Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Goodbye to Chicago

It was another bright sunny morning so I was up early, striding the pavement along with all the wage-slaves clutching their coffees, while the beggars set up their stations with their hand-written cardboard signs. (Some of them should really be snatched up as copywriters by advertising agencies, their pleas are so cleverly worded.) My mission was to capture the Cloud Gate again under a blue sky with no-one in the picture; and though it wasn’t as deserted as that other morning last April, it was nothing that a little patience couldn’t fix.

And then, that was it for Chicago. I’m quite sorry because I really like this city: it helped, that in April at IPW we were all made to feel so welcome, and were invited to some epic parties; but this visit has been lovely too. The trees (sorry) are beautiful, the buildings are amazing, the people have been friendly, we had fun in Lincoln Park, the Peninsula had the best bed ever, the museums are just brilliant… Though I’m conscious of time running out and the need not to waste it by revisiting places, I wouldn’t like to think I won’t ever be returning.
Now, the journey home has begun. It’s still part of the trip though: we’re crossing three-quarters of the US by train, just over two days from Chicago to San Francisco on the California Zephyr, courtesy of Amtrak – by which I mean, not courtesy of them at all, in the usual travel writer’s sense. Cheapskates!

So I decided I will show no mercy if things don’t go well. Unfortunately for my sense of vengeance, though, so far there’s been little to complain about: less information about checking in than was helpful, a late departure, and a smaller-than-expected sleeper (which was actually our fault), and that’s all.

Otherwise – and I write this before the transformation of our tiny cabin into its sleep mode, when I will have to scramble into the upper bunk in my underwear, my suitcase having proved too big for this phone-box and been consigned to a rack downstairs – so far it’s all been lovely. There’s an upper-level lounge car with seats facing the large windows that curve up into the roof, the scenery’s been vast fields of maize dotted with red barns, shiny silos and combines trailing clouds of dust, dinner was pleasant and shared with a couple of random other passengers, who were interesting company, and we have Denver and the Rockies to look forward to in the morning after traversing Iowa’s flatness while we sleep. How disappointing!

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