Kev’s Trip Planning: September 2019

by Kev
Abby and Mack

September 2019 Trip

Soon I will be back on the rails for my first train trip in months. I have been taking some train trips, but they were to Milwaukee or Chicago. If you have been following me on the socials, you can probably guess my destination. Yup, I am going back to Nebraska.

Why Nebraska, again?

My sister et al. moved to Nebraska a few months ago, and I have to admit, I like the area more than I anticipated. They are coming back to Wisconsin for a visit, and I am helping to drive back. But that is not without chilling out there for a while. If you follow on Instagram, you probably know I am going to the zoo again, and if Little Mack want, we can ride on the carousel again; maybe this time we will ride the tiger if she is brave enough, If she isn’t ready we can ride on the bench, and that is cool.

Little Mack and Abby

My two nieces, Abby the Newfie and Little Mack aka Mackenzie)

Why I can’t wait

I am looking forward to this trip for a few reasons. The first reason is, I haven’t made a solo trip in a while, and I miss that.  The past few journeys to my sister’s included transporting one or both of my parents. Don’t get me wrong; I love helping family and my folks, but I miss solo trips. The second reason is, I am not driving out there, and I can enjoy the journey. Well, I am driving back with my sister and family (Abby too), but I still a long-awaited solo train trip out there.

Taking the train is a nice change to driving. The drive is not bad, although the stretch of Illinois seems to take forever. Very few waysides and many of the gas stations are not that close to the road.

The best part about the drive out to Nembraks is the Iowa section of I-80 for it has many convent waysides and several easy on and off places to fill up with gas and a snack.

The Hiawatha arriving in Sturtevant, WI

The Hiawatha arriving in Sturtevant, WI

Getting to Nebraska

Because driving was not practical for this trip, I needed to find a way to get out there. I looked at both air and land choices. I chose rail, as I hinted to before. Cost, comfort, and convenience lead me to Amtrak, plus it is one of my favorite way to travel.

Amtrak cost and breakdown

Here are my trip breakdowns

The Hiawatha: getting to Chicago

This Hiawatha transports me to get to Chicago, and from there, I transfer to my next train. My other options are two Metra trains, either Fox Lake, IL or Antioch, IL. I didn’t want to leave my car at a station because I am not taking the train back. I did look at riding the train to Milwaukee and then a bus down, I have done that before. The best part of that is the ability to stop at Stone Creek for coffee before leaving, but either the times didn’t work out, or there weren’t any cost savings.

The Mighty Hiawatha takes me from Sturtevant (WI) Depo to Chicago Union Station, from there the California Zephyr will whisk me off to Omaha, NE.

CUS Enterance

Outside entrance to Chicago Union Station’s Great Hall

Layover at Chicago Union Station

Often when I take trips like this, I use the Metropolitian Lounge of off the Great Hall, but this time I will not have access to that room. The lounge is for sleeper car and business class passengers, or those who are Amtrak  Guest Rewards Select Plus members. Sadly I do not qualify for any of those.

The layover comes at an excellent time for lunch and maybe a brew, I could save time and do both at the same place. I am excited new food places are coming to Union Station, but I’ll have to wait for another trip to go to those since they are not open yet.

California Zephyr take me away

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Califonia Zephyr because it was the first long-distance train I ever made.

The Zephyr will take me 500 miles from Chicago to Omaha. With the train leaving at 2:00 pm I will get a chance to see most of the scenery as we roll through.

As a coach-class passenger, I have access to the Sightseer Lounge Car, and my food options include the dining car and the cafe car. If you have not been on a Superliner train before, the Sightseer Loung is the upper level of the cafe car and has large windows on the sides and also window that curve in the ceiling. This windowed car is a great place to get out your seat and see the country go by, and maybe enjoy a treat from the lower level cafe.

Milwaukee Intermodal Station

Milwaukee Intermodal Station

My other non-road trip choices?

By air or sea

Traveling by water was not a choice for this trip, and that is okay.

Flying is possible, but not practical. Many of the “affordable” flights cost three times that of Amtrak and took longer.

Bus

Most of the bus options I looked at were out of Chicago, although there are a few out of Milwaukee. The Milwaukee option didn’t work in my schedule get ule.

Outside of the cost of taking a bus from Chicago, there is the cost of getting to Chicago. If I take Metra to Chicago, that adds $9.50 and $22- $25 (with a discount) for Amtrak. The Metra line and Amtrak both take me to Union Station, and the bus stations or loading areas are not far from there.

Megabus

Watching traffic while taking Megabus to Chicago

Megabus

Megabus runs a daily bus to Omaha operated under Windstar Bus Company. The bus leaves a few blocks south of Chicago Union Station. The “bus station” if I remember right, is a sign on a poll (I took Megabus from Milwaukee to Chicago once). If I were to book early, it would be $39.99 to $49.99  plus the cost of going to Chicago. Don’t forget with Megabus there is a $2.50 service fee for every transaction.

Greyhound

Me on a bus

Taking the bus on a trip

Greyhound gives some flexibility for travel. I have the option of taking Amtrak up to Milwaukee Intermodal Station from Sturtevant and then leave from there and take buses for the rest of the trip.

The other option is to take a train to Chicago and go from there.

The Greyhound stations or pick up spots (that I know of ) in Chicago:

When I was shopping for deals, I found that something unusual. If I booked a trip from the central bus station in Chicago to Omaha, it was around $116. By starting my bus journey at the 95th and Dan Ryan stop, it was $62. Okay, let me break this down by, taking L ride (a $2.50 added cost), and adding a bus from the 95th and Dan Ryan stop to the central bus station, I can save almost half on tickets. I am not for sure why, but I am cheap enough that I would do that.

Burlington Trailways runs the bus from Chicago to Omaha for Greyhound. I could book the trip through Burlington Trailways, but with the 95th stop “discount” I probably would book through Greyhound.

Wrap up

This year has not been a significant travel year for me, at least not for train travel. Looking back, so far, I have traveled more than I thought.

Introspective part

A year ago, I was in Charleston, S.C., and Brunswick, GA, with my family. I took my dad out to visit my mom because she was out by my sister, helping her after the birth of Mackenzie. On that trip, we had to evacuate to GA due to a Hurricane Flow.

A year later, I discovered that being an uncle is not just a title that a sibling gives you when birth a kid, but it is truly a gift and a bond. Being an uncle is like traveling, there is no one right way to be an uncle or how to go, but there are a few wrong ways. Plus the memories from traveling and those of being an uncle are cherished forever.

Safe Travels!

Kev

If you are interested in following along with my journeys, check out how you can find me here! If you are interested in how you can travel with Amtrak as well, get started on that path here.

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