Amtrak Road Trip 2009
January 23-25, 2009
The Amtrak Road Trip weekend is always one that is important to us and to many others in CMGC: the annual trip is a mid-winter interlude to someplace near that seems much further away. We have gone most places that can be reached by leaving on Friday afternoon (after asking the boss for a few hours off because we really need to chill out but we promise we will be back in the cube come Monday), with the sole exception of the trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky some years ago when we all put down our dollars in the National Corvette Museum for a chance to own an Anniversary Edition (we all have the MGs with which we started). The complete company this year was comprised of Ann and John Schroeder, Debby and Wilbur Mennell, Mary and Dean Swanson, Gail and Meade Killion, Jim Renkar and us.
We started the 2009 Trip without too many concerns about traveling. After all, the MGs were all safely stored and we did not have to drive. So the weekend began in Union Station at Canal and Jackson just west of the Loop in Chicago. The standard gathering point is not impossible to find but you have to be observant: going down one level from Canal Street by escalator and following the ‘Food Court’ arrows, one comes across a very small bar on the north side. Immediately to the east (as in one foot to the east) is a set of stairs that leads to another lower level bar and fairly large, if dimly lit, seating area. We piled our cases and in a few minutes most of the rest of the entourage arrived.
Wilbur “Wiener” Mennell at the Ford Museum (no ketchup, please)
After a decent interval in which we could patronize the bar, food court and bar, the time ticked on to less than an hour until leaving. We herded to the lower level only to find a much larger crowd waiting to board than usual, and this in spite of being fifteen minutes early. Our group must have stood out (please do not guess why) because a redcap asked how many
were in our group and packed the ladies and the baggage on his cart (totally coincidental, we are sure) and led us to the train seconds ahead of the descending hoard, and so we were all seated together, interspersed only a bit with non-MG civilians.
The Wolverine left on time and arrived at Dearborn on time about five hours later. On board, we waited a very patient hour until the corks popped and the snacks started their rounds. Gourmet Chef was again Wilbur Mennell, who astounded with his shrimp cocktail and buffalo wings. John Schroeder was Gourmet Pastry Chef, having made white chocolate-covered truffles and chocolate chip cookies. Others offered a plethora of spreads, breads, cheeses, crackers, sausage. Everyone was running down by the time we got to Battlecreek where none of us could find the giant lighted ‘K’ that we had seen in previous years.
We had phenomenal service on the train that was typical of the service that we received all weekend, including that given by the staff at the Greenfield Inn where we stayed. Fortunately, we had had the foresight to fortify ourselves during the trip from Chicago and were not at all inconvienced by the closing of the bar prior to our 12:30 A.M. arrival. And we were all up the next morning for a great breakfast from the many selections available in the hotel restaurant.
The hotel shuttle dropped us off at the Ford Museum. It is difficult to describe the impact of a collection that one man of exceptional wealth and interest assembled to please himself and that was passed to future generations. The history of the automobile is paramount in this collection, even if the nuts and bolts of engine development is brushed aside, except for a few major American milestones, include serial number one of the Ford flathead V8 (1932) and the Oldsmobile Rocket V8 (1948). And there was an airplane exhibit, focusing on the Ford Trimotor. Not to forget the original Ford GT that won the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1967.
More than anything, this museum is about having the first or one of the only remaining of a particular item. Everything is authentic and every exhibit demands more attention than can be given as the feet and eyes tire and the body wears down.
Needless to say, no one made it to the pool that night (and only a very few made the pool the following morning, though those who did had their numbers boosted by having Butch, the van driver, there to run his chemical tests on the pool water). The ride back to Chicago on the Wolverine was just as pleasant and uneventful as the original trip. There were many snacks left, and no one had any feeling of a missed meal by the time we got to Chicago. Many of the club members stopped
in the bars in Union Station and Ogilvie Center to attempt to make the trip last as long as possible. The only complaint, as usual, was “It was not long enough”.