The Great Train Adventure began with booking our trip. In the past, I had reserved our Amtrak seats online and had our tickets mailed to us. Always sitting on pins and needles until they arrived. Now I can print them out or store them on my smartphone. I opted for the printout, since I am new to the whole smartphone thing.
Packing was the next step. Amtrak has a strict 2 carry-on limit, so we wanted to pack as light as possible, not only because we would be hauling our luggage everywhere, but we also did not want to leave it unattended as we wandered around the train during our 39 hour ride. Our seats were in coach, so there would always be other passengers around us.
My dad dropped us off at the park and ride and we took public transportation, the commuter train, to the express bus that stops just across from Union Station. Inside, we found comfortable seating for our 2 hour wait, and checked in to get our seat assignment. Yak worked on some school lessons while I caught up on reading newsletters and books.
Before boarding I decided we’d better get some food, or we would be stuck with several expensive meals of not so good quality. Fortunately, Union Station has some nice, reasonably priced offerings, so we got some fresh fruit, snacks, yogurt and veggie juice, as well as a hot meal for our dinner.
Soon enough we were walking down the tunnel to our platform and boarding our train. Squeezing up the narrow stairs to the upper level is always a challenge, but we made it and stowed our gear. We settled in, ate our dinner and waited for the conductor to check our tickets. Later, we explored the café car, the observation car and the menu for the dining car. Pretty much the same as the last time we rode, several years ago.
Back in our seats, we broke out the gadgets and played video games (the boy) and read (me). No movies on the train anymore. Guess everyone brings their own now. That’s sure what it looks like, anyway, with tablets and smartphones blazing away at every turn.
Sleeping in coach is not too bad. We had our pillows and blankets (Amtrak no longer provides them) and were plenty cozy in the reclining seats. The movement of the train lulled us to sleep. I woke up just before the café car attendant announced coffee and I had my travel cup ready! It felt good to stretch my legs and walk around a bit. Back at our seats, the boy was beginning to stir and I retrieved our breakfast from the overhead rack – fruit, yogurt and juice. The train ride itself became a pilgrimage as I quietly had my morning devotions and said my rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet.
The long day of slow travel allowed for schoolwork, correcting schoolwork, writing, reading, playing video games and getting off the train at one of two 30 minute stops, to stretch our legs and inspect the wares of local vendors set up in front of the station. We also treated ourselves to lunch in the dining car. The food was not exciting, but the conversation was nice. Amtrak tries to fill its dining tables, so we had a luncheon companion we had previously not known. Conversation ranged from publishing, to video games, to Flagstaff, AZ and several subjects in between.
Dinner was cheese and crackers and after reading some more and wishing we had brought a dvd or downloaded some videos to watch, we got out our blankets and pillows and slept almost all the way to Colorado.