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Chicagoland MG Club: Driveline
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Amtrak Road Trip 2007
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  Chicagoland MG Club:Driveline
Amtrak Road Trip 2007

Ann and Jake Snyder
This year’s Amtrak Road Trip started in the usual sunken seating area behind the main bar in Chicago’s Union Station. It was late afternoon on Friday, January 19th and a small group of Chicagoland MG Club members, including Bill and Debby Mennell, Dean and Mary Swanson, Doug Clark, Bob Schultz, Jim Renkar, Ann and John Schroeder and us, had gathered to adventure by Amtrak train to South Bend, Indiana to tour the newly opened Studebaker National Museum that replaced the older version a few blocks away. We had time for a sandwich and a beer before crowding into the departure lounge at about 6:30 P.M.
We managed to get seated together, thanks mostly to the young Amish family that was traveling back to their home in eastern Pennsylvania and suggested that they exchange their seats with us to keep everyone together. We found that the efforts of the Amtrak staff were frequently supplemented by the passengers to keep the train going. Well, it left on within a minute of the scheduled departure, but stopped at what Southsiders identified as 37th Street for about twenty minutes.
Then, in keeping with the established tradition, gastronomic excess began as everyone pulled out the treats they brought to share. There were a half-dozen kinds of cheese, several dips and spreads, crackers and small slices of bread that were eclipsed only by Bill Mennell’s cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto, baked chicken wings and shrimp cocktail on diced cucumber. Bill makes the cocktail sauce from readily available ingredients-the trick is the proper amount of lime juice. There were a few bottles of wine as well, but the recent prohibition against all but Amtrak-supplied alcoholic beverages meant these were not openly displayed.
The only trouble with a train trip to South Bend is that it could be too short to permit a really thorough exploration of all the food if the schedule were followed. Fortunately, the railway policy is ‘freight trains before passenger service, always’ and this gave us a few extra minutes waiting on sidings. And, again fortunately, one of the freight trains that was ahead of us had a broken locomotive engine. This gave us a half hour’s wait and then an additional forty minutes when our train back-tracked for ten miles to get on a clear set of tracks. In total, we got an extra two hours of train time for no extra charge.
Unfortunately, while most of us were partying on the train, Diana Gonzales was waiting in the Holiday Inn with her husband Oscar and with Ed Misch, who had driven his MGB 75 miles to get there. She was increasingly certain that something bad had happened to the train and to us, a feeling substantiated by the fruitlessness of several calls she made to the Amtrak ‘help’ desk to find out what where we were.
After a few hours sleep and a breakfast buffet in the hotel, we regrouped in the lobby, got pointed in the right direction by the hotel staff, and proceeded to the Studebaker National Museum, about a half mile away. We passed several nicely kept old mansions on the walk, and we were quite pleased when the admission desk clerk told us we could tour one of them for an additional two dollars. The mansion is called Copshaholm and is adjacent to the museum. We had enough people (fourteen in all) to make our own group, and we spent two hours viewing the magnificence of an era gone now for many years from South Bend. This particular mansion had belonged to the Oliver family and it had been built on wealth from the Oliver plow, made from chilled iron and with a replaceable tip. This plow was the least expensive available, at a cost of seven dollars about a century and a half ago, that was capable of turning the vast Midwestern prairie into wheat fields.
The Studebaker family home, Tippecannoe, is now a restaurant. Interestingly, the Oliver family adapted and prospered while the Studebaker family dissolved in destitution. The Studebaker National Museum is a true treasure, starting with a full room of wagons, first motoring era cars and large, low power vehicles almost a hundred years old. The modern cars, those built in the 1950’s, are represented and displayed very nicely. There was a lot to see and we toured slowly. Most of us made trip to the basement to see the vehicles that may be displayed if and when there is space for them.
After that long day, we walked back to the hotel and assembled to determine if we were going to the pool before supper. Diana Gonzales passed out bottles of beer and more snacks as we proceeded to turn the lobby into another party train. The marvelous glass-enclosed curved bar in the hotel’s dining room won over the pool, and we finished that Saturday with a very adequate supper in an Irish pub about a block away. Sunday came too soon, and we were back in Chicago well before noon. The most interesting subjective effect was that we felt that we had been away a lot longer than than two days. It was another good Amtrak Road Trip.

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