On day 6 we woke up in Grand Junction at my great aunt and uncle’s house. The night we arrived several of our extended family members who live in the area joined us for a really fun dinner. We have a really big family, and these are some of our favorite family members whom we don’t get to see enough of, so it was an extra-special visit!
From a practical standpoint, this was also a great break in our trip because we were able to replenish our supply of snacks. Also, Grandma decided the bag she originally brought was undersized, so she bought a bigger one. Corbin realized he left his light jacket at home too. I’m sure you can guess what major national discount store we hit to find all of these things… 🙂
One other great thing that happened in Grand Junction was that I found some of awesome rail guidebooks in the gift shop of the Grand Junction train station! We bought all they had in stock for the trains we would be traveling on for the rest of our trip. I so wish I could have found these before we started this journey! These books really enhanced the rest of our trip. Amtrak does have rail guides that give a little bit of info about some of the stops, but these books go so much deeper! They give some pictures, little local histories and stories, population, best spots for photo opportunities… and so much more. They are perfect for what we are trying to accomplish on this trip. The best part is that you don’t have to rely on having a wifi connection, or stare at your phone or iPad to read about the towns you pass through. We were able to take notes on the pages, highlight towns as we passed them, and keep up with how much longer it would be till another “fresh air stop.”
I know I keep going on and on about the views on this trip, but folks, America is amazing. That’s just all there is to it. Every day there were so many different landscapes that your brain just has trouble understanding them. These two days were some of the most amazing ones we witnessed on this trip. The California Zephyr is notoriously late, but it is also said to be the most scenic stretch of rail in America. I’m going to have to agree with the assessment that it is the most scenic. As far as the lateness, while we arrived to Grand Junction three hours behind schedule, the next time we boarded the Zephyr we arrived to Chicago about an hour early. So our experience was mixed.
We spent a pretty restless night in coach seats again on Day 6, but we had plenty of time for napping and lounging on Day 7 before we arrived in Chicago at about 1:30pm. We walked over to The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), and went up on the Sky Deck to see a gorgeous birds-eye view of Chicago. It amazed us to see that Lake Michigan was iced over! Corbin bravely went out on the glassed in ledge.
After visiting Chicago for just a few hours, we went back to the train station to have a quick dinner before boarding the Lake Shore Limited that night at 9pm. I’m happy to report that I have now eaten a real Chicago hotdog. The next section of the trip between Chicago and Boston would take us about 24-hours so we decided to upgrade to the sleeping cars again for this leg.