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And at last, we finish Chicago…

August 30, 2011, 10:16 PM

Just in case you thought I forgot to finish my description of Chicago, let me disabuse you of that idea. Here’s the last installment of the trip to Chicago.

First thing Sunday, Mom and I had breakfast in the hotel restaurant with Sis and Chris. To save money, since my main complaint about the trip in 2010 was that we spent too much on food, we bought food for breakfast, and had something reasonably healthy for breakfast that we bought at a nearby grocery store. I had oatmeal and some fruit. Yes, I did my darndest to be good on this trip, despite it all. But this being the last day, we splurged a little, and ate in the restaurant.

Then we went down to Rogers Park. Sis and Chris promised us a farmers’ market, and so we saw the farmers’ market in Rogers Park. It was initially raining, but we managed. Since I couldn’t buy anything on account of the train trip that Mom and I would be taking later in the day, I decided to have a little camera fun, photographing the fruits and vegetables for sale. And unlike the CTA workers, who think that when they harass photographers, they are doing it in the name of national security (puh-leeze), the folks at the farmers’ market were more than happy to show off their wares for the camera. And here are some of the results:

Now note that these are the photos as taken, unprocessed except for size. These may one day be photo features, and once I tinker with some of the levels to make it look less like it was taken on a gray and rainy day, these shots will look really good (though that’s not to say that they look bad right now – but I can make them look a bit better).

Then after that, we said goodbye to Chris, because he had to go back out to Lisle to do another theatre hike show. The Tin Man (out of character and costume, obviously) had already found him, since Chris was giving him a ride to the arboretum, and I think they were possibly giving taking the woman who played Dorothy a ride as well. Once we got our goodbyes with Chris, Mom, Sis, and I headed over to a nearby comic store, where Sis and Chris are regular customers. Sis told us how, when she first picked something up there, the man who ran the store was like, “Ann Lysy… you’re not related to a Chris Lysy, are you?” And then Sis replied, “He’s my husband!” There you go, I suppose. Fun store, though comics don’t particularly excite me.

Later, we headed back to Sis and Chris’s house, and watched a couple of episodes of Power Rangers that we had discussed earlier in the trip. We watched the episode of Dino Thunder where Tommy got his powers and became a Power Ranger for like the seventh time, and on his fifth Power Ranger suit. Then we also watched an episode of RPM, where the RPM Rangers were subtly making fun of their morph sequence. Very meta right there.

And after that, we headed over to Lake Michigan again. Interestingly enough, the big thing going on was that a dead fish had washed up on the beach, and a few dogs were having at it. More accurately, one dog was having at it, and that dog would be darned if the other dogs would get anywhere near its fish, growling at any dogs that came near it. Take a look:

A dog checks out a decaying fish

As you can see, someone was enjoying their fish. And that thing was nasty, being halfway decomposed and such. Gross. Then the dog’s master got the dog away from the fish, since the dog shouldn’t really be eating that, lest it make the dog sick. Of course, dogs, while cute, also drink out of the toilet and lick their own crotch, so it’s not surprising that a dog would try to eat a decaying fish – something it really probably shouldn’t eat.

I also got other photos of the dogs:

They were definitely adorable, no? And the dogs really looked like they were having a fun time, too.

Returning from the lake, we called the cab, and got ready to go. The cab picked us up at Sis and Chris’s house, and when it arrived, we brought our junk down, loaded it up, got our goodbyes with Sis, and headed off to Union Station.

At Union Station, I got the surprise of the trip. After we checked our luggage and got settled in the Metropolitan Lounge, I was filling up my steel water bottle, and someone comes up to me and asks, “Are you Ben Schumin?” Turns out that it was Matt Johnson, aka @Tracktwentynine on the Twitter. He, along with @CCTgirl, @ajfroggie, @miller_stephen, and @martarider were all taking the Capitol Limited to DC as well! I follow these folks on the Twitter, and they follow me, and we discuss transit issues, plus ajfroggie has some roadgeek stuff online that I had been to many times in the past (I’m a little bit of a roadgeek as well – comes with the territory, I suppose).

All of us ended up having a lot of fun on the train. We spent two periods of time in the Sightseer Lounge, where we got to play a game called TransAmerica. In TransAmerica, the goal is to connect all of the cities that you have in your cards by rail. The game starts by everyone being handed five cards – one from each region of the United States (roughly northeast, northern midwest, midwest, southeast, southwest, and west coast). These are the cities that you have to connect, and you keep those to yourself. Each person then places their own depot in a location of their choice on the map. Then you start laying tracks. In each turn, you lay two sections of track (except if you’re going over a double line, in which case, you lay only one). Most of the track is black, which everyone’s trains can go over. Let’s call it a public right-of-way. Then each player also gets three pieces of colored track corresponding to their player color. Those are private rights-of-way, which only your own trains can travel over. This is where the strategy comes in, because if another player wants to follow the path, they have to use track to go around that private right-of-way. You also can’t reach cities, even if there is track to them, unless there is a physical track connection to your depot. Thus if I have, say, Seattle, New York, El Paso, Chicago, and Atlanta, and I’ve connected Atlanta, Chicago, and New York, and another player has built track around El Paso, I can’t build the track to El Paso unless there is a track connection between my network and theirs. Make sense? I caught on really quickly, and we all had a blast. The big surprise was that I was actually the one to go off the edge in the second game. I was the furthest ahead going into the last round, and then someone else got their cities together really quickly, and I had a lot of distance to go to finish. Thus off the edge I went, and when your score marker goes off the edge, you’re done, and the game is over and they determine what place everyone was in.

Meanwhile, it was interesting going through Montgomery County on the train. Here’s the photo I loved most from that:

The Capitol Limited goes past Randolph Road in the Rockville area

That’s right, MoCo drivers – you wait for me! It was funny seeing this, because I normally cross this intersection by car when I go to Rockville, and so it was interesting seeing it from the other perspective. Then a couple of weeks later, I was stopped at this crossing and saw the westbound Capitol Limited go by. Pretty cool.

Then getting home, Mom and I put our stuff down, and then headed out to finally fit me for some new pants. Turns out that I went down two whole sizes!

But that was our trip to Chicago! We had fun.

Categories: Amtrak, Chicago, Family, Friends