[megabus]The feeling of the winter doldrums is one that any inhabitant of a Michigan winter knows well. It is that time of year when the constant cold, sludgy snow and overall feeling of sluggishness can bring a frown to even the most enthusiastic MSU undergrad’s face, as they scurry from class to class trying to remain outdoors for as few seconds as possible. Dread this time of year? Fear not, seasonally sad student, for there is an inexpensive, convenient mode of transportation to get you out of dodge for a weekend trip.
That option is called the Megabus, a non-stop intercity express bus company that offers fares to travelers as low as $1 via the Internet. The bus travels daily to Chicago as well as to eight other Midwestern cities: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and St. Louis. As the Megabus goes on its tour de Midwest, the icon of a stout little driver dons the side of the bus, happily escorting travelers wherever they go.
[energy] With winter starting to get seriously cold, it was time to put the Megabus to the test and find out if it could provide that little weekend getaway. I got my fiancé, Justin, and both sets of our parents on board with the idea of the bus. A few clicks of the mouse later and our tickets were booked.
The Megabus picked us up in Ann Arbor, arriving at 5 p.m. sharp – right on time. Setting eyes upon it for the first time, I was surprised at how well the bus lives up to its name. The blue bus we went on was a double-decker, truly “mega.” By 5:10 p.m., everyone was on the bus and the wheels set in motion. Chicago, get ready. Nighttime soon fell (5:15 p.m. in winter!) and an old western movie played on the DVD players that ran along the ceiling of the bus. Although the movie choice could have been better, it was A nice luxury to offer. A layer of snow blanketed the road, freshly renewed after each passing car as it fell from the sky. There was an hour stretch where a car was in the ditch no matter what time you looked out of the bus window, but the Megabus sailed on smoothly among the difficult conditions.
We arrived in Chicago around 9 p.m. (gained an hour), only 30 minutes late considering the snowy roads. We took a short cab ride to the Seneca Inn and Suites, which is an old apartment complex that has been converted into a hotel. The conversion gives the place a quasi-homelike feel. In true classic Chicago style, we dined on deep-dish pizza for dinner.
The early light of Saturday morning wrapped itself around every city skyscraper in its path and woke me early. In the light of day, I could see the Hancock Building directly outside of our hotel window. On Monday, the 100-story complex, an iconic landmark of the Chicago skyline, would fill with various people returning to their offices from a much-needed weekend. Much like bees in a hive, the building would be buzzing. But not today. Saturday is a day of relaxation, a day of escape. It was also a day of channeling our inner Eskimo and braving the bitter cold. Michigan Avenue (also known as the Magnificent Mile) was our challenge and we prepared for the task.
With a wind chill of -25 degrees, we gave ourselves once-overs before leaving the comfort and warmth of the Seneca. Hat? Check. Gloves? Check. It was time to go.[cupcakes]
Justin and I had to leave our parents behind because, truthfully, they were just too slow for us. But we made plans to meet later at the Hershey’s Café of Chicago before traveling on our merry way. Justin and I bounced along the Magnificent Mile with the enthusiasm of kindergarten students on the first day of school. The atmosphere of the city was energetic as herds of people moved quickly along the sidewalks. The city’s energy made my winter-plagued spirits start to rise, despite the chilly conditions. We bustled up and down the strip for three hours, devouring eyefuls of the city and gulping down the excitement. Soon, it was time to reconvene at the Hershey’s Café.
Chicago is where Milton Hershey discovered the chocolate-making equipment that would later revolutionize the industry. I sipped a cup of Hershey’s hot cocoa as I took in the silly atmosphere of the place. Every song that played throughout the store had something to do with candy; a singing employee stationed a counter filled with cupcakes custom-made to your request and chocolate was piled as high as a young kid could crane his neck. Although this place would have been absolutely awesome if I were 10, I could still appreciate the light atmosphere. Justin decided to get the full experience and had the singing employee whip up two giant cupcakes, which we happily enjoyed as we sat by a mural of flying Reese’s Pieces. It wasn’t exactly the cupcake itself that was big; it was the frosting that literally composed 2/3 of the dessert’s height. A sugar buzz quickly ensued and we were ready to brave the Windy City again for another two hours of shopping before heading back to the Seneca.
Our parents had already retreated to our room and we took some time to share our activities and purchases of the day. To cap off our trip in style, we made dinner reservations at a restaurant called Carmines, the most genuine Italian restaurant I have ever experienced, with accents and all. Just like the atmosphere, the food was authentic and delicious. After a long, windy day and a great dinner, I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. [couple]
The Megabus does not sleep in on Sundays and arrived, as promised, to Union Station at 8:30 a.m. On the return back to Michigan, the roads were again slippery with snow but the trusty Megabus delivered us back to Ann Arbor safely. As I stepped off the Megabus, I thanked the driver and got my bag out of the underbelly of the vehicle. Our trip was short, but sweet. The Megabus had given us an inexpensive and stressless way to relieve the drudgery of the winter. I realized how long I had been looking forward to our Megabus trip and that it provided me with the warmest thought one can have during a Michigan winter: something to look forward to. The cold Michigan air flooded my senses as I trudged back to our car and the responsibilities of Monday loomed a short 24 hours away. I wanted to flee back to the Megabus and begin another winter getaway. I looked back. There’s always next weekend.