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October 2017

Taking Amtrak between Iowa & Chicago, a great time.

I wanted to go to Chicago for a long weekend, to attend OpenHouseChicago, which is another story.  After pricing airfares [$350+] and asking our daughter about Megabus [$90; she warned me I might not like the bathroom], I researched taking the train.

To take Amtrak from central Iowa to Chicago you have to go to Osceola [an hour south of Des Moines] and get on the California Zephyr.  It is the cross-country train between Chicago and Emeryville, California which for the whole route takes a little over two days.  The route from Iowa to /from Chicago is about 6 hours, although it can be a little more time coming from the West. That’s because Amtrak travels on freight rails and has to give way to freight train traffic.  

But, it cost me $100 to ride round-trip, leaving about 9:30am and arriving about 4:30pm, and returning from 2:00pm to 8:30 pm.  That’s $10 more than Megabus, but you have more room, the lounge car is available [as is the dining car], and I’d rather take the train.

Those who complain about the train ‘always’ being late generalize unfairly.  After all, even though the flight takes a little over an hour, you have to be there an hour ahead and wait for baggage awhile on arrival and pay three times as much.  There certainly are good reasons to fly to Chicago or elsewhere, but if you want to relax, read a book, work on your computer, sleep or play video games, the train beats a plane any day.

I also discovered something new [to me] in Chicago.  I arrived at Union Station to leave about 4 hours later.  Amtrak has created a Legacy Club for its passengers for $20 for a day pass.  That can be money well spent - free wifi, comfortable seating, free coffee and snacks, Clue and other board games, a happy hour twice a day and a place of relevant quiet [it has TVs running which I don’t care for, but that certainly is fine for most people and I can hide in a corner and ignore them]. 

So, if you have time and want to maximize it and enjoy it, taking the train makes a lot of sense.

 

Amtrak Union Station Chicago
Amtrak Union Station, Chicago