Amtrak Road Trip 2011
It turned out that this was the long overlooked Amtrak Road Trip. And everyone who went to Milwaukee to visit the Harley-Davidson Museum was amazed that this nearby jewel was so neglected in the schedule for so long. Those fortunate enough to travel were Diana and Oscar Gonzales, Shirley and Roger Goebbert, Debby and Bill (“Wilbur”) Mennell, Jim Renkar and Reinout and Henneke Vogt. Doug Clark used Amtrak to visit and return on Saturday.
As ever, we met behind the bar on the food court level of Union Station at Jackson and Canal in Chicago. As it was Friday afternoon and many of us had to forego lunch to get time off from our bosses, the many choices of fast food (and drink, including Sam Adams and Guiness) would sustain us for the hour until boarding. The train left around 5 P.M. and we immediately passed around food and drink, a major priority as the trip was only 89 minutes long to go the 86 miles. Few of us could have driven the distance in the Amtrak time – certainly not in the equivalent of royal class airline seating and NEVER with a glass of pinot noir in our hands. (We sometimes mention this event as the drink-and-ride event, the only time when adult beverages are available as none of us are behind the wheel - the Amtrak attendant sold a good variety from a cart on this trip, unobtrusively supplemented with our own supplies).
We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard Downtown in Milwaukee, a beautiful hotel that excelled in meeting our expectations. The only anomaly was that most of the attendees assured us that we had not seen them in the hotel pool because they had gone swimming earlier than we had. We applaud their fine physical fitness habits!
The Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Museum
is beyond compare. There is a very large exhibit of road bikes, both original and restored. According to the posted information the Harley-Davidson Museum owns at least one example for each production year from 1903 onward. Many are on display, including S/N 1 built in a 10 by 15 foot shed. Those of us with garages that are ‘not big enough to do anything’ need to look at what dedicated persons can do with almost nothing.
The greatest technical display for us was in the ‘Engine Room’. The twin-V model clearly showed how cylinder 2 fires about 20 degrees after cylinder 1 and how this affects the exhaust note that an MG driver might interpret as ‘out of tune’.
The greatest social comment display was the reproductions of the Captain America and Billy’s choppers from Easy Rider. Go see these before the Smithsonian requisitions them for the National Museum in Washington, D.C. And
there are many examples of racing bikes along with videos.
We stopped halfway through to have lunch at the restaurant. We were very lucky to get seating for twelve with a reservation made minutes before. Our whole experience was more pleasurable because so very few people visit in the dead of winter – this is the kind of museum that you can expect to be packed most of the year. The final part of the exhibit was an opportunity to sit on bikes sturdily mounted to the floor. If you go to the Museum you need to finish the visit with this if you do not yourself own a Harley-Davidson.
We shared a few left-over delicacies on the short ride back from Milwaukee to Union Station in Chicago. Some lamented the short train trip and some lauded the memories of the whole experience.