Truth be told I enjoy train travel. I had, in fact, considered taking the train for this trip but felt it would arrive too late and it would inconvenience my nephew too much to ask him to pick me up at that late hour. Alas, the best laid plans.......
The train pulled out from Chicago's venerable Union Station. Soon we were passing through the sprawling suburbs and exburbs that surround the city. Stands of trees sprinkled with the colors of summer wildflowers occasionally shielded us from the view of the faceless, identical tract homes. There was a feeling of isolation. Neighbors, who occasionally seem to not understand the true meaning of the word, sometimes have unwritten laws. This land is mine, this land is yours, these boundries shall not be violated.
We experienced the sensation of immense speed as we passed a train going the opposite direction. It's tanker and freight cars appeared as a blur outside our window.
The scene shifted to Midwestern green. Tree trunks sunk deep in the knee high prarie grass. A farmhouse and barn, painted bright blue, appeared like blossoms in the surrounding fields of corn. Silos resembled sentinals, standing tall as if keeping watch over the cropland.
Small towns passed by. Church steeples reminded me of the importance of religion and the Sunday gatherings in the early days of this area. They and the water towers, emblazoned with the town's name, the tallest structures in the hamlets, loom over the historic buildings in the town's center.
We came to the Wisconsin Dells. The river has cut deep into the limestone banks revealing layers of the earth's ancient history. Tacky tourism runs amok on the shore of this natural beauty.
Then nature is given it's moment. It revealed, towering around us, limestone rock formations dotted with pines. It proudly displayed wind carved cliffs along a broad river filled with small, densely wooded islands. The light yellow of the sun, slung low in the sky at that hour, gave the underside of the leaves a golden glow.
As darkness fell we passed through the historic town of Red Wing, famous for shoes and it's collectable pottery, our last stop prior to St. Paul. Minnesota's history again is impressed upon me as I rush through the beautiful central hall of St. Paul's train station. Constructed in the early 1910's, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. I cannot help but admire it's beauty even in my exhausted state.
I am met by my niece, nephew and nephew's wife. His wife greets me with "Welcome to St. Paul, the city that always sleeps."