ABOARD THE EMPIRE BUILDER -- We are now arriving in Milwaukee and from there it will be about 90 minutes or so to my final destination of Chicago. Today's AMTRAK ride through North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin has been mostly a scene of snow-covered, flat ground.
The waiter in the dining car at lunch time pointed out the Mississippi River as we crossed over it into Wisconsin. A bunch of hippies drowned their last summer, he said. Really, I asked. "Yeah, authorities said they were too far out." Rimshot. As I left, I told him I was leaving him an extra large holiday tip, but only if he promised not to tell that joke again today. He's in.
Earlier, he had noticed my Ball State fleece and asked, "Is Rick Majerus still the basketball coach there"? Uh, he died four years ago, I said. "Oh, that's right. He was a good coach at Utah, too." At least he recognized BSU.
I was chatting with the maestro running the snack bar this afternoon. He told me he was from Chicago. I explained that I was headed there and will be attending the Bears-Packers game on Sunday. "I have a 13-year-old daughter," he explained. "I'll be watching a lot of the Disney Channel." That's what good fathers do, right? I tipped him well, too.
Family members have asked me if I have been bored on this 40-hour ride and whether I will do it again. For starters, I will return to Spokane via the Empire Builder in about three weeks. As for boredom, it has not been a problem. I'm traveling as a retiree for the first time, so I feel considerably less pressure to be on time. I brought along a DVD player and watched two episodes of House of Cards last night. And of course I have plenty of reading material. Wifi has been reasonably consistent, so I've had access to the latest news on my cell as well as my laptop.
Because of my food allergies, I have few dining options on the train. I have not gone hungry, but next time I will know to pack more things to eat.
As for Sunday's football game, weather forecasts call for record-setting cold. Near-zero temperatures and a lousy Bears team to boot. My son Chris and I will be there, happy for the time together for an epic adventure. Bring it, Mother Nature.