Alright so being perfectly honest I am behind. Not like lets build in lag time behind, like wow that happened 4 days ago behind. So I am sorry about that. Apologies aside though a lot has happened over the last couple of days and I cant wait to share it with you! My second day in Chicago started off in keeping with the theme of this trip. My hosts live in a suburb so I got to take the Metra (commuter rail) in! Taking Stevie with was pretty painless as well, though I should note if we had been early risers she wouldn't have been allowed on the train. Bikes are only allowed on Metra in non-peak hours.
I had a really limited amount of time in Chicago before leaving so finding something to fill it was difficult. Luckily a really man from the Chicago Department of Transportation was willing to take time out of his day to meet up with me. We went over a lot but the overwhelming takeaway is that Chicago has come really far, particularly in terms of bike infrastructure but they are nowhere near done yet. I touched on a lot of the really impressive stuff in an earlier post but what I didn't get to talk about is the Divvy, their bike share service. Just from an observers standpoint I saw tons of people using them throughout my stay. What I learned through this meeting though is that in terms of geographic coverage they are the largest bike share nationwide, and only plan on expanding. That mission extends to the other work of CDOT as well, what was stressed though that with expansion must come education and community partnership. Looking back on my experiences in Normal it was interesting to see the priority placed on developing relationships and small scale action in both it and Chicago.
After the meeting I caught the Empire Builder out of Chicago, a two story behemoth of a train, which by the end of this trip I will ride a total of three separate times. As we sped west the first large station the train pulled into was Milwaukee Wisconsin which is already beautiful but undergoing renovations so I felt like I had to get off and snag a photo.
From that point on I didn't get off the train, in part because the view from the observation car really didn't motivate me to move. Plus you know, your girl became a Junior Ranger with the National Parks Service Rails to Trails program. No please, hold your applause.
All jokes aside this is an amazing program that takes place on several different routes. Volunteers from NPS come aboard for particularly scenic segments of the trip to educate and answer any questions you might have. Their wealth of knowledge and patience is really amazing, I promise it was well tested by me bugging them. You can only annoy nice older gentlemen for so long, so I eventually made my way to the dining car for dinner. It turned out waiting till the last seating was fortuitous because the train for almost an hour, ran directly along the Mississippi. It was a breathtaking view made all the more spectacular by the sunset. Now do I have any proof of this? Of course not, because somewhere in the laws of nature it says that when something is REALLLLLLY pretty you're not going to get a photo of it. It just isn't going to happen. So instead I took a photo of my food and became one of "those people".
The train ride unfortunately eventually came to an end as we pulled into St. Paul Union Depot. It was fairly late which it turns out is one of the best ways to see the many art installations inside the Depot. I really want to tell you about this incredible building but I'll save that for the next post.