Sunday, December 16, 2012
Denver to Chicago by Plane and by Train
Initially I planned to fly both to and from Chicago. But, then something went wrong. Both tickets, spaced four days apart, were for flights from Denver to Chicago. Some days after booking the flights, but well before the flight dates, I realized my mistake: you just can’t fly to a city if you’re already there. I attempted to get a refund for the second ticket, but they said it was already too late. Even changing the flight date would cost more than the ticket had. Economy fares are great when they save money, but when their providers are unwilling to refund or exchange their tickets, they are no bargain at all. So, I lost $68.00 and Spirit Airlines lost both my custom and good will.
On the plus side, I was now free to rethink my return trip. I decided to take a train back instead, and I’m glad I did. Trains don’t go as fast as planes, but they’ll show you far more scenery. And, the clacketty-clack sound of steel wheels rolling on iron rails are soothing to the soul. The train rolled past fields of yellow grain and over the wide Mississippi River before entering that long tunnel called night.
Sleeping in coach is not as comfortable as is doing so in the sleeping car, but it is reasonably tolerable. Besides, I did not ride a train to be pampered. I rode a train to take a journey. In the air, there is little to see and even less to do. However, on a train, conversations happen and one experiences the solid land between here and there. Periodically, the train stops and one walks along the platform breathing the night air of a strange, and otherwise unvisited, city.
In Omaha, the train platform is old, dingy and dim, but in Nebraska’s capital, Lincoln, the platform stands outside a modern and friendly looking station. Just before dawn, the train arrived in Denver. It stopped several blocks from historic Union Station. When renovation completes in 2014, Union Station will serve as a regional transportation hub. However, for now a detoured stop is used.