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Trainspotting

Morris writer pens Metra travel blog

Published: Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 5:00 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Nov. 9, 2012 12:11 p.m. CDT

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Morris author Maureen Keegan wants her friends and neighbors to get out of town. For an afternoon, at least, or for a day-long adventure to Chicago-area sites and sounds and colorful new flavors.

Author of the children’s book, “The Wedding of Q and U,” and a former teacher at Immaculate Conception and Nettle Creek schools, Keegan was accepted as a weekly writer for the “Chicago Now” blog site last year. She entitled her blog, “Trainspotting,” and writes about her adventures along the Union Pacific-West Metra train line.

“I had seen the movie,” she said regarding how she chose the title of her blog,” and I thought it was an obvious choice. I’m spotting things to do while I’m on the train.”

Among the dozens of blogs she has written the last year are “Hiding out with Hemingway,” “When I am old, I will eat at The Purple Pig,” “Chicago’s Magnificent Churches’ Tour,” “On Track at the Ryder Cup,” “Doughnut Vault: Was it Worth the Wait?” “Free Concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park,” and “Marcel’s for Mother’s Day.”

“It started as a way to share where I was going,” Keegan said. “I’ve always been a writer, but I’m not only a writer. I like to read other people’s writing, too, so I read a lot of blogs.”

The Metra rides began after Keegan and her husband decided to temporarily become a two-home family.

Her son had been accepted into the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago, which would have been a difficult commute back and forth to Morris. Rather than live in an apartment in Chicago, the Keegans set up a second home in a Wheaton townhouse. Their high school daughter, in the meantime, decided to finish school in Wheaton. Maureen’s husband, John, still worked in Morris, so they also kept their house in town and plan on returning to their one-house family after their children graduate.

Keegan’s life became one of traveling back and forth between Morris and Wheaton, but she also wanted to explore her new environment – one that was only a block’s walk from a Metra station.

She’s always loved traveling and discovering new places. When she and her family travel, it’s their policy to eat in restaurants they’ve never been in or to try foods they have never had.

Keegan remembers her first Metra trip as a new Wheaton resident one year ago.

“I went to Glen Ellyn to the old Glen Art Theater to see “Midnight in Paris,” she said. “It was only one train stop away. That was my first blog.”

She titled it, “A Trip to Paris.” In it, she conversed about apps, movie reviews, the historic Glen Art Theater, and tips for riding the Metra. She writes her blogs in a manner that makes readers feel as if she is talking to a friend.

Her first trip was with a girlfriend, but many times Keegan travels alone. She enjoys both. It’s fun to explore with friends, she said, but equally as enjoyable to take trips on her own. She’ll try new restaurants by herself, walk the streets of a historic town solo, and take tours.

“It stretches you as a person,” she said of traveling solo.

She tries to take a trip a week, but her life can be busy, so sometimes she does three trips in one weekend, making several stops along her Metra line. She always does the destination research beforehand, online or from word-of-mouth. And after she deboards the train, it’s all walking, which she loves.

“You really learn a lot about the city when you walk,” she said. “In a lot of these towns like Geneva, Elmhurst, and Oak Park, everything’s right there by the stop. . . In Chicago, you wear comfortable shoes, and you just go.”

One of her favorite destinations for her blog was the Chicago Cultural Center.

“It’s next to Millennium Park,” she said. “You can tour it. It’s a beautiful building, and there are always things going on inside. There are cooking classes in there and concerts. The churches’ tour was from there.”

Other favorites have been Wheaton College, a Frank Lloyd Wright tour, and the restaurants Eggy’s and The Purple Pig, both in Chicago. She remembers the dish she ordered at Eggy’s – a pulled pork eggs Benedict on a corn bread waffle. It was delicious, she said.

The Chicago Pedway Tour was also a fun one, and a surprise, she said.

“It’s a led underground tour of all the pedways,” she said. “You walk under the buildings. I had no idea how long it was. It’s like a town under the city. It’s probably miles of underground tunnels. It was great.”

Traveling by Metra is very inexpensive, too, she said. There aren’t a lot of offerings on the line from Joliet to Chicago, but once in the city, there are multitudes to places to explore. Keegan recommends avoiding the touristy destinations like Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue.

To visit the locations in her blogs, those in the Grundy area can drive there or go north on Illinois 47 to catch the UP-W Metra line at the Elburn station.

Keegan’s blog site also has “Easy Commuter Recipes,” “Commuter Tunes,” and separate categories for restaurants, towns, things to do, and Metra tips.

To access Keegan's blog, visit www.chicagonow.com/trainspotting.

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