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  • Writer's pictureDaisy L Phillips

I Took My First Post-Vaccine Trip!

After a year and a month of hardly leaving the house (with the exception of a good, old fashioned family road trip last fall that I tried and failed to write about), two weeks to the day after I got my second dose of the Moderna vaccine I decided it was time to head back east to figure out my next steps in our post-vaccine reality.

After a year of being at home with my family and knowing I was on my way to room with a house full of friends I'd only seen over facetime in that time, I decided I wanted some time to myself to breathe and center myself before such a big environmental shift. I also wasn't quite feeling ready for air travel yet, so I booked myself a ticket on the California Zephyr to get myself to Chicago, where I spent a week before continuing on to the Lake Shore Limited for one more night of train travel.

I was going to do the Zephyr trip on my own to have some alone time and disconnect for a bit (the train had no wifi) , but, due to safety concerns as a solo female traveler, I got my best friend from NYC who was going to meet me in Chicago to instead meet me at home in San Francisco and take the whole journey with me.

The California Zephyr was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience (though we did get to know one woman who had ridden the route a couple times a year for as long as she could remember). From views of the Sierra Nevada mountains to Bryce Canyon to the Rockies to the Mississippi river, we spent more time in the Observation Car than we did in our "roomette" sleeper car.

Our roomette was cozy but comfortable. I was up on the top bunk and slept great on both nights of the journey (my travel companion not so much, and he had the more comfortable bunk). Our room came with food which was all prepackaged and reheated. I've heard that in non-COVID times the Zephyr is known for its en-route meals, but the food was standard travel fare for our trip. The brownies were delicious, though.

Once we got to Chicago, we got to feel our first real taste of post-vax freedom. After two nights on a train, we thought we would call it an early night, but once we pulled up to our Boystown airbnb we were reenergized by a street that was visibly gearing up for a fun Saturday night. We took a quick shower before taking a walk to find dinner. After dinner the night was in full swing and we wandered over to Wrigleyville to end our first night at the infamous bar, Sluggers, where we watched patrons give it their all at the batting cages one room over from where we got to tip the dueling pianos to play our favorite sing-a-long hits. For my first night out in over a year, there's nothing more I could have hoped for.

The rest of the week was filled to the brim with a jump into Lake Michigan, a visit to the newly-reopened Navy Pier, a trip to the aquarium, a Cubs win, a whole day in the Art Institute, visits with friends who relocated during the height of the pandemic, and lots of deep dish "pizza".

Picking what we wanted to do and getting timed admission squared away added a new hoop to jump through but was easy enough to navigate (especially as someone who loves pre planning). Eating indoors for the first time in over a year was wild, and being in a city that visibly wasn't taking masking as seriously as my little California town or NYC was a steep learning curve, but we made it through.

Our airbnb was awesome, a communal kitchen and a family-style brunch our first morning there really sealed the deal that we picked the best possible location. Our adorable Victorian house in the heart of Boystown always had something going on right out the front door and had a welcoming community of fellow guests.

When we first booked the trip, I was worried a whole week would be too long for one city, but I was completely wrong. With tourist attractions opening late and closing early with pandemic hours still in effect, a week was just enough time to get a taste of everything we wanted to do.

When it came time to get onto the Lake Shore Limited to finish our journey to NYC, I was ready to stop being on the road. We spent one night in another roomette, and the next morning we were actually upgraded to a true sleeper car by our porter (I think we were the only party to tip him) on the side of the train that had views of the Hudson.

All in all, a great first adventure back out into the world! I can't wait to see what comes next.

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