[Amtrak trip] 24h in Chicago (1)

Day 2. Chicago
Amtrak 440 Lake Shore Limited, Reserved Coach
Arrival  11:15 AM (1.5 hour delay)

3:00 AM Passing Cleveland
The Amtrak train from Boston ran, ran, ran… and arrived at Cleveland around 3:00 AM. The train was still whistling like an owl. Another 30 minutes break was given but at this time not many people got out. I went back to sleep as well.


Dawn at Lake Erie, right after Cleveland station


6:00 AM Amtrak Coffee
The Sun has started to come up. Only then I realized the train had been running right beside Lake Erie for a while. It looked like an ocean to me, endless water stretching far toward the horizon. The dawn came with gray fog delivering dreamy and unrealistic scenery. I could not go back to sleep. Ate left over fried rice from the night before as a simple breakfast and drank $2.75 coffee from the dining car to kick off the day.

10:50 AM–>9:50 AM (!)
I was so very curious about when the time would change… you know, from eastern time to central time. I did some research and learned that it should be around La Porte, Indiana. Coming from South Korea with only one time zone, I have never experienced a time change on the ground so I got excited. I wanted to capture the moment of the time change. And then, I was drawing something on my sketchbook, Bam! the time was not 10:50 AM but 9:50 AM instead.
I felt like it was a good deal because I have earned an extra hour of my life. But then I realized that it is now two more hours of train ride instead of one. ūüėõ

11:30 AM Arrival at Chicago
The train arrived at Chicago one and half hour late. Looking at the map, I was waiting Lake Michigan to be seen through the window but after passing White Sox baseball field, the train just glided into Chicago Union Station. I have heard that the station is beautiful but too bad it was under construction.


Here comes Chicago!


On a train going into Chicago, White Sox Stadium


Chicago Union Station

I bought 3 days public transportation pass ($20.00+$5.00 card deposit) that can be used both for buses and subways. After 30 minutes bus ride I checked in at Holiday Inn Express near Magnificent Mile. The hotel was compact, clean, and well equipped. I liked it because it had a refrigerator! (Is it only me who feel like hotels are getting rid of refrigerators recently?)

1:00 PM Navy Pier+Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
Chicago is known to be THE ‘foody’ city. I had made a reservation for a ¬†4:00 PM architecture tour so decided to go for a simple lunch. The first lunch should be symbolic, right? So I went for Chicago pizza, the deep dish pizza at Giordano’s Pizza at Navy Pier! This way I could enjoy both pizza and Navy Pier at once.

Navy Pier¬†(built in 1916) used to be (until last year) the most visited spot in Chicago (now it is¬†Millennium Park.) 9.3 million people visited Navy Pier in the year 2016. Built as ‘Municipal Pier’ for recreational purposes, it was used as a training site for the World War I soldiers and was named ¬†‘Navy Pier’ to honor the men and women who fought for the country. Over the time “the facility has evolved into a premiere entertainment and exposition center”, according to their website. The view looking out to the horizontal line of Lake Michigan was magnificent.


View from Navy Pier


View from Navy Pier

We didn’t wait long to be seated outside at the restaurant (Giordano’s Pizza at Navy Pier.) However I was told that I must wait 45~60 minutes for deep dish pizza. Of course, I chose to wait! After drinking about 1.5 glasses of Diet Pepsi, I was blessed with deeeeeeep, stuffed, delicious CHICAGO deep dish pizza.


Deeeep dish pizza at Giordano’s

4:00 PM CAF Architecture Boat Tour

Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) offers architecture boat tour ($47.00, 1.5 hour) from spring to late summer. The ticket sells out fast, so I made an online reservation  for 4:00 PM tour  on the day before.

The boat went up and down the Chicago river and the docent told us interesting stories about the famous Chicago buildings. According to the excellent docent Ross, Chicago “goes nuts about architecture” and Chicago is like “Grand Canyon of architecture.” It surely seemed so! I could learn a lot about the past, present, and future of Chicago architecture.


View from CAF architecture boat tour, El train and ‘Upside Down’ building (150 North Riverside)


(from the left) Corn buildings (Marina Towers), a building by Mies van der Rohe, Trump Tower


Very very big sign in front of Trump Tower Chicago

7:05 PM Baseball game at Wrigley Field

After finishing the architecture tour, we went to the famous Wrigley Field to watch Chicago Cubs vs Arizona D-back baseball game. The subway was very convenient and the ballpark was surprisingly close to the subway station (Red line: Addison), only about one minute walk.


Wrigley Field

Everybody was wearing Cubs bluish something except us. The ball park (opened in 1914), second oldest in the US to Fenway Park in Boston, was truly unique with ivy trees climbing up the red brick fences. After over-eating Chicago deep dish pizza, it was impossible for me to go for a hot dog. Instead, I drank a can of beer and ate a small cup of ice cream to get one of those cute little blue souvenir cup with red ‘C.’

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Souvenir cup ice cream at Wrigley Field

We sat near a big group of Javier Baez fans wildly shouting out his name. I also rooted for Cubs (despite being a Red Sox fan), but unfortunately Cubs lost to D-backs five to one.

*** Things I learned today ***

  1. The automatic doors between the cars on the Amtrak trains have ‘open’ buttons at the bottom too so you can kick open the door while carrying two cups of coffee from a dining car.
  2. Amtrak trains are often delayed, so no tight planning on the day of arrival.
  3. On a boat tour, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen are must (on a sunny day.)
  4. At Wrigley Field, they don’t check your ID for beers unless you are under 35 (not like Fenway Park or Yankees Stadium where you get ID checked even if you are over 70!)
  5. The train whistles pretty much throughout the night, so it is better to sit as far from the front as possible (if you have a choice.)

[one drawing #24] train

I started the one month journey across the US with USA rail pass this week. On my first train from Boston to Chicago, I drew a view from my seat. The view outside the window was constantly changing so I drew the view of a chair and a window and… well, a small piece of an interior of the train.

It has been a long time since I drew from real life. While it was a bit challenging because of changing sunlight and the frequently moving chair (because the passenger in front of me had liberty to change one’s chair at any time), the practice was fun enough! And there’s always something to learn while drawing. I didn’t realize there were so many rubber bands(?) around the window, haha.

I was waiting for Lake Michigan to show up to fill my windows up but the train I took (Lake Shore Limited) just glided into the Chicago Union Station without showing me any lake view. I decided to leave the view outside the window blank for now.


Lake Shore Limited Amtrak train


making ‘Train’

One more small pleasure while drawing in train turned out to be I get to know in which parts¬† of the country I was drawing. Apple kindly reminded me of the fact by showing me where I was while each drawing phase… Ghoshen & Butler–>La Porte & Gary, Indiana!

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[Amtrak trip] Boston to Chicago

Day 1. Boston –> Chicago

Amtrak 440 Lake Shore Limited, Reserved Coach
Departure 1:20 PM
Arrival  9:45 AM (next day)


from Boston to Chicago by Lake Shore Limited

After shipping the furniture and stuffs to South Korea in the morning, I grabbed a Lyft ride and headed to Boston South Station. The journey begins today: a trip from Boston all the way to Seattle with Amtrak USA rail pass!


Boston South Station

1:20 PM Boston, MA

The first train I am taking is Amtrak 449, Lake Shore Limited,¬†running from Boston to Chicago. The train was supposed to be full, but since Boston was the starting station, it was not hard to get a seat I preferred. I looked at the map and it seemed like the right hand side seats will have better view when I pass the big lakes of Midwest (will find out tomorrow morning!), so I chose to sit at one of the right hand side seat. I was planning to sit on a quite car, but when I asked the staff he said ‚Äúno quite car on this train.‚ÄĚ

There were signs saying ‘seats for groups’ that made me think the seats were for well… big ‘groups.’ But the staff assisted us (party of two) to sit on one of¬† those seats. I asked “are those not for groups?” and the staff kindly answered “yes, groups like two people groups.”


Two or more persons = group

The train departed on time. I had to show to the staff both the USA rail pass and the reservation ticket. (Didn’t check the passport in my case.)

Lake Shore Limitied is an overnight train. I did not get a sleeping car because the price seemed too expensive. (USA rail pass holders can ride on reserved coach seats for free. You can pay extra dollars and upgrade the seats to business seats or sleeping cars.) Forgot the exact amount but the extra money was around 500 dollars, which was like five star hotels. If you reserve a sleeping car, you get free meals for the entire trip so it sounded attractive, but it was waaaaay over the budget so I decided to stick with a reserved coach seat for this train.

The reserved coach seats had more leg rooms than I expected, something like business class seats of DOMESTIC flights. Being 5’6″ (169cm), I could stretch my legs all the way. There are feet and legs rest too and the chairs recline to about 45 degrees. I had very little sleep the night before, so took some nice rest.


Reserved Coach in Lake Line Limited

5:09 PM Pittsfield, MA

The speed of the train was perfect for enjoying the charming scenery of Massachusetts, not too fast nor not too slow. After having some fun… hmm, just looking outside the window, it came to my mind that it would be wonderful if I could track and record my routes throughout the journey. I did some research with free wifi on board and purchased an iPhone app called GPS Tracks ($3.99)


GPS Tracks screen shot: from Pittsfield to Rochester

6:30 PM Albany- Renssenlaer, NY


thirty minutes break at Albany, NY


scenery of Mohawk river near Albany

Now the train was running alongside a river (Mohawk River according to my GPS Tracks.) After fiver hours from the departure, the train made 30 minutes stop at Albany- Renssenlaer, NY. In here the train was joined by travelers from New York City. People who were dying to smoke cigarettes hopped off the train and smoked on the platform. I stepped outside to stretch my stiff arms, legs, back… etc.¬†Now the train was almost full and the staffs did their best to arrange the best seats for everybody.
The train turned off electricity here and I learned that you should not use toilets while electricity is off. One woman was saying she was sorry, could not flush because it was ‘off.’ Good to learn!
Train departed at 7:05 PM. I ate fried rice I bought from South Station (there’s also a reasonably priced dining car on board) as a dinner and went back to sleep.


dining car on Lake Shore Limited

12:08 (+1) Rochester, NY

Woke up at around 11:00PM and went to the restroom to wash my face and brush my teeth. The structure of the washing basin was somewhat not suitable for washing faces, so I decided just to brush my teeth. Wet tissues I brought came in handy to wipe off some sunscreens from my face.
The train is now heading west. It stopped for about 20~30 minutes somewhere (to make a way for a freight train?) and had some slow moving times here and there, so at this point we are about one hour behind the schedule.
The train was a bit shaky and rattling, but most of the travelers seemed very comfortable, sleeping like babies. The car is as quite as any peaceful quite car. Only sound I can hear now is the whistles of hard working good boy, Lake Shore Limited.


midnight at Rochester, NY Amtrak station

***Something I learned today***

  1. Good to carry wet tissues around
  2. Reserved coach seats on long trains are pretty comfortable
  3. Should not use the restroom on board when electricity if off
  4. ‘Group’ means two or more persons
  5. Amtrak Timetable come in handy. Good to know when and where the next stop is
  6. Amtrak wifi works pretty well, though sometimes unstable
  7. Temperature on board is pretty low (strong A/C), so very good idea to bring some kind of blanket (I brought one of those compact down blankets made for camping)

Stopping stations of Lake Shore Limited, from Amtrak Timetable

[one drawing #23] bridge

About a month ago I borrowed from the library a book about Georges Seurat’s drawing, published by MoMA. The book was much more astonishing than I thought, filled with charcoal+pencil drawings of Seurat.

I am soon to go back to Korea and have to return the book. I liked the book so much that I decided to purchase the book to keep enjoying copying (?) the drawings of the master. Then I shockingly found out that the new one is pretty rare and expensive! I am willing to purchase a used one too but there was no way I will get it delivered by my departure date (no Amazon Prime used book!)

So for now, I decided to draw as many as possible from the book before I return it to the library. Today I had some fun drawing (=copying) from one of the Seurat’s drawing in the book, called ‘Under the Bridge.’

I admire and yearn for Seurat’s delicate touch. In the original drawing, the man looks very relaxed. My guy is closer to the feeling of Stranger Things… dark and jelly like…?


Under the Bridge, being dark, gloomy, and jelly-like



Seurat’s original ‘Under the Bridge’



making ‘Under the Bridge’

[one drawing #22] J. S. Bach

When my Emo (‘aunt’ in Korean) living in Maine found out that I was practicing drawing, she wanted me to draw her the portrait of J. S. Bach. I never learned how to draw portraits¬†but decided to give Bach a try anyway. (Emo never saw the oh-it-does-not-look-like-her-at-all portrait of herself that I drew, so maybe that’s why…)¬†I majored in music in college and J. S. Bach used to be my favorite classical composer, so why not?

Started to draw from the most famous portrait of Bach. Found out substantial portion of the portrait is black, so decided to use a charcoal along with a pencil.

I am planning to visit Emo this weekend before going back to Korea. Hope she doesn’t laugh too hard at it!


J. S. Bach


Making J. S. Bach


The most famous portrait of J. S. Bach by Elias Gottlob Haussmann