Transportation is a special kind of gift. A convenient and even enjoyable way to get from here to there can be like... well, like... renting some wings. I'll never forget the first time I took the Amtrak in East Lansing all by myself. I was about 20, poor and in college and had the general overall blues about women (long story), my classes and my future. I had my face firmly squished into the grindstone of life as I knew it to be, and had lost my vision of why I was going to school full time, working construction any day I didn't have class and then working retail on the weekends. I shared my feelings with my sister Molly and even though she lived in California at the time, she asked me to come join her in Chicago for a few days as she was there attending a conference. Because I was not rolling in money and my car was no way making it any further than possibly Battle Creek, she suggested I take the train, from right in East Lansing (my comfort zone) to Union Station in downtown Chicago. I had a couple small reservations having not done this before, let alone by myself, but I took a risk and booked the journey. I enjoyed the experience from my very first footstep. Riding the rail along the southwest corner of Michigan and into Illinois gave me time and perspective to think about my life and not worry one bit about if I missed my exit, or if my transmission was going to fail, rendering me as a novice hitchhiker 100 miles from home. I looked out the window and read and dozed and thought some things out and started to feel like the adulthood I had gained meant more than college classes and two jobs, it meant ability and autonomy to do something I wanted to do. As I gathered my bags and walked through Union Station I saw people of every walk making their way here and there and I felt for the first time that I was now in a bigger pond. Not just from East Lansing to Chicago, that change was obvious. I mean a bigger pond in my life. From the kids table to the place where adults sit to dine. I felt for the first time that adulthood and responsibility, while a lot of work and planning, also means some precious freedoms. Making your own way all of a sudden didn't suck, it could be fun and exciting. Walking from the train station to the hotel I felt my stresses fade away and I didn't even care that I had no idea where I was walking. Everything before me was new and fresh and later that night at dinner my sister and I listened to a street performer play jazz and she and I talked about how eventually the hard work of young adulthood pays off. I got my motivation back. I honestly think it was the travel and new surroundings that gave me the perspective I needed. Ever since then the Amtrak to Chicago has been a treat, an escape and a quick, stress-free and inexpensive way to gain new perspective. My wife and I have traveled to Chicago this way half a dozen times and are always planning to go back when we can.
Because of my affinity for Amtrak and the East Lansing station specifically I was thrilled to see the facility awarded a $6.2 million federal grant ( part of a bigger $47 million grant for six other transportation projects in Michigan, including upgrades at the Amtrak in Kalamazoo, Jackson and Battle Creek). There had always been talk about closing this station and I just couldn't believe it. Who wouldn't want an affordable and stress-free way to get a bit of new perspective - or wings if you like that better? It did me a world of good. You should try it yourself. The East Lansing Amtrak station is an asset to the region and this new investment in it deserves three long blasts on the the old steam horn.
Want to read more about the grant? Check this out - http://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2012/07/east_lansing_wins_62m_federal.html