On the road again, yes we’re on the road again. We’re heading from Chicago to the Grand Canyon on the Southwest Chief, looking forward to the changing scenery again, and of course crossing the Mississippi River, again! We’ve heard lots from friends about this trip, that it’s very beautiful and every bit as varied as the Empire Builder.
Our only major frustration and disappointment so far has been the farce that proved to be AT&T and the sim cards for our iPads. After checking out of the Parthenon Guest House, or for us, the house of ill-replumbing, with it’s equally odd breakfast and anal retentive guardian – by this I mean the ‘dude’ who seemed intent on guarding the breakfast buffet, clearing any and all items from the immediate vicinity regardless of whether the guest was finished with it or not, like my side plate that was waiting to catch my toast! – we headed back to Union Station to check-in at the Metro Lounge there. Have we mentioned how much we love these? Well, we do! Complimentary juice, soft drink, muffins, wifi, baggage storage and restrooms for first, business class and sleeper passengers, no sharing with the riff-raff! We deposited our bags and headed out to West Monroe St and the AT&T store, in the expectation of getting internet access. Well, after the balmy weather, swarms of people and occasional pause for photos we found the store and a knowledgeable salesperson who couldn’t wait to chat to the ‘Aussies’. He whipped out the sim cards and had them installed before we could even blink, but then came the catch. Whilst AT&T were more than happy to have us as customers, it seems we’re difficult to service, you see their computer system doesn’t accept our billing address for payment via credit card and you can’t pay in cash. Whilst providing a ‘local’ address for service wasn’t a problem without a matching card you can’t pay. So after nearly an hour’s worth of error messages, one whooping cry of success that could most likely be heard back on Jackson Blvd only to sink in the middle like the most promising of soufflés, we eventually left without internet service. Thank goodness most of the hotels we’re in have wifi and we hope we can do better in Canada when we return!
Boarding at 3pm we spent the rest of the afternoon getting comfortable in our new accommodations. Well, I use the term ‘new’ rather loosely. The sleeper carriage we’re currently in would have been new probably around the time of Reagan’s first term in office, and don’t it tell the story of it’s life since then. The walls are scuffed and marked, the curtains have a rather interesting white ‘gacky’ sustance on them, that quite frankly we’re too scared of to actually inspect further, although after three years of home renovations I can’t help thinking it looks awfully like Selley’s No More Gaps, and I wonder what they could have been ‘filling’. Maybe it was the air conditioning? Why would they do that? Well, probably because it’s a little too efficient! From our roomette on the Empire Builder where the air-con didn’t work too well and we were a little on the warm side, this one works a little too well, we’re now residing in an ice box! We suspect though that by the time we reach the Grand Canyon we’ll probably be greatful for the temperature difference, but for the moment it’s a tad chilly and we’ll need to get an extra blanket each if we’re to sleep at all tonight.
For all it’s dated interior, we did have a wonderful dinner of Angus steak and Tilapia, over looking the Mississippi if you don’t mind! We whiled away the evening chatting with an ex-State Dept employee, who told us about being stationed in Bolivia during two of their coup’s, about living in Washington D.C. and the infamous open air concerts, and another gentleman who teaches at Ann Arbor but is in the process of retiring to New Mexico, and the great and varying differences between life in Michigan vs life in New Mexico. Both individuals were quite congenial company and together we laughed and shared stories well into the evening as we raced through the Illinois, Iowa and Missouri landscapes. So far, the Southwest Chief is promising to be a very enjoyable experience.