ROAD TRIP 2016- PART ONE: Chicago; NYC; Philadelphia; Boston

The following is offered for those who may find it helpful or amusing. My Traveling Companion, Chris,  and I were on the road for almost a month -which was about a week too long- so here is the record of our journey.

We left Eureka on Oct 7 on the Greyhound to San Francisco,  since we have no direct access to AMTRAK,   The trip was uneventful and the bus stops at McDonalds in Willits as aways. We ate many McD’s meals  on this trip, especially for breakfast.  It’s cheap and it’s edible. Once in SF, we had to get to our hotel on Lombard Street and I had my first experience with Uber,  which Chris had joined just a few days before. What can you say about Uber?  IT WORKS and I hope they have it here soon.  Our hotel, the Redwood Inn, on Lombard near Gough, was totally forgettable –  fridge but no microwave -and cost us $179, making it $200 with tax.  We found a great Chinese restaurant just two blocks away on Gough.   It was empty and turned out to be one of those joints that lives on takeout. It was delicious and I wish I had noted the name.

One reason I had picked the Redwood Inn was  that I was worried about connecting to the AMTRAK bus which would take us to the train at Emeryville. Our Uber picked us up on time at 645am and got us to the temporary Transbay Terminal at 200 Folsom.  From there we took an AMTRAK bus to Emeryville and we settled into our compartment.  The fare  to Chicago was $615 which included three meals a day.  The FOOD WAS GOOD, a lot better than I had remembered from our last AMTRAK trip which must have been ten years go, on the Portlend-Chicago ‘Empire Builder” with its spectacular scenery. Our current train, the California Zephyr,  was equally scenic and the views from our roommette were so good we didn’t feel the need to spend much time in the Observaton car.  The schedules have improved since I first took this train back in the ‘Seventies.  Back then I recall having to get up at the crack of dawn to enjoy the ascent ito the Sierras. This was much ore civilized and we spent the afternoon ooing and awwing and watching for wildlife, which we didn’t see.  Saw lots of mountains, though.

The beds in these compartments have to be pulled down, either by a staff person who will want to do it too early or by YOU if you are agile enough to pull yourself up to the higher level. When you’re all set up and tucked in, it’s definitely cozy and you definitely don’t have trouble sleeping.

Over the two and a half days aboard we sampled everything on their menu and discovered that the steaks and the burgers were truly outstanding.  I didn’t try the steak until the last night which was dumb since it’s all included. We had a few meals in the dining car but I found the lurching of the train unpleasant enough that  I took most of my meals in our car. Our fellow passengers were an affable group, which is usually the case on AMTRAK.

The  views outside had gone from mountains to prairies to farmland  to the industirial dreariness of thhe  long approach to Union Station.  What a beautiful station!   Can’t rememberi we took a cab or Uber to the hotel,  the City Suites in Boystown, where we’d stayed before;.  I like Boystown because I feel so safe there plus it has every kind of food or amenity  under the sun.

The Suites is on busy Belmont,  practically on top of the El station, but manages to be a charming retreat from the noise.  There was a problem with our  TV which the help couldn’t fix right away so we  were moved  to another room, twice as big as the first. It was a true suite with a separate bedroom and definitely roomy.  Our total for four nights was $794. Not cheap but not a rip either.

I love Chicago so much I enjoy just being there,  not to mention that everywhere you look there’s something interesting.  Dinners included a Thai noodle place called Cozy Noodles and Rice on Sheffield, Blaze Pizza and Potbelly Sandwiches, and an Austrian dinner at Julius Meinl, an outpost of an Austrian chain of coffeehouses  oddly located just down from Wrigley.  We had a great meal also at Sylvia’s, a Polish place ‘way down Belmont.  We loved the Blue Man Group again and also a visit to the Annoyance Theater and Bar, where the show included young comics and  a stripper (!).  On our last morning we took a bus to Oak Park where the Architecture Institute led a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright houses;.  It was a beautiful morning and a great way to end our Chicago visit.

New York- the Lakeshore Limited train to NYC is only about 24 hours and doesn’t have the spectacular scenery of the California stretch.(Departs at 930 pm and arrives in NYC at 630 pm.  $573 for the two of us,)  We got into Penn Station and found our way to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) downstairs. It really was only a fifteen-minute ride and our hotel, the Asiatic,  was a ten-minute walk. Flushing is the San Gabriel Valley of New York, about a million Chinese in the vicinity. If Chris had’t been there, I would have found it terrifying because English street signs are in short supply. Our room at the Asiatic cost us $125 on the Saturday and $116 on the Sunday and Monday, including an okay breakfast.  A room in Manhattan would have been at least three times as much.  I hate subways so I stayed close to Flushing but Chris checked out Greenwich Village and brought me a pastrami sandwich from Katz’s. It was remarkable. The Asiatic is a few doors down from the famous  Shanghai Joe’s, which may or may not be the inventor of the famous Soup Dumplings which have to be tasted to be believed. (They chill broth and construct the dumpling around it, then boil it.  They are unbelievable and I don’t know of anyplace in Eureka that has them.)

Philadelphia-  a brief train ride through New Jersey brought us to Philly, which was THE BEST PLACE WE VISITED, BY FAR.  We had good weather for the three days, which helped. We stayed in the  Center City area which is close to the Independence Hall and close enough to the hop-on-hop-off bus that we got free pickups at our hotel, The Alexander Inn, at 12th and Spruce.  The Inn was built in 1900 but has been lovingly renovated and I can’t recall a better stay. All the while we were traveling we were rushing “home” each night to catch up on the latest chapter of the soap opera I came to think of as “The Sins of Donald Trump.” Philadelphia was satisfactorily festooned with Clinton/Kaine signs, in fact the folks at the Alexander Inn were stashing signs in the lobby for the folks who were tabling on the corner. I can’t say much about the Inn except that it was WONDERFUL and the location couldn’t have been better, just a few blocks from the Reading Terminal Market, a kind of uber food court that takes up a whole block. Our room was $129 a night and I would definitely stay there again if I should  be lucky enough to return to Philadelphia again. The city is green, charming, lively and historic with delights on every corner. I realize were were probably in the best part of town, but it was great.  Let me close with a note about the food. We ate a couple of takeout meals from Giorgio on Pine Street, a couple of blocks away. and both their pizza and their pasta was excellent. A short bus ride took us to the Sakura on Race Street, a Chinese-Japanese hybrid of the type I usually avoid but this was  great.  Soup dumplings! Everything was excellent and we would have gone back  if we had had another day. Anyway, FIVE STARS for Philadelphia.

Boston-  I didn’t see much of Boston because  we only stayed two nights,  and it rained the whole time.  And I hated the hotel , the Omni Parker House,  which we were really jazzed about staying at (I don’t often go for fancy hotels).  The fabled Parker House , where JFK proposed to Jackie,   has a beautiful lobby and plenty of obsequious staff but the rooms are in a nine-story tower, not in an old building. For a “bargain” rate of $269 for a Senior ADA room, you get a room with a couple of grab bars as their concession to accessibility  and a bed that was so high off the floor I couldn’t get in!  I won’t describe the contortions I went through to get into that bed.  I’m 5’2″ and the bed was at chest level.  I ran into this once before , at a elegant antebellum B&B in South Carolina,  but there they gave you an elegant stepstool to climb in with.  But at the Omni, no stepstool, no paper, no breakfast, no nuthin’. As for food, I tried a lobster roll, my first, and was vaguely disappointed. It was from Luke’s and  while lobster itself was good the roll was too sweet  for my taste. This was very close to Chinatown and Chris came up with good takeout  fro a place having its grand opening,  called he Taiwan Cafe or something like that. The food was very good.  I  didn’t  want to go out in the rain but Chris wanted to see Harvard so he took a subway ad came back to report that he hadn’t been able to access  the library there because  he was not a Harvard student. He found his way to the MIT campus, which had looser rules, and ended up taking a dump in the basement bathroom of the MIT library. He was properly energized after this experience and ready to move on to the next phase of our trip.

6 thoughts on “ROAD TRIP 2016- PART ONE: Chicago; NYC; Philadelphia; Boston

  1. Oh, Amtrak must have changed the routing of their North Coast bus since it has connected with the trains at Martinez since about 1985.

    Now you should get a copy of “Silver Streak” the 1976 film featuring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. Gene’s character responding to why he was taking the Silver Streak said “I’m taking the train to be bored.”

    • I remember that film! Train movies are the best. The Amtrak bus is a work in progress; they changed the pickup point even after we had already ought our tickets. They DID send up an email to alert us.

      • Amazing that the Amtrak bus is still a work in progress since it has been operating since 1985. But as someone once remarked, “if you like the Post Office, you’ll love Amtrak.”

        • The “Temporary Transbay Terminal” seems to have caused them some problems. All in all we were very satisfied with Amtrak. Food was good and arrivals were on time. AND we both hate flying.

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