’s sunrise over West Central Indiana near Lafayette was (see photo above) spectacular. The five-hour layover in Chicago allowed me to spend a glorious autumn day walking about the heart of the Windy City. The sunset with a harvest moon reigning over Michigan was equally spectacular to the sunrise earlier that day. Factor in the $46 price for the total trip and you would be hard pressed to find a better travel deal anywhere on the planet.
One of the best parts of the trip were my fellow rail passengers and the friendly people who work for AMTRAK. The woman seated next to me between Indianapolis and Chicago was en-route to Quincy, Illinois from her home in Huntington, West Virginia to see her ailing sister. The heartfelt conversation taking place in the seats behind me about America’s declining position in the world and the unjust disparity between rich and poor in our nation would have made for a great internet discussion topic.
During the second leg of my journey, happiness was abounding throughout my train car as we all learned that Michigan State had defeated Ohio State 10-7. My apologies to the automakers, but that kind of community celebration does not happen in one’s passenger car.
Folks in both Illinois and Michigan should also be commended for the well-maintained stations and the smooth condition of their tracks. Lafayette, Indiana’s historic station was also well maintained. The tracks between Rensselaer and Dyer, Indiana could use some upgrading to increase train speed and reduce travel time. In addition, Indianapolis should act soon to modernize its facilities at Union Station. It is ridiculous that there are no escalators available to provide access the tracks above the waiting area. Instead, you must lug your luggage (wonder if that’s were they got the word lug from?) up several flight of stairs or compete for the use of one elevator. For my hometown to have progressed so far, in so many ways over the past few decades, and still have antiquated passenger rail facilities was quite a disappointment and surprise.
It is my strong recommendation to anyone traveling in the United States to serious consider taking AMTRAK – the great service, great people, great prices, and great fun are all part of the package. Isn’t the journey supposed to be half the fun of the adventure anyway?