|6th Annual Amtrack Road Trip
||January 18-20, 2002
by Ann & Jake Snyder
This year’s winter road trip via Amtrak took us to the Detroit area once again. It shouldn’t be surprising, in light of the requirements for this event. We need a destination with some type of automotive- or transportation-related activity, and we must be able to reach it by Amtrak on a Friday evening and return to Chicago by the following Sunday afternoon. The trip each way should take no more than about 5 hours (according to the schedule, that is), so that we have time to socialize and relax, but are able to carry enough food and beverages to sustain us. There are always wine and cheese in abundance- it’s party time!
There are few areas within a 5-hour Amtrak ride of Chicago that have as many automotive attractions as does Detroit. Past Amtrak Road Trips have taken us to the Ford Museum, the Automotive Hall of Fame, and the Chrysler Museum. This year, our destination was the Detroit Auto Show. We had ten members in attendance: Shirley and Roger Goebbert, Diana and Oscar Gonzales, Deb and Bill Mennell and their nephew Kyle, Jim Renkar, and Ann and Jake Snyder. So on Friday, January 18, we gathered at Union Station and boarded Train 352 to travel to the Greenfield Inn, in Allen Park, Michigan.
The Greenfield Inn has provided accommodations for us before. If you have ever traveled Interstate 94 between Chicago and Detroit, you have probably seen this large, pink, Victorian style frame building overlooking one of the Dearborn exits. The hotel staff not only send a shuttle to the Dearborn Amtrak station for us, but they have kept their restaurant kitchen open late when our train has been delayed. It is a place with all the amenities, including a pub, indoor pool, hot tub and sauna, fitness center, warm cookies at the front desk in the afternoon and evening, and well-appointed rooms. But most of all, we look forward to wandering the long corridors lined with framed automotive art, the collection of a former owner of the hotel. They claim that it is the world’s largest collection of vintage automobile prints. These include all types of reproductions, including posters, drawings, paintings, photographs, and even the occasional historical advertisement (as for the Whippet, which consumed only “a gallon of gas per 34 miles and a gallon of oil per thousand miles). While we were there, other guests included members of an automotive club from New York who had traveled by bus just to stay there.
On Saturday morning, transportation to the Auto Show was easily arranged with a local cab company with a ten-passenger van. The traffic jam in the vicinity of Cobo Hall was nothing by Chicago standards. It’s hard to identify just how North America’s premier auto show differs from the Chicago show, but it does. The venue seems to be nearly as large, and we will see in a few weeks what specific differences there are in the exhibits. The flock of mini Coopers was popular with many in addition to our own group, and there was a crowd around the GT-40 all day. The concept cars included several very nice two-seaters, including the Razor, the Crossfire, and the Pontiac Solstice that Auto Week called “Best of Show.” Jaguar, as appropriate for a division of Ford, was there in force and had one of the F1 cars on display, as did Ferrari. Toyota had its yet-to-be launched F1 car. Audi had a Le Mans car and the trophies on display. And for the serious car people, there were lots of huge, polished engines, many displayed as cut-aways. We admit that in 5 hours we didn’t see everything, but by that time we were all experiencing some serious sensory overload. After that much exposure to bright lights reflected off shiny metal and incredible paint jobs, you’re bound to get a little giddy.
So instead of staying at the show for the full twelve hours, we called the van and returned to the hotel with enough time to gather around the pool before dinner. Some of us even went for a swim. The greatest deprivation we experienced was being without draft Guinness at dinner because their carbon dioxide system had failed. After dinner, some of us took time to make a complete tour of the corridor galleries. We even found two sets of duplicates among the collection.
Most weekend events are over when you leave the hotel, but not this one. Whoever said that half the fun is getting there forgot about the trip back.