All Aboard: Urbana

November 1, 2007 • Posted in Beth Finke, book tour, guide dogs, parenting a child with special needs, Seeing Eye dogs, travel, Uncategorized by

Hanni and I at the University of Illinois quad.Mike and I met in Urbana. Our son Gus was born in Urbana. My first Seeing Eye dog, Dora, retired in Urbana. When Hanni first came home to live with us, we lived in Urbana.
We love Urbana.

Our son Gus moved to the Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown, Wisconsin in 2003. That’s the year we moved to Chicago. We go back to Urbana often. We have lots of friends there, Mike’s sister Kris and her husband Ed live there, and so do Kris and Ed’s kids and grandkids – our great nieces and nephews.
So it only seems right to return to Urbana to celebrate the publication of this new childrens book. On Friday I’ll do an interview on WILL Radio, the NPR affiliate down there. Hanni and I will visit a Champaign middle school that afternoon. Saturday morning we’re slated to do a presentation at Urbana Free Library. To cap it all off, I’ll sign copies of Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound at Jane Addams Bookstore in downtown Champaign from 2 to 4 pm Saturday afternoon.
Hanni and I will embark, excuse the dog pun, on this trip tomorrow night on the City of New Orleans train. I just got off the phone with Amtrak. Now I know why I kept procrastinating when it came to booking the ticket.
When I phone Amtrak to make a reservation, I always tell them I’ll be traveling with a Seeing Eye dog. This is not a requirement –they’d have to take me with Hanni whether I told them ahead of time or not. I just let them know as a common courtesy.
But geez, the commotion it creates in the reservation process.
“Is it a big dog?”
“Well, yeah. She’s a Seeing Eye dog.”
“How much does it weigh?”
“Sixty pounds.”
I was put on hold. When the Amtrak employee came back on the line, he had more questions.
“What kind of dog is it?”
“A Seeing Eye dog. A guide dog.
“Yeah, but what kind?”
“A cross between a Labrador and a Golden Retriever. Is that what you mean?
“Yes, we need it for our records. So it’s a Yellow Lab?”
“Yes.” Forgive me Hanni, for lying.
I was put on hold. He returned with another question.
“So you are visually impaired?”
“Will you need any assistance?”
I thought about it for a second. Mike is taking me to Union Station in Chicago, and the Champaign-Urbana station is small enough that Hanni and I can navigate it on our own.
“You don’t need any assistance?”
“No, thanks.”
I heard laughter in the background. I didn’t want to think the joke was on me, so I started chuckling, too.
“You guys are funny, “I said.
I was put on hold.
The Amtrak employee finally came back on line, repeated my reservation information, and told me to enjoy the ride. I thanked him and hung up.
People who never ride Amtrak fantasize that a train ride might be romantic. Those of us who regularly ride Amtrak fantasize that our train will arrive on time.
I’m not taking my laptop along with me to Urbana, so you’ll have to wait a few days to find out whether this fantasy comes true. And whether Hanni can impersonate a full-bred Yellow Lab.

Charisse On November 1, 2007 at 1:43 am

I hope you had fun at Urbana. My cousin goes to school there!

I’ve never been on an Amtrak before but I’ve always wanted to.

Beth On November 1, 2007 at 12:49 pm

Charisse – Hanni and I haven’t left for Urbana yet, we take off tonight. Let your cousin know we’ll be at the Urbana Free Library on Saturday morning and Jane Addams Bookstore in downtown Champaign Saturday afternoon, would love to hav him/her stop by and say hi.
And you know, Amtrak *is* fun the first couple times around. I guess I’ve just been on too many trains that were delayed, or ran slow, you know. I’m jaded! I *do* recommend you take a ride sometime, though –maybe to go to Champaign-Urbana to visit your cousin?!

Danny On November 2, 2007 at 6:42 pm

Hi Beth,

Safe travels and I’ll see you when you get back.

I’ve experienced some of the most uncomfortable moments of my life on Amtrak trains… not to mention the train is always slow or delayed. No thanks, I’ll rather hitch-hike…

Have fun this weekend!

Nancy On November 3, 2007 at 4:47 am

Gee Beth, you got something against 12 hour train rides from CU to Chicago like I had last year on the way to see you? Somehow, it was still fun, snowflakes coming down over the scenic trainyards of north urbana…. and most importantly, an IPOD to drown out the phone conversations of others. Good luck with all the activities this weekend. nb

Beth On November 4, 2007 at 6:16 pm

Danny and nancy,
Thanks for the notes. Now that I’m back home in Chicago SAFE & SOUND (what a great title for a book!) I am feeling warm cozies about AmTrack — my ride to Champaign with Hanni Thursday was as smooth as silk. maybe the train Gods are finally smiling on us?

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