Best way to get to chicago

A couple of Aussies with poor sense of direction and minor alcohol dependency need clues as to how we best get to Chicago after the final day. Needs to be simple, cheers in advance.

15 Replies

Larry Klaaren, March 18, 2019 at 10:26 am

Are you looking for a ride, or directions for driving?
There is a simple way to drive, go north on either side of the river, (US 61 would be reasonable choice) to Interstate 80 and go west to Chicago. Exactly where in Chicago you want to go is a variable, as you could go five miles farther north on the Illinois side of the Mississippi to Interstate 88 or go west on 80 to Interstate 55, both of which go into the city. That is not the shortest way, just the simplest.


Jeff Eckel, March 18, 2019 at 10:57 am

It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.


Bob Braigar, March 18, 2019 at 11:12 am

Jeff Eckel, with one of, the true spirits of ragbrai, and perfect advice.


sean sampson, March 18, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Thanks Larry, and not driving. Perfect bob. Would you need to book in advance. Jeff. Best. Film. Ever.


KenH, March 18, 2019 at 3:28 pm

If you want to take Amtrak to Chicago you should book early. The one time I needed to do that from a town in central Illinois I had to delay the trip because I foolishly thought I would be able to get a seat on the train with one week’s notice. Not so and when I did get on the train the seat that I had booked was the only one open! I would think you could wait until you find out if you got picked in the wristband lottery but I don’t think you want to wait until July.

Eventually there will be a Looking For Rides 2019 section of this forum. When it pops up, probably after the lottery, you can also post in there to see if anyone can help you out. There will be a lot of us driving from Keokuk to the Chicago area at the end of the ride. It is too early for me to commit to offering anyone a ride. If I can I will not be going to Chicago but I could drop you off at a UPNW Metra station where you can get a train to take you downtown or to Jefferson Park where you should be able to catch a Blue Line train to O’Hare. I say “should” because they are rebuilding the Blue Line station at Jefferson Park and I promise nothing….

But anyone from the Chicago area who has room for two and some luggage could probably get you to some Metra commuter rail line that will get you downtown and to O’Hare on the Blue Line from there. If you need to go to Midway I am not familiar with public transportation options from downtown. If you wanted to take Amtrak from Chicago the station for the Metra UP lines is right across the street from an entrance to Union Station which hosts Amtrak and several of the other Metra commuter rail lines.


sean sampson, March 18, 2019 at 4:21 pm

Thanks for advice ken. Appreciate it


Susan Zvacek, March 18, 2019 at 4:53 pm

I’m pretty sure that Larry meant to say “go east to Chicago.” You could go west but it would be a REALLY long ride to Chicago that way.


Larry Klaaren, March 18, 2019 at 4:56 pm

There are several groups that transport riders and bikes from the end point to Chicago. One that you could google up is Bicycle Illinois. If they can accommodate you they take their riders to downtown Chicago. Otherwise, there may be a rider from the Chicago area who could take you in their vehicle if you hang on a bit to see if any one chimes in. I could if I were not going to visit my family in central Iowa after the ride.


Gary Schubert, March 18, 2019 at 8:27 pm

If you’re hauling bikes with you, the downside to Amtrak is that the spots for checking bikes are likely already full. About a month ago I looked into Amtrak for Chicago-Omaha and there were already no bike spots left.


ndesai17, March 22, 2019 at 5:14 pm

I’ll be driving from the end town back to Chicago on Saturday/Sunday. Not sure I can take 3 dudes and bikes but tell me more about your plans and perhaps we can work something work out.


Steve Nesnidal, April 1, 2019 at 10:43 am

If you are willing to miss the last day of riding, and if you pay Pork Bellies to ship your bike from their campsite (to home or Chi hotel), you can drop your bike there fri pm and then take the Sat 1030 am Amtrak from Burlington to Chicago. That leaves you at Union Station where there are numerous trains/buses that will take you wherever you need to go in Chi.


sean sampson, April 4, 2019 at 11:57 pm

Thanks Steve, a great option for sure.


Gypsy Rose, April 5, 2019 at 10:14 am

[quote quote=1301153]If you’re hauling bikes with you, the downside to Amtrak is that the spots for checking bikes are likely already full. About a month ago I looked into Amtrak for Chicago-Omaha and there were already no bike spots left.[/quote]

While Amtrak has limited space for bikes that are carried on (racks in the coach cars), you can always check your bike as baggage. Compared with flying with a bike, the cost is minimal ($15 the last time I did it). They’ll even provide a box which requires only that your handlebar is turned 90 degrees and the pedals are removed (along with a 50 lb limit for those that might have a heavy e-bike). I’ve used Amtrak’s cardboard bike box once. No problems, but since I travel often by train, I own a hard-shell bike box (requiring the bike to be broken down a bit more). Although technically you can only take a bike as checked baggage between stations offering baggage service, with my bike in a hard-shell case (with wheels), I’ve boarded trains at small, non-baggage-checking stations. They say it’s “conductor’s discretion,” but I’ve not been refused. They have always had room in the carry-on baggage sections of the coach cars. Of course, It may be a different story if a lot of RAGBRAI riders are boarding in Burlington, IA headed for Chicago.

~ Kevin


Papa T, April 5, 2019 at 8:31 pm

Amtrack is your best bet, but it goes out of Burlington, not Keokuk. on Saturday in keokuk there will be at least 150 cars going to Chicago. Find one!


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