Riding the Rails to the Heartland

Okay, so I'm sitting at my desk right now eating a fresh Ruston peach from Mitcham's Orchard, and thinking about my family trip to America's Heartland.

About the peach... anyone who has ever eaten a Mitcham's peach knows that consuming one of these fabulous fruits while typing is only possible if you've previously cut the fruit into pieces and are now eating it with a fork, which is exactly what I'm doing. So no, my keyboard is not getting sticky with the scruptious peach juice, in case you're wondering. And yes, you can be jealous.

About the trip... we had SO.... MUCH....FUN!!!!!! The weather turned out to be perfect, and the home teams won both games. Yay!

One thing I didn't mention in my previous post was that we traveled by train. We took the Amtrak Texas Eagle to St. Louis,and then from there to Chicago, and then back to Marshall, TX. Now I gotta say that I was a bit worried about riding aboard a train for 12 hours there and 18 back, but my concerns were unfounded. It was a really neat way to travel! We had sleeping accommodations, so it was like being in a mini-hotel room on wheels. There was a dining car where we ate, and a bathroom inside our room. And unlike air travel, you can walk around from car to car the whole trip, and nobody frisks you before you get onboard. You don't have to check your luggage; the storage compartments are right there in your car.

There are even electrical outlets in the walls so you can plug in DVD players, laptops, and other electronic devices. So if you have the time and don't mind sleeping on a train, this is a really good travel option. I would not, however, recommend it to someone who is high maintenance or in a hurry; these are not 5-star accommodations and the journey takes a while. But it was the perfect option for our little crew.

In St. Louis, our hotel was just across the street from the train station, half a block from the Scottrade Center and a few blocks from Busch Stadium. So we were able to walk nearly everywhere we wanted/needed to go.

St. Louis in a nutshell... The Cards hosted the Dodgers at Busch on Friday night and won the scrap 8-4. The new park, which opened in April 2006, was beautiful and it was a fun game to watch. Plus, our friend Ramz had the radio gig that night, so we got to hang with him a bit, too.

The next morning my stepson, Casey, showed up to spend the rest of the trip with us! We got him and Emily tickets to the Lady Gaga concert, which just happened to be that Saturday night at the Scottrade Center. (More on the freaky Gaga fans in a moment.)So after we took a trip to Steak-n-Shake, my husband's favorite over-eating establishment, we watched the kids walk to the concert from our hotel room window. They had a blast! And they made it back safely and with plenty of fun stories. Our train for Chicago left the next day (Sunday).

Chicago in a nutshell... The train station was in downtown Chicago, so we took a cab to our hotel, which was in "Wrigleyville." (More on the cab ride in a bit.) We started the day by eating a Chicago pizza, which was fantastic and oh-so-filling, and then went back to the hotel to "game up." We had tickets to the Cubs/Phillies match-up for that Sunday night. My child is a HUGE Cubs fan, and it was much fun to watch her take it all in. Wrigley Field really is a wonderful place, and the hubby got us incredible seats. We were there 2 hours before the game and Emily refused to leave her seat for any reason until the scrap was over. The Cubs won 11-6, so she also got to sing the "Cubs Win" song at the top of her lungs after the game, which capped off a wonderful memory for us all.

I was able to feed my blueberry pancake addiction the next morning, and we walked around the town for awhile, checking out the real estate options in Wrigleyville. Our train left that afternoon to bring us back home. It was a great trip... I just wish it had been a little longer!


A Couple More Trip-bits:

The Language!
I know I may be a little more sensitive about this since I'm a mom and all, but I really thought I may have to smack this girl upside her head. As with any ballgame, major league or otherwise, there were a large number of children in the bleachers. If I had a nickel for every time this girl threw a very loud f-bomb throughout the game, I could have bought a couple more tickets. Hello!?!?! Common decency? Some moral thought for those sitting near you? Anyone? I mean COME ON! Geez.

And speaking of decency... Omigosh, Lady Gaga fans are a wild-looking bunch! I've included pictures of the ones I was able to photograph, but I didn't get the best ones on film. Just an example, we were walking into our hotel after eating and passed a girl in a bra and not much else, who had a ton of make-up on and her hair rolled into Diet Coke cans. Apparently she was trying to copy Gaga's outfit from one of her videos. But to walk down the street in broad daylight in this get-up, concert or not, you've got to be at least a little wacko.

The Parks
One new, one historical. Both awesome.

Another Kind Of Park
Emily and I discovered Forest Park in the heart of St. Louis. It was HUGE! It's about 1300 acres, 500 more than Central Park in New York City. We didn't have much time to explore, but what we saw was gorgeous.

The Cab Ride
The only time it rained on our trip was during our train trip from St. Louis to Chicago and for about 15 minutes after we got off the train. So instead of taking the metro rail we hailed a cab to get to our hotel. We ended up in a cab with a driver who didn't understand much of our Southern English, and whose name we couldn't pronounce. What we understood him to say - and show - was that he used to be a street racer. We nicknamed him "Flash." I drive fast, but I've got nothin' on this guy. It was an adventure to say the least.

The Arch
The line was about 3 hours long, so we didn't go to the top. But I think you can tell by the pictures just how big this thing is. Big, shiny and beautiful.


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