Writing the last day of a trip always seems to get postponed, especially when you arrive home around 10:30 P.M. And frankly, the day, while enjoyable, was not that notable.
The morning was spent walking to and around Navy Pier in Chicago. The pier is about .6 mile long and juts out into Lake Michigan. It is one of the premier Chicago attractions with restaurants, Ferris wheel, sightseeing and excursions boats, etc. It began its existence as a shipping pier, one of the longest in the world, before WWI. During WWI and WWII, it was used as a naval training site. The name “Navy Pier” came after WWI in memory of the naval personnel who trained there.
Because the pier juts out into the harbor, it presents an excellent opportunity to clearly see the Chicago skyline from a distance. That was our primary purpose for the walk. The day did not disappoint. Primarily sunny and warmer than Tuesday, it was a great way to spend the morning.
We checked out of our hotel at noon and walked back to Union Station. Amtrak and Metra (Chicago commuter rail lines) share the station and we managed to find our track and waiting area without major hassle.
The Empire Builder ride back was uneventful. We had one slight hiccup; the speaker in the coach car we were in did not work well. Evidently, it was announced over the speaker that dinner was by reservation and the Amtrak steward would come from car to car to take reservations. What we did not hear was that he did not take reservations for people in the observation car. I have no idea why that is an important distinction. Anyway, by the time he came through the cars, we were sitting in the observation car. It took some assistance from the assistant conductor to let us know how to make a reservation and the steward deigned to let us make a late reservation. Dinner was only so-so anyway. Not bad, just not memorable. The lunch burgers on the way down were a better choice.
The scenery in Wisconsin is less dramatic than the portion of the trip riding along the Mississippi in Minnesota. However, it gets dark somewhere between Winona and Red Wing, depending on the time of the year, so book reading took up the last section of the journey.
Ed and Chris