We had been on the train for almost six hours, but hadn’t moved an inch for 90 minutes.
Being stuck in the middle of Wisconsin wouldn’t have been so bad had I had rolling farmland or a moody hardwood forest outside my window, but I was staring at the rusty fire escape in the back of a warehouse.
We had been gone for five days and, with all due respect to Chicago, I was ready to go home.
“The lane ahead of us is being inspected for storm damage,” the driver announced over a crackling public address system. “I should have an update for you in 15 or 20 minutes.”
Maybe I should just go ahead and eat the pizza…
The trip to Chicago five days earlier had gone like clockwork, and after settling into our hotel room, we set off in search of dinner. We always like to try local cuisine when we travel and decided before we even left home that the first meal of our long weekend would be an authentic Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.
“Our pizza takes about an hour to cook,” our server explained. She stopped in case we decided it was too long to wait.
The place smelled fantastic.
“That’s good,” I said. “We will wait.”
It was a good decision. The pizza was three inches thick, and despite sharing a small pie, we took most of it back to the hotel in a take-out box.
I ate a slice of cold pizza for supper the next night as I sat on the bed watching a Cubs game.
The rest of the pizza sat untouched in our mini-fridge for the next two days, facing fierce competition from Chicago-style hot dogs and brunch at a cafe known for its stacks of five-inch pancakes.
We brought the leftover pizza when we changed hotels, intending to finish it before catching our train the next afternoon. We would have too if we hadn’t been uncomfortably full from the breakfast buffet that morning.
Still, the pizza was too good to leave in Chicago, so we found room in a suitcase. We had been eating leftovers for a few days before the trip, and our dining options at home would be limited until we could get to the supermarket. It would be nice to come back with a tasty souvenir.
Admittedly, it was another remnant. But one with a distinguished provenance.
And then our train got run over in Wisconsin.
The rusty fire escape outside my window was interesting for the first 10 minutes. But as the delay stretched beyond an hour, I started thinking about a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.
Fight, I tell myself. But I was losing the battle.
After an hour and a half, I was about to remove my suitcase from the overhead rack when the train hopped forward and we were rolling again.
We finished pizza for lunch at home on a Wednesday…a handful of red peppers, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and 90 seconds in the microwave and it was as tasty as it came out of the oven at the restaurant on Friday night. Almost.
Now, if we could figure out a way to bring home a Chicago-style hot dog without the bun getting all soggy…
Dan Conradt, a permanent resident of Mower County, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.