We usually finance most of our annual trip out east with credit card miles, but this year we really didn’t have the points to do it. We also didn’t have the cash for five plane tickets. I looked into taking Amtrak, and was very pleasantly surprised by the price – there was literally a over $800 savings from flying. Jeremiah and I had never done an overnight train ride so we were nervous about that, but I figured we could put up with a lot for $800. We decided to give the train a shot.
We had to take a three hour bus ride to the train station, where we had a couple hours to kill before it was time to board the train. We ate the picnic lunch we had packed in the Grand Hall, and then the two youngest explored the Hall with their dad (Smiley was a bit pouty about the wait so she just slumped on the bench).
We then played “The Lying Game” (one of J’s homemade card games) on the floor, where we had our first friendly train encounter – a group of youth from a church group came over and chatted us up about the game. One of the most interesting things about the train compared to other forms of travel was the friendliness of our fellow passengers. We met some interesting people, and I also saw/overheard strangers meeting and chatting and getting along very well. Jeremiah’s seatmate on our way home in particular was an amazing and interesting man. He was a WWII vet, and had been a commander in the Chicago police department during a particularly tumultuous time in its’ history. J couldn’t get enough of his stories. I overheard another fellow passenger call trains the most “civilized” way to travel, and I see what he means.
Back to the ride – actually boarding the train was stressful. There was another train that was delayed and it made the boarding area crowded and chaotic, but once we got on, it was great. When we got settled, we went to the lounge for some pizzas, sodas, and beer, then we went upstairs to the viewing car to play games and watch the scenery.
I joined in on the RPG, and the girls and I killed a few more giant rats and got quite a bit further through our story. We spent a couple hours there. After dark, we went back to our seats and the girls watched a movie before going to sleep while J and I read our books. The kids went to bed late and woke up early, but they mostly slept ok in our coach seats.
It wasn’t quite as easy for the grown ups, but manageable. Certainly better than a plane or bus. Overall I’d give riding on the train an “A”; sleeping on it without a sleeping car a C-.