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Chicago is the largest city in Illinois and the third largest city in the United States. To visit Illinois, you will probably fly into Chicago O'Hare Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world! It's a very large place and rather intimidating, especially to foreign travelers and smalltown citizens. Just remember, there are plenty of people in uniform whom you are able to approach & ask questions & directions. The signs throughout the various terminals are well positioned & easy to read. Just act as though you know what you are doing!
If you take a train into Chicago, it will be on the Amtrack and will come into Union Station, one of the last grand American railway stations. Daniel Burnham (Chicago's famous architect) was responsible for this wonderful complex that was incorporated in two different buildings on either side of Canal street & connected to each other by a tunnel.
My photo is of the large waiting room known as The Great Hall located in the West Side Building. The East Side Building was the concourse with its glass vaulted concourse, but it was demolished in 1969 & replaced by office buildings.
The station has 2 sets of tracks, 10 leading northbound & 10 leading southbound. It was renovated in 1992, and in 2002, Union Station was designated a Chicago Landmark
Many people decide to drive to Chicago, & that is a frightening ordeal, especially during rush hour. Chicago is a hub for transportation; thus, there are several large highways leading into the city.
From the West
North and Northeast
Lake Shore Drive
Dan Ryan Expressway
Chicago Skyway from Indiana
See what I mean? It boggles the mind
Updated Feb 28, 2005
This is pretty basic information, but I'm surprised how many people in the US don't know it...
The US interstate and highway system does make sense and even without an atlas you can figure out your general direction and area if you're lost.
The odd numbered roads run North to South
The even numbers run East to West
The higher numbered North/South Interstates are in the Eastern US (I-95, for example runs from Maine to Florida) and the lower numbers are on the West Coast (I-5 from the Canada/Washington border to the California/Mexico Border)
The higher numbered East/West routes cross the country from the North (I-90, I-80) and the lower numbers are in the South (I-10)
Interstates with 3 numbers indiciate a spur or beltway, in most cases...if you're thinking about taking one of them, keep this in mind:
If the 1st number is odd, it goes into a city, if it's even, it goes around a city (like 395 into DC or 495 around it) Depending upon the time of day, you may be better off sticking with the original interstate. I find this to be especially true with I-85 through Atlanta...
The principle highway system follows the odd numbers: north/south system; even numbers: east /west. There were the main roads for quite some time until the Interstate system was put into place.
A lot of times, they parallel interstates...a good one to take is US rt. 11 which straddles Interstate 81 for a long time (NY state to Tennessee and then I-75 and I-59 to New Orleans.) A lot of that drive is very scenic, but
In the east you'll find that taking a highway rather than interstate will eat up a lot of your time--you'll hit every small town and with that, every single traffic light and signal. In the west, it's a great option in some of the not so populated areas of Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, etc...
State Routes don't make as much sense--sometimes they do follow this pattern, but don't count on it.
Written Jun 23, 2004
If you're not in a hurry and don't want to drive, definitely consider Amtrak. Lots of people from the US don't really think about it as an option and train travel is certainly less popular here than it is in other parts of the world. That could be because in the east, it's expensive. The Acela is a "high speed" train through the megaopolis region and pretty much if you can drive there in a reasonable time, but opt of the train, it's going to be pricy. Longer distances are extremely low priced, though. You can find specials that will take you across the country for less than $150. There's also 30 day passes and extended options like that so you can stop where you want to. I enjoy the train if I don't need to be anywhere at a certain time. I like the people--many are not from the US--I like the room (I always just take coach b/c I'm small and can fit comfortably in the seats), I like the sightseer car and the lounge...all good things:)
However, remember to take your own food and drinks with you. It will save you a ton of money in the long run and let me tell you, three days on a train...you're going to get sick of the options available onboard and the times you can eat.
Written May 29, 2004
I agree with the reporter, Frank Clines who said, "The D.C. Metro is one of the wonders of the Western World. It's still as pristine now as it was when it opened over twenty years ago." As a visitor to Washington, I was amazed at the efficiency, reliablity, and safety (not to mention cleanliness) of this city's subway system...Of all the large cities that I have visited, it is, by far, the best.
Part of the reason it remains so clean is that the trains themselves are constructed from "graffiti-resistant material". Also, the organization itself is efficient; even the maps that they hand out are easy to follow. This subway is built deep underground because of Washington's swampy terrain. Thus, you have to ride long escalators to reach most Metro stops. But, what the heck, they are fun. If you have an opportunity, take a look up when on the Dupont Circle escalator. I'm sure that you will agree that it is really something.
One of the reasons that I was so surprised about the great Metro is because I had read that the city of Washington was notoriously bad with public services. They supposedly have poor snowplowing services as well as trash pick-up.
Note: Remember not to throw away your ticket. You will need it
I just wanted to include positive comments about this wonderful city.
Updated Mar 30, 2005
If you wanna save money (although sometimes you can get really cheap airfares), it's best to travel by bus! I didn't see many other bus companies, except Greyhound and Peter Pan. The prices of both are almost the same. Schedules are pretty convenient and these buses will take you from one end of the States to the other! Buses are equipped with toilets and will most likely show a movie during the trip. Always watch out for pick-pockets at the bus stops...
Updated Aug 10, 2004
Having a Car is essential in America. There is no way around it. The distances can be vast, public transportation seems to be restricted to the the cities and some very rare overland lines ... try to find a train, it's a challenge.
So if there are cars, there are roads. Most of them are also very excellent.
Highways can have up to 5 lines (in one direction).
Now, how do I drive there? That is what I learned about it:
Once you are on the road and on a spur, you just stay there. There is no fast lane changing like in Europe, you can also overtake on the right - as long as you stay on your line. If there actually is a slower driving vehicle in your way, then you can change.
Drive as fast as the others do (which can be up to 10 miles more than signaled).
Driving around in Amerika (especially on the overland roads) is a lot more relaxing than say in .. Europe.
No "always on the left side" drivers, no nervous lane changers, no pushers from behind.
You see ... I liked it.
Written Oct 9, 2004
travelling america by bicycle makes you see all the little places in between the big sites that you would just drive past if you were in a car and it makes you meet some of the coolest people in th US.
your bicycle creates a lot of positive attention and i have been invited to join people all along the coast because they could see i was doing a long tour and were interested in hearing about it.
this is definetly the best way to explore america.
Written Jan 20, 2004
Amtrak is a more comfortable alternative to Greyhound. Think about it, if you get put next to a passenger you don't like, you can always try to find another seat in another car or escape for a time in the dining car. CAUTION: don't eat the food! Go to Harris-Teeter or some other supermarket and pack yourself a meal fit for a king before taking a long train trip. Unlike Europe, the trains are seldom on time. North of Washington's Union Station, Amtrak owns the railroad track so the on-time rate is pretty good in the Northeast corridor. South of the Potomac River, the railways are owned by freight companies and Amtrak has to give way to them. It was on Amtrak in November, 2004 that I learned the term civilised minute. Just outside of Ashland (on a short jaunt from Alexandria, VA) into Richmond, the conductor said we would be in Richmond in 10 civilised minutes. By my estimation, 1 civilised minute is about 90 seconds. Therefore, 10 civilised minutes are 15 regular minutes. Conductors on Amtrak's Carolinian (running through Richmond from New York to Charlotte) joke, "If it gets there (Charlotte) an hour late, it's early."
Updated Nov 18, 2004
I have traveled both to and around the United States by Amtrak train. Paradoxically I think that it is both the most comfortable but most inconvienent way to travel around this huge country. Why this is the case is the fact that schedules are not exactly all that convienent for those traveling great distances across the United States. Train connections between to points considerably distanct can be infequent. Often there is only one train per day and it might through the point of departure at anytime such as 3am. However the routes between the large East Coast cities are suitable for travelers. If you are traveling from New York to Washington, then I highly recommend the train.
Another problem with Amtrak is that it can be expensive. A train from Toronto to Chicago is only about $50.00 less than a flight by plane providing that you book the flight a few weeks in advance. I have taken this particular train trip and I actually had a good time. I planned the trip on short notice so the cost of the flight was way too much. At thirteen hours that journey was the longest train trip I had ever taken. However the fact that the trains are quite comfortable with large seats and a restaurant compartment, I actually enjoyed the journey. There was one minor problem and that was that the train arrived in Chicago about one hour and fifteen minutes behind schedule. Sadly this is another of Amtraks faults. They are often late.
Finally I never had any of these problems while traveling along the Eastern Coast and as I said before, I highly recommend this way of getting around to plane travel.
Written Nov 10, 2003
For a long time, many residents of New Jersey and Delaware wanted a fixed connection between the two states. However, the shipping industry's strong opposition and its political clout on Capitol Hill postponed the inevitable construction of the Delaware Memorial bridge until the late 1940s for opening to traffic in 1951. The shippers were opposed to any bridge on the Delaware River below Philadelphia because of fears the bridge would be built so low as to obstruct larger vessels. For 17 years, there was only one span, but a second one was completed in 1968 at nearly twice the cost of the original. The bridge spans 2150 feet (655 m.) across the Delaware river from Wilmington, Delaware to Pennsville, New Jersey.
Written Nov 19, 2003
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