Amtrak Road Trip 2014
January 23-25, 2015
While the Amtrak RoadTrips have continued since the mid-1990’s only recently have next-door destinations been considered. One of these was Milwaukee and the Harley Museum and this year the destination was Pontiac, Illinois only two and a half hours from Chicago by Amtrak. The first hint that this would be a different trip was that the Best Western Hotel that we preferred was several miles from the Amtrak station and Kathy B. in group sales said, “This is a small town. There is no taxi service on weekends. But why don’t you phone Ellie at the tourism center to see if they will run the Jolly Trolley for you.” Everything was worked out with Ms. Ellie Alexander of the tourism center that transportation from and to the Amtrak station and to and from the downtown museum district would not be a problem. All was arranged with the Best Western Hotel (swimming pool, sauna, hot breakfast included), the Tourism Center and enough
Chicagoland MG Club members for a very different experience in a truly treasured location with an experience that spelled out in detail what “small town” still meant.
The journey began with our gathering on the food concourse level of Union Station at Jackson and Canal in Chicago. The area used to be called the “Snuggery” but is now “The Junction Pub”. Jim Renkar, Bill and Debby Mennell, Victor and Penny L'Heureux, Reinout and Henneke Vogt and we had purchased the favorite lunch and waited the short time until boarding. Traveling with or as a senior citizen has mixed advantages – we tend to be a little slower but we were encouraged to slip ahead of several hundred equally-deserving passengers who had not yet met the time requirement for head-of-the-line privileges at Amtrak. We did not linger long on the injustice they suffered as we clambered into our upper level seats in a superb train car with incredible leg room.
This trip was short but we all got a good dose of endless flat grain fields lying fallow for the winter. This and other sights through the backyards of small towns was a good reminder of how big and different the Midwest may be.
Our welcome to Pontiac was made by Ms. Ellie Alexander herself who handed out keys of two sedans to our designated drivers. The instruction on how to return the cars was, “Park them over there on the street were they are now and just drop the keys under the floor mats”. Ellie guided us to the Best Western and then took off for a birthday party for a family member. This was late Friday afternoon and we noted several times how hard persons in Pontiac work to make tourists comfortable and provide a high-quality experience there. Diane and Oscar Gonzales were in residence by that time, having driven to Pontiac due to time restraints.
After checking in to the Best Western we all headed to Baby Bull’s, a restaurant that was more than adequate in every respect. But we were soon back in the hotel and decided to postpone the hot tub and pool in favor of
sampling the many treats we had packed and not touched on the short ride from Chicago.
The next morning we found that Roger and Shirley Goebbert had arrived, again by car due to time constraints. They accompanied us for the entire day before returning home for other engagements that evening. This was Saturday and the day was sunny and almost warm. We started our museum tour in the Pontiac Oakland Museum, a museum operated by Tim Dye who is a master of all information concerning Pontiac motorcars. He has contributed 20 cars to the museum and others have loaned another 30 or so. Not everything is on display at once, but those that are comprise very significant examples of the Pontiac automobile. There are several examples of the Overland, including an