PACK YOUR BAGS / by Arthur Cherry

It has been two weeks now but my girlfriend, Danica, and I took our first trip together in mid April. This wasn't just any trip.

On a breezy, sunny weekday I met my girlfriend for lunch in a park near downtown. I brought the meals on my bike. After we ate I pulled out this ticket/card and gave it to her. It pretty much said, pack your bags we are going on a trip and I will pick you up in the morning. She was told not to tell anyone she was leaving.


(Click on the image to view larger)

Still not knowing where we were going, I picked her up in a taxi at 6:50am. The sun was barely up and it was lightly raining as we rode through downtown. We pulled into Union Station and walked inside. I walked with her bag in hand and mine on my back to the ticket counter for the Amtrak train. At the counter I picked up the tickets and my girlfriend said with a smile, "Chicago!"



We waited a few minutes to board in the waiting area until they told us we could board the Southwest Chief shortly before our 7:45 departure. Not only was this our first trip together but also our first trip on a Amtrak train. We put up our bags and found our seats. Instead of getting coach seats I upgraded to a roomette (a two seat space with a door and picture window) so that we could get meals included and have some privacy.

Shortly after we departed the station we ate breakfast in the dining car. We both had eggs, potatoes and toast with juice and coffee/tea. Dining is communal on the Amtrak so we shared are breakfast time with another woman heading home from visiting family in California. She asked what we were doing and I said, "going on a surprise trip."

After breakfast we spent some time relaxing, talking and playing cards in the lounge car which has wall to ceiling windows so you can see out both sides for a wonderful view. Before we knew it, our lunch reservation had come. We again went to the dining car to eat. This time we ate with an older couple from Lawrence, KS, who were heading to Michigan to vacation and visit friends and family. After asking what we were doing and after telling them it was a surprise we talked about places to eat and see in Chicago. They were obviously well traveled and enjoyed many things we do. I had a steak burger and Danica had a salad with milk and we both had dessert. We then went back to our car. After a while of watching the country-side and talking I went for a walk to see what else was on the lower level of the train. I took my camera bag and my Danica said, "You can leave that here." I said, "I will take it will me." While on the lower level I stopped at my packed bag and unpacked a gift I got for her. I put it in my camera bag and went back upstairs.

It was about 6 hours (felt like 2 hours) into the 7 hour trip. I shut the door to our roomette and we talked more. We talked about how fun the train ride was and that we had to do it again. We were both looking out the window as we crossed the Illinois countryside. I told her that I had a gift for her to remember our first trip together. She smiled and asked when she would get it. "Can I have it now?" she asked.

I reached in my bag and handed the wrapped gift to her. She quickly opened it as the smile faded and she started to look disappointed. The gift was an Ecosystem journal. As she began to open it I told her that I had wrote a secret inside that I had kept from her for years. She looked horrified. I watched as she opened it and began looking through the pages. She made it to the book marked page after a few turns and she read the page to herself. It read, "I LOVE YOU!" *Side Note: We never said these words to each other until this point.* She began to smile again but didn't say anything as she turned the page and then the smile turned to crying. Not just any crying, crazy "OMG" crying. The page read, "WILL YOU MARRY ME?"

At the bottom of the page I drew an image of a ring with dotted lines around it with the statement, "cut along dotted line." While she was still crying of joy (I wasn't sure at first) the first thing she said was, "I don't have any scissors!" At that time, I pulled out the real thing out of my bag. I opened the box and said, "I don't have scissors either. Will you marry me?"





She said, "Yes!" and we spent the next hour of our train ride just enjoying the moment. When we got to Chicago we got metro passes and took the bus to our hotel. She was ready to spill the beans and tell everyone the news so after arrival we called our family and close friends and told them the news. Surprise we are in Chicago AND surprise we are engaged! For the next 72 hours we enjoyed our new engaged life in the windy city.

For the engagement dinner I had reservations planned but we canceled those and went for pizza. Chicago style pizza at Giordano's.



The next day we had a full day of shopping on the magnificent mile and the best sushi I have ever ate. Dinner was at Sushi Wabi. *Side Note: I don't even like sushi.* If you are in Chicago and like sushi you have to try out the best sushi experience in Chicago. Amazing!



The next day we went sightseeing. We made a visit to the "Bean" in Millennium park, and walked along the lake and the Chicago river walk.







After braving the cold during our walk we went to Willis Tower and looked out the sky deck.





We flew back to work and started planning. The journal is getting good use too and I have a feeling it will be around a long time. Save the date! Our wedding is planned:



Share