Heading Home: Boston-Chicago-Galesburg and Points West.

I like staying in good hotels. I like the clean, efficient rooms with wi-fi and little soaps in fancy boxes and the instant hot water in the showers. And I like the hotel restaurants with efficient, polished servers … especially those restaurants with Eggs Benedict on the breakfast menus.
But there is a certain funky charm about the B&B that is my home-away-from-home when I’m here in Boston. The woman who runs the place is Chinese and she’s a sweetheart. Her husband is Caucasian and is a garrulous old guy with a firm although largely uninformed opinion on almost every subject. Regular guests know better than to get him started. But the guests themselves are the main attraction.
Today at breakfast, for instance, there was a young couple from Germany — he a graduate student, she a reporter for a daily newspaper. There was a husband and wife from Oakland here to see their A’s play the Red Sox. A third couple is from Montreal. They have come to see some of the historical sights, of which there is an almost endless list. Breakfast conversation ran the gamut from the differences between soccer and baseball to the almost desperate need for the A’s to find a venue other than the cavernous Oakland Coliseum to the international reputation of Schwartz’s, a delicatessen in Montreal justly famous for their beef brisket sandwiches. The conversation this morning more than made up for the lack of Eggs Benedict … or any eggs at all, for that matter. In fact, I do believe there has been interesting, stimulating conversation over breakfasts of Corn Flakes and self-toasted bagels on every one of my visits to Abigayle’s Bed & Breakfast. The pleasures of fancy hotels notwithstanding, these are the simple pleasures that keep me coming back here.
Tomorrow I’ll be back on Amtrak for the overnight run to Chicago on the Lake Shore Limited. There are two sections to this train: one, originating in New York City, runs north along the Hudson River to Albany where it joins the other section which will have crossed the Berkshire range en route from Boston. Assuming all goes well, we’ll all be in Chicago on Tuesday morning before 10:00 a.m.
Between trains in Chicago, I’m going to meet for lunch with some of the people involved with the 4th edition of my book: copy editor, graphic artist and publicist. I try to do that whenever I pass through Chicago, assuming there’s time, because they’re young and enthusiastic and optimistic … about their jobs, about my book, and about life in general. I seem to absorb some of that youthful energy whenever I’m around these kids — I’m sure they’re all under 30 — and that’s certainly worth the price of a lunch.

From Chicago, I’m taking the California Zephyr back to the West Coast, with a 24-hour stop in Galesburg, Illinois, for an overnight with my brother and his wife. Both the Southwest Chief and the Zephyr pass within a mile of their house, silhouetted on the horizon. The two of us always go out to watch them pass. Makes no sense, does it? Unless you’re into trains, of course.