Wednesday, July 24, 2002

German Traveler Becomes Unwitting Accomplice

Travels with Jim Redd: Minneapolis to Chicago. On this trip I let Jim do the writing.

In keeping with a tradition my wife and I started on our trip to Glacier National Park three years ago, George and I began our trip to Minneapolis by executing a fully-loaded bike ride-through of Chicago's Union Station. The automatic sliding doors at the lower level entrance make this quite easy. After riding past the baggage claim area, we took the next left into the Great Hall, also conveniently bike-accessible by sliding doors. Our next task was to locate a suitable passenger to document the incursion with my digital camera. (If you've never been in the Great Hall, the lighting is beautiful, filtering down through skylights three floors above--great for photographs.) After two circles around the Hall, we invited a young, honest-looking German youth to be our photographer. He was glad to oblige us and we took a couple more trips around the Hall. I made sure he got us waving beneath the huge American flag, and then he snapped a few of us circling the clock/departure/arrival kiosk in the middle of the Hall. It was when I was thanking him and we were reviewing the pictures that I saw the badge. It looked real enough and I noticed that the German accomplice immediately returned to his bench and assumed the waiting passenger position. The undercover bearer of the badge was curious as to what arrangements we had made for this bike photo shoot in the Great Hall. "In general," he said, "riding bicycles in Union Station is not allowed." As we had already accomplished our goal, judging by the quality of the pictures, we saw no need to press the issue. "We're so excited that Amtrak lets us take our bikes on board that we wanted to show our friends..." I said. The agent had apparently decided we didn't pose a danger to the smooth functioning of the USA RAIL system, so we parted amicably and walked our bikes in a non-threatening manner back through the sliding doors to the ticket area and queued up correctly in the purchase line.


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