Amtrak Road Trip, 2000
by Jake &Ann Snyder
This year’s Amtrak Road Trip may have seemed like the same old formula- a ride on the train to Dearborn, two nights at the Greenfield Inn, a visit to an automotive museum, and another ride on the train, back to Chicago. Eight club members- Lana and Kori Ehmann, Diana and Oscar Gonzales, Deb and Bill Mennell, and Ann and Jake Snyder- were able to make the trip, and no one complained about being bored. It was a great time from start to finish. Most of us took the Friday afternoon train to Dearborn. As we left Chicago, we posed the usual question to the conductor about whether we were permitted to rotate the seats. A pair of rail coach seats can be rotated on its base to face the pair of seats behind it. It was the same conductor to whom we had put this question on a previous trip, and as then, she told us that ever since someone had spun one too fast and been injured, it was no longer permitted. Still, we had to ask. And that didn’t really hinder conversation or the sharing of the snacks and beverages that everyone packs for the trip- getting there is half the fun! There was enough blowing snow to provide enjoyable scenery and to allow us to appreciate riding a train instead of driving. Also, true to formula, the train was about an hour late reaching Dearborn. From just east of Jackson to Ypsilanti, the train slowed to 20 mph because of inoperative signals. Arriving after the hotel restaurant had closed, we anticipated a dinner of pizza in the lounge, but the helpful staff at the front desk phoned someone in the kitchen, and they kindly prepared salads and sandwiches for us. The Greenfield Inn is picturesque, comfortable, and has all the amenities- the complimentary freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies can be worked off in the fitness room. But most importantly, it is a uniquely interesting place for anyone interested in cars. The walls of the corridors are literally filled with automobile art. We looked forward to returning there to complete our viewing of these pictures, but we have still not seen them all.
The main item on Saturday’s agenda was the visit to the Walter P. Chrysler Museum at the Daimler-Chrysler complex in Auburn Hills. We had engaged a van for the trip from the hotel and arrived about 15 minutes before the Museum opened. As we were waiting by the reception desk, we learned that the young woman working there was the proud owner of two Morris Minors and knows Tony Burgess, Chairman for MG2001. The museum, which opened to the public October 5, 1999, is a tri-leveled building of approximately 55,000 square feet. In the center of the lobby, the staircase circles a rotating 2-story pedestal that holds concept cars. The main floors hold Chrysler-affiliated autos from every era as well as historical and technical displays. A time-line has many interesting facts, such as that Daimler automobiles were built in this country in 1906 by the Steinway Piano Company. We wondered why a Jeep dashboard on display was equipped with right hand drive and marveled at the size and complexity of a current era wiring harness. The “Garage” in the basement holds still more vehicles, including trucks, a Nash Healy, and lots of Mopar muscle cars. That is also where we found the purple Prowler in which visitors are allowed sit. This was really popular - especially with Diana.
We left the Museum around midafternoon and before dinner we had time to enjoy the hotel lounge, pool and spa. At dinner we were joined by Diana and Oscar’s daughter Melissa and by Lana and Kori’s son Peter and his friend Katie.
One advantage of the Amtrak Road Trip is that when the weekend would otherwise be over, there remains the ride back to Chicago for more socializing. One of the topics is always “Where will we go next year?” The destination must have some attraction with a connection to automobiles and should accessible by train in no more than 5 hours. If you have any suggestions, let us know.