Part the first - travel to Madison via Chicago
Day 1 - Fri 3/17
Almost all of the packing was done the night before, so I was able to get a latte and muffin from the Tully's
across the street. From there, it's just a few blocks to pick up the bus to the airport
. While enjoying my breakfast and waiting for the bus to arrive, the woman next to me asked (out of nowhere) "Do you believe there will always be suffering in the world?", which was pleasantly surreal. Surmising (and fully prepared for) where this conversation was going, I thought a moment and answered "Yes". Sure enough, she started talking about how the Bible says the end of the world is almost here. I responded (with a nod to South Park), in the most earnest voice I could muster, "Well, the Bible says a lot of things, and not very clearly." Though she disagreed, she next wanted to know if I ever wondered where I came from. Savoring the moment, I responded that I knew exactly where I came from and launched into a 2-minute detailed astrophysical explanation of the Big Bang. It included choice phrases such as "infinite vacuum energy inherent to space" and "quark-gluon plasma". From there, it went on to how she was surprised I believed in Evolution, and since buildings were obviously created, all living things simply must have been created also. I attempted to show how her reasoning was flawed since buildings tend not to reproduce on their own, but the bus came.
Travel can make me nervous; I worry about what I've forgotten to do or bring. I usually feel better when I'm actually underway, since at that point I can't do anything about it, so I can relax and have confidence that whatever it was (if anything) that I forget, I'd be able to cope. This trip, even on the bus I was still anxious, but not for those reasons: there were just too many unanswered questions about my trip. Would I drive from ORD
or take the bus
? Could jss1113
drive me to Minneapolis, or would I have to rent a car and drive myself? Would a train or one-way flight somehow work out better? How would things go with cpj
? How would my conversation with jkhedron
go about the upcoming AZ
trip? Should I not go to Minneapolis
and do a later MN trip instead so I could see Nate and unzeugmatic
too? It was just really stressful.
Fortunately, the flight from SEA
was pleasant and largely uneventful (the sole exception being what would become the standard 30 minute delay), so I gradually felt more relaxed. I'm becoming more impressed with Alaska Airlines
the more I fly them. They offered these "DigE Player"
devices for rental which were sizable, presumably hard-drive based, personal movie players, seemingly with a decent selection of things to watch. They also offered headphone splitters so multiple people could share one device: a really nice touch! The food was hot, decent, and without additional charge.
With help from my sister, I decided that taking the bus to Madison offered the most flexibility. I could rent a car in Madison, and worst-case drive from there to MN and back, then take the bus back to ORD. We landed a bit early, but I was not able to catch the 6:30pm bus (it had already left), even though I got to the terminal about 6:20. This delay was easily bearable, as it allowed me to get a relaxed dinner at the sports bar
in the airport Hilton
(the only such place on the public side of security). Although I got back to the bus terminal by 7:15, there was a significant line in front each of the three identical buses waiting outside. There were NO signs anywhere saying which bus was going where, which was less than helpful. Also, the website schedule
implies that the bus goes right from the airport to downtown Madison, which is a total lie. This was a problem because the two buses remaining were going to Rockford
. Confusing, no? Asking around, I was informed that the Janesville bus goes on to Madison. "Intuitively obvious to the most casual observer". I just barely was able to get on the bus; it turns out that it was the end of Spring Break for UW
students, so the buses were rather more full than usual. Got into Madison around 10:15, where David P. picked me up and drove me to meet the gang...