Regrouping for Chicago

Published: May 6th 2018
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Bicycles at the Train Station
Indiana Dunes State Park, Chesterton, IN

Yesterday was a regrouping day. Partially it was a down day - we did get a nap in late in the day. And partially it was to gather information for the coming busy week.

After a leisurely breakfast of bacon and eggs, we took a short walk with the girls part-way up the nature trail. One of the great things about walking our corgis is that everyone loves to stops, pet the dogs and chat. We learned from a local resident that the town of Valparaiso, just south of the park, had a delightful small town center of pubs, restaurants, and shops and we should check it out.

Our goal today, though, was to bicycle down to the train station and get information about the fares and schedule. So we took the bicycles down off the car, tightened a few nuts, and loaded up with water. The ride to the station was really a pleasant one through tree-covered roads and bicycle paths to a rather large commuter train station. I’m not sure what else the station supports, but the waiting room for the train is just a tiny part of the whole building.

And we learned quickly that this is a commuter train line, not a train oriented for tourists. No-one mans the ticket office anymore - everything is replaced by credit card machines and push buttons. Probably most people don’t even bother with those as they also have a smart phone app that does everything automatically. Probably serves as a ticket as well. (Think of all those jobs that have been eliminated!)

There were brochures describing the schedule and fares - I was able to understand most of it. I was hoping that they had some sort of pricing that would help us out, but, again, it is a commuter train not a tourist train, and the only real discount available was if you bought a monthly pass, which was overkill for a one-week need. They don’t even offer round-trip tickets, you just buy two one-way tickets. There is a small discount if you purchase a 10-pack (five and a half round trips) or a 25 pack. A couple of 10-packs might work for us.

So the next step was to return home and determine whether the South Shore Line stopped at the places we might want to go. Google maps is really very helpful for that. We plunked in each of the target destinations, ask for directions from current location, and they actually tell you the up and coming train times and the connections you might have to make once in Chicago. Several of our planned stops, it turned out, are within walking distance of stops this commuter train makes, so those trips are easy. But, unfortunately, there are a couple of destinations that will require a connecting bus or train ride and at least one of those trips will take three hours, one-way.

So, is that a candidate for driving? Well, yes, the time would be shorter, but once you factor in tolls, and parking, then the cost could become horrendously high. Not to mention that means driving in Chicago, which we certainly can do, but isn’t our preferred way of having a good time. We are still debating those trips and trying to figure out the best way to do them. (One of them is proving so ugly that Joan is thinking of giving it up!).

Anyway, we are going to try our first foray into Chicago today and see how it all

Reminds me of Decades ago in New York!
works. Can certainly say that life is a lot easier in smaller towns.

After the stress of trying to understand Chicago’s train system, we needed a drink. And so, in the spirit of Illinois, we dug up the recipe for what we are calling JG&L - Jameson (Irish Whiskey), Ginger Ale, and Lime. After a quick run to the grocery store for ingredients, we were able to mix our own. I can understand why Chicagoans love whiskey - they need it after trying to get around town. And a JG&L is a great way to reduce tensions.

It was early to bed for us, even as the rest of the campground was settling into Saturday night party mode.

I wanted to talk briefly about the ecology of Northern Illinois. Almost immediately after leaving the Baraboo area, heading east to Interstate 39, we left the Driftless Area and entered the section called the Central USA Plains. This area occupies most of eastern Wisconsin, and the northern half’s of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. This area is south of the range of the glacier system and is a place where vast quantities of soils, scraped up by the glaciers, were blown by wind and carried by water. The result is a very productive and fertile area. Originally, like most of the eastern half of the U.S. it was covered by hardwood forests of oak, maple, hickory, elm, ash, and beech. You can still see small stands of that old forest, but almost of all of it has been cleared for agricultural purposes. Wisconsin dairy farming dominates that portion of the plains, and in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio is probably the world’s most productive source of corn and soybeans. Intensive farming has produced its own set of pollution problems and fertilizer contamination of water is probably the biggest environmental problem. As we traveled south and then east in Illinois, we could easily see how much of the land has been converted to intensive agriculture. (Although, as Joan observed, irrigation does not appear to be a requirement like it is further west!)

Oh, and did we mention that it is very flat.


6th May 2018

Gene Stratton-Porter Historic Site in Indiana
Don't miss Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site in Rome City, IN 46784. I visited there last year. 148 acre property..and her husband had ties to the West. Must visit.
6th May 2018

Recommended book
I can't wait for your Chicago posts. I have always wanted to go there. I should have told you about this book earlier, but maybe I have or you have already read it. It is called Devil in the White City. Nonfiction about the Chicago World Fair and the exhibition buildings that were built there. Oh, and the serial killer who took advantage of young women coming to work at the fair! It's a great book and has historical value about Chicago. Super well written!

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