Hit the Ice

Trip Start Sep 11, 2005
Trip End Dec 26, 2005

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Flag of United States  , Massachusetts
Sunday, December 25, 2005

Out of all the train networks I've used on this trip, I never expected that the US would have the worst. Once again, a train was delayed, this time for four hours. It's a bit of a pity that I'm travelling at this time of year, it would have been interesting to see the landscape change over time. But as it was I set off through desert, up through cotton fields and then the sun went down. Next time there was anything to see there were trees out the window and snow on the ground.

Eventually made my way to Chicago, and the frigid air hit me like a slap across the face as soon as I stepped off the train. Luckily I had unpacked every bit of warm clothing that I have and put them all on for the walk to the hostel. It was an odd place - if the place in San Francisco seemed to have attracted every Irish person travelling in the US then this place had attracted every Korean tourist in the city. Still, it made for an interesting first evening.

I only really had one day in Chicago before I headed off again at 07:55 the following morning. I spent the afternoon looking around the city, and after that I went to something I'd been looking forward to for quite a while now: I went to an ice hockey game. When I left, it looked like the season had been written off, but while in Vegas I happened to spot a list of odds on this year's Stanley cup. I checked Ticketmaster and sure enough, games were back on and there was one happening in Chicago when I would be passing through. Once I found a ticket agent (in LA) I snapped a ticket up.

The game was held in the United Centre, where the Chicago Bulls also play. I arrived there a bit early and it wasn't that full. By the time the game started, it still wasn't that full - it's say at least half the available seats were empty. The matchup was between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators. Chicago started the first strongly, but Nashville scored first. Chicago came back and equalised, but it wasn't long before Nashville scored again - and from then on it was all downhill for Chicago. They were completely dominated by Nashville, but there own natural suckiness also brought them down - bad passing, wasting decent chances to shoot. The mood of the crowd wasn't good - one guy in the upper tiers tried starting a chant of "Nashville sucks! Nashville sucks!" (leading him to loudly ask "aawww, come on! Nobody else?" when nobody joined in).

Chicago had become very scrappy at the end of the game, getting penalties left right and center (one of which was for fight instigation, which lead to Nashville blood on the ice, which picked the crowd right up), but as the pasting went on people began to leave halfway through the third. The game ended with Chicago beaten 6-1 at home - a pretty humiliating defeat (see here).

The next day I woke up early and headed down to Union station to catch my train. Only to find I had made the stupidest of all rookie mistakes - US train times are printed in the 12-hour clock rather than the 24 I was used to, and my train wasn't due to leave until 19:55 in the evening. Tiredness aside, it worked out quite well for me as I was quite enjoying my time in Chicago and was kind of wishing I had an extra day.

After a bit of shopping and sightseeing (in a manner of speaking - like New York, there's enough to see in Chicago just by walking the streets), I went back to catch my train to find that the train station was a scene of chaos and crowds unmatched by anything I had seen in China, even. Three trains, all due to leave at the same time were late (and of course on of those trains was mine). After much shouting from the attendants everyone eventually found there way to their trains.

But due to my earlier miscalculation of the time I was due to leave at, my expectations of when I was due to arrive in Boston were also wrong. So I spent the next 24 hours constantly having to revise my ETA upward - first for the miscalculation, then the initial delay, then the delays mid-journey (one of which resulted in someone having to be stretchered off the train in the middle of the night somewhere in Ohio). My carriage seemed to have a large proportion of screaming kids and the proud parents who wouldn't stop talking to or about the screaming kids (I was tired enough at this point that my tolerance level for this sort of thing was really low). It honestly felt some kind of rolling purgatory from which I'd never got off.

But that's just silly because there's no such thing as purgatory so I did eventually get off - once again, late at night. Seeing as these would be my last two nights, and christmas at that, I decoded to stay somewhere a bit nice and so made my way to the Hyatt Recency in Cambridge, across the Charles river from downtown Boston. I ended up spending as much time in the Hotel as in Boston - I didn't really feel like doing much more than lounging about (and besides, everything is closed on Christmas day anyway).

So now I'm printing out my airline ticket home. Which seems very odd to say, and I have mixed feelings about going home. On one hand it'll be great to see everyone again, but then again if feels like I'm just getting another flight to somewhere new. Except of course, it's not new. It'll be interesting to see how I feel in a week's time when I haven't had to secure accommodation for the next few days or buy an onward ticket. Or update this blog - I guess there's only one entry left now.
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