Tag Archives: Chicago

Mass Transit: A Traveler’s Delight

22 Nov

Kansas City metro only has one really good accessible mass transit for tourists: the KC Street Car, a free light rail that circles 2.2 miles downtown, featuring Crown Center and the City Market.  Yes, Kansas City does have a bus system, but living in Johnson County, on the Kansas side, I recently realized how cut off we can be without a car.  Our daughter’s brother-in-law was traveling through the USA and wanted to use mass transit whenever possible.  My husband took him to work one day and dropped him off at the Street Car. That gave him an entire day of adventure.

However, it was the start of the Labor Day Weekend.  On Sunday he wanted to take the bus downtown to experience the Irish Festival.  We told him it was impossible. He said,
“No there is a bus a mile away.  I can walk there and take it.  We laughed. My husband showed him on the website that yes there was a bus to downtown, but it would not be running again until Tuesday.  No way to get to the Irish Festival.  (Don’t worry, we arranged for friends to take him.)

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Ferry from NJ to NYC.

It started me thinking about my experience with mass transit.  To begin with, I grew up in New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.  I spent many hours on busses, trains, subways and taxis.  It was a part of life if you wanted to go anywhere.  Many people who live in New York City do not even own a car.  Of course my mass transit of choice going from New Jersey to NYC is always the ferry!

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Mass Transit tickets

Since moving to the Midwest, I have experienced exciting weekends in Chicago, Illinois, using the mass transit system.  Chicago, like NYC, is another mass transit haven.   Using the Chicago subways is a no brainer.  Going from the airport into the city is so much faster, cheaper and easier than taking a taxi. And getting around to the different areas makes sense on the subways.

In major cities, I try to use the subways to avoid traffic. In Philadelphia we used the Philadelphia Transit Vehicles (PTV), and in Washington DC, using the METRO Transit System is a must to beat the traffic.  I will always remember the very long escalators down into the system when we traveled from a relative’s home in Maryland to downtown DC. Boston also has a mass transit system, the MBTA, that helps college students and travelers get around

I realized that my husband and I use Mass Transit whenever we can.  In Atlanta, the MARTA took us to and from the airport to the downtown hotels.  In California: we adore the Cable Cars in San Francisco. While staying in San Jose, we used the light rail to go the Winchester Mystery House in San and the Tech Museum from our hotel.

We used the light rail in Denver, Colorado, to explore the historic area and travel to and from our hotel. In one of my favorite cities, New Orleans, I used the street car with my children to get from our hotel to the French Quarter!

I have even used the mass transit in St. Louis!  Although I drive there all the time to see family, when I went to a graduation at Washington University, I was told parking was not available. I drove to the nearest MetroLink Station and traveled to the ceremony. What a delight to avoid all the traffic.

One of my favorite ‘mass transit’ rides was on the People Mover ride in Tomorrow Land at Disney World, and of course we love the mass transit success of the Monorail in Disney World.  Does that count?  I think so.  I thought of it recently when we were in Seattle.   I had the opportunity to use the one-mile monorail down to the Sky Needle and the Seattle Center, an area developed for the 1962 World’s Fair.

But it wasn’t only the monorail that had our patronage in Seattle, we also used the light rail system of SoundTransit.  The underground area was so clean!  Currently buses run through these tunnels in downtown Seattle, but I was told that would end in January 2019, as the city prepares for the expansion of its light rail.

I have also used mass transit in other countries.  Vienna, Hungary, we took our children on the subway.  I will admit there was one very loud and screechy turn.  We all held our ears.  In Israel, I have changed my allegiance from the busses to the trains. They are great and have free wi-fi.

The most interesting subway of all was in Athens, Greece. When they dug down to build the subway, the workers kept finding antique treasures. Now in the stations are displays of these lovely objects.  You get a history lesson, while waiting for the subway.

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Funicular in Quebec City.

Another favorite is using a funicular to get up and down a hill.  That was great fun in Quebec City, Canada.  I have used them in other places as well, like the Carmelit underground Funicular in Haifa, Israel, and the one at Marvel Cave in Branson, Missouri (this was my first funicular.)  But the one in Quebec City stands out in my mind.  I have seen them in Valparaiso, Chile, but did not actually need to use one.

All my experiences with mass transit makes me wish that my home town would invest a bit more in helping people move around.  I will admit that recently citizens voted to expand the light rail a bit further south to the shopping areas of Westport and the Plaza, as well as the University of Missouri Kansas City campus.  But it still doesn’t help those who live in my area.  But my dream lives on that eventually the entire city will have an operating, useful light rail system.

The Chicago Marathon as a Spectator Sport

12 Oct
The non-elite runners lined up to start the Chicago marathon.

The non-elite runners lined up to start the Chicago marathon.

My husband is running the Chicago Marathon for the 8th time in ten years. When he turned 50 he decided he wanted to run a marathon. So he started training and at age 51 ran his first full marathon.   Over the years he had to miss two Chicago Marathons due to travel or injury. But he continues to train. And this year, at age 60, he is running again. I also prepared, for my role as a marathon spectator.

This year was different. In January my husband herniated a disk in his spine.   It was at the most inconvenient location, but with the miracle of surgery, he was able to have a microdiscectomy and recovered. However there were some issues he had to battle. First with no exercise for eight weeks, his right leg muscles had atrophied. He battled to get his leg back into shape. Even with all he did, that leg is still a bit weaker than it was before and his training took a bit of a hit.

Second he is a drop slower than he was before. As I watch his progress in the marathon on text message alerts, I can see that he is running about 20 seconds a mile slower than he did last year at the beginning of the race. Not a major difference, but when you are going 26 miles…that adds minutes. And as the marathon progresses, I know he will slow down. So I am a bit worried in my role as spectator.

I do not run marathons. I do not run. I walk. I enjoy walking. I try to walk 2.5 to 3 miles daily. Yesterday, as we are in Chicago I walked 8.9 miles all along the waterfront, in the Field Museum and along Michigan Avenue. Over 17,000 steps, but that is my limit. I have no desire at all to go 26 miles. In fact, to a degree, I think my husband is mildly insane. As is his friend who is running the marathon as well.

The night before I went online and set up text messaging alerts so I would know when they started, hit 10 k, half way, 30 k and finished. It is important as a spectator to know when these events occur. I will admit, this year the notices were much more timely than they have been in the past.

They started out together this morning. At 7:00 in the morning, they left the condo and walked to the corrals. I got up for a few minutes to take their annual pre-marathon photo. Then they left. They would start about the same time, but since his friend runs much quicker, (his starting pace was 10:41 per mile), he will be done at least an hour earlier than my husband if he keeps this pace.

They prepared for this. They trained for this. They ate their pasta dinner last night. They have their special shoes, socks, clothes, their energy foods and drinks. They want to run. But at age 60 and one week; and age 59 and 10 ½ months, the training and the running take a toll.

Before my husband ran this year, his cardiologist ran a new test. And my husband’s heart was fine. The doctor turned to me and said, “I wanted to tell him he could not run this year. But he looks great.” And that is all my husband needed. He brings me doctor reports each year to prove all is okay, because I am nervous about this 26.2 mile run. But as a spectator, I had to go along with the doctor’s decision.

I fill out the back of my husband’s number bib with emergency numbers. I go to watch to make sure all is okay. They both know not to rush and to stop if it is too much. But with the weather as nice as it is, I know they will both finish this year.

As a marathon spectator, I cheer on everyone I can. If I see someone with their name emblazed across their shirt, I scream for them. I figure if they put their name on they want the encouragement. I love watching for those who are newly married or engaged. They often wear veils or announcements on their shirts. This year was not different. I saw a couple wearing bright yellow shirts. One said “she said yes.” The other, “Newly engaged.” This year I saw someone wearing a Royals t-shirt. Of course I cheered him on. As a citizen of the Kansas City metro area, we are all Royals right now.

There were people dressed as comic book heroes, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. There were people wearing capes, skirts and costumes. There was a man juggling as he walked.

Some were running, some were walking, some were stretching, some were drinking energy drinks. All were intent on their goal.

My friend and I always wait about the 16-mile marker to cheer our husbands on their trek. This year was a bit different. Usually we are part of a crowd of their children, spouses and a grandma. This year they all could not come. So it was just my friend and I. But we kept tradition. We waited till both of our husbands ran past. We gave them extra energy food and water. We provided each with encouragement. Then we completed another marathon tradition for us as spectators and walked to Athena Restaurant in Greek town for a delicious lunch.

We had roasted lamb and potatoes. And talked about our children and our husbands. Then we slowly walked back to the condo. Along the way I congratulated everyone we saw who was wearing a medal or a silver blanket. I figured if they ran that marathon they deserved a little praise. They all responded with a “thank you.”

I took a photo for a young couple who were taking photos of each other. Of course they wanted a photo together with their medals and silver blankets, so I took it for them.

When we returned to the condo we waited. The first text arrived. My friend’s husband was done. An hour later he returned. Tired, but happy. A short time later the other text arrived. My husband had completed the marathon. With his arrival back the marathon was officially over.

They both ran faster than they had the year before and were both pleased with their run. They were tired and sore. But had a great sense of accomplishment.

Now they start the plans for next year and another marathon. And I am ready to continue my role as marathon spectator. A job I enjoy!