Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Train Trip, Part The First

Whew! It took me 10 minutes just to figure out how to use this keyboard and sign into my blog on this IPad. Maybe not quite as hard as attempting to record the entire trip on pieces of birch bark, but still...and forget about pictures - I can't figure out how to get them from my camera to my IPad.

Hey, Lewis and Clark didn't know how to do that, either.

So, we made it to Salt Lake City. You know, a few months ago, when I read that 20-something's blog post about how easy it was to cross the USA by rail, I never once stopped to consider the fact that I myself am not 20-something. Or that, unlike this devil-may-care traveler with his RailPass, I would have an 11-year-old daughter in tow.

I mean, I'm betting that blogger didn't spend half an hour at one of his stops attempting to contact Amtrak about a lost stuffed elephant, you know?

That guy managed to travel light. My toiletry bag alone weighs 5 pounds, what with the shampoo and conditioner and the moisturizer and make-up - in short, all the accoutrements required to keep my appearance from frightening perfect strangers on the train. So, when we stopped for our layover in Chicago, it was sort of a big deal when we learned that the lockers at the station had been torn out the week before. You see, the original plan had been to leave our 4 bags at the station and meander through downtown Chicago, checking out the Lake Shore, a yarn shop, and of course a Chicago pizza place.

With 2 rolling suitcases and 2 backpacks in tow, this meander turned into something closer to the Bataan Death March. We made it down to the lakefront (I sensibly jettisoned the yarn shop plans), but it wasn't a stellar experience. The way back was, of course, even worse. By the time we reached the station, my legs were shaking.

I believe it was at this point that the refrain "I am no longer 20-something" began running through my head.

It became my constant companion. Turns out, in your 50's? It's no longer so easy to sleep sitting up in a train, even with a reclining seat back and a nifty leg rest. Also, those fluorescent lights in the teeny-tiny bathrooms are not kind to a middle-aged person's face. I'm telling you, there is not enough make-up IN THE WORLD to fix what I saw there. And not sleeping for two nights didn't really help matters. Haggard would be the kindest way to describe it.

Also, applying mascara on a moving train requires a special kind of skill set, I'll tell you that right now.

Still, there were fun parts. There was the lounge car on each train, with the huge windows and swivel seats, where you could sit and watch the scenery. We saw the Midwest, and let me just say right here that Iowa wins the prize for rocking that Americana vibe. I mean, we rode past the farmer on his tractor and the children playing ball and the miles of rolling fields and all the cute little houses and wondered if this were an Amtrak version of The Truman Show, all set up near the tracks for our viewing pleasure.

We drove through miles and miles of flat Nebraska fields in the dark, with the full moon shining down on them the whole time. The sun rose and gave us light just in time to see the Rockies looming in the distance, snow-capped and magnificent. We jumped out of the train in Denver at 8 AM and ran into the (perfectly gorgeous) station, looking for some fresh food to buy for the rest of the day (we were going to be riding until 11 PM). Quite honestly, it turned out that our plan to subsist on granola bars and dried fruit while on the train itself was a VERY BAD IDEA.

I swear, I can't even look at a granola bar without gagging right now.

So there you have it - the first part of our trip, the good and the bad. There's more, but this post is too long as it is.


  1. You are very brave! Iowa sounds beautiful, as does moonlight in Nebraska.

  2. It must be greening up through the Midwest. I just did a road trip through Idaho and parts of Washington, and it was hideous. Still gray and brown. I hope SLC treats you right!

  3. Bummer about the Chicago lockers. I would've driven into the city - small tots in tow- and tossed your bags in my 12 seater van while you checked out the city. :)

    I wouldn't survive unless I had an outlet to plug in my crockpot.

    Have you tried taking a picture with the ipad? Then you might be able to upload directly to your blog.

    Have fun!

  4. You can upload it to your blog by mailing it to your blog. You just need to find the address. Blog blog or something, I think.
    Also, you can email it to yourself, save it to Photos, and then link to it in your blogpost compose page. Good luck---I'm selfish! I want pictures!
    Sounds like mostly fun and beautiful. Glad the full moon was there too.

  5. I want to do this trip with my 11 year old, but will not plan anything until I hear all your travel tales!

  6. That is SO COOL that you got to see the Midwest. (And there is such a lot of Midwest to see.) And The Rockies! I hope you enjoy the rest of the trip.

  7. I am so envious - well, minus the part where you had to take your luggage sightseeing. And the bathroom lighting. Can't wait until you can post pictures! Have fun!

  8. Heh. I truly laughed aloud at the change of plans due to the Chicago lockers. Sorry! Love your descriptions! Sounds like a great trip despite the challenges.

  9. This made me belly laugh. You are hysterical! I can't wait for the next update!

  10. Must spell this out - laugh out loud! Suddenly found myself on the train with you trying to apply mascara. You are so brave - seriously could lose an eye. Thank you for sharing! Glad you are enjoying those swivel chairs. I wonder, are there others doing the whole leg of the country with you? Hope you have a wonderful time in Seattle! Can't wait to read more!

  11. Oh, isn't the Denver station renovation *amazing*?! I saw it a few weeks ago- we wandered around Denver for an afternoon before flying back. The last time I was there it was still under construction, but they did a fantastic job.

  12. Okay, the bit about the lockers SUCKS. But you are so brave. All of this trip, very cool that you did it!

  13. This is awesome! I have always wanted to do a long train trip, but thanks for the reminder that it might not be so easy at my age!

  14. The best-laid plans of mice and men...
    Bummer about the lockers, and yet you still went adventuring and lived to tell the tale (a tale which I just now read because the week prior to Easter is C R A Z Y for me, and I'm not 20 anymore either).
    I can't sleep sitting up but this was true 30 years ago as well. You're a HERO, I tell you!
    I'll definitely get a sleeper unit (Roomette?) if I ever do distance train travel.