The Midnight Train To Chicago

Achievement: #20. Go to Chicago

We knew we were headed to Chicago for a wedding in April, so we decided to put the trip on the list. However, as time went on, it became apparent that fate had three separate Chicago trips planned for us this year. (Note to self: putting ‘win the Powerball’ on the 2011 list might not be such a bad idea…)

In February, we stopped in Chicago on the first leg of our cross-country train trip. We were headed to the West Coast for a week to see our old favorite sights (San Francisco and SLO County), and we decided that rather than fly both ways, we would take the famous California Zephyr out west and spend three days soaking up the gorgeous views, writing, and overindulging in the tasty Amtrak food.

Just before midnight on February 14th, we departed Pittsburgh en route (eventually) to Emeryville, CA by train. The train takes almost three full days from Pittsburgh to California, and the scenery is just unmatchable. I could write an entire blog just about that trip, to be quite honest.

There are two legs to the cross-country trip, Pittsburgh to Chicago, and Chicago (which is one of, if not THE biggest Amtrak hub in the country) to Emeryville. From there, it’s just a ten minute cab ride into San Francisco, which was our first West Coast destination. The Capitol Limited is the train that takes you into Chicago, departing originally from DC and hitting Pittsburgh at 11:59pm. You essentially go to bed in Pittsburgh, and wake up in Chicago, where you have six hours to enjoy the city before loading your things onto the California Zephyr for the final 52 hours of train travel. Here is what we did with our six-hour layover.

First, as it was February, we had to make sure we were on guard against falling ice. As you can see, Michael had this one down to an art form.

Next, we stopped into our (now) favorite Chicago spot, Miller’s! They have great food, knowledgeable bartenders, and a waitress with a Pittsburgh connection, so you know we love them. 🙂

We walked past Bennigans, which we love for no reason, and I expressed the sheer joy that can only be brought on by this restaurant and its greasy goodness. (We did not actually eat there, as we were saving our appetites for that awesome Amtrak food.)

*jenn*: We are on a lake! Omg a lake a lake!
michael: My ears are cold.

Here I am on the lake again. I don’t know why I was so excited about this silly lake, but I most certainly was! I think my goal was to have a picture of us freezing on the lake, and then us enjoying nice weather on the lake when we go back in April.

Our last stop was the Art Institute of Chicago, which had free admission all of February. While this made it very, very crowded, it also allowed us to pop in for just a moment so I could share one of my favorite Pollocks with Michael, Greyed Rainbow. Each time we go to a new art gallery, it is always an exciting adventure for me to find the Jackson Pollock paintings, as he’s quite possibly my favorite painter of all time.

And finally, we went back to Union Station to gather our things and prepare for the next train, so I must show off a picture of Michael’s perfect packing job in the Amtrak locker. There are two suitcases, two laptop cases, and two overnight bags in that locker. Impressive!

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