First Leg: Maui to Chicago.

I am, at the moment, in Amtrak’s First Class Lounge in Chicago’s Union Station waiting for the boarding announcement for the Lake Shore Limited. So far on this trip, I have flown from Maui to Los Angeles and taken Amtrak’s Southwest Chief from there to Chicago.

As a long-time resident of Hawaii, I hesitate to say anything negative about Hawaiian Airlines . . . but the only good thing I can say about the “complimentary meal” served on board to those of us not flying up front in First Class is that it was hot. It was, however, inedible.

Once again, I experienced mixed feelings during the final 15-20 minutes of the flight in to Los Angeles. Spread out before you, as far as you can see from 12,000 feet, are City lights from horizon to horizon. I was reminded of the time I heard my dear mother muttering to herself, “Too many people. Too many people.”

After a night in an airport hotel there at LAX, I took a taxi into Los Angeles Union Station, where I settled in at the First Class lounge. Little by little it filled up until, when it was time to board Train #3, almost three dozen passengers were shuttled out to the train.

I had been assigned a roomette on the lower level of my Superliner sleeping car and, as soon as I boarded, I saw that the windows were filthy, with brown streaks. I grabbed a handful paper towels and the plastic bottles of drinking water that had been left in my roomette and did my best to clean them before we left the L.A. station. The next day, in Albuquerque, a young man hurriedly went the length of the train working with a bucket of water and a squeegee. When he finished, my windows were streaked brown again.

Face masks are mandatory at all times on board, except when you’re alone in your sleeping car accommodations or when you’re seated at a table in the dining car. There, four people, often all strangers, dine together without masks. I’m not sure how much sense that makes.

As regulars here know, my favorite hotel in Chicago is the Palmer House. Needing a haircut, and remembering there is a barbershop in the hotel, I took a cab there, and secured a 5:30 p.m. appointment for a trim. I spent the 45-minute wait at the hotel bar in conversation with a husband and wife from Michigan.

By coincidence, they will be vacationing on the Big Island in October. I asked what they intended to see and do while they were there. “Oh, we never go touring,” she said. “They’ll have plenty for us to do at the hotel. It’s a resort.”

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