by Don Geenen
Earlier this spring, my son earned the right to participate in a competition at the Future Business Leaders of America's national convention in Chicago on June 30. Unfortunately, it was being hosted at a hotel downtown on Wacker Drive, right in the heart of the Loop.
Visions of tollways, gridlock and a $40 fee to park in some subterranean ramp three miles away danced in my head. However, my son had worked extremely hard to earn this opportunity, so I resigned myself to get him there and back despite the expense and the hassle.
While mulling our transportation options, I recalled reading about the Amtrak Hiawatha Service, with seven round trips daily between Milwaukee and Chicago. On Amtrak.com, I learned that the Chicago stop was at Union Station, just across the Chicago River from the Sears Tower, and only 14 blocks from the hotel. I also discovered that the cost of two round-trip tickets approximately equaled what I had budgeted for our gas and parking expenses. Therefore, I booked our tickets immediately.
What a wonderful trip it was. We arrived and departed exactly on time in both directions. We sat in comfortable reclining Coach seats that featured dual electrical outlets and plenty of leg room. We passed by miles of choked Chicago-area freeways while traveling at full speed. I got goose bumps as we drew ever closer to the Sears Tower, as we pulled into Union Station in its very shadow, and again when we walked into Union Station's breathtaking Great Hall. Yet, of all the highlights, the best was the simple joy of having unimpeded time to spend with my son.
Long may you run, Amtrak. And someday soon may we be able to board one of your delightful trains right here in Appleton.