All aboard!

Thank you all so much for sending your good juju to us!  AGMA & Hubs did indeed survive the weekend alone with the 3 adorable Grands.

Their parents came home on Sunday afternoon, and all 3 kids were alive, hydrated, and fed, with only two band-aids used on microscopic “ouchies” the entire weekend.

I’d call that a screaming success.

Now we have moved on to another adventure.  

Ya’ll know I can’t sit still…

AGMA’s aways wanted to take a train trip to the Pacific Northwest part of the USA.  You know, a trip where you have a tiny room on the train and get to sleep in it.  And go to the dining car for meals.  And then go to the Panorama car for a 180 view of the spectacular vistas of Glacier National Park and environs.

Well, we’re not doing that exactly.  But it’s close.

Sort of.  Not really.

Taking advantage of an Amtrak sale on “roomettes”, I booked a train trip from Chicago to Washington DC. Then from DC to Pittsburgh, PA.  Then back to Chicago. 

No dining car.  No Panorama car with 180 views.  No Pacific Northwest.

But it’s probably as safe as travel can get these days (hopefully) and we get to see family we haven’t seen for over a year.

And, best of all, we get to sleep on the train.

However, AGMA thinks sleep may be an overly generous term.  

A roomette is a small, private room that’s about 4.5 feet wide and nearly 7 feet long.  It has a sliding door that closes to keep all the virus yuckies in the hall and out of the room.  There are two wide seats in the roomette that face each other with a tray table that pulls out to eat or work on. It has a closet in it that is literally 6 inches wide. The seats magically convert into a lower bunk, and there is an upper bunk stored above the seats that folds down at night.

We do have to venture out of our cocoon to visit the water closet, but we have been assured by everybody at Amtrak that the attendant de-viruses it multiple times every hour.  

I brought loads of hand sanitizer with me just in case.

The meals are delivered to the roomette by the attendant.  And everybody has to wear a mask other than when they are in their little room.

So it feels kinda, sorta safe.

Now I have to interject for any European readers (maybe Candians as well?) that train travel in the US is a far cry from train travel in your country.  The infrastructure and trains cars are older, the trains are slow, it’s expensive unless you catch a sale, and, other than the Northeast US, the service network is not very extensive.

This makes AGMA sad because I love taking trains in Europe. They are, for the most part, fast, reliable, affordable and cover most places you want to go.  (Although I was on an Italian train once that was chaos, but that’s another post…)

Way back in the day, Americans used to travel by train quite often, but they’ve had a love affair with their automobiles ever since Henry Ford puttered down main street in a Model-T.  They abandon rail travel for the “road trip”.   Gas was cheap and with the brand new interstate highway system in the 1950’s, they never looked back.

I’m on the train right now.  It’ll take us a hour longer to get to Pittsburgh from DC on the train than if we had driven.  

But it’s so much more fun than driving…

Except maybe the sleeping.

AGMA had to take the top bunk on the trip to DC because of Hub’s mobility issue.  I didn’t mind.  To me, it was all fun and games….

Until I actually got up there.  

Beside being incredibly narrow, the bunk was so close to the ceiling that I couldn’t sit up in bed.  And I’m a touch claustrophobic. It felt a little like I was in a closed MRI machine.

Uh oh…  A mild panic started to rise up, but I did some deep breathing zen stuff and it went away.

Sort of.

And rather than the gentle rocking that would lull me to sleep I had imagined, it felt more like AGMA was in the first Conestoga wagon to travel on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800’s. I was jostled back and forth with only these small canvas straps attached to the bunk going up to the ceiling to keep me from being flung out of bed into the depths of the roomette floor 15 feet below.

Okay, it was only 5 feet.  But it seemed a whole lot farther when you looked down.

I won’t even start to go into the machinations AGMA had to go through to get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.  

The next day, Hubs complained about the rough train ride during the night, and how he rocked back and forth too much.  While he was in his comfy bottom bunk. Poor baby.  

I just glared at him.

Strangely, my enthusiasm for riding the rails is not dimmed.  With our trip nearly 75% complete, AGMA’s thinking that I need to watch for the next Amtrak sale to book another trip.  Maybe one this winter going through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to California?

Not sure I can talk Hubs into it though because he really did not like of all of the “rocking back and forth”.  Poor baby.

So I might have to go solo and claim the bottom bunk as my own on the next trip.

“Distance makes the heart grow fonder”, as the old saying goes.

Hmmm…maybe yes.  Maybe no.

But I’m pretty sure I’ll sleep better.

(Note: I wrote this on the train a few days ago, but we are now safely back in Chicago. As predicted, AGMA’s eagerly planning my next Iron Horse adventure!)

21 thoughts on “All aboard!

  1. Trust me, AGMA, train service in Canada is no better. In some ways, it’s worse unless you live in the Toronto – Ottawa – Montreal corridor where there actually ARE trains. Out west here (I’m in Alberta) there’s only one passenger train — VIA — and it takes the so-called northern route from Winnipeg to Saskatoon to Edmonton to Jasper and through the mountains to Vancouver. No train through Regina or Calgary. Nope, Nada! To add insult to injury, it’s bloody expensive. Cheaper to fly. Except who wants to fly these days — crammed into a narrow tube with strangers, and did the airline staff really wipe down the seats, etc or only go through the motions in the 15 minutes between touchdown and take-off, and NO WAY IN HELL am I going to use that toilet! I have traveled on British and French trains. Oh, bliss!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh…I am sorry to hear that Margaret. I think of Canada as being better in most everything than the US. Except we have the market in CRAZY cornered, but that’s not really something you would want. Ha! We just hosted a visitor from DC this past weekend who flew here. In a narrow tube with strangers who have who knows what!!! She left on Sunday, but we are quarantining from our son and his family until the 23rd. I feel certain that we will be okay, but just don’t want to take the risk. I hate all of this and sooooo wish I was in France right now!! Take care and be safe Margaret!

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    • It was fun and we got to see family after a year and (best of all!) we didn’t get COVID! Yeah! I think having done it once, I would be better prepared for the next trip. I can get some “pharmaceutical” assistance (only used up till now when I fly overseas) and truly be lulled to sleep!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We met a couple at Glacier National Park that took the train to there from Chicago and really enjoyed the trip. I’ve thought about doing something like that. I’ve heard Canada has some nice train tours also – Canadian Rockies. When Canada will let us back in, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Our train trip from Switzerland to Milano was wonderful – the Swiss trains were pristine. But when we got onto the train in Milano to Venice it was another story altogether. Luckily we had booked first class passage on what appeared an otherwise commuter train. Thank goodness our travel agent knew what to expect. We did not ever book a sleeper, though. Hope you had a nice trip otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So we took a train from ?? in Switzerland (I forget where) to Milan about 7 years ago. But this train stopped at the Italian boarder. And we had to get on another train. And it was literally a wild free for all. People like you who had booked first class seats were out of luck – lots of people sitting in other people’s seats and there was nary a train attendant to be seen to help. We were lucky to snag a couple of seats on that train to Milan. And we were so happy we only had carry ons. The people who had a lot of luggage were SOL in getting seats. It was crazy! What a difference in the two countries!

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      • I can totally identify with what you are saying. We had luggage and camera equipment and boarded the train at the rear. We worked our way over bodies lying in the aisles and when we arrived at our first class cabin (what seemed like 12 cars or more) someone was in our seats. We were fortunate someone was working and had them move. It would have been miserable otherwise.

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  4. Now you’ve done it: I want to know about that Italian train ride. 😉

    A friend of mine has taken the train from Ohio to California a handful of times (by himself) and loved it. He said splurging for one’s own compartment is the only way to go. He brought his own booze to mix cocktails (martinis; he’s a romantic at heart), snacks galore, and said he also splurged on the priciest of the train meals. If Hubs isn’t inclined to do this, I guess it’s better to know ahead of time, eh? – Marty

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    • Italian train ride – read my response to Maggie’s comment. It was like being in the Wild West when we got to the Italian boarder. And the Milan train station was wild, but I had been there before so expected it. And LOTS of pick pockets there too.

      I think I could be very happy traveling on the train by myself like your freind. I like the idea of bringing one’s own libations too. I used to do that years ago on international trips from the US to Europe. I’d bring a couple of mini vodka bottles and then get cranberry juice from the FA! But alcohol isn’t helpful as far as jet lag is concerned so I pretty much stopped drinking on the way over. On the way back – now that’s a different story! Ha!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mags! Back on the mid-60’s, my sister did a year abroad while she was in college and then went back after she graduated to work for a year in London. She did a lot of night trains when she travelled but they just slept in their seats. Ah – to be young! But I’m way too old for that nonsense. Sitting up in an airplane all night on international trips about does me in! 1st world problem, I know.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I WAS rockin’ Ilona!! And you know how much I love to gad about! So I talked about the train in Italy in my reply to Maggie and Snakesinthegrass. It was like people were evacuating before a volanco exploded. People pushing and shoving and sitting in other people’s seats. As I told Marty, the Wild West. But then they did do those spaghetti Westerns in Italy in the 70’s and 80’s so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised!

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  5. OMG. I love trains. So much, that in 2014 I took one from Seattle to Minneapolis to visit family. Like you, I had a roomette. Like you, I imagined gentle rolling motions ushering in the Sand Man but instead rock & rolled on my fold-down bed. Unlike you, I went solo therefore avoiding the MRI-like experience you had in top bunk. Unlike you, I had the Pacific Northwest experience of having the panorama viewing section. Glacier Nat’l. Park (only like 36 glaciers left due to global warming) and other splendid scenery. How were your lay-overs? I ask because in Wilmington, North Dakota we stopped a LONG TIME. Why? Because Amtrak passenger trains do not take precedence on the rails. The freight trains do. And Wilmington, ND is a site for oil fracking — thus oil freight. Got into MN 8 hours late. Still…I love trains! It’s in my DNA. The Irish ancestors were trainmen — dining car conductors and such. PLUS, when I was a tween living in Chicago (your new stomping grounds), the Picasso sculpture at Civic Center had just been installed (1968?) and a Tribune reporter asked me what I thought it looked like. What does this have to do with trains? I had just arrived home on the train after visiting my big Sis in St. Louis. The Trib reporter took my photo and I had what Andy Warhol would call my 15-minutes of fame — tween me saying I thought the sculpture looked like a dragon.

    This, too AGMA: if you love train rides this much, I learned that on some AMTRAK runs you can volunteer to be on board as a tourguide and they give you a free sleeper. At least, this was in 2014 I learned about it. You go through some kind of training and you get to travel as tourguide for free. Don’t know if this still applies. But sounded cool — learn about Glacier Nat’l Park and take the train places. This is a long response…you have inspired me!

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