Tour Day 0: Amtrak

April 25th, 2009

Since this is the first time that I’m starting a bike tour from somewhere besides my driveway, that means there’s no actual riding, but hey, I’ll write about it anyway.

Dennis and Swati showed up at my house a little after 11am, which gave me plenty of time to wake the lawnmower from its winter slumber and make a futile attempt to beat back the impending dandelion plantation which will likely thrive shamelessly in my yard for the next four weeks. We packed our two bikes and all of our gear in the back of Dennis’s Xterra, leaving about 3 inches of space in the back for Swati to squeeze in next to my rear wheel. It’s actually the second time we’ve tried this packing configuration. The first was a few weeks ago when we attempted a training ride to Shabbona, IL and back, and sort of failed on the “back” part of it. The brutal winds made us give a call to Swati to bring the Xterra and bail us out before the snow came. So now we can say “no, we didn’t give up that day, that was just practice to make sure we’d be able to fit all our gear in one vehicle!”

We drove down to Union Station in downtown Chicago, spent some time reassembling our bikes, and then rolled them into the station. We were led down to the bowels of the station where a couple of very relaxed and helpful Amtrak employees built up some bike boxes and rolled our bikes inside, and also let us toss various other miscellany in with them. The only disassembly required is to remove the pedals and turn the handlebars sideways, and the fee for taking a bike is a mere $20 ($15 of it simply for the box). I don’t think there is an easier or more economical way to travel with bicycles, so thanks Amtrak for being so cool to us! Of course, this all assumes that our bicycles are actually on that baggage car connected to this train…

Once aboard the California Zephyr, we secured the best seats on the train (in the coach section, at least!) They’re at the very end of the last car, so very few people come wandering by, and there is extra space everywhere. We got “reservations” for the 7:30 dinner, shared a table with a couple other engineers (civil and mechanical, not “train”) and enjoyed some pork tenderloin on a plastic plate.

As we were about to leave, Dennis pointed out some “King’s Hawaiian Bread” sitting at another table. He actually had no idea what it was, but unbeknownst to him, I’ve had a strange fascination with the stuff for a few months now. Ok, really, I had no idea what it was either; all I knew was that one day about six months ago, it suddenly started appearing in the circulars for every single grocery store in my area. That avalanche onset allowed me to concoct the belief that there is a cultish devotion to this King’s Hawaiian Bread, though I knew no members of thi cult. But now, I do! Dennis asked the waitress about it, and it turns out it was her own personal stash, and she was quick to offer us a taste (is this how they grow the cult?) It looks like white dinner rolls, but the trick is that it’s sweetened somehow. Though I didn’t feel any cultish fervor welling up inside me while eating it, I can see how it would have some fans. And maybe when my internal “FEED ME BREAD PRODUCTS!!” monster takes over as it always does a week or so into the tour, I’ll be really angry that there is no King’s Hawaiian Bread to be found in Hanksville, Utah.

Anyhow, whole point of this story is to say that if I had been doing this trip alone, I would have never known the taste of King’s Hawaiian Bread. So even before the riding starts, it’s good to have Dennis along.

6 Responses to “Tour Day 0: Amtrak”

  1. Mom Says:

    Happy Birthday, Neil!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You’ll always remember where you were on this one. Hope your food today is as good as whip cream filled chocolate cake. 🙂 Dad and I wish you and Dennis good luck on your adventure! I’m so glad you both are traveling together and willing to share the experience with us back home. Stay well.
    Mom and Dad

  2. Swati Says:

    Must be my love for sweet products, because I think I knew a LONG time ago what Hawaiin Bread was! Ha!! I know something about “American” cuisine that you don’t. 😀 I’m sure you missed the whipped cream chocolate cake. My banana bread cannot be any comparison to that. 😀

  3. Swati Says:

    Oooh, I also had a vegan cupcake in your honour. Yeah, *that’s* why I ate that cupcake, otherwise I never would. 😛

  4. Steve M Says:

    Does Little Debbie or Hostess make a Hawaiian sweet bread?

  5. Suchi Says:

    Happy Birthday Neil! What a great way to celebrate your Bday! Enjoy the beauty and have fun!
    I had Boondi ka Ladoo (Indian Sweet) in your Birthday honor!

  6. Kai Says:

    Happy mutual birthday! Woof! Too bad you’re 4x older than me.